Countess Markievicz and the policeman

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Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby thepremier on Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:23 am

There is an incident from the 1916 Rising often cited by its detractors, yet I have never yet managed to verify it, and have come to the conclusion that it is an urban myth. In spite of the paucity of evidence, many journalists continue to refer to it as to as undisputed fact. If anyone ever heard it or has anything to add I'd be very interested.

The rumour that Countess Markievicz had shot an unarmed policeman at St Stephen's Green was circulated in the immediate aftermath of the Rising. The Irish Times 1916 Rebellion Handbook and Max Caulfield (The Easter Rebellion, 1965) state that Contable Lahiff(e) he was shot within five minutes of the occupation of St Stephen's Green. Markievicz was delivering supplies to City Hall at that time and did not arrive to Michael Mallin's outpost until the occupation was well underway. Caulfield nevertheless quotes an anonymous witness as saying that Markievicz shot Lahiffe.

Biographer Diana Norman investigated the claim and concluded that it was a completely unsubstantiated rumour which, for some reason unconnected with the actual facts, had a great deal of currency. She asked Tim Pat Coogan, who was quite certain that Markievicz had shot the policeman, but when pressed could not tell her how he knew this. The rumour is frequently referred to by Kevin Myers and Ruth Dudley Edwards. I informed Mr Myers of the lack of evidence to support his claims and challenged him to provide a source unconnected with Max Caulfield. He was evasive and mentioned Charles Townshend's book on the Easter Rising, which does not mention Countess Markievicz in relation to the incident. Myers continues to repeat his allegations as facts.

Ann Matthews referred to Markievicz's contempt for "unarmed non-combatants" (as paraphrased on the Cedar Lounge Revolution blog), which I assume is a reference to the rumour (some of her other statements are objectively wrong in my opinion), and Fearghal McGarry seems to give it credence in his recent book on the 1916 Rising. (Max Caulfield is his only source.)

What convinced me once and for all that this rumour was a myth, though deliberately circulated as propaganda, was the fact that it was only one of several such stories. The New York Times reported on April 30 1916 that Markievicz had shot a policeman at Dublin Castle. In her obituary eleven years later, Time magazine reported that the "murderess" took a pistol out of her purse and shot the doorkeeper of the College of Surgeons. In fact, according to Frank Robbins, she intervened to save his life after he fired at Robbins and narrowly missed him! This was not the only report of her gallant conduct: when a British soldier tried to enter the College of Surgeons thinking it had been surrendered, she saved his lfe also.

As was, and still is, the case with Roger Casement, a controversy about criminal behaviour obscures what Markievicz represented: socialism, gender equality and republicanism. I suspect this was the real purpose behind the allegations, as the revolution in Ireland continued to be portrayed as a criminal enterprise with no political or social context.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby bannerman on Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:32 am

Great stuff the Premier! Very interesing piece. Wasnt there a second propoganda story from the period that constantly re-appears - the one about Marcivictz allegedly breaking down at her courts martial and sobbing "Im only a woman, you cant shoot me Im only a woman!" As far as I know (and im not a 1916 expert Im much better at W.O.I. stuff!) didnt one of the prosecutors claim it in his memoirs but it dosent appear in thtranscripts of the courtmartials Ive seen in the book "From Behind A Closed Door"

Ann Mathews is releasing a book on Women Revolutionaries later in the year which promises to be very good

If you could expand it id be interested in putting it up on http://www.warofindependence.net
Have a look at this article which is in a similar vein

http://www.warofindependence.net/?page_id=139

Again well done
Padraig
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"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
Jim Larkin 1913
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby thepremier on Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:01 pm

Thanks, bannerman. I would be interested in expanding the information I have into an article, but I'd have to do some more research on it. I'll let you know when I have some spare time to do that. I really would appreciate any extra information anyone might have.

Wasnt there a second propoganda story from the period that constantly re-appears - the one about Marcivictz allegedly breaking down at her courts martial and sobbing "Im only a woman, you cant shoot me Im only a woman!" As far as I know (and im not a 1916 expert Im much better at W.O.I. stuff!) didnt one of the prosecutors claim it in his memoirs but it dosent appear in thtranscripts of the courtmartials Ive seen in the book "From Behind A Closed Door"


That's right, I think according to Barton a Miss Mahaffy, the daughter of the Provost of TCD, wrote about the policeman rumour and the rumour of Markievicz's craven conduct immediately after the Rising. W.E. Wylie later repeated the tale of her courtmartial behaviour in his memoir. Given that it contradicts the official record and that he also denied that de Valera had had a courtmartial, I would tend to wonder if his memory was at fault so many years after the events and that he confused what he had heard and what he actually knew.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby thepremier on Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:12 pm

Thanks for reminding me who Ann Mathews is, by the way. I thought I knew who she was, I just couldn't remember exactly.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby michaelcarragher on Sun Jul 25, 2010 11:12 am

I agree that Wylie was mistaken in his recollection—if he wasn’t being downright malicious. I also incline to think that Connie Markievicz did not kill Constable Lahiffe simply because in later years she claimed only to have wounded a policeman, and she seems to have been the sort who would claim the kill had she killed him.

(Do we have a name for this wounded policeman?)

However, she also bragged that she had fired the second shot of the action in Stephen’s Green, so the claim that she killed Constable Lahiffe cannot be dismissed entirely, whatever the details of the timeline of Easter Monday.

Does it matter, though? No democratic court would find her guilty of pulling the trigger but no court could exonerate her of being an accessory at least to the killings of Lahiffe and the unarmed civilian carter murdered that same day.

Perhaps more significantly than points of law, though, is whether she would thank anyone for defending her against the charge of killing Lahiffe. As a revolutionary, wasn't killing policemen her job? And if by her own boast she wounded some policeman, she presumably was shooting to kill him. Some years earlier she had been convicted of assaulting another policeman, and to the end of his life her fellow-revolutionary, Dan Breen, regretted only that he had not killed more, rather than fewer, policemen.

I rather imagine Connie Markievicz would take Kevin Myers’ criticisms as compliments.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby thepremier on Sun Jul 25, 2010 7:50 pm

However, she also bragged that she had fired the second shot of the action in Stephen’s Green, so the claim that she killed Constable Lahiffe cannot be dismissed entirely, whatever the details of the timeline of Easter Monday.

That is interesting, could you point me towards a source for that? Thanks.
As a revolutionary, wasn't killing policemen her job?

The issue here was that he was unarmed. I think the instances I have cited where she protected British soldiers from harm showed that she had a strong sense of chivalry, or at least a strict idea of the rules of war.

As for Dan Breen, I suspect that he portrayed the image of the Irish revolution that would sell, particularly in America (Tom Barry and Ernie O'Malley are better sources for any discussion on the ethics of guerrilla war) but the RIC, unlike the DMP, was a military police and thus armed.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby michaelcarragher on Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:36 pm

More on the claim that Connie Markievicz wounded a policeman may be found in Brian Barton, From Behind a Closed Door: Secret Court Martial Records of the 1916 Easter Rising, p. 79. Barton is citing the Inspector General’s Report of October 1917.

Revolutionaries do not regard themselves as bound by “the rules of war”; “asymmetric warfare”, to employ a modern term, gives them their chief advantages. When the IRA fought by normal rules of engagement—at the Customs House—they suffered their worst defeat. Among its other advantages, asymmetric warfare allows revolutionaries to make more flexible definitions of “legitimate targets”.

A revolutionary’s job is to overthrow the state by force and policemen, and -women nowadays, are “legitimate targets” and inevitably among revolution’s first victims because they stand in the first line of defence of law and order, which must be destroyed if revolution is to succeed. The distinction between armed and unarmed police had ceased to be drawn long before the Provos’ more recent campaign. It ceased to be drawn on Easter Monday 1916 when two DMP men were shot to death.

As second in command of the Stephen’s Green garrison, Connie Markievicz shares responsibility for Constable Lahiffe’s death with Michael Mallin and whoever pulled the trigger of the gun that killed him. As far as I’m aware, apart from poor Mallin, none of the leaders of the Rising tried to evade their responsibilities. Connie Markievicz was a revolutionary, and prosecuting revolution, by whatever means, was her job. She may well have had regrets about the lives she took, directly or indirectly, more than Dan Breen had, but I don’t think she would shirk responsibility for Constable Lahiffe's death.

Breen made the statement I refer to on, I think, The Late, Late Show, shortly before his death. That was many years ago, and memory is a fallible thing, so I may be wrong about the programme, but not about Breen’s trenchant statement that he was only sorry he had not killed more policemen. Whatever the programme, it was made for an Irish audience. America had nothing to do with it.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby thepremier on Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:00 am

michaelcarragher wrote:More on the claim that Connie Markievicz wounded a policeman may be found in Brian Barton, From Behind a Closed Door: Secret Court Martial Records of the 1916 Easter Rising, p. 79. Barton is citing the Inspector General’s Report of October 1917.


Ah, the plot thickens.

Your analogies don't make sense to me. You say that Markievicz was responsible for the actions of the soldiers under her command, also that the rules of warfare were, of necessity, irrelevant to her. These positions are irreconcilable, but I am taking the second proposition as the false one, based as it is on modern counter-insurgency ideology. The British position was that the rules of war didn't apply in the case of "uncivilized States and tribes", and Lloyd George's regime justified the bombing of Iraqi villagers for not paying their imperial taxes on racial grounds. Counter-insurgency theorists rationalise this terrorist action, clearly though not explicitly on the same grounds (it's how the Black and Tans are justifed after all) - so counter-insurgency theory cannot be used to analyse the rules of revolutions.

Thank you for the source. I'm not getting into any more endless debates as I'd like to keep the topic to its original purpose.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby michaelcarragher on Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:28 pm

“Plot”—what plot? You’ve lost me completely here, I’m afraid. What do you think I’m plotting? Why would you think I’m plotting anything?

I’m completely baffled by your perception that there’s anything “irreconcilable” in saying, on the one hand, that a commander, revolutionary or otherwise, is responsible for her command and, on the other, that revolutionaries do not observe conventional rules of engagement. The 1916 leaders had a definite command structure, and that implies responsibility; they were not anarchists. And they almost all accepted their responsibilities. But they were revolutionaries and did not observe conventional rules of military engagement. For instance, relatively few wore uniform.

If “the rules of war are not bound to state entities” to whom or what are they bound? If any state entity breaks the conventions of engagement it means that that state is in breach of those conventions, not that the conventions cease to apply. In the Great War Germany broke conventional rules of engagement by introducing use of poison gas, unrestricted sinking of non-combatant shipping and other horrors, up to mass-murder of civilians; does that mean that we should abandon the rules, or rather charge with war crimes those who break them? (In light of a previous misunderstanding, let me make something very clear here: I am not comparing Connie Markievcz, or any of our revolutionaries, or anyone else, to the Nazis.)

By saying that you would “like to keep the topic to its original purpose” you seem to imply that I have been trying to get away from that. Not so. Your initial challenge was to the belief, widely held, that Connie Markieviecz killed Constable Lahiffe. If you check my postings, you will find that they all address that controversy. Reference to the Customs House fight and to Dan Breen were relevant to the discussion in that each reference illustrated a moot point I was making. The above paragraph addresses a point you raised.

While I tend to agree with your position that Markieviecz did not kill Lahiffe, I evidently do so for different reasons—though you haven’t made it clear quite why you believe she did not kill him—and with reservations. No historian would claim that there is enough evidence to determine conclusively who killed the man, so unless and until further information enters the public domain, exploration of the matter must concern itself with what we do know, coupled to intelligent, credible deduction in order to tentatively test and explore alternative hypotheses, and perhaps come to provisional, subjective conclusions. That is what I have been trying to do since I joined this discussion.

Incidentally, I would never defend Britain’s any more than Germany’s mass-murder of civilians, but I certainly am “flexible”, insofar as I am prepared to change my mind in the light of new evidence and information, or after persuasive discussion. I have done so many times in the past, and hope to live long enough, and learn enough more, to do so again.
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Re: Countess Markievicz and the policeman

Postby thepremier on Thu Jul 29, 2010 12:26 am

Incidentally, I would never defend Britain’s any more than Germany’s mass-murder of civilians, but I certainly am “flexible”, insofar as I am prepared to change my mind in the light of new evidence and information, or after persuasive discussion. I have done so many times in the past, and hope to live long enough, and learn enough more, to do so again.


I wasn't referring to you with the term "flexible". I was referring to counter-insurgency doctrine, and the futility of using it to define anti-imperialist military action. Just war or security theory is preferable because their raison d'être isn't rationalising invasion. Of course, there are good counter-insurgency theorists in spite of this.

Your point was that, theoretically, Markievicz would have no problem in knocking off a policeman here or there because revolutionaries don't recognise the rules of war. I have dealt with it, though I think it's a distraction from the real issues (which I have dealt with in my initial post).
Last edited by thepremier on Thu Jul 29, 2010 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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