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The Left Archive: “The United Irishman” from Sinn Féin – The Workers’ Party, 1979 March 10, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive.



Here is the United Irishman, from Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party, from 1979. It’s a crisp production, quite different to earlier versions – if only in the use of red and black. The unsmiling visage on the front page is a relatively youthful Sean Garland. He is used to illustrate a speech on terrorism. Interesting stuff too.

Given by him to the “Irish Democratic Youth Movement” weekend school (as a side note, Fianna hÉireann, the youth section of the IRA, were considered to have been instrumental in assisting the rise of the Provisionals, so much so that I was once told ‘…we won’t make that mistake again’), it charges that:

“It is clear that the Fianna Fáil party are living in the shadow of the gunmen. Continually they must keep looking over their shoulders at such people as Neil Blaney…” And it’s not just Fianna Fáil who raise his ire. “…John Taylor is in some ways a mirror image of the Fianna Fáil government…feeling that he was overshadowed by Dr. Paisley at the opening of the Strasbourg Assembly he now howls for the dogs of war to be unloosed by Northern paramilitary groups….’ And then an unlikely (for some) antagonist is referenced.

“On the other hand their (sic) is the response of Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien. His quasi religious view of the problem facing Northern Ireland in no way helps it to bring about unity of the people rather it reinforces those who benefit from perpetuating existing divisions”.

Overall it’s telling how this paper deals with both parts of the island, somewhat unlike the Irish People posted some weeks back which took a decidedly Southern ‘turn’. Having said that there are some intriguing aspects to that, for example consider the article on page 4 about prison reform in the North, and its passing reference to the ‘blanket’ protests. There is also a sense that it sits between two time periods. On the one hand there are the articles about former conflicts, such as Vietnam, and then pieces on new ones like Nicaragua. Thatcher had recently gained power in the United Kingdom.

And then, as on the back page, there is a further opportunity to criticise the Provisional Sinn Féin, in the unlikely setting of an article about Irish-America. Indeed this has an expressly ‘international’ feel and was clearly intended for consumption outside of the island of Ireland. How else, to explain pieces such as the following under the heading Historic:

The visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland later this month is being awaited eagerly not only by members of the Roman Catholic faith but by other Christian denominations. Leading Roman Catholic spokespersons have recently expressed their horror as to the manner in which this historic trip has been clouded by murderous terrorist acts.Undoubtedly the Vatican will not want to become embroiled in Irish politics but there are widespread rumours that the Roman Pontiff will feel it necessary to call upon the Provisional Alliance, known to many as the Roman Catholic guerrilla army, to immediately cease their terrorist campaign.

It would be easy to say this is a distinction with earlier incarnations (and a much earlier UI will be posted up over the next couple of weeks by way of contrast). The international aspect is still there, the ideology is clearly of the left, but this is a document which focuses on its political adversaries and names them all. Yet, the UI was always clear about who those it considered to such adversaries. So perhaps less change than might be imagined.


1. Starkadder - March 10, 2008

On page 8, I was amazed to see Tony O’Reilly admitting
the possibility of a United Ireland. I’d never have that guessed
from reading any of his newspapers. Interesting to see
he was tipped as a potential “future Taoiseach” as well.


2. WorldbyStorm - March 10, 2008

Business interests 😉


3. Starkadder - March 10, 2008

And the review of Belinda Probert’s book as well. I suspect
she may have influenced WP thinking toward the Northern


4. WorldbyStorm - March 10, 2008

And a fair old bit. Still, wasn’t the CC O’B piece interesting. And … accurate too.


5. Garibaldy - March 10, 2008

Quite an interesting edition, and very different to the Irish People. Much less a pure campaigning paper, and more space for wider and more ideological issues (the WFTU piece for example). I wonder was the Probert review written by Patterson. I suspect so.


6. WorldbyStorm - March 10, 2008

More than likely.


7. Garibaldy - March 10, 2008

Oh, and on the Fianna thing. Dunno about Dublin, but more identified with the IRSP in Belfast – Steenson et al.


8. WorldbyStorm - March 10, 2008

That’s true actually now I think about it. The sense that it was uncontrolled and uncontrollable left a real memory even years ago.


9. Garibaldy - March 10, 2008

The dynamics of a movement make that a likely problem. Hence why it had to go.


10. Starkadder - March 14, 2008

It just struck me,moving ahead a few years…
In the 80s, the main political magazines,
Browne’s Magill and the Phoenix, were both very critical
of the Workers’ Party (I vaguely remember a Phoenix
article saying RTE,the Irish Times and Independent Newspapers,
had all been “Infiltrated” by Stickies of the Harris school).

Do the WP veterans here have any thoughts on how the
party was depicted by the media?


11. WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2008

Very badly 😉


12. Starkadder - March 14, 2008

No-one liked the poor Stickies…. 😦


13. dilettante - March 14, 2008

Except the media they controlled (eg. RTE) obviously.


14. WorldbyStorm - March 14, 2008

Hard to say they controlled it. They certainly had undue influence in certain areas – arguably current affairs.


15. The cause of labour - September 26, 2010

coming across a few of my familys connections with the workers party i had found a number of documents relating to numerous policy documents before and after the 3 splits that the movement went through what would be the easist way to donate them to the CLR as i have yet to see any of them in the archive
some tution would be welcome via e-mail


16. WorldbyStorm - September 26, 2010

If you can email me at the email worldbystormATeircomDOTnet that would be much appreciated.


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