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2 October 2003 Edition

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Dubbeljoint tackles Peadar O'Donnell

In Belfast-based theatre group Dubbeljoint's latest production, Derry bard Joe Mulheron delivers with words, song and music his story of Peadar O'Donnell, undoubtly one of the most fascinating characters of Irish history. Book now, Tel 90 202222.

Peadar O'Donnell is probably one of the most interesting Irish people to study throughout the 2th century. He was central to many of the huge changes that took place in Ireland.

Born near Dungloe in County Donegal, his father was a fiddle-maker and player but earned his money hoking taties in Scotland for six months of the year. Uncommon at that time, his mother could read and write and the O'Donnell household was known as a 'reading house'. She was a socialist and a republican herself and passed her politics on to all of her children, including Peadar.

He worked as a teacher and trade union organiser before joining the IRA in 1918. As a renowned fighter in the war of Independence, he joined the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. In an interview he gave to RTE shortly before his death, O'Donnell blamed the Labour Party for many of the failures of Irish politics; he said that the history of the 20th century would have been very different had the Labour Party supported the Republicans in 1922.

He spent a long a period in various jails and there he wrote 'The Gates Flew Open'.

Once the Civil war was lost, Peadar spent the next period of his life trying to persuade the IRA that a commitment to radical social change was necessary.

He also edited An Phoblacht for a number of years, however the most important action he took during that time was to organise and lead the movement against the land annuities (in effect, swapping an English landlord for an Irish one). That campaign alone was possibly the most successful piece of direct action in Ireland during the last century.

Coupled with his political activism, Peadar continued to write both fiction and non-fiction in those years. Whilst many left Ireland to join the fascists in Spain, Peadar stood with the democratically elected government. He became involved in the Spanish Civil War and was surprised by his own reaction to the politics there. He discovered that he preferred the Anarchists in Barcelona to the Communist Party in Madrid.

One of his best books, Salud, was written about the Spanish Civil War.

In the 1940s he began a new legendry magazine 'The Bell', which was as visionary as the man himself. He was the first to publish Brendan Behan, Paddy Kavanagh and Sam Hanna Bell. As an angry old man, he fostered many of the political movements in the '60s and '70s; The Co-Op movement in rural Ireland; CND, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

When Peadar O'Donnell died, he left instructions that there was to be "no Pomp, no politicians and no priests" at his funeral.

Tour Dates

  • Wed 8 Oct - Sat 11 October AnC Whiterock, Belfast
  • Sun 12 Oct An Droichead Ormeau Rd, Belfast
  • Fri 17 Oct Ionad Teampall Chróine Dungloe, Donegal
  • Sat 18 Oct Tullyarvan Mill Buncrana, Donegal
  • Sun 19 Oct Church Hall Ramelton, Donegal
  • Mon 20 Oct - Wed 22 October The Playhouse 5-7 Artillary St, Derry
  • Fri 24 Oct Silverbridge Arts Centre Down
  • Sat 25 Oct Coalisland Tyrone
  • Sun 26 Oct An Creggan Carrickmore, Tyrone
  • Fri 31 Oct Gort na Mona Monagh By-Pass, Belfast
  • Sat 1 Nov Golden Thread Ardoyne, Belfast

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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