As a horrific week in Europe comes to a close, with the murder of Fr Jacques in France by ISIS affiliated fanatics, a suicide bombing NOT related to ISIS but from a refused refugee causing the world to doubt the wisdom of letting so many into Europe, along with the stabbing of a pregnant woman, another attack with an axe this time, that WAS ISIS, and a shooting I got to read an analysis of the 1916 Rising and its preceding events from writer Corey O’ Brien.
Now, Im a big fan of 1916, and make no apology for physical force to free Ireland, as that is how it was taken, along with trickery and treachery, but I always listen to other folks point of view as well.
The Geldof 1916 Gaffe and its Aftermath
The hysterical reaction against Bob Geldof about 1916 is understandable, and I wrote on it myself, but we must remember when his family came here from Belgium it was to the United Kinbgdom they came, in their minds, and the south splitting away in a voilent revolution was a scary new ground for them.
They knew about as much about Ireland then as we do about Turkish Kurdistan today. Imagine, you buy a house in Turkish Kurdistan, around 20 years later a rebellion breaks out against Turkey and all that are for her, including neutral unwitting foreigners, a few generations later, their descendants will still look on that revolution in an unfavourable light.
That is the Geldof Quandry, to coin a phrase.
Now, O’Briens take on the Great Famine is an area of the essay I took most interest in, as its one I can add to from family stories in Longford.
Famine in Ireland – Genocide or Accident?
A lot of ultranationalist Irish websites and activists – such as one guy called Swifty who I dont agree with all of what he says but do his intent – refer to the Great Famine as genocide, indeed even moderates such as Tim Pat Coogan did too, and this is a point that O’Brien takes up on, and that I can expand on.
In his essay, O’Brien states Trevelyan was a “great civil servant, the best and worst person for the job” and that there was no policy as such for extermination of the Irish people though many did desire same.
What I can expand on are two stories from North Longford, one from my family which shows a namesake of my own in unfavourable light, and another of how the people themselves fed each other.
Coogan writes for where the money is, years ago when it was fashionable to be a rebel, he was all IRA, today he is all peace process and revisionist, in the style of if not as bad as Eoin Harris! While his research is second to none, the angle suits the agenda of his publishers, which is where is the most money going to come from, as opposed to telling the truth as it was, even if it hits and hurts sales.
Turnips, Carrots, Naked Protests and Utter Famine
In our family, we planted turnips as an alternative crop, to the derision of neighbours who accused us of “being British” and eating “food only fit for sheep” according to a story my father told.
When the crops failed the next year, people ate the turnips raw in the field, and were ran, relations being so bad from the year before. The tragedy is, that those who were ran were not those who caused the problems in the first place, but ever since then beyond reason we always helped without judgement of the person needing the help.
I have had the pleasure, as all can, of reading the files of the Irish Folklore Commission where stories are told of peasants in Longford adopting poorer families and feeding them from their own meager supplies, in a real display of neighbourly solidarity and Christian charity.
Many families such as the Edgeworths gave great assistance to their tenantry, and the Dopping-Hepenstals were not the worst either. A horrific tale of the ending of the Public Works scheme in Granard was the background to the Naked Protest at Derrycassin, and the fate of those involved is not known to me at the time of writing.
The family of Michael Collins fiance Kitty Kiernan tried carrots as an alternative crop, and one way or another the people by and large survived. As an aside, not many know that Kitty, though the love of his life, was not his first choice, as detailed in the Kiernan blog, and versified by me in He Lost Her That He Desired retelling the story.
There were many among the British establishment who saw the famine as a way or eradicating the poor, who they saw as a problem. For them it was co-incidental that they were Irish. The Facebook page Irish Holocaust blames British Supremacy for this, and there is a degree of that, but it is not the first time that plague and famine were called on to deal with the poor, where even the Celtic Catholic Church, so beloved of the Church of Ireland as being a purer alternative to Roman Catholocism, all the saints of Ireland, at the direction of the High King Diarmaid, preyed for a plague to cull the numbers of the poor – that I recall in my poem St. Feckin Was no Feckin Saint, a story that is denied by the church today.
Talking of atrocities denied to this day, Irish Holocaust may or may not have merit in their claims of British Imperial Policy – of governement if not of royalty – to wipe out the Irish, they are quite belligerent in denying the 1925 famine in Connaught where between 15000 to 25000 died, in a free country, as abandoned by their new Free State as their forefathers were during An Gorta Mór.
That too is denied to this day, was protested by the American Ambassador, the British governement of the day and the Guardian Newspaper (then the Manchester Guardian).
An infamous speech was given in the Dáil claiming all was fine and dandy in Ireland, fitting of Stalin and his overflowing barrells of grain three quarters full with sand.
Oh, the sin of pride! In my verse “Forgotton Famine in a Free State” I dwell on this story, and got a turgid response on the Irish Holocaust page. The poor still dont matter it seems, bar when it suits to kick the Crown.
Cats and Croppies, A West Brit Prespective
The most offensive part of the essay, was how O’Brien portrays looking after cats as looking after the poor, it only heightens the problem. It seems the angle he is taking is trying to be the devils advocate in trying to see the issue from the Landlords, Dublin Castle and the West Brit viewpoint, but it stunned me how it could even be so blaseé to compare human beings to mere cats. And I love cats, as readers of my cat poems such as “A Cat and I” can testify!
But managing famine, and the corruption by those managing the famines such as Eithiopia from which our friend Geldof is getting a lot of hassle of how Live Aid went wrong, is a hard thing to do. That is when its in someone else’s country, not in the country that you control, and while we say Ireland is not Britannias country, it WAS the country that they did control.
Thats not just to kick the Brits, it was doubly wrong to deny our own famine, the problem should have been acknowledged, assistance accepted and more saught. In 100 years there will be books written aking s to how and why this happened, and comparing to the the Great Famine as regards public policy.
Live Aid raised millions for famine relief, that was handed over direct to the governements of the countries affected, used by them to buy arms to fight their civil war, not used for aid, and where it was, only to those allied with them. Hell is paved with good intentions it is said, and that very well may be true.
ISIS and Ireland – Idiology and Imperialism – What is the Answer?
So, did Britain as a country try and kill off the Irish as charged by Tim Pat Coogan, Irish Holocaust, Swifty and other activists predominantly of the hard right in Ireland?
Yes and no, elements were more than happy to see the Irish die off, elements strongly Williamite, unionist. and even of an Orange persuasion did all they could to help, and some of our own turned a blind eye to the suffering of others, while more of our own shared the little they had so that all could see the rising sun in the coming morning. Its a charge that can be leveleed at some, has its merits, but cannot be levelled at all.
It was more a case of “let nature take its course and make the poor die off” regardless of who the poor were, beit the Irish peasants, the natives in India, or whoever. There was more money to be made from stock in the land than in humans on the land, and in the cruel thinking of natural selection it was seen as a “good way” to reduce a non compeditive section of society.
This of course was the foundation of modern day capitalism which works on the same basis, but by instilling the notion of abortion as a way to guarantee sexual freedom – sex without the consequences of children – they can use free love as an opiate of the modern age to keep the populace subdued while they exploit them as a resource for cheap labour and a market for their goods to maximise profits and minimise state supports.
And the idiotic Irish left feed into this, some as a way to kick the Catholic church – understandable, but the wrong tactic to take – instead of challenging the governments ultra capitalism as anti constitutional in that the way the state has made the market work is that to be viable two parents must work.
It would be much better to take what was a sexist document and make it work better for the family – the family should be able to be supported by one parent working (and specify it s does NOT have to be the male to be the working party, and the other, male or female, should be able to stay at home, as long as they desire, to look after the children, with state supports, not punishing them for being on the dole.
But that doesn’t suit a politically blind non thinking Irish left, which adopts Trotsyism as a solve all solution to a country Trotsky did not write to solve. It has its merits, but they are not always right for Ireland, which blazed a trail with the Land Commission to make all peasants land owners, a right being eroded by modern day capitalism.
The right is similarly blind. From the Oliver J. Flanagan tradition, they find a scapegoat. The British. They are to blame, but the Irish upper classes, and the church, were as blind to the needs, and willingly so, of the needy as the British ever were.
In Glasgow, to help the Irish poor, Brother Walfrid founded Celtic Football club, of which I am a massive fan. I have a cousins daughter who plays for their under 16 team. She did not get her football skills from the Cartys anyway!
It was only after the Irish in Glasgow started turning en masse to Presbyterianism in particular, who mostly helped the Irish not asking for conversion, and by not asking they received more, that the church stepped up to the plate.
Before that, they went around houses in Ireland and told the peasents not to take landlords aid, as to take such from Protestants would leave their souls in jeopardy in the afterlife, a spirit continued in 1913 during the lockout when the church tried to oppose Catholic families sending their children to relatives in Liverpool for similar reasons, England being Protestant it was said to be immoral.
While I oppose Orange bigotry in all its forms, when you see the likes of this you can appreciate where they are coming from. In many forums arguing with those of an orange politics, the distinguishment is often made between a “papist” and a Catholic, the former is one who blindly follows the Pope and the other who lives by Catholic theological belief. They believe if the Pope said that all Protestants should die, akin to the Pastorini campaign, the Papist element would slaughter good neighbour along with bad, just for their faith.
This is one aspect Swifty and Co never take into consideration, and as I was seething on this issue the news came in of the murder of Fr Jacques, who was not a priest of that ilk of evil that was the Catholic church during famine times.
Fr Jaques built a mosque for the local Moslems, and the animals who martyred him travelled a long distance to kill him in particular to drive what one must assume, a wedge of fear between the Moslems and the Christian community.
Fear, distrust and hate, a little bit of trusth, an imperial past, and a thinking as supremacist as those they seek to replace is the common thread between those of the ISIS ilk and those who fault the British for their wrongs and yet turn a blind eye to the wrongs of the Irish state against their own.
The suffering of the poor is exploited by all to their own ideological and political ends. ISIS and their ilk cite the plight of the Palestinians, ignore the plight of the Kurds as its Muslims oppressing them, our own fault the British, yet turn a blind eye to the famine dead of 1925 as much as the British ever did.
O’Brien comes from a Geldof / Bruton political standpoint, and while I dont agree with it, I see his merits. Id encourage him to research more, especially into local stories, on a parish by parish basis. Find the good and the bad on all sides, and rewrite a more educated and balenced essay.