The Humours of Politics
From Forward July 26, 1913 and Irish Worker, January 14, 1914, respectively.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Many of our readers are hardly aware of the fact that although Mr. William O’Brien, M.P., is now excommunicated by the United Irish League, and its bitterest foe, yet he is the founder, inspirer, and whilst it was an active force in agrarian struggles, was the chief financier and leader of that League. But such is the case.
For a long time the cities of Ireland, and Dublin in particular, remained callous and cold to the appeals of the League. They regarded it as a peasants’ or as an agricultural movement, pure and simple, and would have nothing to do with it. But the politicians wanted the cities, and so a concerted attack was made upon Dublin.
Dublin, understand, was and is important politically in Ireland because even the peasantry, who in most countries are jealous of the capital, in Ireland do not trust a movement which cannot claim the intellectual adhesion of the capital.
Hence, the hosts of the United Irish League, backed up by all the financial resources of Mr. O’Brien, and the concerted powers of the Home Rule press, set out to make Dublin a tributary of the League, whether it would or not.
A band was hired, also a gang of corner boys or loafers to cheer the speaker, and if need be, break the head of any opponent. Then ‘great meetings’ were announced in all the various districts. All United Irish League gatherings are ‘great meetings’ when they are not ‘magnificent demonstrations.’
The same gang of corner boys made up the meeting on each occasion. At Inchicore they were addressed by the orators as the “unconquered democracy of Inchicore,” at Wood Quay they were the “sterling working class of Wood Quay Ward,” at Drumcondra, they were the “patriot men of Drumcondra,” at Arran Quay they stood for the “true and tried men of Arran Quay,” and in the Harbour Division they responded enthusiastically as the orators praised their record as “citizen voters in that Gibraltar of Irish Nationalism – the Harbour Division of Dublin.”
And each day the newspapers described the same gang differently, and waxed eloquent in their leading columns upon the magnificent rally of the working class of Dublin to the ranks of the United Irish League.
And the readers down the country and the Irish in Great Britain swelled with exaltation as they read of the great reception the Dublin workers gave to the orators of the League. Indeed it was primarily for the benefit of the readers down the country and in Great Britain that the meetings were arranged.
But as the Dublin workers saw the corner boys marched back and forwards across their city to pose as the residents in the various wards and districts, and as they read in the papers the list of the committees in charge, and saw there the names principally of pawnbrokers, slum landlords, publicans, and sweaters, what wonder that they treated the whole affair with contempt.
Anybody who wants to defend faith and fatherland very badly can get a job up north just now. Carson’s army is out on the warpath demanding the blood of the ‘Papists,’ and ‘Wee Joe Devlin’ has been lecturing in Belfast upon ‘Isaac Butt,’ whilst the organisation of which he is head is organising scabbery in Dublin, faith and fatherland is being attacked from all sides, and the Hibernian attack, under cover of defending the Pope, will be more harmful than the orangemen who save the Pope under cover of attacking the faith.
The head of the Ancient Order of Hibernians praising Isaac Butt, a Protestant Home Ruler, is very amusing considering that if Isaac Butt was alive every Hibernian in Ireland would be bound to oppose him even for the humblest position in Ireland. The Catholics of Ireland are the most tolerant people in Ireland – always have been – but the aim of the ‘Hibs,’ is to convert this tolerant people into a nation of furious bigots and sectarian patriarchs. They stink in the nostrils of every honest man and woman.
The Municipal Elections in Dublin never fail to provide mirth for the multitude. The fun has already begun in Merchants’ Quay Ward, where Andrew Breslan, a working carpenter and nominee of the Dublin Labour Party, is being opposed by Mr. John Scully, High Sheriff of Dublin City. Scully is running in the interests of the United Irish League and high rents, slum tenements, rotten stair-cases, stinking yards, high death rates, low wages, Corporation jobbery and margarine wrapped up in butter paper.
Also several other things. Mr. Scully is a provision merchant: as such he is bound to furnish provisions upon the demand of his customers, and as High Sheriff he is bound to provide hangmen upon the demand of the British Government; or be a hangman himself if the supply of professional hangmen failed.
If Robert Emmet was to be hanged tomorrow, and the professional hangman went on strike, Mr. Scully is bound by his oath of office to do the job and hang the patriot.
Therefore to hear Mr. Scully and his spouters talk of “fighting in the sacred cause of patriotism” is one of these delightful pieces of humour that only the Sham Squire or James Carey could properly appreciate and enjoy.
If you vote against the Labour Candidates this coming election, you will vote to declare yourselves in favour of more doses of: disease-infested tenements; slaughter of the children of the poor; high rents; low wages; increasing death rate; wretchedly-lit working class streets; baton charges on inoffensive crowds; police perjury; police indecencies of language against girl strikers; police brutalities upon babies and old men and women; hatred of the working class by magistrates upon the bench; journalistic slanders upon the working class; journalistic filth upon strikes and strikers; political intrigues against trades-unionism; Home Rule and Unionist alliances in support of sweating; and more doses of every kind of treason against justice, and hatred of those who stand for the working class.
In the field we are now fighting upon, the industrial field, labour was left to battle alone against every element represented in the above list; in the fight upon the municipal battle field the alliance of all those unclean elements is as real as upon the industrial, though not so open. The virtue of the industrial fight is that it brings all our enemies into the open; in the political fight the enemies are the same but they can easier hide their treachery.
It is for the workers to stand together and send the whole pack howling to the depths together.
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Last updated on 13.8.2003