Saturday, June 18, 2005


Posted by Hello

Posted by Hello

“ Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not. ” George Bernard Shaw

" One armed man cannot resist a multitude, nor one army conquer countless legions; but not all the armies of all the empires of earth can crush the spirit of one true man. And that one man will prevail.

The contest on our side is not one of rivalry or vengeance, but of endurance. It is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can suffer the most who will conquer."
Inaugural speech of Cork Mayor Terence MacSwiney who died on hunger strike, October 25, 1920.
-- Terence MacSwiney

It is to his credit that Terence MacSwiney played a major role in getting England to agree to peace talks in 1921 , and he accomplished this without an act of violence. MacSwiney, like Ghandi some twenty years later, helped bring English rule in his country to an end by passive resistance; he refused to submit to English law, and by that simple act he brought the harsh glare of a worldwide spotlight to the injustice of England’s colonial regime.

Terence MacSwiney was born in Cork and educated at the Royal University where he studied accountancy and joined the Gaelic League.
During 1911-1912 he contributed articles to Irish Freedom which became the basis of his book Principles of Freedom published posthumously in 1921.

In 1913 MacSwiney founded the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and was President of the Cork Branch of Sinn Féin and the 1st Cork Brigade of Volunteers when he was interned under the Defence of the Realm Act in Reading and Wakefield Gaols from April to December, 1916.

In February, 1917 MacSwiney was deported from Ireland and interned in Shrewsbury and Bromyard internment camps until June, 1917. In November, 1917 McSwiney was arrested in Cork for wearing an IRA uniform and was imprisoned in Cork Gaol where he went on a three day hunger-strike before his release. MacSwiney was arrested in Dublin in March, 1918 and imprisoned in Belfast and Dundalk Gaols until September when he was released, re-arrested and imprisoned to Lincoln Gaol. In the same year he published a volume of poetry entitled Battle Cries.
MacSwiney was released in March, 1919 and following the assassination of Thomas McCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, MacSwiney was elected to the mayorality. He was arrested in Dublin on August 12th, 1920 and charged with making a 'seditious' speech ...and sentenced to two years in prison. But MacSwiney had no intention of submitting to a legal system he believed had no standing in his country. When he was asked if he wished to address the court, he said, “I have decided that I shall be free alive or dead within the month, as I will take no food or drink for the period of my sentence.”

MacSwiney’s hungerstrike gained world attention. The British government was threatened with a boycott of British goods by North America; and four countries in South America appealed to the Pope to intervene.

As the pressure mounted on the British government to release him, MacSwiney said, “I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release.”

In New York longshoremen were threatening to strike in support of MacSwiney while French and German papers were hailing his courage, and 30,000 Brazilians were demanding Papal intervention.

Meanwhile, in India, Irishmen in England’s 88th Regiment of Foot, the Connaught Rangers, had mutinied, protesting the persecution of their families in Ireland by the very government they were serving; fourteen had been sentenced to death.

British Prime Minister Lloyd George could have ended it by releasing MacSwiney, but he refused; a decision that was fatal to both MacSwiney and England’s hopes of maintaining its stranglehold on all 32 counties in Ireland.

The tactics that had worked so well for them for so many centuries in Ireland and their other colonies -- stripping the native population of all rights, intimidating the people of those lands by demonstrating the absolute power of life and death that they could wield over them with impunity -- were no longer as effective.

After 74 days of his hunger strike or fast unto death on Oct. 25, Terence MacSwiney died. His last words to a priest by his side were, “I want you to bear witness that I die as a soldier of the Irish Republic.”

MacSwiney was hailed by people all over the world, even in the land of his oppressors.

The Daily Telegraph in London wrote, “The Lord Mayor of Cork condemned himself to death for the sake of a cause in which he passionately believed, and it is impossible for men of decent instincts to think of such an act unmoved.”

The young Ho Chi Minh, then a dishwasher in London, said of MacSwiney, “A Nation which has such citizens will never surrender.”

Irish Volunteers, wearing uniforms which were prohibited by English law, escorted his casket through London as thousands of Irish exiles lined the streets. They attempted to land MacSwiney’s body in Dublin and take it overland to Cork for burial, but British General Macready, fearing the certain outpouring of emotion along the route, sent the police and a force of Black and Tans to meet the boat and, after a scuffle on the docks, with MacSwiney’s sister, Annie, clinging to the coffin, the body was snatched away and loaded back onto the boat. MacSwiney was buried in Cork on the 29th

The IRA had no hope of mobilizing an army large or well equipped enough to defeat one of the strongest armies in the world. Ireland’s only hope lay in making the world, especially America, see the justice of their cause and make it impossible for England to continue to tyrannize them. One man, Terence MacSwiney, with extraordinary determination and the moral courage of a man who knew he was right, accomplished more than the thousands carrying guns.

MacSwiney argued for ethical standards to be applied to groups fighting for their freedom from their oppressors.
As he says in this extract from his book Principles of Freedom (1921).©

“ This is the question I would discuss. I find in practice everywhere in Ireland - the doctrine 'The end justifies the means'.
One party will denounce another for the use of discreditable tactics, but it will have no hesitation in using such itself if it can thereby snatch a discreditable victory... a fight that is not clean-handed will make victory more disgraceful than any defeat. I make the point here because we stand for separation from the British Empire, and because I have heard it argued that we ought, if we could, make a foreign alliance to crush English power here, even if our foreign allies were engaged in crushing freedom elsewhere.

If Ireland were to win freedom by helping directly or indirectly to crush another people she would earn the execration she has poured out on tyranny for ages... It is imperative, therefore, that we should declare ourselves and know where we stand. And I stand by this principle: no physical victory can compensate for spiritual surrender. Whatever side denies that is not my side...

A SPIRITUAL necessity makes the true significance of our claim to freedom: the material aspect is only a secondary consideration. A man facing life is gifted with certain powers of soul and body. It is of vital importance to himself and to the community that he be given a full opportunity to develop his powers, and to fill his place worthily. In a free state he is in the natural environment for full self-development. In an enslaved state it is the reverse.

When one country holds another in subjection that other suffers materially and morally. It suffers materially, being a prey for plunder. It suffers morally because of the corrupt influences the bigger nation sets at work to maintain its ascendancy. It is the duty of the rightful power to develop the best in its subjects: it is the practice of the usurping power to develop the basest.
When our rulers visit Ireland they bestow favours and titles on the supporters of their regime - but it is always seen that the greatest favours and the highest titles are not for the honest adherent of their power - but for him who has betrayed the national cause that he entered public life to support. Observe the men who might be respected are passed over for him who ought to be despised. In the corrupt politician there was surely a better nature. A free state would have encouraged and developed it. The usurping state titled him for the use of his baser instincts. Such allurement must mean demoralization. We are none of us angels, and under the best circumstances find it hard to do worthy things; when all the temptation is to do unworthy things we are demoralised. Most of us, happily, will not give ourselves over to the evil influence, but we lose faith in the ideal. We are apathetic. We have powers and let them lie fallow. Our minds should be restless for beautiful and noble things; they are hopeless in a land everywhere confined and wasted. In the destruction of spirit lies the deeper significance of our claim to freedom. ”

Compare the preceding statement of Terence MacSwiney to the following instructions of Lt. Col. Smyth of the RIC (ROYAL IRISH CONSTABULARY)of Munster to his men of the Black & Tans on June 17, 1920:

"....If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there - the more the merrier. Police and military will patrol the country at least five nights a week. They are not to confine themselves to the main roads, but make across the country, lie in ambush and, when civilians are seen approaching, shout "Hands up!" Should the order be not immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties some time. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man ..."

And here is a poem about Terence MacSwiney written by Padraic Colum:

Terence MacSwiney

See, though the oil be low more purely still and higher
The flame burns in the body’s lamp! The watchers still
Gaze with unseeing eyes while the Promethean Will,
The Uncreated Light, the Everlasting Fire
Sustains itself against the torturer’s desire

Even as the fabled Titan chained upon the hill.
Burn on, shine on, thou immortality, until
We, too, have lit our lamps at the funeral pyre;
Till we, too, can be noble, unshakable, undismayed:
Till we, too, can burn with the holy flame, and know

There is that within us can triumph over pain,
And go to death, alone, slowly, and unafraid.
The candles of God are already burning row on row:
Farewell, lightbringer

Searc's Web Guide to 20th Century Ireland - Terence MacSwiney (1879-1920)


Terence MacSwiney
—by Míchealín Ní Dhochartaigh

And especially check out the website TRISKELLE-IRISH HISTORY history


History of Ireland
By Audrey Larson

No comments: