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Irish Socialist on Looking Left No.4… July 29, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Ireland, Irish History, The Left.
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Here it is, the latest Looking Left programme from DCTV. And it’s a gem. It really is. It deals with the Irish Socialist, party paper of the Communist Party of Ireland. We’ve a few in the Archive, but I have to say I think this programme, as it did with the previous three papers it dealt with, really gives a great overview of not merely the paper itself but the time period in which it was produced and the personalities and motivations of those involved.

Two parts really stand out to me, the discussion about Betty Sinclair who really is an unjustly forgotten figure in Irish socialism. The second is the discussion about the Prague Spring where the CPI had an open debate and took an extremely honorable line on it. I think that’s often forgotten in the discussions of these matters. As interesting was the fact that the publication of the Dubcek Action Programme was unanimously voted for. It would have been interesting to see what the panel thought about initiatives such as the Liaison of the Left and how that worked in the context of the Irish Socialist but in truth that might be for another programme. And that points to a real strength in this series that it genuinely leaves one wanting more precisely because even in the constrained time period it delivers so much.

One small thought… bloody hell… the end title music comes in pretty loud, doesn’t it? I was racing to find the volume control on the computer.

I think support for those who made this so successfully is crucial to ensure that the team continues with new material. The Irish left from social democracy, ‘orthodox’ Marxism, Republican, Trotskyist, anarchist, green and feminist has been prolific in producing printed materials. Each of those strands can be unravelled and examined and now there is a means of doing so. Keep it going, this is a great resource both for those interested in where the left has been and where it is going.

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1. Jim Monaghan - July 29, 2009

Trotskyist not Trotskyite. One I believe means a supporter of an idelogical stance the other a perjorative slag by usually Stalinists.
My friend Ranor Lysaght calls Stalinist, Stalinites in retaliation.
My guess is the the positive attitude to the Prague Spring was due to carmody. His departure with people like Mick O’Reilly meant the end of that. I doubt that O’Riordan had any other policy except loyalty to the USSR.
Carmody according to what I heard was an interesting person with an independent viewpoint and an ability to think for himself.

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2. WorldbyStorm - July 29, 2009

Apologies Jim, my mistake, already sorted and certainly not meant as an insult.

Interesting point re Prague Spring. I see the CPGB had a rather less fraternal debate on it… albeit they eventually did the right thing (and in fairness many did the right thing from the off).

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Garibaldy - August 1, 2009

Neither of you sees any irony in Jim complaining about the term Trotskyiste being an insult while using the term Stalinist, which he intends as an insult? I was amused.

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3. Conor McCabe - July 29, 2009

Can I ask you Jim, who was Carmody? My knowledge of the CPI, and, indeed, the Irish Trotskyist movement, is quite weak, I’m afraid.

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4. Jim Monaghan - July 30, 2009

Carmody was the effective leader of the CPI before O’Riordan.He became a euro communist and left with Mick o’reilly (TU leader, successor to Merrigan it what used to be the ATGWU.I only remember bits and peices as I was not involved. Someone should ask Mick to write his memoirs. He was/is a significant figure.
Carmody wrote a few little booklets. He was an intellectual as opposed to O’Riordan. O’Riordan would have been a dedicated follower of Moscow.
Mick is retired now and doing a degree in I think third world studies in Trinity. He was a worthy successor to Merrigan and has played a positive role in trying to get the squabbling sects to work together.
The CPI put out a history not great.
There is a more lengthy one writted by an ex member of the SWP whose name escapes me.
Ranor Lysaght has a series on the CPI on the “Workers Republic” site.
I am showing my age I remember the CP bookshop when it was in Pearse St. where the fire brigade is now.
I have to say that on a personal basis and as regards cooperation I have found the CP people everyhwere ok. Much much better that the Workers Party. And to be candid some of the Trotskyist sects can and are very uncooperative to say the least.
Even when there is total agreement on say anti racism you usually get seperate fronts.

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5. John O'Neill - July 30, 2009

Was the CP book by Mike Milotte?

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6. Donagh - July 30, 2009

I’m not sure if Jim is referring to Mike Milotte, or Mike was a member of SWP, but an article by him based on his book appeared in Gralton number 10.

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7. Colm B - July 30, 2009

I think Mike Milotte was a member of Militant, the precursor of the Socialist Party. Maybe Mark P could help us here?
Didn’t the ‘eurocommunists’ who broke from the CPI in the 1970’s go on to form a seperate organisation which included Mick O Reilly, Sam Nolan, Tomas Mac Simeon etc.?

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8. NollaigO - July 30, 2009

IIRC Mike Milotte was a member of the SWP.
Splintered Sunrise might be able to clarify.

NollaigO from Corca Dhuibhne where it has stopped raining

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9. Jim Monaghan - July 30, 2009

Nollaig
A friend is writing something on the early IRSP/Costello. Would you correspond with him.
I can be contacted at
jbm7 at tutor(point)open(point)ac(point)uk

Sorry for using the facilities so to speak

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10. Conor McCabe - July 30, 2009

Cheers Jim, very helpful. I must start reading Paddy Carmody’s stuff and get a handle on where he was coming from. I see that he wrote under the name “A. Raftery”.

I read Millotte’s book a few years ago, (Communism in Modern Ireland), but I’d need to go back to it afresh. It’s hard to track down, and costs a small fortune on amazon! All of Dublin City Library’s copies are “on loan” and have been for years, which usually means they’ve been nicked or are lost.

We’ll be doing some more programmes in the Autumn. I’d love to get you into the studio, Jim, and ask you about your involvement in the Left in Ireland, and your memories of it. Please have a think about it, and sure let me know if you’d be interested. My email address is:

conormccabeisATgmail.com

the AT is for @. Just worried about spam, that’s all!

Cheers.

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EamonnCork - July 31, 2009

Conor,
if you give me your addess I’ve got a copy of the Milotte book I can send to you.

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11. Tom Redmond - July 31, 2009

Thank you for the good review of the DCTV’s presentation of the Irish Socialist in the 60s.
To answer a few of the points raised
“Carmody was the effective leader of the Communist Party (CPI) before O Riordan.”
Impossible Mick O Riordan was in the CPI in the late 30s Paddy Carmody joined Irish Workers League in 1948.
Yes, Mike Milotte was a member of the SWM now SWP. He is no longer and I believe he works in RTE.
The CPI did not publish its history just an “outline history” – mainly episodes in the long struggles from 1921 which states that ” in the years ahead we hope there will be more resources and ability to produce a more complete history “.
On a small note the CP boobshop New Books” was not where the fire station in Pearse St. is now ” it was in fact beside the Fire Station.

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12. Tom Redmond - July 31, 2009

Thank you for the good review of the DCTV’s presentation of the Irish Socialist in the 60s.
To answer a few of the points raised
“Carmody was the effective leader of the Communist Party (CPI) before O Riordan.”
Impossible Mick O Riordan was in the CPI in the late 30s Paddy Carmody joined Irish Workers League in 1948.
Yes, Mike Milotte was a member of the SWM now SWP. He is no longer and I believe he works in RTE.
The CPI did not publish its history just an “outline history” – mainly episodes in the long struggles from 1921 which states that ” in the years ahead we hope there will be more resources and ability to produce a more complete history “.
On a small note the CP bookshop New Books” was not where the fire station in Pearse St. is now ” it was in fact beside the Fire Station.

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13. Tom Redmond - July 31, 2009

sorry I put that in twice while doint some typo corrections

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14. Conor McCabe - July 31, 2009

@ Eamonncork.

Thanks very much for the offer of the book. I’m able to read it in the National Library, so I’m grand. I’m in there almost every day anyway, and as it is I got through a good chunk of it today.

It’s a pity that he didn’t write more on the Trotskyist tradition in Ireland, though, as he obviously knew a lot more about it, and as far as I know, apart from Jim Monaghan and Raynor Lysaght there hasn’t really been that much written on the Irish Trotskyist tradition. And that’s a real deficit. Certainly, for someone like myself who’s outside of that tradition, it would be great to actually read about it.

By the way, did you get that DVD I sent you? More importantly, did it work? We’ll be launching the official DVD of the series some time during the year. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

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15. Jim Monaghan - July 31, 2009

I stand corrected if Tom R is the same Tom of the Workers Union who would know the CP from the inside.Always respected you during my time in the Workers Union. My reasons for mentioning Carmody is that I found him quite impressive even if I disagreed with him. I know there is a minor cult about O’Riordan but he was not a great thinker. In fact in my opinion the CP line came from Greaves.

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16. Mark P - July 31, 2009

Colm B:

I’m not aware of Milotte being in MIlitant, but he would have been involved in the left quite a while before my time so I might not be the best person to ask.

Conor McCabe:

Irish Trotskyism’s early period has been very well covered by Jim and Ciaran Crossey in Revolutionary HIstory Vol. 6 no. 2. Unfortunately that long article isn’t available online, but the whole issue is available at a reasonable cost from Revolutionary History.

The thing is though that this covers what might be called the “pre-history” of Irish Trotskyism, it’s first birth, grown, decline and disappearance. There was very little in the way of continuity between that period and the birth of modern Irish Trotskyism. A few individual sympathisers at most, then by the 1960s a small and not very active branch of Healy’s Socialist Labour League in Belfast (does anyone know when that branch first appeared?), that’s about it.

The Trotskyism you might have encountered in recent decades came either out of the Irish Workers Group in London in the 1960s or from the development of groups linked to the British MIliant and International Socialists at the start of the 1970s. Of the IWG descended bunch, only the grumpy grouplet Socialist Democracy remains, so in a sense that could be regarded as a second false start. 99% of currently organised Irish Trotskyists are in groups which have no significant connection to the IWG milieu.

Nobody has written anything that I’m aware of covering the history of either the IWG descended wave or the current wave in anything like the detail of Jim and Ciaran’s piece on the first incarnation of Irish Trotskyism. One of the difficulties is that the subject is a lot larger, there are bigger groups and more of them doing more stuff. Another is that I suspect that partisan squabbling would be a bit of an obstacle as you get closer to the present day. And finally, there’s the issue that there isn’t likely to be much of a market for it – someone would have to do a great deal of work with few obvious outlets, even Revolutionary History is reluctant to cover issues too close to the present for entirely sensible reasons.

Most of the writings I’m aware of are basically factional documents. Perhaps the most interesting is the entire magazine the Irish Workers Group (no, no that one. The one that came out of a split in the SWM and then became Workers Power Ireland) produced about the history of the SWM. It’s hugely enertaining, but almost impossible to find. If anyone has a copy of it to hand, I would recommend scanning it as an ideal addition to the Left Archive.*

Of the current Irish Trotskyist groups, even including those with only one or two members:

Socialist Party – the initial group consisted of one or two Irish people who had been MIliant members in Britain and the went home and some people recruited out of the Civil Rights Movement who had somehow gotten hold of the British Militant..
SWP – I actually am not entirely sure where their first Irish members came from, but I believe that it wasn’t entirely dissimilar to the origins of the SP.
Spartacist Group – American missionaries basically.
International Bolshevik Tendency – a New Zealand missionary.
Workers Power Ireland – Their first group was formed out of people expelled from the Irish SWP, that eventually died out. They now have a “group” again, an ex-Socialist Party member.
Socialist Democracy – The last of the groups coming from the Irish Workers Group, by way of the RMG and Peoples Democracy.
International Marxist Tendency – a missionary from Italy.
Permanent Revolution – They are from the same SWP split that gave rise to the first incarnation of Workers Power Ireland.

*Which reminds me: WbS, I still have a bunch of stuff to give you for the archive. Sorry for being so flakey about this.

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WorldbyStorm - July 31, 2009

How are you set up for a meeting some lunchtime next week?

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17. Conor McCabe - July 31, 2009

Cheers Mark P. Very helpful. with regard to the Irish Workers Group, there’s a couple of items in the national library that are written by a group with that name. Could you tell me if one of the publications below is the one to which you are referring?

Class Struggle (two issues, June and Nov. 1977), produced by Irish Workers Group.

The Degenerated revolution : the origins and nature of the Stalinist states (a pamphlet/publication?) Irish Workers Group, 1982.

The Workers Republic (c.1967) Irish Workers Group.

Cheers.

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18. Mark P - August 1, 2009

WbS:

Tuesday lunchtime would be ideal. I will email to sort out a time and place.

Conor:

“Class Struggle” was the magazine produced by the Irish Workers Group expelled from the Socialist Workers Movement.

My understanding is that this IWG consisted of early SWM members who sympathised with the “Left Faction” in the British International Socialists. They were expelled when they tried to form a faction in the Irish organisation. They were a sister organisation of the British Workers Power group, which formed after the Left Faction was expelled from the IS. It gradually was eroded until about three years ago when the organisation, by then called Workers Power Ireland, consisted of about three people in Galway and a couple of young people from their Swedish group working in Dublin. Then the Swedes left and the Galway people were expelled from the League for a Fifth International, the international current led by Workers Power, along with half of their member in Britain. These people reconstituted themselves as Permanent Revolution. I don’t know how active their remaining people in Ireland are, but I suspect not very. Meanwhile Workers Power recruited one former Socialist Party member in Dublin.

This IWG published quite a bit of material. Class Struggle had idiosyncratically ultra-left politics but the few issues of it I’ve seen tended to be interesting. There were a lot more than 2 issues by the way. The history of the SWM I mentioned above formed an entire issue. I don’t know if it’s one of the issues held in the National Library. Really, whoever has a copy should scan it. I think splinteredsunrise might have access to it. Unfortunately I can’t find my copy or it would be top of my list of stuff to give to WbS.

The Degenerated Revolution is also one of their publications. The Workers Republic was from the original Irish Workers Group, however. You can tell by the dates essentially. The original IWG published in the 1960s. The ex-SWM IWG published in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

By the way Conor, I was wondering if there’s going to be a second programme in the DCTV series about the Ripening of Time and Revolutionary Struggle? I remember asking about this before – because the original programme didn’t really deal with RS itself – and being told by someone that there was going to be a follow up to that edition. Is that the case?

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19. Conor McCabe - August 1, 2009

Cheers again, Mark P. I’ll try to make it into the library tomorrow and have a look at Class Struggle and see what’s actually there. I’ll let you know what I find. I had a look on TCD’s library catalogue and they have a full run of 24 issues, from 1977 to 1995, so I’ll try to get in there during the week and have a goo. Interestingly enough, UCD has issues 22 to 26, so between them the archives should have 1 to 26.The dates thing is handy, as I was getting confused by the names. thanks.

We filmed for 30 minutes after the “looking Left” show and talked a little bit about RS, but mainly about current affairs. We need to edit it, and then find a slot for it on DCTV. These shows are all voluntary, so basically we’re all waiting for one of us in the group to “volunteer” and take the footage and turn it into a show. And personally, I’m not blinking first. But don’t tell anyone.

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20. Mark P - August 1, 2009

That would be great if you could do that Conor. I might be in the TCD library in the near future myself and if I am I’ll also have a look. Class Struggle was, in my limited experience, much more interesting than most of the publications of the smaller left groups.

That’s interesting to hear about the Looking Left program. I’d offer to help but my technological skills are limited to say the least. From my (probably narrow niche) point of view I thought that the Ripening of Time episode was fascinating but frustrating because unlike the other episodes the organisation behind the publication wasn’t really dealt with.

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21. WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2009

Mark P, that would be great… look forward to it.

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22. Conor McCabe - August 1, 2009

We’re always looking for people to participate, Mark P. We’re definitely going to cover the newspaper Militant -the Pre-SP one – so maybe that’s one to get involved with? The other one is Class Struggle itself. sure why don’t we work on doing a program on Class Struggle? Have a word with WBS when you meet up with him. The idea for the show comes from CedarLounge and the Irish Left Online Document Archive. I don’t think there’d be a show were it not for that. And the program is very much in the spirit of the Document Archive.

The fact that we don’t talk much about the organisations was intentional. The shows are about the publications, not the organisations. It’s really a left media history programme, rather than a left organisation program. however, they were only pilots, so it’s something we can look at in the future.

and the “we” here is not just the group of us who made the four show. The “we” is anyone who wants to join the group and help make a show – and that’s not just for technical stuff, that’s also about going onto the panel and just talking about what you found interesting about the publication. All we did was go off have read some of the issues of each journal we’d we talking about, and then for the show, usually myself, we’d just say “well I had a read of the Irish People and this is what I found interesting.” Job’s oxo.

Have a think about it. It’s be great to have you involved. If for nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to meet who worked on the journals and got involved. Certainly that’s what I’ve loved about working on the four shows. I got to meet them and ask them questions. It was great.

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23. WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2009

That’s very kind Conor, but there’s no question that it’s a primary resource in and of itself. And one of the great things is that its complementary with the other sites, such as Dublin Opinion, as well such as the Irish Labour History site (and indeed the UCD Hidden History site is another that might well have a future crossover). In fact as a means of disseminating the notion that the Irish left is alive and well and able to be self-reflective I can’t thin of a better way of doing it…

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24. WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2009

Actually that’s the beauty of it. Just thinking about a UCD one, you know, there’s just an amazing scope and even just getting the people involved together to think about what they did builds up networks and expertise and so on.

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25. Garibaldy - August 1, 2009

I saw someone (Nem) over on P.ie say that there is a phd being done in QUB on the CPI.

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26. Conor McCabe - August 1, 2009

Mark P, I had a quick look at Class Struggle in the National Library. They’ve got a good run of it, from June 1977 to Summer 1987, 20 issues. I couldn’t see the special issue you were talking about, so hopefully Trinity or UCD have that one in their libraries. There was a lot on the history of Trotsyism and the Left in Ireland, in various articles and reports. It got quite personal in its attacks on the other left wing and trotskyist groups, which in a roundabout way is quite handy from today’s perspective, as it’s a way of knowing who were the people involved in each of the groups. Not nice at the time, of course, but still. For example, they really had a problem with Brian Trench and Des Derwin, but in criticising them they were mentioning the publications and organisations they were involved with – which for an outsider for me is one way of trying to piece together a “family tree” of the left in Ireland. So they’re slagging off Des Derwin and Brian Trench, and I’m going, “ah! I must try and interview Brian and Des about what they were involved in.”

It appears to have been edited or administrated by J. Larkin, of 12 Langrishe Place, D1. would anyone know anything about this person, maybe a contact?

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27. WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2009

BTW, I’m talking about the programmes in 23 and 24… just to make that clear…

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28. Conor McCabe - August 1, 2009

Doh! I just copped it. J. Larkin is obviously James Larkin.

Would anyone have any contacts for Jim Larragy, Andy Johnson, or Edward McWilliams? Or, if any of the above are contributors/commentators here, could they contact me at the email below? It’s just to talk about the Irish Workers Group and Class Struggle.

conormccabeisATgmail.com

AT = @

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29. NollaigO - August 2, 2009

Jim
Re
I’m on holidays at the moment and have only limited email access. If you email WbS he can [tá cead aige] give you my emil ddress

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30. Mark P - August 2, 2009

Conor:

I’d certainly like to help out and will indeed have a world with WbS when I make the long delayed handover of a bunch of old newspapers…

On the contact details thing, I believe that Andy Johnson and Maureen Gallagher were still connected to the British Permanent Revolution group at least within the last year or so. One easy way to contact them may be through the PR email address, asking them to pass the message on:

contact@permanentrevolution.net

I know what you mean about the slightly vicious and personalised nature of some of the polemics in Class Struggle. It’s always entertaining to stumble over some magazine from twenty years ago having a pop at someone you saw at a public meeting only the other day. The Irish Left in many ways has always been a small place.

By the way, I have some distant (possibly inaccurate) memory of the issue of Class Struggle that I was talking about being from 1990 or 1991.

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31. Mike Milotte - November 17, 2009

Sorry for butting in but you might be interested to know that my entire archive of left wing papers, pamphlets and internal documents has recently gone to the National Library of Ireland. They also got my large collection of material gathered from republican organisations, as well as loyalist. This collection consists of published and unpublished material with lots of internal documents, conference agendas and papers etc, and amounts to many thousands of individual items. I don’t know if they have catalogued it all yet but if you ask I’m sure they will tell you. In return, can someone tell me where I can see that DCTV programme?

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Conor McCabe - November 17, 2009

Hi Mike, first of all I want to thank you for donating your collection to the National Library. I have been using it for the past six months, and every week more and more of it becomes available. They’ve told me that all of it should be catalogued by Febuary or March. It’s an incredible resource and one much valued by researchers of Irish left history.

The least I can do in return is send you a copy of the DVD of all four programmes! If you send me your postal address I’ll send it on to you in the morning,

My email is: conormccabeisATgmail.com

AT = @

Regards,

Conor

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Conor McCabe - November 17, 2009

Oh, in the meantime, the Irish Socialist episode is available to watch and download online.

http://dublinopinion.com/2009/07/28/looking-left-no4-the-irish-socialist/

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Mark P - November 17, 2009

Thanks for that Mike. I’ll be heading down to have a look next time I have the free time.

By the way, if you happen to be sitting on a pile of old copies of Communism in Modern Ireland you could be a rich man!

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32. Scott Millar - November 17, 2009

Mike,

I was looking for your contact details today – it concerns your research into children sent abroad.
Could you contact me on scott.millar@examiner.ie

Thanks.

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33. Mike Milotte - November 18, 2009

Mark, I’m afraid I have just two copies of Communism in Modern Ireland. Fortunately though I took back all rights in the book from Gill & Macmillan so may get round to publishing a second edition some day. Incidentally, when I edited an Irish series for Pluto Press many years ago I acquired rights (in my own name) to Emile Strauss’s Irish Nationalism and British Democracy. It was first published in 1951 and quickly went out of print. It achieved iconic status among the left in the 60s but copies just could not be found anywhere. Does anyone think there is a market for a reprint of Strauss these days?

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