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The Left Archive: “Advance” from the Socialist Party of Ireland, 1977 December 31, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI).



As 2007 wanes, let’s cast our minds back some 30 odd years to the heady days of 1977. The year of punk, of monarchist celebrations in the UK, a failed UWC strike. And here in Ballymun and North County Dublin we have – by way of an anonymous donation – the newspaper of the Socialist Party of Ireland from 1977. Now, it’s important to make a distinction between the SPI in 1977 and the CWI orientated SP of today. The SPI was – as a most informative, and seemingly broadly accurate wiki entry says – a sort of proto-split from Official Sinn Féin established in 1971. The SPI regarded OSF as insufficiently Marxist (one wonders at who was the ultra-leftist jibe directed – step forward Mr. Costello). However, it also considered the CPI unworthy as a Marxist party.

What is interesting is that this line led it in a curious trajectory towards engagement with a number of other groups such as the indefatigable British and Irish Communist Organisation who found like minds as regards Provisional Sinn Féin and the national question. What is of particular interest is the strong emphasis on social rights issues. The SPI campaigned for divorce, contraception and abortion.

The end point of the trajectory was the Democratic Socialist Party with Jim Kemmy, where much of BICO also ended up. Still, I knew people in the WP in the early 1980s who had joined between 1977 and 1982 in some numbers.

The wiki entry says that Eamonn O’Brien, who in this edition of Advance is lauded as the SP TD for Ballymun, managed to get 6% of the vote in Dublin County North at the election and that ‘this encouraged OSF on the parliamentary road’. Well, yeah. Perhaps. Although I seem to recall a spot of bother in 1969 over abstention which might have had a bearing on OSF’s position long before 1977.

Advance is in fact quite a professional production. The design is good. Kudos to them for the star and torches logo. I’m wondering where they swiped that particular formulation from. There is a strong, and remarkably positive, emphasis on local issues. Internationally there is an identification with Moscow line parties and a run-down of some of the glories of the centrally planned Eastern European economies. There is little mention of PSF or PIRA, but the editorial speaks of:

…the Party [making] the most determined effort yet to eliminate bourgeois nationalism from the labour movement. Its realistic policy self-determination and democratic renewal for the people of Northern Ireland is proven more correct every day as the various paramilitary groups produce ever more futile mutual slaughter and destruction. However, it is still the case that many people with progressive and socialist ideas remain blinded by bourgeois nationalism and have departed completely from Marxism-Leninism in order to favour one or other of the competing paramilitary groups.

The cynic in me suggests that this was a deliberate downplaying of their more scarifying policy on the North for electoral purposes. But perhaps there is another reason. In fairness it seems like a better read that the Irish People posted up in the Archive earlier in the year. But then, the cynic in me also suggests that that wouldn’t be difficult.

Happy New Year…


1. Peter Regan - December 31, 2007

The cover opens as a .jpeg but nothing else?
Best wishes for 2008 to yourself and the anonymous contributors who scan in these great journals from the 70’s


2. WorldbyStorm - December 31, 2007

Sorry Peter, my apologies. I’m adding it as a PDF to the front of post. Happy New Year to you as well and thanks for taking the time to look at this stuff…


3. Peter Regan - January 2, 2008

I found this at –


“Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, Labour, represents the Ballymun-Whitehall area and is on the board of Ballymun Regeneration Ltd which is building a new town on Dublin’s Northside to replace the Ballymun high-rise flats. He was first elected a Councillor in 1985, and served as Deputy Lord Mayor in 1993-4.

In 1987 he was involved in ridding Dublin City of its gaming machines by having the 1953 Gaming and Lotteries Act rescinded.

Councillor O’Brien has a profound love of the sea and has said he is delighted to be appointed a Commissioner of Irish Lights. He has also been selected to serve for a 5 year term on the board of Dublin Port Company.

Councillor O’Brien took his seat on the Board on 24 September 1999”


To get rid of gaming machines was excellent. Fair dues to him!


4. WorldbyStorm - January 2, 2008

Indeed, also got to note his premature Labourism, something that took other SPI/WP/DLers a good decade and a half more!


5. Joe - January 2, 2008

Not sure about your decade and a half WBS. O’Brien stayed with the WP after the DL split and, if memory serves, was actually proposed for Party President at a subsequent Ard Fheis. Marian Donnelly from Derry beat him I think – my guess is that O’Brien was proposed as a sort of blind to show that the Party still existed in Dublin and the South. Anyway a year or two later he left the WP – presumably after a local row, he was always independent minded and probably had enough of being told what to do by HQ and its local manager – and went straight into Labour while DL still chugged on for a few more years before following him. Lost his Council seat in the SF landslide last time. PS: He was a CIE busman by trade.


6. WorldbyStorm - January 2, 2008

My mistake Joe!


7. Starkadder - January 2, 2008

Happy New Year WBS.

Interesting to read about the infamous Father Paul Marx
on in the pamphlet. As I remember, Marx was often invited
to Ireland to support people like William Binchy,
Des Hanafin and John O’Reilly in the anti-abortion


8. WorldbyStorm - January 2, 2008

Happy New Year to you as well.

God, yes, long time since I heard of him… ah the memories… (shudder!)


9. Starkadder - January 3, 2008

This Socialist party was linked with the “Socialists Against
Nationalism” pressure group, if I remember correctly.
SAN (or “Tories Against Reality”, as its opponents called it)
campaigned against Articles 2 & 3 and the H-Block
Hunger Strikes. Jim Kemmy was in it, and I’m sure Manus
O’Riordan and Fergus Brogan were too.


10. Left Archive: Outline policy on Church and State – Democratic Socialist Party, c1981 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 7, 2011

[…] anti-Republican. In that respect there was some crossover of activities with both BICO and the Socialist Party of Ireland (1970s). Kemmy was elected to the Dáíl in 1982 where he remained until well after the merger of […]


11. Left Candidates from … The 1977 General Election « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - April 16, 2011

[…] Party of Ireland Eamonn O’Brien -Dublin County North  […]


12. Left Archive: Advance, No. 22 July-August, 1976, Socialist Party of Ireland [1970s] « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - November 21, 2011

[…] issue of Advance from 1976 is, like the other copy in the Archive, a well produced document from the Socialist Party of Ireland, a relatively small […]


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