Left Archive: Documents from the 1st Annual Conference, National Association for Irish Justice, New York, 1969 – Dr. Frank Gogarty [Chair NICRA], Cathal Goulding [Republican Movement], Moira Martin [London NICRA], Eilish McDermott [People’s Democracy], Vincent MacDowell [NICRA]. February 13, 2012Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Left Online Document Archive (Remembering 1969), People's Democracy, Sinn Féin.
We would like very much to thank Seán Prendiville for forwarding these documents to the Archive. The National Association for Irish Justice, based in New York, was ‘the official voice of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in the United States’ and held its 1st Annual Conference in late 1969 in Manhattan. These documents include speeches at the Conference, resolutions agreed at it and the Constitution of the Organisation. In eight discreet documents the reader is provided with an invaluable and timely insight into the attitudes then developing as regards the situation in both Northern Ireland, more broadly on the island of Ireland and the way these were projected in the United States.
In order to contextualise the documents Seán adds:
I should explain how I came by these documents. My father-in-law, Frank Maguire, died last year. My sister-in-law Niki found a box of Irish material and asked me to take a look at it and see if there was anything that should be preserved or shared. These documents were the most interesting and thanks to the Maguire family for sharing them. Frank, his wife Mary, and their children were members of the Irish American Action Association in San Francisco. Brian Heron sent these documents to the IAAA which I believe preceded Noraid and the Irish Republican Clubs. I don’t think the NAIJ ever got much traction in San Francisco. I was never a member of NAIJ; it was my impression that events soon overtook the NAIJ. Perhaps some reader with some direct experience with the NAIJ can comment.
Brian Heron and Lenny Glaser (aka Lenni Brenner) had been leading members of Citizens for Irish Justice (CIJ), the original support group in San Francisco for NICRA. They left soon for New York to establish the NAIJ with others in New York. Brian returned to San Francisco a year ago and died in March. Lenni Brenner has focused most of his energy on anti-Zionist work for the last couple of decades.
There is much of interest in each and every one of the documents here. They are as follows. To download files please click on each name in turn:
1: Constitution of the National Association for Irish Justice
2: Letter from Brian Heron of the NAIJ, December 17, 1969 [includes Fact Sheet]
3: Resolutions Adopted at First Annual Conference of the NAIJ
Speeches in Alphabetical Order
To give a sense of the direction of the documents here are selected quotes from each of them in turn:
Constitution of the National Association for Irish Justice
The purpose of the National Association for Irish Justice is to establish broad public support in the United States for the demands of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and self-determination for the people of IReland. The National Association for Irish Justice is an association of diverse groups united in their support for the Irish people. Consequently the National Association for Irish Justice should not take specific stands on issues not directly related to the Irish situation. However, this in no way limits the prerogative of local autonomous groups or affiliates or taking specific stands.
Letter from Brian Heron of the NAIJ, December 17, 1969 [includes Fact Sheet]
In the past we have conducted pickets of British consulates and are conducting a boycott of British goods, in addition to setting up speaking tours. We shall continue this strategy in addition to other activities. We are also planning demonstrations during he possible January visit of Harold Wilson. We hope to have a coordinating group in every major city by February as our activities here are greatly needed by the CRA.
An Organization proudly sympathetic to those fighting for the unqualified freedom of all Irishman.
1. Organized Bernadette Devlin’s tour of the United States.
2. During the month of November had speakers from Ireland touring the country educating the American people as to the problems facing people of Northern Ireland.
3. Have staged protest, rallies, and marches in major cities against the forces of British Imperialism.
4. Working with N.A.I.J. are affiliate groups in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, Hartford, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.
5. Organized College Chapters (STUDENTS FOR IRISH JUSTICE) on campuses throughout the United States.
6. Held International Conference on November 7th, 8th & 9th With delegates from U.S. , Canada, Australia, England and Ireland at City Center, 135 West 55th Street, New York.
7. In coordination with other Irish-American groups, participated in demonstration against the British Government on December 4th, 1969 in front of the British Consulate. The purpose of the demonstration was to demand the release of two prisoners in Ireland being held under “Special Powers Act” and to demand the repeal of the “Special Powers Act”.
Resolutions Adopted at First Annual Conference of the NAIJ
The National Association for Irish Justice recognises that economically oppressed people who are discriminated against and brutalised cannot sit idly by while their homes are burned to the ground from under them when demand equal justice and dignity under the law.
The NAIJ believes in the principles of armed self-defence. We extend our full support to the efforts of the oppressed in the six counties of NI to defend themselves by any means necessary from the forces of Orange bigotry represented by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Special Constabulary (B Specials), the UVF, and all others who attack them.
This expression of solidarity also extends to resistance against the armed forces of the United Kingdom, recognising as we do that British Imperialism is the root cause of the problem in Ireland.
Further it is resolved that the NAIJ recognising the necessity for self-defence supports the formation of Citizen Defence Committees in Northern Ireland.
Press Release: Vincent MacDowell, Vice-Chairman NICRA, December 6th 1969
Mr. MacDowell stated that there would be a civil rights march on January 1st from Belfast to Derry over the Burntollet Bridge and also from Armagh to Derry. If the marchers did not get through because of the ban on public marches, Mr. MacDowell vowed they would try on the first of every month until they did or were all jailed.
Dr. Frank Gogarty, Chairman of NICRA
I would like, first of all, to list the demands of our movement. Our aim – since Britain is morally responsible for all the injustices in N. Ireland – has been to urge the Westminster Government to legislate directly to ensure basic civil rights for all citizens of N. Ireland. Such legislation under Section 75 of the Ireland Act of 1920 would guarantee:
(i) Universal Adult Suffrage at 18 in all election;
(ii) All electoral boundary revisions by a Westminster Boundary Commission;
(iii) Repeal of the Special Powers Act and the Public Order Act (together with the Amending Bill) to ensure that every individual is free from arbitrary interference by the state and all groups have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
(iv) The outlawing of discrimination and incitement of religious hatred;
(v) The disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the creation of Independent machinery to enquire into citizens’ grievances against members of the Police force;
Over the past 12 months we in the civil rights movement have campaigned hard and always our tactics have been strictly non violent.
Despite this, however, innocent lives have been lost, hundreds have been maimed and thousands have had to flee their blazing homes in terror of the violent forces unleashed against them.
Cathal Goulding, Republican Movement. [note the hand written addendums in Irish]
In the final analysis the demands of the working classes, the landless, the small farmer or the homeless will never be met, unless with the obstruction of the ascendency and because the establishment has at its disposal an army and a police force; well fed, well paid and well armed, the final confrontation will be an armed one, and that the organisation and the training, and the arming of the ordinary people for this confrontation is a most important essential.
Moira Martin, Co-Treasurer/London Branch NICRA.
We preach no political ideology, right, left or centre. Our demands are toss of the Civil Rights movement. Our objects are: 1. to publicise the aims and purposes of the NICRA and to give them complete support. 2 to give the public in Londno an opportunity to voce their condemnation of the happenings in Northern Ireland and to bring pressure ot bear on the government at Westminster towards the enjoyment of Civil Rights by all the people of Northern Ireland.
Eilish McDermott, Representative of People’s Democracy, Queens University, Belfast
The struggle for a Socialist Republic brings a second class – sorry the economic class consciousness of the Protestant working class with the anti-imperialist outlook of the Republicans, and we believe that in this way by facing the problem in this way, we can somehow try to be more realistic. We can fully realise and work with the fact that Ireland is not one culture. Ireland is not Irishmen born and bred, Ireland has two cultures, probably what we would best be able to recognise or define into groups as the Catholic and the Protestant, the Irish and the English, Scot. But just because a man has only been living in Ireland or his family have only been living in Ireland for 300 years doesn’t mean to say to me that he isn’t an Irishman.