Kevin Doyle Blog

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Archive for the ‘Cork’ Category

Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Back …

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In the last number of years the Irish left has been involved in a number of significant victories – playing its part in the anti-water tax campaign, in the Marriage Equality referendum and in the Repeal 8th Amendment campaign. But defeat and defeats have also been part of our story.

How do we respond when we lose? This interview arose from a call by the journal Perspectives In Anarchist Studies for activists to talk about their experiences and their responses to defeat. Specifically this interview examines the Free The Old Head Campaign and the children’s book that later emerged and was inspired by the campaign, The Worms That Saved The World.

Q: So where is a good place to begin? A children’s story book emerging out of a campaign that ended in defeat? How, why?

A: A few reasons. First off, like so many campaigns and struggles that we are involved in we lost but we shouldn’t have. What I mean is that justice was not done. Rather we lost because the other side had deep pockets and they also had the police and the state on their side. They didn’t win because they were right or because that position had more validity than ours. Our campaign was a classic example of might winning out over right. So, I suppose, our book is a way of saying ‘We’re not done here actually’.

Q: Perhaps so you could tell us something about the campaign that inspired the book?

A: Sure. It was a campaign that happened here in Ireland at a location called the Old Head of Kinsale. It’s a beautiful promontory of land with walking trails, bird sanctuaries and magnificent views of the ocean and the surrounding coastline. It has been a traditional walking destination going back through the generations. For generations the land there was farm land with these wonderful walks around and at the edges of it.

Then in the late eighties the entire headland was purchased by a millionaire developer who had this dream of building a luxury golf course there. He wanted it to be exclusive too, just for those who had a lot of money. He was aiming at the top end of the golfing business – where luxury intersects with exclusivity and unparalleled scenic position.

“Many people wanted to preserve the headland as a public amenity and these developers wanted to effectively privatise it.”

A campaign got underway. Many people wanted to preserve the headland as a public amenity and these developers wanted to effectively privatise it. Our campaign – called Free The Old Head – emerged to take on the developers.

We shall not be moved: stalwart protester, Pat Allen, making a his point to the gardaí

Q: How did the campaign go and evolve?

A: In truth it was always going to be an uphill battle to win against a determined group of developers. We were up against people with deep pockets. Essentially the campaign took the shape of a series of mass trespasses whereby people went to where the golf course was and insisted on their right to walk onto the Old Head of Kinsale. It was direct action and, at first, it was very difficult for the developers to stop the protest as they were large and defiant.

As soon as they did, the Irish police – the gardaí – rowed in to enforce the rule of law. It was touch and go after that. We really needed more public support and it didn’t arrive. So, in the end, public access was lost.

Eventually the developers went to the Irish courts, took on Cork’s County Council and Ireland’s Planning Board, both of which opposed the restrictions on the public’s right to walk in the area. In the courts the developers made many outrageous claims and tried to suggest that “The entire right to private property in Ireland was in dispute.” Mad stuff. But the courts, well, they sided with the developers. Surprise, surprise right?

Normally defeat spreads dejection and in our case there’s no doubt that was the case too. But it was really a highly spirited campaign despite losing. A lot of people mobilised. There were some really big protests. People scaled walks and climbed big wire fences. There was a strong element of direct action mixed in which what were called People’s Picnics which were very family friendly.

Knowledge is power ...

Q: Books about campaigns are not uncommon. Why did you choose the idea of a children’s book?  Why that angle?

A:  A few reasons really. I suppose from the purely practical point, there’s a lot of creative space within fiction writing. Even more so in children’s fiction. It struck us that the fight at the Old Head of Kinsale was in some ways a metaphor for our times. It was a conflict involving the public good up against private greed. On this occasion privilege and greed won out but we have to remember too that this cannot continue to be the case. We must start to win. The “public good” must begin to win out against privilege and greed. We cannot keep losing all these battles.

So subconsciously there was a feeling, for me anyway, to write about it and imagine the alternative.

What happened at the Old Head of Kinsale moreover seemed to be perfect material to bring back to life in an imaginary way. So in our book, the story is carried forth by a community of earthworms. They live on an imaginary headland – on Ireland’s Atlantic coastline! – that is invaded by a luxury golf course development. Pesticides and insecticides are used on the land and soon the worms are getting sick. However, they are rebels and they speak up. They ask for consideration. The result is that the developers try to eradicate them. The earthworms make a valiant escape but they know they have little hope on their own. A seagull – normally one of their predators – helps them, and this is how they make their grand breakthrough. They realise that they need to get help so they set off to tell their story. They build a movement … We won’t tell you the end but they do win!

The book is aimed at children but adults really get it too. It’s nice to imagine winning, and that one can. Another reason why a children’s book seemed ideal was that children don’t like injustice. When you talk to children about saving the planet from greed, you really are pushing an open door. And we want to tell a story that is optimistic about the possibilities ahead.  Even though they can sometimes appear bleak.

I guess, when we tell stories or sing songs about injustice and fighting back, we are in part administering therapy and in part defying the impact of defeat. Stories and songs are resistance and therapy.

Q: But the book is primarily aimed at kids?

A: Yes. Most definitely. It is an illustrated book in the best sense of that word. The artist who created the illustrations, Spark Deeley, did a wonderful job. The illustrations have a lot in them, and within some there are more stories – like the one where the worms have a mass meeting.

Also the story is dramatic. The worms have to fight to survive. It’s an adventure and they make it through in the end. So it’s an adventure book too.

It is fair to say though that it is an “alternative” adventure book. I suppose it fills a gap in the book market.  That was another side to why we chose to do a kids book.

Many activists are parents or will be parents or child-minders at some point in their lives. While the campaign to Free the Old Head was ongoing, I had young daughters myself. I’d be the first to say that there are some really great books out there, but there is a dire lack of books like ours about things like this too.

Q: You mentioned a few reasons?

A: So many story books reinforce and uphold traditional values. This has been exposed in recent times around gender roles in particular. The video “The Ugly Truth About Children’s Books” is a great example. It’s on YouTube and well worth a look. A mum and her daughter remove books from a bookcase using the following criteria: Is there a female character? Does she speak? Do they have aspirations or are they just waiting for a prince? In the end there’s not a lot of books left for the mum and daughter to read. One bald fact tells you a lot: 25% of 5,000 books studied had no female characters at all. So across the board for a range of children’s media, less than 20% of products showed women with a job, compared to more than 80% in respect to male characters. So around gender roles we can clearly see biases in operation. Do these biases help in perpetuating a whole range of disparities that women and girls suffer in society? Of course they do. Conservative socialisation is all around us, and dominant in so many spheres of life.

Moving away from gender temporarily, why would we be surprised if there were similar biases around topics like poverty, exploitation or challenging authorities. Of course there are.

“The book is an imaginary celebration of fighting the good fight for justice. In our story – as you can see from the book’s cover image – the earthworms are happy rebels.”

So in another way, in responding to what happened in our campaign in Cork, we are also addressing other issues not actually disconnected from our general struggle against injustice. People are passive and accept injustice often because they are socialised from a young age to be that way.  We need to broaden the scope of radical ideas and alternatives. The area of young children’s fiction, seemed an obvious place in a way. Also an important place. Children matter and they listen and question. We want to link up with that I suppose.

We’ve described our book as “Direct action for kids,” and that’s what we think our young citizens should know more about: in life, to be effective, direct action works.

Q: In the promo piece you say “A book for adults too”  right? Can you talk about this?

A: Adults can clearly see the simplicity of the story. It is a bit of a good versus bad tale and none of the dreadful complications of adult life are really there. But adults like the idea of passing on their values to children, and this book offers opportunities for doing that.

Questions arise from any good story. So in our book, community and solidarity become central issues in survival. The importance of standing by people if they are picked on by more powerful people, by bullies if you like, is also part of the story. Children sadly are quite familiar with bullies, so this book is able to speak to them about this issue too.

A key anarchist idea is in our story also, by the way. In fact the plot turns on it. This is the idea of mutual aid. Species on our planet coexist, and there is cooperation, but do we hear much about that? Children hear lots about competition and the Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest. So again there is room in the story to look at the idea of cooperation and how humans must in the end cooperate and respect the value of the environment.

So there’s room in the book for adults to talk and explain to children about different things that arise. Or you can just read it for the adventure and fun of it.

Q: A lot of positivity from defeat then.

A: Sure. The book is an imaginary celebration of fighting the good fight for justice. In our story – as you can see from the book’s cover image – the earthworms are happy rebels. The cover image by the way is from a point in the story before the worms have claimed outright victory. So, via the image, we are reflecting on that very important fact that we sometimes overlook: it is important to fight injustice but it is often fun too!

I mean, many of know this at a personal level in that we meet some great friends in campaigns, and we meet some really decent comrades. But joining with others, taking part, enjoying participatory democracy, we get to live life. So the book is a celebration of rebellion and the rebellious way too.

Q: Has the book had an impact on the original issue at Kinsale?

A: Locally it has revived interest in the issue at the Old Head. With the passage of time, the loss of this amenity is felt more acutely. There is a sense that the community was “robbed” and in a way it was. Also other cases have emerged. For example, Donald Trump has a golf course that is involved in controversy in another part of Ireland. There is a golf course in Scotland with a similar tale of woe to tell, also linked to Trump I think. People have told us about other cases similar to ours that are really about the same type of thing: the greedy 1% taking away from the public space. So it has brought an awareness that what happened at the Old Head is about a lot more than just something in our locality.

Another interesting aspect has been the positive response from many of the activists from the campaign. They have really helped to promote the book. I think many of them are proud that their fight has been celebrated with a book of its own.

Q: Some final points?

A: A couple that are related I suppose. Firstly we have to play the long game if we want to change the world. I know some ask, is there time? Well, we need time too. There is a war of ideas out there and neo-liberalism is very pervasive. We need to get in there now. Books are one way of doing that because books are powerful. That has been known from time immemorial. So our book, The Worms That Saved The World, is part of the long game. We want to influence young people and have them think early on about the idea of standing up for their rights.

But let’s go a step further and ask what do you do about your rights if the authorities and the courts say NO? If they say to you your rights don’t matter. Our book goes into that and it is unequivocal. If you rebel, think about how to win and what winning entails.

Educate, spread your ideas and build support. It’s one of the lessons that emerged from losing at the Old Head of Kinsale. We didn’t do enough of that before the crunch came in the fight there.

At the very end of our story, the worms celebrate and they say, about their victory, “We did it together.” That says it all.

This interview was first published in Perspectives on Anarchist Theory 30: Beyond The Crisis.

The Worms That Saved The World by Kevin Doyle and Spark Deeley was published in May 2017. It is distributed worldwide by AK Press (Oakland) and AK Press (Edinburgh)

Socialist whodunnits, the Catholic Church and being ‘left in the lurch’.

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IMF Orders

Occupy march, Cork 2011

Q: To Keep A Bird Singing begins during the Crash in 2010. Noelie and Hannah, two of the main characters in the story, are keeping their heads above water. We meet Noelie for the first time in a charity shop. Was there a specific reason why you chose that time period for the story?

A: The Crash here in Ireland felt like a reckoning, the past catching up with us and exacting revenge. There had been so much hot air around the Celtic Tiger and that it had heralded a new dawn in Irish history – we were a country that people were immigrating into rather than emigrating from for a change. Then, that ended. Austerity, cuts, unemployment, mass emigration all over again. A time of reckoning is a time when you look more closely at what’s going on around you; maybe it’s a bit late in the day but you do it anyway. I think that’s some of the backdrop to the story.

Q: And Noelie and Hannah?

A: They are ‘stayers’. What I mean is that when the Crash hit, people left in droves once more. It’s national affliction 😉 ‘Oh there’a problem here, right I’ll be off so.’ However Noelie is older, in his late forties when the story gets underway. He’s been made unemployed, as many were, and he feels less able for emigration. He has to stay and that means he is more prepared to ask questions about the Ireland he is stuck in. Which is what gets him into trouble.

Q: It isn’t clear at first what Noelie has stumbled in to. In the beginning the story is light-hearted. He finds his missing punk records collection. It seems like a lucky break. Then matters rapidly descend into danger.

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Bell & Howell Home Movie Camera c. 1960

A: What do you do when the cops are the criminals? It’s a problem, right? The normal avenues of complaint aren’t open to you. In To Keep A Bird Singing, Noelie and Hannah learn about the plight of a local man, Jim Dalton who has gone missing. It soon becomes clear that the cops, Special Branch that is, are probably involved. That’s how the story gets going and that’s when things really start to get difficult for them.

Q: So the cops are not heroes?

A: There is one very good cop in the book but he’s dead. Another more minor character, a police woman, is also portrayed in a positive light. So they are not all bad. Far from it. But the story in a way is about those elements of the police involved in the secret state.

Q: Which means what?

A: The activities of Special Branch and others elements inside the state security apparatus who are a law onto themselves. In the UK you have had the likes of Mark Kennedy and his involvement in deep infiltration, targeting left-wing groups, trade union activists and environmentalists. Absolutely corrupt, disgraceful activity sanctioned high up inside the police force. In Northern Ireland too all sorts of criminal activities were engaged in by RUC Special Branch. Collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries in conjunction with M15. Sectarian killings were orchestrated to stoke up sectarian hatred. There was state involvement with death squads. And we shouldn’t forget what happened at Kincora House in Belfast where elements in state security knowingly looked the other way when informed that child abuse was taking place.

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Memorial at St Patrick’s School for Boys [Upton, Co. Cork]

Q: Pretty ugly.

A: It doesn’t get much uglier.

Q: The book has been described as a socialist whodunit. Is this because of the focus on this secret state?

A: Ellie O’Byrne in the Irish Examiner called it that. I guess it is the issues that arise in the story but I think it is also a description that emerges from the characters in the story. The Crash has hit and both Noelie and Hannah are feeling the pinch. However both of them have activism in their background – of the grassroots kind, I mean. Noelie in particular was stuck in a campaign against the Council’s decision to privatise rubbish collection and so on. The anti-austerity protests are also in the air as the novel opens, and Noelie’s thinking of getting involved. The key characters are lefties.

Q: They cross swords with powerful people. The shadow of the Catholic church is there. The business community is also close to hand. What sort of Ireland is this?

A: Things are changing in Ireland – as evidenced by recent victory in the repeal of the 8th Amendment here [which banned abortions in the Republic.] However the Catholic Church is still a powerful force in terms of its wealth, influence and its connections. It still commands in sectors of the health service and in education. So the power of the Catholic Church is also the backdrop to the story.

Q: Noelie and Hannah could walk away from the trouble they see but they don’t?

A: They live in an Ireland where a lot of things have been swept under the carpet. The story is set in 2010 but in terms of the book, a year earlier a ground-breaking report had come out about the industrial school network in Ireland – the Ryan Report. This set out for all to see how brutal and vicious the systematic punishment of poor families and children had been in Ireland at the hands to the state and the Catholic Church. Another report in the air as the story gets underway has to do with the Catholic Church’s role in child abuse and in protecting clerical child abusers in the Dublin Archdiocese. Noelie and Hannah are living in an Ireland where it’s getting hard to look the other way.

Q: Although some people remain good at that. IMG_5967

A: Indeed. But others stand up in extremely difficult situations when faced with injustice and wrongdoing perpetrated by the powerful. Sometimes – and I think we know this – standing up for what is right is, effectively, a death sentence and yet people do it. Near when I was finishing writing the book, the Honduran activist Berta Cáceres was shot dead by paramilitaries linked to state security. She was threatened with murder so many times but she wouldn’t give up. And they did murder her in the end. I think, for what it is worth, the story is trying to celebrate bravery but the bravery of the underdog.

Q: As To Keep A Bird Singing moves on we begin to see something a lot darker – a group of abusers are possibly involved. They have protection though, from on high, from inside the Irish state. Is this based on a real situation.

A: The story is fiction and in another sense it isn’t. Did the Irish state protect abusers? Without doubt, yes. The Catholic church wrecked havoc on the lives of many children in Ireland right up until recent times. Abuse happened and often it was known that if certain children were sent to certain places they would be abused there. The courts not only didn’t stop this, it insisted on sending these children into these place and then, further to that, it then protected the abusers who abused in those institutions. Take the case of Fr Donal Gallagher. He was a notorious abuser and there were a myriad of complaints made against him. His order, the Vincentians, did absolutely nothing of substance to stop him. But the Gardaí failed repeatedly to pursue him too. There is a quote in the Murphy Report [p357] which really tells it all in my view.

The sergeant who conducted the investigation [into Fr Gallagher] stated in his report: “Fr Gallagher is a professional man and strikes me as a sincere and genuine individual. I can see no useful purpose to be gained by the prosecution of Fr Gallagher at this late stage”.

So I think you could argue in general that, yes, the Irish state by being so consistently negligent did abet child abuse. Was there a more sinister angle to some of this convenient ‘negligence’ on behalf of the Irish state or people acting on its behalf? I think we’d be naive not to think so.

Q: Do you think your own politics has helped in writing the book?

A: Hugely. Your politics determine what way you look at the world. In crime writing and so on its hard to avoid politics in some way. Even the murder, mayhem and gore brigade deal with it because it is all around in almost anything that goes on. But ‘political’ crime in sense of criminality deriving from how society is structured, from the reality that we live with under capitalism, gets off very, very lightly. You have to go to the Continent, to Italy and France to find any substantial body of work. That’s the way it  looks to me anyway. But there is also a certain amount of ‘feed people what they are used to eating’ attitude around too. The popular impression of crime is that it is mostly constituted by gangland based violence or vicious person-on-person crimes in which women in particular appear to come out the worse. ‘Political’ and ‘white collar’ crime, apart of course from people supposedly ripping off the dole say, is largely ignored. I remember an example a few years ago, to do with crime book related to the chemical industry. As I know something about the area I thought I’d have a read. Now there are no end of examples of pharmaceutical and chemical corporations plundering the environment to maximise their profits – engaging in criminal activities to get their way too. But who was the criminal in this book?  It turned out to be a crusty environmental activist who having lost his bearings decided to pollute an entire river to get the local chemical plant in trouble. I mean really like. In other words plots that fit certain tropes which coincidentally just happen to support the status generally do better with agents and publishers. Big surprise?

snowden

Edward Snowden broke the bad news. 

Q: Surveillance features as an important element of the story. But it only become clear as the story crisis deepens that it is having a crucial role in what is going to happen.

A: I think that’s it. If you don’t resist surveillance isn’t really an issue for you. If you do resist then the surveillance becomes a real factor that you have to contend with. Nowadays the state is able to spy right into the very heart of our lives and when it needs to it does so with a tap of a keyboard.

Q: In To Keep A Bird Singing, Noelie and Hannah don’t know who their enemies really are. The people they are up against are ‘faceless’ and some continue to be until the end.

A: This is another reality. I mean one of aspects of recent human rights abuse – everything from drone assassinations to rendition etc – is that the perpetrators are never identified. The State has at its disposal hired killers who we – the public – have no right to know about. I mean if we look closely at this it is beyond shocking. This ‘legitimate’ secrecy that the State has reserved for its covert operation in our name is a grave threat to our security. In To Keep A Bird Singing the faceless nature of those behind one of the deaths is a key factor. Can one ever get justice if one doesn’t even know the identify of the criminal involved? If they are protected by state secrecy legislation it’s nigh impossible.

Q: The story ends on a positive note but only just. Would you agree?

A: The story is not over. In a number of ways actually. As was pointed out to me by a kind reader of the book, Noelie has been left in the lurch, romantically speaking. So at the very least that has to be sorted. Other matters too are there to be followed up. But yes at the end of To Keep A Bird Singing, Noelie and his friends have made progress but at a price. It’s reality, no? It is very hard to get justice without making a sacrifice. Everyone who fought for the freedoms we now have – from advances in working conditions to women’s suffrage – put a lot on the line. They knew they had to but importantly they thought and knew it would be worth it too.

** My thanks to ml for taking the time to do this interview with me. 

Links Suffer the Little Children and Haunting Cries are informative and disturbing accounts of the industrial schools network here in Ireland.

Industrial Memories – A response to the Ryan Report

Crimes of the Bon Securs Order – The Tuam Babies

The Punk Bit …

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SLF NYC

         I was a Stiff Little Fingers fan [c. 1980]

The truth is my punk records were stolen many years ago and it was a blow. What that says about my state of mind or the state of my life back then – this was in the early half of the eighties – is another question but it’s true that I took the loss badly. It was not that I was an obsessive collector of punk and New Wave records, but I had a decent collection, tempered by yearly visits to Portobello Road market in London.

I was lucky to have an uncle who lived in Paddington and he attended the market religiously on Friday and Saturday morning every week. My brothers and I often went to stay with him in the summer months during the seventies and through that I got to know the ins and outs of Portobello market in west London: where the ‘tourist’ end was and where the locals went. Under the Westway flyover, there were often plenty of punks and lots of punk records, new and second-hand, to be had; I spent a good deal of time there sifting through the records stalls. Further down the market , in the direction of Notting Hill, there was Rough Trade of course – another Mecca for anyone interested in punk back then.

45s

Thankfully my collection of 45s survived the theft.

Douglas Street

Being broken into is an unpleasant experience. I was living on my own in a fairly decrepit flat on Douglas Street when it happened – working my way through my Masters when the theft took place. Some money was  taken and a few other bit and pieces but the record collection’s disappearance was the big loss. I can’t remember for sure now but I think the thief was caught – he attempted to cash a cheque from a campaign cheque book I was holding; I tended to volunteer then for jobs like ‘treasurer’ or ‘secretary’ – and after being told to return to the bank with ID if he wanted to cash said cheque, he did and was duly arrested. He never revealed where my prized collection was however and, as I recall, the garda detective involved was not that interested either.

I spent awhile haphazardly combing through various second-hand record stores in Cork hoping to spot one of my treasures, hoping indeed to see any part of my collection again but I never did; the records were gone and I suppose were soon dispersed in every direction.  That, in a sense, was the end of the story.

Charity Shop

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Castle Street, Cork

Years later and at a very different stage in my life, my record collection came back into my mind. By then I had two children and they were attending The Cork School Project (Educate Together) located on Grattan Street in Cork. I often dropped them to school and collected them later to bring them home again. This involved walking through town and one shop of particular interest that we often passed was on Castle Street (pictured) off North Main Street. A charity shop along the street was well known for making an art form of its interesting window displays.

This was the noughties and records and LPs were not yet back in fashion as they are now. There were boxes of vinyl lying on sale at giveaway prices in the shop and I often checked them, somewhat absent-mindedly, but with an eye for any of the gems that I had lost all those years ago. I wondered about the idea of finding my collection again and what that would feel like after all this time. It would be strange and odd too, right? Now what if I found the entire collection still intact, what would that mean?  It never happened but I did have an idea for how a story – probably set in Cork – could begin.  All this time later it is how To Keep A Bird Singing begins.

Related Links

The Road To Letterfract

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CNPLast year I gave a reading at Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway as a guest of Over The Edge. I read Capricorn, a short story I wrote about an elderly Irish exile, Hallisey, who has chosen to live in a remote area of the Pilbara in north-west Australia. An unexpected phone call reminds Hallisey of what happened to him as a child at St. Patrick’s Industrial School (Greenmount) in Cork. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Hallisey has lived in silence and alone with what he suffered at the school for all these years. Now, finally, provoked by the phone call, it appears that he may tell someone about what happened to him; understanding at last why it is essential to talk about what happened long ago.

I knew about Letterfract’s reputation. In part because I was in Galway and in part because I had been writing about the legacy of the industrial schools for a number of years, I felt I should take the opportunity to go there and see what now remains of the infamous institution. The school itself closed in 1974 and I wondered what, if anything, existed now that bore witness to what had happened there. I had heard that the original school building  still existed and I wanted to see that. But what else was there?

STARK

Letterfract - Then and Now(1)It takes about an hour and a half to get to Letterfract from Galway. The trip through Connemara National Park is a highlight. On the day I made the journey, it was cold and overcast. The national park is bleakly beautiful. It was said about Letterfract Industrial School that it was crueller than the norm due to its remote location on the edge of Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard. Even today it still feels like the journey across county Galway to Letterfract is a journey into isolation.

Except that today Letterfract is anything but isolated. It is a busy, tourist-centred locality, a gateway to a multitude of adventure based activities involving  the national park and the nearby coastline. Signposts direct the visitor to pub food, accommodation and to this company and that one offering different tourist experiences. Letterfract has had a modern make-over and in some ways epitomises the reinvention of Ireland’s western coastline. Here, in a place still wracked by emigration, a small community has clung on to assert a new way of using and making a living from the location’s natural beauty and amenities. On the day I visited, although at the end of the tourist season, there was a steady stream of people and activity around the shops and pubs. In the summer period I figured Letterfract got quite busy.

I understood that former industrial school was near the centre of Letterfact so I was surprised when I couldn’t find it. I realised that I had made a very basic error : the old industrial school building was there, dominating one quadrant of the main crossroads that is the centre of Letterfract. My mistake was that I was looking for a building fitted out in monochrome. Now, brightly repainted in red and yellow, the main building looked nothing like its former incarnation. In fact the building complex is now part of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.  A public park and picnic area in the foreground, screened by trees further helped to offset the domineering image that the industrial school once wore as a badge of pride. In the end, still unsure that I was in the correct location, I accepted that I was indeed looking at the former institution by virtue of the building’s position relative to Diamond Hill. Many of the iconic photographs of Letterfract Industrial School (see below) were taken with the austere peak in the background. Today that same vista is easily observed.

UPTON, ARTANE, BESSBOROUGH, TUAM …

It was a disconcerting sight – a place of abuse and a place where cruel punishment was meted out. Despite the passage of time, despite the make-over, it was hard for me not to think about what happened there. I was bothered too by the precise change of use: the former penal institution was now a part of a place for advanced learning. That seemed to me to be a travesty. The Letterfract building – because of what it was – has so much to tell us about ourselves. But that it seems is not of interest to some. I walked over to the main building. Close to where the old entrance was once located there is a plaque under the window with a poem on it: Show Day by Mary O’Malley. The poem, one of a series in the Letterfract Poetry Trail is a moving elegy to location and emigration. It can be listened to here.

Is there anything more, I wondered. There must be. I walked around. Students came and went. A group of young backpackers were picnicking on the grass despite the cold conditions. I wondered what they knew about this place. A casual visitor would not learn anything by walking around. There is nothing to warn anyone about what happened here; on the contrary in fact. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that an effort has been made to obliterate the past but there is doubt that someone is intent on not drawing any attention to what this place once stood for either. I was reminded of a visit I made to St Patrick’s Industrial School at Upton outside Cork a  number of years ago – as part of research I was doing for my novel To Keep A Bird Singing. That complex is now a functioning day care centre in the Bandon area of Cork. I was told when I went there that it was not possible to walk around the main building for ‘health and safety’ reasons. St Patrick’s is another site of abuse where care has been taken to obscure the past.

God Was Living Close By But ...There had to be more. Letterfract’s Catholic Church is on an elevation at the rear of the main building complex. A path leads to steps and then to another short path: I arrived at the front of the church. It is literally a stone’s throw away, underscoring for me the role that the Catholic Church played in the regime of abuse at Letterfract: the church was the overseer to the crimes that happened there, but it also very much a witness too.

GOD COULDN’T HEAR ANYTHING … AGAIN

It is not my intention here to trawl through Letterfract’s litany of crimes. One example will suffice to give the reader an idea of what the place was like. Taken from the Child Abuse Commission’s report published in 2009 it concerns a Brother Vernay who in 1940 made a complaint to the regional body overseeing the Christian Brothers regarding serious mis-doings at the institution. By passing his own boss at Letterfrack, Vernay outlined the case of a number of boys who were regularly being punished in public at the school by a few the Brothers. The method of punishment was the problem: the Brother were using horsewhips on the young boys. Yes, that’s correct, horsewhips. Pointing out that (even then in 1940) the ‘instruments used and the punishments inflicted are obsolete even in criminal establishments’, Brother Vernay went on the draw attention to the fact that knowledge of the severe punishments being meted out at the school had permeated to the community living around the industrial school. In his letter to the regional head of the Brothers, he noted that ‘people were talking’ and that this was causing disquiet both inside and outside the industrial school. Worried by the damage to the Order’s reputation, Vernay asked for an intervention. This happened and it appears that Vernay’s complaints were upheld. However little it seems was ever done to any of the assailants or to the superior at Letterfract who it seems ‘wasn’t even reprimanded.’ The Commission also found out that no apology or recompense was made to the victims. That was the sort of place that Letterfract was. Children beaten in public using horsewhips. Just one example. The entire chapter on Letterfract in the 2009 report (The Ryan Report) makes for grim reading, I tell you.

Behind the church there is narrow lane. It is a part of one of the recommended walks in the area. A backpackers hostel is close by. A little further on, on the opposite side of the road, there is a sign on a pillar: Letterfract Industrial School Graveyard.  I walked up to the cemetery. At the entrance there are two more poems from the Letterfract Poetry Trail. By Paula Meehan, these are The Boy From The Gloucester Diamond  and The Cardboard Suitcases and they can be  heard here.

DIED AT A YOUNG AGE

The grave yard is relatively small and compact and is surrounded by tall trees; it is quiet and sheltered. Inside there is a careful arrangement of small headstones in two main plots. Walter Footer died as a young boy. Edward McDermot died aged 8. William Fagen died aged 13. John Kelly died aged 15 … Died Died Diedand so on they go. I figure that there are a lot more buried here than there are names for. The cemetery is really a mass grave and this is underlined by the headstone pictured on the right. At one end, a plinth supporting a cross is draped with a tattered and bleached Irish Tricolour. Fitting. There is also a small memorial to the Letterfract boys erected by Connemara National Park.

I sat down. There was no one else there when I visited. Certainly this was a place to meditate on the wrongdoings that took place at the industrial school. What were these boys’ stories I wondered. How did they come to be sent to Letterfact and how did they die? The graveyards is a peaceful place. Thought has gone into it and it is well maintained. I felt that here at least what happened in the past is both respected and understood. It is good to see that.

LONG REPRESSED, RENDERED INVISIBLE

In a number of location in Ireland right now, a battle is being fought by activists to simply have just this – a proper cemetery such as that that exists at Letterfract. PillarIn Tuam (Galway) and in Cork at the Good Shepard Convent (Sunday’s Well) and at the Bessborough Mother and Baby (Blackrock) efforts are underway to identify the full extent of a series of mass graves that are probably located in those places. The situation at Tuam is particularly heart-wrenching. A large number of babies and children’s bodies were dumped in mass grave at the Tuam site without any care to record who they were or to mark their places of burial in any way. These ‘unwanted’ (by Catholic Ireland’s mores) were unceremoniously dumped. The Irish government has been embarrassed into looking into the matter in more detail but it is now claiming that a full and exhaustive excavation of the site would actually cost too much.  In the two Cork locations, there is also resistance to efforts to identify and mark who is actually buried at those sites. The Catholic orders and institutions are refusing to make records fully available. Even more telling in the two Cork cases, the property and buildings involved are either in the process of or have actually been sold to private developers who wish to turn these former sites of institutional abuse into apartment complexes. For many it is a race against time to extract the information and prove that these sites must by properly excavated and respected. At least at Letterfract, this small precious cemetery has been salvaged from the steamroller of progress and the process of ‘active forgetting’ at least partially stalled.

HeroesBut are cemeteries enough? At Letterfract? At Tuam or in Cork? Most definitely not. Cemeteries are needed. Each individual buried in each of these places is also entitled to a proper headstone as a minimum. None of this should be in any dispute – even though it is. But we need a lot more too. We need a museum and a permanent exhibition space which will the tell the story of the industrial schools, the Magdalene Launderies and the Mother and Baby homes.

Such a facility would and could perform a number of functions. Firstly, it would act as repository for all the records related to these institutions of abuse – a place were all the information (print, audio and photographic) can be safely stored and made available for future generations so that they too can learn and understand what happened. Such a place could also facilitate scholarship into what took place and help with explaining how such abuse practices could have taken place. There are still so many aspects to the entire edifice of institutional abuse that we do not fully understand. We need to know a lot more about the perpetrators for example. Who were they, why did the behave as they did, why have they been protected as they have? Thirdly such a facility, if properly structured, could act as a place where we as a society might be able to look at what happened, attempt to understand what happened, and learn more about the legacy of widespread institutional abuse.

Pillar2As I see it there is a conscious effort (by the Catholic Church) and an unconscious effort (by the state) to facilitate us forgetting what happened. The idea is to render almost invisible what happened at these industrial schools, Laundries and Mother and Baby homes. In part the point is to salvage the reputation of the Catholic Church but these efforts are also a societal aversion to acknowledging who we are and what the price was for becoming the Ireland that we are today. Many of us have been raised to be good at looking the other way. Here now, around this matter of institutional abuse, our acquired talents have taken on a societal dimension: turning away from facing up to the truth and the reality of what was done by us and in our name. We have the left the victims to scramble after small crumbs of justice.

We are talking about a shameful period in our history and we need to face up to it. At Letterfract, we can see today what the preferred solution looks like: the past is not hidden away anymore but it is certainly kept at a distance from the public’s eye. It is no longer feasible to say the past didn’t happen – the victims after all have refused to go quietly and won’t be silenced – but Irish society is still happy and comfortable with leaving things largely unseen. At Letterfact you have to search for the past and this is at one of the most infamous of all the abuse institutions in our country.

So if we are to be honest about all of this we need the following:

  • Firstly, full publicly-funded excavations of all the burial sites. Every effort to be made to identify all the those buried in all mass graves. Where there is suspicion about the causes of death, criminal investigations to follow.
  • Secondly, a commitment to the creation of a publicly funded facility to highlight and explain what happened. This facility – a museum – should be located at one of the former institutional sites of abuse. A site should be identified as soon as possible for this facility.
  • Thirdly, we must oppose the sale of any of these former sites of abuse by the religious orders to private developers until full disclosure and recompense is made to all the victims.

More Information

News about The Worms That Saved The World

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Where To Buy The Worms That Saved The World

A plan 2Buy DIRECT here. Great offer!

€12 (incl. P+P) per copy to anywhere in the world!

  • Pay directly using Paypal here
  • Or contact us by email thewormsthatsavedtheworld AT gmail DOT com
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Bookshops

We are stocked at the following shops:

In CorkVibes and Scribes (21 Lavitt’s Quay) and Key Books (Quay Co-op, Sullivan’s Quay). In KinsaleBookstór and Kinsale Bookshop. In Carrigaline: Carrigaline Book Shop (Main Street). In Bantry: Bantry Bookshop (William Street). In Schull: Anna B’s Bookshop

In Dublin: Not available. In Tipperary: Sheelagh na Gig (Cloughjordan) In Belfast: Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich (Falls Road)

In Galway: Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop

In England: London at Housman’s Books (Caledonian Road, King’s Cross) and Bookmarks (Bloombury Road, WC1). In Liverpool at News From Nowhere. In Nottingham at Fives Leaves Bookshop.

In Holland: Amsterdam at Het Fort van Sjakoo.

In Australia: Jura Books (Sydney)

For UK & Europe-wide distribution please contact AK Press (Edinburgh, Scotland).

For USA, Canada and Worldwide distribution please contact AK Press (Oakland, California).

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What People Have Said About …

“An inspirational story for children … entertaining and beautifully illustrated …”

Pet O’Connell, review in Evening Echo, Cork

“Everyone should get one of these books for children close to them. It is beautiful, refreshingly different with a very important message. I love it! You won’t have come across a book for kids like this….ever. A new trend hopefully.”

Niamh Leonard, artist, Cork

“… the characters in the book … reach out to people across the world …”

BookforLittles, USA

“I got my books in the post today. I love it!!! Will recommend it to all my friends and family.”

Maeve Caraher, Louth

“Looks charming.  Look forward to sharing it with the younger generation.”

Noam Chomsky

If you are looking for something unique, new and really wonderful …

Charlie Byrne’s Bookstore, Galway

“An inspiring tale that celebrates all that is good about community and solidarity.  Beautifully illustrated with colourful characters that will delight and charm and written in a style that will appeal to children and adults alike, this is a book that should be in every classroom and school library in the country.  Its message that when we support each other we can tackle anything is delivered in a way that will appeal to children, and to the child in all of us.”

Gregor Kerr, primary school teacher, Dublin

“The mighty, the arrogant and the swaggering brought low by the humble worm — what’s not to like in this charming tale of working together for what’s right and good? Up the worms!”

Theo Dorgan, poet

“High quality production, a fun and relevant story. A very child-friendly approach to political activism.”

Letterbox Library staff

“A unique take on conservation and protest – strong messages told through a lively text and attractive illustrations – I like it!”

Inclusion Manager, Primary School (via Letterbox Library)

News articles about The Worms That Saved The WorldSpark Deeley and Kevin Doyle (2)

 Background Articles About The Old Head Of Kinsale

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Press Release: “Rebellious Worms Aim To Reclaim The Old Head of Kinsale”

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A colourful new children’s book, entitled The Worms That Saved The World, is set to focus renewed attention on the controversy surrounding the Old Head of Kinsale in Co Cork. Written by Kevin Doyle and beautifully illustrated by artist, Spark Deeley, The Worms That Saved The World will be launched at Cork’s City Hall on May 5th by writer and dramatist Conal Creedon.

Access to the scenic Old Head of Kinsale – a landmark site on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way – has been restricted since 2003 when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Old Head Golf Links who had applied for exclusive rights to control who could walk on the headland. In The Worms That Saved The World a group of earthworms living on an imaginary headland begin to suffer when a golf course takes up residence around their home. The worms attempt to tell the new owners about their concerns but they are dismissed. In response they organise and join with the other birds and animals on the headland. Eventually they reclaim the headland for everyone.

“The book was inspired by the Free The Old Head campaign,’ said Kevin Doyle, ‘but it is about a lot more than just that. It is also about the environment and the need to stand up for your rights while celebrating community and solidarity in our lives. It’s a feel-good book that kids and parents together can enjoy and learn from.”

He continued,

‘The illustrations are works of art in their own right. Children will love these rebellious worms. Let’s face it, earthworms get a lot of bad press but these worms have something to tell us about the need to share the planet and respect the environment.”

The illustrations in the book have already garnered praise.

“There are thirty-five original illustrations,” said Spark Deeley. “First, I sketched the images onto watercolour paper. The drawings were then inked in using a fine liner drawing pen. Finally, I coloured the drawings by hand using watercolour paint. The larger images took between 4 – 5 days each from start to finish.”

Spark Deeley and Kevin Doyle (2)She added, “The expressions on the faces of the worms change throughout the book. Their faces convey the emotions that they experience as the story unfolds. We see concern, confusion, surprise, fear, outrage, concentration, questioning, determination, compassion and pure joy. That is what this story is all about.”

The Worms That Saved The World is published by Chispa Publishing, Cork and will retail at €10. Copies can be ordered online via Facebook or Twitter. The book is widely available in Ireland. See here for specific outlets.

Further Information:

Kevin Doyle and Spark Deeley

For background history about the Old Head dispute see Free Old Head of Kinsale – A Brief History (includes more links.)

For more about the storybook and its development see About “The Worms That Saved The World”

 

Free The Old Head of Kinsale – A Brief History

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Free The Old Head Poster 2The Old Head of Kinsale is located about twenty miles from Cork city, on Ireland’s Atlantic coastline. Jutting into the ocean, the promontory of land is a scenic highlight and has been a destination of choice for walkers going back over a hundred years. The waters around the Old Head are dangerous and there are records of a lighted beacon on the tip of the headland as far back as pre-Christian times. The first official lighthouse was established in the 17th century by Robert Reading. Today, a fully automated lighthouse still operates on the tip of the Old Head.

In Bartholomew’s (1) Walk Cork and Kerry the hike down to the Old Head lighthouse is described as follows:  The Old Head is a quiet place. Little remains of the Celtic settlement or of the many ships that have come to grief on its rocky eastern shore. Today it is the haunt of fishermen, bird watchers and rock climbers. The bird sanctuary is a protected area. The numerous coastal tracks here are well-defined.  

Older guides to the Kinsale area are more graphic. Thulliers notes that Holeopen Bay – on either side of the isthmus at the Old Head – is mentioned in Joyce’s Ulysses. (2) The same guide records that there are a number of ‘spectacular sea arches in the rock at the water’s edge that may be seen from a boat‘. ‘Some of these cut right through the 200 foot high cliffs‘ where ‘light from the other side of the headland to be seen.’ The Spanish knew of the Old Head and called it Capo de Vel (Cape of Light). It has been a favoured destination for bird watchers for generations too. The best time to visit the headlands is from mid-April to mid-July when seabird numbers are at their highest. Upto to 5,000 Guillemots regularly nest on the cliffs, laying their single eggs on bare ledges. The headland’s ‘prominent position jutting out into the Atlantic’ makes it a great place ‘to watch the passing migrations of various seabirds in spring and autumn’. Smaller colonies of Razorbills, Kittiwake, Fulmars and Shags also nest in the area. (3)

Millionaire

old-head-of-kinsale-cork-ireland-wild-atlantic-wayIn the early 90s, the wealthy businessman John O’Connor purchased the entire headland for the princely sum of just €300,000. Although he would later describe the decision as a ‘rush of blood to the head’, he had a clear sense of what he wanted to do with this unique part of the Irish coastline (4). His dream did not include walkers, sightseers or the general public. O’Connor’s vision was to construct a golf links at the Old Head aimed at the luxury end of the market. In an interview with the Irish Examiner (4) in 2002, he described his intentions as follows:

‘[The Old Head Golf Links will be] a five-star service. From the moment they arrive our golfers are looked after. Everyone has a caddy and their clubs are cleaned after they come off the course. We give a level of service that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Europe, let alone in Ireland. Our aspiration is to rank among the ten best course and ultimately to become the premier club in the world. We’re aiming at the top end of the market – and I make no bones about that.’

Major construction work began at the Old Head in the mid-90s. However matters didn’t go entirely to plan for the millionaire. When O’Connor’s Ashbourne Holdings Ltd sought planning permission for a clubhouse that would act as the centerpiece for his new luxury enclave, he ran into public resistance and the planning process. Permission to continue with the construction was eventually granted by Cork County Council, however a stipulation was added that the public had to be allowed to have access to the coastline and to the walking paths leading down to the Old Head lighthouse.

2017-03-27 18.05.33 (2)This was not acceptable to O’Connor. He disputed the existence of any public right of way on the headland – despite all the evidence to the contrary. Threatening to abandon his commitment to the development unless he was given full control over the Old Head, he began a series of legal actions against Cork County Council and An Bord Pleanála. As he saw it his ownership and investment in the exclusive golf course conferred on him the right to control access to the Old Head. This, in his view, should include who could use the road leading down to lighthouse and who was permitted to walk the paths along the cliffs:

You can’t have people wandering around a golf course, he said. We wouldn’t get insurance if the public were let in here. (4)

O’Connor also felt he taking on a fight on behalf of all developers:

The implications [of the planning stipulation upholding the public’s right of way] are wide-ranging. Every development company in the country and every landowner is looking at this case very anxiously. [If the decision to prohibit the public access to the Old Head walkways is not upheld] It would mean that there would be no such thing as private property any more.

O’Connor’s Ashbourne Holding Ltd won the first round when the High Court ruled in favour of the new golf facility. Justice Nicholas Kearns described the public’s right of access as ‘manifestly unreasonable’ as walkers and golfers had differing interests and concerns. If joint access was allowed, he argued, it ‘could result in either injury or conflict between members of the public and golfers using the facilities of the course’.

Shortly after, Cork County Council withdrew from the case. However An Bord Pleanála opted to continue the legal battle and appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. As it did a campaign got underway to assert the public right to walk the cliff and coastline at the Old Head.

Picnic Time

On July 1st 2001, the Free The Old Head campaign organised its first ‘People’s Picnic’ on the grassy hill overlooking the deCourcy Castle ruins which stood at the entrance to the new Old Head Golf Links. The event was a great success.

About 150 people turned up outside the scenic main entrance for the protest picnic, and after plenty of eating and singing discussion began on ‘what to do’. Despite the fact that the golf course and the access to the walking area was protected by a high rampart wall and razor wire, protesters overran the security heavies … In all nearly 60 people scaled the fences and marched along the traditional route of the ‘Old Head walk’. Avoiding confrontation and harassment from Golf Course security, the group held a protest meeting at the Old Head Lighthouse and then returned to the picnic area.

A further report added,

The day was the hottest of the year … The local Evening Echo had given some advance publicity and the Kinsale Residents Association had announced their support … All around the open ground people were setting out picnics with friends and family. A few musicians were playing and everyone was very relaxed. After awhile a few small groups of people spontaneously infiltrated through the wire topped walls and were escorted out. The security were a bit tetchy. Talk then began of a need to stage a mass entrance onto the course. This was canvassed among the picnicking groups and it was made clear that each person could make up their own minds [about] what role they wanted. Some would climb the wall, others proceeded to the gate and others just picnicked and observed. At 4 pm we rushed the walls, around 100 people flowed unimpeded onto the course apart from two or three over enthusiastic plain clothes gardaí resistance was non-existent and they gave up when the realised the sheer numbers they were dealing with.

People's Picnic At Old Head, c 2003The determination of the protesters surprised the irritable O’Connor. He decried the public controversy surrounding his plans for the Old Head.

An impression has been created, he said, that the Old Head is a Phoenix Park [- a reference to the main public park in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city]. That it’s a kind of public park for Cork and we came and stole it and built a golf course on it … It has created a sense of outrage among a segment of people that … individuals could come and steal a national park.

He was right. People from Kinsale, Cork and further afield were aggrieved. As a result the standoff continued. The second People’s Picnic (in late July of the same year) was billed and organised as another family friendly event. However the response from the authorities was noticeable different. It would be an exaggeration to describe the garda presence at the second picnic as oppressive, but there was no disputing that it was intentionally intrusive. Cars transporting picnickers and protesters to the area outside the golf course entrance were repeatedly challenged by the gardaí. Vehicles were checked and car registrations recorded; many drivers were instructed to produce their documents at local garda stations around Cork county within a fortnight. Gardaí also had cameras and proceeded to make a record of those who insisted on their right to access the walk to the Old Head lighthouse.

No Compromise

Over the summer of 2001, three People’s Picnics in total were held. Each picnic was followed by a decision by those present to walk down to the Old Head lighthouse – in a peaceful declaration of the public right of way.  In 2002, the protests got underway early in the year in March. By now O’Connor had erected razor wire along the walls of the old deCourcy castle, which marked the boundary with the golf course. Large numbers of private security were also in attendance along with a large detachment of gardaí and Special Branch. However, the protesters, numbering over 150, were prepared and using old carpet they neutralised the barbed wire barriers and proceeded to have an orderly walk down to the lighthouse.

O’Connor was furious. He claimed that the protesters were ‘hardcore militant activists’ and added that ‘some of them are thugs and wear balaclavas. There is no compromise’. In the same interview he pointed out how much money he had spent on the course. The matter to him was simple, black and white.  ‘Golfers and ramblers don’t mix,’ he said. Either he was granted complete control or he would leave.

The protests continued. However in late 2002, the Supreme Court ruled on An Bord Pleanála’s appeal. It found unanimously in favour of O’Connor’s Ashbourne Holdings and dismissed the appeal ‘in its entirety’ affirming that no public right of access existed on the promontory. Moreover, the Supreme Court awarded costs to O’Connor who remained in an unforgiving mood.  He berated Cork County Council and An Bord Pleanála for having the temerity to oppose him. He suggested that they had been cavalier in their approach and had wasted public funds. They needed to have their ‘knuckles rapped’, he said.

The Free The Old Head campaign pledged to continue the fight. Significantly though, at first protest of 2003, the People’s Picnic failed to gain access to the road leading down to the lighthouse. A combination of bad weather, a large garda presence and the determination of the authorities to prevent ‘any trespassing on private property’ saw the protesters outnumbered and outmaneuvered. At subsequent protests even more gardaí were bused in, creating a difficult atmosphere for the protests.  The fortifications along the boundary wall had also been strengthened – with more razor wire and security cameras – making it even more difficult for the walkers to gain access to the walking areas.

Razor Wire ‘Assaulted’

In late 2003 a member of the Free The Old Head campaign was charged with ‘attacking’ the barbed strung across the ramparts during one of the trespass attempts. Despite the fact that large numbers of cameras were now being utilised to monitor the protests, no photographic evidence could be produced in relation to this ‘violent’ assult at the trial. Instead the evidence of two gardaí who ‘witnessed’ the attack was deemed sufficient. The activist in question was convicted and fined.

2017-03-31 12.23.21The campaign had lost momentum. Although the option existed to initiate a new legal challenge over the right of way issue, the costs involved far exceeded the Campaign’s capacity. On the other side of the issue, further protests risked the prospect that even more activists would be singled out on other spurious charges relating to the heavy-handed security presence.

The Free The Old Head campaign still exists today. It continues to hold protests (5) at the entrance to the Old Head Golf Links and has publicly declared its intention to fight on until full public access to the Old Head is restored. In the meantime access for the general public is starkly restrictive – this despite the Old Head area being described as ‘one of the most spectacular beauty spots on [Ireland’s] Wild Atlantic Way’. According to a notice close to the entrance to the traditional walking area, ‘access is strictly by permission of the owners.’

Greed Is Good!

On the other hand, if you have money, you are very welcome. For the tidy sum of just €30,000 per year you can be a member of the Old Head Golf Links. In 2015 this amounted to some 300 members, 80% of whom are from outside Ireland. Alternatively you can pay to play golf for just the day at the club. According to Jim O’Brien, a manager at the Old Head, ‘At the height of season, nobody blinks at the idea of paying €1,000 for a four ball. We never ever get a complaint here on value. Any complaints we might get would be more about a foggy day or a bit of slow play.’ 

A plan 2The ‘permitted’ visitors to the Old Head are welcome for other reasons too. While some fly in from far afield for the ‘experience’, other overnight in Kinsale. O’Brien again: ‘The golfers who go out for dinner in Kinsale might go through 10 bottles of Chateau Lynch-Bages on a night out. And those Bordeaux are €500 a bottle.’ So, in a sense, you could say, O’Connor’s dream did come through. He died in 2013.

Latest News: The Worms That Saved The World is an illustrated story book for children and adults that was directly inspired by the campaign to free the Old Head. It tells the story of a mythical community of worms who live on a headland ‘on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean’. Life changes forever for the worms when a golf course moves onto their headland. At first the worms try to manage but a combination of chemical pollution and intolerance from the new owners force the worms to act. They realise that they cannot win against the powerful golf club on their own so they seek the help of other birds and animals who share the headland with them. They are a determined and inventive community of worms and in the end the win back control of their home. The Worms That Saved The World is due to published in May 2017 and is a collaboration between writer, Kevin Doyle and the artist and illustrator, Spark Deeley. More details about where you can get the book will be made available shortly.

References:

(1) Bartholomew’s Walk Cork and Kerry, 1990

(2) John Thuilliers, A History of Kinsale, 2001

(3) Sherkin Comment, 1990

(4) Irish Examiner p15 22/07/02

(5) See http://www.indymedia.ie/article/83957

Other Links:

Reports compiled by protesters involved in the People’s Picnics. From the WSM’s Environment page.

The Free The Old Head campaign website.

About the Old Head of Kinsale.

More on O’Connor’s views.

The Old Head Golf Links in their own words.

A comprehensive report on the Old Head campaign in Cork’s Irish Examiner was printed on in the paper on page 15 on 22/07/02. This is currently not available online.

A recent feature on the Old Head Golf Links. Includes spectacular photos of the area.

Old Head Golf Links visionary O’Connor dies.

Patrick Galvin: Renowned Poet and Socialist is Dead

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P GalvinPatrick 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

Written by Kevin Doyle

March 31, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Solidarity On The Cork Docks

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dockIn mid April (2008), Cork dock workers took action in support of the crew of The Defender, a cargo ship owned by Forestry Shipping from Riga, Latvia but registered in Cambodia. The Defender had nine crew on board and was carrying cargo for delivery in the Cork area.Kevin Doyle spoke to Peter Andrers, Stephen McCarty and Timmy Ricken, members of SIPTU’s No 5 branch about the action.

Link: Pubished on Indymedia, Ireland here.

Written by Kevin Doyle

March 31, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Heroes of 2014 – Do You Agree?

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Chomsky is famous for saying that a lot of people don’t know how the world really works and, more to the point, they don’t even know that they don’t know!

Direct action by Elmvale estate residents in Cork blocked Irish Water from installing water meters in their area.

There’s much truth to this claim, but with time other factors can come into play and these may alter the disturbing equation that he has set out.

This year, in Ireland, we saw the beginnings of a serious fight-back against austerity.  It seemed, at one level, to ‘appear’ from nowhere, but did it really?

Austerity, in case you are in any doubt, has been the occasion for a massive transfer in wealth from the bottom half of society to the top echelons.  Money aside, the so-called “1%” has also concentrated an even greater amount of power in its own hands – exemplified by a raft of discarded workplace agreements and unilaterally imposed pay cuts.  Austerity, make no mistake, has been a good to the (already) wealthy!

But it is in the nature of highway robbery that, inevitably, it goes too far… And this year in Ireland a point was reached when a significant number of people said ‘Enough’.  But the saying of ‘Enough’ didn’t just happen either.

Over the past year and more there have been people out there during long periods of endless protesting and agitating who did the work that made the saying of ‘enough’ possible.  Here in Cork I know some of these people from my involvement in the Anti-Household Tax protest.  Togher/ Ballyphenane are one notable group, for example, that were to the fore.  So also were the activists in Cobh, in lower Cork harbour.  In these areas, small groups of anti-austerity activists survived the defeat that was the Anti-Household Tax campaign and kept going.  They were stalwart in their opposition to austerity and it has paid off for us all – so far.

I could name some names and in times those names should be recorded for the sake of honesty and to acknowledge the vital role these activists played in this fight-back; but not just now.

For the moment I just want to point the finger at the people pictured in the photo above.  When Irish Water set about installing their meters in the estates on the edge of Cork city, it was the Togher and Ballyphane Anti-Water Tax group that stood their ground.  They talked to people in the estates like Elmvale (in the south Cork city area) and the result was the action you see pictured here.  Non-violent.  Determined.  Highly effective!

In the accompanying photo we see something captured that simply wasn’t visible for quite some time here in Ireland: it is austerity being held at bay.

The actions at Elmvale, in Lehenaghmore, in Rushbrook (to name just a few estates) produced a number of small but very highly significant victories that others around the country took hope and confidence from.  The real  heroes of Ireland 2014 are the people who stood up in these estates and said NO.

The Ballyphehane/ Togher activists showed that building the resistance takes effort, time and a lot of work.  But they also showed that it is possible to win against austerity. Organise locally, be determined and spread the word.

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