Ireland’s misogony born of the defeat in the Civil War

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22/06/2021 by socialistfight


Constance Markievicz, the first woman elected to the House of Commons in 1918. After 1916 she was court martialled but not executed because of her sex. She was a leader of the IRA, Sinn Fein, the Irish Citizen Army (founded by James Connolly) Cumann Na mBan, and many other Irish rebel movements. She designed the Irish Citizens Army uniform (above).
 

Mná na hÉireann: The Misogyny of the Mother and Baby Homes was born in the defeat of the Civil War By Gerry Downing

Marc Mulholland in Weekly Worker, January 14 says “It would be excessively dogmatic to deny Ireland some kind of revolution in this (post famine) period” but he has a go at it anyway and then gives us his ultra-conservative view of world history and the very damaging effect revolutions have had on humanity, not least in Ireland, where nothing of that kind really happened at all. His views on this are on a par with the likes of Eoghan Harris, columnist in Ireland’s Sunday Independent, in his forthright opposition to the revolutionary tradition of Ireland and its women revolutionaries in particular.

Harris, the greatest of all Irish political chameleons, was a ‘Marxist’ theoretician in the Sinn Fein-the Workers Party (1977) and its predecessor, Official Sinn Féin (1970). Today it goes by the name of The Workers Party, a self-declared Marxist–Leninist party in Ireland north and south. Harris vehemently rejected Marxism, which he never understood or practiced in the first place as a secret member of the Workers Party. He has variously been an adviser to John Bruton before he became Taoiseach, an adviser to the Ulster Unionist Party and Bertie Ahern. Likewise, he has repudiated Irish republicanism to pitch to his Loyalist base in the north and the west Brit Blueshirt wing of Fine Gael in the south.

He has no doubt that Irish society is primarily to blame for the appalling misogyny revealed in the Mother and Baby scandal; rural Ireland and the strong farmers worried about inheritance are responsible and only then are we to criticise church and state, victims themselves because they merely reflected the social attitudes of these monsters.

Likewise, Harris continually pours scorn on the Easter Rising and Sinn Féin as a threat and insult to northern unionists. A letter in The Sunday Independent on 17 January from one Paddy McEvoy goes one better, one truth he wishes to outline is “the (mistaken) judgment of the 1916 Ester insurrectionists in forcing Ireland out of the Union/Empire … had this sundering not happened as it did, could the Catholic Church have got away with the reign of overlordship it exerted?”

The exact opposite is the truth. The Ireland that produced this appalling misogyny was not caused by the revolutionary era between 1916 and 1922, in which great heroic men and women were in the forefront. The mass excommunications of the IRA from the Catholic church by the likes of Cork’s bishop Danny Coholan had a negligible effect on the struggle – not all priests obeyed the bishops on this anyway. However, the counter-revolution of the Civil War (28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923) put him and the likes of the clerical fascists Cardinal McRory and Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin in the saddle.

The terrible Kerry Atrocities and the summary executions of the 77 prisoners of war, like Erskine Childers on 24 November 1922 and Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey on 8 December, were surely on British urgings. Mellows was the greatest of all the internationalist revolutionary republican socialists, potentially even greater than James Connolly had he lived for his understanding of the unity of the cause of labour with the cause of Ireland, gleaned from his time in exile in the USA (1916-20).

Mulholland manages to avoid all mention of the militant Irish working class like the 1913 Dublin Lock-out and dismisses James Connolly as “prominent within labour nationalism” whatever that is. He makes no mention of the Soviets that appeared in several places in Ireland in those revolutionary years; between 1921 and 1922 there arose Soviets in the Monaghan Asylum, Limerick, Knocklong, Waterford, Bruree, Cork Harbour, the North Cork railways, the quarry and the fishing boats at Castleconnell, a coach builders in Tipperary as well as the local gas works, a clothing factory in Dublin’s Rathmines, sawmills in Killarney and Ballinacourtie, the Drogheda Iron Foundry, Waterford Gas, and the mines at Arigna in County Roscommon and Ballingarry Coal Mines near Ballingarry, South Tipperary.

On 24 and 28 April, Wikipedia reports the Daily Herald, carried articles on Waterford’s ‘Red Guards’, stating that a red flag floated over the Town Hall, and a sort of ‘Red Guard’ was established under three transport leaders and gave the impression that the city was undisputedly ruled by a soviet during the time of the strike. The Irish working class sought to emulate the great Russian revolution, which Mulholland dismisses so contemptuously. Nothing as revolutionary as this happened in Britain.

The war crimes that constitute these murders were demanded by the new masters of the party of Collins and Griffiths, now the party of the even more vile counter-revolutionaries Cosgrave and Mulcahy following the former deaths on August 12 and 22 1922. They supplied the guns to bombard the Four Courts and there is overwhelming evidence that the British gave active military support to the ‘national army’ and even got a departing British regiment to join in bombarding the Four Courts themselves, as a parting gift to Michael Collins. Cardinal McRory directly participated in the raising of Eoin O’Duffy’s brigade to fight for Franco and fascism in Spain in 1936. That defeat forged Ireland’s reactionary social attitudes to women reflected from the altar by priests naming and shaming women, always leaving the fathers of the children off scott free.

All six female TDs, Constance Markievicz, the first woman elected to the House of Commons in 1918 (Mulholland ridiculously denies this on the basis that she never intended to take her seat to rubbish this evidence of revolution; even Theresa May inadvertently acknowledged her in 2018), Kathleen Clarke, Ada English, Mary MacSwiney, Kathleen O’Callaghan and Margaret Pearse (all elected with Markievicz on 1921), voted against the Treaty in the Second Dáil.

Markievicz (‘mad bitch’ the Treatyites called her) was Minister for Labour from April 1919 to January 1922, the only woman to be a cabinet minister in Ireland for sixty years; Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was the next when she was appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht for Fianna Fáil in 1979. The number of women elected to the Dáil fell dramatically after the catastrophe of the Civil War defeat and did not begin to recover until the middle 1960s.

Surely, it’s time to end the ‘straight-washing’ of her sister Eva and Esther Roper. On February 1, 2018 Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq laid wreaths at the grave of Eva Gore-Booth in Hampstead. But they did not manage this elementary task by ignoring the body of her life’s companion, Ester Roper who lay with her.

Let us remember Eva Gore-Booth as a great suffragette but we should also remember her life’s partner who was certainly as great a suffragette, as great a pioneer of women’s rights and as great a champion of the love that dares not speak its name. Gore-Booth and Roper also championed the rights of transgender people in those radical liberating times which had their apogee in the Russian Revolution, with its great revolutionary women like Inessa Armand, Alexandra Kollontai and Clara Zetkin. In Manchester, in 1908 they formed the successful Barmaids Defence League against Winston Churchill’s promised legislation to prevent women from working in pubs. How long has it taken before such issues could be discussed again in Ireland?

There were powerful revolutionary female republicans like Mary MacSwiney, sister of Terence MacSwiney, and Margaret Pearse, mother of Pádraig and Willie. The all-female Cumann na mBan was the most steadfast republican organisation of all. When the Civil War ended, Grace Gifford, the widow of Joseph Mary Plunkett, elected to Sinn Féin’s executive in 1917, was penniless, hounded and socially ostracised like all defeated Republicans. Her legal case, based on Joseph Plunkett’s will, against Count Plunkett and his wife got her just £700, plus costs in 1934. Anne Devlin, Robert Emmet’s political co-thinker and cousin of Michael Dwyer, similarly died penniless in Dublin in 1851, after the 1798-1803 counter revolution.

Other revolutionary women are Kathleen Clarke, widow of Tom Clarke, whose struggles is recorded from her papers by her grand-niece Helen Litton in the book, Kathleen Clarke, Revolutionary Woman, 2008 published by O’Brien press. Professor Kathleen (Kate) O’Callaghan (née Murphy; 1888 – 16 March 1961) was the widow of Michael O’Callaghan, Mayor of Limerick and an IRA officer, who was killed in her presence by British forces in 1921. She was re-elected at the 1922 general election, this time as an Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin TD. In accordance with Sinn Féin abstentionist policy of the time, she did not take her seat in the 3rd Dáil. She lost the seat at the 1923 general election.

Four Courts Press have produced “We were there” – 77 women of the Easter Rising Richmond Barracks 1916 by Mary McAuliffe &Liz Gillis. The blurb records:

“It is now generally acknowledged that women played a vital role in the Irish revolutionary movement in the years 1913–23, including the Easter Rising. Women of the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, the Clan na nGaedheal Girl Scouts and individual women fought side by side with their male counterparts in most of the Rising outposts in Dublin, Enniscorthy and Galway during Easter week 1916. After the surrender, seventy-seven of these women were arrested along with their male colleagues and taken to Richmond Barracks in Inchicore, Dublin. It is these seventy-seven, representing a cross-section of Irish society in a pivotal time in Irish history, whose histories, activism and legacies form the nucleus of this book.”

These revolutionary men and women understood what was coming and that was why they fought against it so heroically. It is pleasing to see some of their ideals vindicated today. ▲

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