The Republic is the only fitting monument

The recent murder of George Floyd by the police in the USA has rightly caused worldwide condemnation and protests of state violence and institutional racism. It is not before time that people took to the streets to say that enough is enough, and radical activists in the United States have a great tradition of that

Given Irish people’s keen sense of Justice, Irish people have also come out and joined the worldwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This is something I am totally supportive of, for I believe that international solidarity with oppressed and occupied peoples around the world is essential. Ireland also experienced such support from around the world during our own plights, from the Famine in 1848 to the Hunger strikes in 1981. 

As with any popular movement though, it brings out those who are literally just jumping on the bandwagon, not for the first time, I am struck how thousands of people attend these marches but would not even consider protesting against wrongs done in their own country. This form of activism is safe for them, their employers won't discriminate against them, they will be supported by the general society. They can't expect a 5 'o'clock wake-up call from the PSNI/RUC. All of which, I, and other Irish republicans, can relate to. 

Along with these fair-weather Justice warriors, you will find the political opportunist, those who will latch onto protests for their own petty agenda, such people view protests as an opportunity to attach themselves to a more significant movement, push their ideology and stir up mass hysteria.

Seán Russell 

Seán Russell

This latter incident is certainly happening with the recent discussion around the Seán Russell monument in Fairview, Dublin, and to a lesser extent, the John Mitchel Statue in Newry.

It is no secret that Ireland is littered with anti-Republican sentiments and boy are they clambering together, salivating at the thought of having the Seán Russell Statue removed. They rely on people's ignorance, the fact that most people will not research and that let's be honest herd mentality is prevalent in all societies. All they have to do is mention the word Nazi, and they can be assured of support for their insidious agenda.

Freestate leader Leo Varadkar has even jumped on the cause today with his comments in the media: "We have a few of our own statues we may need to take down. There is a statue in Fairview Park in Dublin of an Irish republican man who was also a Nazi collaborator"

The idea that Seán Russell was a Nazi collaborator is just a lazy understanding of history, not to mention downright anti-Republican propaganda. This tired anti-Republican agenda has been trotted quite a few times in recent years; it has even led to the Russell monument being defaced and vandalised several times. 

Russell was no Fascist or Nazi sympathiser, his goal at all times was the freedom of Ireland. It is no secret that occupied people must forge links internationally for support. He did not seek assistance only with Germany, but with the USA and Soviet Russia too.

In a statement, the National Graves Association (NGA) summed it perfectly up, saying: "He went to Germany, the Soviet Union and the US seeking arms. If people want to call him a Fascist they would also have to claim he was a Communist."

During Russell's time in Germany, he also expressed his mindset to the Austrian Erwin von Lahousen whom he told:

"I am not a Nazi. I am not even pro German. I am an Irishman fighting for the independence of Ireland. The British have been our Enemies for hundreds of years. They are the enemy of Germany today. If it suits Germany to give us help to achieve independence, I am willing to accept it, but no more, and there must be no strings attached."

This was reported in the Irish Times on Sunday 6th June 1958. 

Seán Russell Statue, Fairview, Dublin

While much is made of Russell adhering to the maxim, England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity', there is an even earlier example. One can see Russell held very similar sentiments expressed by Robert Emmet during his trial in 1803. In his Speech from the Dock, Emmet firmly rejected that to seek French aid meant he was encouraging a conquest of Ireland by Napoleon Bonaparte. Emmet is quoted as saying,

'Were the French to assume any authority inconsistent with the purest independence, it would be the signal for their destruction. We sought their aid— and we sought it as we had assurances we should obtain it—as auxiliaries in war, and allies in peace. Were the French to come as invaders or enemies, uninvited by the wishes of the people, I should oppose them to the utmost of my strength.

Stretching back to the United Irishmen rebellion, Irish Republicans have always sought assistance from other countries, what Seán Rusell and Frank Ryan did in the late 1930’s is nothing new and is entirely in keeping with Republican and revolutionary precedent.

Further, the British secret service themselves in declassified files admitted Russell was no Nazi sympathiser after interviewing former Nazi officials, when they would have every advantage in wanting to prove such a link. In File KV 2/1292, in the National Archives in London, the observation is made: 
"Russell throughout his stay in Germany showed considerable reticence towards the Germans and plainly did not regard himself as a German agent."

All of this information is, of course, conveniently ignored by the liberal activists who are seeking to have it removed. The very fact that Fine Gael are supporting you should raise alarm bells. The utter hypocrisy of Leo Vardakar wrongly calling Russell a Nazi collaborator is astounding considering a founder and former leader of Fine Gael was Eoin 'Duffy O'Duffy, the notorious Fascist leader of the Blueshirts, Ireland's incarnation of the Fascist movement.

And I do feel we Republicans, in our rightful defence of Russell and his patriotism, need to emphasise more the totality of his revolutionary life, as well as his comrades who died in the 1940s, all of whom are remembered on plaques around Russell's statue. Russell was so much more than those months in Berlin, and his activities and leadership through the Rising, Tan War and the Counter-Revolution must also be acknowledged. He fought against the Blue-shirt movement in the 1930s. He was a pivotal individual in the preservation of the executive power of the All-Ireland Second Dáil as it was transferred to the IRA Army Council on which he sat. Russell was a consistent pivotal link in the continuation of the Republican tradition from the 1920s until his death and he must be celebrated for that. 

John Mitchel 

John Mitchel

The John Mitchel Statue in Newry is not as clear cut, there are genuine concerns around this statue, and I feel that criticism is at least researched and well-intended.

I cannot and will not try to defend his views on slavery, they are abhorrent to me, and he quite rightly deserves criticised for them, however, I will not apply my 2020 values to a man who lived over 150 years ago, I am aware too, that during his own lifetime there was mass opposition to slavery, even within the ranks of his comrades.

Much as any person, he was complex; he held these horrible views which are rejected by any right-thinking person, it must be added, that is all they were, views, he was not a slave owner or trader as some of the more enthusiastic protesters of this statue are trying to claim.

Mitchel cannot be judged solely on his views on slavery alone, it would be utterly wrong to sum up a man's life for one repugnant view that he held, most of the people making comments criticising Mitchel have admitted that they have only learned of who he was in the last day or two.

Personally as an Irish Republican, I am not afraid to say that John Mitchel is an icon to me, he always has been, and I will defend his memory and contribution to Ireland in any way that I can. 

John Mitchel Statue, Newry

Mitchel has been rightly revered for his service to Irish Republicanism by generations, indeed he has always been viewed as one of the great patriot heroes and held up in such terms by Pádraig Pearse who during his famous Funeral oration at O’Donovan Rossa’s graveside invoked his name saying

“We of the Irish Volunteers, and you others who are associated with us in to-day's task and duty, are bound together and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And we know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone's definition, it is Mitchel's definition, it is Rossa's definition.”

In the six Counties, we have few enough memorials or tributes to Irish patriots, I would like to see more, not less. John Mitchel was a man of great courage; he was the first to try and give the Irish people confidence to stand up against the British during the Irish Holocaust. He was the person who rightfully exposed who exactly was to blame for the famine famously saying:

"The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine."

He called for resistance against British rule in Ireland, through the non-payment of rents, and preventing the export of food from the country and became the most vocal in highlighting how the British were responsible for the mass murder of the Irish people. He tried to give the Irish people an alternative to the pacifism of Daniel O'Connell. Where others preached pay your rent and tolerance, Mitchel preached resistance and radicalism.

Today, we could be doing with more people of a mindset when it comes to Ireland like Mitchel and Russell. We are awash with historical revisionists and anti-Republican propaganda pushers. These people contribute nothing to Ireland other than a mediocre populist opinion, which serves only to turn us all into dullards and drones espousing one opinion.

With or without monuments and statues, great Irish Patriots will always be remembered by Irish Republicans, their sacrifices will always be respected, and they have already entered the annals of Irish History, statues and memorials are secondary to their legacy.



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