Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to stop a three-horse race - and stop Sinn Féin being squeezed out AGAIN!

Below is a piece from Ruadhán. The questions raised are crucial if Sinn Féin is not to be squeezed out yet again by the three main parties in the South. Is the time ripe for some major new thinking in our strategy, or should we just carry on with what we are doing?


While there may be questions arising from the recent RedC and Irish Times /Ipsos polls as to Labour’s actual support and its future sustainability, it is undeniable that there is now a 3-way contest.

For the first time since the foundation of the 26-county state, the electorate have decided that Fine Gael are no longer the only viable alternative to Fianna Fáil. Unfortunately for the Republican movement, however, the electorate are now turning, not to Sinn Féin, but to our main rivals: the Irish Labour Party.

Fianna Fáil’s support has plummeted SINCE 2007. The party polled 42 per cent in 2007, falling to 24 per cent in 2008: today's RedC poll confirms that FF remains stuck at this all-time low. However, it is the Labour party, under Eamon GiLmore, that has benefited from Fianna Fáil’s collapse - all other opposition Dáil parties, including Sinn Féin, remain unchanged.

The Labour tide is high not only because Eamon Gilmore is more appealing than his inept Fine Gael rival, Enda Kenny, but because Labour has succeeded in ideologically distinguishing themselves from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on key issues, such as the bank bailout and taxation, even if, from a left perspective, this distinction is an optical illusion.

This seismic shift in the Southern political landscape could only have happened in the current climate: spiralling unemployment and mounting public debt. All are traceable to the criminal behaviour - incentivised by Government - of bankers and builders.

Under these unprecedented conditions, Sinn Féin should be doing a lot better than 8 per cent. Our present stagnation is unacceptable. While the usual excuses, such as our limited Dáil representation and the so-called hostile media, may be proffered, we are still the third opposition party in the South. Furthermore, we retain a relatively wide-reaching organisational capacity and, in theory, a distinct socialist republican ideology.

The argument that we must wait for greater Dáil numbers to improve our support is one that has repeatedly been made. This contention is as flawed as it is fatalistic. At the height of the Celtic tiger, during Fianna Fáil’s golden period in 2004, Sinn Féin polled at 12 per cent. If the party had been able to sustain that momentum, we could be ahead of Fianna Fáil today.

The last two elections have made it clear that our core vote is stuck at 6 per cent. There may be a further 4 per cent who could vote for us but, for various reasons, when it comes to polling day, these soft supporters migrate. When it comes to the last week of a general election, Sinn Féin vanishes into thin air, deprived of media oxygen just when it needs it most. Just as we were choked by the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael battle in 2007, so we could be strangled by the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Labour contest in 2012.

The real problem for Sinn Féin today is this: not only could Labour capture almost all of the Fianna Fáil’s lost support, but they could also hoover up our own voters while so doing. While Sinn Féin’s support has broadly held up in the latest opinion polls, it is only two months since we nosedived to 6 per cent in the April RedC poll. That 4 per cent drop, remember, went primarily to Labour and is directly related to an increase in its media coverage.

The media will focus on the main opposition parties in the last 2 weeks of a general election, as they usually do, to the exclusion of Sinn Féin, and so we face another death-bed squeeze, as voters vote for the parties in the media. If the current trend continues and our strategy remains the same, the party seems doomed to poll once again below 7 per cent at the next general election.

Local campaigning alone will not grow Sinn Féin: in today's fraught political environment, the battle for hearts and minds will be fought over the big issues. Only national realpolitik can save the day.

The party’s overriding difficulty, however, is the public’s perception, which seems to be that Sinn Féin is northern-centred. This is partly due to our extraordinary electoral and political achievements in the Six Counties, which have long overshadowed and, indeed, now serve to underline, our current stagnation in the South. This imbalance, coupled with the fact that we not have an obvious figurehead in the South, has led to the public perception of northcentricity, namely, that Sinn Féin is led from the North.

The overwhelming risk here is that the Southern electorate will decide that party leaders, such as Eamon Gilmore, whose constituency lies in the South, have a superior understanding of the daily grind faced by ordinary working people, and are therefore in a better position to represent them.

A clearly identifiable Southern leadership is therefore required, if we are compete with Gilmore, undermine Cowen and out-manoeuvre Kenny.

I believe we can transform and grow in the South in addition to consolidating and expanding in the North. All it requires is confidence and courage.

That Sinn Féin requires an elected leadership North and South in order to successfully campaign in both jurisdictions has crystallised. That leadership must be united. It must be rooted in parity of esteem, in dual leadership. Only this can give the party the tools it so badly needs to appeal to all voters on this island, and to deliver the balance of power required to achieve our goal of a united Ireland.

I believe the time has come for Sinn Féin to act decisively. We can no longer wait for the natural evolution of a Southern leadership. That evolution is premised on a vain hope, namely, that we will, in the fullness of time, somehow reach an optimum level of TDs.

Now is the time to act, to capitalize on the state of the nation by establishing our leadership in the South. This will enable us to go in to the next election with renewed energy and rewired momentum.

That leadership can only be established through election. Anyone who believes that it is not necessary for a leadership to be elected is mistaken. Moreover, future leaders should be selected following a contest decided by the party’s grassroots.

A Southern leader should now be chosen without delay from our current group of elected public representives in Leinster House. The major issues of the day break in Leinster House and the Dáil remains our best platform for translating our socialist republican ideals into policies that will attract an electorate hungry for change.

Brave decisions taken now to form a recalibrated united leadership will optimize our chances of winning fresh Dáil seats. The alternative is face a potentially crippling election defeat in the upcoming general election.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Remembering the Past - Napper Tandy, a forgotten patriot.

The United Irishman Napper Tandy was a larger than life figure who was reputed to be nearly seven foot tall and boasted a nose so large that a political adversary once suggested it stand for election in its own right. But political humour aside Tandy was a driven and committed Republican who established a reputation for exposing corruption in officialdom and also played an active part in the 1798 rebellion, though regretfully arriving too late with the arms and ammunition needed to make the rebellion a success.

Ian McKeane of Liverpool University’s institute of Irish studies reassesses the reputation of one of the most colourful figures of the United Irish movement in an article that originally appeared on the Irish Democrat website in 2002.

MOST PEOPLE meet James Napper Tandy in the song the Wearing of the Green. He pops up again, or rather his Dublin residence does, in the ballad The Spanish Lady.

Apart from that he is rather a shadowy figure, one of the United Irishmen but condemned by events to be eternally in the shadow of such as Wolf Tone, Russell and Lord Edward Fitzgerald. He is dismissed as a drunk, a gossip unsuited to conspiratorial activity, another Irish failure without the saving grace of martyrdom.

A Dubliner, born in 1740, he became involved in the political animation of late 1770s Dublin. As secretary of the Dublin branch of the United Irishmen, he was the link between the upper class Protestant leaders and the Catholic rank and file.

When the government proscribed the United Irishmen in 1792, Tandy felt exposed and travelled to America. There he continued his United Irishmen activities which brought him into contact with the French minister plenipotentiary of the French republic, citizen Adet. Adet described him as: “an excellent republican, a man entirely devoted to France and hating England as much as he is attached to our cause”

The French diplomat sought to gain Tandy’s support for a French action in Ireland suggesting that he should “contribute” to the project of an invasion of Ireland with the possible reward of an “honourable situation in France.”

Adet was surprised that Tandy left for Paris in the spring of 1797 without demanding or discussing any personal financial reward. Once there, he joined with Tone in pestering the Directory (French government) to send an invasion force.

Finally, director Carnot gave the orders which set in motion the series of confused, and uncoordinated French military moves against Ireland during 1798. As part of these preparations, Tandy was commissioned in the French army with the rank of brigadier general on 2nd April 1798.

Tandy was appointed second in command of the Dunkirk invasion force under general Rey. They set sail in the brig Anacréon, one of the fastest ships in the French navy, on 4 September.

The Anacréon arrived off Co. Donegal, on the 18th and anchored by Rutland Island. Rey, Tandy and other members of the party, including, James Blackwell, and William Corbett, went ashore. They landed, addressed the locals, distributed a proclamation signed by Tandy and gave out green cockades.

It is suggested that Tandy was rather the worse for drink at the time but, despite the enthusiasm of the moment, he heard confirmation of the defeat of Humbert and therefore advised Rey that their force was unequal to any formal confrontation with British troops and that they should withdraw -- hardly the action of a man in his cups.

Withdraw they did and set sail for Bergen in Norway. On the way the Anacréon met and captured two English ships. One was subsequently lost but the Anacréon eventually reached Bergen with its remaining prize which financed the entire expedition.

Tandy, Blackwell, Corbett and Morris decided to return to France. The first stage was to travel to Hamburg where they arrived on the 22nd November 1798.

Hamburg was a self governing city but relied on the protection of its powerful neighbours, such as Prussia, for defence and the senat’s (city government’s) ability to negotiate with Russia, Britain and France to enable its ships to pass unhindered in the Baltic and the Atlantic.

Hamburg’s position as a neutral port rendered it useful to continental powers and in time of war it provided conduits for communication, both open and illicit, between the larger belligerents.

The Irishmen’s first act was to present their documents to the French consul so as to gain papers to enter French controlled Holland. They then put up at the American Arms hotel.

Sir James Crawfurd, the British representative in Hamburg had been waiting for their arrival from Bergen and had almost given up on them. He acted swiftly and demanded the arrest, pending extradition, of Tandy and Blackwell from the Prätor, the city's chief magistrate.

Crawfurd’s reasoning was simple. Since the Hamburg authorities were dependent on British goodwill to allow their ships to move freely, he felt that there would be little problem in arranging for Tandy and the others to be extradited to Britain where they could be tried for treason and eliminated by execution or, at least, by transportation.

However, Crawfurd forgot that the Hamburg authorities also had French troops not far from the gates of the city, on the Dutch border. Forgot is perhaps ingenuous -- he felt that the pressure that he could bring to bear on the spot far exceeded that available to the French government.

Crawfurd thought that the French might bluster a bit but would consider that Tandy and Blackwell were really of little consequence to them. Even if the Directory, reacted badly to the extradition of the Irish, for Crawfurd, the end would have justified the means.

Good relations with Hamburg were not essential to Britain’s game plan -- useful, but not essential. The war situation was fluid, a cessation of hostilities was a real possibility and new developments would just have to be dealt with. The Irish problem, though, had to be settled.

So, very early on the 23 November, Crawfurd’s arresting party burst in on the Irish who resisted manfully. The French press wrote that Tandy threatened an officer with his pistol while the official report by the French minister at Hamburg stated that it was Blackwell who struck out with his sword but that four marines jumped on him and forced him to the ground. Crawfurd himself then transported the prisoners to jail to await extradition.

he Hamburg magistrature soon began to have second thoughts -- Blackwell and Tandy had valid French commissions and this was no light matter. The Directory had not revoked the commissions and since Tandy and Blackwell had lodged them with the French consul as soon as they had landed the Hamburg government had a problem.

The French consul protested to the Hamburg authorities without success. The French ambassador Marragon argued with Burgermeister, Von Sienen, (who happened to be pro-British) equally fruitlessly. Marragon promptly demanded a meeting of the Hamburg senat the next day. The city elders could not reach any conclusion. Pro-British senators questioned the identities of Tandy and Blackwell. If their identities were false, the argument went, the British had every right to extradite them.

The international situation was changing and Hamburg seemed about to find itself on the front-line in renewed hostilities. Britain would regard a refusal to hand over the prisoners as an excuse for war. France would resist this by taking Cuxhaven, Russian troops were poised to occupy nearby Holstein, Prussia would take Hanover and, all in all, Hamburg would suffer greatly for the imprisonment of two Irishmen.

The senat’s indecision was compounded by rising anti-British public opinion in the city. The French consul was concerned that the British would become impatient and attempt a double cross by ‘springing’ Tandy and Blackwell from jail and tricking them onto an English ship. Suspecting a trick, Tandy kept his nerve and refused to rise to the temptation to escape. Stalemate resulted.

Months passed. British pressure increased and finally in Autumn 1799 the Hamburg senat agreed to the extradition of the Irish. They were taken to London. The French were furious and imposed an Atlantic embargo on Hamburg’s ships. What made this more serious was that the Directory had fallen and the French government’s voice was now that of general Napoleon Bonaparte.

Bonaparte gave the Hamburg senators a piece of his mind and foreign minister Talleyrand warned the British that the whole prisoner exchange programme would be jeopardised and Britain’s reputation would be permanently stained if the commissions held by Blackwell and Tandy were not respected.

The British were highly irritated by all this and shipped Tandy off to Dublin. Despite a trial for treason carrying the death sentence the Lord Lieutenant, Cornwallis, was instructed not to carry it out.

Tandy claimed the protection of the court on a technicality and was acquitted. He was promptly rearrested and taken to Lifford Jail to face charges for his treasonable activities in Donegal. He was found guilty and sentenced to die on 4 May 1801.

It was hoped that Tandy would incriminate his comrades and possibly accept conditions for mercy which would compromise his reputation amongst his associates. Despite months in prison, the Hamburg extradition, two trials and a death sentence Tandy did not weaken.

The British government, realising that his exchange was all that impeded peace with France, ordered Cornwallis to arrange for him to be quietly shipped over to France. He arrived in Bordeaux on the 14 March 1802. On the 24th the Peace of Amiens was signed in London.

Britain had hoped that Tandy would be more or less ignored in France but they were wrong. French propaganda made the most of Tandy’s arrival in Bordeaux. A brilliant dinner was organised to welcome him and he was immediately paid 6000 livres as army pay due to him. He was honoured with a military parade and Bonaparte personally awarded him the pension of a full general, 6000 livres.

He was very comfortably placed as a result. The only restriction was that he was not permitted to travel to Paris. Bonaparte wished to keep him away from the capital where some of his old adversaries, including Crawfurd, were now in residence.

Ostensibly, he was kept quite busy working on a scheme to invade Louisiana -- a cover for an new invasion of Ireland. But Tandy died on 24th August 1803, some two months before Robert Emmet’s attack on Dublin castle and there was no new French invasion.

Tandy was given a huge funeral in Bordeaux. His companions were quietly released and made their way to France. Tandy then slips from history which is an undeserved fate for such a colourful, brave and committed United Irishman and patriot.

Had he been of a higher social class, and perhaps more charismatic, he would be better known. As it was, only the French were prepared to support him -- for their own reasons, of course. In the end they generously provided for him, recognising his qualities in a way that others did not, and have not since.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Left wing Govt? Yes Please!

As contained in the brand new An Phoblacht Eoin o'Broin looks at the possibilities implied by the groundbreaking recent poll that put Labour in the lead for the first time ever. But the poll also included some other noteable firsts. And I am not talking about the Fine Gael's cannibalism. For the first time the combined progressive vote is over 50%. This is a huge jump as even back in the late 1980s with the country in dire economic straits (and a radical left wing party in the form of the Workers party peaking at 7 seats,though only 4.9% of the vote) the progressive vote was only about 24%. The possibility of a left wing govt. is becoming a viable option. At the very least the ability of left wing actors to steer the course of the country towards the left is increasing. Eoin's article:

The most important aspect of the most recent Irish Times poll was not the 32% for Labour, but the combined 45% for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. By Eoin O Broin.

Individual polls tell you very little, it's the overall trend that counts.

Since February 2009 Labour has scored from 20% to 25% in the MRBI polls. Their recent dramatic 10-point jump could either be an anomaly or an indicator of a significant surge.

Until we have a few more polls we just won't know.

However the slump in support for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael has been coming for some time.

Historically the states two main parties held between 70% and 80% of the votes in local and general elections.

However, since the end of 2008, both election results and opinion polls have witnessed a steady decline in their combined share of the vote.

In the 2007 general election the Fianna Fail-Fine Gael vote was at 69%. Throw in the PDs and the total right-wing vote was 72%.

Opinion polls for the remainder of 2007 and pre-recession 2008 demonstrated a similar vote distribution.

Things started to change from the autumn of 2008.

In every poll from that date the combined FF-FG vote has slipped, from 61% in the November Irish Times poll, to 51% in the September 2009 Irish Times polls.

This decline was in evidence in the 2009 European parliament elections, with the combined FF-FG vote hitting an all time low of 53%.

And now, for the first time in the history of the state the total FF-FG vote has slipped below the 50% mark to a historic low of 45%.

So what does this general trend tell us?

Clearly it indicates a growing disillusionment with the two main parties. As unemployment rises and the recession continues to bite, the failed politics and policies of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are cutting less and less ice with the electorate.

While Labour has been the chief beneficiary of this to date, Eamon Gilmore's declared intention of entering coalition with Fine Gael will mean that many voters are sure to be disappointed by the compromises that will inevitably ensue.

The Labour Party's promise of One Ireland can not be delivered within the framework of Fine Gael's economic, fiscal and political conservatism.

Of course there is an alternative, and the Irish Time poll suggests, even if only tentatively, that the voting public may just be open to persuasion.

Fifty five percent of those polled by the Irish Times opted for parties other than Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

The combined progressive vote is for the first time in polling history above 50%.

Could this be a sign that the electorate wants real change, and not just a cosmetic changing of the same old political guard?

There has never been a better time for the left to argue for a real alliance for change, an alliance that has no place for the failed politics or policies of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

Such an alliance should be about policies, not personalities. It should involve Labour, Sinn Fein and those smaller left parties who are interested in radical reform of institutions and policies.

Civil society groups and individuals should seek to define a role independent of but encouraging such a party political alliance and act as a social engine and guarantee of the agenda for change promised in advance of any general election.

This alliance for change should be based on the principle of equality. Its core aim should be the creation of a more economically, politically, culturally and affectively equal society.

Its understanding of equality should go further than equality of opportunity and focus on equality of outcome and condition, challenging structural and collective inequalities as well as individual ones.

It should offer a job creation plan to get 200,000 people back to work in 12 months; a universal health care system delivered on the basis of need and not ability to pay; real reform of the tax system making it both progressive and sustainable; substantial institutional and constitutional reform making politics more democratic and participative; a comprehensive plan anchored in new equality architecture to tackle the structural inequalities imbedded in our society; and the democratic advancement of all-Ireland economic and political reunification in the context of the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement.

It is too early to tell whether the Irish Times poll signals the beginning of a real shift in public opinion. However, there is no doubt that a real opportunity exists to make the argument that a better Ireland is possible.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The problem with freeloaders

Brian Lenihan has today put it up to those of us who still have jobs. We all have to stop being freeloaders according to the Minister.

If you believe Brian, and many dont, there is a perception in Europe that if we did not tackle wage rates here we were "freeloading on the euro". Public and Private sector wages are out of line when it comes to Europe.

Now there are just a whole load of things objectionable in that statement.

Firstly the contention that our wages are high in comparison to Europe. Michael Taft nailed that lie forcefully recently demonstrating that our Public Sector wages are not the highest in Europe. In fact they are far from it. Looking at a combined Public/Private sector we see that again our wages are again lower than Europe in general. We have a difficult economic situation to face but half-truths wont help solve it Brian.

And by the way Brian what about this report from December 2009 which shows that the very very top of the civil service including an Taoiseach and your good self are all over paid when compared to Europe. Leave the ordinary people out of this and look at your own pay packet first

Secondly you have to admire the brass tack on a Fianna Fail minister talking about freeloading. Full stop. But to do it on the day when Brian Cowen finally admitted what we all know - that the money lent to Anglo will never be returned nor ever yield any return to the state, is either incredible neck or really bad luck. I suspect the former.

Thirdly Brian Lenihan has made much noise of the perception of the markets, the need to court market opinion etc. When he extends that forming policy in responses to the perception in Europe we should be equally worried

The entire strategy of courting market opinion has been a flaw judged by the sole useful criteria - the cost of Irish debt. Paul Krugman comments:

So, I’m glad to hear that Ireland’s stoic acceptance of austerity is reassuring markets; it must be true, because that’s what everyone says. Because if I didn’t know that, I might look at the data and conclude that markets actually have less confidence in Ireland than they do in Spain, and that austerity in the face of a deeply depressed economy doesn’t actually reassure markets at all.

But hey, what are you going to believe: what everyone knows, or your own lying eyes?

Who are we going to trust? Brian Lenihan and his freeloading party or hard economic fact.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Suggestions on a postcard to 51 Mount Merrion Street please

Last week Fianna Fail dropped to 17% in the polls.

Last week Brian Cowen's govt. were exposed for the incompetent oafs we know them to be.

Last week the govt. shut down Leinster house rather than face the consequences of this report.

Last week the HSE hit another low point.

But thanks to Fine Gael's bumbling this week the focus is on the main party of the opposition and the Govt. is out of the spotlight. Its Kenny rather than Cowen and the HSE scandal is old hat. The banking crisis is smaller than the blueshirt crisis and the vote on Tuesday is no longer about Cowen.

If anyone has suggestions to help Fine Gael stop being so F...ing useless as to be actively aiding and abetting the Govt. can they please send it on a postcard to the FG HQ above.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Remembering the Past - The Rockite rebellion

Famously the proclamation of the Republic states our ancestors asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty "six times during the past three hundred years ... in arms."
But between those leading rebellions and wars were frequent, sometimes highly localised, insurrections. Rural Radicalism provided the engine for transmitting the ideas of '98 onto the next generation.
The historian Peter Berresford Ellis wrote a fascinating account in the Irish Democrat on Ireland's forgotten 'Rockite' rebellion and the militant agrarian movement active in the south west of Ireland in the early part of the 19th century. Radical rural revolt whether by the Rockites (or transmitted into an urban industrial setting via the Molly Maguires) is one of the most fascinating aspects of our history.

Ellis writes:
When I first published my History of the Irish Working Class, in 1972, I wrote in the preface that I was conscious of many aspects of working-class history that deserved to be dealt with in more detail. Indeed, many aspects at that time were largely unexplored territories. In the last thirty years, some of the avenues of research that I mentioned have now been studied and written about.

Among them I felt that the militant agrarian organisations of the 17th to 19th Centuries should be investigated. Movements like the 'Whiteboys', the 'Ribbonmen', and the followers of 'Captain Steel' or 'Captain Right' and so on. In the south-west of Ireland during 1821-1824 there arose a movement, whose leader was a mysterious 'Captain Rock'.

The Rockites caused a serious insurrection in January, 1822, in Limerick, Kerry, Cork and Tipperary. It was so determined that five extra regular regiments had to be sent from England to reinforce the local garrisons. An Insurrection Act, with curfew at night and trial without jury, was proclaimed in the south-west counties and 1,500 Munster men were immediately arrested, more than 200 transported to the Penal Colonies and 36 executed in February, 1822, alone. But raids and ambushes continued.

Who were 'Captain Rock' and the Rockites and what did they want to achieve?

The movement started, like other Irish agrarian movements, initially as a reaction against the great English and Anglo-Irish feudal landlords and their absolute power in Ireland.

In 1776, the English traveller Arthur Young, had observed:

"A landlord in Ireland can scarcely invent an order, which a servant, labourer or cotter dare refuse to execute. Nothing satisfied him but an unlimited submission. Disrespect or anything tending towards sauciness he may punish with his cane or his horse-whip with the most perfect security; a poor man would have his bones broke if he offered to lift his hand in his own defence… Landlords of consequence have assured me, that many of their cotters would think themselves honoured by having their wives or daughters sent for to the bed of their master; a mark of slavery that proves the oppression under which such people must live."
Between 1728 and 1845 the colonial landlord system in Ireland had produced twenty-eight artificial famines in which millions of Irish men, women and children had suffered death while their landlords sent off rich harvests and herds to the English markets.

This was the cause of the agrarian unrest among the rural population. Indeed, in 1822 a major artificial famine was about to occur. We have William Cobbett's horrendous picture of people starving in the midst of plenty in that year. In June, 1822, in Cork alone, 122,000 were on the verge of starvation and existing on charity. How many people died is hard to say. A minimum figure of 100,000 has been proposed. Most likely it around 250,000. At the same time, landowners were able to ship 7 million pounds (weight) of grain and countless herds of cattle, sheep and swine to the markets in England.

Some of the Rockite leaders saw a wider picture. Several notices around Mallow bore the signature of "John Rock, Commander-in-chief of the United Irishmen". Could the Rockites have inherited the United Irishman organisation? A government informer said that 'Captain Rock' was, in fact, "son to one (Arthur) O'Connor who went to France from this country".

John Hickey of Doneraile, who the English authorities suspected of being 'Captain Rock', also tended to use United Irishman rhetoric and mentioned that "assistance was to be given from France" to the Irish insurgents. He also acknowledged that one of the Rockite aims was placing "Catholics upon a level with Protestants".

Among the colonial landlords was Lord Courtenay of Powderham Castle, Devonshire, an absentee whose Irish estate was at Newcastle, Co Limerick. The estate was run with harshness by his agent, Alexander Hoskins. Even the Under Secretary, William Gregory, (the father-in-law of Lady Augusta Gregory), had been forced to comment "nothing can be more oppressive than the conduct of Lord Courtenay's agent".

In July, 1821, Hoskin's son, Thomas Hoskins, was assassinated. The assassin called himself 'Captain Rock'. His real name was Patrick Dillane.

Troops were called out to search for the assassin and cottages broken into, doors smashed with sledge hammers, the people ill-treated. In reaction, rural workers on other estates began to organise and raid for arms were made not only in Limerick but also in north Co. Cork. Between October, 1821, and April, 1822, it was recorded that 223 raids for arms and ammunition had occurred in Co. Cork alone. Raids were also occurring in Limerick and Kerry.

On September 15, 1821, a local magistrate, wrote to Chief Secretary Charles Grant (Lord Glenrig): "this insurrection will turn out more serious than any which has occurred in the south of Ireland for some years past."

Patrick Dillane had gathered a band of followers into the uplands on the Limerick, Kerry and Cork borders. At the time, it was an isolated region with roads too difficult for wheeled vehicles and for mounted troops to negotiate. But soon Dillane had handed his leadership to an elected body. Secret committees were organised with delegates sent to a central committee meeting in Mallow.

In December, 1821, magistrates in north west Cork discovered an oath. The administration soon found evidence of a widespread organisation with co-ordinated groups through the southern counties. By early 1822, the mountains of west Muskerry had become the central guerrilla base.

The insurrection occurred on January 24, 1822. The first major engagement between the Rockites and companies of Yeomanry troops, commanded by Lord Bantry, took place when Bantry, led his troops to the Pass of Keimaneigh. He was ambushed and several of his men were killed before he could retreat.

That same day Lt. Colonel Mitchell, commanding the garrison at Macroom, reported that hundreds of men armed mainly with pikes had surrounded the town, attacked and stopped the mail-coach from Cork City. The Rockites fought with "presumption and boldness although so badly armed".

Colonel James Barry, commanding the garrison at Millstreet, reported that upwards of 5,000 'rebels' had surrounded the town and many houses of loyalists between Inchigeelagh and Macroom were destroyed. The local Millstreet magistrate, E McCarty, added: "The people are all risen with what arms they possess and crown all the heights close to the town …" Cork City and Tralee were cut off for two days before troops fought their way through.

Reports of battles between the insurgents and troops were growing. Colonel Mitchell reported that he engaged some 2,000 insurgents at Deshure, between Macroom and Dunmanway. His men killed six, wounded many and took 30 prisoner for the loss of 'a few' of his own men.

Soldiers were among the casualties although the government reports make light of them and claim high figures for the insurgents. At Kanturk, Captain Stephenson reported his men had attacked a thousand insurgents, killed forty of them for one soldier slain.

It would seem that during this January, according to the local newspapers and military reports, many thousands of people from Limerick, Kerry, Cork and Tipperary were being mobilised by express orders to report to certain rallying points at certain times. This shows an organisation at a time when we are told that the United Irishmen organisation had ceased to exist and agrarian unrest was confined to small groups of 'disturbers' from isolated communities rising without co-ordination against local landlords.

The Rockite oath had the line: "I will plant the Tree of Liberty in as many hearth as I can depend my life upon" according to the Cork Constitution of March 24, 1823.

The so-called Rockite movement was more than just agrarian unrest. It was trying to give birth to another national uprising. The mobilisation of such diverse bodies of people, from such a large area, leads one to the inevitable conclusion that there was a directing committee with a single premeditated plan for insurrection.

In spite of the months of arms raids from loyalist houses and occasional barracks, the main bodies of insurgents seemed to have few weapons other than pikes. Most were unarmed as Reverend J Orpen wrote on February 25, 1822. "… by far the greater part were totally unarmed, driven like sheep to a slaughter house."

The events of January 24 and 25, 1822, constituted the main attempt of the Rockite movement and following the victories of government troops, many people began calling on magistrates for pardon, surrendering what arms they had and accepting a new oath of allegiance to the Crown. This opened the way for the introduction of more repressive policies by England.

The Insurrection Act was hurriedly passed and a new special police force set up in north Co. Cork where a chain of military posts, and two extra regiments to man them, were established.

However, this did not mean that the Rockites had gone away. In the following two years there were over 300 attacks in which arms were either taken or the produce of the great estates. If the produce could not be distributed to the starving people then it was destroyed to prevent it being shipped to English markets for sale.

Patrick Dillane, the first 'Captain Rock', seems to have disappeared. We know that in 1822 there was a trial held at Limerick Assizes of someone who was accused of the murder of Thomas Hoskins but it has proved difficult to find records of who was charged. We do know that in November, 1823, a farmer named Cornelius Curtin of Gortnaskehy, a mountain farm bear Newcastle, had his crops burnt in retaliation for appearing as a witness for the prosecution.

In March, 1823, John Hickey, a gardener by profession, was arrested near his home at Doneraile. According to A. Hill, reporting to Colonel Gough, Hickey had commanded 300 Rockites in committing agrarian outrages in Fermoy. Hickey was questioned with some severity by Major Carter but he refused to reveal the names of his associates and was executed. Hickey had indicated that the Rockites hoped for a national uprising. "When destruction of property and the (colonial) system is established in each county, then there will be a general rising," he assured Major Carter.

Hickey was a senior member of the Rockite leadership but he was not their leader.

David Nagle had been elected to lead the Rockite organisation. He was from Annakissy in the parish of Clenor, barony of Fermoy, and a member of one of the leading Catholic families in the county. The Nagles were moderately wealthy for Catholics at this time but clear in their politics. In 1798 they had their house burnt down by English troops. David's father appears as James Nagle Esquire.

There were many Nagles in the Fermoy area whose names appear on lists of suspected person, including that of David, then living at Ballydraheen.

David Nagle was betrayed by an informer and arrested near Cork City in July, 1823. He was reported to be an outstanding leader and was said to have been seen at the head of his men in a blue coat, a sash and sword and wearing a military hat with a big white feather.

Nagle was reported to have signed a confession before being sentenced to death but without naming anyone. It seems that, unwisely, some papers were found at his home revealing that there was a network of local secret Rockite committees. Mallow was where the central Rockite committee met consisting of sixty delegates, one of which had been Hickey.

The Mallow meeting in late 1822 had discussed ways of collecting money, manufacture and distribution of pikes and how to stage an uprising.

One of the Rockite committees, meeting in Charleville, in May, 1823, was arrested. They were fifteen men of various social backgrounds and professions.

Alas, I have not been able to trace any details so far about David Nagle's execution. The Connaught Journal's Cork correspondent did report, in the 4 September 1823, edition, that "R Nagle and Denis Barrett" were executed at Buttevant. However, they were charged specifically with raiding the home of Thomas Heffernan of Kilbarry for arms and ammunition.

However, there were several Nagles involved in the movement. It is dubious that 'R Nagle' was the same as 'David Nagle'. And there were several David Nagles, one of whom left for Québec in Canada, that very month of July, 1823. But he was only ten years old.

So much more research needs to be done on this hidden working class movement which has been almost ignored by those 'revisionist' historians who would have us believe how Ireland was happy under the 19th Century colonial system.

This essay appeared in the Irish Democrat website

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No country for old men

They say that you can judge a society by how it treats its young and its old. Last week with evidence that 188 kids died while under HSE care or remit it was clear that kids were not well served. Its the turn of the old this week with old people in a resident's home being pressured by the HSE to relocate. With the pressuring and threatening of old people the HSE shows how morally bankrupt it is.

Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Hogan has called on Health Minister Mary Harney to intervene after a third resident of Loughloe House has died since the HSE's announcement on 6 May of its plan to close the home. He described the tactics being used by the HSE to relocate residents as despicable and disgusting.

Councillor Hogan said: “A third resident of Loughloe House has passed away today. She had suffered a stroke in Loughloe House after pressure was put on her to agree to move to another home. She was transferred to Mullingar Hospital where she died in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday).

“Two residents of Loughloe House died within a week of the 6 May announcement. Relatives and staff with whom I have spoken are in no doubt that the stress caused by pressure to move out of Loughloe House was the key factor in their untimely deaths.

“Two other residents had heart attacks and another man had a stroke. Six people have now been hospitalised, three fatally, in one month. I want to extend sympathy to the three families concerned.

“We are talking about people’s lives here. Something needs to be done. I am calling for the Minister for Health Mary Harney to directly intervene and stand down the HSE’s disgusting and despicable methods of relocating residents. As Minister for Health she has a duty of care for all residents of Loughloe House.

“I have also called for an independent investigation into the methods being used by the HSE to relocate residents. Some residents have been threatened with the street if they talk to media or public representatives. Some were threatened with the door if they refused to take another bed offered to them by the HSE.

“Today I am meeting Joe Ruane, Health Manager for Longford and Westmeath. This will be my third time to meet him since the announcement was made to close Loughloe House. I am also meeting Minister for Health Mary Harney tomorrow in Leinster House. I will be raising these matters with them in a compassionate plea to stop the HSE from using such tactics, which is obviously causing huge stress and anxiety amongst the residents.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Suffer the little children outside the golden circle

Today the Health Service Executive revealed that an additional 151 kids who were known to social services have died since 2000. Last week the HSE confirmed that 37 kids who were in the care of the state since 2000 also died

This has all come to the fore since the tragic death of Daniel McAnespie

The HSE have a breakdown of how these kids died. Of this additional 151 kids 62 died of natural causes and 84 died of unnatural causes.

Deaths from natural causes during the period include deaths from illnesses such as brain tumours, leukaemia, heart disease and sudden infant death syndrome.

Of the 84 unnatural deaths the breakdown for causes of death is as follows:

•21 Suicide
•10 Unlawful Killing
•14 Drug Related
•15 Road Traffic Accidents
•24 Other Accidents

The terrible tragedy in Monageer in 2007 demonstrated that part time solutions for social services wont work.

Nows there is going to be less money than ever to provide these services. But I dont think its just about money. Its as much about responsibility. The usual problem in the southern state with nobody being responsible. Sure the Dept. of Health isn't responsible its the HSE etc etc.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Barry Andrews said he thought there might be some 'shock' at the figures in the report.

There will be shock that its kids dying but little shock that the southern state fails everyone who might rely on on it.

Barry can wonder why this state is like that.Maybe as Minister for Children he could talk to his father, former Fianna Fail TD David, or his uncle former Fianna Fail TD Niall or he could run along and have a chat with his cousin Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrew.

Or why not talk to the previous Minister for Children Brian Lenihan TD whose brother Conor is as we know a Fianna Fail TD and whose dad was a FF td and whose auntie is the formidable Fianna Fail TD Mary o'Rourke.

Some kids have every advantage in this state Barry and some kids have none.
You of all people should not be surprised by that.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Working Class is being replaced with the Unemployed class

The relentless trend of economic bad news is not going away. CSO figures for the Live Register shows unemployment is only getting worse. The Figures have now risen from 13.4% up to 13.7%. Since the last election the govt. has tripled the unemplyment rate from 4.5% up to that 13.7%.

But how long will all this last. Aren't things looking up according to the dublin govt. Well according to Ernst & Young's latest report persistent unemployment is going to remain around for a long time. Progressive-economy reports they suggests that it will be well over a decade before all-Island employment returns to its peak of 2.9m achieved in 2007. (And interestingly the report repeatedly focuses on all-Ireland rather than the component economies of each state which is at least one positive trend). For the 26 counties employment levels won’t return to their pre-recession level until 2022.

Some commentators have optimistically looked at the jobless figures and noted that the rate of increase for the live register is droppiing off.

But thats to miss the huge social implications of the return of long term unemployment, under-investment and emmigration.

Over 10 years of Fianna Fail jobs for the boys means another 10 years of unemployment and pain for ordinary people.

Its got to end. We need those bye-elections held, the govt. removed, and the serious work to begin so that the inherent stregth of the economy is developed for the benefit of ordinary people and not a cosy circle of insiders.