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Franco regime: Franco’s tyranny against railroad workers | Culture

Voice Of EU



In 2011, a team of forensic anthropologists uncovered a 30-meter-long chain of graves in Gumiel de Izán, Burgos. Due to the profession of most of the 59 victims buried there, the place was dubbed “the railroad workers’ grave.” They had been murdered by squads of the fascist party Falange in 1936 and buried by street sweepers from Aranda de Duero. Ten years on, Public Works Minister José Luis Ábalos and the president of Spain’s state-owned railway operator Renfe, Isaías Táboas, have set up a website – – and released a film called, Los hijos del hierro (or The children of steel) which documents the tyranny of the Francisco Franco dictatorship towards its enemies forced to work in this sector.

Exhumation of what is known as the so-called “railroad workers’ grave” in Gumiel de Izán, Burgos, in 2011.
Exhumation of what is known as the so-called “railroad workers’ grave” in Gumiel de Izán, Burgos, in 2011.ÓSCAR RODRÍGUEZ

Eighty-eight percent of the rail workforce, amounting to around 90,000 people, were targeted by purging committees. The Franco regime went so far as to create a specific police force that infiltrated companies in order to spy on the railroad workers and detect possible enemies. “The objective,” explains historian Miguel Muñoz, author of several investigations on repression in the sector, was “to annihilate the unions and place the workers in a situation of permanent terror.” Those suspected of being enemies of the regime were not only removed from their trade, but also murdered, executed after being sentenced to death, imprisoned, used as slave labor and forced into exile. The website contains an exhaustive database with files on the reprisals, including those against at least 4,592 women. The film, which can be seen on Renfe’s YouTube channel, takes its title from a piece of writing poet Miguel Hernández published, under a pseudonym, in 1937 as a tribute to the railway workers.

Files on the purge of railway workers during Franco’s regime.
Files on the purge of railway workers during Franco’s regime.

Researchers Francisco Polo, Miguel Muñoz, Fernando Mendiola and Carlos Hernández all participated in the documentary, explaining the multiple methods of repression used by the Franco regime against railway workers such as Antonio Sin, José Báscones, Luis Miguel Martín Montoliu, Paqui Chaves or the former coach of Spain’s national soccer team, Vicente del Bosque, as well as their relatives.

Flavio Báscones worked as a brakeman for the Railway Company. He was a member of both the UGT union and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and had been elected mayor in Mataporquera, Cantabria. The website states that during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) he dug trenches and fought to defend his town, but finally had to go into exile in France with his family, where he remained until his death. His son José remembers his journey into exile from Matarporquera to Ribadesella and from there to Gijón: “They bombed the cinema where we had taken refuge, we couldn’t breathe from the dust,” he recalls. Then to Bordeaux, by train to Girona where, he says “we ate lettuce that we picked from the vegetable plots, pine nuts from the pine forests;” then to Lloret del Mar, and from there to Paris and to the Belgian city of Liège, where he was reunited with his parents in March 1940, before settling definitively in France to live through his second war. “That generation suffered a lot,” says Vicente del Bosque whose father, Fermín – also a railway worker – was imprisoned in Salamanca and Vitoria.

Francisco Chaves was murdered in Torremejía. “He was a track and works foreman,” says his granddaughter Paqui. “The Francoists took him and killed him. They shot him and left him lying in a ditch. There was no trial. His death certificate says ‘Dead due to the war’.”

Antonio Sin was sentenced to death. He spent eight months waiting for his execution, recalls his son Antonio. After eight months, the sentence was commuted in exchange for agreeing to a transfer to the Bustarviejo penal colony in Madrid, where he worked, with almost 1,000 other prisoners on the Madrid-Burgos railroad. The families of many inmates settled right across the street, in stone shacks they built themselves. “That was our home, in the countryside,” says Antonio. His mother, who was a teacher, taught the children of the other prisoners.

A group of workers on the Madrid-Irun line in 1944.
A group of workers on the Madrid-Irun line in 1944. Vicente Garrido Moreno

The penal colonies were always located near large construction sites and it was the bosses of the contracting companies themselves who went to the prisons to select the healthiest, strongest workers. When they were released, many of the prisoners continued working for the same company because their sentences always included an order of exile, meaning they could not return to their homes. Antonio Sin was among those who continued working on the lines.

From 1938, prisoners of war and political prisoners were used in various railway works to repair what had been destroyed by the war or to build new infrastructure. Until 1940, the number of forced laborers exceeded 9,000. During the last months of the Spanish Civil War, railroad work accounted for 7.1% of the work done by prisoners. The numbers remained close to 3,000 until 1945; during the 1950s, they dropped to below 500.

A team of archaeologists led by Alfredo Ruibal from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) excavated the Bustarviejo penal colony in 2007 to document the lives of the prisoners and their families. The complex has now been restored and set up as a place of memory.

Milagros Montoya, in 2007, next to the remains of the shack in which she lived while her father was imprisoned in the Bustarviejo penal colony.
Milagros Montoya, in 2007, next to the remains of the shack in which she lived while her father was imprisoned in the Bustarviejo penal colony. ULY MARTÍN

“We tried to close a dark chapter in our history too quickly… We were wrong”

The Transition from the Franco dictatorship to democracy was criticized by Public Works Minister José Luis Ábalos at the presentation of the new website and documentary. “Memory hurts, but it is healing,” he said. “Certain sectors, whose link with fascism we must not stop denouncing, continue to rebel against it. Repression is not the worst legacy of terrible dictatorships such as the one we were subjected to. What really annihilates us as a society is oblivion and silence. The political reasons for this do not escape us. We tried to close a dark chapter in our history too quickly in order to embrace democracy. We naively believed that reconciliation meant not looking back, but we were wrong. In order to avoid seeing the open wounds, we were unjust. It is only by examining the past that we will be able to have a dignified future. This is the main lesson we have learned. It is time for the victims of Francoism and their families to stop footing the bills for our democracy.”

The national railway union and UGT poster from 1937.
The national railway union and UGT poster from 1937.

Describing “the children of steel” in his 1937 book, poet Miguel Hernández wrote: “Greased and muscular as axles or engines, they carry traces of smoke on their foreheads, and on their skin the pure footprints that work leaves with its powerful horse hooves. They look like burnt ore, running through loyal Spain from end to end, heroic and swift under enemy bombardment. Their muscles tremble like machines, and like machines they do not mind rolling relentlessly through these days in which the freedom of Spain depends on the effort of every Spaniard.”

English version by Heather Galloway.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

Voice Of EU



Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

Voice Of EU



Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.

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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

Voice Of EU



House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites and, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.


This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.


“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.


Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”

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