The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2013

  • S. Cordery

The second Mother Jones festival, now renamed the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival took place in Shandon between Tuesday 30th July and Thursday 1st August 2013.  The new festival committee expressed the view that we should continue to celebrate annually in Shandon the fighting spirit or “Spiorad” of the largely forgotten but passionate, feisty, Cork born Mary Harris due to her ongoing national and  international relevance to the struggles of people everywhere for labour and social justice.

We should indeed pray or remember the dead but fight like hell for the living.

Margaret Aspinall, Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group gave a riveting emotional talk at the Firkin Theatre on “Hillborough – The torment of Injustice”. Margaret was accompanied by Sue Roberts secretary of the HFSG. They have campaigned for several decades to expose the injustice of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster of 1989 when 96 Liverpool supporters died including Magaret’s young son, James and Sue’s brother Graham. Margaret brought tears to the eyes of many on that night.

Union official Ken Fleming gave an searing talk on the current day slavery on our seas where some in the maritime and fishing industry exploit immigrants who are forced to work long hours in horrific conditions as virtually slaves.

Professor Simon Cordery, then Chair of History at Western Illinois University and author of Mother Jones, raising Cain and Consciousness  gave an interesting account of the story of Mother Jones. Ms Kate McGrew performed as Mother Jones following the talk. Historian and author Padraig Yeates spoke graphically of the Dublin Lockout while actor and banner maker Jer O’Leary brought a living fiery Jim Larkin to the Firkin Stage. Luke Dineen, appearing for the first time, discussed the 1909 Cork Lockout.

Documentaries such as Tadhg Barry Remembered by Frameworks Films and the Cork Council of Trade Unions as well as 116 Day – The Vita Cortex Workers’ Struggle by film maker Declan O’Connell were shown in front of large attendances and the many issues raised were debated long afterwards. Will the inspirational socialist Tadhg Barry ever be properly remembered in his native city?

Music and songs were provided by the Cork Singers’ Club, Jimmy Crowley, Richard T Cooke and friends, Hank Wedel, the Butter Exchange band and Two Time Polka. Andy Irvine whose presence at the inaugural festival in 2012 ensured its huge success brought the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones festival to a fitting conclusion with “Mother Jones is dead and gone, she could no longer stay” from his composition The Spirit of Mother Jones on his album Abocurragh (2010).