The tenth Spirit of Mother Jones Festival concluded on Sunday night 28th November 2021 with the songs of the Cork Singers’ Club.
The 2021 festival programme required a miracle due to the deterioration in the Covid-19 situation in Ireland and yet the Cork Mother Jones committee and friends ensured the completion of 20 events over the four days and managed to broadcast most of them on Cork Community Television. The extent of the collaboration we received from numerous groups, organisations and individuals to create a festival demonstrates that there is no substitute for people working cooperatively.
Taking the example of the resilient spirit of Mother Jones as the road map, everyone just “ploughed on”, (while ensuring full compliance with the Covid-19 regulations to keep people safe), we achieved our aim to carry through with the ambitious programme of events.
Highlight for those lucky to be in attendance was the presentation of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award to the brave representatives of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).
Following the televised broadcast of the thought provoking conversation between Catherine Coffey O’Brien and Maureen Considine of the Alliance, they were joined by Phil Kinsella and Sheila O’Boyle for the formal presentation of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award by James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.
It was an emotional occasion!
One is however left to ponder at the ongoing silence of so many and to wonder how this country can even consider allowing planning applications for development/construction of apartments to take place on the OSI marked burial grounds of hundreds of children? In spite of our reputation for mourning and honouring our dead, why are marked burial grounds no longer deemed sacred from development and are the hundreds of children whom we as a nation failed in the past to protect not allowed to now rest in peace?
Earlier, adoption rights campaigner Mari Steel who had herself been adopted from Bessborough in the early 60s discussed her journey to locate her own mother Josie.
A number of Q&A sessions with each of the speakers at the Maldron Hotel followed the Cork Community TV transmissions and the subsequent discussions, arguments and queries were reminders of the sparkle and sparks associated with many of the Spirit of Mother Jones meetings over the past decade. We appreciated the kind comments of Cllr John Sheehan deputising for the Lord Mayor who as he formally opened the festival stated that “he eagerly looked forward to the challenging programme of events at the festival each year as it was essential in any functioning democracy that people ask the hard questions”.
From the tragedy of Tadhg Barry, who spent his entire adult life working in the engine room of the revolution in Cork to the eventful and long life of Muriel MacSwiney, an unlikely revolutionary, the debates and sharing of information went on. The late and much loved Dr Sean Pettit could be seen once again displaying his legendary oratorical skills describing the Cork City of Mary Harris and much more. His final public performance displayed his creative approach to his lectures and his love of Cork City highlighted how he provided the stimulus for generations of local Cork historians.
We did not forget Mother Jones either and many of the documentaries at the festival sought to frame the American background and landscape in which Mother Jones operated in the early 20th Century. We appreciate the assistance of our friends, in America, UK and Greece. Her memory was enhanced in Cork through the efforts of singers such as John Murphy, Cait Ni Cheallachair, William Hammond, Karan Casey, Richard T Cooke and Mags Creedon who performed songs and stories relating to the life of Mother Jones. John and Gearoid Nyhan accompanied by Mick Treacy performed “Let the Mountains Roll”. Our thanks to the Cork Folk Festival and Cork Singers’ Club for their invaluable assistance. Cork’s own Mother Jones, Joan Goggin and her family Eadaoin and Aoife supporting the event all the way.
As the tenth festival recedes into the memory, so many people and organisations should be thanked. Without Eddie Noonan and the crew of Frameworks Films and Cork Community Television, the festival could not have happened in these never ending Covid days. We really appreciate the practical support our main sponsors such as Cork City Council, Cathedral Credit Union, the ASTI, SIPTU and the INTO as well as the assistance of the Shandon Maldron Hotel and WhazOn Cork which have continued to assist us even as we cannot have normal social gatherings and discussions which were always the heart, soul and magic of the Spirit of Mothers Jones festivals.
Our thanks go to all the participants this year who give of their time on a voluntary basis to contribute to the events, to designers Abbie O’Shea and Shannon Smyth, website administrator Ferdia O’Mahony and to Ciaran Cronin and Aidan Fitzpatrick of A to Z printers. For 2021 we wish to especially thank the Centre for Community and Civic Engagement in University College Cork for promoting and assisting the formal launch of the festival back in October on the beautiful grounds of UCC.
Our collaboration with the Centre For Earth Ethics in New York with respect to the Mona Pollaca interview was innovative. Finally we are thankful to the journalists at the Evening Echo, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, Southern Star and 96FM for providing local and national coverage of the events as many normal community publicity channels were closed due to Covid-19.
As a committee we now look forward to working on the next Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2022.
If anyone has ideas for topics, for speakers or for entertainment for this 2022 festival, please drop a brief email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider all suggestions.
Some of the extensive press coverage of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival follows:
Congratulations to the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA) on being the recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021.
CSSA members, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, and Maureen Considine, accompanied by Sheila O’Byrne, and Phil Kinsella received the award from James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee during the recent festival. The award itself is based on the story of the Children of Lir in Irish folklore.
Catherine expressed her delight for the recognition and community support which this award represents and stated that the CSSA felt honoured to have been nominated to receive it as it meant so much to the group.
The official citation from the Cork Mother Jones Committee is as follows.
“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 is presented to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance for:
· Their bravery and determination to ensure that development does not take place on sensitive burial areas of the former Mother & Baby ‘Home’ at Bessborough in Cork.
· Their efforts to organise a voice for the mothers of deceased children, and to publicly question where the remains of hundreds of babies are buried, and why the records of burials have not been produced to date.
· Their work in locating the OSI 1950 Map which has a marked location of a Childrens’ Burial Ground in Bessborough clearly displayed.
· Their resilience in defending and verifying the accuracy of this map at the oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala during April 2021 and for convincing the planning Board to reject the proposed development.
· Their continuing campaign to seek the right with the common tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for access to the grounds and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough.
The members of the CSSA are the second Cork-based recipients of this International Award which is named in honour of Cork born Mary Harris known around the world as Mother Jones.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is honoured that the CSSA has accepted the 2021 award which indeed is an acknowledgement of our admiration for their determination to honour the dead, and continue to fight for the living.
Tonight at 8.30 pm, there is a special Cork Singers’ Club Mother Jones Night. For a zoom connection email John Murphy at email@example.com as soon as possible or join in through the Cork Singers Club Facebook Page.
The online festival schedule on Cork Community Television (which can be located on any search engine using http://www.corkcommunitytv.ie) is as follows:
· 2:00 pm. The Mine Warsproduced and directed by Randall MacLowry
· 4:00 pm.Mother Jones and Her Children by Frameworks Films.
· 7:00 pm. Dr. Sean Pettit…….An Extraordinary Teacher with an introduction by Richard T Cooke.
This film features Sean’s final presentation “The Cork City of Mary Harris” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on 29th July 2016.
· 8:00 pm. The Songs of Mother Jones. Featuring Māire Ní Chēilleachair, Karan Casey, William Hammond, Mags Creedon, Richard T Cooke, John Murphy, John & Gearoid Nyhan and Mick Treacy,
Day 2 concluded with an interview of Donal O’Drisceoil by Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Committee and Alan, William and John bring matters for the day to a conclusion with a selection of tunes and songs at the Maldron Hotel.
2:00 pm. The highlights of the past ten years of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals.
7:00 pm. Tadhg Barry Remembered. A documentary by Cork Council of Trade Unions and Frameworks Films.
8:00 pm. Interview with Dr. Donal Ó Drisceoil, author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution.
The official launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 took place at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon last night. The Lord Mayor of Cork represented by Cllr. John Sheehan declared the festival open and stated that he was delighted that the festival had proceeded this year as each event set out to challenge one’s views of history and social issues. Speaker, Anne Twomey attended and participated in a brief Q&A session afterwards in relation to questions about Muriel MacSwiney.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to members of the campaigning group The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (CSSA).
Members Maureen Considine, Ann O’Gorman and Catherine Coffey O’Brien have agreed to accept the award on behalf of the members of the Alliance.
Jim Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee declared;
“We are pleased to announce that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 has been awarded to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance who have campaigned for the proper memorialisation of the women and children who lie buried in the grounds of the former Mother and Babies Home at Bessborough in Cork City.
Specifically the CSSA by their determination and bravery prevented the recent plans to construct apartments on sensitive areas of the Bessborough grounds and through their efforts they discovered an Ordnance Survey Map from 1950 which clearly shows the marked Children’s Burial Ground.
In addition to their actions the members of the Alliance, their experts and their legal team won an oral planning hearing of An Bord Pleanala and convinced the planning inspector of the merits of their argument to protect the Children’s Burial Ground.
Finally by their ongoing efforts and continuing campaign to seek the human right in accordance with common Irish tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for the right of access to those grounds and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and childrenat Bessborough, they have displayed the courage of their convictions and are worthy of the Spirit of Mother Jones award for 2021.
We are indeed honoured to present the Spirit of Mother Jones award for 2021 to the representatives of the Alliance, Catherine Coffey O’Brien, Ann O’Gorman and Maureen Considine.”
The Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance (the CSSA) represents a group of survivors of Bessborough Mother and Baby ‘Home’. The CSSA’s membership is largely composed of mother-survivors, whose babies’ died in the institution, and includes family members. Children and mothers who died in Bessborough are buried onsite and in various public burial places such as St. Joseph’s cemetery (Ballyphehane) and All Saints cemetery (Carr’s Hill), with just a handful of the total burials marked.
Following proposals for development on the grounds of Bessborough towards the end of 2020, the CSSA opposed the plans citing the newly discovered evidence for the location of a large Childrens’ Burial Ground on the Bessborough estate. The Commission of Investigation into the Mothers and Baby ‘Homes’ stated that it is “highly likely” that burials took place in the grounds.
Using the 1950 Ordnance Survey original map drawing, which clearly shows “Childrens’ Burial Ground” marked on the grounds of the former Bessborough lands, the CSSA’s legal team convinced An Bord Pleanala to refuse permission for the development on the grounds that it would be “premature to grant permission for the proposed development prior to establishing whether there is a children’s burial ground located within the site and the extent of any such burial ground.” This has now created some space to ensure the proper memorialisation of the women and children who are “highly likely” to lie buried in the grounds.
The full citation reads as follows.
The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2021 is presented to members of the Cork Survivors and Supporters Alliance for:
Their bravery and determination to ensure that development does not take place on sensitive burial areas of the former Mother & Baby ‘Home’ at Bessborough in Cork.
Their efforts to organise a voice for the mothers of deceased children, and to publicly question where the remains of hundreds of babies are buried, and why the records of burials have not been produced to date.
Their work in locating the OSI 1950 Map which has a marked location of a Childrens’ Burial Ground clearly displayed.
Their resilience in defending and verifying the accuracy of this map at the oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala during April 2021 and for convincing the planning Board to reject the proposed development.
Their continuing campaign to seek the right with the common tradition for a dignified burial place for those who died, for the preservation of the burial grounds, for access to the same and for the creation of an appropriate memorialisation garden for the mothers and children at Bessborough.
The members of the CSSA are the second Cork-based recipients of this International Award which is named in honour of Cork born Mary Harris known around the world as Mother Jones. The award will be presented this week to Catherine, Ann and Maureen at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
A discussion about the role of the CSSA and its contribution to the oral planning hearing will be shown on Saturday 27th November at 7:00 pm on Cork Community Television as part of the online Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 21. Further details at www.motherjonescork.com
The Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date;
2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts. (Hillsborough Family Support Group).
2014, Gareth Peirce. Solicitor.
2015 Fr Peter McVerry.
2016 Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.
2017 Ken Fleming. (International Transport Workers Federation).
2018 Mary Manning (on behalf of the Dunnes Stores workers).
The following films associated with Mother Jones and the labour movement in Ireland and America will be shown as part of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. The Cork Mother Jones Committee wishes to thank our friends. Lamprini Thoma, Mari-Lynn Evans, Randal MacLowry, Rosemary Feurer and everyone at Frameworks Films for their kindness towards ensuring access to these films.
Friday 26th November at 7:00 pm.
“Tadhg Barry Remembered.” A film produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions for Cork Community Television.Release Date: 2013. Runtime: 60 minutes.
This documentary tells the story of Tadhg Barry (1880-1921), a native of Cork city, who has largely been forgotten. It seems hard to believe that a man whose funeral, one of the largest ever in Ireland, and which closed shops and factories from Co Down to Cork city could be relegated to a footnote in history. And yet this is what has happened to a man who was one of the last people to be killed by British forces during the War of Independence on 15th November 1921, just weeks prior to the signing of the Treaty.
Active in numerous organisations such as the G.A.A and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, Barry was a committed socialist, was a union organizer and had organized meetings for James Connolly in Cork as well as being involved with Sinn Fein. He was later elected as an Alderman to Cork City Council.
The documentary was funded under the Sound & Vision scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. www.frameworksfilms.com.
Saturday 27th November at 2:00 pm.
“Blood On The Mountain.” A film produced by Mari-Lynn Evans, Deborah Wallace and Jordan Freeman. Release date: 18th November 2016. Runtime: 93 minutes.
The film is an honest investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. The documentary details the struggles of a hard‐working, often misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land.
Blood on the Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by those elected to represent them. The beauty of the oldest mountain range in North America, with lush, old growth forests, small towns and isolated communities, is contrasted with the long‐term poverty, migration, lack of health care, inadequate educational systems, and political corruption. The coal, timber, oil, and gas industries have generated billions of dollars, but these huge profits went to companies in other states, leaving the region impoverished. Appalachia is a wonderful place, a home to a resilient people but is a mass of contradictions.
Many Appalachian counties are left with little or no tax base to help fund schools, health care, or job creation. Entrenched, corrupt local governments and lagging public policy have not generated sustainable economic alternatives in the region. It is a cruel irony that a region so rich in natural resources is home to many of the poorest and exploited people in the United States.
“Palikari…….Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre” a film from Greece by Lamprini Thoma and Nickos Ventouras. Release Date: 2014. Runtime: 92 minutes.
The Ludlow Massacre and the assassination of Greek immigrant and labour leader Louis Tikas (Elias Spantidakis) is one of the decisive moments of the American labour movement, an event that connects, a century later, the United States of 1914 to the labour and immigrant demands of Greece.
Louis Tikas and union organisers, mainly Greek miners had established a tent colony at Ludlow. However as tension and attacks on the union village escalated, Tikas was murdered along with two other union men by Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt of the Colorado National Guard on 19th/20th April 1914. Later the tented village was attacked and burned to the ground by elements of the Colorado National Guard. (led by Sligo born Patrick Hamrock!)
After this attack, the charred bodies of two women and eleven children were located in the pits. Patria Valdez and four of her children including Elvira, just three months old died, along with the Costa family Cerdelina and Charlie and two children aged 4 and 6 years. An eleven year old boy, Frank Snyder was killed by a bullet through the head. It led to open warfare between thousands of miners and mines guards in which many were killed.
Lamprini Thoma and Nikolaos Ventouras examined the memories, the history and the legacy of Louis Tikas and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado, talked with prominent historians, artists and descendants of Ludlow miners, and documented the scars left by this tragedy on the body of working America. http://www.palikari.org/
Saturday 27th November at 6:00 pm.
“Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura Vazquez.Release Date: 2007 (Canada). Runtime: 24 min.
Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman is a documentary about the amazing labor heroine, Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones. Mother Jones’ organising career influenced the history of early 20th century United States. She overcame class and gender limitations to shape an identity that allowed her to become an effective labor organiser in the early 20th century. Mother Jones transformed personal and political grief and rage about class injustices into an effective persona that led workers into battles that changed the course of history. The terrible conditions and labor oppression of the time motivated her to traverse the country, in order to organise against injustices. It also examines the human tragedy of the Ludlow Massacre.#
“The Mine Wars” a film produced and directed by Randal MacLowry.Release Date: 2016. Runtime: 120 min
A production of the Film Possee for American Experience (WGBH-Boston).
The Mine Wars explores the largely forgotten story of the epic struggle between Capital and Labour over the recognition of the United Mine workers of America union in the coalfields of South West Virginia. These culminated in the largest civil insurrection in America since the Civil War at Blair Mountain where thousands of miners took up arms and were even bombed from the air.
Between 1890 and 1912, miners in West Virginia endured the highest death rate in America. Mother Jones was active in 1902 and again in the period 1912-1913 when Paint Creek and Cabin Creek featured. Later Mingo County, Logan County, the Matewan Massacre and the Battle of Blair Mountain where at least 50 people were killed are highlighted. This film concentrates on a UMWA leader and former miner Frank Keeney, who inspired by Mother Jones went to organise the union in West Virginia.
Mother Jones, herself incarcerated for three months in West Virginia, described the state as “Medieval West Virginia with its tent colonies on the bleak hills! With its grim men and women! When I get to the other side, I shall tell God almighty about West Virginia.”
The Mine Wars tells the story on this side! See The Film Possee Facebook. www.pbs.org
Thanks to Randall.
Sunday November 28th at 4:00 pm
“Mother Jones and her Children” afilm by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee.Release Date: July 2014. Runtime: 52 min.
This film tells the story of Mary Harris (1837 – 1930) from Cork who went on to become “the most dangerous woman in America”. Starting with her early years in Cork, this documentary goes on to detail her life in America following the famine, her marriage to George Jones and the birth of her four children. It details the tragedies which befell her. Her growing involvement in the labour movement in America, defending the rights of children and workers is documented. Through interviews with leading experts on Mother Jones, we learn of her fearless and tireless campaign to organise workers at a time of severe labour strife and her international legacy today. www.frameworksfilm.com
This online interview with Mona Polacca took place at the launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021 at UCC on the 14th October 2021..
The discussion was held as part of UCC Community Week in a collaboration between the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival with the UCC Department of Civic and Community Engagement and the Center for Earth Ethics in New York City.
Our thanks to Dr John Barimo and Shannon Smith for their cooperation in making this interview available.