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Ferriter, Murphy: "The Tenements" Anti-Rural meme


Eric Cartman

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Just watched another episode re-run of "The Tenements". It's good but, Bryan Murphy's personal politics is getting tedious.

Upon Ireland's independence, there was a massive expectation of great social change and material betterment, such as the construction of social housing and so forth. Murphy remarks that independence wasn't without difficulty. Indeed. Unfortunately, we had a:

  1. Civil War (1922-1923) and internment (until 1926)
  2. Wall Street Crash (1929)
  3. Economic War (1933 onwards)
  4. WWII (1939-1945)
  5. No Marshall Plan (1948)
  6. Political instability i.e. four or more Governments in succession (1948-1956) and austerity

As such, we had average economic growth of just 1% per annum for about 30 years.

In spite of this, Irish Governments began building extensive council housing schemes from the 1930 onwards e.g. Cabra, Marino and Drimnagh etc.

As an explanation for Ireland's initial inertia towards social housing, Diarmaid Ferriter (RTÉ's favourite historian) opines rural Ireland was far more organized and as such, implies the political establishment reflected their values and material needs and was basically Anti-Urban.

The Anti-Urbanism of Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael is the urban liberal left's main social theory of 20th century Ireland. But I think its bunkum: remember Seán Lemass and C.S. "Todd" Andrews? Both were not only Dubliners, but working class Dubs: Andrews was largely brought up in Terenure but did live in a somewhat comfortable tenement in Summerhill, where his father was apprenticed to his father in law (both families were from the inner city). Lemass was from Capel street (Lemass is from le Maitre, basically a descendant of the Protestant Huguenots of the Liberties). Oscar Traynor, anyone?

Fine Gael similarly had Dublin (or Co. Dublin) leaders in Cosgrave and others.

Remember that social housing largely began with De Valera's 1932 government and most of Dublin 3 to Dublin 13 was built in 1930-1970, mostly by Fianna Fáil governments (not a F.F. supporter, am a Dub). F.F.'s support in working class Dublin can be understood in that light.

Murphy moans that this new housing was often not to the liking of the inner city Dubliners. Many didn't want to leave their relatives, and were used to generations of inner city life (often along the same couple of streets). They didn't like being planted out into then rural areas, like Crumlin and Cabra and children were "afraid of the cows" (Phibsborough had a cattle mart in the 1950's). Ah for ************************'s sake. The then Governments failure to provide jobs in those areas are legitimate arguments.

Overall, I think Irish Governments did the best they could, given resources. Furthermore, working class Dubliners repaid F.F. with decades of unflinching loyalty. Lemass remarked that Ireland didn't need a Labour party because Fianna Fáil was it. Dubliners thought so.

As to the relatively more political engagement of rural Ireland, perhaps there is something to say for that in so far as that Ireland's rural dwellers have traditionally held more political clout than, say England's rural poor mainly because Ireland was up until very recently majority-rural.

One could make the argument that Catholic, rural Ireland was more revolutionary than urban dwellers. Just as Russia's rural poor proved Marx wrong, so did the Irish: every major social and revolutionary movement in the 19th century arose in rural Ireland and this did leave a lasting legacy. Consider the following:

  • 1600s: Clan warfare
  • 1690s: Outlaw "Tories" (tóraigh, seek). Redmond O'Hanlon, south Armagh
  • 1700s: Outlaw Raparees (Jacobites and vestiges of clan society)
  • 1760s: the White boys (rural anti-landlord violence and social movement)
  • 1798: (launched in Dublin, Belfast but remember the Defenders, Michael O'Dwyer of Wicklow, the "Races of Castlebar" and of course, Wexford)
  • 1800: The Rockites & Terry Alts (anti-landlordism with a nasty sectarian and millenarian tendency)
  • 1829: Catholic Emancipation, Daniel O'Connell and the Catholic Association
  • 1848, 1849: Risings, and Post-Famine "Independence Party"
  • 1856, 1867: The Fenian Brotherhood, later "I.R.B."
  • 1870s: Ribbon Fenianism and land agitation
  • 1879: Irish National Land-League (Davitt), founded in Co. Mayo. Capt. Boycott.
  • 1884: I.N.L.L. becomes, Irish National League, Parnell's party. First of its kind in Europe.
  • 1880s-1900s: Land agitation and land acts
  • 1905: Sinn Féin founded in Dublin, but with most leading members form the country. First national President a Galwayman (Edwar Martyn)
  • 1916-1926: Revolutionary period. Many Dubliners involved but many with rural background

I am an avid reader of history, Dublin history and lately I have become interested in social history. My view is that the Dublin working class were remarkably passive considering the dreadful conditions they endured (read "Dear, Dirty Dublin" and "Darkest Dublin"). Terrible. Yet, I can discern no real internal social movement, except the Labour movement arising towards the end of the 1890s (the 1913 Lockout was lead mainly for foreign-born Irish men, Connolly and Larkin). Stretching back to the early 18th C. to modern days, all vibrant political movements in Dublin arose from outside the county e.g. the nationalists, United Irishmen (Belfast) and trade unionism (?)

I have read extensively about the poor living conditions and high rate alcohol abuse (manifested in the disproportionately high number of arrests for drunkenness per capita with the rest of the then U.K.) and associated crimes. I noted the disproportionately high number of people living in tenement type accommodation (double the U.K. average). Yet, not until the rise of the Nationalist, Labour and then Republican movements (typically from outside) do I begin to sense a change in the internal politics of Dublin.

The only native Dubliner "movement" was perhaps the Ormond Boys in the 18th c., and their Protestant enemies, the Liberty Boys (Lemass's ancestors?!)

Why is this?

I don't know.

One possible suggestion is that Dublin was a small majority-Protestant town until the middle of the 18th c., when its population began to grow due to internal migration from the country due to famine and adverse weather conditions, climate change ("the Great Frost", famine in 1721).

Tenements began in the Liberties quarter towards the end of the century (due to further English restrictions on Irish trade, here woolen trade in particular). The collapse of these industries and the woolen and silk trades resulted in brief Protestant estrangement with England, 1798 and then reaffirmed British loyalty and ultimate exodus to the newly-established townships on Dublin's periphery e.g. Clontarf, Drumcondra, Rathmines, Blackrock, "Kingstown" etc. Their former homes became residences for dozens of impoverished Catholics mainly.

Nevertheless, Protestants maintained an absolute majority on the Corporation until the "reformed" 1842 Corpo (and were well represented right up until Independence). Those Protestant Corporations did absolutely nothing for the Inner City poor (with honorable exceptions, e.g. John Gray, a Nationalist from Co. Mayo) and its members often lived in the nine surrounding townships rather than the city. Although the Catholic politicians that followed were barely better (Joseph M Meade), modest attempts at social housing were enacted in the 1870s onwards.

With no real industries left, the only jobs are of the most menial nature: labourers, hawkers, dock workers and housekeeper type positions. Most are for derisory pay. There is therefore little opportunity to organize into unions and much to risk. Tradesmen are earning 15 shillings a week, which would guarantee a diet of tea, bread and perhaps bacon and cabbage for dinner. Maybe milk and butter. Your home could be either a floor (perhaps two, three rooms) in a fine, old Georgian house for you and your twelve children. Or one room, with rug partitions. Plus 1-2 unrelated lodgers (sexual abuse, anyone?)

The Dublin tenement poor therefore had much to risk in political agitation, and young children caught stealing could face a multitude of punishments including: the Workhouse, Reformatories or Transportation! (1860s), Industrial Schools (1870s onwards -the more humane alternative). I wonder what this potential threat did for the revolutionary fervour of the humble Dubliner?

Murphy and Ferriter in particular are rather ambiguous towards that great, Revolutionary movement the Catholic Church. It's true though: Priests were often Chairmen of local branches of Land League or the Nationalist Party (or its splinter factions). Many priests were firebrands and considered dangerous by the authorities. In Dublin, as today, religious observance wasn't quite 100% and although the Church was generally held in esteem, it wasn't the only Church and people changed religion more often than you would think! (Though usually one-way). I would say the Catholic Church did not consider Dublin a heartland, or bastion and was wary of the C.O.I. Church Missions and other groups, the Walkerites.

The profusion of English-y names in Dublin is a testament to English migration here, particularly in the 17th and early 18th c. (the oldest) and then late 19th c., who worked in the transportation sector (Rail, and maritime. So much so that two Churches were built to accommodate them: St Matthews' Ringsend and St. Barnabas, East Wall -demolished in the '60s). Nevertheless in time most would become Catholic (yay!) But I wonder what the Catholic Church's attitude was towards them?

So Dublin, the most traditionally English part of Ireland (with a population that derive a certain ancestry from England, irrespective of religion) versus the rural Ireland, fiercely and inexplicably Catholic and with a long history of rural violence stretching back to Clan warfare times. One becomes a marginalized, passive voice and the other the inheritor of the State? Or a simplification?
 


pippakin

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Interesting but I'm not sure the rural Ireland myth so loved by politicians of the time wasn't misleading. The lack of interest in the poor extended outward from the cities. Oh the tenements were worse off but people living in not much more than a shack with no sanitation, or anything, else were not much better off.

The benefit of living in rural areas was that it was much easier/possible to grow at least some of your own food, that was something city dwellers largely lacked.

The tenements have created a kind of myth of their own I think. If you were poor in Ireland you were really at the bottom.
 

Porkypie

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Remember that social housing largely began with De Valera's 1932 government and most of Dublin 3 to Dublin 13 was built in 1930-1970, mostly by Fianna Fáil governments (not a F.F. supporter, am a Dub). F.F.'s support in working class Dublin can be understood in that light.

Why is this? Your a Brit. stirring up sh#t. FG know no bounds
 

Munnkeyman

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Surely you meant to say -

5. Yes Marshall Plan (1948)
 
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'Them beyond the pale and us' seems to be the way FG are taking the country backwards with their incompetent centralisation initiatives. I would like to read more about Centralisation versus the GAA ruling class!
 

McTell

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The big difference was that in Europe you couldn't just move to a town, it had to be OKed by your landlord (read: owner) and by an employer in that town. Here and in England you could move to the big shmoke with no idea of what it would be like, with no job and find yourself in misery sharing a room in the slums.

The whole church and pub thing was about networking and jobs - not because we knew anything about religion - nor were we inveterate alcoholics. Just because it was our propaganda then doesn't mean that it's 100% true Irish history now - and Ferriter knows that.

FF did a good building job in the 1930s, and Dublin had housing charities long before. But I'd say you only got their flats if you had a good job, and so none of these helped the new arrivals.
 

Eric Cartman

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Surely you meant to say -

5. Yes Marshall Plan (1948)
I meant that, "No", Ireland didn't benefit from the Marshall Plan that helped reconstruct Western Europe, because we were neutral and unemportant.
 

Seanie Lemass

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The big difference was that in Europe you couldn't just move to a town, it had to be OKed by your landlord (read: owner) and by an employer in that town. Here and in England you could move to the big shmoke with no idea of what it would be like, with no job and find yourself in misery sharing a room in the slums.

The whole church and pub thing was about networking and jobs - not because we knew anything about religion - nor were we inveterate alcoholics. Just because it was our propaganda then doesn't mean that it's 100% true Irish history now - and Ferriter knows that.

FF did a good building job in the 1930s, and Dublin had housing charities long before. But I'd say you only got their flats if you had a good job, and so none of these helped the new arrivals.

Good point about the social networking and the housing charities. Guinness definitely had a paternalistic side to them and built decent flats for their workers. Not sure what way the Carnegie trust buildings were allocated. My great grandfather was a clerk in Jacobs (Quaker buscuit makers) and I had heard that they had helped him to rent what was pretty nice house for Dublin in the late 1800s off Cork Street. There was massive gap however between people like that - lower middle class I suppose - and those who survived on casual labour and had to rent in the slums. Railway workers and full time dock workers did reasonably well too as attested to by the houses in East Wall.
 

Eric Cartman

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The big difference was that in Europe you couldn't just move to a town, it had to be OKed by your landlord (read: owner) and by an employer in that town. Here and in England you could move to the big shmoke with no idea of what it would be like, with no job and find yourself in misery sharing a room in the slums.

The whole church and pub thing was about networking and jobs - not because we knew anything about religion - nor were we inveterate alcoholics. Just because it was our propaganda then doesn't mean that it's 100% true Irish history now - and Ferriter knows that.

FF did a good building job in the 1930s, and Dublin had housing charities long before. But I'd say you only got their flats if you had a good job, and so none of these helped the new arrivals.
People went to the pub because their tenement flats were cramped, smelly and uncomfortable. The pub had a warm fire, good times and alcohol.

Children and youths hung around at all hours also because home life was so cramped.

Alcohol was widely drunk in medievel times as a libation because there was no source of clean water. Adults drank weak ales (2%), which was diluted with rainwater and children drank goatsmilk. Adult dranks spirits to get drunk.

Dublin got potable water at some stage in the early 18th c. and in the late 19th, John Gray proposed tapping Wicklow's Vartry river as a clean water supply (thereby literally saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dubliners). The Irish State then later built Poolaphooka in the 20th c.

Tea was the great alternative to alcohol (ever wondered why people drank boiled water, leaves and a spot of milk? No safe water supply) and you can see that Britain's acquisition of India was intimtately related to its rise as an industrial superpower. France drank coffee. And wine.

I still believe alcohol comsumption was high in Ireland, Dublin especially in part due the considerable delay in getting potable, piped water, which U.K. cities had much earlier.

Was there a disproportionately higher number of crimes in Dublin than the rest of the country? Yes, according to "Dear, Dirty Dublin":

Dear, Dirty Dublin: A City in Distress, 1899-1916 - Joseph V. O'Brien - Google Books

Note the number of indictable, non-indictable and total crimes in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Ireland total (1910)?, per 100,000 (UK Parliamentary Papers, 1911).

Incidences for most crimes was considerably higher in Dublin than Belfast, Cork and Ireland as a whole. Absolute numbers were higher than UK cities such as Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham etc., except for London (but rates higher).

Alcohol was the single largest contributor along with simple larcenies and traffic violations (Highway Acts: carts and carriages).

This is why Fr. Theobald Matthew and his Temperance Movement (and later, Matt Talbot) were so influential. Fr. Matthew was invited to the US Congress by Protestant America:

On July 2, 1849, New York welcomed Fr. Mathew. Mayor Woodhull, a non-Catholic, placed City Hall at his disposal. For two weeks the crowds besieging its chambers practically eliminated all city business. Vice-President Millard Fillmore was one of the callers. In Washington, President Zachary Taylor invited Fr. Mathew to dine at the White House. Congress gave the humble Capuchin friar its highest honours. The House unanimously admitted him to a seat on the floor of the House. The Senate admitted him within the bar of the Senate, an honour given previously only to Lafayette.

For two years, despite grave illness, Father Mathew blazed a trail of success across the United States. Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Little Rock, New Orleans, and many places in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Delaware and other areas heard his exhortations and were won to the practice of total abstinence. Everywhere there were crowds and enthusiastic receptions.

When he left the USA in 1851, strong temperance societies carried on the work. “I thank heaven I have been instrumental in adding to the ranks of temperance over 600,000 in the United States,” he wrote. Mathew has a statue dedicated to him in Salem, Massachusetts.

Mathew, a high-profile visitor to the USA, found himself at the center of the Abolitionist debate. Many of his hosts were pro-slavery, and wanted assurances that their influential guest would not stray outside his remit of battling alcohol consumption. But Mathew had signed a petition against human bondage in 1842 when he had hosted former slave Frederick Douglass in his Cork home. Now however, in order to avoid upsetting his powerful American friends, he snubbed an invitation to publicly endorse Abolition, sacrificing his friendship with that movement.
You can see how rampant alcoholism can stifle revolutionary fervour.

I think the swipe you made at the Church was unwarranted too. The point still stands: many clerics were revolutionary by today's standards and by the standards of the time too.
 

McTell

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No
We certainly rooralized Dublin after 1922.

Was the result civilised enough? When you had a Cosgrave being paid 200 or 400 - small change - to help with someone's planning. Pathetic.
 

Red Clover

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I don't know that this is correct. Marshall Aid was not given to Ireland officially. There may have been some financial transfers. I haven't references right now but Gray, the USA ambassador to Ireland was very anti-Irish and recommended to his superiors that the Shannon estuary be seized by US military forces as a base during the war. His dispatches to the State Department contained lists of complaints about Irish Neutrality especially the arrest and internment of US pilots and aeroplane crews who crash landed in this country. I must dig out references for that period. BTW I wouldn't consider Wikipedia a reference for anything. I know some of the contributors.
 

McTell

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No
I don't know that this is correct. Marshall Aid was not given to Ireland officially. There may have been some financial transfers. I haven't references right now but Gray, the USA ambassador to Ireland was very anti-Irish and recommended to his superiors that the Shannon estuary be seized by US military forces as a base during the war. His dispatches to the State Department contained lists of complaints about Irish Neutrality especially the arrest and internment of US pilots and aeroplane crews who crash landed in this country. I must dig out references for that period. BTW I wouldn't consider Wikipedia a reference for anything. I know some of the contributors.
$100m, spent on tarring the backroads. Nothing to do with Gray.
 

True Republican

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father mathew a great irishman who saw what the scourge of excessive alcohol abuse was contributing to poorer areas, people may say whatever they like about the catholic church but the influence of the catholic church in working class dublin contributed to an improvement in discipline and respect for the rule of law something that is lacking these days in a lot of working class urban communities.
 

pragmaticapproach

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father mathew a great irishman who saw what the scourge of excessive alcohol abuse was contributing to poorer areas, people may say whatever they like about the catholic church but the influence of the catholic church in working class dublin contributed to an improvement in discipline and respect for the rule of law something that is lacking these days in a lot of working class urban communities.
Bit of a chicken and egg conundrum if you ask me.
 

Éireann go Brách

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from same source only 18 million was a grant rest was loans, paid back
about 1% of entire Marshall plan both combined IF wiki is correct

Ireland which received 146.2 million USD through the Marshall plan, received 128.2 million USD as loans, and the remaining 18 million USD as grants.[73] By 1969 the Irish Marshal plan debt, which was still being repaid, amounted to 31 million pounds, out of a total Irish foreign debt of 50 million pounds.[74]
73^ Gary Murphy, In search of the promised land: the politics of post-war Ireland, p.70
74^ James F. Lydon, The making of Ireland: from ancient times to the present, p.391
 

Franzoni

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father mathew a great irishman who saw what the scourge of excessive alcohol abuse was contributing to poorer areas, people may say whatever they like about the catholic church but the influence of the catholic church in working class dublin contributed to an improvement in discipline and respect for the rule of law something that is lacking these days in a lot of working class urban communities.
If you mean by that having the sh1te beaten out of you by christian bros with bamboo fishing poles and leather straps all it did for me was give me an undying hatred and distrust of authority and the church in general.........
 

Franzoni

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Good point about the social networking and the housing charities. Guinness definitely had a paternalistic side to them and built decent flats for their workers. Not sure what way the Carnegie trust buildings were allocated. My great grandfather was a clerk in Jacobs (Quaker buscuit makers) and I had heard that they had helped him to rent what was pretty nice house for Dublin in the late 1800s off Cork Street. There was massive gap however between people like that - lower middle class I suppose - and those who survived on casual labour and had to rent in the slums. Railway workers and full time dock workers did reasonably well too as attested to by the houses in East Wall.
Remember Jacobs in Bishop st well..i have relations who worked in there.......we used to 'borrow'..:) the wooden trolleys with the metal wheels and drive everyone on the street mad with the noise...they used to give us chunks of the choclate from the machines or the little packets of biscuits for us to go away.....:D

When i was small four of us lived in two rooms with no sink,bath or toilet...the 'sitting' room was the kitchen and the second bedroom at night time.........we shared a communal washroom (one big belfast sink,cold tap only with a clothes mangle and a toilet next door to it) with the family next door the two families on the other side of the landing had similar....my Ma told us we were lucky as when my Da was growing up in a tenement in the 30's in Golden lane they lived in one room with 14 in his family and had to share one toilet with 10 other families of similar size and wash themselves in a basin.......:shock:........The Iveagh baths was where most went on a saturday night for a swim and a shower.....what my Da was doing in the 30's we were still doing in the 70's .......
 

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