IGBMC (Inistioge George Brown Memorial Committee) under its chairperson,
Pádraig Ó Murchú establish the Olive Grove in Woodstock Gardens and unveiled a plaque in honour of the four Kilkenny-men who served in the International Brigades:- George & Michael Brown, Seán Dowling and Michael Brennan.
The inaugural George Brown Commemorative Event is addressed by Spanish Civil War veteran and legendary British trade unionist Jack Jones. He unveils the George Brown memorial, in the presence of Connolly Column veteran, Bob Doyle, in St Colmcille Graveyard, Inistioge.
Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, Noel Carillo, speaks of the struggle of Cuban people in the face of American aggression.
Senator David Norris and Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Hikmat Ajjuri, from different angles, examine the Palestinian question.
Michael D. Higgins (now Uachtarán na h-Éireann) addresses the challenges posed for the Left in a Changing World.
Dr David Hickey, engages with the issue of international media control, focusing closely on how this impacts on the portrayal of Cuba by hostile elements of the world media.
Jimmy Kelly, Irish Secretary UNITE, examines the legacy and relevance of George Brown in present-day Ireland.The contributions by Spanish Civil War historian, HarryOwens; Manus O’Riordan, Irish Labour historian andson of Brigadista Michael O’Riordan; Jack O’Connor(SIPTU); and Jimmy Kelly (UNITE) have both enlivened and informed the various Commemorative Events, while the stirring rendition of the Internationale by the Graiguenamanagh Brass Band has greatly added to their unique atmosphere.The IGBMC also gratefully acknowledge the generosityof the Inistioge Church of Ireland community in making available St Mary’s Church for lectures.
Tree Planting at Woodstock
Each year’s event is also marked by a Tree-Planting Ceremony
in Woodstock Gardens.
Glorious sunshine and the annual George Brown Commemoration appear to go hand-in-hand. This year’s event, which again attracted many of the faithful to Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny, was no exception. It coincided with the start of a very welcome heatwave! The meteorological heights were challenged, if not surpassed, by the intensity of the contributions from this year’s panel of speakers.
On this occasion, the emphasis, both in the historical and contemporary comment, was on Ireland – the workers’ struggle (both men and women) to be treated with dignity and respect over the past one hundred years, the current campaign to preserve our nation’s natural resources for the benefit of the people, and the inequitable manner in which the ‘austerity’ programme is implemented.
But, the sacrifice of George Brown was not forgotten. The commemoration began with a wreath-laying ceremony at the George Brown memorial in St Colmcille Graveyard by a family relative, Mary Knox. Later in St Mary’s Church, Eoin MacDonald, a student from Wexford CBS, read his national prize-winning essay on the Spanish Civil War and the sacrifice of fellow Wexford-man Peter Daly in that conflict. This was the first year of this competition, and organiser, Harry Owens, spoke of its value in raising the awareness of our youth to injustice, past and present, in the world, and of his plans for the future promotion of the competition.
This being the centenary of the notorious Dublin Lock-Out, the fortunes of Labour, and the personalities involved, formed the basis of a number of important contributions. At the wreath-laying ceremony, Manus O’Riordan spoke engagingly about the role of Jim Larkin, a larger than life but complex individual defying easy categorisation. Jack O’Connor, at the tree-planting ceremony near the Olive Grove in Woodstock Gardens, delivered a rallying call to workers to defend the gains that had been made by unions over the century past, and warning of the dire consequences that were threatened by current moves afoot by venture capitalists, unhindered by government, to row back on the progress of the last 100 years. Dr Mary Muldowney of Trinity College, Dublin, led her audience through the important, but little-recognised and under-appreciated role of women in the fight for workers’ rights from the early days of trade unionism down to the more recent times of the anti-apartheid protest by the Dunnes workers, the end of the ‘marriage ban’, and the grudging recognition of the right to equal pay for equal work, irrespective of marital status or gender.
Current topics raised at the George Brown Commemoration, whether national or international, have tended to be presented as problems, challenges and threats to be tackled. This year it was a welcome change to have something to celebrate! Matt Staunton of the IMPACT Union outlined the ultimately successful campaign, spear-headed by his union, to persuade Government that the sale of the harvesting rights of the Coillte State Forests, would be of absolutely no benefit to the nation – not to its people, not to the environment, not to its economy.
Keynote speaker this year was Fintan O’Toole, deputy editor and opinion writer with the ‘Irish Times’. He captivated his audience with a scathing exposition of the flawed economic thinking of a government, in thrall to the ECB and the IMF. The very word ‘austerity’ which traditionally referred to a desire for a simple life, free of adornment, has perversely come to mean a society where those outside of an elite are, through deeper and deeper cutbacks and ever increasing taxes and charges, to be left financially ruined and bereft of even the basic services which can reasonably be expected from the State.
While the George Brown Commemoration has always been a forum for the airing of serious issues and concerns, it has also provided and opportunity for friends and comrades to chill. Music, entertainment and refreshment have never been lacking on this weekend in Inistioge, with the highlight for many being the public performance of the Graiguenamanagh Brass Band.