The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Maria Duce non Dulce
(et decorum est)

Seaghán Ó Murchú

Henry McDonald’s article and Brian Kelly’s response bring a welcome debate into the pages of The Blanket. Over the past few months, I’ve been mulling over files I’ve assembled for a work-in-progress on Irish support for Palestinian and Zionist causes among the nationalist, republican, and loyalist communities. Presenting part of my initial survey to a gathering of Irish Studies academics as well as bona fide natives, I was struck by how enthusiastic the follow-up questioners appeared - not for my ginger tread into a little-charted minefield surely, but for the sheer energy that parallels between Irish and Middle Eastern experiences ignite. I’ve often wondered why the Celt-Hebrew comparisons entertained from the ancient chronicles to British Israelites, from Leopold Bloom to Ben Briscoe, into an Israeli chief rabbi and a president with cousins in Belfast and Dublin persisted; why too our PLO or Star of David flags, the cult of Tara, a six-pointed star emblematic of Ui Neill defiance against and Ulster reliance upon the Crown.

While not wishing within the limits of this short column to engage in the intricacies of my survey or the debate raised by my two fellow writers in these pages, I would like to correct Mr. McDonald’s reference to Seán South’s membership in the anti-Semitic, reactionary movement Maria Duce (not, as McDonald has softened the Marian adjective into ‘sweet,’ but rather she as the Leader, or, in Dermot Keogh’s translation, a faction ‘Under the leadership of Mary’: Jews in Twentieth-Century Ireland, p. 228). Founded by Fr Denis Fahey in 1942, surviving into the 50s before being forced by Archbishop McQuaid to change its name to the misnomer ‘Fírinne,’ - truth, before fading away by 1964 - its Limerick branch was planted in 1949 by the IRA activist immortalised after his martyrdom by balladeers and fianna.

Not having received my copy of Bryan Fanning’s new work on Irish racism yet, I cannot comment on it. But his book’s publicity appears to make much of South’s Maria Duce ties. These may not have gained wide attention, but they have not been hidden. Mainchín Seoighe, in his 1964 biography Maraíodh Seán Sabhat Aréir, characterises Maria Duce’s paper ‘Fiat’ as ‘exposing sometimes anti-Jewish reporting’-- ‘Tuairimí . . . uaireanta, frithghiúdacha a nochtaí i Fiat’. (p. 49). As Dr Pat Walsh notes in his 1994 Irish Republicanism and Socialism, Seoighe’s largely positive view of South could not endure in a nationalist climate more guilty than the gaeilgeoiri for which the earlier account presumably satisfied. Link now to Ciaran Crossey’s Irish in the Spanish Civil War website for accounts of Irish and Jewish volunteers against Franco, and then those who fought against them - however briefly - in la bandera. As Peadar O’Donnell’s career shows, the left has not always ruled republicans, then or now; the complicated relationship between and against Irish-Jewish solidarity, as Keogh’s history tells, resists stereotype. Walsh cites not only Eoin O’Duffy and Griffith, but such republican pioneers as J.J. O’Kelly (‘Sceilg’) begrudging the “Hebrews” any wartime refuge and Mairtin Ó Cadhain as penning from his Curragh confines praise for the Nazi regime in his Irish-language letters to Tomas Bairead. Sympathy for any anti-British, as in ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, often sways republican strategy; thus anti-colonial efforts of both Zionists and Palestinians against the Crown have created common causes among various, not always opposed, Irish factions.

The whole issue of Irish republican and nationalist support against the Jews, before and after the establishment of ‘the Zionist entity’, remains to be investigated. As does the counterreaction of the Loyalists in favour of first Palestinian-British and later Israeli links. Ed Moloney’s book reveals more than previously known about republican-Arab and Middle Eastern ties; rumours continue about how extensive these links may have been. Finally, the increasing Muslim representation within Belfast and Dublin and the declining Jewish presence in these cities, in my estimation, plays into the increasingly opposed displays of symbolic and ideological support by the two Irish traditions for the two Middle Eastern peoples. A century ago, few Jews but hardly any Muslims lived in Ireland. Now, the opposite holds true. Irish - at least some among the more idealistic who square off as Bloom did against the D.P. Moran/Michael Cusack-inspired ‘Citizen’ - tend to root for the underdog, then as now. A century ago, the republican cause took hold as a pogrom raged in Limerick. Arabs and Jews both found themselves under the machinations of the same British powers that the Irish fought. Arab, Jew, and Irish all sought national freedom from the same empire. This appears more than coincidence. Over the 20th century, revolutionaries from Iran, Libya, the Irgun, Palestine and Saudi Arabia all claim to have been inspired by The Big Fellow and his urban guerrilla strategies. Qadhafi, Begin, Arafat, Khomeini, and the House of Sa’ud: all ‘up the ‘ra’?

Simplifications certainly, but worthwhile for those seeking to understand, as both Kelly and McDonald show, how allegiances between Celts and beyond the Levantine travel back as far as legends of Moses and as recently as these pages. (Any comments you might have I’d be happy to receive privately via the webmaster.) In future issues of The Blanket, I hope to share with you my notes in more documented and sustained fashion. But, as news keeps emerging in both the Irish and Palestinian streets, the story never seems to pause long enough for us to catch up with it. Yet twists beckon us on. As I finished this, my son came in, saw the title of Seoighe’s biography, and wondered what I was reading on “Shabbat.” Close to Sabhat. A thought akin to Leopold Bloom’s indeed.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
- Hamilton Wright Mabie

Printer Friendly

Index: Current Articles

5 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Hammering Dissent
Anthony McIntyre


Maria Duce non Dulce (et decorum est)

Seaghán Ó Murchú


Amnesty International & Israel: Say It Isn't So!
Paul de Rooij


A Northern Majority for Irish Unity is Not Too Remote to be of Relevance
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


2 January 2003


From Pig to Man and Man to Pig
Tommy Gorman


Up the IRB, Down the Amazon

Seaghán Ó Murchú Gem of Exploitation
Liam O Ruairc


The Tyranny of Christmas
Anthony McIntyre


Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Brendan O'Neill


The Silence of the Left
Henry McDonald


When the Falls & Shankill Marched As One
Davy Carlin




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to: