Given that this week has seen the unveiling of a mural and the erection of a plaque in memory of the Irish anti-fascists that went to fight in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, it was great to come across the clipping below when doing research for a completely different article. Reading like a veritable who’s who of revolutionary politics, Charlie Donnelly, Frank Ryan, and the sons of Thomas McDonagh and Francis and Hannah Sheehy Skeffington all appear in an article dated May 12th 1934.
The article focuses on the foundation of a society called Student Vanguard at a meeting in a room in 41 Parnell Square. The society, a joint effort between UCD and Trinity students, unveiled its manifesto at the meeting, stating:
The Student Vanguard sees in Fascism in Ireland the bludgeon of the reactionary elements against the struggle for the national and social liberation of the Irish people.
The meeting did not go entirely to plan though, and eleven Blueshirts made their presence known at the back of the room causing a scuffle to break out and the meeting to be interrupted. Bizarrely enough, it looks very much like the Blueshirts were present, somewhat under the blessing of Charlie Donnelly, who would later fight and die in Spain, on the Republican side. A Mr. K. Patton from UCD, who declared himself a Blueshirt stated at one stage “We promised Mr. Donnelly we wouldn’t cause any trouble here tonight.”
Frank Ryan later apologized in the meeting stating that if it was the case that the Blueshirts present were indeed there under invite, then he retracted his demand for them to leave. At the meeting, it was also stated that “Fascism (means) political, economic and cultural repression; distortion and restriction of education; the crushing of all progressive movements; perpetuation by force of ‘the present economic anarchy,’ unemployment and distress.”
Despite what seemed to pass off as a rift between two groups of students, settled by a polite handshake and an apology, a couple of years later, men from both sides would be making their way to Spain to fight on either side of the Civil War. The Blueshirts left with a fanfare, and came back without a loss in combat and with their tails between their legs. Some on the Republican side, like Michael O’Riordan and Bob Doyle would come back alive, others, like Charlie Donnelly would not.