7 Photos from London

I was in London a couple of months ago visiting a friend and took some photos.  It was really grey and quite rainy so black and white pictures worked better.


The Shard

BT Tower





1. Flats beside the Thames

2.  The Shard

3. BT Tower

4. The Tate Modern

5. Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL

6. Near The Clink Prison

7. Sculpture in Regent’s Park


The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart edited by Brendan Barrington – Review

Wartime Broadcasts of FSFrancis Stuart (edited by Brendan Barrington)   300px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg

The Lilliput Press (2000), 218 pages

Chapters Bookstore, €2.99

Irish & German History  300px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg  Germany

Diarmaid Ferriter has often warned against the dangers of “reading history backwards”.  That is imposing today’s values and standards on past events or failing to realise that we have the benefit of hindsight when we view the past.  I was conscious of this danger before I read the propaganda speeches broadcast from Nazi Germany by Francis Stuart.  This collection of Stuart’s speeches is illuminated by a stimulating introduction by Brendan Barrington.  Stuart’s wartime broadcasts were to haunt him for the rest of his life and aroused particular interest when he was made a member of Aosdána in 1996.  Was Stuart an anti-Semite?  Was broadcasting propaganda to Ireland an act of treachery (William “Lord Haw Haw” Joyce was controversially executed by the British for treason after the war)?  Was Stuart’s mission in Germany misunderstood?  For me Stuart’s speeches answer all of these questions.

Credit: irishmeninparis.org

Credit: irishmeninparis.org

Stuart’s background was an anti-Treaty republican during the Irish Civil War and he was interned for gun running.  He married Iseult Gonne in  1920 (the daughter of Yeats’ love interest Maud Gonne and Yeats also proposed to Iseult after he had been snubbed by her mother).  Stuart became a respected and reasonably successful novelist.  He was attracted by the ideals of fascism and also saw the chance World War II offered to attack Britain and restore a united Ireland (the old republican adage was “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”).  Stuart travelled to Berlin in 1940 and began broadcasting to Ireland  in 1942.

Stuart’s speeches are quite short and often repetitive.  He describes the three “essentials” that Ireland should seek from the war, “…an end of partition, a break away from the system by which life is dominated by money, and a turning towards Europe” (p. 98).  Stuart’s desire (the unfulfilled desire of the Civil War) for a united Ireland is reiterated throughout.  Northern Ireland is doubly occupied by the British state and by U.S. troops stationed there during the war.  Stuart subtly insinuates that a German victory would lead to a united Ireland.  He refers approvingly to the growing Indian nationalist movement under Gandhi.  Stuart’s outlook is consistently anti-materialist and it is perhaps this trait he admires most in the Nazi project.  He feels democracies are weak and that a strong leader offers hope for the future of Germany and, by extension, Europe, “The emergence of a great leader is one of those human miracles which cannot take place in England or modern America…Here in Germany I  have had the opportunity to see how a great leader can inspire a whole nation.  Whatever propaganda you may hear, one thing I will tell you: Germany is today an inspired nation.  That is the main secret of her victorious armies; the source of that inspiration is rooted in one man, Hitler” (p.90).  This speech was made in 1942 when a German victory was still a possibility.  Stuart denies in his speeches (and in the following years) that he was making propaganda.  While he was conscious of Ireland’s neutrality and that blatant propaganda (anti-Semitic or otherwise) wouldn’t be popular in Ireland there can be no doubt that, being in the pay of a totalitarian dictatorship, he was a propagandist.  Stuart is also willing to play with the facts.  He makes the ludicrous assertion that “the corpses of 250,000 men of Irish blood” died in World War I (p.91).  Even if Stuart is including Irish-Americans in his toll his figure is too high.  In a speech in October 1943 he refers to his presence in Germany four times even though he is actually now broadcasting from Luxembourg as the studios in Berlin had been bombed (p. 164).  Stuart is willing to adjust the facts to bolster his arguments.

Was Stuart an anti-Semite who agreed with the Nazi’s murderous policies towards the Jewish people?  Barrington’s introduction shows that some of Stuart’s pre-war novels contained a kind of “casual anti-Semitism” that was not unusual at the time.  There is a feeling that Stuart’s derogatory references to the financiers who control the capitalist system is a code for the Jews (just as “cosmopolitanism” was a code for Jews in the Stalinist U.S.S.R.).  Of course World War II wasn’t fought to stop the Holocaust (and arguably Holocaust museums and exhibitions in some countries act as a shield with which to conceal other crimes.  There is an excellent Holocaust exhibition in the Imperial War Museum in London but a lack of coverage of crimes committed by the British Army in the Boer War (where concentration camps were first used), Kenya, Diego Garcia, Northern Ireland, and India).  Perhaps the presence of Jews in Berlin is the most disturbing fact that is not mentioned in any of the speeches.  Stuart lived in Berlin, presumably he would have seen Jewish people wearing the yellow Star of David.  He was fluent in German and read the German newspapers so he would have read about the demonisation of the Jews.  Yet he saw no issue with being funded by such a regime which offered him what every author wants, an audience.  Stuart could feel sympathy for the ordinary German soldier and his suffering during the Siege of Stalingrad but offers no such sympathy to the Soviet soldiers or the civilian victims of the siege.  Stuart justifies the war as, “The German people have a clear and sane idea of what they’re fighting for.  They are fighting for what they believe to be necessary for their own material existence as a nation” (p. 148).  For Stuart, from the blood sacrifice school of Irish politics, the individual can be simply used in the pursuit of a greater national goal.  Germany is presented to the Irish audience as a plucky underdog who needs more room for her population, “…although Germany was not a wealthy country and had too little space for her population…” (p.107).  There is scant mention of Germany’s invasion of numerous countries and the suppression of their peoples.  Stuart, who is so keen for a united Ireland, sees no irony in agreeing with Germany’s suppression (or in the case of Poland, it’s obliteration from the world map) of other nations.  His attitude reminds me somewhat of current apologists for the Assad regime in Syria.  Just because the Ba’ath regime is viewed as anti-imperialist doesn’t mean that in  order to oppose U.S. foreign policy means that Assad  should be supported.  It is possible to object to Syrian and U.S. human rights abuses at the same time just as it’s possible to be horrified by the Holocaust and the bombings of Hiroshima and Dresden by the Allies.

After the war Stuart returned to Ireland.  He suffered no sanction in Ireland.  While I think his propaganda work was  morally reprehensible Ireland was a neutral country not at war with Germany.  He committed no crime but it is hard to understand his acceptance into Aosdána.  Although his acceptance into Aosdána caused controversy Stuart had many sympathisers.  Barrington successfully demolishes many of the arguments used in favour of Stuart.  These arguments often  seemed to be based on Stuart’s own account of his wartime broadcasts which could be described as lapses of memory or outright lies depending on your point of view.  Stuart said that “These broadcasts didn’t usually deal with politics; they dealt very often with literature…” (p. 52).  Literature is barely mentioned in his talks and politics in almost all of them.  As Barrington says, “What is unfortunate…is that so many writers and scholars have been enthusiastic participants in this re-imagining, creating a myth of Stuart that is far more palatable to contemporary sensitivities than the literary and political persona of the man who wrote and delivered the talks herein” (p. 53).  Declan Kiberd described this acceptance of Stuart as a “fools pardon” that implicitly admitted that what an “artist thinks or says is of no consequence, since it will have no social effect” (Inventing Ireland, p. 610).  The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart 1942-1944 is an important addition to the Irish history of World War II.


Related Reading

In  Time of War: Ireland, Ulster, and the Price of Neutrality 1939-45 by Robert Fisk, Gill & Macmillan, 1985 – The definitive account of Irish neutrality during World War II

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation by Declan Kiberd, Vintage, 1996 – The best one volume criticism of Irish literature from an Irish perspective.

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization by Nicholson Baker, Simon & Schuster, 2008 – A controversial and thought provoking look at World War II

Berlin: The Downfall 1945 by Antony Beevor, Viking Press, 2002 – A fast paced look at the Soviet advance towards Berlin and the collapse

Dubai Marathon 2014

On Friday week I’ll take part in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon.  I’ll be visiting my brother so I thought I’d kill two birds (i.e. brother and marathon) with one stone (a return ticket to Dubai).  This will be my eight marathon and will be attempting to run my fastest time yet.  I’ll be aiming for 2:54:59 to be precise.  I ran the 2013 Dublin Marathon in 2:58:56, which is a 5’50” per mile pace,  so I’ll need to run a 5’40” pace to hit my target.  I’m not sure how I’ll do as this race has more unknowns than I’m used to.  Seven of my previous marathons were in Dublin so obviously I know that course and conditions very well. As you can see from the map below the Dubai Marathon course won’t win any prizes for creativity!  This very simple route makes it one of the fastest marathon courses in the world.  Runners’ World rates it as the second fastest course in the world (for men) with an average top-10 finish time of 2:04:48.  The course looks slightly straighter than last year so Dubai seems to be attempting to make it the fastest course in the world.  Maybe the world record will be broken this year!  It is also the world’s richest marathon with a top prize of US$200,000 for men and women.  If I hit my target time it should place me in the top 100 male finishers (there were 1852 male finishers last year and 559 female finishers).


The Unknowns

  • The Course: Even though the course is virtually completely straight I wonder will it be psychologically more difficult not having a bend in the road to aim for.  However I’m presuming the road surface will be perfect (Dublin has a few parts with potholes and speedramps).
  • The Weather: This is my big fear.  The marathon website says that the temperature should be 10-15 degrees celsius at the 7am start.  Last year it was foggy which would suit me perfectly.  My fear is direct sunlight.  I’m okay in warm weather when it’s shady but not so good in direct sunlight.  The videos on youtube don’t seem to offer any hope of shade so I’m hoping it doesn’t get too hot too soon.  On the plus side there should be almost no wind which will be a relief.  It is always windy during winter in Dublin.  Also training in the cold (usually 6-12 degrees celsius but with a wind chill) is much more draining than training in the summer so hopefully I’ll find the warmth easier.
  • The Organisation: The Dublin Marathon is excellently organised so hopefully Dubai will be as well organised from the collection of the race number to the post-finish facilities.
  • The Crowd: The Dublin Marathon has fantastic crowd support.  It’s a fantastic feeling running the last couple of miles with thousands of people lining the streets.  Looking at the videos the crowds are fairly sparse in Dubai so I’ll have to keep myself motivated a bit more.
  • Pacing:  As far as I know there are no pacemakers in the Dubai Marathon so I’ll have to keep a close eye on my pace throughout.  Also as I’m aiming for my fastest time ever I’m hoping I won’t hit the wall at some stage…

So hopefully all goes to plan.  As always I’ll give it 100% and hopefully have something left in the tank to increase the pace for the last couple of miles.

Related Links

Marathon Tips

Dublin Marathon 2013 Review

Lethal Allies by Anne Cadwallader – Review

Lethal AlliesAnne Cadwallader  England

Mercier Press (2013), 416 pages

Easons, €14.99

Irish & British History  300px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg  221px-Ulster_banner.svg  300px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

The Smithwick Tribunal report published last year concluded that there was at least one case of Garda collusion with the IRA.  At least one Guard was responsible for passing information to the IRA that resulted in the murder of two RUC officers in 1989.  The Irish Government has rightly apologised to the families of the victims and hopefully the Irish state will arrange some kind of compensation to be paid to the families.  Agencies of the state can never be above the law.  If the police cross the line and break the law they are no better than the terrorists they claim to combat.  In fact they are worse than terrorist groups as the powers they wield set them above the average citizen and the average citizen should expect that those powers are only ever used to combat crime not to collude with terrorists in murder or the concealment of their crimes.

Anne Cadwallader’s remarkable book focusses on collusion in the British security forces (the RUC, the British Army, and the UDR) in the mid-Ulster “Murder Triangle”.  Over 120 people were killed by a loyalist gang operating in mid-Ulster and Cadwallader has created a convincing argument that collusion with certain elements of the security forces was crucial in the committing of these crimes and the lack of proper investigation into many of these crimes.  The vast majority of the victims were upwardly mobile Catholic farmers and businessmen or those drinking in local pubs.  The crimes (with the exception of the murder of one IRA member) were entirely sectarian in nature.  The forces of the British state also operated on a sectarian basis.  Whilst republican terror groups such as the IRA were rightly banned some loyalist groups like the UDA remained legal (until 1992) and even the UVF was legalised for over a year between 1974-75.  Such loyalist groups were seen as a safety valve for the discontented Protestant working-class.  In fact they operated as a cover for the murder of innocent Catholics, “By the end of 1972 , loyalists had killed 121 people…They were stealing or otherwise purloining UDR weapons at such a rate that the British Army drew up monthly lists.  Yet at the end of the year, at a time when hundreds of IRA suspects were being interned without trial, the British Army’s ‘Arrest Policy for Protestants’ recommended no action at all against the UDA.  Far from it.  The policy document says, ‘Ministers have judged that the time is not at the moment ripe for an extension of the arrest policy in respect of Protestants.’  Moreover, it went on, people holding ‘certain defined positions’ in Protestant groups should not be regarded as ‘dangerous terrorists, as we regard officers in the Provisional IRA’.” (p.29)  Cadwallader shows that the murders in mid-Ulster were more than just the result of this laissez-faire attitude to loyalist groups but that security force members actively colluded in many of the murders or allowed their perpetrators to escape justice (possibly because some of these murderers, like the IRA’s Freddie Scappaticci, were informers).

William McClure attacks reporter Jordan

Former RUC Officer Laurence McClure (right) struggles with journalist Hugh Jordan.  McClure was involved in the Rock Bar attack and suspected of involvement in other murders. Credit: sundayworld.com


Robin Jackson, suspected serial murderer
Credit: http://www.wikipedia.org

Lethal Allies looks at numerous murders in the 1970s in order to build a convincing pattern of collusion.  There are photographs of the victims throughout the text (often with quotes from the victims’ families) which personalise the victims and gives a context to their murders.  Bernadette and Francis Mullen were gunned down in their farmhouse in a machine gun and revolver attack.  Locals gave the names and car types of suspicious people seen in the area before the murders but no arrests were made (p.33-34).  Locals suspected the guns came from the UDR.  A bomb in a cottage killed the heavily pregnant Marian Bowen and her brothers Michael and Seamus McKenna.  Marian’s child was blown from her body.  As the baby’s coffin was loaded into a hearse British soldiers laughed.  Despite a suspicious van with two men in it being seen near the cottage by a policeman the day before the explosion, no arrests were made (p.88-90).  Peter and Jenny McKearney were gunned down on their farm.  Thirty minutes after the shooting the British Army, by chance, stopped four men in a car, all were UVF members and one was also in the UDR.  Two of the men were detained and discovered to have firearms residue on their hands.  They were released without charge.  It has since been discovered by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET, a police unit that is reviewing unsolved crimes) that a blue car seen near the scene of the crime (and close to where the getaway car was abandoned) contained four members of an elite RUC anti-terrorist (SPG) group.  The reason why the car was in the area hasn’t been established, there is no record of the occupants being interviewed or of them going to the crime scene as might be expected by police officers so near a crime (p.127-130).  Three people (one a fourteen year old child) were killed in a bomb and gun attack on Donnelly’s Bar.  Cadwallader presents evidence that a suspect was tipped off and that RUC Special Branch withheld information from the investigating detective.  The suspect was never arrested in connection with the attack.  The HET also conclude that an unrecorded police check on the bar was “pre-attack reconnaissance” by the RUC (p.135-138).  Convincing evidence is also presented that the gun and bomb attack on The Rock Bar was carried out by RUC members  and that RUC Special Branch withheld vital information from the investigation team (Chapter 6).  The HET has also found cases where suspects’ police files have been “weeded” to remove incriminating evidence and where evidence has been destroyed even where no conviction was ever made.  This is reminiscent of the obstruction faced by Sir John Stevens when he investigated collusion in 1990; his incident room was set alight in a secure RUC base, no fire alarm went off and telephone lines had been cut.  A British police report in 1976 found the RUC Reserve to be exclusively Protestant and “paid vigilantes” but it wasn’t disbanded until 2001 (p. 277).  Cadwallader provides a list of 25 known serving or former security force members involved in murder or serious crime in mid-Ulster in the 1970s, chief among them Robin Jackson, a psychopathic killer who was involved in possibly 50 murders.  Jackson was never convicted in relation to any murder.

Some online commentators have criticised Cadwallader for focussing exclusively on loyalist crimes and not on republican outrages (see the comments on the Roy Greenslade article, link below).  Cadwallader makes it clear from the start of her book that her focus is on loyalist collusion in mid-Ulster.  She should not have to “balance” a book with entire sections on the opposing side any more than a book critical of the IRA should have to provide a list of loyalist crimes.  It also appears that some of these online commentators haven’t actually read Lethal Allies; there are accounts given of IRA crimes where they are related to attacks in the book.  Cadwallader describes the IRA’s Kingsmill Massacre as “terrible and inexcusable” (p. 158) and she then gives an account of this brutal sectarian murder of 11 Protestant civilians.

As with the Smithwick Report it is vital that, in the interests of truth and justice, cases where collusion is suspected must be investigated to try and bring those who colluded to justice and try and offer the victims’ families some closure.  Cadwallader’s final chapter sets the actions of the British security forces into a colonial context; the policy of collusion with paramilitaries who shared their goals was also practiced in Oman and Kenya among other places.  There will be a continuing resistance to finding the truth from those who had invested so much in creating a sectarian state in Northern Ireland and from paramilitary groups who wish their victims remain silent.  Thankfully the North has, for the last fifteen years, been relatively peaceful.  Books such as Lethal Allies help provide important pieces in the mosaic of truth that is gradually emerging in Northern Ireland.


Related Reading

CAIN – University of Ulster Conflict Archive on the Internet

Justice for the Forgotten – Organisation of Victims & Relatives Seeking Justice for the Dublin & Monaghan Bombings

Pat Finucane Centre – Human Rights and Social Change NGO

Guardian Review of Lethal Allies by Roy Greenslade

Sunday World report on collusion

Memories of a Lost World by C. Fiell & J. R. Ryan – Review

memoriesofalostworldCharlotte Fiell & James R. Ryan  England

Fiell Publishing (2013), 704 pages

Chapters Bookstore, €12

Memories of a Lost World: Travels through the Magic Lantern contains 900 images as well as two introductory essays by the authors.  This book highlights the role of travelling magic lantern projectionists as sources of entertainment and education in the pre-photograph and cinema age.  The earliest glass slides (in the 1600s) had images painted onto them but from the mid-1800s the slides used a photographic process.  Excitingly the glass slides could be hand tinted to give the effect of colour.  The quality of the tinting varies from the crude to the exquisite.  There were essentially two standard slide formats, one square, and one rectangular.  It’s interesting to see the square format as it’s a format not often used today (even if it’s very easy to crop digital images to a square format).

The authors have divided up the slides into separate geographic zones.  As the images were created for a largely western audience it’s interesting to see the different focus of the images depending on where they’re taken.  Images taken in Europe more often than not focus on buildings and landscapes.  Any people depicted in European images are very much incidental except where their costume is in some way out of the ordinary for the potential audience (such as Beefeaters at the Tower of London or Breton children in traditional costume).


Plate “44, Sackville Street (O’Connell Street), Dublin, Ireland, 1880s”
O’Connell St. still looks remarkably similar, people still sit on the steps of O’Connell’s statue. However the shop awnings are gone and Nelson’s pillar (on the right) was blown up by the IRA in 1966.


Plate “40 Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, c.1900”
Of course Northern Ireland didn’t exist in 1900 but these rock formations still fascinate even if the dog doesn’t seem so interested.

Once outside Europe (and to a certain extent North America) the gaze is focussed on the dress (or lack of it in the African images) and the customs of the natives.  Many of the Japanese images are clearly staged and it’s up to the viewer to judge how closely these reflect reality.  It could be argued that some of the images smack of Orientalism but the images in this book are more historical than the exotic depictions of the Orient found in paintings of the period.  Indeed the subjects of the images often confidently return the gaze back at the audience such as the Peruvian mother (p.562).  Even the term “Chola” used in the caption was originally a derogatory term used as an identifier in the complex caste system created by Spain in it’s imperial possessions.  The captions are often blandly descriptive so it’s impossible to know how these images were originally presented to their western audience.  Some magic lanternists followed set scripts, sometimes with musical accompaniment, to create a narrative frame for the slides but it’s possible that others were less rigid in their presentations.  Either way it’s impossible to tell if African subjects were presented as exemplars of an equally valid culture or as a savage race to be partly feared and partly pitied whose only hopes lay in the benevolence of imperial patronage.  It’s easy to poke fun at the original audience but as a modern viewer it is not the images of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, or the Parthenon that are most captivating.  Like the original audience the most interesting images are those which contain people (incidental or otherwise).  To look into their eyes, even at a distance of more than a century, and wonder how they lived and how they died makes us realise that the basics of human existence haven’t changed that much over the last century.



Plate “533 A Chola mother out for a walk with her baby and spinning vicuña wool, near Tamoraque Mines, Peru, 1920s”

Related Reading

Orientalism by Edward W. Said (1978)

Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook – Review

Unknown PleasuresPeter Hook

Simon & Schuster (2012), 318 pages

Connolly Bookshop, €7

Country: England  England

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division is bassist Peter Hook’s memoir of the life and tragic death of one of the England’s greatest bands.  The book is fascinating for its content but also when read in comparison to Morrissey’s Autobiography.  Both books cover approximately the same time period in Manchester (although Hook is from Salford originally) during the immediate punk and post-punk era.  Hook is a completely different character from Morrissey.  Whereas Morrissey is a shy and introverted intellectual, Hook is an extroverted likely lad.  Hook isn’t a violent person as such but he doesn’t shy away from physical confrontation when he feels it’s necessary to stand his ground.  Hook successfully captures the excitement of starting a band in the middle of the punk explosion.  He describes the famous Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall (which Tony Wilson, Mark E. Smith, and Mick Hucknall also attended) and the impetus it gave him and Bernard Sumner to start the band that would eventually become Joy Division (and later New Order).

Unknown Pleasures strengths are its ability to capture the details of life in a band in the late 1970s.  When Joy Division started all the band members continued to work day jobs and money (or the lack of it) was a constant issue.  Hook had to sell the bass amp he used on the Unknown Pleasures album to pay a gas bill.  There is a constant fear that they won’t have the money to pay for petrol for driving to gigs.  Unlike The Smiths Hook gives the impression that Joy Division’s ascent was much slower.  Hook is great on the details of recording the albums.  There are nice track by track guides to the Unknown Pleasures and Closer albums.  Unlike Morrissey, Hook is conscious that he is only giving his point of view, he might not actually be right in everything he says.  While he is willing to criticise he is also willing to see the good side of even people who he doesn’t get on with.  The style does sometimes have the feel of reading an interview without seeing the questions (something which Hook sort of confirms in a GQ article) but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  There are also a number of timelines which are interesting to read but do slightly feel like padding and could possibly have been integrated into the body of the text.

The hardest part of any Joy Division story is their tragic implosion following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.  Hook now recognises that, as a group, they should have done more to look after Curtis.  The lead singer’s, at times, debilitating epilepsy combined with the effects of his medication, his dissolving relationship with his wife and his romantic entanglement with another woman created a deadly cocktail of circumstances which led to him hanging himself on the eve of Joy Division’s first US tour.  It’s easy now to attribute blame but the band’s incredible work rate combined with alcohol and drugs didn’t help Curtis’ state of mind.  But Curtis, on some level, chose to carry on.  He was reluctant to rest after epileptic fits (sometimes on stage) and wanted to keep working.  Hopefully, over thirty years later, with a better understanding of epilepsy and depression such a an event would be less likely to happen.  All we know for sure is that the world lost an astonishing musician and lyricist.


Additional Reading

GQ interview with Peter Hook

Autobiography by Morrissey