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The history of the Workers’ Party… extracts today in the… ahem… Sunday Times. August 30, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Wow, what a busy day for the weekend. I’m going to have to break the habit of a lifetime and purchase a Sunday Times, for today there are extracts from the history of the Workers’ Party, written by Brian Hanley (who is not unknown in this parish) and Scott Millar, published tomorrow. Interesting reading, no doubt, for many many in a remarkably disparate number of political locations… I can’t help but feel that this might be a case of step back and watch the fireworks. Perhaps it will be worth talking further about the ST’s coverage…

Link to the Sunday Times Coverage Added by Garibaldy Sunday Times Extract

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1. The history of the Workers' Party… extracts today in the… ahem … - August 30, 2009

[...] Here is the original post:  The history of the Workers' Party… extracts today in the… ahem … [...]

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2. drithleog - August 30, 2009

Haven’t read the book yet but read the extract in the Sunday Times this morning. This bit about the “secret branches” keeps oming up in supposedly reputable histories of the Workers Party. These were so secret that they had motions on the Ardfheis Clár every year and senior members of these branches addressed the Ardfheis which was in those days generally attended by the national media. The media generally only refers to one of the three “industrial branches” by name (the Ned Stapleton cumann), there were two others, the William Thompson cumann and the Ned Daly cumann.

Also much coverage goes to the “control” exerted by the WP in the media but nobody seeks to analyse who controlled it afterwards and indeed, who might be in control there now – it certainly isn’t the Workers Party.

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3. Starkadder - August 30, 2009

Wow. I might have to purchase the ST this morning-sounds
fascinating.

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4. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Membership though of the branches was kept quiet, was it not drithleog? At least that’s my recollection.

I agree though about the control issue in the media – in so far as there were at least two other groupings who also vied for position.

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5. drithleog - August 30, 2009

I can’t speak for the period pre 1985 WBS but if it was a secret, it was a very badly kept secret. I mean from the day I joined I heard about “secret branches” and often had it thrown at me by people opposed to the WP. Surely the whole idea of being secret is being secret?

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6. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

I accept that entirely. It’s more that the membership of these branches was kept secret, not that the branches were per se.

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7. Comrade C - August 30, 2009

Oh, it starts. It starts. And I’m looking forward to the long winded debates on CLR. C

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WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Long winded? That short? Think again comrade… :)

We’ll be here til Christmas…

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8. splinteredsunrise - August 30, 2009

Back in the old days the CPGB used to have a section called IIRC the Commercial Branch or something along those lines. It was composed of wealthy businessmen, generally Jewish, concentrated in the East End rag trade. Those guys had joined the party as a bulwark against fascism in the 1930s, and their existence was extremely secret even in the party leadership. Even though their subs paid for a lot of campaigns, the membership might not have reacted well to having sweatshop owners in the party. It all became a bit moot when most of them left after 1956.

In this case we’re talking about something completely different. I’ve heard old RTE veterans say explicitly that what looked like turf wars between the News and Current Affairs departments were actually fights between FFers and Sticks who were concentrated in the two areas. And it was widely if informally known who was what. That certain individuals couldn’t publicly identify as WP members is another matter.

Incidentally, I don’t think it’s ever been clarified if Lord Bew was formally a member of the WP. I’ve heard some WP people say that he was, others that he was only a supporter. He was certainly a close enough supporter to canvass for the WP in Belfast, so it might just be a technical distinction.

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WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

I think that’s about right splintered. What’s disturbing for me looking back, and I’m sure this won’t be the tenor of the Hanley book, is the way in which Harris looms large. But I can’t help but feel he’d love the idea that he was the éminence grise behind the party. He wasn’t, but it’s difficult to get that across in the face of what was in many respects simply a perception, most of us got by with no reference at all to him and his (bar certain policy oddities).

What’s also interesting is that for all the talk about Provo’s in RTÉ or the media they were far from the largest grouping and I’ve no doubt there was a straw man aspect to this in terms of how it was used by the Harris faction. A thesis there for someone to research further into as to why that should be…

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9. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Re Bew, I should add, I always thought he was a member back in the day, but who knows, studied ambiguity was often the way of these things…

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splinteredsunrise - August 30, 2009

Well, I know for a fact that he went knocking doors for Seamus Lynch, so at least he was that committed. But yes, studied ambiguity. Peoples Democracy never bothered to try and build a branch in Derry because they assumed McCann was a sympathiser, and that didn’t really work out…

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WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Isn’t that mad? Of course, one can’t blame them given that the SWP’s Bloody Sunday pamphlet that McCann put together carried a UI front page IIRC on the issue.

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10. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Although thinking about it I presume that came later…

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11. kevin brannigan - August 30, 2009

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/82713 – go to end of interview

The above link contains an interview with Padraig Mannion Research Officder withthe Workers party, from 2007. Mannion makes an intresting point towards the end of the interview in regards to WP members in RTE, stating how there were more Fianna Fail members working there then and now than there was WP members, yet only WP members came under these intense levels of scrutiny.

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WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Kevin, fantastic stuff and my apologies for not seeing this earlier. I don’t disagree with Mannion’s point, although in fairness the approach of some inside the WP was clearly a lot more cloak and dagger and melodramatic than it needed to be, at least IMO (and did more harm than good to the party and its profile over the years).

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12. Play Piano Today DVD | My Worship Tunes - August 30, 2009

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13. Eamonn Dublin - August 30, 2009

The book is an interesting read but its a pity the lawyers and editors removed some of the more “interesting” aspects of the history of the sticks. Well done to the authors. Cannot wait for the sticks on this site to start disclaiming some of the passages.

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WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2009

Have you read it in it’s entirety yet? I haven’t even got a copy :(

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14. Sweet Rosie Lee - August 30, 2009

Heard one of the author’s on Newstalk history show just now. Apparently extracts in the Examiner tomorrow.

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WorldbyStorm - August 31, 2009

I heard that too…

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15. Maddog Wilson - August 31, 2009

Eamonn Re post 13, you must have got an advance copy? any evidence to back up your claim that aspects of the history have been removed?

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16. Come on you taxpayer - August 31, 2009

There’s a page on it in the Examiner- nice photos! Brings me back…

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17. Jim Monaghan - August 31, 2009

“Mannion makes an intresting point towards the end of the interview in regards to WP members in RTE, stating how there were more Fianna Fail members working there then and now than there was WP members, yet only WP members came under these intense levels of scrutiny.”
Right this reflected their relative voting strengths, ha ha.
FF anyway would not have been as organised. I would be interested in whether FF avcted as a united group. In practice FF are usually me feiners.
In my opinion FF acts in state bodies using them as part of the usual patronage/clientistic machines.
On influence in the WP. In theory there would be the Ard Fheis, but as Swan book states this is only half the story with groups deriving from Republicanism. Influence is better if it is exercised in the right places.
Even in the rival Provos there is a history of in crowds and out crowds. Many leading Provos would not be bothered with membership of a menial cumann.Harris was definitely in the in crowd.His policy statements were given an audience on high.

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18. Malachy Steenson - August 31, 2009

Now available in Easons O Connell Street foe €19.99

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19. Mark P - August 31, 2009

http://psi.ece.jhu.edu/~kaplan/IRUSS/BUK/GBARC/pdfs/com-com/num08.pdf

Even in the cesspit of politics.ie flowers can occasionally grow. Or more precisely, above is a link someone posted on that august site.

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20. Derek Strange - August 31, 2009
21. Justin - August 31, 2009
22. drithleog - August 31, 2009

available from Easons in Cork at €19.99 – I suspect it is the same price at all Eason’s bookshops.

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23. ciaran boland - December 25, 2009

the revolution is not over it has just begun

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24. ciaran boland - December 25, 2009

up the sticks

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