Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Today, a friend sent me on an article from Wednesday’s Morning Star about the decline of Europe’s left-wing press. It got me thinking about the newspapers and magazines that are published today in Ireland and what kind of future lies ahead for them.

While the latter question cannot be answered without some thought, I thought I’d first try to write up a detailed, updated list of what is currently being published.

Here’s what I came up with…

The anarchist group the Workers Solidarity Movement publish a paper Workers Solidarity (Free, bi-monthly) and a more theoretical magazine Irish Anarchist Review (Free, bi-annually, 24 pages).

An independent counter-culture crew bring out Rabble (Free, Quarterly, 24 pages).

The Workers Party produces a broad left magazine called Look Left (€2, Quarterly, 40 pages).

Current Issue of Look Left

Trotskyist groups The Socialist Workers Party publish The Socialist Worker (Donation, Monthly, 8 pages) and Irish Marxist Review (€3, Irregular, 55 pages) while The Socialist Party publish The Socialist (Donation, Monthly, 12 pages) and a political journal Socialist View.

Within Irish Republicanism, Sinn Fein produce a newspaper An Phoblact (€2, Monthly, 32 pages) and a magazine Iris (€4, Quarterly, 64 pages), the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM) bring out The Sovereign Nation (€2/donation, Irregular, 8 pages), Republican Sinn Fein (RSF) publish Saoirse (€2, Monthly, 16 pages) and the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) has a new magazine Starry Plough (€1.50, Quarterly, 28 pages).

Current issue of The Starry Plough

The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) publishes Socialist Voice (€1.50, Monthly, 12 pages)

As far as I’m aware, the Irish Socialist Network (ISN) still prints Resistance (Free, Quarterly, 4 pages)

A group of socialists independently produce Red Banner (€2, Quarterly, ?)

While Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) has a newsletter In The Area (Free, Quarterly, 4 pages) and a magazine No Quarter (€2, Irregular, 28 pages).

Current issue of In The Area

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Leave Bertie A Loan.

De Bruder did the above piece as a tribute to King Chancer, with the day that was in it yesterday. Thug Life is a play on the lavish lifestyles enjoyed (and boasted about) by a certain kind of hip hop artist of course. Bertie was never a hip hop artist, more a piss artist.

It reminded me to dig through the archive for this Come Here To Me classic…..

…..and that my friends is why they put cameras into mobile phones. Earlier today I spotted the same autobiography in a discount bookshop in town. How the mighty have fallen.

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Sinn Fein – March 22: 8,600. April 22: 9,386. May 22: 9,781.

Workers Solidarity Movement (Anarchists) –  M22:6,972. A22:7,347. M22:7,557.

Labour Party – M22:6,930. A22:7,009. M22:7,093.

Fine Gael – M22:6,385. A22:6,444. M22:6,498.

Socialist Workers Party – M22:4,012. A22:4,217. M22:4,517.

Fianna Fail – M22:3,765. A22:3,873. M22:3,963.

United Left Alliance – M22:1,789. A22:1,1803. M22:1,841

Republican Sinn Fein – M22: 1,487. A22: 1,531. M22:1,563

Communist Party of Ireland – M22:874. A22:919. M22:975.

Irish Republican Socialist Party –  M22:513. A22:552. M22:576.

Workers Party – M22:228. A22:246. M22:245.

There doesn’t seem to be a main FB page for the Socialist Party but Joe Higgins has 4,740 ‘likes’. The 32CSM nor the ISN seem to have FB pages either. Note: the RSF one is only the Wikipedia page but I thought it was worth including.

For the record, the Chicken Fillet Baguette has 7,999 likes!

“Opposition supporters talk near graffiti referring to social networking site “Facebook” in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Steve Crisp / REUTERS”

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An interesting image and quote this. The Table Campaign was founded in 1996, around the time of the IRA’s shattering of the 17 month ceasefire, with the Canary Wharf bombing on 9th February that year.

The concept was to set up a load of tables on O’Connell bridge and invite people passing by to sit down and discuss what peace should look like at those tables. There was some Sinn Fein involvement and they argued for a giant table as a striking press image. On the day of the event however all that appeared was a giant table, maybe 3m high, far too high in the air for anyone to sit at, dominating the bridge. The lesser tables for the ordinary people to sit and discuss what a popular peace process might look like did not appear. Symbolic, if perhaps accidentally, of the process as a whole where the rest of the population were limited to the role of watching the drama around the big table at Stormont.”

Thanks to Andrew Flood for the image and accompanying quote.

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I wanted to mark the fact International Women’s Day falls this week with a feature looking at a publication which was banned by the state and a situation which led a group of 20 young women to board a train at Connolly Station one morning in 1977 to acquire copies. There’s a lot more to be written on this I’m sure, but this is a modest effort to tell the story of Spare Rib for the week that is in it.

Spare Rib was a second-wave British feminist publication set up in 1972, to provide a feminist alternative to commercial women’s magazines. It was very much a publication of the left, for example often writing critically of Britain’s role in Ireland, along with giving coverage to labour disputes. The excellent study Women and Journalism notes that W.H Smith refused to stock the first issue of the magazine, which contained such shocking content as a feature on skin care and an interview with George Best! It also included articles on sex, gender equality and women’s role in history.

Quite unsurprisingly, the publication was banned in Ireland. In February of 1977 following a complaint to the Censorship of Publications Board, it was decided that the magazine was unfit for the eyes of the Irish public. A statement from the Board noted that having examined recent issues of the British magazine, the magazine was found to have been “usually or infrequently indecent or obscene, and that for that reason the sale or distribution in the state of the said issues or future issues of the said periodical publication should be prohibited.”

Immediately following the banning of Spare Rib, there began a strong feminist campaign to overturn the ban. Ironically, while the magazine had enjoyed miniscule readership in Ireland prior to the banning, the debate over the decision of the Censorship of Publications Board saw Spare Rib make its way into the letters pages of the national print media.

The secretary of Irishwomen United, an outspoken feminist organisation, would write to the editors of the national daily papers on February 11 1977 stating that “we see the censorship of Spare Rib as a direct attack of feminism and the women’s movement.” Nell McCafferty would describe the organisation in a 1979 feature for the Irish Times as being “composed, significantly, of trade unionists, professional women and the unemployed, who had scarcely heard of motherhood.”

Like large sections of the British left at the time, the people behind Spare Rib weren’t entirely sure how to deal with matters relating to the island next door. Rose Ades, one of the women on the collective behind the publication, remarked that they did not wish to be seen to be imposing any sort of “British cultural imperialism” and that “we don’t want to be thought of as foisting something essentially alien on Irish people if they don’t want it.”

Yet Irish feminists did want it. Enough to fight for it. Three days after the letter from Irishwomen United appeared in the national daily papers, on Valentines Day, 20 members of the feminist organisation boarded the 8am shoppers special train for Belfast with the intention of returning with 150 copies of the publication. As Nell McCafferty wrote in the pages of the Irish Times:

The publishers of the magazine had donated the copies free and sent them over to Belfast as a contribution to the women’s’ struggle in the south. The women intended to return to Dublin on the 5.30pm train, depending of course on what happened to the banned magazine during Customs Inspection in Dundalk.

The women managed to bring the publication into the south with no opposition from Customs in Dundalk, and arrived at Connolly station as planned that night, where the assembled media awaited the inevitable showdown with the Guardians of the Peace. In the end three Gardaí approached the women, attempted to apprehend one, failed, and not a single copy of the publication was seized by the state.

Two weeks later, on February 28th, the organisation would challenge the law banning the publication by openly selling it on the streets of Dublin. A packed protest meeting at the Mansion House saw speakers denounce the ban, and three women told Gardaí formally that they intended to sell the publication there and then to all interested. They were Marie McMahon and Joanne O’Brien of Irishwomen United and Sue Burns of the Irish Family Planning Service. No attempt was made to stop them. Interestingly, Marie McMahon had been involved in the Hume Street occupation and the Irish Civil Rights Association.


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On February 27 1864, The Nation newspaper reported on a ‘ingrate and dishonouring act’ carried out by Dublin Corporation, when the Corporation decided upon Prince Albert, and not Henry Grattan, for the prime statue location at College Green. The paper ran a selection of extracts from other papers across the island, which all slammed the decision, with the Wexford People noting that “thirty-two against fourteen decided that Henry Grattan might go seek a place elsewhere, and that Prince Albert should be the choice of Ireland.”

By December of 1865, The Nation was boasting that the planned “German invasion” of College Green,in the form of a statue to Prince Albert, was no more. There had been protests against the statue, for example a meeting at the Rotunda which saw Fenians take the stage. The Lord Mayor had read a letter from the Duke of Leinster in Council which proposed that the Prince Albert Statue Committee erect their monument to Albert in the grounds of the Royal Dublin Society House. “The idea that Prince Albert’s statue would ever be raised in College Green was manifestly as hopeless and wild as a design to move the Hill of Howth” the paper stated, and the planned “desecration” of College Green, an area historically associated with Henry Grattan and his Irish Volunteers, had been averted. “The husband of the famine Queen” was not to have pride of place on College Green.

Albert's statue in Dublin today, on Leinster Lawn.

Today, Prince Albert’s statue is one of the last ‘imperial’ statues in the city to survive. In the city of exploding statues, Albert today sits hidden in the grounds of Leinster House, right by the Natural History Museum’s walls, with few Dubs aware of his presence. College Green would become home to John Henry Foley’s statue of Grattan, a statue unveiled on January 6 1875. At that unveiling A.M Sullivan spoke of how “this is an age where in other lands principles are abroad teaching class to war upon class. Come hither, Irish men…..behold the figure of a man who born in the highest sphere of society, had a heart that felt for the poorest cottager on an Irish hillside.”

The Irish Times report on the unveiling of the statue noted that the position was perfect for a monument to Grattan, alongside Parliament and facing his alma mater. “His statue has been placed on the only site in Ireland that was worthy of the man, fronting equally two buildings with which his name will be forever most gloriously associated.”

Leinster Lawn, home to Prince Albert today, was of course also once home to Queen Victoria. The figures from the base of her monument are today in Dublin Castle, and will be examined here soon, but Victoria herself would end up in Australia, removed from Leinster Lawn in 1947 and placed in storage for several decades.

The removal of Queen Victoria.

In a 2005 letter to The Irish Times, MM Ireland wrote a letter in response to one stating the statue of Victoria should be returned to Dublin and placed alongside Prince Albert on Leinster Lawn once more.

“I do not know whether the Australians bought Queen Victoria’s statue from us, when it was found to be surplus to our requirements, but we should certainly let them have Prince Albert for nothing.”

It’s difficult to imagine a situation where Prince Albert’s statue would have survived following independence were it placed at College Green. King William of Orange, who sat at College Green for so many years upon his horse, was blown up in the 1940s. Today, that spot is occupied by Irish nationalist Thomas Davis.

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Dublin has a great history of flyposting, indeed in the past we’ve had some great images here showing the tradition, like this one below from 1923 which jaycarax talked about here. The legality of flyposting in Dublin has been ambiguous historically of course, at present the act is prohibited but in post Celtic Tiger Dublin some sites in the city have become unofficial billboards almost.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Digging through the archives, two unusual incidents grabbed my attention from the 1980s, which saw Ulster loyalists fly-post on the streets of the capital. One incident even saw a certain Rev.Ian Paisley and others pasting posters which simply read ‘ULSTER IS BRITISH’ outside of the General Post Office on O’Connell Street!

In May of 1984, the Democratic Unionist Party flyposted 30,000 posters on the streets of the north, the posters were simple in design and message, simply showing a Union Jack and proclaiming that ‘ULSTER IS BRITISH’. The simple posters were the response of the party to the New Ireland Forum, a forum which Paisley and other unionists were fiercly opposed to. Ian Paisley and other leading figures from the DUP decided to embark on a trip to Dublin, during which they would paste the poster up in a number of key locations in the city, such as at the GPO and also outside the offices of The Irish Times.

Paisley told the newspapers that the photo of him postering at the GPO would take “pride of place” in his home, and that he was “glad to stand where the 1916 proclamation was read”. His only criticism of the south was that the “roads are very bad”. The daring act of postering O’Connell Street was done under cover of darkness at 3am, and among those accompanying Paisley was Peter Robinson.

Independent, May 3 1984.

Two years later, in 1986, Ulster Loyalists would once more poster in Dublin, however unlike Ian Paisley’s daring 3am photoshoot, this was a much larger operation with about 20 members of the Ulster Loyalist Democratic Party involved in a large scale operation across the city. The ULDP were the political wing of the UDA, and the posters were in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The posters targeted Garrett Fitzgerald and asked ‘What has Fitzgerald ever done for the ordinary people of Dublin?’ and another stated ‘We will never allow Fitzgerald any involvement in our affairs’.

There’s a lot more to write on the tradition of fly-posting in Dublin of course, but these two incidents certainly are unusual.

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From front page of Sunday Independent, October 22 1967

On October 21 1967, a group calling themselves the ‘North Leinster Unit of the Republican Movement’ attempted a daring attack on the headquarters of Fianna Fáil in Dublin, with the aim of drawing attention to the plight of republicans imprisoned in Portlaoise and Limerick. Two petrol bombs were used in the attempt, but it was a night of high drama with a hijacked taxi thrown into the story for good measure, coupled with the firing of shots. Fianna Fáil HQ, or ‘Aras De Valera’ as it later became known, was located at 13 Upper Mount Street.

The Irish Press newspaper of October 23 noted that the petrol bombing of Fianna Fáil HQ at 9.30pm on the 21st coincided with the delivery of a letter to their editorial office claiming the attack for the ‘North Leinster Unit of the Republican Movement’. Of course, The Irish Press was likely chosen owing to its having a long history of connection to the Fianna Fáil party. The very first editor of the publication was Frank Gallagher, a very capable writer who had worked alongside Erskine Childers on the Republican publicity staff during the War of Independence.

Prior to the attack, there had been a hijacking near Pearse Street public library, when a Dublin taxidriver found himself answering a call to a number of men armed with revolvers. The taxi was driven to the Fury Glen in the Phoenix Park, and the driver tied up and told to lie on the floor in the back of the taxi. The taxi was then driven back to the city by one of the attackers. Two petrol bombs were thrown into the premises, described in a later newspaper report at the time of the court cases which followed as “two-gallon tins containing a mixture of oil and petrol” A man who witnessed the attack chased a car driving off from the scene, and for his efforts shots were fired at him near Government Buildings.

The statement delivered to The Irish Press read, in full:

Saturday nights attack on the Government Party headquarters was carried out by the North Leinster Unit of the Republican Movement. Our objective is to focus attention to the cause of three Republican soldiers at present serving jail sentences because of their ideal of a ‘Free Ireland’. This should also be taken as an indication that militant Republicans will meet Fianna Fáil and its secret police with force. Militant republicans demand the release of H. Greensmith, H.A Grensmith and Joe Dillon.

The case quickly came to court, with four men in custody within an hour of the attack. Typically enough, this being Dublin, they were picked up in a city centre public house. Within weeks, two men were sentenced to six months in prison for their role in the attack. The men delivered defiant statements, with one saying:

I take full responsibility for the action carried out, which was to draw attention to the fact that there are political prisoners in Ireland at the moment.

Remarkably, in March of 1969, there was another less serious attack on Fianna Fáil HQ when a petrol bomb was again thrown at the building, though this time there was little damage, no hijacking and thankfully no shots fired!

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Prisoners outside burning Custom House, Dublin 1921 (NLI)

History Ireland have uploaded a video of the recent War of Independence focused Hedge School held at the National Library of Ireland.

I’ve never seen a waiting line like it at the National Library. Journalists, historians, the generally curious and Dubliners of every kind. Even a certain Vincent Browne was spotted walking away. They could have filled the venue for this one twice or even three times over.

The title of the Hedge School was The War of Independence: ‘four glorious years’ or squalid sectarian conflict? Chaired by Tommy Graham, the speakers are David Fitzpatrick, John M. Regan, Eve Morrison and John Borgonovo.

The video can be viewed here, at the History Ireland Vimeo account. It appears embedding has been disabled so click through.

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From The Irish Times, December 18 1961. A fine base for Lord Gough, but no sign of the man himself.

We’ve looked at plaques in considerable detail on the site, and one thing I really want to get around to in time is the statues of Dublin. ‘All the fellas between Charles Stewart Parnell and Daniel O’Connell’, with the exception of William Smith O’Brien, have gone unexamined. How many Dubliners can name all the statues on O’Connell Street?

We looked briefly too at the loyalist bombing of the Daniel O’Connell statue in 1969, and jaycarax had a fascinating photographic history of Henry Grattan’s statue, the Trinity graduate facing his Alma Mater at College Green.

Of the statues no longer with us, Lord Gough’s has always been particularly interesting to me for a few reasons. Like Victoria, he is a Dublin statue which has ended up many miles from home, though not vanished quite as far as herself (she’s in Australia, for anyone who doesn’t know). The statue was the site of Winston Churchill’s earliest childhood memory, and it is a statue that was in and out of the newspapers for a long time prior to its ultimate removal from the Phoenix Park. It also inspired my favourite Dublin poem, which for a long time was falsely attributed to Brendan Behan, for example even in Ulick O’Connor’s biography of the man, but was in fact the work of quintessential Dub Vincent Caprani. The statue is the work of the great John Henry Foley, responsible also for Daniel O’Connell’s statue at the top of O’Connell Street and the Trinity duo of Burke and Goldsmith among others.

John Henry Foley

Winston Churchill recalled in his autobiographical work My Early Life 1874-1904, that his earliest memories from childhood were set here in Dublin. Asking “when does one first begin to remember?” he went on the write about the unveiling of John Henry Foley’s equestrian statue to imperial war hero Lord Gough at the Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1878. Churchill spent some of his earliest years in Dublin where his Grandfather had been appointed Viceroy and employed Churchill’s father as his private secretary. Churchill’s earliest memory was of his grandfather unveiling the doomed statue.

A great black crowd, scarlet soldiers on horse-back, strings pulling away a brown shiny sheet, the Old Duke, the formidable grandpa, talking loudly to the crowd. I recall even a phrase he used: ‘And with a withering volley he shattered the enemy’s line.’ I quite understood that he was speaking about war and fighting and that a volley meant what the black-coated soldiers (riflemen) used to do with loud bangs so often in the Phoenix Park where I was taken for morning walks.


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How to spot a NAMA building…

This was brought to our attention earlier today, an interesting poster campaign in the city centre to draw attention to some of the NAMA owned buildings around us. Some, you pass on a daily basis and may be unaware that they are under the ownership of NAMA.

Of course, this isn’t the first protest engagement with NAMA buildings in Dublin. Back In November, we brought you this image:

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Cliche Guevara

Did a double take on Liffey Street earlier on at the windows of fashion chain Counter Propaganda. They stock a range of t-shirts and hoodies in a kind of tongue-in-cheek revolutionary style. I’ve never really gone for the likes of Mao’s Cafe, Pravda Bar, Counter Propaganda and the like, but thought this a bit too cheeky! The winter of discount tents? Occupy the January Sales.

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