Issue 36 (June 2009) published this article by James Connolly for the first time since his execution.
[The Workers’ Republic, September 10 1898]
I have just concluded a brief study of a paper published in London under the title of New Ireland: a Non-Sectarian Paper for Irishmen in Great Britain and Abroad. After concluding said study, I feel more and more convinced that the mystery of existence is insoluble.
What crime has the Irish race committed that it should be compelled to accept the responsibility of giving to the world so many fearful and wonderful products as have sprouted forth from the rank soil of Irish politics?
Here, for instance, is a paper published in the capital of the enemy, posing as a light of instruction and wisdom, and yet on the very first page of literary matter, on its issue of September 3rd, there occurs this amazing proof of the ignorance of its contributors on a matter on which almost every pupil in a National school might have enlightened them.
Listen to the sage. “The Cork Examiner is evidently being sub-edited during the holidays by its sporting reporter. The account of the ’98 celebrations at Castlebar was headed in large capitals ‘The Races at Castlebar’.”
It is quite evident that the sagacious scribe who from the superior heights of an English metropolitan residence essayed to enlighten the poor Irish provincial journalist referred to had no idea why the inglorious flight of the English army from the handful of French invaders at Castlebar one hundred years ago has ever since been facetiously referred to as the “Races”, but he might “for the honour of Ould Ireland” have refrained from parading his ignorance before the world.
Or at least asked the first Irish scavenger or hod-carrier he met in the streets to help him out of his difficulty.
But after all what could we expect from a journal which refers to the disgraceful flunkeying of Lord Mayor Tallon to the Lord Lieutenant1 as “a striking and welcome exhibition of good feeling”?
It must not be supposed, however, that this precious New Ireland is the mouthpiece of the Irish Colony in London. Oh, no! It is only the mouthpiece of the Irish snobocracy. Those kind of people who on big occasions pose as Irish patriots in order to invest their personality with just sufficient interest to secure occasional invitations to the “At Homes” or “Drawing Rooms” of any English parvenu on the hunt for “oddities”.
Swinging themselves into London Society by dint of their firm grasp on the coat tails of some rich soap boiler or brewer, they look down with scorn upon the working-class Irishman in Great Britain. His class is beneath their consideration.
Their lofty minds must have lofty subjects to deal with. Consequently their leading article, in the issue under review, dealt with no less difficult and abstruse a subject than—the relative merits of Irish and Scotch whiskey.
The Editor, no doubt, repeated, in the form of a leading article, some of the exciting and refined debates he had overheard while patiently trying to borrow the price of a drink in a London bar-room.
What can we do to prevent such creatures passing among strangers as representative Irishmen?
The Daily Independent of last week devoted a large amount of its space to reports of the army manoeuvres in England. As a penance for my sins I read the reports all through. I am now, thank heaven, recovered, and think the penance was too severe for any crime I ever committed.
The Independent Special Reporter declares in tones of deep regret that the manoeuvres were valueless, that he could not see a single redeeming feature in the military organization, although he says “I came here expectant and enthusiastic.” Queer talk for a “nationalist” journalist, isn’t it?
What was he enthusiastic about? Was it over the splendid organization of the army that keeps his countrymen in subjection?
Again he declares, “We are often accused by our rivals of playing deceit in diplomacy”, that “we can not put an army corps in the field without calling to our aid”. “One would think the horrors of the mismanagement of the Crimea2 had never occurred. We are courting its repetition, but who will hang for it?” and “Truly like the Bourbons we learn nothing.”
And he solemnly informs us: “I have devoted so much space to this matter (of the commissariat) because its importance cannot be exaggerated.”
All of which leaves me a bit mixed. Who and what are the we so often referred to? Can it be the Irish people? But we have no army, except of Castle officials, DMP and Constabulary men,3 and their commissariats, I am sorry to say, are well enough provided.
But is it the English Government he refers to as WE? If so, the phraseology of the article leads to the suspicion that the Independent special reporter is himself a Government official. Else why use that pronoun?
Not that I believe the Independent would employ a Government official. At least not willingly.
But then strange things do happen. And Alderman Meade, a principal shareholder and director of the Independent Company, is, as we all know, a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. And birds of a feather flock together.
But just try and imagine the Press newspaper, the organ of the United Irishmen of 1798 (published in the room where I am writing this note) devoting columns to a lamentation over the bad military organization of Great Britain’s army.
And then think of the Daily Independent special.
If the United Irishmen learnt that one of their number had accepted a seat on Her Majesty’s Privy Council, while still retaining his position on their executive, they would have concluded that he was a traitor who meant to betray them. Wouldn’t you?
But Alderman Meade is a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, and yet the Parnellite wire-pullers unanimously elected him a member of their executive.
They thus showed their consistency, you see. They are consistent in their resolve to keep in with whoever has control of the biggest purse.
Of course the working man does not count. In fact even Pat O’Brien MP thinks it quite safe to kick the working man. Did he not attack the Dublin Trades Council for daring to claim representation under the Local Government Bill?
“A mere Tory dodge”, he declared it was. But then poor Pat is a very small man, you know, and unless he said or did something ridiculous the people might forget his existence.
He snaps at better men than himself for the same reason as impels any other little cur when it jumps up on a big wall to bark.
There is no lack of effrontery in Pat just now, but if the Trades Council sent a Labour candidate to oppose him in Kilkenny he would speedily become the civilest man in Ireland.
Patrick, my dear boy, you should be more careful. Your present course of action will only attract the attention of the Sanitary officers to the offensive exhalations arising from the unburied corpse of the thing once known (among professional jokers) as the Independent League.4
They might order it to be abated as a nuisance.
Which reminds me of the revelations of slum life now being published in the Daily Nation. (Free advt., Mr Healy.)5
Of course every working man knew about such things before. The revelations are not intended for him, but for his masters. The Special Commissioner, you see, went and visited the homes of the poor and then sat down and described them. How condescending?
But what would be said to any gentleman who attempted to penetrate into the houses of the rich in order to describe them for the benefit of the poor? He would be given in charge as an insolent ruffian. Sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.
In its issue of Monday the Nation asks in an awestruck manner, “Should there be an outbreak of infectious disease amongst the denizens of these slums what guarantee can be given that the pestilence would not speedily spread amongst the residents of Mountjoy Square?” Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that Mr Tim Healy himself lives in Mountjoy Square.
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
The rich men don’t like the slums except when they draw rent from them.
Otherwise they fear that pestilence arising from the slums might not stop there but spread to their own comfortable mansions. Hence the new slum agitation.
I heartily congratulate Mr James Egan on the successful result of his candidature for the position of City Swordbearer.6 The election is, I hope, a sign of returning grace on the part of Dublin Corporation. Or is it inspired by a desire to placate the electors before the dreaded polling day?
- Tallon had requested a British army escort for his installation as mayor, condemned demonstrations against Queen Victoria’s jubilee, and drunk a loyal toast to her.
- The Crimean war of 1854-6, between Britain and France on one side and Russia on the other, revealed considerable chaos in the administration of the British army.
- Officials at Dublin Castle administered British rule, while the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary policed the country.
- A Parnellite faction of Home Rule politicians.
- Timothy Healy, a leading anti-Parnellite Home Rule MP, edited the Daily Nation.
- Egan had served nine years in prison in England, accused of involvement with Fenian conspiracy.