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Posts Tagged ‘Fascism’

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.”

From the Irish Press, Saturday, May 12, 1934

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.

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I’ve had the image below for quite a well now, a fantastic old press snap of two Gardaí inside Connolly House (located on Great Strand Street) after the attack on the premises in March 1933 by an anti-communist mob. Accounts of the night are always chaotic, for example in Pat Feeley’s wonderful article “The Siege of 64 Great Strand Street” (Old Limerick Journal,Vol. 9, Winter 1981) it is noted that:

“As the house filled with smoke and the mob began to occupy it, the defenders were making their escape across the rooftops. The fire brigade tried to rescue two women who were in difficulties on the slates but they were prevented by the crowd who slashed their water hose”

The fact a Webley and Colt. 45 Revolver were found by the Gardai behind the shop counter perhaps best indicates the political tension and state of fear at the time.

Feeley’s article also mentions a meeting held a number of days later where Maud Gonne McBride condemned those behind the scenes at Connolly House, to which a voice in the crowd responded that those involved were Catholics. When she continued to speak, and condemned the broader attacks of the street mobs:

Again the voice repeated, “It was Catholics”. To which this time she replied, “They were hooligans”

Bob Doyle, one of the men who was in the mob that attacked Connolly House, would go on to join the International Brigade forces opposing fascism in Spain. In his memoirs Brigadista, he wrote that:

“I had attended the evening mission on Monday 27 March 1933 at the Pro-Cathedral, during the period of Lent where the preacher was a Jesuit. The cathedral was full. He was standing in the pulpit talking about the state of the country, I remember him saying – which scared me – “Here in this holy Catholic city of Dublin, these voile creatures of Communism are within our midst.” Immediately after the sermon everybody then began leaving singing and gathered in a crowd outside, we must have been a thousand singing “To Jesus Heart All Burning” and “Faith of our Fathers, Holy Faith”. We marched down towards Great Strand Street, to the headquarters of the socialist and anti-Fascist groups in Connolly House. I was inspired, of you could use that expression, by the message of the Jesuit. There was no attempt by the police to stop us”

This, and other insightful accounts, can be read on the fantastic ‘Ireland and the Spanish Civil War’ website located here.

Connolly House, the headquarters in Dublin of the Irish Revolutionary Workers Group was set on fire after an attack made on the building by several hundred young men. Twenty were injured in the disturbances.

Photo shows:- Police officers on guard in one of the rooms after the attacks. Note the tin of petrol left by the raisers.

Grif March 31st 1933 PN.

Two stamps on the back of the photograph point to News Media companies in both London and New York.

ACME, Newspictures, Inc.
220 East 42nd St. New York City
‘THIS PICTURE IS SOLD TO YOU FOR YOUR PUBLICATION ONLY AND MUST
NOT BE LOANED OR, SYNDICATED OR USED FOR ADVERTISING PURPOSES
WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM US.

COPYRIGHT
PLANET NEWS LTD.
3, JOHNSON’S COURT
LONDON, E.C 4

The Communist Party of Ireland site notes, in its biography to Charlotte Despard (an unlikely rebel, owing to her brother being none other than Lord Lieutenant of Ireland John French) that:

“On the 29th the mob attacked Charlotte Despard’s house at 63 Eccles Street, also home to the Irish Workers’ College and Friends of Soviet Russia, but a defence had been prepared in the form of a large crowd of workers, and it escaped with broken windows. Also attacked were the offices of the Workers’ Union of Ireland in Marlborough Street and the Irish Unemployed Workers’ Movement in North Great George’s Street.”

On a lighter note, notice the can of petrol left behind by the mob is ‘BP’, or British Petroleum. You couldn’t make it up.

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