Of guns and eggs

My father Peter McHugh, along with his brother Patrick, were volunteers in F Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade in the 1st Northern Division of the IRA. Later in July 1921 both they and two other brothers, admirers of Michael Collins, joined the Nation Army of Éireann Saorstát. On the 8th August of that year he took part in the seaborne invasion of Cork, and it was in Cork that he heard of the assassination of Michael Collins later that month. He was a man of few words but I remember him saying that his most vivid memory was not of the ambushes on the country lanes of Cork and Kerry or of the firefights on the slopes the Shehy Mountains but disembarking from the boat at Passage West. The rifle bullets, he said, were clanging off the metal hull and ricocheted in all directions. Two of his companions were badly wounded.
It must have been a terrifying experience for my father…he was only eighteen at the time.
I say nothing of the politics of Ireland ; the information given is not a family myth is simply a matter of public record and the reason I mention it is response to and article I read online yesterday by Jim Murphy MP for the Mail on Sunday. Murphy is a man who claims left wing credentials and an Irish heritage when it suits him. He no doubt received a handsome fee from the Mail; a more right wing British Nationalist newspaper it is possible to imagine, and a paper owned by Viscount Rothermere, a man who has never paid a penny in UK taxes for over thirty years. The article is embarrassingly risible by any standard and demeans anyone and everyone who took part in the Referendum but what it did to me was bring back a memory of Jim Murphy staggering about for a couple of days wearing an egg stained shirt like a badge of honour. It was obvious that he had the pathetic notion that this was a war wound akin to an assassination attempt. With behaviour and scribblings of someone like Murphy, considered a leading light in the party, it makes you wonder about the reaction of some of present day leadership would have been to events in my father’s day.
As luck would have it, in despair of the British Labour Party, James Larkin and James Connelly formed the Irish Labour Party in 1912. If they hadn’t done so, would Baron John Reid of Cardowan ask those brave men and women who marched up Sackville Street, many of them to their certain deaths, to consider the loss of defence jobs at Curragh? Would millionaire politicos like Darling and Brown shout out from the safe sidelines to demand what currency they intended to use and what was their Plan B? As they approached the GPO building would Margaret Curran, a woman of Irish parents who she apparently thinks of as foreigners, remind them that their action could lead to higher prices in the shops? (Although I doubt that thought of milk going up by a penny in the local ASDA would have been the first thing on their mind at that time)
The day Edinburgh born James Connelly was captured he was immediately dismissed by Scottish members of the Labour Party as a ‘traitor to those men in the trenches” and “not a real socialist but a hot headed romantic nationalist”.
When Connelly was later executed by firing squad …they said nothing.
The Irish war of independence and subsequent Civil War were not, as some people like to think, wars where …a Good guy shots a Bad guy cleanly with bullet. From 1914 to 1923 at least five thousand died. It was a desperate ugly struggle with atrocities and torture; dreadful summary executions and official hangings. There were many real and bloody political killings and assassinations.
All this to create a free and independent state.
In Scotland this year we had Jim Murphy getting an egg slapped on his shoulder, and on Thursday all I had to do was.…
put a cross on a ballot paper.

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