Sioux Falls is named for the falls created by the Big Sioux river. it is the largest city in South Dakota, seat of Minnehaha County, and long a draw for native peoples and Europeans. there are burial mounds near around the falls. the falls were created during the last ice age and have been important for the native peoples that inhabited the Great Plains. can’t imagine why. even when frozen (especially when frozen), they’re a pretty impressive sight. the town was chartered in 1856, but suffered through much of the nineteenth century as new settlers clashed with existing inhabitants. in recent years, however the city has grown dramatically. (the growth was aided in large part by John Morrell’s meat packing plant, which is situated just north of the falls and stink up much of the town; the Morrell stockyard is one of the largest in the nation.) the metropolitan area (which includes towns like Harrisburg–where Dave first lived–and Tea–where Becca & Dave live now) is just over 200,000. due in part to the lack of corporate income tax, Sioux Falls is also home to several major banking institutions, including Wells Fargo (grrrrr) and the population is nearly 90 percent Caucasian. it (apparently) has three sister cities: Potsdam, Germany, Strabane, Northern Ireland, and Surgut, Russia. lastly, it is home to Mary Hart (ET), Pat O’Brien (Access Hollywood), January Jones (Mad Men), and John Thune (current U.S. Senator). there are signs on the interstate heading into town, advertising it as home of John Thune. apparently, if you bring home the pork, you get your name on a sign on the interstate roadway system. someone should tell Janesville–they might be able to market themselves as hometown of Russ Feingold. (don’t know if it would work as well for Milwaukee with Herb.)
the man associated with Derrynane is Daniel O’Connell, referred to by many as The Liberator (or Emancipator) of Ireland. dedicated to gaining rights for the (mostly poor) Catholics of Ireland from the wealthy Protestant majority, O’Connell opposed the violence associated with armed revolts, such as that which occurred in 1798. he studied law in France during the Revolution, and returned to Ireland in time to witness the worst of the bloodshed for the ’98 Rebellion. consequently, he became a ardent supporter of non-violent direct action. basically, he inaugurated the first major non-violent, popular social movement in history. in 1823, he established the Catholic Association, which had a penny-per-month membership fee and championed electoral reform, tenants’ rights and economic development. in part because of his masterful oratorical skills, O’Connell cultivated a massive following. one of his “Monster Meetings” at the Hill of Tara drew 100,000 people.
in addition to de Valera’s passport-linked protection, another of the leaders of the 1916 Uprising was spared execution. despite her role and the fact that she was summarily condemned with her male comrades, it was deemed inappropriate to execute a woman, and so Countess Markiewicz was merely sentenced to imprisonment. she was released in 1917 under a general amnesty, along with others whom the British locked up for their roles opposing British rule. she later was elected to the British House of Commons (first woman elected to the body, actually, though she never took her seat).
she studied art in London, and became involved in the suffrage movement there. following her marriage (to a Polish count) and return to Ireland, she also became heavily involved in nationalist politics, joining both Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann (‘Daughters of Ireland’) in 1908. the following year, she established a para-military organization to instruct teens in the use of firearms. during the Easter Rising, she supervised the setting up of barricades around St. Stephen’s Green. the Countess, her commanding, and their men held out for six days, until the British showed them a copy of Pearse’s surrender order. in addition to her stint in Kilmainham for her role in the Uprising, she was jailed for anti-conscription activities and was still in jail when her colleagues held the first meeting of the Dáil Éireann, which declared the Irish Republic. she served as Minister for Labour for two and a half years (April 1919-January 1922) and was, consequently, the first female cabinet minister in Europe. she was the first woman appointed to a ministerial post in Ireland, and the only one until 1979.
she left the government with Eamon de Valera and other Anti-Treaty politicians, was jailed again in 1923 and led 92 other women on hunger strike before being released (within a month). she joined Fianna Fáil and was elected again to represent the party in the Dáil Éireann but died before taking her seat.
while I was traveling, I heard a fair bit about the comparative progressiveness of Irish women, and how many fought as ardently and stubbornly for rights as other freedom fighters. there wasn’t any one figure, however, who stuck out to me until I started writing up about the Easter Rising. our tour only allowed for a few words on some of the more well-known figures involved (Pearse, de Valera, Plunkett), but there remained a sense that the Countess was something out of the ordinary. now I know why.
after reading Tim Pat Coogan’s history of the Troubles, I figured I had a pretty comprehensive grasp of the scope and nature of tensions in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. of course, reading about something is nothing to visiting places that endured such turmoil or hearing people who lived through the experiences share their stories. perhaps the most suprirising thing that I learned about the Troubles, however, was that in the tumult of 1969, the Taoiseach at the time, Jack Lynch, had plans for the Republic to invade the North. there’d been massive rioting in Belfast in addition to the Battle of the Bogside. other nationalist towns, such Armagh and Newry, saw violence as well.
while I was in Drogheda, RTE One aired a special that postulated the outcome, had Jack Lynch given the call for Ireland to invade. (The Guardian comments here) I had absolutely no idea that Ireland had it’s own 60’s “Bay of Pigs” moment. the general consensus of the Irish people with whom I discussed this? it would have been a complete and total disaster for the Republic. taking on the Britsh Empire, even in its twilight? insane. and, as some critics have argued, at the time the IRA was in no position to provide tactical military support. in 1969 it was still a relatively small, guerrilla force that simply could not provide the assistance that the army of the Republic would need to succeed, should they invade the North.
obviously, Ireland chose not to invade, and history took a different turn, but the documentary was an interesting look at a possible outcome.
following the Battle of the Bogside, residents took it upon themselves to maintain and defend their community; the official government certainly wasn’t doing anything to their benefit. the name “Free Derry” comes from a tag written on a gable wall by a resident walking past in January 1969, when organized resistance to incursions by the police force first developed in earnest. the phrase was seized upon and came to symbolize resistance to external policing forces (both local and British). it was formalized on that gable wall, painted and repainted in letters large enough to see from a distance. when the row houses extending from this gable were torn down, the community requested that this wall remain as a memorial to Free Derry and events that occurred in Derry during the Troubles.
during a three year period, residents organized police patrols, issued permits to trade in the community (for those making deliveries from outside Free Derry), and provided services that the local government had failed to sufficiently extend to the Catholic community; it was a no-go area protected by both the Official and Provisional IRA. despite best efforts, however, Free Derry came to an end with Operation Motorman in July 1972, when British troops stormed the Bogside (as well as no-go areas in Belfast) (more on that to come, I think).
(an aside: the relationship between the Official and Provisional IRA in Derry was not nearly as contentious as elsewhere in the North. neither group had control over barricades, and the Provisionals had few weapons. also, unlike in Belfast where Provisional bombing campaigns killed civilians in addition to causing structural and economic damage, that in Derry is noted for avoiding death or injury to innocent civilians. as Eamonn McCann wrote, “the Derry Provos, under Martin McGuinness [now Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland under the power-sharing government], had managed to bomb the city centre until it looked as if it had been hit from the air without causing any civilian casualties.”)
the end of Free Derry came with Operation Motorman on 31 July 1972. after three years of keeping external police forces out of Free Derry (as well as areas of Belfast), at 4am the British Army launched a sweep of no-go areas. some 20,000 troops swept through the area, dismantling barricades with bulldozers and hauling people out of their houses. because of the superiority of firepower of the British, neither wing of the IRA offered resistance and Free Derry came to an end.
the other major, catalyzing event to occur in Derry was the Battle of the Bogside. i know i haven’t explained the nature of Bogside yet, but soon. tomorrow, maybe. for now, we’ll stick to this mural.
in August 1969, tensions were even higher than normal when the Apprentice Boys held their annual march, to commemorate the Protestant victory in the Siege of Derry (again, more on that in a later post). the Catholic community protested the march, confronting the Protestant gathering and ultimately throwing stones and what have you at one another. the police chased the Catholics into the Bogside, where they set up defenses and barricades.
in the mural, over the Rioter’s right shoulder you can see the Rossville Flats, which stood on Rossville Street. in a nutshell, they were shit flats, built to keep Catholics segregated in the Bogside and, because of insane property-owning-electoral laws, served to disenfranchise the Catholic population on a massive scale. during conflict with police, however, it became apparent that it was a pretty good location for launching attacks on police and troops down in the road. too high for their weaponry to reach and affording a good vantage point for lobbing stones and petrol bombs.
the rioting lasted for three days. in the end, British troops were called in to calm the situation; longstanding tensions between the Protestant-dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary meant that those defending Bogside would not let up if it meant letting up on the RUC. the B-Specials were called up to enter the fray, which would certainly only serve to escalate the situation. in comparison to facing down the RUC bolstered by the B-Specials, in late 1969 the British troops were seen as a neutral force, one that didnt’ necessarily have baggage or history with the Bogside community, and who might be reasonable in their policing, at least. as history attests, that attitude didn’t last. by this point, the Bogside was thoroughly mobilized; returning to the status quo, impossible. in fact, the previous month, the community set up the Derry Citizens’ Defence Association, to protect against oppression and aggression from the local police force. following the Battle of the Bogside, the DCDA took over control of the Bogside and, until Operation Motorman three years later, neither local police nor British troops were able to penetrate beyond the Free Derry wall.
Derry and Belfast are very different cities and it seems a shame that people who visit the North might only go for one or the other, but not both. perhaps because of its size, or because Stormont is located there, or because the unionist and republican communities abut one another so closely, or because economic conditions are still perilous for many as people continue to migrate to Belfast from the country, but things in Belfast felt more contentious than in Derry. maybe it’s just my perception, but maybe, because Derry’s a much smaller city it’s had to confront tensions more head-on, maybe there’s a vocal enough republican contingent, and a strong enough tradition of resistance that the horrors of the Troubles had to be more fully addressed. or maybe I developed that impression because I stayed on the western side of the River Foyle and took a tour of Free Derry, but not of the Walled City (blasted head cold!)
in any case, unlike Belfast which suffered all manner of bombings and terrorist attacks with some regularity, there’s one event that epitomizes the horror of the Troubles in Derry: Bloody Sunday. in order to understand Bloody Sunday, one has to also appreciate the history of Derry: plantation, siege, settlement of Bogside, discrimination against Catholics, and ultimate involvement of British troops. basically, it is a hot mess, and i think i’ll save a greater explanation of the history for a later post and stick to Bloody Sunday for the moment.
on 30 January 1972, residents of the Bogside planned a march to the Guildhall to protest internment, but because of blockades diverted the route towards the Free Derry corner. as the marchers wanted to avoid violence, they elicited an agreement from the IRA that the organization would stay away. some believe that it was because of the absence of the IRA that the British troops felt secure in using excessive force. according to our guide, who grew up in Bogside during the period, it was routine for people to attack the British forces stationed at the entrance to the Bogside. riots were a common, if not daily, occurrence, and their length and ferocity depended a lot on the weather. if it was cold and pissing down rain, protests might last ten minutes. if some event invigorated people and the weather was conducive, they could last for hours. essentially, it seems there were standard rules of engagement between rioters and the troops. for whatever reason, those rules vanished on Bloody Sunday. the troops responded. with vigor. whether it was because they knew the IRA was not present to respond (as our guide suggested), or for some other unknown reason (firmly established in reality or concocted by those higher up the chain of command) has yet to be established.
in the end, fourteen people died (thirteen killed that day, and one who died later as a result of injuries). some of them were fleeing, one had his hands up in surrender, and none of them posed a real threat to the troops bearing down on the area. despite official claims, none of the victims carried weapons of any kind (though one had bombs planted on him. this lie was particularly egregious as the bullet that killed him passed through a pocket in which a bomb was later planted; it would have been a much different mess to clean up had the bullet actually passed through the pocket-with-bomb.) the British assault was not a chaotic sweep of gunfire that caught civilians in the crossfire: it was a drawn-out episode in which people were gunned down methodically.
Bloody Sunday served to bolster the ranks of the IRA and further enraged the public in opposition to the occupation by British troops. seven months later, however, the British launched Operation Motorman, a massive strike designed to retake republican strongholds in Belfast and Derry. in the end, the no-go area of Free Derry was swept away by British troops and both arms of the IRA, acknowledging that they were wholly unmatched to oppose the thousands of troops, tanks, and armored cars involved in the sweep offered no resistance.
the location that I perhaps enjoyed the most in all of my travels in Ireland was Derry. which, legally, isn’t a part of the Republic at the moment, though most of the people I spoke to south of the border don’t think in those terms. in one place, we went through a brochure produced by the Northern Ireland tourism board and crossed the “London” that preceeded Derry wherever we could find it.
the city of Derry is known for its walls. i’ll talk about the old walls in a later post, but first, some on the “other” walls — those of the Bogside. as in Belfast, Derry has murals commemorating events of the Troubles. but whereas the murals of Belfast often change to reflect current political realities, the murals of Bogside were commissioned and created by a group of artists. there are twelve in all, taking up the ends of row houses throughout the Bogside. i didn’t take pictures of all of them, but i’ll share the ones that i have, beginning with my favorite:
this one, Bernadette, depicts the Battle of the Bogside and features Bernadette Devlin (more on the Battle later). Bernadette was a student at the university in 1968, when tensions in the North were growing exponentially. she became a prominent voice in the student movement and was elected to Parliament at the age of 21, the youngest woman ever elected MP. rather than follow the tradition of abstentionism in protest of the treatment of Catholics in the North, Bernadette chose to take her seat at Westminster and raised hell. as seen in the mural, she supported residents during the Battle of the Bogside and, following Bloody Sunday, was temporarily suspended from Parliament (she punched the Home Office Secretary for claiming the British Army fired in self-defense).
in the mural, there are a couple of things of note. first, the residents at this point were not heavily armed. they used stones and basic petrol bombs to attack the incoming forces. it seems that neither side was ever very well prepared for the confrontations; sometimes that meant a deficiency in weaponry, inadequate defensive material, or an abject lack of information about conditions. resistance was gritty and sprung from frustration and survival instincts. second, during confrontations, women would keep watch and bang trash can lids on the pavement to alert others of police or other troops. third (of which more later), the Free Derry Corner was the locus for much of the resistance to British incursion in Derry. though the row of houses that originally stood on the site has been demolished, residents requested that the end wall remain as a reminder of what has transpired.