Do You Like Oranges?is a collection of three short stories, each of which is concerned with State repression. The setting for the stories is the Ireland of the late 70s/ early 80s.
At the time, repression and ‘counter-terrorism’ were widely used in Northern Ireland by the RUC in conjunction with the British Army. It is less well known that in the Republic (26 counties) the State used similar methods with clear disregard for human rights. The intention was identical: to instill a climate of fear among political activists. These stories then are of that time.
In the shortest story, But Your Mother, the central character is made aware of what the consequences might be for him if he continues with what he is doing. The choice that he will have to make is not resolved in the story but it is significant and cannot be ignored. The story is told in a first person narrative voice with the dilemma posed remaining interior to the character’s persona, underlining the personal and private nature of such choices.
In the title story, Do You Like Oranges? the main character has been the victim of a serious beating at the hand of Garda Special Branch. The key events take place in and around the Hungers Strikes in the Maze Prison, although the location for the story is Cork – a city geographically removed from the conflict that was ongoing in Northern Ireland at that time. In the aftermath of the assault the victim was threatened in such a way that he believed he was going to die.
We first meet the main character on his return to Ireland from exile in Australia. Events and circumstances which are only broadly alluded to in the story have propelled him to come back and confront the man who tortured him.
In this story the main character is about to take the matter of justice into his own hands. This, to an extent, is what makes the story tick – the determination to seek some re-dress. While the relevance of the story has receded in terms of the conflict in Ireland, the central concern in the story – the ability of torturers to evade justice and judgement – remains a pressing issue in particular with the resurgence in the use of torture in the post 9/11 period, particularly in the USA and the UK.
For example what should we do when the State de facto avoids its responsibilities in respect to the need and demand for justice. Or what should we do when the State itself organises the business of torture and is resistant to any attempts to hold it or any of its agents to account? Not an unusual occurrence in fact.
The third and final story, Down The Tunnels takes a different approach and is written from the point of view of a police officer who was involved in beating a confession from a number of innocent men. The story resonates with the events of the infamous Sallins Train Robbery case (here in Ireland) when Nicky Kelly and a number of other men were falsely accused and convicted of a robbery that they had no part in. The story focuses in an entirely imaginative and fictional way on what the motivation might be for a police officer who knowingly seeks the conviction of an innocent man.
The three stories that make up the short collection have all been previously published. The title story was an Ian St James International Short Story Award winner and appeared in Pulse Fiction (London, 1998) and Snapshots (London, 1999). Down The Tunnels was first published in The Cúirt Journal 7 (Galway, 1999) and But Your Mother in Stinging Fly (Dublin, 1999) and Southwords (Cork, 2000).
Silence Now Pervades (The Pensive Quill)
Excerpt from Do You Like Oranges? (The Pensive Quill)
But Your Mother – Audio Reading
Noam Chomsky is widely known for his critique of U.S foreign policy, and for his work as a linguist. Less well known is his ongoing support for libertarian socialist objectives. In a special interview done for Red and Black Revolution [May 1995] Chomsky talks to Kevin Doyle about anarchism, marxism and the hope for the future.
The election of Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 was one of the most celebrated electoral victories of recent times. Not since Nelson Mandela’s win in South Africa, following the collapse of the Apartheid regime, was the supposed power of the ballot box so publicly celebrated and displayed.
Obama’s victory was hailed as a triumph for the ‘democratic process’ and was widely touted as a fine example of how people power and electioneering can trump entrenched bigotry and money.
Full version here. Published in the Irish Anarchist Reivew [Issue 3] May 2011.
Patrick Galvin, the renowned Cork writer and socialist, has died. Born in Margaret Street in Cork in 1927, Paddy was a prodigious and accomplished writer producing many works in poetry and drama, as well as writing the memoir The Raggy Boy Trilogy. He was also a most accomplished balladeer and many of his early works were in this form.
Full version here. First published May 11th, 2011
The French Revolution of 1789 put an end to the idea that some people were born to rule. In only a short number of years one of the oldest and most powerful monarchies in Europe was swept away. In its place came the idea of legal equality and individual rights as set out in the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.’
The basis of these new rights, established on foot of a great social upheaval, was the real hallmark of the French Revolution since it was accepted, from that point on, that laws and how they were made were the expression of the ‘general will’. As such these laws could be made and unmade as that ‘general will’ was discerned. This was the real break with the past.
At the time of the French Revolution the idea of the ‘general will’ was still new in politics. Even so the implications for the future were not difficult to make out. Sixty years earlier, in England, during the Civil War the very same issues had come to the fore. If the monarchy was to be dispensed with, what type of society should replace it? What exactly constituted the ‘general will’? And, as importantly, in whose service was its rule to be applied?
Now two years on from that time, we are finally getting to the bottom of a very deep hole. It has transpired that the debts in the banking sector were significantly larger than expected. The debts at Anglo Irish Bank were astronomical.
The current Government has nonetheless stood by its ‘word’ and as a result the Irish State has been sucked into the banking disaster. And there you have it: now we are being asked to pay for all of that!
Note on photograph: Showing the Irish Gardaí mobilised to protect the Dáil (parliament) following a huge orotest march in Dublin against wage cuts and austerity.
The explosion and fire at the Hickson chemical plant in Ringaskiddy, Cork, last August, has gone down as one of the most serious industrial accidents in Ireland to date. Though no fatalities resulted, it is now clear that this outcome was only a matter of luck. One worker, the first to notice that something was wrong, left the site of the explosion minutes before it blew up. And the explosion itself, occurred shortly before shifts were due to change on that morning of August 6th.
This report was published in Workers Solidarity (Feb 1994)