Friday, October 25, 2013


1870's colonial Australia, Irish nationalism and Ned Kelly

By Sasha Uzunov

It is a pity to see Victoria Police’s Chief Commissioner Ken Lay and police union boss Greg Davies so ignorant of Australian, British and Irish history. Both have been jumping up and down about how outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang have been elevated to hero status, whilst the three Victorian police constables they shot and killed in 1878 portrayed as victims.

Victoria Police Association Secretary Senior Sergeant Greg Davies, said he was sickened by the constant glorifying of Kelly and his gang. He uses highly emotive words and in an incredible irony accuses people of twisting history.

He even quotes the notorious Winston Churchill, who will become central to this story a lit later. link to Herald Sun story

"Winston Churchill once said that 'history is written by the victors', well, one side of the story around armed robbery, theft and multiple murders committed by a bunch of vicious criminals in country Victoria has certainly challenged that statement," Sen-Sgt Davies said.

"From horse thieving to assaults and armed robberies, to unlawful imprisonment and a plan for a massacre by train derailment, to the murder of three policemen, the real story around Kelly has been twisted to something entirely unrecognisable from the historical truth.

"Those who deliberately distort the truth and try to rewrite history, in order to line their pockets by perpetuating a lie, are the worst thieves of all. They steal our past.”

Perhaps this last bit of advise should apply to Snr-Sgt Davies.

For those who are not familiar with the Ned Kelly (1855-80) story from Australia’s British colonial past. He became a bushranger or outlaw in the colony of Victoria during the late 1800s, and was involved in robbery and killings. Some have elevated him to hero status interpreting, rightly or wrongly, his motives as that of a poor Irishman being picked on by the British authorities at the time.

In 1878 whilst on the run from the law, Kelly shot and killed three Colonial Victorian Policeman: Kennedy, Lonigan and Scanlon, all Irish like Kelly. In 1880 Kelly was executed by hanging Edward ‘Ned” Kelly was the son of an Irish “convict” transported to the then British colony of Victoria as punishment.

Regardless of any crime being committed by Kelly's father, who saw him being transported from his homeland of Ireland by a foreign occupying force, the British Empire to then Colony of Victoria, this act of ethnic cleansing in itself could be interpreted as a "war crime" against the Irish people.

Kelly and his father do not necessarily have to be connected to Irish patriotism or even freedom fighting.

We apply the same standards to a starving Jewish youth taking a loaf of bread for survival in Nazi-occupied Poland and being deported to the killing fields of the Ukraine. Or an apolitical French man, who is was not a member of the French Resistance, involved in smuggling in Nazi occupied France or collaborationist Vichy France (1940-4) trying to survive.

If the apolitical Frenchman, who is not a member of the French Resistance but is a smuggler, then shot and killed three Nazi-collaborationist French policemen, would Snr-Sgt Davies be mourning their loss?

Moreover, the three Victorian Police officers, who were Irish, were committing an act of treason by collaborating with the occupying force. It then becomes irrelevant who pulled the trigger, a bank robber such as Ned Kelly or an Irish freedom fighter and because Ireland was occupied and from time to time there where rebellions which were brutally put down, a semi state of war existed.

The question that historians and journalists need to ask is what were these three doing in serving as collaborators in the Victoria Police? It seems an uncomfortable question to ask.

Furthermore, hasn’t Snr-Segt Davies read about the:

The Irish Rebellion of 1798, a republican uprising against British rule of Ireland
The United Irish Uprising of 1800, an uprising against British rule of Newfoundland
The 1803 Irish rebellion led by Robert Emmet
The Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848, also called The Famine Rebellion of 1848
The Fenian Rising of 1867
The Easter Rising of 1916, a nationalist uprising against British rule of Ireland
The Irish War of Independence (1919–1921).

Snr-Sgt Davies’ “hero’ Winston Churchill was brutal in his opposition to Irish independence.

The Victorian Police officers were, in effect, aiding and abetting the enemy. The colony of Victoria was an extension of Britain. The deaths of the police officers can be attributed to this status of semi-war.

Let me put it to you this way, would Australia have tolerated three Australians serving in the Ottoman Turkish Army at Gallipoli in 1916 fighting against their fellow Australians?

We now have a wonderful country in Australia and a great state in Victoria and people who commit crimes should be punished. But in 1878 and even 1916, Britain was in a brutal manner occupying a foreign land in Ireland, which it finally relinquished in 1922 with the Anglo-Irish Treaty after the Irish War of Independence.

What Snr-Sgt Davies needs to do is study his history and stop “elevating” three Police officers to hero status. 

Furthermore he should apologise to the Republic of Ireland and Australians of Irish decent for his comments.

It would appear that those who uphold the pro-British version of history want to have their cake and eat it too. Sir Roger Casement was in 1916 executed for “treason” for supporting the Easter Uprising and for “collaborating" with the World War One enemy of Britain, Kaiser Germany.

If we follow Snr Sgt Davies logic, then East Timor should not have been allowed to resist or break away from Indonesian occupation--Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese terrirory in 1975.


My argument is actually legalistic rather than based on nationalist sentiments. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921-22 after the Irish War of Independence is tacit acknowledgment that a state of war existed between Britain & Ireland over the centuries.

If a de facto state of war existed, then Irishmen serving in the British & colonial military and police are collaborators. If they are killed in the line of duty serving a foreign occupier during a state of war then that is not murder. 

As the 3 policemen were chasing or pursuing Kelly he would have every right to shoot them without warning, much in the same way a French civilian during World War 2 were to shoot a French police officer collaborating with Nazi occupation authorities without giving them prior warning; regardless if they a bank robber or a freedom fighter.

 If Ireland had not been granted independence & Ireland had instead been absorbed into the UK then Snr Sgt Davies assertions about the killings would be correct. The Anglo-Irish Treaty in directly "excuses" or "absolves" Kelly of those killings.  

As a journalist I would be asking why did 3 Irishmen collaborate with an occupying force?

If anything, the 3 police officers should be respectfully mourned in the Australia War Memorial as having been killed in defending the British Empire as such; not as law & order martyrs or victims of crime. Australia didn't prosecute the Viet Cong for killing Australian diggers during the Vietnam War (1962-72).

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