The 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones festival will long be remembered. On Saturday 16th July 2016 we received the tragic news that Dave Hopper, Secretary of the Durham Miners Association and a good friend of many people in Cork had died. Members of the Cork Mother Jones Committee had met Dave a few days earlier at the conclusion of the huge 2016 Durham Miners Gala. Earlier he had been selected as the Spirit of Mother Jones award recipient for 2016 by the Cork Mother Jones Committee. Poignantly, Dave was buried on the very day he would have received the award. Pat Egan of the Scottish Unite the Union accepted the award which was presented to the Durham Imers Association.
Among the speakers was legendary Cork historian, Dr Sean Pettit, whose empathy for the underdog was an intrinsic element of his writing, gave a magnificent talk on Friday 29th July to an overflow attendance. It could only be described as a vival and colourful stroll through the highways and lanes of Cork city in front of an appreciative audience who had gathered. The lengthy standing ovation at the end demonstrated the extraordinary affection for Dr Sean. Sadly it was to be his final curtain as he passed away on 23rd November 2016. We extend our sincere sympathy to Aruba Coughlan and family.
Earlier, Jack o’Connor General President of SIPTU laid out a blueprint for Trade Unions to win the negotiating battles while union official Tish Gibbons demonstrated how education can lead to solid organising. The festival was marked by the first public talk on the role of the invisible Wallace Sisters during the War of Independence by local historian Anne Twomey, again witnessed by a huge crowd. Author, Laurence Fenton spoke of Frederick Douglass and his time in Cork, while Luke Dineen gave an account of the Post Office Strike of 1922.
Journalist and author, Justine McCarthy described how the greed of the few in Irish society has an negative impact on our institutions and on the lives of ordinary people.
A stand out moment in this unforgettable 2016 summer school and festival occurred on Sunday night 31st July 2016 when Fergal Keane, foreign correspondent with the BBC in response to a question from the audience predicted that someone called Donald J Trump would become the 45th President of the United States of America. The shocked silence in the startled attendance that evening has stayed with many of us who were present as that initial prescient observation of Fergal Keane became the unfolding nightmare of the next four years.