Irish music, war and history


This music video from Ireland says about itself:

30 November 2010

Wolfe TonesCome Out Ye Black And Tans

Words by Dominic Behan, music traditional

I was born on a Dublin street where the Royal drums do beat
And the loving English feet they trampled all over us,
And each and every night when me father’d come home tight
He’d invite the neighbours outside with this chorus:

Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killashandra.

Come let me hear you tell
How you slammed the great Parnell,
When you fought them well and truly persecuted,
Where are the smears and jeers
That you bravely let us hear
When our heroes of sixteen were executed.

Come tell us how you slew
Those brave Arabs
two by two
Like the Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows,
How you bravely slew each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them poor natives to their marrow.

The day is coming fast
And the time is here at last,
When each yeoman will be cast aside before us,
And if there be a need
Sure my kids wil sing, “Godspeed!”
With a verse or two of Stephen Beehan‘s chorus.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Bloodied at the hands of the Black and Tans

Thursday 26th March 2015

PETER FROST remembers an Irish republican ballad that echoes events that happened 95 years ago this week

OH, come out you black and tans/ Come out and fight us like a man/ Show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders/ Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away/ From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.

I first learnt Dominic Behan’s fine song from the man himself in the pubs of what many locals in the mid-1960s called County Kilburn.

Kilburn in north-west London had a huge and proud Irish community and the traditional music nights were said to be as good as anything you might hear in Dublin, Belfast or Derry.

The song was always a favourite with me and my wife Ann. We both have some Irish blood in our respective families. Much later we would discover that the subject matter had direct relevance to Ann’s own family history.

We would also, later in life, on some of our many visits to Northern Ireland, explore those lovely lanes in Killeshandra. The town was once an important centre of the linen industry. Today its setting in beautiful lake country has made it is a popular centre for fishing, walking, wildlife and eco-tourism.

Dominic Behan’s song, written as a tribute to his father Stephen — and ironically set to the Orange march Rosc Catha na Mumhan, or Battlecry of Munster — brings alive the hatred of the brutal British troops who arrived in Ireland 95 years ago this week.

After the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 the execution of Irish leaders including Patrick Pearse and the dying James Connolly led to huge public outrage. This soon turned to support for the revolutionary Sinn Fein movement.

In the 1918 general election Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 seats. In January 1919 the First Dail — the Irish parliament — declared an independent Irish Republic.

In the same month, the republican Irish Volunteers, fast becoming known as the Irish republican Army, began the guerilla campaign that would become the Irish War of Independence. The main thrust was to attack the hated Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) posts, police stations and barracks.

By 1919 the British administration, horrified by the low morale in the RIC, closed down and outlawed the Dail.

Westminster clearly needed new initiatives and the British government knew just what to do. In January 1920, the government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task in Ireland”.

Post-WWI unemployment and austerity meant there was no shortage of recruits, many of them veterans home from the trenches of Flanders.

By November 1921 about 9,500 ex-soldiers had joined. This sudden influx of men presented a real problem. There were not enough proper RIC uniforms to go round. Instead the new recruits were issued with war surplus khaki army trousers and dark green RIC or old blue British police tunics.

This sartorial odd mixture gave rise to their nickname, the Black and Tans. The name came from a famous pack of foxhounds from Limerick who wore similar colours. The title would stick even after the men eventually received proper green RIC uniforms.

The new recruits were given only three months’ hurried basic training, and were rapidly posted to RIC barracks, mostly in Dublin, Munster and Connacht.

The first Black and Tans arrived on March 25 1920 and immediately generated hatred and further resistance.

The government also raised a further unit, the Auxiliary Division of the constabulary. This group was made up of ex-army officers. The Black and Tans acted with the Auxiliaries and both were ordered to break the IRA by any means possible.

One of Ann’s relatives was murdered by members of the Auxiliary around this time. One of republican leader Michael Collins’s group, he was arrested and taken to Dublin Castle for questioning.

Just before nine o’clock in the evening he and a friend were released only to be immediately re-arrested for being on the street after the nine o’clock curfew. It was an old Auxiliary trick.

Dumped in the back of one of the Black and Tans’s notorious Crossley Tenders, they were driven to Phoenix Park and each had a bucket put on their head before they were shot at point-blank range.

The Auxiliary executioners were court-martialed but instead of any punishment their commanding officer offered his congratulations.

Black and Tans were paid 10 shillings a day, a substantial wage in those days — and they also got full board and lodging in special barracks.

With minimal police training, their main role was to strengthen the guarding of RIC posts. They worked as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents and as reinforcement to the regular police.

It took no time for them to gain a reputation for awesome brutality.

Black and Tans had little discipline. Deaths of Black and Tans at the hands of the IRA were often repaid with arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population.

In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages throughout Ireland.

One of the worst atrocities was the massacre of 13 civilians at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday November 21 1920.

Black and Tans and Auxiliaries opened fire with armoured-car-mounted machine guns on the crowd.

The Black and Tans justified the attack as revenge for Michael Collins’s assassination of an undercover RIC murder squad earlier that day.

In November 1920, they besieged Tralee, also in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two local RIC men. They shut the businesses in the town and let no food in for a week.

On the night of December 11 1920, they sacked and burned Cork city.

In January 1921, a commission set up by the Labour Party produced a report on the situation in Ireland. It was highly critical of the government’s security policy.

“Forming the Black and Tans,” it said “had liberated forces which it is not at present able to dominate”.

Since December 1920, the British government had sanctioned official reprisals in Ireland. The Black and Tans burnt property of IRA men and any suspected sympathisers.

Altogether 7,000 of them served in Ireland in 1920-22. More than one-third of them died or left the service before they were disbanded, along with the rest of the RIC, in 1922.

Today, nearly a century after the Black and Tans’ war crimes, these British bully boys are still remembered and still hated in Ireland.

“Tan” is still a term of abuse in Ireland. And in a delicious irony there is a medal, awarded by the Irish government to IRA veterans of the War of Independence. It bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes. The colours? What else but black and tan — just a tiny reminder of the colours of the still-hated enemy.

Sand martin back from Africa in Wales


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Sand Martins at Aughris Head Co. Sligo.

From the Pembrokeshire Birds blog in Wales:

Saturday, 7 March 2015

First Sand Martin

While going through a couple of hundred gulls sheltering in the Teifi Estuary for my WeBS count, a Sand Martin flying over was a nice surprise. A second, or the same bird, was over the river viewpoint on the Teifi Marsh.

Other birds of note were a Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe near the boat builders. Wigeon and Teal numbers were down and Shelduck up as usual for the March count. 3 Goldeneye and 3 Goosander on the river.

Posted by Wendy J at 1:37 pm

Irish teenager’s death penalty in Egypt for attending pro-democracy rally?


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Free Ibrahim Halawa

10 December 2014

Ibrahim Halawa is an Irish citizen who has been imprisoned in Egypt for over a year. He is a prisoner of conscience and Amnesty are calling for his immediate release.

Sign the petition here.

On Saturday the 13/12/14, Ibrahim’s birthday, join us as we protest outside the Egyptian embassy and call for Ibrahim’s release!

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Ibrahim Halawa: Irish teenager faces execution in Egypt after attending pro-democracy rally

He is one [of] 493 detainees charged collectively

Cahal Milmo

Monday 02 March 2015

An Irish teenager held in Egypt for nearly two years after he attended a pro-democracy protest has been moved to a purpose-built prison where he faces a mass trial and possible execution, campaigners have warned.

Ibrahim Halawa was just 17 when he was arrested with his three older sisters after they sought shelter in a Cairo mosque during the demonstration in August 2013.

Although his siblings were released, Ibrahim was placed in adult custody, suffered alleged beatings and had medical treatment withheld for a bullet wound to a hand which is now permanently disfigured. He is one 493 detainees charged collectively with causing deaths and criminal damage.

Legal charity Reprieve said the Irishman, who had been in Egypt to visit relatives, had recently been moved out of Cairo’s notorious Tora prison, where he shared a cell with Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste until the Australian’s release last month.

Mr Halawa is now being held at Wadi el Natrun between Cairo and Alexandria in a jail complex specially built for mass trials.

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Before this farce of a trial resumes, and Ibrahim’s life is put at risk, the Irish government and the EU must do all they can to ensure his return to his family in Dublin.”

With Saturday’s execution of an Islamist defendant, the first state killing of the hundreds of people sentenced to death in mass show trials following the July 2013 military coup, the US-backed Egyptian junta is stepping up its campaign of police-state terror against the people: here.

Report thy neighbour: policing Sisi’s Egypt. A regime bereft of legitimacy, save for its promise to guarantee national security, turns citizens into active players in a new culture of surveillance and reporting: here.

Bats of North Sea wind farms, new research


This video says about itself:

Male Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Bat singing

12 September 2014

At a large mixed maternity roost of Nathusius’ and Soprano pipistrelles in Northern Ireland, the males are busy trying to attract females with their songs. This boy had the cheek to sit right at the entrance to the roost so all the females had to go past him. He was a pretty loud and frantic singer so he probably got lucky.

You can see him opening his mouth as he makes each noise, but the camera could not pick up the very high-pitched sounds that he made.

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

27 February 2015

You would not expect it, but bats also fly above the sea. Researchers have now shown that in the months of September and October they may even be found regularly in offshore wind farms. Probably the bats pass the windmills when they are migrating, but the researchers also conclude that they sometimes fly there from the continent to catch insects. Nathusius’ pipistrelle was most heard around the windmills, but signals were also heard from common noctule bats.

The study took place in two wind farms off the coast of Egmond.

New research at the University of Exeter and Bat Conservation Ireland has given the lie to the popular belief that streetlights are attractive to our common bat species because of the insect life they attract. The study found that in fact bat activity was lower in street-lit areas than in dark locations with similar habitat. And, in fact, the scientists have concluded bright lights are having a detrimental effect on bats: here.

Bats obey ‘traffic rules’ when foraging for food: here.

Rare birds in Britain and Ireland update


This video from San Francisco in the USA says about itself:

23 February 2011

Several pair of American Wigeons were found at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

From Rare Bird Alert in Britain:

Thursday 26th February 2015

Lingering rarities included Harlequin Duck (Aberdeenshire), Ferruginous Duck (Gloucestershire), Black Scoter (Northumberland), Penduline Tits (Devon), Laughing Gulls (Wirral and Co Cork), Lesser Yellowlegs (Co Dublin) and King Eider (Cornwall).

The best of the rest included Dotterel and Little Bunting (Cornwall), two Cattle Egrets, two American Wigeons, three Glossy Ibises, five Rough-legged Buzzards and eight Waxwings.

Irish government whitewashing Bahrain human rights violations?


This video from the USA is called CNN – Bahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients.

From the Irish Medical Times:

Freedoms at the heart of medical education

February 18, 2015

Prof Eoin O’Brien is critical of the recent Medical Council report on RCSI-Bahrain following a recent accreditation visit, suggesting that it does Ireland an international disservice.

Education without freedom of speech is an oxymoron that I believe has just been upheld by the Irish Medical Council (IMC) and the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, on behalf of the Irish people.

With more than two million people supporting freedom of speech in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and supportive demonstrations throughout this country, it is timely to ask how authorities acting on behalf of the Irish public can be, in my view, so cavalier in granting what amounts to official approval of an oppressive regime.

And let’s be in no doubt but that Bahrain is a most oppressive regime, ranking 163rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index (Ireland ranks 16th), as a consequence of which it is off-limits to most human rights groups. In this small island about one million people are governed by a minority Sunni monarchy, which, with the economic backing of Saudi Arabia, oppresses the Shia majority who are denied the most basic of human rights.

Let us remind ourselves that what started as a peaceful protest for basic human rights in the Arab Spring of 2011 ended with more than 35 people killed and some 70 medical professionals, including 47 doctors, being arrested, with more than 150 medical workers suspended or dismissed from their jobs, and that Irish-trained surgeons and doctors Ali Al-Ekri, Bassim Dhaif, Ghassan Dhaif and his wife Zahraa Al-Sammak were among the tortured. Dr Al-Ekri remains incarcerated in a prison.

Freedom of speech

The question is this: can university education be provided in an environment that forbids freedom of speech and imprisons those who chose to exercise this fundamental democratic right? The President of the Irish Medical Council, Prof Freddie Wood, who until recently was a member of the Council of RCSI and Chairman of its Finance Committee, is, I would argue, of the opinion that freedom of expression is a prerequisite of medical education.

In a recent lecture, Prof Wood used a quote from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we start to remain silent about the things that matter.” The President went on to illustrate the righteous adherence of the IMC to such a principle: “All the international research shows that doctors who have issues at medical school are likely to continue with bad practices throughout their professional lives. If we can work to standardise the training experience for all doctors so that it is consistently high, we can make sure a reference for good practice is there throughout a doctor’s career.” Likewise, the National University of Ireland (NUI) (which awards degrees in Bahrain) is emphatic in emphasising the importance of freedom of speech in university education.

Dr Maurice Manning, the Chancellor of NUI, chaired a committee in 2013 that drafted a guiding document entitled Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland and its Member Institutions.

It should be noted that the RCSI, as a member institute, should be subject to the principles enumerated in this document, among which are: “The National University of Ireland and its member institutions have a special responsibility to ensure that… the human rights of their students, staff and associates are fully respected, regardless of the country where they are located. This includes but is not limited to freedoms that are necessary for the good functioning of a university, such as freedom of association, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination.”

It goes on to emphasise that the NUI and its member institutions must ensure that none of their activities, including partnerships they undertake with institutions in different countries, are seen as providing support for the violation of human rights.

How, one has to ask, can these Irish institutions on the one hand emphasis such laudable principles about the educational environment of medical students, and, on the other, countenance granting accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain and its associated hospitals, where torture and imprisonment of medical staff, not to say anything about suppression of freedom of speech, has been openly documented and repeatedly emphasised by medical and legal authorities?

Educators in Bahrain have also had difficulty reconciling the principles of education with the repression of basic human rights. The former President of RCSI-Bahrain, Prof Tom Collins, resigned his position because by remaining in office effectively amounted to complicity with suppressive policies of the Bahraini authorities — a resultant compromising of the very essence of higher education.

The ‘rape’ of Bahrain

Dr Mike Diboll, a former Academic Head of Continuing Professional Development at Bahrain Teachers College, University of Bahrain, and a faculty member of the University of Bahrain, who “witnessed the toxic effects of institutionalised sectarianism, the suppression of academic freedom and the violation of civil and human rights at the University of Bahrain”, has stated that: “The rape of Bahrain Polytechnic provides yet more evidence — as if more were needed — as to why no respectable international higher education institution, professional body, or accreditation agency should have anything whatsoever to do with Bahrain until fundamental social and political change has happened there.”

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the recent announcement by the Medical Council to grant accreditation to RCSI-Bahrain has appalled many doctors, who see grave implications that extend far beyond the shores of the islands of Bahrain and Ireland.

IMC Report

The IMC Report on Accreditation Inspection of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland-Bahrain Medical School, which took place on October 13 and 14, 2014, makes, in my view, disturbing reading, not so much for the recommendations it makes, but for the facts it chooses to omit in reaching its conclusions. I am not going to concern myself with the make-up of the visiting team, but rather concentrate on their failure to make any meaningful reference to human rights and the freedom of expression — issues that cannot be ignored in the context of approving a third-level institution that purports to educate doctors to practise in multicultural environments.

The only mention of human rights in the 40-page document (apart from four documents listed as ‘Background Reading’) is reference to a review document from RCSI-Bahrain that apparently “commits RCSI-B to expressing its declared ethos, including commitment to dignity and freedom for all, though the content and process of its teaching”.

The report goes on: “A stand-alone module on human rights has been introduced, with assessment explicitly linked to student progress.”

It could be argued that the report reflects an unsuitable position taken towards the institute under inspection, rather than expressing its findings in a dispassionate and factual manner. For example, from the outset the “noble purpose” of RCSI is acknowledged, whereby it enhances “human health through endeavour, innovation and collaboration in education, research and service”.

The report repeatedly “commends” RCSI-Bahrain, examples being for the sports facilities available on campus and on the range of clubs and societies available to students, the “Careers Office, which provides guidance, support and advice” and the “calibre of the administrative staff met on the accreditation inspection”.

These are important considerations in any university where fundamental existential conditions, such as academic freedom, meritocratic decision-making, freedom of association and freedom of expression are assumed, which is not necessarily the case in Bahrain.

The report deems the clinical facilities to be acceptable, not by a rigorous assessment of the hospitals, interviewing past pupils, patients and independent reports, but instead by relying on the ability of current students to speak out and exercise their freedom of speech, which has hitherto been so assiduously denied them.

There is then the time given to the IMC visit — two working days to visit and interview personnel at the RCSI-Bahrain Medical School, the King Hamad University Hospital, and the Bahrain Defence Forces Hospital, and to assess the clinical facilities.

The report suggests an important contradiction, which needs to be reconciled, namely that while it was disappointing that the Team had been unable “to meet with a greater number of students, they found that students were aware of the purpose of the meeting and had reasonable opportunity to opt-in”. Why did so few students attend, then, if they were aware of the meeting?

The final conclusion of this flawed report is that: “The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Bahrain’s six-year Medical Programme should be approved for a period of five years under the terms of Section 88(2)(a)(i)(I) of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.”

This recommendation is based on the fact that RCSI-Bahrain provided “an appropriate, comprehensive and pedagogically-sound education programme, which is carefully designed to meet defined educational outcomes and is based on the well established programme at the parent institution in Dublin”.

Does this imply that the visiting team from Ireland believed that the same democratic principles that pertain in Dublin also operate in the educational environment in Bahrain?

This is not too surprising, of course, seeing that it would appear they did not interview or visit any of the people involved in upholding human rights in that country.

Rather, the IMC team has chosen to concentrate on issues of technical competence rather than the relevance of ethical principles in decision making — a dangerous course as the Irish people well know, having had to pay for this dichotomy in the failure of banking regulation in this country.

Human rights

So what is the state of human rights in Bahrain today? Two examples will suffice. First, the IMC visit took place just after the women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer had been arrested and detained for tweeting criticism of the IMC-approved King Hamad University Hospital; she is now considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Second, my friend Nabeel Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a founder of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East division’s advisory committee, is presently facing six months in prison — a sentence he is appealing — for issuing a tweet that offended the Bahraini authorities, which has warned that anyone who “offends by any method of expression the National Assembly or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies” will be sentenced to jail.

Allow me to speculate. Were the IMC delegation, who were selected for proven abilities and experience, aware of all this background, did they choose to ignore it, were they denied enquiry into the educational environment, did they in fact probe the issue, or did they see it as outside their remit — or none of the above? Only the IMC can say which, if any, of these explanations is correct.

Whatever the answer, as things stand at present, the IMC and the Minister of Education and Skills have done nothing to address the abuse of human rights in Bahrain, and have allowed it to continue by sanctioning an Irish educational institution in that island.

Perhaps, more importantly, they may be jeopardising the reputation of Irish higher education both at home and abroad in terms of its pursuit for and profession of truth.

Ireland has a proud tradition internationally in medicine by virtue of medical missionary work, its contributions to scientific medicine and the reputation for clinical excellence acquired over many years by dedicated doctors and nurses working at home and abroad.

The Minister has a responsibility not to see this reputation squandered. She has a further responsibility, which is that she must be assured that the IMC is acting in accord with the requirements of the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), which the IMC is mandated to support. These standards stress that the locations for clinical tuition should be safe, and that academic freedom must be upheld so that there is “appropriate freedom of expression [and] freedom of inquiry” for both staff and students.

If the Minister upholds the decision of the IMC, which I believe conflicts with human rights standards in Ireland, then this issue may well be open to challenge.

While we in the US ate chocolates and celebrated love, Bahrain commemorated another occasion. This year, Feb. 14 marks the fourth anniversary of the most recent revolution. Unfortunately, the repression continues, and this Valentine’s Day is marked by more forceful responses to continuing protests, complete with tear gas, sound bombs and police violence against demonstrators: here.

Bahrain initiates criminal investigation into online content of opposition party: here.