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The Left Archive: “Armed Struggle: An Open Letter to PIRA”, the Communist Party of Ireland, 1988 January 20, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Communist Party of Ireland, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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A self-explanatory but very interesting document that runs to some 30 odd pages (the file size is 8mb – if this poses problems please comment and I’ll try to reduce it yet further). This black and white A4 pamphlet contains an open letter to PIRA and responses to that letter from various individuals and parties, finishing with a further response from the CPI. It is much as one might expect, and yet, I can’t help but admire the fact that such a discussion was taking place during a very dark period of the Troubles. I might – retrospectively – wish that the WP had been so wedded to persuasion as the CPI, but I guess that such a dialogue was close to impossible given the animosity and shared roots of the various organisations.

One point. When scanning this I neglected to include the front page. This was a donation, so I sent it back before realising the error. If anyone has a scan of the front page I’d be very grateful if you could forward it to the cedarlounge at cedarlounge@yahoo.ie so I can add it to the PDF. It doesn’t lose much without it, but to maintain the integrity of the document it’s better with it!

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1. Garibaldy - January 21, 2008

From the Sutton Index on CAIN:
24 June 1987 Thomas Wilson (35) Catholic
Status: Civilian Political Activist (CivPA), Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Workers’ Party activist. Found shot, in entry, off Rodney Parade, Falls, Belfast. Alleged informer.

Here we see how interested the Provos were in talking to The WP around the time this debate was going on. This terrorist murder was carried out as a way of someone recently arrived in a position in the Provos making his mark against those opposed him and his organisation in areas they sought to control. Wilson’s name was blackened to make a fascist act more acceptable to local opinion. I’m suprised WBS that you don’t remember that the murder of one of your comrades took place at this time. The Provos knew very well what WP policy was and why it was what it was. I think that when people are discussing this type of thing, and WP attitude towards terrorism, they might bear this type of thing in mind.

Let’s look at the response to this document. Apart from a few nameless PSF members, and some people from the League of Communist Republicans in Long Kesh, this received next to no response to the Provos. Neither the PSF members quoting Lenin nor the prisoners who wrote in represented any significant tendency within the Provos running around carrying out the violence on the ground. Even the prisoners writing here were a standing joke among their comrades in the H Blocks. I know some people may have forgotten this, but around this period, the average Provo volunteer was little interested in political struggle, whatever about Adams et al – violence was seen as the only way forward, and the electoral success taken as indicative of support for violence, especially with the expansion experienced as a result of the hunger strikes.

Rather than engage in wistful thinking, we on the Left would do better to remember this period as it was. Not as people would like it to have been, nor as they’d like PSF to be now.

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2. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

Garibaldy, there is much in what you say – hence my point that the common roots of the two and their histories would preclude any movement. The murder of Wilson was a murder… full stop. And there were many crimes – and injustices yet to be committed. By 1988/9 when this document was produced PSF had already shifted away from abstentionism in Leinster House and split. Communications were being made by members of PSF and PIRA to a wide range of people beyond ‘Republicanism’ which would lead directly to ceasefires. The attitude of volunteers is unknowable on some levels, but it’s fair to say that within a decade most had moved to a position quite different to the one they had held previously or at least were willing to tolerate such a move. SUch documents as this assisted that move…But my broader point is that the CPI for all its flaws kept trying to generate an engagement and to demonstrate that beyond the certainties of the armed struggle there was another way.

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3. Ed Hayes - January 21, 2008

The logic of Garibaldy’s view is that none of the armed factions in the North should ever talk to each other, because they have all killed each other’s members. According to CAIN the UVF killed a member of the WP in 1983; does that mean that the WP should shun the PUP?
I remember this debate a bit, because the CPI circulated leaflets and open letters around meetings in Dublin at the time. My recollection is of a more open and diffuse membership in Sinn Fein, (and consequently the IRA) then Gariblady suggests. There were those who suggested that the way out of any problem was to kill more people and up the armed struggle, but there were also those who admitted that it was making political progress (for them) more difficult. I remember Neil? Bennet, son of Belfast nationalist writer Jack, and an SF member, arguing that the armed struggle had become counter productive.
Now I’m sure there were lots of unreconstructed Catholic defenders/bigots in the Belfast IRA. But there were also those, and I know because I met them, talked to them and sometimes hated them, who were readers of the left press, conversant with Nicraragua, Cuba, the ANC and PLO, and simply not just terrorists. Garibaldy’s position, and the WP’s at the time was simply; they are fascists, support the RUC. Now according to the Irish Times at the weekend Archbishop Eames and others have been literally shocked by what they are finding out about RUC/loyalist collusion in the 1980s. Do you think that the WP’s position cut much ice in Catholic areas?
The Provos were the product of particular political circumstances and time has proved that they were prepared to end their campaign. Simply calling them names didn’t get anybody anywhere. I think their campaign was a horrible waste but unless you think they are monsters than the CP were right to try and argue with them.

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4. Garibaldy - January 21, 2008

Perhaps I have not made myself clear. I have no objection to what the CP were doing here, and it was a good idea. Although I must admit I reckon it was at some level a quite desperate attempt to get the Provos to talk to them to make them look important, which is why there were so disappointed when the Provos ignored them. I think that probably made them aware of how in reality insignificant the left section within the Provisional movement was, especially in the miltiary element. Not just in Belfast, but in Derry, and more particularly Strabane, Tyrone, Fermanagh, South Armagh etc. It must have been a disappointment to those within the CP who thought that they were taken seriously by the Provos. There were those who talked and thought they way Ed says, encoraging people in the CP to think they might meet a positive response. But they were more prevalent in Dublin than the north, and as has been shown time after time, when push came to shove, they held next to no sway in deciding policy in either the political or especially the military element.

The point I was making is that The WP had been arguing with and against the Provos for nigh on two decades by 1987. What was it going to say that was new, or that the Provos were unaware of? Normal political engagement was not what the Provos were looking for from The WP in 1987. Which is why I found WBS’ point about wishing The WP had been more interested in persuading the Provos to be getting the wrong end of the stick, so to speak. The Provos were not sitting awake at night hoping The WP would talk to them. Quite the opposite. And when the ceasefire came about, party to party meetings were held.

As for Ed’s point on the PUP. Everybody should talk to everybody else, and make each other aware of their positions. Talking to people helped change people’s minds and end the Troubles. Hugh Smyth of the PUP once said it was talking to WP councillors that helped him to become less sectarian. All fair enough. But again, the circumstances with The WP and Provos were different as both sides basially thought they had nothing to say to each other. So looking back on it two decades later, we can say that it would have been good for people to talk more. But that is based on a perception based on the current more fluid and open political situation rather than on a recognition of how things were at the time.

As for the RUC. Of course there was massive and disgusting collusion. Do you think that was a shock to anyone, especially The WP? After all, it’s more than likely given what we now know about the Provo security team that the people who carried out this murder were themselves informers, and I’ve talked here before about October 75. Nevertheless, ordinary workers were being killed for nothing other than their religion. That had to come to an end. Imperfect as the state and the security apparatus was, there were those within it genuinely seeking to bring terrorists to justice. And had they received more help, then less lives would have been lost. And no, Ed, that attitude didn’t cut a lot of ice in Catholic areas. But then again, The WP was not and is not interested just in Catholic areas, and it was morally the right approach, and in the interest of workers that the violence stopped. And of course, the absence of people dealing with the RUC might have had something to do with the fact that serve them in a shop and you were liable to be shot for it.

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5. Joe - January 21, 2008

I was in the WP in Dublin in 87 and I think I remember this murder. But I don’t remember it being discussed in any real way in the party – certainly not in the limited local circles I moved in. Any info I got, I got from the Irish Times. I think the WP in Dublin didn’t want to get into this in any serious way with the membership in case they might scare people away. The trend was that the WP were a respectable political party. Dwelling on incidents such as the murder of Thomas Wilson might lead people to think about the WP’s history and maybe the reality of political life and death in working class Belfast – as far as I can see, the Party leadership didn’t want members in the South to be bothered much by such things.
As a member I was always very much in favour of the WP’s attitude to the Provos. I probably would have been opposed to any talks with them in the 80s. In hindsight, the engagement by John Hume and others with them from the late 80s(?) on was a good and necessary thing. It eventually led to the ceasefires and the peace we have now. Not a perfect peace but infinitely better than what we had back then.

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6. Joe - January 21, 2008

I was in the WP in Dublin in 87 and I think I remember this murder. But I don’t remember it being discussed in any real way in the party – certainly not in the limited local circles I moved in. Any info I got, I got from the Irish Times. I think the WP in Dublin didn’t want to get into this in any serious way with the membership in case they might scare people away. The trend was that the WP were a respectable political party. Dwelling on incidents such as the murder of Thomas Wilson might lead people to think about the WP’s history and maybe the reality of political life and death in working class Belfast – as far as I can see, the Party leadership didn’t want members in the South to be bothered much by such things.
As a member I was always very much in favour of the WP’s attitude to the Provos. I probably would have been opposed to any talks with them in the 80s. In hindsight, the engagement by John Hume and others with them from the late 80s(?) on was a good and necessary thing. It eventually led to the ceasefires and the peace we have now. Not a perfect peace but infinitely better than what we had back then.

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7. Pete - January 21, 2008

Once more from Mr Hayes we have williful misinterpretations of the scene. Ed what are you a Catholic or a socialist? Just a rabble rouser with no real poltical direction?

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8. Redking - January 21, 2008

I don’t see that logic Ed, difficult to talk on a reasonable basis with people dedicated to killing you-in the absence of conflict a different dynamic is released. The WP would always have been interested in talking to those interested in peace but the Provos at this time mostly weren’t interested and in fact were openly hostile. Garibaldy puts it eloquently in the last post.

It may have been different in Dublin but I lived in the North at that time and I recall the tension of it all-the PSF members I met and knew were fully signed up to 100% support for violence-WP members and supporters literally had to keep their heads down.

As for “calling names” if that’s what you feel WP condemnations of Provo violence was – (I actually see it as WP bravery) well (to cite just one crime) putting 10 protestant workers up against a bus and machine-gunning them is a fascist act and deserves to be condemned as such.

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9. Ed Hayes - January 21, 2008

I think collusion might have come as a shock to the WP, as they were if I remember correctly describing the RUC as the ‘best community police force in the world’ back in 1987.
Theres a difference between analysing the actions of the provos (as the above CPI document does) and describing them as Fascists or nazis which the WP used to do. If the provo killing of Unionist politicians was sectarian, as the WP argued, then what was the OIRA killing of Unionist politicians? ‘Ah, but that was ages ago and we gave it up.’ Fair enough, but do you not see that on the ground in West Belfast many people failed to be entirely convinced by the WP condemning anything? As Joe notes the WP were utterly opposed to talking to Sinn Fein and condemned Hume for doing so. 1988 was 6 years before the 1994 ceasefire, far from a lifetime in political terms and some people within the Provos were looking for a way out.
I respect all those on the CLR who were involved in their respective parties and take on board their criticisms. The above was my reaction to reading a document that revved a few memories and to Gariblady’s reaction to that, which also revved a few memories.
You could just as easily have said at the time the UVF/UDA are fascist murderers and there should be no talks with them on any level. But the WP didn’t say that. If Hugh Smyth felt that talking to the WP made him reassess his views, then why wouldn’t attempting to critique the provos have had an effect on some of them; unless they are animals, beyond the pale. Now there may be very good reasons why WP members thought that but again where does it get you?
Pete, i haven’t been a catholic for quite a while and like a lot on this board still consider myself a socialist.

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10. Garibaldy - January 21, 2008

Ed,

The key word in your quote is community, i.e. ordinary policing activities. Which is the distinction the Provos draw when they complain about political policing.

WP members came and come into contact with Provos every day. At family funerals, at school, at work, in the street, and sometimes in the home. In that sense there was and is constant contact. But people are set in their respective viewpoints, and more so in 1987 than today. The lack of any formal meetings was not because they thought the Provos were animals but because it would have achieved nothing. The circumstances were hardly conducive to an atmosphere of the exchange of political ideas. In fact, there was a deliberate attempt to close down the exchange of political ideas on many occasions. So the question is not where does not talking to them get you, but where would The WP talking to them get us? Condemning Hume may well have been a mistake, but let’s not forget he withdrew from these talks around this time because he felt the Provos were acting in bad faith. And 6 years is not that long in one view, but in another a week is a long time in politics. Look at the public rhetoric and the actions. This debate was in 1987, a year after McGuiness had said that there would be no ceasefire until victory. Which is what the PSF letter to UNITY says. The Provos ran under the slogan, peace, freedom and justice in the election in 1987 IIRC, but there actions were far from suggesting a ceasefire was close at hand.

The IRA called a ceasefire because any armed actions were increasing sectarianism, and further dividing workers and pushing back the cause of a socialist republic. I think your reference to unionist politicians is somewhat misleading. The Provos did not just target unionist politicians (who by this stage were no longer exercising political power and taking decisions like internment and on the Bloody Sunday march unlike in 1972) or members of the security forces, but quite often protestant civilians. Like at Enniskillen. More fundamentally they portrayed themselves as the representative of one section of the Irish people. That is what made them sectarian.

As for fascism, the Provos displayed many fascistic tendencies over the years, as did other terrorists. Just ask SDLP people like John Fee or those involved in elections around the hunger strikes. Or those who have regularly seen their posters pulled down at election time. Thankfully those tendencies have been reeled in, although as the Paul Quinn murder demonstrated, the tendency remains close to the surface.

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11. Ed Hayes - January 21, 2008

Thats a good point about Belfast, with which I would obviously have no day to day experience.
My point about Unionist politicians was that Protestants wouldn’t have seen killing them any differently, no matter what republican organisation did it.
I think the term Fascist or Nazi should only be used by Marxists in very concrete circumstances. For example are all kneecappings and punishment beatings fascist or just those done by organisations we don’t support?
Theres those in the SDLP who have as low an opinion about the WP’s street tactics as those of the provos, which included the odd punishment beating and electoral impersonation I believe.
It may well have been impossible to have had a discussion on this in 1988. But again the CPI tried and as you see from the document, some of their comrades from Protestant backgrounds were involved in that discussion.

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12. Garibaldy - January 21, 2008

I agree on the perception. Which is why the IRA ended its camapign. The term fascist in this context involves more than punishment beatings. It extends to the treatment of all political dissent within what are regarded as “our” areas. I don’t think it is possible to deny that there were many occasions in which several organisations in the north acted in a fascistic manner. So the term does apply.

Again, as I say, I have no problem with what the CPI did here.

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13. Redking - January 21, 2008

I do agree that there are too many on the Left who use the term fascist as a generic term of abuse and it becomes stripped of meaning-and I don’t think that violence is fascist per se. But, the term as I understand it is being used on this thread to denote the political tendencies of the Provos at a time of their high sectarianism-have they moved on? -I very much share Garibaldy’s doubts here.

But on the WP’s alleged electoral mischief-Ed you’ve gotta be kidding-it could never be anywhere nearly comparable to the Provos !-even the Stoops would agree on that.
Just ask anyone whose been anywhere near a polling station at an election in the North…you’ll get a flavour of Provo operations.

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14. Garibaldy - January 21, 2008

Oh, and on personation. People should check out some of the rural areas. They’ll find that unexpected parties of both stamps are very adept at these matters.

The WP has been arguing for years that voters should be stamped with the type of ink that nightclubs use, that doesn’t come off for 24 hours in order to combat personation. The electoral office refused, not wanting some might suggest to rock the boat. The use of National Insurance numbers is a good step to prevent multiple registration, but the ink would be an improvement as well.

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15. Ed Hayes - January 21, 2008

I have relatives from the north and am well aware that the SDLP and the Nationalist Party of old were masters at ‘voting early and often…vote Austin!’ Not to mention Fitt, Devlin (Paddy, and probably Bernie) and more. But my point Redking is not that the WP did it more than the Provos or the SDLP or whoever. My point is they did it. Ditto kneecappings, ditto punishment beatings. But that wasn’t fascism of course.

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16. John O'Neill - January 21, 2008

The last WP member murdered in Belfast (as far as I know) was

Sullivan, Seamus 03 September 1991, (24) Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Shot at his workplace, Council Depot, Springfield Avenue, Falls, Belfast.

He was a relative of Jim Solo Sullivan but was murdered simply for being a worker from a “nationalist” area.

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17. Redking - January 21, 2008

The WP did what? well at times undoubtedly individuals were involved in violence maybe intimidation and perhaps also all that was understandable given the contexts of inter-communal and political strife in the 70s, but again the term fascist is used here to sum up the political tendencies of the Provos at various points in their history-not a mere term of abuse.

I don’t honestly think you can equate the occasional laspes into violence of the Officials as fascist or as springing from fascist motives.

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18. Ed Hayes - January 21, 2008

I’m not saying they were fascist, but I think they used the term wrongly to describe the provos. And were a tad moralistic in SOME of their denunications. Far be it from me to lecture anyone on how to behave.

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19. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

For what it’s worth, I know how fraught this subject can be, but… a little over ten years prior to the doc which started this off the OIRA and various other groups were warring on the streets of Belfast and yet they managed to change. I do think that the WP had a certain degree of courage to say what they did, and in many respects I think they were right. But I also recognise what Ed says in that there was a very very moralistic tone from people who had themselves come from a very similar starting ground, and a complete inability to cede any prospect for change to those who took a different road. Many years ago I read a book by McKeown, I think it was, of the Peace People. He suggested that the WP showed a route out of violence for PSF… but that was in its own way a delusion too (incidentally, he also suggested a distant relative of mine involved in the PP was… erm… not necessarily working in the best interests of said PP). Given the history it was impossible for either organisation to engage with the other. I’d bet that in ten years time this will still be the case. Some ascribe that to fundamental political differences, but I think it’s more than that, that blood was shed, friendships wrecked, etc, etc. By the time the first four years had passed, and perhaps in particular after the 1975 attempt by the Provo’s to take out the Officials, it’s hard to see that particular genie being stuffed back in the bottle. But even so, that also meant that there was a huge distortion in WP thinking, because it couldn’t come close to countenancing, not merely that others might follow a similar path to ultimate disarmanent, but also – in part because of its marginalised position (and one that was forced upon it in many ways) – that PSF would increase popularity as it shifted away from violence, a trick they’d never been able to pull off. Let’s also remember there are no heroes here. All these formations, like it or loathe it, were involved in desperate and sometimes despicable acts. I think the course of the INLA is a real warning of the dangers… these were the people who stayed behind in the Officials after the split and yet the organisations that split from them went on to commit appalling crimes. There but for the grace of… etc, etc… When it comes down to it any organisations that were content to have secret armed groups were always going to be prey to certain temptations and patterns of behaviour. And that can be termed a propensity for fascism if only in the sense that it was carried out with no recourse to any sort of serious democratic will or oversight.

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20. deadmanonleave - January 22, 2008

I think that it would serve some of those posting to acknowledge some of the Official Republican Movement’s own history before being too ready to criticize others for certain activities during the seventies and eighties.

Growing up in England, I can only say that I heard/read about the Officials carrying out punishment beatings, and various armed actions, while they held to a vision of working class unity. I can well understand that there was friction between the Sticks and Provos due to all that had happened since the split, but to claim to be in favour of unity, and then be so critical of an approach to and dialogue around an approach to PIRA from a left group seems misguided and sectarian (in the political sense).

What would be those who support the WP’s views about the Sticks’ killings of Ferguson, Loughran and Costello after the 1974 split? I’m not after starting another row, but I’m interested in people’s views.

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21. Idris - January 23, 2008

I’m reliably informed that the Provo/Stick vendetta is continuing to work itself out in Ballymurphy.

As for whether the Provies or anyone else were ‘fascist’, well that term should not be elasticised to the point where it is reduced to a synonym for ‘something nasty’ or even ‘something very nasty indeed’.

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22. deadmanonleave - January 23, 2008

On the use of terminolgy, Idris, I couldn’t agree more. Using fascist to describe anyone who’s views are violently different to our own devalues the term, and can lead to us losing sight of the particular horrors of that political movement.

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23. Ciarán - January 24, 2008

You’d get the impression from some people on this blog that Stickies in Belfast all wore halos around their heads, committed socialist activists who were targetted by those nasty, sectarian, green fascist nationalist Provos (and then Irps, and then whomever else). It’s not a topic I intend to comment on further, as a proper discussion on such matters is near impossible.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Armed Struggle document. It was lent to me a few years ago by a CP member to read, and one thing strikes me as much now as it did then – the prescience of Tommy McKearney’s contribution. Many people thought the advent of a ceasefire would create the ground for a broad-based, progressive anti-imperialist movement (which might explain the nature of the CPI’s continued support for the GFA) whereas he predicted that Sinn Féin could easily become a “Workers’ Party mark two”. And he had a point.

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24. Starkadder - January 24, 2008

I gathered all three parties (OSF,RSF, IRSP) got their hands
very dirty during the Troubles, and there was also the eternal
curse of the political Left-the Split.
I remember, aged 14, listening to my History teacher telling us
about the various left groups (Labour, SF, WP, DL , IRSP, the Greens)
and asking her “Miss, why don’t they all join together against
the two conservative parties, FF & FG?”. She said there was
too much bitterness between some of them for that to
work.

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25. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

Ciarán, I’d agree with your first sentence entirely, it’s something people have to come to terms with as best they can…

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26. Garibaldy - January 24, 2008

There is also a sense on several threads here that there is a moral equivalence between groups that at no point endorsed or carried out the murder of ordinary workers for no reason other than their religion and those that did because they came out of similar historical backgrounds. Ostensible similarities are being taken for close parallels. That, whatever any other faults of, is a fundamental difference. And I’d have thought people might have realised that more easily than they appear to do. Failing to realise this leads to a twisted logic, where people are seen as being at fault for not persuading people to stop sectarian murders by asking them nicely rather than condemning them as needed done at the time.

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27. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

Not moral equivalence, Garibaldy, no. But a suggestion which I made way back in the discussion that any groups which had armed entities associated with them were playing almost literally with fire, particularly in a context of a society with a primary divide that was a national/religious and then secondary and tertiary divides within each nationalism based on ideology, history, etc, etc.

As for your last point, it sort of relates to your second. Condemnation is generally only of utility when it may achieve something. If it can’t then I think it’s generally better to look for a better way forward. I’m still very proud of the WP – as it was then and indeed as it is today – for what it did on any number of issues on this island, but if it had a major failing it was that it simply didn’t/couldn’t appreciate that others might take a similar path to it, might indeed develop, whether slower or not.

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28. Garibaldy - January 25, 2008

There is a suggestion again here that PSF is just doing the same thing that OSF did. This is not the case. There was a serious difference of ideology, and once again, the absence of killing workers for their religion. It’s fair enough to say that it would have been better had there been less hostility. I agree, and there is a completely different situation to the past now. But at the time of the publication of this document, there was next to no indication of any move towards peace. You say condemnation had no purpose. I’d say it reminded people that there was an alternative vision of how society in NI could be, and it was important to raise a socialist voice.

By the time the ceasefires were being called in the mid 1990s it was obvious they were coming. As indeed was the fact that the Provos were heading towards ultimate disbandment of the military wing and taking positions in government. I think I read you saying here before that no-one in DL had an inkling the ceasefire was coming in 1994. This was not the case in The WP. The WP has seen this as a good thing, as have I personally. Nevertheless, the process was cynically delayed in the interests of party political advantage over the SDLP (the policing thing being the most recent example) and sectarian tensions were deliberately raised over marching as part of a delberate strategy to expand influence and numbers of voters. SO while I’m glad the Provos have abandoned violence, I’m not going to ignore the fact they have not abandoned sectarianism.

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29. WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2008

Well, I wouldn’t disagree with you as regards the divergent views between DL and WP. I think if we look at those who went to DL they were, curiously, less in tune with reality on this issue than those who stayed (or maybe not, considering the way they dumped the Northern members who came with them as fast as they could).

I don’t know how we can square the sectarianism argument…

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30. John O'Neill - January 25, 2008

“You’d get the impression from some people on this blog that Stickies in Belfast all wore halos around their heads”

I don’t think the OIRA were too interested in halos. The catholic militia however thought they did, and a few prominent Belfast priests were happy to confirm their illusions.

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31. Redking - January 25, 2008

Well no-one is suggesting the OSF/SFWP/WP have sported halos-far from it everyone got their hands dirty in the 1970s-but some more than others. I am unashamedly pro-WP (surprise!) and simply can’t absolve the Provos for the mayhem of 25 years of sectarian strife.
What is somewhat ironic on a left blog is that a serious and committed socialist party like the WP that tried to stop violence is attacked while irredentist sectarians like the Provos are somehow excused their bloody past with the view being seemingly “Well they were as bad as the Provos” Not true folks…not true…

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32. WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2008

I wouldn’t attack the WP, but I’d certainly be critical of their stances, which is a distinction that is important to make. The problem with the thesis that the WP tried to stop the violence is as follows. They only tried with themselves, how could they with others? It may be overstating it to say the Goulding leadership failed the nationalist people in the late 1960s, but not by much. And although counterintuitive, I suspect had they provided a stronger defensive response who knows how much more quickly the conflict could have been brought to a halt. But they didn’t succeed, they lost their authority, and subsequently lapsed into a stale discourse of ‘we told you so’. They couldn’t influence the Loyalists, or Unionism, they had fractional support across the six counties.

Nor does it recognise that this was a process with many players, state, paramilitaries, divided communities, etc, etc. Granted the WP pushed a left analysis, but one which frankly didn’t resonate at all with the lived experience of people in nationalist/Republican areas during the period. As for the Provo’s being irredentist sectarians, well, I’m not so sure. They had sectarians within them but more so say than some who went IRSP and who were in OSF, and isn’t it clear that they must have somehow stopped being irredentist at some point, or evolved away from it?

I remember being at Ard Fheiseanna in the 1980s where there was a subtle differentiation between the messages on the North depending on speakers. So every once in a while a Northern speaker would mention sectarianism and repression from the security forces but this would not amplified while the broader party line was fairly solidly ‘the Provo’s are to blame’. I didn’t know then, and don’t know now, whether that was a function of ideology or experience? Was it a Dublin thing to push the anti-Provo line at the expense of a broad 32 county Republicanism and at the expense of the mention of just what life was like inside the 6 counties? Or perhaps that’s just my impression and in reality there was no real distinctions on these issues.

But I still argue that the complexity of the situation means that categorising groups definitively is difficult to make. Garibaldy and I tried with the sectarian tag, but it’s not clearly sustainable, which is not to say that the Provo’s didn’t have within them, and no doubt to this day still do, people who were profoundly sectarian.

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33. Garibaldy - January 25, 2008

I classify as sectarian any group or political party which seeks to represent one section of the people on the island of Ireland on the basis of religion. Or to put that another way, virtually everybody except the WP and Alliance. It seems to me WBS is mistaking open sectarian aggression for the only form of sectarianism. The difference is extremely profound.

I was never at an Ard Fheis in the 80s, but what I can say is that as far as I am concerned The WP analysis was always that sectarianism kills workers. I never saw any posters saying only nationalists kill workers. Clearly a distinction did emerge over the 32 county thing, as part of the total abandoment of their principles by the DL element, but a socialist republic always was clear party policy.

The WP never had the capacity to stop the violence. What it did have the capacity to do was to offer an alternative, especially to young people who might have been tempted to become imbroiled in sectarian violence. In the early days, including in the jail, some people were persuaded to abandon sectarian forces and join The WP. Similarly too, as I said before, prominent loyalists have stated that there attitudes were changed by discussions with WP members. Which might well be an argument for WBS talking about persuasion. Except for the fact that in the period he was talking about – the late 1980s – people still involved in groups engaged in sectarian violence had heard the arguments and rejected them.

As for the IRSP element. Clearly people had been accepted in who should not have been. One of the major reasons behind the abandonment of the concept of a movement and replacing it with a party quicker than might have been sensible if the main aim was to avoid a split, and definitely why the Fianna was disbanded quicker north than south. I would also say that the increase in sectarian violence during and after 1972 helped some people be pulled towards sectarianism who might otherwise have not gone down that road.

Lastly, the nationalist people? I’m surprised to see this phrase from WBS. What I will say is that republicanism was never intended as a communal defence force. And secondly, one thing that has been comprehensively buried in the collective memory is the fact that republicanism had very little support before 1969 in what we might call the Catholic ghettoes, and that there were few people prepared to offer their houses etc as hiding places.

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34. John - January 25, 2008

WBS

I remember as a teenager being at a labour party conference in {i think about 1983) and several formerly prominant loyalists, Gusty Spence among them, being present at an Irish night organised by the Workers Party. I will not pretend that i have any of the on the ground experience of the situation in the north at the time but there was still, to my young ears, a sense of possibilities which sadly do not exist today. The night was largely organised by the ‘Clan’ section of the party and if i recall Dominic Behan, Mick McGahey and Tommy Sands were also present, amongst many others.
Happy days.

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35. WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2008

These are very interesting points, but they seem to me to raise essential problems. Firstly the definition of ‘sectarianism’ used appears to elide two positions, a religious one and a political/ideological one (the latter is nationalism obviously of British and Irish variants, obviously). And by that definition arguably includes the Progressive Democrats, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Irish Labour Party (sort of kind of). That’s so broad as to be unworkable. I don’t for a second believe that representing a religion is at the heart of any of those parties projects, or indeed that of Sinn Féin. I have to be honest I just don’t think it’s accurate. And the problem with that analysis is as well that from a Unionist perspective the concentration on a 32 county Republic, socialist or otherwise can only be interpreted in one way, the complete negation of their political (not their religious) identity. I can’t see how that is a superior political position than any other Republican/Nationalist one, it’s essentially the same old same old.

Taking the IRSP thought for a moment. Tony Gregory? Shouldn’t he have been let in? A lot of people left OSF for many reasons during that split, and then stayed in the IRSP for only a short time, but that’s perhaps irrelevant to this discussion. Many of those people had been in OSF since long before the OSF/PSF split. And they served at the highest ranks of the organisation.

I’d be a bit dubious if one looks at the history of SF or the IRA prior to 1969 to suggest that it wasn’t intended in part as a communal defence force. That was certainly the de facto position that was held in the background from 1919 onwards – telling indeed that Operation Harvest was restricted to the border precisely so it wouldn’t inflame the situation in Belfast. But the problem there is that the definition of Republicanism that being used is one which is very specific (rather indeed like the term sectarian), one which applies to all theoretically, but in practice was only ever used by a small group within the community.

As for using the ‘nationalist’ people, I’m a believer that there are two communities with differing national identities. They merge in some respects, they have more historical roots that link them than they often think, and there are many aspects to it, but I’m not hung up on that any more than suggesting that there is a unionist people or community too.

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36. John - January 25, 2008

One of the problems in analysing the situation in the north of Ireland rests with the fact that the British left, of almost all hues, fetishised the Provo’s and despite all evidence to the contrary regarded their struggle as synonimous with revolutionary socialism.Perhaps if they had taken time out to look more closely at the situation, and adopted the same rigorous denunciations of the reality as they did to the contradictions within the working classes in Britain with regard to the race issue there wouild have existed less of a platform for the quite substantial support base that they enjoyed.

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37. Pete - January 26, 2008

“As for using the ‘nationalist’ people, I’m a believer that there are two communities with differing national identities. They merge in some respects, they have more historical roots that link them than they often think, and there are many aspects to it, but I’m not hung up on that any more than suggesting that there is a unionist people or community too”
Isn’t that the clincher though WBS – as Republican socialists we can not accept this position because inherent in the project is the creation of a new national identity – it draws on the best progressive strands in both – of course this is idealist but people can not claim the republican project without this aim – the Provos did that is why they were never Republicans in the real sense which had been resurrected post the Border campaign by Goulding and his comrades returning to the books – let them do as they wish but the biggest problems with the Provos was they killed in the name of a project which they were not really attempting to progress – they were a counter revolutionary organization in that sense, not the people in them but as the project worked – this must be accepted by the Left – the argument here is whether to accept your ‘two nationist’ approach which has been discarded by its creators or the Socialist Republican project – now if you accept your position your still a socialist but no longer a Socialist Republican.

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38. WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2008

John, that’s something I certainly agree with. The Provisionals were not revolutionary socialists, nor was their struggle. But then, neither was the WP on a functional level when it came to the national issue.

The political demands of the WP ithroughout the 1980s were a bill of rights and essentially a devolved assembly of some sort. Not powersharing, not all -island institutions, etc. How a Republic of any shade was meant to spring from this terrain was never entirely clear other than eventually the working class would recognise its interests in some fashion. Why it would appeal to anyone who seriously sought a 32 county island Republic was never made clear. How it could appeal to a Nationalist/Republican populace let alone a Unionist/Loyalist populace with such a programme in any serious way was never clear. And yet that was effectively the OSF line from 1970 odd, the status quo ante with a patina of civil rights for Dublin, Stormont and indeed London.

Pete, I don’t believe that one can only be a Republican if one believes in the creation of a new national identity. It’s too self-referential.

But nor am I a ‘two nationist’. I don’t believe there are two nations on the island… certainly not in the way that BICO or other did. I think there are two national identities… a very different thing. I believe that in the North East there is an area where those identities are intertwined and that due to the impossibility (and unethical aspect) of a sectarian headcount to divide them that it is necessary to establish institutions which either reflect or ignore those as we transition (with luck) towards an all-island entity.

Ideally I too would want a new national identity, but I’m too aware of how difficult it is to do so. I think it’s entirely Republican to accept that in the short to medium term we will have overlapping identities, and incidentally I’m using broad terms, such as Irish, British, Republican, Nationalist and Unionist, etc, etc. All I’m saying is that as an interim step we move through a process where the competing identities are able to work and live together in a degree of political equality which has not been there previously. So I’m puzzled as to how I cannot be a Left Republican. I still want the end goal of a Republic.

I’m genuinely unsure how the version of Republicanism you believe in (which seems identical to my own in practical terms i.e. we can’t have it today but we work towards it for tomorrow) is different from any others when we look at the functional aspects of it. Everyone wants a 32 county Republic. Sure, some want it to be socialist, others not. But if the ultimate form is a Republic then the only dispute is about tactics. I’ve never supported the Provo’s tactics, as should be clear time and again on this site.

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39. Garibaldy - January 26, 2008

WBS,

I don’t think the definition of sectarianism is unworkable (surprisingly enough). I think it’s a reflection of the reality of NI politics and society. You can say I’m eliding a religious and political question, but the reality is that the primary identification in NI is seen as a political one. So people who have rejected religion still often see themselves as from the Catholic or protestant side, and are seen as that. People who reject violence still refer to the paramilitaries as our ones and their ones. If this isn’t a sectarian attitude what is it? Would you accept communalist? And these are the attitudes that perpetuate divisions and allowed violence to flourish. People shouldn’t be fooled by the application of nationalism and unionism. As for the free state parties, I don’t think that they (with the exception of elements of FF) are sectarian in this sense.

On the IRSP, yes some people had been involved in the movement for years, and were in senior positions. But there had to be a process of shedding people first wedded to sectarianism and then wedded to violence if a party seeking to be a party of the working class was to be formed. It was inevitable due to the historical roots of the organisation that such people would exist.

The definition of republicanism may not have been embraced by very many people, but that doesn’t in and of itself make it a wrong definition. Instead it shows that the major force in pushing for a united Ireland in the north has been a Catholic nationalism. And I have to say I find it a little strange that you say the party was weak on 32 county republicanism while accepting there are two distinct peoples on the island.

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40. Redking - January 26, 2008

WBS -“The problem with the thesis that the WP tried to stop the violence is as follows. They only tried with themselves, how could they with others? It may be overstating it to say the Goulding leadership failed the nationalist people in the late 1960s, but not by much. ”
I find this an odd view fro an ex-WP member to hold as it’s at variance with the WP history of that period. In my understanding, Goulding and the Party leadership had moved away from any catholic defenderist position well before 1969, in favour of socialism. Granted the Movement had many-subsequent Provos for instance who wanted a greater flow of guns into Belfast. But Goulding and others argued this would be tantamount to throwing fuel on a sectarian fire-there may have been hundreds or even thousands of causualties in August 1969 as a result (remember British troops took time to be deployed). So a more vigourous “defence” would have been politically and militarily disasterous and anathema. In any case why would the leadership give out guns to unrelaible sectarian units of the Belfast IRA anyway? and remember a lot of these people were anti socialist.

Another way of looking at it could state that MacStiofain, O’Connail, Twomey and Cahill let down the Irish people by creating a sectarian militia that launched a dangerous dynamic in a sectarian cauldron. Of course one could argue that some form of sectarian militia would have arisen in any case, but that argument ignores the directing influence of key players.

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41. Wednesday - January 26, 2008

As for the free state parties, I don’t think that they (with the exception of elements of FF) are sectarian in this sense.

I have the same reservations as WBS about your definition of sectarianism but accepting it for the sake of argument, I think it’s quite mad not to include the free state parties. By and large they work on the basis that there is a Protestant unionist community in the North that is entirely unpersuadable on the subject of Irish unity – how do you not see that as sectarian?

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42. WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2008

Redking, we simply can’t say that Goulding etc moved away from a Catholic defenderist postion in the way that you posit. Firstly the IRA hadn’t had to act as defenders as such in over a decade – indeed arguably well before Operation Harvest. During OH it was clear that they were attacking the institutions of the state and the British, not being Catholic defenders per se (although as I previously noted they also made sure to stay away from Belast). Now I find that all contradictory on many many levels, not least of which was the gestural aspect of the violence, but it’s not by any means ‘defenderism’.

So in theory it was easy to shift away from a position they [OSF] didn’t think they had to hold because they thought the issue had changed, or they could change it to one of ideology as distinct from nationalism. Of course the outbreak of violence made monkey’s of them, if only because they hadn’t predicted it. Secondly and more importantly, let’s look at the course of the Troubles. With the best will in the world it wasn’t in the first two years either OIRA or PIRA who were ratcheting the situation up. Quite the opposite. This came from the state itself as a response to NICRA/CRM and prior to that loyalism (i.e. the original UVF murders, the explosions at the electric facilities).

And while Goulding might well have been right in that more arms might have meant greater sectarian clashes (a la Bombay St. etc) I think it’s a bit of a rewriting of history to suggest that the conflict was somehow simply intercommunal rather than one of one community against state institutions which also had a sectarian face, and frankly one which initially was very much Loyalist/Unionist agin Nationalist and Republican. That’s quite distinct from painting it as simply ‘sectarian’. In such a context we might consider that the response of PIRA in particular was simply muddle headed and wrong, although OIRA was no slouches in armed actions, but on a basic human level it shows the gulf between the genuine idealism of Goulding and the reality of what was happening in Belfast and elsewhere. Basic human behaviour in a cockpit of violence will tend towards the wrong responses.

I’m not sure that you’re correct, or rather I think we can argue it either way, about a more vigorous ‘defence’. Had it been restricted to pure defense of areas and had it not taken on a pointless offensive role then I think that it might have been quite useful as a bargaining chip later prior to some sort of Sunningdale like arrangement. I mentioned this in another post during the week. What if at the OSF vote preceding the split that they’d managed to get over 2/3rds (which they might well have if they’d been able to mount any sort of an organised defence during the initial phase). That sort of legitimacy might have kept OSF and the OIRA predominant, and led to a much more nuanced approach subsequently than that that O’B, etc, prosecuted.

I’m always minded to quote Gouldings words before he died that ‘OSF/WP had been right too early, Adams and PSF had been right too late and O’Bradaigh would never be right’. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. OSF pushed too fast, too hard towards socialist thinking in a context where such thinking was entirely redundant and had no traction on a Nationalist/Republican population which thought the apocalypse was upon them, rightly or wrongly.

Garibaldy, as regards your elision. You say that even those who have no religious affiliation still see themselves as from a Catholic or Protestant side. But that’s a cultural affiliation whereas they tend to see themselves as being Unionist or Nationalist which is a political affiliation. The two merge, but I don’t, frankly, see the latter as being sectarian in any respect. I see it as a political standpoint. What I do believe is sectarian is when the cultural project is used as a tool of political and cultural supremacy as indeed we saw with the DUP (or indeed the OUP back in the day). Are the programmes of the SDLP or PSF ‘sectarian’ in the sense that they seek to shut down the cultural expression of Unionism? No, not today. Nor are they politically sectarian in the sense that they seek to impose unagreed structures on Unionism. That too has changed. That’s a developmental thing of course (and in a way the rapprochement of the SDLP and the UUP is a sort of nascent class interest developing… only it’s in the middle classes 😦 ). In 1986 clearly the vast bulk of PSF weren’t prepared to make the sort of compromises they have since made.

As for attitudes to paramilitaries, I’m not sure that’s a viable yardstick of sectarianism. For example I’d presume that most people would tend to ascribe a Republican identification on the OIRA. That doesn’t seem to me to be sectarian as much as basic obvious good sense… that politically they are Republican, that they came from a nationalist community background, and in the sense they seek a united Ireland they’re also…nationalist.

As to the forces pushing for a united Ireland, well, one could argue that of course Catholic nationalism would naturally be pushing for a UI (although one might also add that the SDLPs role as the voice of Catholic Nationalism in the North was a bit more ambiguous as time went on on this very issue and at times seemed willing to adopt positions much lesser even than the current GFA/SAA). But so what? It’s unfeasible that Protestant Unionism could step into the breach. The proletariat is intended to be the engine of history in Marxism, but we know that on most occasions it’s missed that date and it’s been up to vanguard parties.

Re my own view, I’d argue that 32 county Republicanism is the end goal and that means that some sort of agreement has to be fashioned with both identities that transitions to it. I don’t see that as a contradiction at all. I see that a pragmatic appreciation of reality.

Again, I’m not in any sense trying to be disrespectful to the WP – of which I was a member for just under a decade. Nor to those who stayed within it. But I think that the historical record is a lot more ambiguous about these issues and about the role of all the actors within it…

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43. WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2008

Wednesday, that’s a very interesting point you make. The FS (or let’s get with the programme guys, the RoI) parties could well be accused of essentialism by proposing that it is impossible to shift a Unionist identity.

Which is interesting, because whatever route one takes to a UI – FF one, PSF, SDLP, WP, whoever – of necessity (bar my one of overlapping identities 😉 ) means that somewhere along the line Unionists must stop being Unionists and become Republicans. Granted some think that class will predominate, actually everyone I listed above does one way or another since all seem to see economic interest dictating this unity. Maybe.

It’s a big ask…

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44. Garibaldy - January 26, 2008

Lots here. On the trajectory of the 1960s. WBS is right to say that urban areas were deliberately avoided to avoid creating sectarian feeling in the border campaign. But this does not mean that a defenderist ethos had disappeared. By the time the Troubles broke out, there were elements demanding that the movement represent a Hibernian ethos. The stuff in Kerry over the refusal to distribute the UI, the arguments over the rosary at commemorations, never mind what people in the north were saying, many of whom were no longer members like Joe Cahill.

On the point that had people been more aggressive in defence of Catholic or nationalist interests, they may have held on to more support while still moving towards a serious socialist programme. One need only look at the history of the IRSP to see that attempts to marry these led inexorably to greater sectarianism.

WBS is entirely right to say that it was the sectarianism of the state and of unionism that was the motor force for the outbreak of the Troubles much of the violence of the early years. This does not negate The WP analysis that the Troubles were fundamentally sectarian, but in fact reinforces it. As does the justification that paramilitaries on both sides put out, that their community (itself defined as religious and not as national or political) was under attack, or under threat, and that they were forced to take up arms by the violence and sectarianism of either the unionist state or of the opponents of the state. Ironically, the whole narrative of those engaged in violence recognises that the Troubles were a sectarian struggle, yet The WP is regarded as being mistaken for putting the blame on sectarianism.

I’m not a greater believer in postmodernist theories, but I do think language is important. There has been a deliberate move to make Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist and Catholic/Nationalist/Republican mean the same thing, which was never the case during the Troubles. We all have the same goal, so we all fundamentally think the same, so why are we arguing? Let’s unite against themuns. A powerful argument and dynamic, and one which has done a great deal to boost the DUP and PSF, especially among young voters who don’t remember the Troubles who they have sewn up. And I see it used above, when the belief of an internationalist party in an independent Ireland is described as nationalist in reality.

On WBS’ idea of sectarianism as being cultural supremacy, and that the SDLP and PSF have no sectarian programme. There are a lot of unionists in Derry who might disagree, or people who were students at QUB when the Irish language was being used as a sectarian weapon as it still sometimes is, and the unilateral siteing of commemorative statues/stones in sensitive and provocative
areas (especially in rural areas), never mind incidents like a member of PSF falling off the roof of an orange hall, suggest otherwise. The demand for more neutral workplaces etc is of course a completely legitimate one.

WBS’ definition is, I think, a misguided one. It ends up seeing sectarianism only in the Orange Order, and not in those who seek to define a street as belonging to one religion or the other, and that those who wish to walk down it need the permission of the side to which it belongs. This of course was the logic of those who attacked the Civil Rights march at Burntollet. It also ignores the gross manifestations of sectarianism that are possible short of the desire to remind one side who has historically been in charge. What of the idea that nationalists have rights as nationalists and that unionists have rights as unionists, as looks likely to be put into the Bill of Rights at the urging of nationalist politicians. I can think of absolutely nothing more against the tradition of republican thinking over the meaning of citizenship from the ancient world to the early modern period, to the French and American Revolutions, and from Tone to Connolly. To suggest that one has rights as a nationalist or as a unionist rather than as a citizen is certainly communalist – in the sense that rights are grounded in membership of a group within society. In NI, this means sectarian thinking.

I’d like WBS or Wednesday to address whether they would accept the term communalism if not sectarianism. The parties are cooperating in Stormont. Great. But the nature of NI politics remains us v them. When the dynamic of politics is us v them, and us and them are defined primarily in religious terms, what should we call that if not sectarian? Talking about taigs or huns is just a less polite way of saying us Catholics/nationalists or Protestant/unionists against that other crowd. Show me a definition that better describes NI politics and I’ll consider it.

Wednesday says that the southern parties operate on the basis that there is a Protestant Unionist community unpersuadeable about unity and that is therefore sectarian. I’m not sure that they do. I think they operate on the basis that they want nothing to do with the north until the majority there has emerged that wants to be in a united Ireland. And that is to be brought about by persuasion, but not in the foreseeable future. I don”t think the majority of the parties in the south see themselves as the representatives of the northern minority. In that sense, regardless of whether they would ultimately like a united Ireland or not and regardless of whether Wednesday is right or not that they think unionists will always be unionists, they are not involved in a sectarian approach, that seeks to promote the interests of their side.

On WBS’ final point about unionists becoming not unionists. Nothing wrong with wanting that to happen, and seeking to bring it about. But I’d say that most people think that the Catholics will eventually outbreed the Protestants, and unity will follow. Which is a different, though as WBS says, dangerous thing.

Apolgies for the disorganised screed.

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45. WorldbyStorm - January 26, 2008

That’s a huge amount to take in and I can’t address it this evening, Garibaldy, but there’s loads of interesting and valid points in there… And no reason at all for an apology about structure… BTW… any chance we’ll get that post(s) soon? 🙂

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46. Wednesday - January 26, 2008

It is true that some Shinners tend to use the terms Catholic/nationalist and Protestant/unionist interchangeably. In my experience it’s usually the Belfast ones who do that, for whatever that’s worth. I remember a few years ago attending an internal meeting where a strategy document was circulated that included a reference to “outreach to Protestants”. I pulled up the party member giving the presentation on it – not realising at the time that he was a Protestant himself… anyway it’s something that most of us, certainly in the South, would want to see us get away from. But the point is that the reason it happens is that there is a strong correlation between Catholicism and nationalism on the one hand and Protestantism and unionism on the other. That’s the reality at the moment. It certainly wouldn’t be party policy to look at those correlations as 1:1, which should be self-evident given that the current SF strategy is predicated on turning a sufficient number of unionists to create a nationalist majority.

As for the free state (feck off WBS) parties, they absolutely do look on unionists as unpersuadable. I don’t know how you fail to see that. And their not seeing themselves as representatives of the northern minority probably has more to do with the fact that they don’t have northern members (well, not many anyway). If Fine Gael ‘The United Ireland Party’ ever do organise there, where do you think they’re going to go looking for votes? FF likewise. Labour would be the exception, but they’re fairly openly partitionist at this point anyway. The problem I have with your definition of sectarianism is that it effectively makes a party sectarian simply to have a strong position on the border, which I see as an issue of imperialism and not of religion.

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47. CL - January 26, 2008

These contentious matters will be resolved next Monday when the renowned Senator Eoghan Harris debates Ruairi O Bradaigh at U.C.C.

http://www.uccphilosoph.com/internal/

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48. Garibaldy - January 26, 2008

Wednesday,

On the free state parties, I’m not so sure that FG and the PDs in particular wouldn’t be chasing right-wing unionist votes of they ever came north. But the point being they haven’t. So they remain in the south, where they seek to be neutral.

My definition of sectarianism has nothing to do with the border. What you call a strong postiion on the border has in effect meant prioritising it to the virtual exclusion of everything else. A point succintly summed up by Gerry A in 1983 when he said that a bill of rights had no place to play in the republican struggle, or as I once heard a young, supposedly civic unionist UUP member say to a young DUP member after he’d spent the public discussion talking about social issues, “it’s got fuck all to do with whether you’re left or right”. I would say that it is entirely possible to take a strong position on the border and deal with other, social issues – as in fact your and other parties are now doing. And I would say The WP has been doing for the last three and a half decades, consistently standing for a socialist republic, even when De Rossa et al were trying to shift the goalposts. But it has not been sectarian. Take the marching issue. Nothing to do with the border, but lots to do with sectarianism. Northern society is structurally sectarian – and to be honest most people like it that way, as do extremly powerful interest groups.
I think you’re saying that it’s communalism at the minute but you hope it won’t be in future, but don’;t want to put words in your mouth.

Which relates to the language thing. You’re right to say some Shinners. But when those are people like Adams, Maskey, Doherty and McGuinness (not Belfast), and most especially Kelly, then it’s a bit more than some suggests. It’s the leadership.

It is the reality that there is a strong correlation. But the question is, do you embrace it or fight it – and the answer of all the major parties in NI has been to embrace it. The virtual total abandonment of the Shared Future programme by the Executive – and let’s not forget who dominates that – demonstrates how that sectarian reality suits people nicely thank you very much.

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49. Wednesday - January 27, 2008

I didn’t include the PDs because they’re barely organised in Dublin let alone Belfast. But on FG, I very much doubt it. They have too much invested in their fetishisation of Michael Collins. If anything they’ve tended to go more green in recent years, which plays very well in their rural southern base, and I just don’t see them abandoning that for the sake of a small pool of unionist votes. As for them being neutral, no, they aren’t. In Assembly and Westminster elections they go north to campaign for a nationalist party. In one of his Easter speeches a couple years ago Kenny said that unionists “may never be ready to see [1916] as we see it” (my emphasis). Another of their TDs has said that the British presence in Ireland is the unionist people. They are not neutral.

And no disrespect, but the WP’s position on the border (by which I mean the national question, which has quite a bit to do with sectarianism) wouldn’t be considered “strong” by anyone I know.

But when those are people like Adams, Maskey, Doherty and McGuinness (not Belfast), and most especially Kelly, then it’s a bit more than some suggests. It’s the leadership.

Well, the northern leadership anyway… admittedly a lot of people, not least themselves, confuse the two… I don’t see the view of SF as “embracing” the division. As I said earlier, the current strategy depends on breaking it down to at least some degree. And that’s what all the “unionist outreach” stuff (which I recognise that plenty of people are very cynical about) is for. I’m not saying that we don’t ever use the division to our own advantage, but the longer-term aim is and has to be to break it down. Whether anything the party is doing actually contributes to achieving that aim is, of course, a legitimate question.

As to who dominates the Executive, I tend towards a Gerry McHugh view on that subject…

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50. Garibaldy - January 27, 2008

I think we can agree to disagree on the significance of the UI rhetoric of FG, and their occasional canvassing. It’s clearly gesture politics, and is recognised as such by all, including unionists. As for the British presence remark, that was surely to deny that the situation was a simple anti-imperialist one, and to argue that to unite the country meant persuading unionists they should embrace an Irish identity. I don’t believe they have any intention of coming north, I was just responding to a hypothetical.

I’m not surprised to hear that people you know don’t consider The WP position on the border as strong. Clearly The WP position was to get the violence ended first as workers were being killed simply for their religion; and because it was holding back the chances of progressive change in NI by playing into the hands of reactionary elements; but also, and this was always crucial, because it was keeping the people of Ireland divided, and setting the cause of unity as well as socialism back by decades.

On the use of language. You can say that it;s the northern leadership – but are you really saying that they aren’t the driving force behind the whole country, and that the people in leadership positions in the south aren’t there because they have their backing? I think that’s a bit of a false dichotomy to say there are two leaderships. Incipient partitionism perhaps? 🙂 I have a vague recollection of Mary Lou talking in this tone, but didn’t include her originally because I couldn’t remember the details.

I think PSF policies are predicated on the division, and on using it as the basis for political growth and development. We have seen no progress on integrated education for example. I know that the rhetoric has shifted towards breaking the division down. But I am far from sure that the reality reflects that, either on the ground or at Stormont. Good work is done at interface areas, but not at creating a communal identity. BTW, I find it interesting that you can acknowledge that advantage is taken of division and still regard the project as in line with Tone’s thinking. It’s something I could never reconcile, and a conversation I’ve had with other southern PSF people of a socialist bent.

On the executive, I reckon that both the main parties are benefiting from it too much to rock the boat, but agree that DUP control of the purse strings gives them the ultimate say.

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51. Wednesday - January 27, 2008

As for the British presence remark, that was surely to deny that the situation was a simple anti-imperialist one, and to argue that to unite the country meant persuading unionists they should embrace an Irish identity.

I found the entire speech online. Here’s the relevant section:

‘Northern Ireland was seen as part of the national territory and that the only real solution was immediate re unification with the entire island and a withdrawal of “the British presence”. Unfortunately, too few people recognised that the British presence in Ireland was the 1.5 million Unionists who lived in the north east of Ireland. In a document “Towards a new Ireland” written by Garret Fitzgerald and Paddy Harte, Fine Gael defined the problem in terms of recognising the reality of partician [sic] and attempting to engage with the Unionist population on the issues that really mattered. Fianna Fail in the Downing Street Declaration finally embraced the principle of consent, which Fine Gael spoke about in the 1960s. It was the cornerstone to a new agreement, which finally left the issue of national territory to one side while reconciliation between Unionist and Nationalist was to be given a chance.’

Now I see nothing in there about persuading unionists to embrace an Irish identity. Quite the contrary in fact. It reads to me as welcoming the fact that FF aren’t trying to persuade them into a united Ireland any more.

When I say ‘the people I know’ I’m not just referring to Shinners. I have a somewhat wider range of acquaintances than that 🙂

As for the leadership, they’d be drawn in roughly equal numbers from the North and South. That’s definitely the case with the Officer Board (it’s 4/3). I don’t have a full list of Ard Chomhairle members to hand – the one on the website is woefully incomplete – so I can’t give an exact breakdown for that body. Most of them are directly elected either by the Ard Fheis or by their cúige so the northern leadership (by which I mean leadership figures from the North) has very little say in it.

I definitely wouldn’t say that the nordies are the ‘driving force behind the whole country’. They do exert more influence than the southerners in some respects (not all, thankfully). The basic point I was making was that that language is probably coming from them as northerners, rather than from them as leadership figures. I definitely don’t recall ever hearing it from southern leadership figures and I have heard several of them stress the contrary. As for Mary Lou, she’s from Rathgar so I assume she knows plenty of Protestants and knows full well they aren’t all unionists.

While I too would like to see integrated education, I’m not sure how the lack of progress on that front reflects a policy in favour of division. A policy that doesn’t adequately tackle it, quite possibly. And that goes for the other areas in which you feel the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric. The people formulating these strategies within the party genuinely do seem to believe in them, that’s always the impression I get from the tedious numbers of internal meetings I’ve attended. Maybe it’s a harder task than they realise or maybe they aren’t actually up to it, I don’t know. BTW I didn’t intend to acknowledge that advantage is taken of division so much as to not rule out the possibility that it happens at some time or another. Without knowing exactly what instances you’re thinking of (and bearing in mind the possibility that you and I might disagree that a particular instance is, in fact, taking advantage of division), I’d broadly agree that it would be incompatible with Tone. But I don’t think it makes ‘the project’ as such incompatible, because I guess I would see any such instances as not being a proper part of the project anyway.

I don’t know if you’ve read any of my own blog posts on the subject but I was and remain deeply sceptical of the Assembly as a whole never mind the Executive. Our Ministers don’t have enough power to deliver radical change (and it’s the Brits who really control the purse strings, not the DUP, but obviously the latter have their own ways to block progress) and the assumption which I think a lot of people were relying upon that we’d get a boost in the 26 County elections because of it turned out to be, erm, premature. We gave up a lot to get to this point (not least a significant number of very good activists) and I don’t think that’s finished yet either. So, I’m really not sure where we’re supposed to be benefitting.

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52. WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2008

Lots here. On the trajectory of the 1960s. WBS is right to say that urban areas were deliberately avoided to avoid creating sectarian feeling in the border campaign. But this does not mean that a defenderist ethos had disappeared. By the time the Troubles broke out, there were elements demanding that the movement represent a Hibernian ethos. The stuff in Kerry over the refusal to distribute the UI, the arguments over the rosary at commemorations, never mind what people in the north were saying, many of whom were no longer members like Joe Cahill.

It’s interesting to read the Ó Brádaigh biography which addresses these issues above. The attitude from that camp was that since most of the volunteers who had died were Catholic it was respectful to say a Rosary, and let’s be honest, as we know from Sean South some were very very Catholic indeed… but Sean Garland was a close comrade of South – so who knows. Yes, I’d have enormous reservations about such public protestations. But, I think that that doesn’t per se prove a Catholic defenderist ethos, indeed the problem with that argument is that any action to ‘defend’ locks straight into your ‘sectarian’ narrative when defence might well have been the only logical tactic during this period. It’s also fair to note that Garland, Goulding et al had been part of SF throughout this period and presumably only began to demur in the mid to late 1960s.

On the point that had people been more aggressive in defence of Catholic or nationalist interests, they may have held on to more support while still moving towards a serious socialist programme. One need only look at the history of the IRSP to see that attempts to marry these led inexorably to greater sectarianism.

My own sense of the IRSP was that it came up against the limitations of socialist rhetoric in a conflict rooted in national identity where the two communities were linked to religion. When it proved less and less possible to attack the BA they started to do precisely what the UDA/UVF had done prior to them, go after soft targets purely on a religious basis because they were easy and they represented the other ‘side’. However, that was in a radically different security situation to the early 1970s which is the only period I could seriously see OSF pushing a stronger line so I don’t believe that defensive actions under an OSF banner were necessarily destined to be sectarian… and incidentally, I wouldn’t say Catholic interests, I’d suggest that we had a clear instance of one community under threat from both the organs of the state and the other community (or portions of same)… the tag we use doesn’t matter.

WBS is entirely right to say that it was the sectarianism of the state and of unionism that was the motor force for the outbreak of the Troubles much of the violence of the early years. This does not negate The WP analysis that the Troubles were fundamentally sectarian, but in fact reinforces it. As does the justification that paramilitaries on both sides put out, that their community (itself defined as religious and not as national or political) was under attack, or under threat, and that they were forced to take up arms by the violence and sectarianism of either the unionist state or of the opponents of the state. Ironically, the whole narrative of those engaged in violence recognises that the Troubles were a sectarian struggle, yet The WP is regarded as being mistaken for putting the blame on sectarianism.

I think the problem is that you use the word ‘sectarian’ when I would see communal as more accurate. There is a distinction. The former is clear pejorative. It reifies one over another whereas the latter at least hints at some equality between the two (or however many communities there are). I’m genuinely unsure that the paramilitaries did from my reading of the literature posit in religious terms. Yes, the words Catholic and nationalist were used interchangeably on occasion but we all do that on occasion without meaning that all nationalists worship at the alter of Benedict or all Catholics want a UI. There is a convergence because most Catholics are Nationalist. As for the Troubles being sectarian. I don’t believe that it was primarily. It was a national identity struggle garbed in the cloak of religious struggle. But on a basic level it’s hard to see even in the political programmes of those on the nationalist (or in fairness the UUP later on ) side any obvious sectarian aspect. Nor can it be said that religious bodies proposed clearly sectarian agendas other than some individuals and some evangelical Protestants (education is a different thing, and trust me, I’m completely against religious control in education but that’s a characteristic of both parts of the island, and indeed increasingly the UK).

I’m not a greater believer in postmodernist theories, but I do think language is important. There has been a deliberate move to make Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist and Catholic/Nationalist/Republican mean the same thing, which was never the case during the Troubles. We all have the same goal, so we all fundamentally think the same, so why are we arguing? Let’s unite against themuns. A powerful argument and dynamic, and one which has done a great deal to boost the DUP and PSF, especially among young voters who don’t remember the Troubles who they have sewn up. And I see it used above, when the belief of an internationalist party in an independent Ireland is described as nationalist in reality.

I think that’s simply incorrect. What move has there been to elide these terms?If anything the confessional aspect of the conflict has been diminished at a rhetorical level due to the concentration on political identity. No one registers as a Catholic or Protestant in the Assembly, they register as a Unionist or Nationalist or Other. And the end point of a 32 county Republic is nationalist, Irish nationalist. There’s no escaping that fact.

On WBS’ idea of sectarianism as being cultural supremacy, and that the SDLP and PSF have no sectarian programme. There are a lot of unionists in Derry who might disagree, or people who were students at QUB when the Irish language was being used as a sectarian weapon as it still sometimes is, and the unilateral siteing of commemorative statues/stones in sensitive and provocative
areas (especially in rural areas), never mind incidents like a member of PSF falling off the roof of an orange hall, suggest otherwise. The demand for more neutral workplaces etc is of course a completely legitimate one.

Sure, some people will use culture to promote themselves or their agenda. Over bearing gaelgoirs are found everywhere. We see a similar process with Ulster Scots. We see a similar process with English. Go look at A Tangled Web to see the ne plus ultra in that particular game. That individuals will act in sectarian, or stupid, ways such as the moron on the Orange Hall is a given. But IIRC that person was expelled from SF. What about the inherent sectarianism in the OO itself. The big question is how this is all treated. Can the OO modernise, can it retain aspects of its identity without losing it entirely? I don’t know? I’m agnostic on that so far.

WBS’ definition is, I think, a misguided one. It ends up seeing sectarianism only in the Orange Order, and not in those who seek to define a street as belonging to one religion or the other, and that those who wish to walk down it need the permission of the side to which it belongs. This of course was the logic of those who attacked the Civil Rights march at Burntollet. It also ignores the gross manifestations of sectarianism that are possible short of the desire to remind one side who has historically been in charge. What of the idea that nationalists have rights as nationalists and that unionists have rights as unionists, as looks likely to be put into the Bill of Rights at the urging of nationalist politicians. I can think of absolutely nothing more against the tradition of republican thinking over the meaning of citizenship from the ancient world to the early modern period, to the French and American Revolutions, and from Tone to Connolly. To suggest that one has rights as a nationalist or as a unionist rather than as a citizen is certainly communalist – in the sense that rights are grounded in membership of a group within society. In NI, this means sectarian thinking.

I don’t for a second deny that there is a vernacular sectarianism, or societal sectarianism and that it shapes the ‘narrative’ for want of a better word right down to streets. But..it’s impossible to get away from the fact that Unionism and Nationalism/Republicanism are at base political positions which blend into religious aspects at some points and away from it at others and in the context of a divided polity it actually makes some degree of sense when you do as you say have ‘communal’ if you prefer rather than national blocs competing to recognise that fact. Or let’s put it a different way. The Tricolour flag in the window in the mid-1960s that caused a riot was rioted over by Loyalists and Unionists because it was a political icon as much as a cultural or societal one. In that environment it makes sense – after a history which included the Flags and Emblems perhaps to make it explicitly clear that nationalism is as valid an expression of political cultural or social identity as Unionism. I really don’t – even as a Republican who profoundly believes in citizenship – have a problem with that, perhaps not necessarily in the way you suggest it’s being put that nationalists have rights as nationalists, but rather that the expression of nationalism is legitimate, in the short term as the society works together. Yes, obviously in any future dispensation it would have to go. Having said that after the history since and before 1921 I’m not sure I’d blame anyone for trying to codify rights as best they could. And I’m pretty sure that’s not sectarian either.

I’d like WBS or Wednesday to address whether they would accept the term communalism if not sectarianism. The parties are cooperating in Stormont. Great. But the nature of NI politics remains us v them. When the dynamic of politics is us v them, and us and them are defined primarily in religious terms, what should we call that if not sectarian? Talking about taigs or huns is just a less polite way of saying us Catholics/nationalists or Protestant/unionists against that other crowd. Show me a definition that better describes NI politics and I’ll consider it.

Yes. I would accept the term communalism. I can’t see how it can be otherwise in a polity still dictated by the boundaries established in 1920-21 and drawing on a heritage of plantation, exclusion and economic and social domination and submission, and riven by politico-cultural division. But to suggest that it has to be zero sum, ‘us and them’ seems to me to be both pessimistic and actually run counter to everything the WP espoused. I always thought that WP policy was that once the violence was finished it would be possible to draw together class interests. Well. The violence is over. So isn’t it time to start working in that way rather than focussing on the obvious fact that there are self-perceived self-ascribed national identities? Those aren’t going to go away anytime soon, Benedict Anderson has taught us that much. And criticising the fact that such identities are exist and are embedded is rather like criticising gender inequality. The choice isn’t to complain but to educate. But it’s also odd from my perspective that there is a sort of conceptual leap from saying these communal issues are wrong and the self-identifications, or national identities, are wrong to one which say, but at the end of the day the solution is a United Ireland. How is that functionally different from what PSF, or the CPI, or FF or anyone actually says? I can’t see it. If the idea is that the WP version of the 32 county socialist Republic is somehow self-evidently superior, well again I don’t get it. It’s either so utopian it will never come to pass or there is no distinction with other entities who propose that they want the same thing. And here I have a real problem with the superiority of the ‘Republic’ that is proposed here. It seems to me to be akin to the RSF ‘Republicanism’ which is somehow ‘pure’. Most people ascribe the term Republic to a form of government. I think that’s the only logical way to do so, otherwise we start to engage in a policy of mystification.

Wednesday says that the southern parties operate on the basis that there is a Protestant Unionist community unpersuadeable about unity and that is therefore sectarian. I’m not sure that they do. I think they operate on the basis that they want nothing to do with the north until the majority there has emerged that wants to be in a united Ireland. And that is to be brought about by persuasion, but not in the foreseeable future. I don”t think the majority of the parties in the south see themselves as the representatives of the northern minority. In that sense, regardless of whether they would ultimately like a united Ireland or not and regardless of whether Wednesday is right or not that they think unionists will always be unionists, they are not involved in a sectarian approach, that seeks to promote the interests of their side.

Again with sides. Of course there are sides because the communities don’t just represent themselves but are also representative of broader all island and inter island political processes and dynamics that are both contemporary and historical. Hence UK representation for Northern Irish MPs. Hence the involvement of Dublin since the AIA. How could it be otherwise because this is the evidence that far from simply being a ‘sectarian’ or communal issue it is also very clearly a political/national identity one. The six counties don’t exist in isolation. Nationalists are nationalist to a nation. Unionists are unionists to another nation. It’s not all, or even just, about religious identity. Remove religion from the equation tomorrow through a mass conversion to Dawkins style agnosticism and nationalists would still be nationalists, Unionists still Unionists because the fundamental issue isn’t what religion one is (although it colours the street) but who governs and from where.

On WBS’ final point about unionists becoming not unionists. Nothing wrong with wanting that to happen, and seeking to bring it about. But I’d say that most people think that the Catholics will eventually outbreed the Protestants, and unity will follow. Which is a different, though as WBS says, dangerous thing.

If a unionist becomes a not-unionist what do they become? They become a 32 county Irish nationalist. That unfortunately is zero-sum. A 32 county Republic is the antithesis of Unionism. But why mention Catholics in relation to the increase in the Nationalist population? I agree that it’s dangerous, I’m just not sure why the religious identification is used instead of the political one.

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53. WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2008

Apologies, Wednesday, that wasn’t meant to be a serious crack re FS… 😦 Garibaldy started it – I blame him!!! 🙂

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54. Garibaldy - January 27, 2008

You fuckers started it when you signed the treaty

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55. WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2008

I’m not that old. It’s not my fault. Also, in my retrospective defence, I have more than a little time for some elements of the anti-Treaty side. Where though I’d have been in 1921 is a very interesting question….

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56. Garibaldy - January 27, 2008

WBS,

I’ll won’t have time to deal with all the points properly, but briefly on the language thing. This elision is something I have a particular interest in. I keep a close eye on it. There has been a shift towards the dropping of the Catholic part, but around the time of the ceasefires onwards there was a noticeable shift in the amount of times people used Catholic/nationalist/republican interchangeably in television and radio interviews in particular. Also the emergence of the concept of the PUL community which one can see quite often on slugger.

For me, republicanism in Ireland is an identifiable political philosophy with a history, a set of principles and assumptions against which political positions can be tested and, if you like falsified. So others may use it differently. I don’t really care. I’ll never accept that someone like Michael McDowell or the people who carried out Kingsmill are republicans even if they don’t want a monarchy.

As for wanting a united Ireland being automatically nationalist. Again, I don’t agree. I believe in the sovereignty of peoples, and that they should be free to make their own decisions. That doesn’;t make me a nationalist. To adapt Lenin’s analogy, countries should have the right to organise their governments whatever way they want but it doesn’t necessarily mean I think that should be a nation-state as nationalists do. I believe in internationalism.

Accepting communalism but not sectarianism because one is perjorative seems to me to be accepting the same thing. I don’t think that sectarianism sets one up over the other. I think it is basing your assumptions, politics, and attitudes one the interests of one part of the community. Of course there is a massive political dimension to the problem, based around perceptions of nationality. Like it or lump it, the division in NI is perceived by the people there to be religious. And social institutions are divided on that basis. Schools, teacher training, at one point the hospitals in Belfast, housing estates, and even the boy scouts are divided between catholic and protestant. Not nationalist and unionist. People talk about Catholic and Protestant areas for example. Not unionist and nationalist. Even if I am wrong and you are right and it’s a communalist conflict and not a sectarian one, my criticisms hold from a socialist viewpoint.

As for the point about criticising communalist identities and not educating against them. I could have sworn that’s what my political activity is about. But how can we fight sectarianism without pointing out what it is? If what is keeping the country divided is the belief that the people who live in it are fundamentally different, them that division must be challenged.

Anyway gotta go out. Be back to all this, and Wendesday’s points, later.

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57. WorldbyStorm - January 27, 2008

More to think about, but I’ll wait for your full thoughts before moving forward…

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58. Garibaldy - January 28, 2008

In terms of why mention Catholic on the idea that those in favour of a united Ireland will efventually outnumber those who aren’t, because that is the way the debate on demography in the north is had. I think I pointed it out before, but chechk out Mitchell MCLaughlin’s piece in Norman Porter (ed.), The Republican Ideal (Belfast, 1998) for a great example. Or look at the comments surrounding what the last census was expected to say. Let’s not forget that the census makes me a Catholic or Protestant REGARDLESS of whether I say I’m an atheist or not. Is there more eloquent proof of the way people perceive themselves, and are percevied?

On the point about the fundamental issue about who governs who from where. This is of course true. But that issue has been parked by the GFA. And we can see PSF recast their struggle as a struggle for better treatment for Catholics/nationalists within NI. Which goes to your point about the SDLP too and what it really sought to represent.

On Wedneday’s last.

I would say the principle of consent involves persuasion of unionism.

On who are the real movers within PSF. I have to say that I find your argument on the balance of power unconvincing. Especially given the number of complaints that emerged after the last election about the northerners running everything and messing it up. I think it’s fairly clear that people who come to prominence in the south do so only with the support of the leadership based in the north. That may change but we;ll have to wait and see.

On the rhetoric/reality thing. I tend to judge these things by actions. In the last government in NI and in this one, PSF controlled the ministry of education. There was approval from Mc Guinness of a few integrated schools which had effectively already received approval and nothing else. The same too on the Shared Future. Even the unionist outreach thing has been seriously downgraded. Martina Anderson was a prominent, if provocative and (perhaps deliberately) self-defeating person to have the job. Since then it has gone to someone hardly anyone has ever heard of, and from whom there has been barely a peep. So if people talk about wanting an end to division while practically embracing it (as all the main parties in NI and the British government do) then I remain sceptical of their bona fides.

I have read a lot of your blog. I realise you are sceptical about the whole thing. But I think it’s fair to say your party as a whole has been highly enthusiastic and has embraced the situation. And done a good job of sharing things out with the DUP and stitching up the other two parties when necessary. You are of course right to say London ultimately holds the purse strings, but Robinson is doing a fine job of ensuring the way the pie is distributed is in his hands.

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59. The Left Archive: “Teoiric” the Theoretical Journal of Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party, 1980 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 28, 2008

[…] as the last Left Archive piece has inspired a lively and – I think – illuminating debate about the legacy and policies of OSF/WP […]

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60. Wednesday - January 29, 2008

I would say the principle of consent involves persuasion of unionism.

There’s nothing intrinsic to the principle of consent about persuading anyone. All it says is that the status quo is acceptable until there’s a majority in favour of changing it. Whether that majority comes about through persuasion or outbreeding or indeed whether it never comes about is an issue that the principle of consent, by itself, does not address.

I did acknowledge that the northerners frequently exert more influence than the southerners but they don’t have quite the iron grip you imagine. Frank Little has noted several times here the ideological differences between the party in the two jurisdictions – there have been issues on which there has been a clear north-south cleavage and the southerners have won the argument, although I’m not going to get into details on a public site! There are also some well-known southerners who are actually quite at odds with the nordies, though that may not be apparent to those outside the party. Anyway my point about the use of language still stands.

And there is still unionist outreach stuff going on. There’s a less public dimension to it, which could be the style of the person in charge of it now or it could be because all the publicity around what Martina was doing was viewed as not particularly helpful.

On the schools thing I think WBS has a good point. The ‘right’ of parents to send their kids to schools controlled by one particular faith is deeply ingrained on this island – north and south. Persuading people that multi- (or preferably non-) demoninational education is the way to go is a huge job, and one that is much more than a matter of a Minister approving new schools. It’s a cultural change that’s required.

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61. Joe - January 29, 2008

I’d go along pretty much with WBS’s two national identities on this island. I’m interested too in this idea that Southern parties think that the Unionists are unpersuadable. I’d pretty much agree that they are. Put the shoe on the other foot. Am I persuadable that I’m really Irish and British and that the Republic should rejoin the UK? The answer in my head and my heart and my gut is no, never, never, never. And I’m pretty sure that Joe Unionist is a mirror image of me in that regard.

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62. pj callan - September 3, 2011

The CPI archives were mentioned on the RTE news the other night – if you missed it, here is the link – See from 19th minute of link below to RTE News, 31st August.

http://www.rte.ie/news/av/2011/0831/9news.html#

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63. Gordie_Shore - October 10, 2013

All you Paddies do is double – Dutching the fascist, imperialist regime over yourselves. Communism is exactly the same thing. They take away all of your money, so the services come for free. Isn’t it the same as giving up all of your goods/money to the king of another country. Therefore you are speeding up the imperialism and globalization in the lamest way possible.

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