Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Special Rapporteur criticises Irish government on Gaza: Lá Breithe Áras Uí Chonghaile


Al Quds hospital 2009

Special Rapporteur criticises Irish government on Gaza

Fifteen years ago this month I led a Sinn Féin delegation on a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories. Our visit took place seven weeks after Israel’s assault on Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. In that attack Israeli forces killed 1400 Palestinians, including more than 400 children and injured thousands more. Schools and hospitals and infrastructure were also targeted. 

Our delegation was impressed by the resilience of those we met and especially by the medical staff who were working hard to provide a health service, despite Israeli restrictions on medicines and spare parts for radiation and other medical equipment.

Fifteen years later and all of those places we visited then, from the Islamic University, to the Al Quds hospital, to the Al Shifa hospital, to the local Council offices, to schools, factories and homes have been obliterated by Israeli forces in the last six months. On Monday, after two weeks of bombarding and besieging Al Shifa hospital, Israeli forces withdrew. They left behind a scene of utter devastation. Hundreds dead and the hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, is in ruins. The wards full of patients that I visited - the radiation centre where those with cancer were treated - are all gone. They have been smashed into rubble. The Gazan Health Ministry said: "Dozens of bodies, some of them decomposed, have been recovered from in and around the Al-Shifa medical complex which is now completely out of service." 

The scale of devastation in Gaza is beyond anything witnessed in war in recent decades. Over 30,000 killed. Almost 15,000 children dead. Most of Gaza destroyed beyond repair.  And the deliberate starvation of the Gazan population is now part of the Israeli state’s war strategy. 

Last week, in a scathing report - Anatomy of a Genocide – United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese examined the crime of genocide as perpetrated by the State of Israel. In the conclusion to her lengthy and detailed report Albanese states that the “overwhelming nature and scale of Israel's assault on Gaza and the destructive conditions of life” it has imposed on the Palestinian people “reveal an intent to physically destroy Palestinians as a group.”

The UN Special Rapporteur concludes that there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the commission of the following acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza has been met.” She identifies these grounds as “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to groups’ members; and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. Genocidal acts were approved and given effect following statements of genocidal intent issued by senior military and government officials.”

The Special Rapporteur also condemns Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for 7 October and calls for the release of all hostages.

As Israel continues to claim that it is abiding by international human rights law the Special Rapporteur accuses it of distorting that law to treat Palestinians and their infrastructure as ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorist-supporting.’ This allows Israel and its allies to justify its actions on the basis that everyone living in Gaza is “either a target or collateral damage, hence killable or destroyable. In this way, no Palestinian in Gaza is safe by definition.”

On a visit to the University of Galway just before the publication of her report Francesca Albanese was critical of the Irish government’s stance on Gaza. She said: “There’s this tendency to be very supportive with rhetoric, as Ireland has, but when it comes to taking concrete actions, there is zero. Not a little. Zero. The countries that have been most outspoken, like Ireland, what have they done in practice? Nothing. And this is shameful. It is disgraceful.”

The subsequent decision by the Irish government to intervene in the case initiated by South Africa against Israel under the Genocide Convention at the International Court of Justice is a welcome step but it will take months to come to a conclusion. In the meantime the genocide continues. The government needs to do more. It should immediately: 

• Enact the Illegal Israeli settlements divestment bill 
• Enact the Occupied Territories Bill.
• Use every possible sanction available domestically and step up efforts to suspend the EU-Israel association agreement.
• Recognise the state of Palestine.

In addition the government should implement the recommendations in the Anatomy of a Genocide Report including:

·         Support for an arms embargo on Israel.

·         Ensure a thorough, independent and transparent investigation of all violations of international law committed by all actors, including those amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide, including:

·         Refer the situation in Palestine to the ICC immediately, in support of its ongoing investigation; 

·         Ensure that Israel, as well as States who have been complicit in the Gaza genocide, acknowledge the colossal harm done, commit to non-repetition, with measures for prevention, full reparations, including the full cost of the reconstruction of Gaza, for which the establishment of a register of damage with an accompanying verification and mass claims process is recommended. 

Across Ireland and internationally Easter time is an occasion when Irish people celebrate the courage and determination of those women and men who over many generations fought for Irish freedom and self-determination. This year solidarity with the Palestinian people was a major part of every commemoration. We are confident in and grateful for, but not complacent about the progress made by our struggle. We have a lot more to do to win our freedom but win it we will. When we do we will continue to keep  faith with the struggle in Palestine because we know that Ireland’s freedom will be incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.


Al Shifa hospital 2009

Lá Breithe Áras Uí Chonghaile

Áras Uí Chonghaile, the James Connolly Visitor Centre, on the Falls Road celebrated its fifth birthday at Easter.  Located in the very heart of West Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter it was opened five years ago by Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins and Labour and Trade Union leaders from Ireland, the USA, Canada, England, Wales and Scotland.

I frequently visit the Áras, as it is affectionately known. It celebrates the life and times of Labour leader James Connolly who was executed by the British for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. It commemorates the key role he played in the struggle for workers rights, the Labour movement and Irish freedom.

It is also a world class visitor centre exploring the life of Connolly through a unique interactive exhibition, a library of writings by and about Connolly, historical objects relating to Connolly and that period of our history and it hosts a year round of engagements with communities schools and visitors. It also has a café which provides a really nice cup of coffee. In the last five years Áras Uí Chonghaile has welcomed eighty thousand visitors from all parts of the world and thousands more have attended its debates, discussion, music and film events.

Visitors include former President Mary McAleese; First Minister Michelle O’Neill; actor, Adrian Dunbar; journalist, Michael Portillo; historian, David Olusogai and trade union leader, Mick Lynch. Trade union support has come from even further afield as well, as Director of Fáilte FeirsteThiar, Harry Connolly, noted:

‘Without our brothers and sisters in the North American Trade Union movement, Áras Uí Chonghaile | The James Connolly Visitor Centre, simply wouldn’t exist. Our long standing advocates and friends, General President Emeritus of Liuna, Terry O’Sullivan and John Samuelsen, General President of the Transport Workers Union, provided support from the very beginning. Connolly’s legacy of internationalism and workers’ solidarity, on both sides of the Atlantic, is still felt today.

We are extremely grateful for this support and will continue to preserve Connolly’s legacy! This September Brent Booker General President LIUNA will lead a delegation made up of US Trade Union leaders to Ireland that will build on existing links and partnerships.’ 

Northern Minister for the Economy Conor Murphy formally launched ‘An Scéal go Dtí Seo – The Story so Far- a report by Áras detailing its first five successful years. He said: “The Centre is a shining beacon of what neighbourhood tourism and community wealth building can be.”

Comhgairdheas to all of the team on this important milestone.

Slán Leo: The Heartbreak of it All: Major International Conference on Moore St


Slán Leo

Leo Varadkar’s resignation from the office of An Taoiseach and as leader of Fine Gael caught observers by surprise. On reflection however it is very much in keeping with his personality. A bit petulant. Awkward. Impulsive.  He had done his best by his own lights. And his best had not been good enough, by his own admission. So in fairness he probably did the right thing. Better to get out on his own terms. 

Most  people will have very little sympathy for senior politicians and the wear and tear they and their families endure as a  result of the long hours, relentless pressure,  the  grinding nature of parliamentary work and ongoing public scrutiny. You have to believe in what you are doing. Especially when things are not going well. So I think Leo just got a sickner of it all, particularly after the recent referendum results. He was cheesed off and seems not to have the stomach for  continuing in a government which is just going through the motions and serving out its time.  


He was facing into internal turbulence. The Fine Gael Ard Fheis was likely to be troubled.  Eleven of his TDs have said they will not be standing in the next election. 


So why hang about?  His  resignation statement was very honest. “I am no longer the best person for the job.”he said. 

That was certainly the case on  the North though his instincts are better than Micheál Martins. The amount of the  Irish Governments money forCasement was probably Leo’s initiative. His refusal to go for a Citizens Assembly to discuss and plan for unity is a mistake.  He and Micheál Martin are not advocates for a new constitutional future. They are deeply wedded to their own political dispensation. They are not SNQ. Sound on the National Question. Neither is Simon Harris. 

Labour !eader Ivana Bacik call for a dedicated department to look at the detailed work for unity planning is important. And welcome. Not least because it is recognition of increased and increasing public interest on the need for planning for constitutional change. Maybe if Leo had applied himself to that he wouldn't be out off a job. Ach well. Slán Leo. 


The Heartbreak of it All

The million and a half Palestinians trapped in southern Gaza city of Rafah, on the border with Egypt, are under sustained and ruthless attack by Israeli forces. Hundreds of women, children and men are being killed or severely wounded each day. Hospitals crammed full of desperate human beings continue to be the target of bomb and tank and sniper attack. 

At the same time tens of thousands are facing starvation while relief trucks carrying desperately needed food, water and medicine are been systematically blocked by the Israel state. On Sunday it told the UN that it will no longer allow food convoys into north Gaza where 70 percent of people face the highest level of food scarcity. Speaking at the Rafah crossing last Friday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other. That is more than tragic. It is a moral outrage."

It is also a war crime. The Rome statute of the International Criminal Court is very clear on this. It defines the deliberate starving of civilians as a crime if the intention is to deprive “them of objects indispensable to their survival.” This includes “willfully impeding relief supplies.” 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet are immune to all of this. He plans to launch a ground offensive against Rafah. Netanyahu insists that this will take place shortly. His stated aim is the defeat and destruction of Hamas. Common sense tells us that this is unachievable. 

Our own experience of colonialism proves this. For centuries English governments sought to defeat the desire of the Irish people for freedom and self-determination. Every conceivable weapon of oppression was used: from mass executions and deportations, to coercion acts and special powers, to the impoverishment and dehumanisation of the Irish people, to the denial of basis rights and a cultural war against our language, music and art. These were all part of English policy. So too was starvation.

In his book ‘Ireland Since the Famine’ F. S. Lyons writing about the impact of An Gorta Mór – the Great Hunger – wrote: “…it may well be that the most profound impact on Irish history lay in its ultimate psychological legacy. Expressed in its simplest terms this legacy was that the long standing and deep rooted hatred of the English connection was given not only a new intensity, but also a new dimension… this hatred, this bitterness, this resentment were carried overseas, and especially to America by nearly four million Irish men and women and children who left their homeland, decade by decade and year by year in the half century after the Famine.”

In our own time and place the stated aim of successive unionist and British governments was the defeat of Irish republicanism. Collusion, special laws, torture, sectarian discrimination in employment, military occupation of communities, were all part of government policy. One British Secretary of State was so gung-ho that he spoke of squeezing republicans like a tube of toothpaste! None of it worked. 

What worked was a peace process, slowly and painfully built. 

The lesson for the Israeli state is obvious. Occupation, genocide, repression, the theft of Palestinian land and natural resources will not work. The mass slaughter of innocents will not work. The criminalisation and dehumanisation of the Palestinian people will not work. On the contrary the Israeli massacre of 32,000 in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is storing up a legacy of bitterness that will ensure that resistance to Israeli colonialism will continue.

Regrettably, I don’t see Netanyahu having any interest in a peace process.  Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Sunday"I think this is the worst government Israel has ever had. And I think Netanyahu will go down in history as the worst leader in Jewish history, not just in Israeli history,"

But there is now a discernible change within the international community’s approach to Israel’s genocidal strategy. Some allies of the Israeli state are now taking up publicly more critical positions. At the weekend it was reported that French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call told Netanyahu the forced transfer of people from Rafah would constitute “a war crime” 

It is long-past time for the USA, Britain and others providing war materials to Israel to stop. They cannot fund and arm the genocide while decrying its awful effect on Palestinians. Stop the war. No funds or arms for Netanyahu. 


Major International Conference on Moore St

Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald TD, in association with the Moore St. Preservation Trust, will hold a major international conference next month to discuss the future development of the Moore St. 1916 Battlefield site. The main focus of the conference will be on the alternative plan prepared by the Trust to that of the proposals from the private developer Hammerson.

Moore St. – as regular readers of this column know – is a hugely important part of the story of Easter 1916 and is the heart of the 1916 Battlefield site. It is where the GPO Garrison retreated when the building caught fire and it was in 16 Moore St. that five of the seven signatories to the Proclamation met and took the decision to order the surrender.

The Moore St. Trust has produced a formidable, alternative plan to that of the developer – who is supported by the government. The plan aims to preserve the site and to sensitively develop it as a historical and cultural quarter that can play a significant role in the regeneration of that part of our Capital City.

The conference will take place in the GPO on 24 April, the date of the Easter Rising in 1916, and it will bring together leading experts in the fields of tourism, planning, academia, retail and the arts. Among those taking part will be Professor Terry Stevens a Tourism Advisor to the United Nations, Michael Murphy, architect of the national lynching memorial Legacy Museum in Alabama, USA, Seán Antoin Ó Muirí architect of the alternative plan and well known historian Liz Gillis. Relatives of the 1916 leaders and others will participate. It’s shaping up to be an informative and crucial conference around the ongoing effort to Save Moore St.



Monday, March 18, 2024

International Women’s Day: Two formidable Belfast Women: Macalla na mBan

International Women’s Day

Last Friday was International Women’s Day – a day when around the world humankind celebrates the work of women who are active in their communities, in trade unions, voluntary organisations, business, politics, their families and across every facet of our society.

It is also a time to reflect on the long history of struggle by women for equality and fairness. In many aspects of life today women remain second class citizens - in pay and employment rights, conditions of work, in access to education and health and in protection before the law. Hardly a week passes without evidence emerging of the extent to which women continue to face violence in the home, in the workplace and within communities. 

A fortnight ago the northern Assembly endorsed a motion calling on the Executive to urgently implement a strategy and framework to end violence against women and girls. During the debate it was revealed that since 2021 the North has the joint highest rate of femicide in Europe along with Romania. According to statistics from the PSNI between 2017 and 2022, “34 women and girls were killed by men. Many others faced other forms of violence, abuse and intimidation both within their own homes and the wider community.”

Calling for a whole of society approach to tackling this First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “These women are not statistics, these women are our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our daughters, our friends, our work colleagues, and they are us who have been speaking in this debate today. We must take action now to stop this violence and we must never forget those that have been killed.”

Last year almost 98% of women surveyed for a report into violence against women - ‘Every Voice Matters!’ Violence Against Women in Northern Ireland’, published by the Ulster University - revealed that that they had experienced at least one form of violence or abuse in their lifetime. 

A second report, published by Queens University - ‘It’s Just What Happens’: Girls’ and Young Women’s Views and Experiences of Violence in Northern Ireland’ found that 73% of girls aged 12-17 reported having experienced at least one form of violence in their lifetime.


Irish Republicans have long understood the connection between Irish freedom and equality, and women’s rights. From Ann Devlin to Anna Parnell, from Countess Markievicz to Máire Drumm, from Sheena Campbell to Mairead Farrell, whose anniversary was last week, there is an unbroken line of women who sacrificed all in the quest for freedom and equality and justice. 


I had the great privilege of knowing some of this generation of republican women activists. They were ordinary women, many little more than teenagers, who at a time of great crisis and challenge for our people came forward to stand against injustice and to give leadership.


At the end of this month Irish republicans will mark the 1916 Easter Rising. The Proclamation of the Republic recognises the rights of women. It opens by addressing Irish men and Irish women and guarantees not just ‘religious and civil liberty”; but also “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”. A century later the words of the Proclamation are as relevant as ever in the lives of women in Ireland. 


Much of women’s work today is undervalued and underpaid.  Irish women are still disproportionately concentrated in low-skill, low paid and part-time employment. Older women are more likely to live in social isolation. Traveller women face higher poverty, mortality and unemployment levels, and lower levels of educational attainment than their settled counterparts.  Internationally girls and women continue to face additional issues like female genital mutilation and arranged marriages.


In Gaza over 8,000 women and girls have been killed in Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people. Tens of thousands more have no access to health care or personal care because their health service has been destroyed. This is shameful.


Women on the island of Ireland and all over the world have won many battles for equality over the past century, but there are further battles ahead. The struggle for justice and equality and equal rights will continue.


Winifred Carney

Two formidable Belfast Women

On International Women’s Day history was made when two statues were unveiled at the front of Belfast City Hall to two formidable Irish republican women - Mary Anne McCracken and Winifred Carney. Despite the cold hundreds of people gathered for the ceremony to applaud these two fearless women and this important initiative by Belfast City Council. 

Winifred Carney was born in Bangor but was reared at 5 Falls Road. She qualified as one of the first lady secretaries and short hand typists in Belfast and was a strong advocate for the rights of women and a committed socialist. She worked closely with James Connolly and in 1913 she published Connolly’s, Manifesto of Irish Textile Workers’ Union – To the Linen Slaves of Belfast. 

Carney was also a member of the Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army. In 1916 she was the first women to enter the GPO during the Rising. She worked closely with Connolly in preparing dispatches. When the GPO was evacuated Carney was with the wounded Connolly as he was carried to number 16 Moore Street. There five of the signatories to the Proclamation held their last meeting as the Provisional Government. Julia Grenan, Winifred Carney and Elizabeth O’Farrell were present. 

Following the surrender Winifred Carney was imprisoned in England. In 1922 she was imprisoned in Armagh jail. 

In 1928 she married George McBride. He had fought in the First World War and was from the Shankill Road. They were both committed socialists although differed on the national issue and the Rising. Winifred Carney remained a committed trade unionist throughout her life. She died on 21 November 1943. Belfast Graves erected a headstone on her grave in Milltown Cemetery in 1985.

Mary Ann McCracken was born in Belfast in July 1870 to a wealthy Presbyterian family. She was a radical thinker, social reformer, who was implacably opposed to slavery and poverty, and an advocate for the rights of women. 

Her opposition to slavery was total. When Waddell Cunningham, a merchant, proposed in 1786 that the Belfast Slave Ship Company be established the scheme was vehemently opposed by those who later established the United Irish Society. This and Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man and the French and American revolutions hugely influenced Mary Ann her brother Henry Joy and all of those who came to found the United Irish Society in Belfast in October 1791.

In July 1798 her brother Henry Joy McCracken was sentenced to be hanged for his part in the United Irish Rising. She was with him as he died. 

After the failure of the rebellion Mary Ann dedicated her life to many causes. The breadth of her interests and activism is remarkable. She helped provide education and apprenticeships for children through the Poor House Ladies Committee. In 1847 at the age of 77 she was one of those who established the “Ladies Industrial School for the Relief of Destitution” with the aim of helping those suffering as a result of An Gorta Mór. 

Her opposition was such that as a small frail woman she would hand out leaflets opposing slavery to those boarding vessels to sail to the USA. Frail in body she might have been but strong in heart and spirit she remained all of her days. Mary Ann McCracken died on the 26 July 1866 aged 96.

Two great women now immortalised in statues in front of Belfast City Hall. 


Macalla na mBan 

On Saturday evening as part of the events to mark International Women’s Day the garden in the Roddy McCorley Club in west Belfast was rededicated after major renovations. The garden was first opened in 2007. Carál Ní Chuilín gave the main address reminding those present of the sacrifice of republican women in the struggle for Irish freedom. I was asked to read my poem which I wrote in 2006 as a tribute to my friend and comrade Siobhan O’Hanlon.


Macalla na mBan


Streachailt na mbBan

Caoineadh na mBan

Fulaingt na mBan

Neart na mBan

Foighne na mBan

Fearg na mBan

Dóchas na mBan

Craic na mBan

Gáire na mBan

Cairdeas na mBan

Áthas na mBan

Grá na mBan

Todhchaí na mBan

Saoirse na mBan

Sunday, March 3, 2024


Roger Casement

I have spent many enjoyable afternoons in Casement Park watching countless football and hurling games and playing in some of them. I have lost count of my man of the match triumphs. Especially for St. Marys or Belfast Schools in hurling. Or on Sports Days. In the past the stand and terraces or raised mounds around the pitch provided a wonderful view of the contests. Some games attracted a few hundred spectators while others were watched by enthralled thousands. 

Casement Park was opened in June 1953 and was named after Roger Casement. He was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 who was hanged in London by the British in August that year. The people of Belfast, but especially the west of the City, raised over one hundred thousand pounds to construct Casement Park. 

For much of its 71 years Casement has been at the heart of the west Belfast community. At one point classes for primary school children were held under the stand. On the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966 a huge and colourful pageant was held in Casement to mark that historic moment in Irish history. For a time after Operation Motorman in 1972 it was occupied for more than a year by the British Army. Rallies in support of the hunger strikers were held there also.

For the last 8 years it has lain empty and silent as a legal battle was fought over planning permission for a new 34,000 seat stadium. That process is now at an end and last week the first steps were taken to allow construction work to begin. The decision by the Irish government to allocate €50 million toward the construction is a very welcome development. The hope is that the new Casement Park will rise phoenix-like within the next three to four years in time to host the Euros in 2028. 

These exciting new developments got me thinking about Roger Casement. Who was this Dublin man who found a home in North Antrim and wanted to be buried at Murlough Bay near Ballycastle? 

Casement was a member of an Ulster Protestant family, a Knight of the British Empire and a British diplomat. He was also a gaeilgeoir who loved the Glens of Antrim. He was proud to be Irish. He was a thinker who took many of the weightiest decisions of his life whilst pacing on Cushendall beach. He was resolute in his opposition to British rule in Ireland and his goal was a free, united and independent Ireland. 

Casement came to North Antrim after his mother died when he was nine. His father decided to bring the family back from England to live near relatives. His father died in Ballymena when Roger was 13. Roger remained in Ballymena, going to what later became Ballymena Academy. He moved to England at the age of 16 and eventually joined the civil service.

In 1903 he was asked by the British government to produce a report on the conditions in a region of the Congo controlled by the King Leopold of Belgium. Rubber and ivory were the main produces. Indigenous workers were being mercilessly exploited. Millions died from exhaustion, hunger and disease. Casement’s expose of the cruelty of Leopold’s activities created an international outcry which led to Leopold being stripped of his control of the Congo.

Later Casement was sent to South America where he investigated the use of slaves and the ill-treatment of local native people by a British rubber company. In 1911, for this work Casement was given a Knighthood by the British. However, his experience had also opened his eyes to colonialism. 

Two years later Casement helped establish the Irish Volunteers. He travelled to the USA to raise money for that organisation and was involved in the smuggling of German weapons into Howth in July 1914. Casement negotiated with the German government during the First World War for more guns and assistance for the planned rebellion. He was arrested by the British at Banna Strand in County Kerry in April 1916 three days before the Rising took place.

He was taken to London where he was initially held in the Tower of London. Casement was viewed by the English establishment as a traitor. He was tried for treason and hanged on August 3rd 1916. In his famous and powerful speech from the Dock Casement lambasted the English establishment. For England, he said … “there is only England; there is no Ireland; there is only the law of England, no right of Ireland; the liberty of Ireland and of an Irishman is to be judged by the power of England.”

Addressing the divisions created by English governments Casement said that Irish Republicans:  … “aimed at uniting all Irishmen in a natural and national bond of cohesion based on mutual self-respect. Our hope was a natural one, and if left to ourselves, not hard to accomplish. If external influences of disintegration would but leave us alone, we were sure that nature itself must bring us together.”

And on the right of the people of Ireland to independence and sovereignty Roger Casement told the court that condemned him to death that: “Self-government is our right, a thing born in us at birth, a thing no more to be doled out to us, or withheld from us, by another people than the right to life itself — than the right to feel the sun, or smell the flowers, or to love our kind. It is only from the convict these things are withheld, for crime committed and proven, and Ireland, that has wronged no man, has injured no land, that has sought no dominion over others — Ireland is being treated today among the nations of the world as if she were a convicted criminal.”

In a letter to his cousin Elizabeth ‘Eilis’ Bannister dated 25 July 1916 from Pentonville Prison Roger Casement wrote: “Don’t let my body lie here – get me back to the green hill by Murlough – by the McGarry’s house looking down on the Moyle – that’s where I’d like to be now and that’s where I’d like to lie.” In 1965 British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson agreed to the return of Casement but only to Dublin. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The new Casement Park will be a fine tribute to a great patriot. Let’s get it built.



There is now overwhelming evidence that the Israeli state has added a new weapon to its arsenal of genocide against the Palestinian people – hunger. The video and photographic images of starving children and desperate parents searching for food and water are heart rending. The UN says some 2.3 million people in Gaza are now on the brink of starvation.

Palestinian people have been filmed eating grass in northern Gaza as emaciated children carry bowls hoping for some food in southern Gaza. There are reports of babies dying from acute malnutrition.

We Irish have our memory of An Gorta Mór - The Great Hunger of 1845-52 - and of starving people eating grass. Some call it the Irish Famine but in a famine there is no food due to some natural catastrophe. In Ireland there was plenty of food. During those years the quaysides of Limerick were lined each day with abundant produce including pork, oats, eggs, sides of ham and beef––all bound for export. 

The reality and irony of this is appalling and was aptly described by George Bernard Shaw in his play “Man and Superman.” The character Malone says: ‘My father died of starvation in Ireland in the Black 47. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Violet replies, ‘The Famine?’

‘No’, says Malone ‘the starvation. When a country is full of food and exporting it, there can be no famine.’

And so it is in the Gaza Strip. There is plenty of food waiting in food trucks. More will be sent but the Israeli state is deliberately blocking these. Starvation and hunger are now part of its strategy to kill Palestinians and drive them from their land. It cannot be allowed. Ceasefire now. We are all Palestinians.