From Socialist Voice, July 2008


Ballymun shows the way!

Last November, Ballymun rocked to the sound of salsa, and again last May Day weekend they were shaking their stuff at the north Dublin suburb, home to the Setanta Hurling Club. Mick Morgan, secretary of the Ballymun Branch of the Cuba Support Group, spoke to the Socialist Voice last week about both events.
     Mick, could you tell us how it went on May Day?
We had a day of activity that culminated in a Cuban party, with sounds from Cuba, salsa dancing, and a raffle. There was a full bar, with mojitos being served.
     Mojitos—that’s a Cuban drink, isn’t it? What does it taste like?
It’s made from Cuban rum, lime juice, and mint, with brown sugar.
     Sounds great! So how did the day go?
The Cuban ambassador, Noel Carrillo—guest of honour at the day’s events—gave a talk entitled “After Fidel,” bringing people up to date on the situation in Cuba, and there was a lively question-and-answer session then with the audience. There were representatives from the media, and of course community groups and local politicians. The ambassador is very interested in hurling, so he was introduced to our players and attended a training session. In the afternoon he was presented with a Setanta Club jersey, hurley stick and sliotar by Olive Kearney, cathaoirleach of Setanta.
     So the ambassador spent the whole day in Ballymun. Did he see much of the area?
Well, he was given a tour of the area, showing him the results of the many struggles of the local communities here for social justice and a better life for all the people living here. There have been many changes—some good and some not so good; so we had many interesting conversations and exchanges with local people about that during the day.
     A busy day! What about food?
The ambassador was served a traditional Irish meal in the bar and dining area of the club. Originally the plan was to bring him for a meal in the local hotel, the Ballymun Plaza. However, there was an industrial dispute there at the time.
     What was that about?
The staff wanted union recognition. That was refused, so they were sacked and the hotel closed.
     Did they get much support?
Yes, there was a protest and picket outside the hotel on the Thursday evening beforehand.
     So, hopefully there’ll be a positive solution to that. Not that people should have to fight for a basic right like joining a union. Speaking of struggle, is there much support for Cuba among people in Ballymun?
Yes, there’s a certain level of awareness already, and having suffered deprivation and neglect in Ballymun for so long, people here have a keen interest in justice issues, and the support we got especially at the gig last November demonstrated that.
     That’s great to hear. You raised a lot of money, didn’t you?
€960 from the tickets to the gig and the raffle tickets as well. We got a big crowd, and that was even though there were many people who bought tickets and couldn’t come. This time it was a bit quieter, probably because of it being a bank holiday, but still we sold a lot of tickets! As well as money, both events were sponsored by Ballymun Media Co-Op, who paid for the music with the DJ Robert Navan, raffle prizes were donated by Connolly Books, and Cumann Báire Setanta gave us the use of the club free. Some Cuban residents in Ireland attended and got the dancing going with salsa, rumba and merengue.
     Yes, it was a great atmosphere; everyone was really having a good time. I noticed plenty of Ballymunners who did Ireland proud on the dance floor—great movers!
That’s right. In fact that’s why we decided to throw another night: people had been plaguing us asking when we were going to do it again.
     How did it all start, anyway?
Well, in September 2007 three people from Ballymun—community activists—attended the annual Cuba Support Group event in Gleann Cholm Cille, which focused on the sanctions against Cuba; and following discussions that arose during the weekend one of our group made the suggestion that a Ballymun Branch of the Cuba Support Group be set up. Now we have twelve paid-up regular members—that’s the nucleus of Craobh Bhaile Munna, Cuba Support Group—and we also have many friends and supporters from the community, most of whom would be already active locally.
     Have any of you been to Cuba?
Two of us went over in 2004; and my first time was in 1999. It was great to meet the people—to see how they live: it’s such an inspiration. Nothing is wasted: even a tin can on the street will be picked up and used by someone to mend a dent or rusted patch on a car. So there’s no litter! And every piece of land available is used to grow food.
     We’ve a lot to learn from them, when you see the stuff people here throw into skips! Just to get back to the ambassador: had you met him before?
Yes, during the Gleann Cholm Cille weekend there’s a sponsored climb of the mountain, Slieve League, and he and his wife and children climbed it that day. We all did, so we’ve met him informally that way, the three of us who attended.
     It was great that you got to show him life in Ballymun, so he can see where you’re coming from—literally. Well done to all of you for getting this off the ground. Best of luck for the future, and let us know when the next event takes place!
Will do! Beimid i dteagmháil libh. Go raibh maith agat, agus ag gach éinne san iris Socialist Voice, as ucht do thacaíochta. ¡Hasta luego!

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