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Left Archive: “Irish Political Review”, No.1, 1986 September 8, 2008

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Aubane Historical Society, British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish Left Online Document Archive.


An anonymous contributor to the Archive has forwarded the above and written the following. Many thanks.

The “Irish Political Review” began in July 1986, possibly as a successor to the British and Irish Communist Organisation publication “The Irish Communist” which had ceased publication earlier that year. The first issue was largely anonymous except for the crediting of David Alvey as editor.
The main contributors included Brendan and Angela Clifford, Alvey, John Martin, Pat Maloney,Dick Spicer and Tadhg O’Connor.

Regular targets included the IRA (January 1988), Irish Neutrality (November 1986 & September 1989), John Hume (described as a “totalitarian” in the December 1986 issue) Garrett Fitzgerald (February & September 1987) and critics of the Diplock Courts and Section 31 (December 1987).
Although you wouldn’t see it in this issue,the Catholic Church was a regular target as well (March 1988 laid into the Catholic hierarchy, while January 1989 savaged Sister Stanislaus Kennedy).
This constant aggression was rather sometimes arbitrary – I’m still at a loss to know why the poor people of Charleville were also savaged in the October 1986 issue.

There was lots of coverage of the Irish Labour Party, possibly because many of Jim Kemmy’s Democratic Socialist Party (with B&ICO links) were thinking of joining the LP at the time (as the DSP ultimately did). Charles J. Haughey was often praised, especially for his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.


1. Jim Monaghan - September 8, 2008

Dick Spicer were and I hope are still friends. We were in the Frank Ryan cumann in the Sticks.
I think the focus on Cork good and bad stems from Clifford who in other guises publishes a lot of material on Cork.
I gather they have now gone a bit nationalist. Even defending the Jacobite patriot parliament.
The DSP was a merger of Kemmeys local Limerick group, the BICO and the Socialist Party (which stemmed from a group which split from the Sticks.


2. WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2008

Very interesting. This clearly was a transitional document to the ‘nationalist’ phase of their existence. Had the BICO name been wound up by 86? It’s very difficult to tell when it finally vanished, or was superseded. Incidentally, I know the SWP gets a bad rap (I guess rightly so) for front organisations, but really, BICO had a cottage industry in same…


3. Jim Monaghan - September 8, 2008

They have an amazing publishing operation. Some good stuff. Reprints of Gaelic poets and Republican memoirs (Sean Moylan).
A long way from when they apointed themselves as the ideological leaders of the Loyalist Strike.
I suppose activist orgs don’t have the same time for publishing. Mind you the British SWP do alot and they are fairly on the frantic side.
Oh Mike Farrell has told me of a 68 commemoration, the North, the DHAC etc. A concert as well.


4. WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2008

Do you have a link to details on that Jim? I’ll put it up for people if so…


5. Dunne and Crescendo - September 8, 2008

Clifford objected to Mary McAleese getting a professorship in Queens sometime after this, which led to a court case. He basically argued that it was only positive discrimination that got her the job and that the rival candidate, one David Trimble, was better qualified. In 1988 they were decrying those campaigning for the release of the Birmingham 6 so I guess the nationalism comes later. About 1994 to be exact.
‘gone a bit nationalist’ Jim? The latest IPR essentially suggests that the Northern Ireland state was worse than Nazi Germany! (Its in Books Upstairs if you don’t believe me).


6. West Brit Anarchist Front - September 8, 2008

That shower are less interested in furthering the cause of the workers than heaping manure on other left wingers, or others considered ideologically suspect. They started out as revisionists, but now they are blinkered nationalists, who write letters to the Irish Times, suggesting that scribbling toff Elizabeth Bowen is not truly Irish.
They are now on a mission to ethnically cleanse Ireland of West Brits.
I’m not sure that any of this has anything to do with socialism, but it’s all good fun.


7. Dunne and Crescendo - September 8, 2008

I’ll lay my cards on the table here; I think the BICO, the IPR, the Aubane History Society etc are a nasty, sectarian (both politically and religiously) bunch. I’ve had the dubious pleasure of reading their justifications for anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sectarianism in the 1970s and find their volte-face to Catholic nationalism less than edifying or indeed convincing. Just to give you an idea on the emotions that they used to raise;
Following the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, the Provisional weekly Republican News suggested that the Garda Special Branch (rather than raiding them) should look into the BICO, as this group was pro-Loyalist and had supported the right of Loyalists to ‘carry their war to the south.’
Now their the fucking Bertie Ahern fan club.


8. WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2008

I’d go some way with you on that D&C. Certainly it’s hard to see any serious effort on their part to be coherent ideologically or intellectually. They’re sort of anti-populists.

WBAF. An interesting point, I think they probably count here because of that transitional aspect I mentioned above.


9. Jim Monaghan - September 9, 2008

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10. Dermot Holden - September 9, 2008

Bertie Ahern fan club me arse. Do you actually read IPR at all?

In fairness to the IPR they expose historical revisionism and west Brit craw thumping with every issue I’ve read over the last 12 months.


11. NollaigO - September 9, 2008

I agree with post 10. I think it is more fruitful to examine their present positions than to constantly chant the “From Peking to Aubane” mantra. Even in the 1970s they were not an orthodox Maoist grouping. I remember them supporting Tariq Ali in a polemic with British Maoist groupings over the right of East Pakistan [now Bangladesh] to become independent. The Chinese government supported the Pakistani government and most Maoist groupings supported the Pakistani government. This action by the Chinese government prompted BICO to review critically much of the Maoist politics.
The positive present day aspects of IPR activities that I would support include(a) their defence of the Flying Columns in the War of Independence (b) their support for Irish neutrality during the Emergency [aka WWII] (c) the opposition to the slide of this State into supporting British commemorations of the Battle of the Somme and their related sustained opposition to the antics of the Reform Group and their useful idiot, Senator Harris.


12. WorldbyStorm - September 9, 2008

Hmmm… I don’t know NollaigO, I see where you’re going, but I feel that they’re like an Irish version of the RCP. Not entirely wrong, but wrong enough. And I also think that the way in which they conducted their business has been enormously destructive… I mean to establish positions that fed directly into some of the most revisionist forces around, ones which arguably prolonged the conflict, and then to wind up on the far side of them seems to me to be willful – at best. Then there’s the small matter of the tone of their interventions. As regards Reform Group… well, yeah, if they were a force in the land I’d be with you, but they’re so limited with so little real impact. On the other hand I’m with them all the way as regards EH.


13. Dunne and Crescendo - September 9, 2008

‘Do you actually read IPR at all?’

I do, on occasion. I don’t think that their present positions can be divorced from their past. Everyone changes their minds, but this is something different.
In the 1970s they said Protestants were massacred in Cork; now they say thats lies. They said the South was a backward, Catholic, peasant, gombeen state, and the IRA collaborated with the Nazis. That 1930s Sinn Fein were anti-Semitic bigots. That Northern Ireland was a progressive, modern part of a progressive modern set-up, the UK. That internment was justified and that the British state had to crush the Provos, who wanted to drag Protestants into the southern state.
That the Loyalist murder gangs were a reaction to the Provos and would stop if the Provos stopped. That northern Catholics were not discriminated against to the degree they claimed and in any case were happier being bookies and publicans than engineers and professors.
And so on….
Now maybe they were right, I don’t think so myself, but fuck me, to read now that the north was worse than Nazi Germany, who by the way were only forced into war by the Brits; and that old school Irish Catholic nationalism was right all along? That Robert McCartney’s family launched a ‘divisive’ campaign to highlight their brothers murder and were ‘feted all the way to the White House and back’ (not like Gerry Adams eh?)
It maybe a giant intellectual joke after all! But its a fucking sick one.


14. WorldbyStorm - September 9, 2008

But it’s the venomous tone of their approach which really gets me. It’s like down in Aubane they think they’re engaged in a life or death existential struggle, when they aren’t. Really, really, not. Mind you, there’s a bit of entertainment value in it…


15. Dermot Holden - September 10, 2008

I cant comment on the distant history of IPR as I was only born in 1968.
Nonetheless I’m familiar with their analysis from the early 90’s having bought their publications and history books over the years (from Books Upstairs when I lived in Dublin and from the Quay Co-Op during my Cork days)

IPR deal with issues in a way that is though provoking….who else put out anything like ‘Church and State’? Irish Political Review is I believe essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the cultural, economic and political struggle of the Irish working class.

I’m not a member of their group, in fact I come from an ‘orthodox’ second Dail republican background.
IPR has always interested me because of their analysis of the whole question of national identity in Ireland. Take the current issue where one of the contributors writes about sectarianism and the fact that within his own family people identified with two different national traditions. Very little in Saoirse, AP/RN, SN or the Trot or CPI press come close to IPR in terms of analysis.

As for ‘venom’ – of course the IPR stand for something so their views are contrary to ‘accepted wisdom’. Dont forget there is plenty of ‘venom’ behind the agenda of the anti-national ‘soft soap’ historical revisionists.

When I grew up as a kid there was no question of city mayors attending Poppy Day Commemorations and attending British Army events – but nowadays this is common practise with constitutional nationalists. I never recall RTE running documentaries slandering the memory and service record of those who fought for national independence.
The question arises, what forces have pushed this cultural/political agenda and secondly is it worth opposing or are we happy to continue down this line?

That people find this debate “entertaining” or “fucking sick” are living in cloud fucking cuckoo land.
Against all this west-Brit craw thumping shite the IPR stands squarely on the side of the Irish people – long may they continue.



16. Dunne and Crescendo - September 10, 2008

‘Against all this west-Brit craw thumping shite the IPR stands squarely on the side of the Irish people – long may they continue.’

Whatever floats your boat Dermot.
Personally the sight of people who spent the 1970s excusing the Loyalists butchering Catholics and sneering at nationalists as ‘altar hugging gombeen men’ turning into self-appointed arbiters of Irishness is more than a little sickening.
Similarly pretending to be a group of local historians from west Cork and making snide comments about working class women from the Short Strand trying to get some justice for their murdered brother is more than a bit puke inducing.
‘If you come at the king, you best not miss’
Omar Little (PhD)


17. WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2008

Dermot, well and good, but which Irish people do they defend? That seems to change rather a bit…


18. Starkadder - September 10, 2008

To discuss the actualpublication..
The first article seems to be saying Irish Nationalism is innately politically conservative and incompatible with any left-wing approach, hence the
dig at Michael D. Higgins, ”nationalist to the core”,being surprised
at the divorce result.. They do have a point about
the pointlessness of Dublin 4 columnists
hoping the Catholic Hierarchy will become more liberal, but Eamonn McCann has been making the same point for decades.

There’s a nasty “blaming the victim” stance in the claim
that the “chief result” of the Anglo-Irish agreement has
been a rise in Sectarian assassinations. Their dig at
the Cruiser,(in which they say the AIA,not the 1986 Divorce referendum alienated the Ulster Protestants) ignored the fact the UUP
said the result confirmed the anti-Protestant nature
of the ROI.
The Brother Tadhg column,in addition to being named after
An infamous anti-Catholic song “Lilibulero”,has a
nasty dig at Douglas Gageby

“…The editor of the Irish Times is a very poor relation
of Yeats. He is an Ulster Protestant who turned against his own
people and has done very well out of running them down in his editorials…
But what is Mr. Gaeby that he should pronounce judgment on the
On the people? He is plenty of nothing.”

I was amused to see the September Issue of the IPR
plug a conference where Michael Farrell spoke, when
In the 70s the Athol Books group
used to exhaust their thesaurus looking for insults
to hurl at him.


19. Dunne and Crescendo - September 10, 2008

And isn’t Gageby a good man done down by the west Brits these days in IPR land?


20. WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2008

I like that ‘exhaust their thesaurus’…


21. Starkadder - September 10, 2008

One of the posters on Politics.ie suggested that part of the
reason the Aubane Historical Society are so aggressively
attacking the “revisionist” movenment of Roy Foster and
Peter Hart is that they wish to control the direction the
anti-revisionist debate goes into.

He suggested that they have sensed that
many Irish people are unhappy with the revisionist
movement,particularly in its crassest aspects such as
Kevin Myers’ columns. Hence the “piggy-backing”
on the research of anti-revisionist historians like
Meda Ryan and Niall Meehan.

What direction they want to steer opposition to
Hart et. al. I’m not sure,although a clue may
found in their association with Desmond Fennell-
a conservative Irish Nationalist whose writings
on Northern Ireland were sometimes considered
a form of “two-nations” theory.

Another clue maybe lie in Athol Books having published
two books on the Arms Trial,
“Military Aspects Of Ireland’s Arms Crisis Of 1969-70”
and “August 1969” designed to attack Jack Lynch’s
role in this period while lauding Charles Haughey.


22. Dunne and Crescendo - September 10, 2008

Theres also a theory that by associating critical history with revisionism and attacking revisionists in hysterical terms they are muddying the waters; spreading confusion and making it impossible for a real discussion to develop.


23. Starkadder - September 10, 2008

That’s a good point, D & C. Certainly the IPR seems to
regard Diarmuid Ferriter, for instance, as a revisionist of
the Foster/Hart school.

The AHS has also being associated with the
Roger Casement Foundation, which regards the
Black Diaries as forgeries and wants them destroyed
after being disproved. The IPR has lauded the
RCF’s work in the Feb. 2005 issue. According
to Lucy McDiarmuid in
the Irish Art of Controversy,
many of the people involved in the RCF are
unhappy at the idea of Casement being a
active homosexual,thus suggesting an
organisation of religious conservatives.


24. WorldbyStorm - September 11, 2008

Ferriter I’d have thought was pretty mainstream and arguably a lot more considered than Hart et al…


25. Captain Blood - September 11, 2008

Yon crew of Cabin Boys and Petty Officers, fighting amongst themselves do only the work of the Lubber Classes of Greengrocers and Cattle Rustlers.

Unless ye’re producing a playbill or libel against the Admiral Sotdt of the Royal Navy, reading is just a waste of time that could be better used retouching the maps on well cured goatskin, showing where your booty and plunder are buried in stout teak chests.


26. WorldbyBreeze - September 12, 2008

“licensed chortles in an orgy of self-congratulation”
Hmm, Captain, I don’t know about that …


27. WorldbyStorm - September 12, 2008

Yeah, surely anything but… 😦


28. NollaigO - September 12, 2008


Away, [with the fairies?] me hearties !!


29. WorldbyBreeze - September 12, 2008
30. WorldbyStorm - September 12, 2008

No, no you misunderstand my almost namesake, I was saying that around here there’s little reason for orgies of congratulation, self or otherwise… which is kind of depressing when I think about it.


31. WorldbyStorm - September 12, 2008

No, no you misunderstand me, almost namesake, I was saying that around here there’s little reason for orgies of congratulation, self or otherwise… which is kind of depressing when I think about it.


32. Starkadder - September 13, 2008

One oddity is that in all my readings of Athol Books publications
over the last few years,there has been absolutely no
mention (AFAIK) of the Corrib Gas Field /Shell to Sea
controversy. Think of it-a foreign company trying to
exploit a native Irish resource,endangering
the local area? Surely that would be a
good chance for them to beat the nativist drum.

Or maybe one of their trademark “contrarian”
arguments about how Ray Burke and Bertie Ahern
were pushing forward Irish Industry.

But there’s been no mention of the Corrib Gas
controversy at all.


33. Starkadder - October 3, 2008

Did any see the October issue of Books Ireland? They had
a length review of the second edition of Athol’s
Elizabeth Bowen book. The BI reviewer quoted
Brendan Clifford as saying in the book that he “admired Adolf Hitler
as a political thinker”. :0


34. Brian - October 4, 2008

Really? So Brendan Clifford admires the “political thought”
of history’s most evil man? The words “Fascist” and “Nazi” are
flung around indiscriminately on the net, but
if what the BI review says is true, then it has some
validity in Clifford’s case.

Clifford and his followers haven’t been playing with the full deck for
years anyway.


35. m callaghan - October 5, 2008

That must include Manus ORiordan as well then?


36. Starkadder - October 6, 2008

“That must include Manus ORiordan as well then?”

Well, that makes O’Riordan a hypocrite for not
objecting to his boss’ admiration of a
“political thinker” who was also the biggest
anti-Semite in history.

So if Brendan Clifford admires both Hitler and Stalin
(see IPR 2004) doesn’t that basically make him
something like a National Bolshevik or a Third Positionist ?


37. M Callaghan - October 6, 2008

Ha Ha you really have a thing about Brendan Clifford – but then you’re a lapsed sticky arent you.

Ye had the same line about the provos – I remember a WP pamphlet with a photo of a crowd supposedly giving a faascist salute at a republican funeral!!


38. Omar Little - October 6, 2008

I’m not a lapsed sticky at all. But I still think that BICO were ****s


39. WorldbyStorm - October 6, 2008

I guess *I’m* a lapsed sticky… 😦 And I can’t help going some way to OL’s thoughts…


40. Starkadder - October 6, 2008

I’ve never been in the Stickies. In fact, I have never joined
ANY political party or organization.


41. dick spicer - January 19, 2009

Jim Monaghan, just came accross this . Yes still friends I would say.
Interesting to see you becoming the historian of the left in Ireland. Get in touch ?


42. Major McDowell - RIP - Politics.ie - September 13, 2009

[…] Originally Posted by Prester Jim The big daddy of myers, harris and other traitors. In his favour at least he never pretended to be Irish. There was a long and disgraceful tradition of people regarding the great Douglas Gageby as a traitor because he came from a northern Irish background and adopted nationalist sympathises: Conor Cruise O'Brien, Major McDowell, and this rag here: "The Editor of the Irish Times is a very poor relation of Yeats. He is an Ulster Protestant who turned against his own people and has done well out of running them down in his editorials. He has been living in a stage Irish wonderland for many years….But what is Mr. Gageby that he should pronounce judgement on the people? He is plenty of nothing." Irish Political Review, July 1986, pg. 10-11. Left Archive: “Irish Political Review”, No.1, 1986 The Cedar Lounge Revolution […]


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