It’s a long way from Cork to Waterloo

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 12.06.25

Photo by ‘EDV’

There was a letter in the Sindo today. In it the writer, from Cork,  notes that Sinn Féin want the public to forget their violent deeds of the past. Unfortunately, he says, the people appear intent on doing just that. “The short-term memory syndrome shows itself starkly in Irish political life when we vote for former bombers and gunmen, north and south of the border”.

So far so predictable. It would take all hands at the Sindo to be laid low with the scurvy for a Sunday to pass without a bit of Shinner-bashing.  But I found myself wondering if the writer had seen the documentary film Saoirse?  It was on in the  Queen’s Film Theatre last Thursday. It’s the sequel to the ground-breaking Mise Eire. Like it, Saoirse? was made in the early 1960s and tells of military and political actions in Ireland post-1916, up to the end of the civil war. The film is perhaps not as powerful as I remember Mise Eire being, but it features a number of faces and facts  that would have been useful as comparison-points for today’s Sindo letter-writer.

For example, the documentary film contained many images of Michael Collins, and accompanying voice-over explaining how he arranged for twelve British agents in Dublin to be shot dead on the original Bloody Sunday of November 1920. There was Cathal Brugha, Dan Breen, Kevin Barry,  Tom Barry, de Valera, Richard Mulcahy  – figure after figure who had been involved in violence at that time Have you heard many people critical of these men for their activities ? No, me neither. Yet these men killed or arranged the killing of scores of British soldier and RIC men. The film had other parallels from our more recent troubles:  assassinations of public figures,  hunger strikes by men in prison determined to be regarded as political prisoners, with the Truce prisoners emerging from the jails, parcel under arm, being greeted by over-joyed families. Sound familiar?

The Sindo letter-writer contrasts Sinn Féin politicians with SDLP politicians, who are free from accusations of past violence. True. But  if you see the lethal deeds of the men – and women – who fought in the Tan war and in the civil war as heroic –  which the film Satires? does then it’s going to involve you in some pretty weird mental contortions to denounce, like our Sindo scribbler,  the deeds of those who were involved in our more recent conflict.  And conversely, if you condemn the political violence of the past forty years, you’re going to have a helluva time explaining away the violence that is so vividly recorded in the Saoirse? film. The only thing that separates the two is time.

Which is why I think people like our friend from the Sindo should be called on to explain their take on the events of one hundred years ago. Maybe they believe that time makes what happened more palatable. The total contradiction involved will become more stark and obvious as the centenary of 1916 approaches. Will Irish print  and broadcast media denounce the men and women of that time? If they don’t, will they be forced to set up a special section in their newspapers  and broadcast units for those with impaired and distorted memories?

But let’s not get too depressed. Sometimes we in the north get accused, on both unionist and republican side, of glorifying the violence and wars of the past. In these matters, the voice of the British prime minister and secretary of state are often loudest. How then to explain the re-enactments, the glorification of the Battle of Waterloo which happened last week? And no, Virginia: it won’t be enough to say that the British were led be a blood-crazed Irishman, the Duke of Wellington.

14 Responses to It’s a long way from Cork to Waterloo

  1. greg June 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    you have got it again Jude spot on

  2. Iolar June 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    An estimate for a protest against austerity in London on 20 June 2015 suggests that 250,000 people took part in the demonstration. There were protests in Ireland about water taxes in Ireland on the same day. Citizens burned water bills as a form of protest. In Greece, citizens continue to challenge the whole concept of austerity.

    RTÉ treated viewers to a rendition of Col Bogey from Co Mayo on the main evening news.

  3. Mary Jo June 21, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    So very true and our Government Ministers, eager to claim Ireland’s share in Britain’s aggression, are hot to trot off to Flanders Field and Gallipoli and are now raking back to Waterloo. What are these trips if not a glorification of British violence that was an extension of their violence against Ireland. They recruited from most of their colonial posessions.

    And speaking of WASP violence, I can’t help wondering this weekend, while reading about the Charleston murders, why black America goes on forgiving instead of buying some of those assault weapons that are so readily available in their local Walmart store. Especially while that Conferate flag flies high, not even at half mast, over South Carolina’s State Capitol. Infinitely more offensive than a Union Jack over Belfast City Hall.

    How fortunate for White America that its abused minority is so endlessly forbearing.

  4. Perkin Warbeck June 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Taking up where you left off, Esteemed Blogmeister, one would like,like Abba themselves to begin with Waterloo.

    As the Swedish rhapsodisers sang: ‘The history book on the shelf
    Is always repeating itself’

    A week ago The Unionist Times no less had an article with a racial slur-word beginning with G in its title: G-word of Waterloo !

    Gooks? No. Gollywogs? No. Goyums? No? Geaseballs ? No.

    A clue: though one had to scroll the whole way down to the penultimate sentence to see the choice of G-word justified, and fully jusitfied: ‘some people on the battlefield spoke Irish’. So, that’s alright then: what word other than Gaeilgeoiri could have been selected for the heading?

    As it doesn’t give examples of what words in leprechaun were spoken the reader is free to speculate: ‘Fag an Bealach’, perhaps? ‘Scaoil amach an Bobailin?, maybe? Could it even have been, perchance: ‘Ta adharca fada ar na fir thar lear?’.

    And also to chance one’s arm at putting leprechaun on Waterloo: ‘ Uisce Theach an Asail’ no UTA. UTAH? Justified, as in leprechaun the H in this instance is silent. And, going one step further, the political capital of UTAH being, erm, Provo, the likelihood of leprechaun beings spoken at Waterloo becomes an easier concept to grasp.

    It is not immediately clear on whose side the leprechaun-spoofers were on; one had to wait a week to find out. And worth the wait, it certainly was.

    For The Unionist Times was not only concerned with the First Offiical Language (alleged) of the Free Southern Stateen in its pages of record of late; indeed, the very topic of the (gasp) The Secoind Offiical Language (alleged) was also under scrutiny.

    And it was this very act of scrutiny which earned for its author the much coveted title of Perkie’s Perp Walker of the Week. And not for the first time either, be it noted.

    With an over-headline which is a masterly example of understatement ‘Garry Hynes’s astonishing, exhilarating DruidSheakespeare’ Fintan O’Toole (for it is he) fairly empties the reservoir of restrained language, not unlike a droughty summer or a bhlasteen of global warming itself.

    For perpetrating this last flourish of inhibited vocabulary alone, FOT is worrthy of Perkie’s Perp Walker of the Week Award: As follows:

    – ‘In the end it is not even a banishing of Irish anxieties about Shakespeare and Ireland. It left those anxieties far behind and gone into the realm of pure, exhilarating theatre’.

    Now, while 1984 has a certain literary resonance the year 1994, does not have, and perhaps understandably so. For in that latter year, the under-appreciated Gary Hynes was Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre while (gulp) Fintan O’Toole the Distinterested was the Literary Adviser at the same venue.

    This is not to assume there was an overlap: and it would be truly Orwellian to posit that particular theory. And even were it so, only a varlet of the scurviest stripe would suggest it in any way would have affected the fearlessly independent Fintan’s detached review::

    -The absence of reverence for the original texts is not feckless. It is essential to the power of the cycle. Hynes has worked her way back to a stark question: ‘what can we now articulate using these plays?’

    What, indeed? Take it away, Maestro O’Toole: :

    -‘This the the world that echoes through the six hours of performance: they become astonishingly articulate. This is so in the fluency of the speaking.The lines have been completely absorbed into the the actors’ Irish voices’.

    And this is the clincher: where lesser others might have opted for the hyperbolical route, Fintan chose the reins of restraint:

    – The result is a startling eloquence’.

    And there’s more:

    -The cross-gender casting is completely justified by this central idea of DruidShakespeare’

    (It is almost as if the Yes had been put into the Yesterday before the Referendedum to cum and gone and that Waterloo had been anticipated at Agincourt: ‘once more into the breeches, sister’. ).

    In other words, not only is The Best English Spoke, not by the Queen, but by Us Modest Micks. Wow !. But also, the enduring mystery has been ended and the riddle of the real Shakepeare’s indentity has just been revealed: but also improved upon: step forward, Ms Gary Hynes-, Bachelor of Arts. And the very embodiment of DruidShakespeare.

    As Ben Jonson famously forecast: ‘she is not of her time alone but for the ages’..

    To conclude with a question /ceist:

    -cen taobh a raibh lucht labhartha an leipreachain at troid ag Uisce Theach an Asail? / On which side were the leprechaun-spoofing losers fighting at Waterloo?


  5. Perkin Warbeck June 21, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    PS Oops,Esteemed Blogmeister, mea culpa but after the reference to Maestro O’Toole the quote ought to read: ‘This is the word – articulate- which echoes through six hours of performance’.

    Improving on Shakespeare is but a mere trifle, a misdemeanour at worst; but improving on Maestro O’Toole – zounds ! It is surely a crime deserving of its perpetrator’s being ‘unseamed from the nave to the chops’ – at the very least.

    And ‘having his head fixed upon the battlements’, if the event of the Probation Act being ignored by the recidivist offender.

    The reason why one mentioned the DruidShakespeare is because of its relevance to the Waterloo reference and in a wider context, to the old chain-saw that it’s the victors wot get to write the history.

    Which means they get to write it in their own First Official Language.

    The modestly titled DruidShakespeare takes four history plays of The Incompetent Impostor from Stratford on Avon, gives them a make-over involving a slimmed down script, a voiceover involving a broth of a brogue and a lesson in compression involving but six hours on the stage. Blink and you miss it, baby.

    The plays in question are (l to r) Richard 11, Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, and Henry V.

    Six hours? Checking his Boxed Set of BBC Shakespeare, Perkie found that the total times for the four plays (the full unexpurgated and non-Bowdlerised texts) comes out on the Portumna side of 10 hours.

    That works out at four hours (roughly) gelded from the original by The Gilded Galwegian called Gary Hynes.. Now, the innumerate Shakespeare talked of ‘the two hour traffic on the stage’ as the preferred length of a single drama. Which means he obviously couldn’t count on the fingers of both hands.

    (Btw, the Boxed Set is obviously not Morocco bound even though it was bought for Perkie by his cousin, Julia in America, that is Julia Warbeck, of Dogpatch, TX, , at Crosbie’s corner drugstore for a dollar ninety eight at Christmas time).

    Out of a sense of duty, possibly misguided, to Julia one has found it necessary to work one’s way through the albeit inferior work of The Stratford Impostor – all thirty seven shoddy plays – and still finds it impossible to devote more than thirty seven minutes a day to same.

    So, six hours? Come on. Does the price of admission include such items as, say, bottom-friendly benches for the groundlings or facilities, by say, Staydry, for the elderly who may have,erm, issues with incontinence?

    Only codpiecing: no price could be put on the ‘astonishing, exhilarating all-improved’ DruidShakepseare.

    One of the more grating passages in Richard 11 and which Perkie’s sensitive ears find impossible to listen to on the BBC Box Set is:

    ‘Ha, ha ! keep time: how sour sweet music sounds
    When time is broke and no proportion kept
    So it is with the music of men’s lives’.

    One trusts such a crass example of shoddy wordmanship (to give but one out of countless i.e., could not be counted on a hold-full of fish fingers) has been emasculated by the Gilded Gelder of Galway: Gary Hynes, Bachelor of Arts.

    For too long now we have been fed orthodoxies along the lines that the Mountebank from the Banks of the Avon ticked all the boxes. And that his signature tune could well have been ‘There Goes my Everything’.

    Fittingly, this attractive song gained popularity in not traction itself by a bloke whose very name in its plural form rhymed with hoax. Englebert Humperdinck. Not only was he baptized Arnold George Dorsey (I ask you !) but – shoot ! – he was an Indian by birth.

    From Madras to Macnas.

    it took DruidShakespeare to reveal the truth: the original of ‘There Goes my Everything’ was recorded by one, Jack Greene (with an e). Known for his deep voice and great height he has been reborn as: The Jolly Greene Giant.

    Truly are we lucky down here in the Free Southern Stateen to be alive and simultaneous,going forward, with (gulp) the self-congratulatory Gary Hynes, aka The Great Shakes.

    All together now, in a week when the imminent death of Leprechaun was (once again) announced – cry God – for Harry, St. George and West Britain !

  6. michael c June 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

    With regard to the SDLP,history records that in the early days of the troubles ,a number of SDLP members travelled south looking weapons.The question ,did they get any and if they did- where did they finish up has never been adequately answered.

  7. Ryan June 21, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    There’s nothing more hypocritical and contradicting than for people in the South to justify and support the “Good Old IRA” and then condemn the “Bad New IRA” in the North during the Troubles. Reality is there’s very little difference between the Old IRA and the PIRA, their aims, objectives, tactics, etc were basically the same.

    As time goes on we are now seeing what was once labelled for decades as “IRA Propaganda” was actually the truth. Collusion is one example, where we’re seeing a lot of evidence to prove the British State were involved in hundreds of murders of civilians, usually innocent Catholics on both sides of the border. The Collusion was so systematic that it wouldn’t be wrong to say the British State almost ran the UVF/UDA, that’s not even touching on the FRU/MRF, diplock courts, internment without trial, torture/inhumane treatment of prisoners, framing innocent people (like the Conlon Family), etc.

    This justifies much of what the IRA did, well certainly their cause and objectives. Does it justify the killings of innocent people, Catholic or Protestant, that the IRA committed? absolutely not. The point is the IRA was fighting a war that they didn’t start and of which the British Government pursued a policy of violence/war rather than peaceful compromise for decades until reality hit home for the British state in the 1990’s.

    The Irish Government in the South largely ignored and sat idly by to the sufferings of Irish citizens in the North. People like this writer from Cork mentioned in Judes article is a prime example of someone who didn’t face discrimination because they were Catholic, didn’t have to worry about armed British soldiers patrolling their streets, didn’t have to worry about their police force being the most corrupt and sectarian in Europe, didn’t have to worry about Loyalist death squads or death squads run by the very British state, etc

    In short, the writer from Cork hasn’t a clue what they’re talking about and if she/he had witnessed their childhood friend at the age of 10 being shot dead by a British soldier for no reason like my mother did, then they would think twice before judging the actions of IRA volunteers and their motives.

  8. Paul June 22, 2015 at 12:17 am #

    Some things never change Jude I just happen to be reading Ernie o malleys book On another mans wound. Writing about 1917 He says “in the college we disliked those who spoke in favour of the European war, yet saw the fight from a safe distance. They looked down on everything to do with an Irish -Ireland movement, as if it would contaminate their social atmosphere. They sneered at the volunteers” he goes on to say “They could talk with savoury pride of a real or imaginary ancestor who had carried a pike or sword in ’98 or had helped Emmet in 1803 but that 1916, only a year ago, was a dirty stab in the back” unfortunately Jude the gombeen men have always been with us.

  9. ANOTHER JUDE June 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    reasons why I do not want to be ruled by the British #235, Britain is a militaristic, imperialist, Protestant country, the British media, like the British government and even the bloody entertainment industry are over populated with Eton (other public schools are available) educated chinless wonders. the population who can be arsed to vote are like sheep, fawning over any actions carried out by their beloved British army, they wet themselves over the birth of a so called royal baby and they would cut their grandmother`s throat for an OBE/MBE or any other gong which allowed them to think they were better than the rest of the population. The sooner they pack up and go the better.

  10. billy June 22, 2015 at 8:48 pm #


  11. billy June 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    would the ira who shot the soilders and pizza men in antrim be the same as the old ira.

  12. neill June 23, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    This justifies much of what the IRA did, well certainly their cause and objectives. Does it justify the killings of innocent people, Catholic or Protestant, that the IRA committed? absolutely not. The point is the IRA was fighting a war that they didn’t start and of which the British Government pursued a policy of violence/war rather than peaceful compromise for decades until reality hit home for the British state in the 1990’s.

    No sorry does it not justify what the IRA did by no stretch of the imagination. The elephant in the room which nobody on here wants to mention is how the British intelligence were able to a large degree infiltrate and control IRA activities……

  13. Eddie Finnegan June 23, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    To return to ‘Saoirse?’, when it appeared in my final year as a boarder in Armagh (1961) few of us missed the significance of the question mark. The Border Campaign was still staggering on, Occasional encounters with ‘B-Men’ between Newtownhamilton and Armagh’s outskirts as we returned from South Armagh after holidays or ‘Free days’ may have given that “?” an extra twist that Gael Linn never intended.
    However, ‘Mise Éire’ from a year or two earlier probably had a stronger grip on our imaginations. We could still point to the very spot on our Senior Football Pitch from which Collins had addressed “up to 20,000” in September 1921, a few months after his election as Sinn Féin (abstentionist) Stormont member for Armagh. From British Pathé footage, it seems Armagh Sinn Féin dragooned two of our goalposts to serve as staunch supports for Collins’s platform on the day.

    Of course, what I didn’t know in 1960 or ’61 was that two of my South Derry classmates were twin nephews of Sean Larkin who had been summarily “executed” with his three Kerry fellow prisoners in Drumboe Castle in March 1923. True, Collins himself was more than six months dead by then, so what his Free-Staters did to a couple of hundred of their old comrades between Summer ’22 and Spring ’23 (e.g. Ballyseedy and Drumboe) couldn’t be laid at his door. Still, time for Cork’s letter writers or Mayo taoisigh to reflect upon their own explosive origins. Maybe the best thing to see the light of day in 1923 was “Take it down from the mast, Irish traitors / The flag we Republicans claim.”