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Left Archive: Ireland – The Workers’ Party – Autumn 1987 December 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Workers' Party.


To download the above file please click on the following link: WP DOC 87

This document provides a sense of the image the Workers’ Party sought to project internationally during the 1980s, particularly – but not exclusively – in Europe. It came on foot of significant gains by the Party in the 1987 General Election where it increased its representation to four TDs and a sense that the party was in the process of making even greater gains.

It states:

The battle for alternative socialist policies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland received a major boost in general elections held in both areas this year, with substantial gains being recorded by WP candidates.

It notes the four TDs and that ‘in a number of constituencies the WP increased its vote substantially setting the scene for further gains at the next general election’.

It continues:

The election results confirmed a further slide in support for the Labour Party and gave a crushing blow to the sectarian murder and terror policies of Provisional Sinn Féin, whose vote slumped by up to 50 per cent in many constituencies ending up with just 1.8% of the national vote. The Communist Party of Ireland ran five candidates winning only 725 votes, .005% of the national vote.

Since the election the WP has established itself as the leading voice on the Irish Left. The party has proposed talks with Labour for co-operation on social and economic issues, but these were not responded to positively.

Following the election WP President Tomás Mac Giolla pointed out the basis has now been set for a clear development of Left-Right politics in Ireland, something which the conservative parties with the collusion of Labour, had striven to avoid in the past.

‘For the WP the task of building a strong and militant Left Alternative in Ireland, in cooperation with other workers’ communist and socialist parties throughout Europe, is a vital task in winning state power for the Irish working class’.

It also discusses ‘Northern Election Gains’, arguing that it ‘significantly boosted its vote in NI… increasing its total to just under 20,000’. This is suggests ‘showed a reduction in support of rate policies of bigotry and abstention, with the votes of both the Unions parties and Provisional Sinn Féin declining considerably’.

Inside it has an article on the murder of WP supporter Thomas Emmanuel Wilson by the Provisional IRA. And in the course of that it argues:

The WP position on terrorism has been absolutely clear for a long time: we call for its elimination. For this is not an isolated incident. No one is safe: these gangsters have bombed cafes, public houses, slaughtered men and women indiscriminately. And we insist that to label people as ‘police agents’ is a gross distortion of reality.

Other articles discuss the ‘SDLP – Washington connection’, and mentions the Irish Republican Club of North America which ‘opposes secret US funding of the SDLP’. They call for ANC recognition as the ‘authentic representative voice of the majority of South Africans’ and there’s a photograph on page four of MacGiolla and Kader Asmal at a rally in Dublin meeting ANC representative Reg September.

It takes Ken Livingstone’s ‘ignorance’ on the North to task on the same page. There’s also news about a 1916 commemoration in Belfast. Another piece by Sean Garland discusses the WP as a vanguard party and there is a long pieces on Nicaragua.

As noted above, the direction of this is explicitly oriented towards an international audience, and in particular one that, for want of a better term, would be part of orthodox communism and those elements on the left that would orient towards that.

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1. Joe - December 30, 2013

Good times.

2. Johnny Forty Coats - December 30, 2013

A perfect example of what the Greeks called ‘hubris’.

3. Mark P - December 30, 2013

There are some right crackers in there. I particularly enjoyed the description of Ken Livingstone as an avowed Trotskyist, alongside the claim that the Bader Meinhof, the Red Brigades and ETA were all deeply influenced by “Trotskyist poison”. Barking mad.

The competition to find ever-harsher epithets to describe the Provis was also amusing: from criminals to outright gangsters and from fascists to direct comparisons with the Nazis.

Jim Monaghan - December 30, 2013

And then asked many of the same people to oppose the extradition of Garland

Mark P - December 30, 2013

It might have been cheeky of the WP to ask certain people for support for Garland, but opposing his extradition was still the right thing to do.

WorldbyStorm - December 30, 2013


Jack Jameson - December 30, 2013

Especially cheeky given how Garland showed his gratitude by dissing SF in the recent TV3 programme.

(But I concur: the right thing to do anyway.)

Garibaldy - December 31, 2013

That Mark P finds the descriptions used at a press conference the day after the murder of an active supporter of a left-wing political party by sectarian nationalist paramilitaries amusing perhaps says a lot about him, but not much else.

On the fascist phrase. It’s easy to look at the Provos in 2013 when the description does not apply, and say that this is inaccurate.and over-heated. But (to repeat myself from discussions held here before) let’s remember the situation in 1987. As the document notes, PSF had 1.8% of the vote in the Republic, and about 11% in the north (about 1/3 of the nationalist vote).

Even if we assume that all those voting for PSF supported the violence (and most people don’t assume that, and I think the slogan for 1987 was peace, freedom, justice though that may have been 1992), then that’s a very small proportion of the population in the island as a whole, and still way short of a majority even of nationalists in the north. A population, of course, that many provisionals still considered themselves the legitimate government of, as well as in a position to take up arms on their behalf whether they liked it or not.

The provisionals had begun the process of targeting and murdering civilians who worked in places like prisons as well as police stations etc, and of threatening shop owners and shop workers not even to serve the police, nor deliver goods etc to those places. So workers were being threatened for trying to earn a living.

Then we have the murder of a political opponent, and the attempt to smear him (a murder carried out in all probability by informers, or under their direction let’s not forget).

At the very least we have a violent extreme sectarian nationalist paramilitary group targeting workers for their jobs, and killing and intimidating political opponents in areas where they sought to exercise control, and doing all this despite knowing that they lacked anything approaching majority support from those they claimed to represent. In such circumstances, is fascist really an unreasonable, ludicrous description automatically to be dismissed? I wonder how many people here are so strict when it comes to parties and groups they don’t like today?

Perhaps people can tell us how they would describe the 1994 beating, not long before the first ceasefire that clearly indicated the way the provos wanted to go, of an SDLP councillor in Crossmaglen for criticising a mortar attack in the town?

Mark P - December 31, 2013

No, Garibaldy. I’m fairly sure it tells us more about the Workers Party, and its increasingly bizarre mental landscape in this period.

And, yes, comparing the Provos, even at the height of their murderous activities, to the Nazis was always “an unreasonable ludicrous description automatically to be dismissed”.

I’d goad you a bit about the crazed rantings about the shared poisonous Trotskyism of Ken Livingstone and the Red Army Faction, but some targets are just too easy. While you are here though, perhaps you can fill us in on the relative positioning of the WP and the CPI in the messy alignments of today’s, ahem, “communist and workers parties” internationally?

Garibaldy - December 31, 2013

Nice try Mark, but the reality is that you were so intent on petty-point scoring because the document used the term trotskyist negatively that you missed the actual point of political importance. And that speaks volumes.

Bizarre mental landscapes on the north. You mean like one which called for the establishment of armed workers’ militias by the trade unions to go on the offensive against the paramilitaries in 1992? Now that’s a target that’s much too easy.

Clearly the term trotskyist was wrong. I presume he meant to suggest that the approaches of both were poisoned by a shared ultra-leftist mentality.

So what is your preferred description for the mentality that produced the punishment beating of SDLP councillor John Fee btw?

Mark P - January 1, 2014

Don’t be silly, Garibaldy. The bizarreness of the WP’s mental landscape in this period is so self-evident that not one person in this discussion – including people who are in no way hostile to the WP – even hint at an apology for it. It’s barking mad stuff. You know it and we know it,and worse still, you know that we know it even as you wheel out a weaselish defence. As I said above “Stalinism ultimately requires the development of a great ease with proclamations and arguments that are both untrue and known to be untrue”.

I’m not surprised that you missed the point about Trotskyism by the way. The issue of note is not that a Stalinist organisation busy crawling to the Stalinist dictatorships regarded Trotskyism “negatively”. It would be of note if a Stalinist organisation busy crawling to the Stalinist dictatorships did not do so. What was of note was the utterly crazed application of the term Trotskyist to every even slightly left current e WP didn’t like, from Ken Livingstone to the Red Army Faction, and in other contexts the Provos. This is lunacy of a type more often found in the publications of 1930s high Stalinism rather than in the views of their gray 1980s descendants. I quite like your attempt to reframe this gibberish as a critique of “ultra leftism”. I mean if there’s one thing that Ken Livingstone is known for it’s his wild ultra leftism, right?

As for my preferred description of various Provo atrocities, if there’s one thing every leftist, other than the WP and Rick from the Young Ones, should be aware of its that describing things we don’t like or disapprove of as “fascist” or “Nazi”, when they have no connection to fascism or Nazism is infantile.

richotto - December 31, 2013

On the other hand its also been argued historically that support for SF actually understated the backing among northern Catholics for the IRA. The near 100% backing for Bobby Sands and Owen Carron in the 1981 by elections seems one indicator of this. There was a WP candidate available who got only a few hundred votes.

Garibaldy - December 31, 2013

I’d have thought it was much more widely accepted that the Sands and Carron votes were primarily a result of opposition to Thatcher’s prison policy rather than an endorsement of the provo campaign. I think that was how the electoral campaign itself was framed – as being about the prison conditions, and not the campaign of violence. Voters were explicitly told that voting for one did not mean voting for the other. I’m open to correction but.

4. WorldbyStorm - December 30, 2013

Sort of to echo what you’re saying Mark P, in a way one would wonder if the concentration on ‘Trotskyism’ would have not seemed quite strange to much of the intended audience of that time? And very very unlikely that anyone with a passing acquaintance with either the Red Brigades, BM or ETA would see them as ‘Trotskyist’ – not least given the nature of their foreign sponsorship. I hate to drag in the Harris name, but there’s a bit of that rhetorically fighting not the last political conflict, but the one before that or the one before that again.

Mark P - December 30, 2013

Well, if this was largely aimed at the Moscow line Stalinist parties abroad (I liked your “for want of a better term” deadpanning above, by the way) there would still have been a somewhat receptive audience around for slightly demented ranting about Trotskyism. And applying that label to any left wing opponent of the Moscow line parties was also a widespread and longstanding practice.

Now, the less frothing leaders and members of the CPs abroad, which is to say most of them, would have been well aware that the Red Army Faction were no more Trotskyists than, well, Ken Livingstone was. And some of them may even have found that kind of rhetoric slightly embarrassing. But Stalinism ultimately requires the development of a great ease with proclamations and arguments that are both untrue and known to be untrue. And by the standards of the gibberish such people spouted, defended or (perhaps most often) politely ignored, this sort of thing really wasn’t all that wild or hair raising.

Mark P - December 30, 2013

Or to be less long winded about it: that sort of craziness would have been actively appealing to a minority of the audience in question. And for the majority of the audience, well it wasnt convincing or attractive but it was exactly a kind of gibberish they were well used to ignoring.

WorldbyStorm - December 30, 2013

Yeah, there’s much in that I’d agree with – it is a sort of dog whistle approach. I take your point too that it functioned as a broad brush insult to any leftists who were anti-Moscow – given the admittedly not huge strength of Trotskyist-originated political parties at the time – bar arguably Militant – in Europe the concentration is telling.

The odd (or perhaps particularly reprehensible) thing was that actually inside the WP on a day to day basis one heard next to nothing of such language – not in branch meetings, on campaigns, canvassing, even at Ard Fheiseanna. This was very much a sort of rhetorical concern at certain levels inside elements of the party elite. Again with the dog whistle I suppose.

Finally, I think there’s something in what you say about the embarrassment factor too. Most people in the WP would find that something best ignored.

Bob Smiles - December 30, 2013

Get the impression the WP play all this down today

Mark P - December 30, 2013

I think you are exactly right about that, WbS.

I suspect that there would have been a minority inside the WP rank and file who would have enjoyed seeing a Harris or a Smullen stick it to “Trots” and “Provo-Trots” (and even more so “fascist” Provos), and bought into that kind of wild stupidity. But for the majority – probably a very large majority – it would have been something they would just ignore and would mentally edit out if they noticed it. It certainly wouldn’t have been the way they themselves saw the world or the wider left.

I suspect that with CP members abroad the Provos=Nazis stuff was a harder sell than the claims that all opponents on the left were poisonous Trots precisely because the former represented something bizarre that they weren’t already used to accommodating or mentally editing out.

On another note, I see that in the lead article, the WP took an opportunity to portray the CP (accurately) as an irrelevance. That line of argument was probably more useful to them in cultivating links with foreign CPs than political polemics against the CPI line would have been.

WorldbyStorm - December 30, 2013

That’s a very interesting point re the CPI and the WP’s tactics against same.

Another interesting thought is the relative weight of links between PSF and the WP with the ANC given the mention in the text above. Was it that the WP wasn’t aware of the former’s links?

Mark P - December 30, 2013

You really couldn’t combine a project of pursuing recognition as the Moscow line Stalinist party in your country with making serious public criticisms of the ANC, for the simple reason that the SACP was too important and too influential in that movement. You could lobby them behind the scenes, but in public you would have little choice but to smile and ignore any links they cultivated that you might disapprove of.

And to be fair, the ANC generally had little interest in making things difficult for allies abroad by being overly noisy in public about contentious divisions in other countries.

On the CPI vs WPI issue, the CPI had two advantages: they were the incumbent owners of the Moscow “franchise” and where they diverged politically from the WP they tended to be closer to the “common sense” of the Stalinist mainstream. As against that, the WP had the brutally pragmatic tendencies of the CPs in power working in their favour – the WP were a factor in national politics and the CPI were not.

WorldbyStorm - December 30, 2013

I wonder if the WP had any influence at all on the ANC’s line in Ireland? Would anyone know? it’s be interesting to know.

Re the CP and WP, yep, facts on the ground would be of great significance. Entertaining would it not have been had the SPI (the uber-pro-Eastern bloc version) managed to remain intact and get a TD or two in the early 1980s, then there would have been three pro-Moscow formations vying for support.

Mark P - December 30, 2013

It would indeed be interesting to know exactly how much influence on ANC attitudes to Ireland various pro-ANC factions had. It would be hard to tell from the outside, at least on the issue of the Provisionals as presumably many more mainstream Irish opponents of apartheid might have shared the WPs aversion to the ANC entering into public association with PSF.

As for the rival pro-Moscow parties issue, that certainly arose in quite a few parts of the world. In most cases the dominant party was the original “franchise” holder and they were mostly able to keep their smaller rivals marginalised. But the CPI obviously wasn’t in a position to do that.

After 1991 the (general) tendency towards one party one country monolithism in terms of party links started to break down as many CPs fragmented and the CPSU was no longer around to play the role of ultimate arbiter. So it became more common for different “Communist or Workers Parties” to have party to party relations with parties which had previously been outside the pale, either instead of or as well as the “official” party. Prior to 1991, there was already the complicating factor of the relatively independent foreign policy of countries like Romania, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, which led some ruling parties to pay at least some attention to parties considered non grata by the Russians. And there were some exceptional situations, like Ireland.

After the Sino-Soviet split, there was of course a rival group of Communist Parties and another franchise to seek for more radical splinters from the CPs. As I understand it, the Chinese took a very laissez faire attitude and would offer some level of recognition to just about anyone who was willing to push for a left split from Moscow. Their Albanian allies however preferred to recognise one sister party per state, so even when the Chinese and Albanians were close allies they had very different relationships with the non-ruling parties in the ML milieu. And after the Sino -Albanian split there was yet another international centre.

In more recent times there has been some rapprochement between “softer” parties from these traditionsand “harder” CPs of the ex-Moscow-line variety. The Belgian PTB has been particularly active in seeking links with parties that had previously been on opposing sides of that divide.

It would be interesting to dig up the lists of attendees of different international conferences of “communist and workers parties” and signatories to various statements to try to see where the WP and CPI are positioned in the current constellation. Or perhaps some of their supporters who have been known to comment here could explain?

WorldbyStorm - December 31, 2013

What you’re saying about various flavours of CP or “orthodox” CPishness reminds me of a doc I have, an English translation of various PCI worthies during the highest period of explicit euro-communism in that party, late 1970s or early 1980s, which includes IIRC documents exchanged with the Romanian regime. The identification obviously being that Ceaușescu was semi-or very dissident from Moscow line, but amazingly naive in retrospect (and even for the time). That was another complicating factor as even the formerly orthodox parties drew away from Moscow or even into antagonism with it, or saw splinters of the more faithful sheering off into new formations. All pointless once Moscow went to the wall.

Jim Monaghan - December 31, 2013

ETA was more like the Provos. It had and still does mass support. One wing which shriveled joined the Trotskyists. Mass support is what distinguishes movements like ETA and the RAF etc.

5. dilettante - December 31, 2013

Absolutely hysterical (in both senses of the word)!

Obviously the sticks were sensitive about the political influence of SF among liberation movements and radical and left-wing movements and parties across Europe and the world.

Was this the best they could do?
Probably they could do no other as they tried to give themselves a left cover for their support for the British and Irish political and military establishment.

Presumably the more poisonous sticks went to the Labour Party and current WP members would cringe with embarrassment at this? (with the dishonourable exception of Sean Garland).

CMK - December 31, 2013

‘The Lost Revolution’ helpfully fills in some of the information gaps in this document concerning the murder of Emmanuel Wilson. There’s something cold, at this juncture, about the article on his death in that no reason is given as to what motivated PIRA to kill him. It’s almost a-politically framed as if PIRA has just randomly targeted him as a result of pure psychopathic bloodlust. Very odd, to me anyway.

Séamus - December 31, 2013

From The Lost Revolution:

“The growing cooperation between the Officials and the RUC may well have played a role in the murder of Emmanuel Wilson in May 1987. The Beechmount resident was abducted in a black taxi and interrogated by members of the Provos’ internal security department before being shot as a police informer. Wilson’s Provo killers were aware of the 32-year-old’s connections to the WP, as both a registered party supporter and a member of Group B’s intelligence network, and would later claim he had also informed on OIRA activity.”

I think there is a fairly heavy implication left hanging in the article. Right after the ‘police agents’ reference mentioned in the OP above, you have this comment:

“The Workers’ Party has constantly called for peace and democracy. We have pointed out time and time again that there can only be one police service and we have called on the community to actively support that service.” (My emphasis.)

Garibaldy - December 31, 2013

There is a clear statement as to why the WP believed he was murdered given in the quotes from the press conference.

CMK - December 31, 2013

With respect, Garibaldy, I don’t think there was. But, look, it doesn’t actually matter; it was a despicable act and a shocking waste. I hope my comment didn’t come across as cutting the Provos any slack; the stuff cited in ‘The Lost Revolution’ sounds like post hoc bullshit, to me.

WorldbyStorm - December 31, 2013

That’s a real danger in this discussion that to present an argument in various ways is to seem to be supportive of PIRA when that is not the intention, but it is fair to point up contradictions or problematic issues while keeping that in mind.

CMK - December 31, 2013

Absolutely. I’m conscious that some here may have known Emmanuel and I don’t want to say anything more bar that it was a shocking waste. Also a useful reminder that the Provos, many of whom may well be subsumed into contemporary SF, were capable of some really disgusting acts.

richotto - December 31, 2013

Agree with that. The emphatic presentation by WP in the 80s of SF Republicanism as a “fascist” movement made them fit in very comfortably with the agenda of the D4 right in 26 county politics. Like the Sean O’Casey plays that were constantly being re-run in the establishment Abbey there was a certain of left wing view that the powers that be seemed curiously happy to encourage. The WP were indisputably being given an easy ride in the private as well as public media.
The WP rhetoric and presentation of Republicans feels quite similar to parties today in Egypt seen as on the secular left who eagerly condenm the Muslim Brotherhood as fascist terrorists and so on while supporting and helping to legitimize the extreme brutality by the establishment right who effectively use them from time to time.

Jim Monaghan - December 31, 2013

In Egypt I would have a variant of the line neither the Army or the MB.

Justin - December 31, 2013

Ten years after this publication there were those who dissented from the SF peace strategy and who also called the provisionals ‘fascist’.


Must we also lump these views in with the Dublin 4 right?

6. Garibaldy - December 31, 2013

One thing that I am surprised to see not commented on as yet, given all the discussions here previously about the WP supposedly abandoning its commitment to republicanism, is the prominent place in a document for international distribution given to the speeches for Easter and Bodenstown.

7. Michael - December 31, 2013

The sticks often pretended to be still republican when addressing an international audience .Does no one remember the infamous N Korean speech about “fighting the oppressor” and just like Korea there was”only one Ireland and only one people”.They laughingly then tried to say that the speech had been “mistranslated” when in effect it had been delivered in English!

workers republic - December 31, 2013

+1, good point Michael ;I didn’t know about the speech to the speech N. Koreans, but I’m not surprised.

workers republic - December 31, 2013

+1, good point Michael ;I didn’t know about the speech to the North Koreans, but I’m not surprised.

B. Leer - January 1, 2014

and a North Korean newsletter later referred to ‘esteemed comrades’ when giving an account of the WP visit. The Phoenix magazine went to town on that.

dilettante - January 1, 2014

I wouldn’t like to have to live or die on the grounds of everybody who has called me an ‘esteemed comrade’ or something similar.
I’d be inclined to leave this one.
The text of the speech itself would be interesting though.

8. Michael - December 31, 2013

Garibaldy,maybe you could tell us some time ,did the wp through “group b” ever murder its political opponents and why did they give total support to the RUC, a police force so discredited that they had to be effectively disbanded before anything resembling peace could be established in the North?

Garibaldy - December 31, 2013

I’ve discussed the policing issue at great length here before Michael, and have no intention of doing so again.

Michael - December 31, 2013

That’s a pity because I would have been interested to know how the WP could have supported such a travesty of a police force and I also note your failure to address the point about the WP military wing murdering its political opponents

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

Just to echo what I said to WR, it is reasonable to contextualise the events that took place from the early 1970s onwards where such happenings were unfortunately and to the credit of no one a feature of all strands of Republicanism.

workers republic - December 31, 2013

Larry White was assassinated by members of the OIRA , some were convicted, three appealed and won the appeal on a technicality . [Edit for potential legal issues]
The weapon used was a ,45″ sub-machine gun with a silencer,it certainly sounds like the one of the “spitting dummies” supplied to the OIRA by the KGB , for more about the origin of these weapons , read The Lost Revolution. Question is, why silencers? Were they supplied to assassinate political rivals?

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

WR, for my sanity and financial peace of mind I’m going to excise an element of what you wrote above.

It isbest not to make statements that aren’t verifiable. And in fairness let’s be clear, there were many many on the island who were more than eager to assassinate political rivals from 1973 or earlier onwards.

dilettante - January 1, 2014

Quite right WbS, but my question for the WP friends remains. Did the most poisonous elements of the sticks (with some exceptions) head into the Labour Party? (in some cases as a possible way of securing immunity for certain deeds).

Or are those mad elements still dominant in the WP?
Are there more recent international publications of the WP that could give us a clue.

I think Mark Ps question above is a fair one “on the relative positioning of the WP ..” (obviously I’d prefer the CPI to explain their own position rather than ask the WP to do it)

workers republic - January 1, 2014

WBS ,I don’t want to upset your peace of mind .I was answering a question that the was asked , though I didn’t mention any names. A full report on the case appeared on the Echo and a I think on the Examiner; the Echo explained how theAppeal decision was made. People can make up their own minds, if this could be described as a “technicality “, I have often heard it used regarding this case, that’s a fact, that the I heard it

used .
You Liam are correct, other groups have assassinated political rivals

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

And you didn’t WR, I just didn’t want any of us – including yourself – getting any heat from others over even just the reference.

workers republic - January 1, 2014

I don’t know how the word Liam got in there, when I tried to fix it, it went all over the place ! Small phone!
WBS , you are correct groups assassinated political rivals, other groups also. The Sticks are not the only group that did it.
A few days after the Echo article a garbled version appeared in the Irish Times. It was factually inaccurate. It named one man as having played a lessor role in the killing of Larry White , that of procuring a car and of not knowing what it was to be used for . It got the names wrong, the man who played “a lessor role” was a different man. The Echo article can be checked and the published reports at the time of the trial .
Again I don’t want to upset your peace of mind and wish you and allCLR posters the best for the New Year.

9. Michael - January 1, 2014

On the subject of the sticks pretending to be republicans while abroad,I can also recall McGiolla arranging for a group of Comhaltas musicians to visit N Korea .Some of the tour was subsequently broadcast and at one stage involved a N Korean choir belting out “A nation once again” to their visitors ,including a beaming McGiolla ! I somehow doubt that he admonished them for their “reactionary nationalism” !

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

MacGiolla himself in interview, shortly before his death, noted that he thought some of those around him suspected he was too ‘Republican’. Not sure what that tells us, but perhaps if he were beaming it was from entirely legitimate pride ;)

10. Michael - January 1, 2014

Fair enough WBS but if anyone had dared sing “a nation once again” at a WP event in Ireland at that particular time they would have been run out of town! The point I am trying to make is that the wps obsessive hatred of SF cut no ice with many left wing and anti imperialist movements worldwide.There are permanent memorials to the hunger strikers in Cuba and on Robben Island ,streets named in their honour in left wing areas of Europe and SF had no problem in joining the most left wing group in the European parliament.

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

As it happens, and having been in it in the 1980s and early 1990s, I tend to agree that would probably have been the case. I wasn’t clear enough, I was sort of being a bit jokey (though it is true that in the 70s MacG was seen as a bit green and later around the DL split not entirely trusted – his own words – to stay with the party). It’s something I think the WP never really came to terms with or never really understood just how it functioned more widely. In fairness though (and this operated in all directions) any group (and I include WP, SF, etc) that had been mutually and violently in feuds with others was going to be deeply antipathetic to those groups. People on all sides were scarred by desperate events.

Johnny Forty Coats - January 1, 2014

What disgusted me about the WP wasn’t their opposition to the Provos’ armed campaign, which I fully shared, but their shameless brown nosing of Unionism.

The point at which I realised that the WP was beyond all hope of redemption was when Seamus Mallon was ejected from his seat at Stormont because of his membership of the Seanad, following a legal case taken by Unionists. The right of the voters of Armagh to elect the representative of their choice would have been respected by any organisation with the slightest sense of democracy, but the WP ran a candidate in the resulting by-election. The Orange ascendancy had decreed that an uppity Taig had to be put in his place and the WP was happy to go along with the resulting charade.

This same outlook is expressed in Mac Giolla’s speech, as reported in the newsletter, where he states: “The failure to offer any consultation to the Unionists in the run-up to the Hillsborough signing was a serious mistake”. Mary Robinson resigned from the Labour party on the same issue. I could never bring myself to vote for her after that.

The reality was that the Unionists had refused to enter any negotiations involving the Irish government and the WP-Robinson line was an effective endorsement of the long-standing Unionist veto on political progress. The Anglo-Irish agreement, although objectively only a small step forward, represented an enormous leap forward subjectively because it sent out the message that, for the first time since the Curragh mutiny, the British dog was no longer being wagged by the Unionist tail. That drove the Unionists wild, of course, but it was an absolute prerequisite for the progress that followed.

11. Michael - January 1, 2014

Even the late Brian Keenan stated near the end of his days that the 1970 split was the greatest of tragedies.While I would be hostile to what the WP became,I would have had some time for them up to the late 70s.However by that stage they essentially became neo unionist andl lost the respect of virtually everyone of a republican mindset.They seemed to be unduly influenced by the likes of Harris and revisionist historians like Bew and Patterson.Had they retained some semblance of republicanism it might have been possible to have avoided the intense hatred that developed.

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

Interesting thoughts Michael. Even just in the literature there was definitely a change in the United Irishman around the 1976 onwards period (again the MacGiolla period was seen as too green). Of course, the split with the IRSP hadn’t helped or the consequent feuds. I’d share your criticism to some extent, I think there was a real overshoot between what was feasible in terms of working within the existing constraints of the communitarian nature of society in the North (in particular) and broader aspirations politically which saw it functionally move away from republicanism. This was – I think – particularly marked under de Rossa et al, and to some extent was reversed post the DL split.

12. Jim Monaghan - January 1, 2014

Time moves on. Organisations change and sometimes die. We have to fight tomorrow’s battles. Who would have thought that Sinn Fein would be now well on the way to being an acceptable coalition partner with FG and FF.

13. Michael - January 1, 2014

Both FF and FG hate SF with a passion and lest anyone doubt that ,look no further than the latest furore concerning the Smithwick report.They never showed the same hostility to the WP in any of its formations.

Mark P - January 1, 2014

They hate SF so much that they will eventually be coalition partners with it in the shared administration of neoliberalism, just as Fine Gael were with the tattered remnants of stickyism in Democratic Left and just as the DUP and UUP currently are with SF in the North. I don’t have very much time for the Workers Party’s baroque Stalinism, but the sight of a Provo sympathiser trying to pose as a critic from their left is stomach churning.

WorldbyStorm - January 1, 2014

I have to agree re the hatred FG and FF have to SF. Knowing people in both those parties the idea that there’s any real prospect of coalition – well at least with FG in the foreseable future – is deeply unlikely. FF? That’s a different matter, but I’d almost put money on it Adams would have to go before they’d do it. And I think that might – rightly – be a price too high for SF to pay.

In relation to the WP, that’s an interesting point. I think there was a sense amongst some that the WP was ‘housetrained’ to some degree – a perception I’d bet some like EH had no problem with, though it is true that in 1992 there was no prospect of WP entering a coalition with FG. Even DL was a bit of a push a few years later but the challenge was less great there for obvious reasons.

Jim Monaghan - January 1, 2014

They are rivals and that explains a lot. The real owners of Ireland forced Dessie O’Malley into a coalition with Haughey. I figure not the next election but the one after if it suits. Put the WP in perspective they were never as strong as SF is now. Look at the witchhunting done to Labour down the years and they were never a threat to anyone.
Oh and the real problem is Adams brother and SF bourgeois rivals are not the only ones who think this is a problem.

14. Michael - January 1, 2014

Ive observed the debates on this site for a few years now and found it to be quite interesting.Believe it or not ,as I work in what would be considered a manual occupation I have only recently become sufficiently computer literate to post a few of my own thoughts.I wondered if someone from my political background would get very far without being shat on by the likes of Mark p.True to form ,with his “provo sympathiser” and “stomach churning” remarks,Ididnt even last a day! So good luck to you all but I doubt 2014 will be a very long year for me on CLR!

Mark P - January 1, 2014

“Someone disagreed with me on the internet” he said, gazing into the distance, the single tear running down his cheek encompassing all the desperation and misery of countless thousands of years of human suffering.

Get over yourself, Michael. If you express controversial political opinions, whether to gobshites on the internet or to your fellow horny handed sons of toil at your job down the salt mines, people will express disagreement from time to time, and disapproval, and exasperation, and sometimes even scorn. That comes with the territory, precisely because you are putting forward controversial views on controversial subjects. If being described as a “Provo sympathiser” after a series of comments sympathetic to Sinn Fein and critical of the Workers Party from a Republican perspective, or discovering that some people find Sunn Fein’s occasional leftish pretensions revolting, is enough to hurt your feelings to the point of abandoning the site, I can only suggest that you must find life in general a rather difficult and upsetting experience.

15. Colleen - April 4, 2014

I every time spent my half aan hourr to read this webpage’s articles
or reviews daily along with a cup of coffee.

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