ON THIS DATE (8TH FEBRUARY) 170 YEARS AGO : 'THE LIBERATOR' PLEADS - 'ONE IN FOUR WILL DIE UNLESS YOU HELP...'
(An Gorta Mór) and, in it, he stated - "Ireland is in your hands and in your power. If you do not save her, she cannot save herself. And I solemnly call on you to bear in mind what I am telling you now in advance, something of which I am absolutely certain, that one out of every four of her people will soon die unless you come to her aid..."
The use of the term 'famine', in this instance, is a misnomer if ever there was one - 'In the early summer of 1845, on the 11th September of that year, a disease referred to as blight was noted to have attacked the crop in some areas. In that year, one third of the entire crop was destroyed. In 1846, the crop was a total failure. This report came from a Galway priest - "As to the potatoes, they are gone – clean gone. If travelling by night, you would know when a potato field was near by the smell. The fields present a space of withered black stalks..." Though 1847 was free from blight, few seed potatoes had been planted...yet the country was producing plenty of food. As the Irish politician, Charles Duffy wrote: "Ships continue to leave the country, loaded with grain and meat." As food was scarce people would eat anything such as nettles, berries, roots, wildlife, animals, dogs and cats in order to survive...' (from here.)
O'Connell pleaded with Westminster to save the people of Ireland who were being decimated by sickness and disease, caused by a lack of nourishment, and requested that, instead of building roads and other such infrastructure, the money available for same should be used to encourage the Irish to cultivate the soil to plant oats and barley etc, and a 'compromise' (of sorts) was arrived at - cheap Indian corn was brought into Ireland, for the people, sometimes on the same ships that, when unloaded, would then be loaded again with Irish-produced oats and barley - 'cash crops', according to the landlords, for export, not for home consumption!
The imported 'corn' was considered by the Irish to be a type of animal feed, the grain of which was so tough as to cause great pain and, even at that, the amount of it imported was inadequate for the number of people in need.
Daniel O'Connell died, age 72, in Genoa, Italy, 13 weeks after his 8th February speech and, as he requested, his heart was buried in Rome and the remainder of his body was buried in Glasnevin, Dublin. Father Ventura of the Theatine Order delivered the oration, during which he stated - "My body to Ireland – my heart to Rome – my soul to heaven : what bequests, what legacies, are these! What can be imagined at the same time more sublime and more pious than such a testament as this! Ireland is his country – Rome is the church – heaven is God. God, the Church and his country – or, in other words, the glory of God, the liberty of the Church, the happiness of his country are the great ends of all his actions – such the noble objects, the only objects of his charity! He loves his country and therefore he leaves to it his body; he loves still more the Church and hence he bequeaths to it his heart ; and still more he loves God, and therefore confides to Him his soul! Let us profit then, of this great lesson afforded by a man so great – a man who has done such good service to the Church, to his country, and to humanity..."
It was on this date - 8th February - 170 years ago that Daniel O'Connell delivered his last speech in the British 'House of Commons'.
PROSE AND CONS.
Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.
First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.
THE JOINT. (By Harry Melia.)
Tears in my eyes
I get the skins, a bit of hash
and make a nice skinner
to decorate my lip.
A couple of drags, the mind blows
funny thoughts, laughing to myself,
as a spider looks like a giant monster.
Giggles, a fit of laughter,
screw's eyes looking through the peephole
think I'm mad.
I start to sing
think I'm Tom Jones, belting out
'She's a Lady'
the lads shouting "Belt Up!"
out the windows.
Laughter, more laughter,
the tape plays, I dance
oh so much fun
what a few puffs can do
are you alright?
give us a light.
Mind gone astray
left this prison for another day
beautiful thoughts, so much fun
light another joint
the party's just begun.
(Next - 'The System', by Harry Melia.)
ON THIS DATE (8TH FEBRUARY) 31 YEARS AGO : ONE EPISODE IN THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH...
Father Gilbert Gauthe (pictured, left) now in jail for sexually abusing three dozen alter boys.
The boy's parents, Glenn and Faye Gastal, refused 'out of court' settlements and sought twelve million dollars in their lawsuit against the Catholic Church because, they said, it harboured the priest even after learning that he was a child molester. The predominantly Catholic jury also awarded the boy's parents 250,000 dollars. The abuse started when the boy was seven years of age. Father Gilbert Gauthe was sentenced to twenty years in prison last October (ie October 1985) after admitting he molested the children at Saint John Parish Church in the community of Esther. The Lafayette Diocese has settled lawsuits with thirteen families against Father Gilbert Gauthe for a reported five-and-a-half million dollars, with not one of those thirteen cases going to trial...' (from 'The Evening Press' newspaper, 8th February 1986 ; thirty-one years ago on this date.)
These are the same self-righteous hypocrites that, at the drop of a Bishop's hat, will - and have - condemned Irish men and women for challenging, and seeking to change, the political and social system in Ireland. A corrupt system which nurtures a corrupt Church.
TRADE UNIONS AND CAPITALISM IN IRELAND....
By mimicking the 'left' of the Labour Party, the Workers Party have made temporary gains in the Free State, though they have become increasingly redundant in the North. Yet, despite their greater efficiency and comprehensiveness of policy, they are no nearer James Connolly than the Labour Party.
THE WAY FORWARD.
The alternative to the current disarray within the labour movement, and the lack of socialist perspectives, is not to be found in theoretical tracts or in abusive rhetoric, but in sound agitational work based on the enormous militant potential of grass-roots trade unionists. While capitalism in Ireland is relatively stable, its foundations are uncertain, and the false base of foreign investment will assuredly lead to a political crisis in coming years.
Equally, the terms of IMF reflotation loans will become increasingly harsh, and capitalism's ability to maintain social consenus will falter. In this situation, industrial action alone, and isolated defensive actions by the most militant unions, will not be enough to deal with the situation.
It is only by political action paralleling industrial might that the trade unions will become a genuine force for lasting social change. Naturally, this work will not take place in isolation from the national struggle against imperialism. ('1169...' comment - that "work" should "not take place in isolation from the national struggle against imperialism", but our history proves otherwise : those that have left the republican movement over the years have, on entering Leinster House and/or Stormont [Westminster next?], concentrated their political efforts on 'social change' issues for their own re-election purposes and, occasionally, would pay lip service to "the national struggle against imperialism".) (MORE LATER).
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE (does my head in...)
We sat down on the chairs that were right up against the wire of the cage at the gate, and it begins : "You filthy swine! You rotter! You are a blackguard, my good man...you carbuncle on the backside of humanity...you filthy rotten scoundrel...you premarital accident...Glasgow Celtic FOREVER...!", we shouted, gratuitously.
"What the fuck's going on here?", asked the Adjutant. "Well, we thought since the really bad abuse wasn't working that we would try a different tack." "Just you do what you're told and stop messing about." The messing about stopped and thank God my mum wasn't there to hear Messrs Barnes, Burns, Wilson, Tolan and her own son abusing the screws.
A halt was called not long later and an assistant governor and a chief screw approached Cage 7, and stood at the wire talking to the IRA officer commanding of the sentenced prisoners. They were very agitated and animated, and threats were being made from both sides. "I'll send the soldiers in," said the assistant governor. "I'll burn the Camp," replied the OC... (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DAY NEXT WEEK (WEDNESDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 2017)...
Thanks for reading, Sharon.