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(en) Ireland, Mayday in the Phoenix Park - a lot longer than 12 months - An anarchist Mayday picnic plan for Dublin

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 23 Apr 2005 10:16:47 +0200 (CEST)

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Last Mayday Dublin saw the EU summit held in the Phoenix park
on the edge of the city. A protest march organised by the Dublin
Grassroots Network on the park had been banned and when it went
ahead anyway it was attacked with water cannon and riot police. This
year Dublin anarchists are planning to have a picnic in the Park - this
article written to advertise the Park looks at the radical history around
it and the monuments it contains. The Jim Larkin mentioned is the radical
Irish trade unionist who had been involved with the IWW in the USA.
I started this piece intending it to be little more than an ad for the
Dublin Mayday anarchist picnic in the Phoenix park (details follow)
with perhaps a little bit of context thrown in. But suddenly I found
myself carried away by the political geography of this park which was
after all originally built as a Deer park for a discarded mistress of
Charles II (hence the high wall). If you know even a little of that
history the park becomes a different place and suddenly the events of
Mayday 2004 fall into a greater context of political protest and the
control of space.

Did you spend Mayday last year trying to get into the Phoenix Park
only to discover it filled with surveillance cameras, ringed with
fences, draped with barbed wire, buzzed by helicopters, rigged with
motion detectors and surrounded with riot police? Maybe you even
got a blast from a water cannon.

It wasn't just you; the working class communities that surround
much of the park were also not only excluded from it but virtually
locked down for 12 hours. Kids coming in and out of the estates were
searched and families turned back by squads of riot cops yelling 'hold
the line'. All so 25 rulers could eat without the distant sound of angry
drums being carried over the park wall.

Reclaim the park

So this Mayday lets go back to the park and have ourselves a picnic
free of all that hassle and madness.

This will be at least the fourth anarchist picnic held in the park. But
the tradition of using the Phoenix Park for radical gatherings goes
back to the Land League. At one point the government had tried to
ban them meeting in the Park and Michael Davitt threatened to lead a
march to pull down the gates if they were shut in the Land Leagues
face. In fact you can even go back further if your like, the largest
mobilisation of the Irish Volunteers happened in 1882 in the park
near the present day papal cross. The debates that took place during
and around these mobilisations were to form part of the basis of the
United Irishmen and the radical democratic risings of 1798 and 1803.

In 1914 the Irish Trade Union Congress annual meeting was
preceded by a huge rally of workers in the park - the bitter defeat of
the lockout had just passed but this demonstrated that the unions
were not yet beaten. The Irish Citizens Army attended protest
meetings in the park in 1915 - with their guns. Even the idea of
radicals using the Park to celebrate May Day is not new - at the start
of the last century it was the frequent destination for Dublin workers
out to mark May Day. In a 1915 James Connolly reported that
soldiers had tried to stir up trouble with the trade union May Day
marchers in the park.

Mayday has been a day of celebration of anarchist resistance since
the 1860's. Both because it is a traditional day for workers of the land
and factory to skive off and because it celebrates the lives of our
comrades who were martyred in Chicago in 1887 after the police riot
of May 1886. That riot was in response to the growing movement for
the reduction of the working day to 8 hours which had seen the
workers of Chicago come out on strike. Since then it has sometimes
been a day of protest, sometimes a day of parties and surprisingly
often a day of picnics. The left and union movement today seems to
have been drained of the sense of fun it once held but events like RTS
ensure that this traditions is also upheld. And the picnic in the park
can form a useful hinge between the union march and 'Stand up for
your Rights' action the day before and the Reclaim the Streets on the
day after.

So this year we will be protesting on the 30th, picnicking on the 1st
and partying on the 2nd. This Mayday come along and join us in the
park. Bring a kite, a football or a frizbee. Bring something to eat and
drink not just for yourself but that you can also share with others.
Bring your kids or your parents or both.

Meet with reaction

We'll meet up at 1pm at one site of reaction in the park, the giant
obelisk erected for the Duke of Wellington. This reminds us that the
park has not only played a role in radical politics in Ireland but is also
a home of reaction. Today it contains the Garda HQ, the Presidents
palace, the US Ambassadors residence and the Papal Nuncios
residence to name four. The Royal Irish Constabulary staged its final
parade in Phoenix Park before disbanding.

Wellington was not only a misanthrope and an anti-Catholic bigot but
also part of the suppression of the radical workers movement in
Britain. These movement's demands included the reduction of the
working day to 10 hours. This is a curious link through history with
the anarchists of Chicago who were executed for leading the struggle
for the 8 hour day but the park contains many curious links some
more of which I will mention here.

The platform at Peterloo - note the 'Caps of Liberty' also used in
Ireland in 1798

Wellington was brought into the cabinet in 1815 to help suppress the
wave of radical protests that had broken out at the end of the
Napolonic wars. August 1819 saw the Peterloo massacre in
Manchester when a mass demonstration of around 200,000 which
included "bands and a series of embroidered banners carried by
friendly societies and fledgling unions" was attacked by the cavalry
leaving 11 dead and 500 injured. Some 10 years later when
Wellington visited Manchester his carriage was stoned by
Manchester workers because of his role in the Peterloo massacre.
The Iron Duke - so called because he had bars put on all the windows
of his house - was Irish, although he didn't like to advertise that fact.
The pen and the sword
"The cut depicts a set of scales with a quill pen in the left-side dish
clearly outweighing ... representations of a repressive legal apparatus.
...The suggestion is ... a free press has been able to keep a repressive
government in check.

Further to the right, however, stands the figure of ... in the process of
adding his sword (i.e. military force) to the legal documents in the
right-side dish of the scales. The sword has not yet landed, and it
thus remains to be seen whether or not the pen will continue to
outweigh the combined force of legal and military repression.

Peterloo set off a wave of protests across Britain, which culminated in
the 1820 rising in Scotland. "Ordinary people from all over an
increasingly industrial Scotland had been inspired to rise and
overthrow the state in order to secure their rights and better working
conditions." This included on April 3rd what is probably one of the
first general strikes in history as "people from many different trades,
but especially weaving, stopped work. They were not only refusing to
work, but were in many cases preparing for war. Reports flooded in of
groups of men engaged in military drills, and making weapons such
as pikes from any material that could be obtained." Something to
remember for all of us planning to go with Dissent to Scotland this
summer to protest the G8 - it didn't start in Seattle - it won't end in

A commemorative jug
Meet with rebellion

We'll leave the Wellington monument at 1.30 to head for the area
behind the magazine fort. This is a nice quiet bit of the park with
plenty of room for running around - if you know where it is you could
head straight there but it would be nice to go across country as a
group from the Wellington monument. You can also get there by bike
or car if your mobility is limited.

The magazine fort was built in 1735. Jonathan Swift wrote that:
"Now's here's a proof of Irish sense
Here Irish wit is seen
When nothing's left that's worth defence,
We build a Magazine."

Part of the magazine fort

This bit of the park also has quite a radical history as attempts to
storm the magazine fort formed part of the plan of many republican
insurrections. It's isolated position in the park made it quite
vulnerable and soon after the IRA had managed to get in and get a
few lorry loads of guns out in 1939 it was abandoned. Liam Brady
described that raid in his unpublished biography 'A Libertarian in the

Don't get too excited by the title - he is referring to have lived in the
Liberties rather than to having been an anarchist in the 1930's! But
there is another odd link here because Liam Brady was the grand
nephew of Joe Brady, one of the Invincibles who was hanged in 1882
for his part in the Phoenix Park assassinations

It happened in the Phoenix Park all in the month of May,
Lord Cavendish and Burke came out for to see the polo play.
James Carey gave the signal and his handkerchief he waved,
Then he gave full information against our Fenian blades.

The Invincibles were a working class republican group close to the
Fenians who stabbed to death the British secretary and also the
under-secretary for Ireland somewhere along the road opposite the
Aras. In Europe and the USA 1882 was part of the 'propaganda by
deed' period which parts of the anarchist movement had entered after
the suppression of the Paris commune when some 30,000
communards were executed. Propaganda by deed consisted of
assassinations of members of the ruling class; in particular those
associated with oppression.

Press reports at the time often referred to the Invincibles as
anarchists and Engels even called the Invincibles 'Bakunists'. But
there is no evidence of any links with anarchism either in Ireland or
abroad. In London however the short-lived German anarchist paper
Freiheit (worker) was shut down as a consequence of an article
"applauding the assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish by
Fenians in Phoenix Park, Dublin, in May 1882". The Invincibles had
formed of ex Fenian/IRB men in 1881 in the aftermath of the brutal
suppression of the Land League and with the objective of "removing
all the principal tyrants from the country".

Meet with our history

This and other references to the Invincibles has left me with a lasting
curiosity about them. I've spent some time opposite the Aras looking
for the possible site of the assassination. We know that as late as
1938 it was remembered and even marked out by some working class
Dubliners because of another of the odd links that crop up in
connection with the Park.

In 1938 James T. Farrell came to Dublin to visit Jim Larkin. He
relates that while there Larkin "asked me if I wanted to see the
monument to the Invincibles ... I imagined that I was going to see a
statue, but this did seem passingly curious. The idea that there would
be a monument commemorating the Invincibles in Dublin didn't
make sense. We stopped in Phoenix Park, just opposite the
Archbishop's palace. ... We got out. Jim walked along a path, looking
down at the grass. I was bewildered. Jim became nervous, and he
stared on the ground with some concern. Then he pointed. There it
was. I saw a little hole where grass had been torn up. A cross had
been scratched in the earth with a stick. I gathered that many
Dubliners did not know of this act commemorating the Invincibles.
Jim's boys always went out to Phoenix Park, and marked this cross
in the earth. No matter how often grass was planted over it, it was
torn up. The cross was marked in the earth."

I only found this account today - but I do remember when looking for
the site coming across a cross scratched in the grass on the left hand
side of the road. This evening perhaps I'll talk a walk up there to see
if someone is really still carrying on that tradition.

I should probably also ask my mother. Probably part of my interest in
the Park comes from spending a lot of summer days there as a kid
visiting my grandparents. They lived in Kirwan street but as a child
she had lived in Neill st which is very close to the North Circular
entrance to the park and so she spent a lot of time there. History gets
forgotten if we don't retell it. [ Well she didn't know about the cross
but she did say that a distant relative was meant to have been a maid
in the Viceregal lodge at the time and was said to have come across
the scene just after the murder. That side of her family later ended up
in Liverpool - and there was more to tell there. ]

Whatever the exact site the assassinations took place less that a
kilometre as the crow flies from the magazine fort. Blowing up the
entire fort was also supposed to be the signal for the start of the 1916
rising. If the main magazine had gone up the resulting explosion
should have been heard all over Dublin. But although the fort was
captured around noon on Easter Monday 1916 by volunteers Patrick
Daly and Garry Holohan they were. "Unable to locate the key to the
main store, the men were able only to set off a small charge with a
cache of gelignite which did not make a sound to be heard all over
Dublin as the rebels had planned."

You can see why the state decided it was probably better to abandon
the fort, today the dry moat is full of brambles and the gates are long
padlocked shut. It's a quiet spot where you can easily believe you are
deep in the country side rather than a short walk from Park Gate

Meet with each other

So this Mayday lets return to the Park and celebrate resistance and
struggle from Chicago to Dublin. And lets be at the trade union
march the day before and the Reclaim the Streets the day after.

May weekend events in Dublin

May Day Demonstration - Solidarity with Migrant Workers
This years May Day trade union demonstration will take place on
Saturday April 30th meeting at 2.30 at the Garden of Remembrance
in Parnell Square. The demo will march to Liberty Hall and is on the
theme of solidarity with migrant workers. The march has been called
by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions

Join The Get Up Stand Up Bloc And Help Organise The
This Mayday weekend, the Get Up Stand Up Campaign will be
organizing a block on the Trades Council March In Dublin. After the
march we will be returning to the roots of Mayday and parading
through the city to distribute leaflets on basic workers' rights to
people working in casualised labour. Join us in building the labour

Anarchist 1st of May picnic in Phoenix Park
This Mayday let us go back to the park and have ourselves a picnic
free of all the state imposed hassle and madness of last year. This will
be (at least) the fourth anarchist picnic held in the park. Meet up at
the Wellington Monument at 1pm

Reclaim The Streets
On Monday, May 2nd, starting from the Spike on O'Connell Street at
1.30pm, Reclaim The Streets and Dissent! Ireland, along with
Critical Mass will be holding a free street party to help highlight the
effects that the G8 leaders have on the world, and to help people
mobolise to take action and travel to this years G8 Summit at
Gleneagles, Scotland on July 6th.

More information
The anarchist origins of Mayday in Chicago -

The Peterloo massacre -

Original texts reporting on Peterloo

The 1820 revolt in Scotland

Liam Brady and 1939 raid on the magazine fort

The Invincibles

Larkin and the Invincible monument

History of the park

About the park today

A kids game based in the park

From http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/hone/deditext.htm

by Joe Black - WSM (personal cap)

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