Bandon author joins high profile guests at Mother Jones festival

July 14th, 2016 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Mother Jones was the Cork-born union activist

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BANDON-born author and journalist Justine McCarthy is one of the high profile guests at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School in Cork.

The festival will again be held in Shandon and this year has been extended to cover five days through the August Bank Holiday weekend, from Thursday July 28th until Monday August 1st. 

The last day is designated by Cork City Council as ‘Mother Jones Day’ in the city. 

The event celebrates the life of trade union activist, Cork-born Mary Harris, known as ‘Mother Jones’, who was a well-known community activist and trades union leader in the US.

She helped co-ordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. The Mother Jones summer school and festival events are ‘dedicated to inspirational people everywhere who fight for social justice’. 

Hundreds of visitors are expected from all over Ireland, England and Scotland to what has become quite a major summer school, featuring over 20 different events.  

Among the confirmed participants for 2016 are Sunday Times journalist Justine McCarthy, who is speaking at the festival for the first time. Justine will address the topic ‘Greed is Good for Nothing’ at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon on Monday evening, August 1st. 

Also appearing will be writer and BBC correspondent and journalist Fergal Keane, as well as historians Dr Sean Pettit, Luke Dineen and Laurence Fenton.

Former Supreme Court justice Catherine McGuiness will discuss the continued use of Direct Provision, where over 4,000 people still remain.

The programme of events begins on Thursday evening July 28th at the Firkin Crane in Shandon when the SIPTU President Jack O’Connor will deliver the 2016 Mother Jones Lecture entitled ‘Organising to win – what is to be done!’ 

‘The school will again see a wide variety of talks, films and music associated with the labour movement, human rights and social justice issues, as well as historical and heritage events,’ said organiser Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. 

This is the fifth school and festival since 2012, when the committee erected a plaque in Shandon to honour a lady once known as ‘the most dangerous woman in America’. Mary Harris was born in Cork in late July 1837 and baptised in the local North Cathedral on August 1st that year. 

She lived through the famine in Cork and later left with her family for Canada. She subsequently emerged as one of the most celebrated and feared union leaders in the USA and was a passionate defender of miners and the rights of workers and underdogs everywhere. She fought hard to highlight the injustice of child labour.

All events in this year’s festival will take place at either the Maldron Hotel or at the Firkin Crane Theatre in Shandon.

In view of 1916 and in an effort to remember forgotten heroes in history, the summer school will feature a remarkable Cork story of courage.  

Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area Historical Society will present the unbelievable account of the activities of the Wallace sisters – Sheila and Nora. They were two local members of the Citizen Army who ran a small newspaper shop in St Augustine Street and were responsible for overseeing much of the intelligence work in Cork during the War of Independence.

‘This is a truly incredible story of two extremely brave Cork woman whose activities from 1915 to 1921 were long forgotten,’ said Jim. 

The Mother Jones summer school will also feature Yvette Vanson’s stunning film on the events at Orgreave during the 1984-5 miners’ strike. 

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