Memories of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022

Yes! We did it again!

Mother Jones returned to sprinkle her unique magic over this our eleventh festival gathering in and around Shandon from 28th July till Saturday evening 30th July. Following two years of Covid-19 where the events were mainly pre-recorded for television which allowed our festivals to continue and be enjoyed although human contact was at a minimum, it was a great relief to meet up with people again and witness the interaction and discussions at a real event. Our heartfelt thanks to Cork Community Television for covering both the festivals for 2020 and 2021.

Prior to this festival, an extremely worried committee wondered would people come along, would they attend, did they remain apprehensive, how would they react to the real-life presentations by speakers, enjoy music and songs by musicians and singers?

The answer was definite and yes, they did! People came in huge numbers and participated actively and eagerly.

Each year there is something very special about the recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones awards, their endless efforts to demand justice or to seek a better and fairer society create such a positive energy field at the festival.  

Antoinette Keegan with Don O’Leary.

The sheer dignity, passion and joy of Antoinette Keegan and her family, who lost her sisters Mary and Martina is humbling. Year after year since the 1981 Stardust tragedy, the Keegan family and many other families bereaved by the fire that Valentine’s night continue to seek the truth for the loss of their 48 children who never came home. The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2020 was to have been presented to Christine Keegan however Christine (Antoinette’s Mam) sadly passed away on 14th July 2020 and Covid-19 had prevented the presentation to Antoinette since then.  

Phyllis and Maurice McHugh, whose beautiful daughter Caroline died in the fire also attended and it was a privilege for everyone to listen to and hear their heart-breaking stories. Their resilience and quest for the truth is awesome.

Likewise, the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2022 went to Don O’Leary and all at the Cork Life Centre. Their vision and practical support for young people who fall through the education system and the cracks in society has been shown to work and work effectively. Yet the support of the educational establishment for this vision often fails to provide the resources necessary to ensure the continuation of the extraordinary work being done for the young people who enter its protective doors. 

A theme of many of the festivals has been the failure to acknowledge the role of women in history, something Mother Jones would have been familiar with. The role of five Cork women during the revolutionary period was examined in the latest Shandon Area History Group/Frameworks Films production Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times documentary was examined. Sisters Nora and Sheila Wallace and Mary and Annie MacSwiney along with their sister-in-law Muriel Murphy. One day soon Cork will surely acknowledge properly all of them and so many others. The Cork City Council documentary Endurance and Engagement introduced us all to four other Cork women who made a huge contribution to the city.

Professor Maggie O’Neill in collaboration with Traveller Pride launched the Feminism Walking Tour of Cork which as it expands and develops will highlight the huge role of women in history and society and will become a highlight of a visit to Cork city. Rain on the evening proved no obstacle to the inaugural walkabout.

Cork Feminist Walk

As the Decade of Centenaries reaches a close, the work of a few historians continues to explore with a critical eye the experiences of many women during the period. Anne Twomey certainly did not hold back as she detailed the shocking treatment meted out to some women by all sides during the War of Independence and Civil War. The idea that Irish wars are different and that women were treated with a civility and respect by all sides in those wars certainly needs to be examined and discussed. The violence perpetrated on women remains unspoken about as the accounts remain untold or hidden away in the silence and omerta of the participants and the files. The truth needs to be told before the Decade of Centenaries fades away, otherwise it may never be! 

Looking to impacts on Irish society from earlier years, Angela Flynn in a presentation in which past events influenced current failures, gave a forensic analysis of what our health service might look like had Dr Noel Browne’s Mother and Child Scheme been successfully implemented in the 1950s. Her forensic presentation was a perfect way to honour the efforts of this visionary doctor and politician on the 25th Anniversary of his death.

Angela Flynn with Mary Crilly, Freewoman of Cork City.

Cork’s own Mother Jones, Joan Goggin had earlier honoured her own father’s friend, labour leader James Larkin for the 75th anniversary of his passing. Historian Luke Dineen delivered a fascinating account of the General Strike in Cork in 1923, another forgotten labour battle lost in the midst of the Civil War and its aftermath, although the outcome of the strike had a hugely negative impact on thousands of Cork workers and their families.

We learned about Red Tom Hickey from Westmeath, we visited the magnificent North Cathedral and in the company of Anne Twomey, we examined the Baptism register for 1837 and the baptism font where Mary Harris was baptised on August 1st of that year.

Baptism Font in the North Cathedral, Cork
Cllr. John Sheehan, acting Lord Mayor with speaker Peter Buckingham.
Denis Wilson, Shandon Area History Group, Liam O’hUigin, with Ann Piggott.

Visions of what a united Ireland might look like were debated with trade union representatives from TUNUI and later with author Frank Connolly. Liam O hUigín took us out on an early morning tour of Shandon.

What a wonderful night we had with the legendary Cork Singers’ Club and to hear again singers such as Therese MacCarthaigh and her husband Sean from Blarney Street and so many others was a special treat, our thanks to everyone especially Jim Walsh and William Hammond.

Therese and Sean McCarthaigh

Eve Telford and Jimmy Crowley showed just how good they can be for the traditional Friday festival lunchtime gig, while the legendary John Nyhan and his son Gearoid provided further practical evidence as to just how relevant the songs of Woody Guthrie still remain after more than eight decades.

Eve Telford with Jimmy Crowley

The traditional final toast at the Mother Jones Plaque allowed us all the opportunity to remember absent friends. We honoured committee member John Jefferies (RIP) and so pleased that his sister Monica was on hand to receive a special presentation from everyone who worked with John on the Cork Mother Jones Committee. We remembered Manus O’ Riordan, Liam Cahill and Helen O’Donovan and other absent friends also. 

Monica Jefferies with Joan Goggin.

So many people and organisations helped to bring the eleventh Spirit of Mother Jones Festival to fruition. Frameworks Films, Cork Community Tv, the Shandon Area Renewal Association, Shandon Area History Group along with the Shandon Maldron Hotel and Dance Cork Firkin Theatre.

Cork City Council Heritage and Tourism Departments along with the City and County Libraries and Cork City and County Archives have been hugely helpful and supportive. We wish to thank Cllr. Damian Boyle, Cllr. Colette Finn, and Cllr. John Sheehan who attended the festival as acting Lord Mayor of Cork. Also, we are grateful to Cllr. Kieran McCarthy and Cllr. Ted Tynan for their assistance.

Our sponsors in the Irish Trade Union movement ensure the unique festival takes place and guarantee that it remains open and free to all to attend. SIPTU at Liberty Hall has sponsored the festival from its very beginning and we are very grateful. Likewise, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, especially the Cork South Paddy Mulcahy Branch. IFUT, the INTO and Connect are also valued sponsors. Local sponsors include the Cathedral Credit Union and Cllr Ted Tynan.

Special mention to Mary Dineen, Joan Goggin, Eadaoin and Aoife, Anne Twomey, Jimmy Crowley, Luke Dineen, John Nyhan and the Cork Singers’ Club for their support. Finally, to all our speakers from far and near who come and speak and engage in debate and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere on the north side of Cork. The festival remains relevant to people, it must remain when necessary willing to challenge the accepted orthodoxy and above all we wish to remain interesting.

Let us know by email what you wish to discuss at next year’s summer school. Our email is motherjonescork@gmail.com.

Our thanks too to Friends of Mother Jones around the world for their encouragement especially those in Chicago, Mount Olive, Washington, Colorado and elsewhere. Cork may have given Mother Jones to the world, now Mother Jones is bringing the world to Cork.

Provisional dates for the 2023 festival are Thursday 27th July to Saturday 29th July 2023.

Hope to see you there.  

Cork Mother Jones Committee 2022.

Richard T Cooke, James Nolan, Ann Piggott, Dominic O’Callaghan, Ann Rea, William Hammond, Geraldine McCarthy, Shannon Smyth, John Barimo, Angela Flynn and Gerard O’Mahony.                   

Presentation of Spirit of Mother Jones 2022 to Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary, director of Cork Life Centre is presented with the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones award in an emotional ceremony during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

The award was presented by James Nolan and was followed by a sustained standing ovation from the large number of people present. 

Don O’Leary receives the award from James Nolan.

Don is the first Cork man to receive the award and he commented afterwards that it meant so much to him as Mother Jones was one of his heroes for seeking to prevent the exploitation of children in the mines and mills of America and ensure they received an education and also that he and the Cork Life Centre had been selected by the ordinary people of Cork. This represents the ultimate recognition for his efforts and the wonderful work of the staff and volunteers of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary and Rachel of the Cork Life Centre with the Cork Mother Jones Committee
Left to Right: Rachel Lucey, Don O’Leary and Sharon O’Neill of the Cork Life Centre.

The Spirit of Mother Jones citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre was read. 

For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.

For his practical approach to providing a structured base and a supportive network which has established an educational home for the young people to use their talents and visualize opportunities to fulfil their dreams in life and become productive members of society.

For his encouragement of young people to walk the road of life using their own unique abilities, independence of spirit, critical observation and an appreciation of their own self-worth.  

CORK MOTHER JONES COMMITTEE 2022
Don O’Leary being congratulated by Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.
Left to Right: Don O’Leary, James Nolan and Antoinette Keegan.

Thursday 28th July 2022 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

 2:00 p.m.            Frameworks Films, documentary Mother Jones and Her Children.

3:00 p.m.          Rosemary Feurer, documentary Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman.               

4:00 p.m.          Peter Buckingham tells the story of Red Tom Hickey: The Uncrowned King of Texas Socialism – and Mother Jones.

5:30 p.m.       Official festival opening by the Lord Mayor of Cork. Joan Goggin presents a poetic tribute to Jim Larkin (1874-1947).

7:15 p.m.         Cork City Council and St Peter’s Cork present a documentary: Endurance and Engagement – Cork City Women in the 1920s. Introduced by Christine Moloney.

8:00 p.m.         Anne Twomey speaks of “Dark Times, Dark Deeds, Long Shadows: the experiences of some women in the Revolutionary Years”

9:30 p.m.        The Cork Singers’ Club.

Can’t make the festival? Cork Community TV will show a series of talks from the Mother Jones Festival Archives all this coming weekend. Check out www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre to receive the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre. This is the tenth annual award which the committee has made and Mr O’Leary is the first Cork man to receive it. The award will be presented later this week to Mr O’Leary at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Saturday 30th July at 1pm at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

Don O’Leary.

Jim Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated;

“We are really pleased to announce that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2022 has been awarded to Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre for his work and commitment to providing an alternative learning environment to many young people who are outside the mainstream education system.

Specifically Don has shown by his example and dedication to the young people how they can make progress within a different system which places them at the very core attempts to meet their unique needs and requirements.”

Cork Life Centre at Sunday’s Well.

The Committee’s citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre includes the following; 

‘For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.’

 

On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones, we congratulate Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre. 

Documentaries at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022.

Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times. 

A documentary from Frameworks Films and the Shandon Area History Group.

7.30 pm Friday 29th July at Dance Cork Firkin Crane.

‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ tells the story of five women –  Nora and Sheila Wallace and Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney. These women played a vital role in the formation of the Irish state and yet their stories are not widely known. This documentary provides an account of the lives of these five women and in particular the part they played in the Irish revolutionary period, whilst still carrying on their roles as shopkeepers, teachers, wives and mothers. It attempts to answer in some small way the question that was often asked in the early years of the Irish Free State, ‘What did the women do anyway?’.

Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.

Endurance & Engagement: Cork City Women in the 1920’s  

7.15 pm Thursday 28th July at Dance Cork Firkin Theatre.

The short documentary, commissioned by Cork City Council, as part of the Decade of Commemorations and  funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts Gaeltacht, Sport & Media looks at the lives of ordinary women in Cork City during the turbulent period of the struggle for independence and how they were impacted by the violence and unrest. The women included in the documentary are Eilish MacCurtain, The Duggan Sisters, Geraldine Neeson and Dr. Mary Hearn.  The research team on the project were Anne Twomey of Shandon History Group, Dr Helene O’Keeffe of UCC School of History, and Gerry White.  The documentary directors Ciara Buckley & David Slowo of Wombat Media. The  Executive Producer of this documentary was Christine Moloney of LW Management who will introduce it on the night. Release Date 2022. Runtime 32 minutes.

Peg Duggan

Mother Jones and her Children.

2:00 pm Thursday 28th July at the Maldron Hotel Shandon. 

This film tells the story of Mary Harris (1837 – 1930) from Cork who went on to become known “the most dangerous woman in America”. Starting with her early years in Cork, the 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. Produced by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee in 2014. Runtime is 52 minutes.

Mother Jones and Her Children

Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman 

3:00 pm. Thursday 28th July at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

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. This film also gives a deeply moving account of the Ludlow Massacre. This is a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura VazquezRelease Date 2007 (Canada). Its runtime is 24 minutes.

Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman

A Visit to Cork’s Beautiful North Cathedral.

On Friday July 29th at about 11:00 am we will gather at the magnificent North Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne and known affectionately throughout Cork with some understatement as the ‘North Chapel’. It was originally dedicated in 1808 on the site of an earlier church.

Cork’s Beautiful North Cathedral

Anne Twomey will give a brief history of the Cathedral with particular reference to its connections with the baptism of Mary Harris on the morning of 1st August 1837. 

Launch of Feminism Walking Tour Website, Followed by a Walk.

Professor Maggie O’Neill in collaboration with Traveller Pride will launch the Feminism Walking Tour website followed by a walk.

Professor Maggie O’Neill.

Gather outside the Maldron Hotel Shandon at 3.45 pm on Saturday 30th July. All welcome.

The thematic focus of this walk is on celebrating the contribution of women to art, culture, society and the city; exploring the role of women in addressing sexual and social inequalities, and building fairer, safer communities. The walk, which is the first in a series of walks, writes women into the spaces and topography of the city. The walk was created in discussion with students from University College Cork, Naomi Masheti, Cork Migrant Centre; Danielle O’Donovan, Nano Nagle Place; Mary Crilly, Sexual Violence Centre Cork; Eileen O’Shea, Traveller Visibility Group; John Barimo, Mother Jones Plaque and James Cronin, Honan Chapel.

The walk and website will be launched at the Mother Jones Festival 30th July 2022!

New Documentary: Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.

The documentary ‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ will be shown at the Cork Dance Firkin Crane in Shandon on Friday evening 29th July at 7.30 pm.

A new documentary about some of the women who played an important role in the revolutionary period in Cork will be screened at the Dance Cork Firkin Crane Theatre in Shandon, Cork on Friday 29th July at 7.30pm, as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022.

According to Lil Conlon, one of the members of the Shandon Cumann na mBan in Cork, a question that was often asked in the early years of the Irish Free State was“ What did the women do anyway”?  This documentary tells the story of what two sets of sisters did during the War of Independence and attempts to answer that question in part.

‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ tells the story of five women –  Nora and Sheila Wallace and Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney. These women played a vital role in the formation of the Irish state and yet the detail of what they did and how they managed to do these tasks whilst still playing their other roles as wives, mothers, teachers and shopkeepers has received little attention.

The documentary first tells the story of how the Wallace sisters ran a newsagents shop on Augustine Street in Cork city centre, which effectively became the unofficial headquarters of the No 1 Brigade of the Cork Volunteers after their own headquarters on Sheares St was closed after the Rising. Florrie O’Donoghue from the brigade is quoted as saying “If any two women deserved immortality for their work…they did!”  Their story is told by members of the Shandon Area History Group and also by Bill Murphy, grand-nephew of the sisters and by Bernadette Wallace, their niece.

The second family to feature in the documentary are the MacSwiney family. Mary and Annie MacSwiney were the sisters of Terence MacSwiney, former Lord Mayor of Cork, whose death by hunger strike whilst imprisoned in Brixton Prison made international headlines and Muriel MacSwiney, their sister-in-law, was his wife. This section will be told via interviews with  Anne Twomey and Maeve Higgins, members of the Shandon Area History Group and also with Cathal MacSwiney Brugha, the grandson of Muriel MacSwiney and grand-nephew of Mary and Annie MacSwiney.

The documentary has been produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Shandon Area History Group and was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It will also be broadcast at 8pm on Sunday 31st July on Cork Community Television, which is available on Channel 803 on Virgin Media’s digital cable package and online on www.corkcommunitytv.ie

For further information please email emma@frameworksfilms.com

A Trade Union Vision for a New and United Ireland.

Discussion at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon on Friday 30th July at 11:30am.

Presentation by Trade Unionists for a United Ireland (TUNUI),  Christy McQuillan, Paddy Mackel, Conor McCarthy and Mags O’Brien.

The aim of the trade unionists behind this initiative is to “put the economic and social equality into the heart of the discussion on a New Ireland”

They further argue that workers should discuss what a ‘New Ireland’ might involve, and contend that it should be based on equality.

This means that economic and social justice, human rights, women’s rights, children rights should be at the core of any new Constitution.

“As the largest civic society movement in the country, trade unions have a particular responsibility to involve themselves in the ongoing debate.”

All are welcome to join in the discussion and the Q&A which follows this presentation. 

Come along and have your say.

They Never Came Home!

Antoinette Keegan will be formally presented by the Cork Mother Jones Committee with the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award on Friday 29th July at 3pm at the Dance Cork Firkin Crane theatre.

Antoinette and her late parents Christine and John along with other families and survivors have campaigned for justice and answers as to why 48 young people including Antoinette’s sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16),lost their lives at the Stardust Fire in the northside of Dublin on Valentine’s Day 14th February 1981. Over 200 people were treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the fire.

Christine and Antoinette Keegan (Sam Boal)

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of two of her sisters and the failure of the State Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has campaigned to uncover the full truth of the events of that night.  What caused this fire and who was responsible?

Her resilience and commitment to pursuing justice for the 48 children who never came home to their families remains an inspiration to many people. 

In 2019, the Attorney General approved the holding of new inquests to establish the full facts. After 41 years of the campaign for justice, the inquests should finally begin this year.

We wish to express our thanks to Antoinette and members of her family for coming to Cork and speaking about the long standing efforts of the survivors to seek the facts. 

All are welcome to the presentation and discussion. 

The Stardust Complex after the fire.