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Struggle Of The Irish Diaspora In The Western Hemisphere


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Shared Oppression and Struggle of the Irish Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere, by John Wight

Irish Slaves in the New World

Throughout the seventeenth century, when slavery was still enshrined in English law, and when Ireland had been an English colony for nigh on 400 years, captured Irish rebels were sent to English slave colonies in the New World. Irish prisoners were sent to Amazonian settlements in 1612, and an English Proclamation of 1625 urged banishment overseas of dangerous rogues (Irish political prisoners).

By 1650, during the reign of Cromwell, which saw terrible atrocities committed against the Irish people, the number of Irish sent into slavery reached a climax, with estimates by historians at somewhere between 80,000 and 130,000 men, women and children. Many were sent to the Americas to work plantations in Virginia and New England. Most, however, were sent to the Caribbean islands, especially Barbados, where thousands perished in the tropical heat from hunger and disease.

The English were proud of this policy, as can be noted in state papers published in London in 1742: It was a measure beneficial to Ireland, which was thus relieved of a population which might trouble the planters. It was a benefit to the people removed, who might thus be made English and Christian, a great benefit to the West Indies sugar planters, who desired men and boys for their bondsmen, and the women and Irish girls to solace them.

Any Irish caught trying to escape were either branded FT, for 'Fugitive Traitor', on their forehead, whipped, and hung by their hands and set on fire. So that they might forget their religion, nationality and culture, most were given new names.

Irish who Fought Alongside Simon Bolivar

One thousand men of the Irish Legion landed on Venezuela's Margarita Island in August, 1819, to fight in the armies of South America's Liberator, Simon Bolivar. More followed in the next few years, many of them earning high praise and great distinction from Bolivar for their dedication to the cause of freedom.

It is noted in passing that the man known as the 'Liberator of Chile' was name Bernardo O'Higgins as well.

San Patricios

In 1846, thousands of Irish immigrants joined the US Army and, under the command of General Zachary Taylor, were sent with his army to invade Mexico in a war of imperialist aggression and plunder.

Dubious about why they were fighting a poor Catholic country, witnessing atrocities carried out on Mexican civilians, hundreds of them deserted Taylor's army and joined forces with Mexico. Led by Captain John Riley of County Galway, they called themselves the St.Patrick's Battalion (in Spanish, los San Patricios).

They fought with bravery and distinction in most of the campaigns of the two-year conflict, but despite their efforts, and the bravery of the Mexican Army as a whole, the US onslaught proved too strong. After Mexico City came under occupation in 1848, Mexico surrendered, subsequently ceding nearly half its territory to the United States. Toward the end of the conflict, at the Battle of Churubsco, 83 San Patricios were captured. Of the 72 who were court martialed, 50 were sentenced to be hanged and 16 were flogged and branded on their cheeks with the letter 'D' for deserter.

For obvious reasons, the San Patricios were erased from American history. However, in Mexico, regarded as heroes, their feats of courage and heroism are honoured to this day every Sept. 12 with a special commemoration. In 1993, the Irish at last began their own ceremony of commemoration in Clifden, Galway, Riley's hometown.

While held prisoner in Mexico City, Riley wrote to a friend back in the United States: Be not deceived by a nation that is at war with Mexico, for a friendlier and more hospitable people than the Mexicans there exists not on the face of the earth.

Irish Internationalism In Recent Times

Irish revolutionaries have a proud history of expressing and demonstrating solidarity with other oppressed peoples struggling for self-determination and national liberation. Strong fraternal bonds have been established with the Palestinian struggle, the struggle against apartheid South Africa, the struggle for Basque independence, Kurdish autonomy, with Colombian rebels and the Cuban Revolution.

In 1970, invited by the then Irish-American mayor of New York City, James Lindsay, to receive the Freedom of the City for her work with the Irish Civil Rights Movement, Bernadette Devlin proceeded to scandalize the assembled audience when she turned the honor down and instead suggested that it be given to the local Black Panther Chapter in Harlem, an organization which, she said, was struggling for the same civil rights for oppressed Africans in the United States as the Irish Civil Rights Movement had for those suffering oppression in the Six Counties in the north of Ireland.

Members of the Irish National Liberation Army have trained in the same camps with guerillas of the PFLP, fought along side of revolutionaries of the MPLA in Angola, and were present in Grenada when it was invaded by U.S. troops. In recent years, members of the IRSP have travelled to Libya, Turkey, and Puerto Rico to demonstrate their solidarity with revolutionaries there.  
Original source
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