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Irish Left Archive: Provisional Sinn Féin, Éire Nua, January 1971, Appendix 1972… February 9, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Sinn Féin.


Enclosed missing pages from original scan [pp. 38-39]. Apologies for the mix up. All other files have been updated to reflect change.


This file is the document in full and is approximately 14 mbs…en-1971-go

These are about 6.5 mbs each and comprise the two respective halves of the document…



Éire Nua is a fascinating document that was of pivotal significance as a touchstone of of Provisional Sinn Féin (apologies to those who dislike the usage of the term “Provisional”, but in this case its difficult for those who are searching on the internet to distinguish correctly between the different organisations during the 1970s. This was their path away from the Marxism of the Official Sinn Féin made manifest. And this is clearly laid out, even in the subheading… The Social and Economic Programme of Sinn Féin.

The overall appearance of the document is of a sophisticated pamphlet, very much of its time. Simple but effective drawings inside frame chapter headings. The cover is a simple orange. There is no hint of green.

It’s a crisp read at a mere 56 printed pages, and at this remove surprisingly uncontentious. Not that it isn’t aspirational, but it does depend upon a fairly unlikely set of circumstances coming into play for Sinn Féin to achieve these goals.

That said there is a strong emphasis on “Christian’ values throughout, from the Réamhrá which suggests that ‘amongst our objectives are the establishment of “a reign of social justice based on Christian principles by a just distribution and effective control of the nation’s wealth and resources” and the institution of “a system of government suited to the particular needs of the people”.

That this leads to – at this remove – some intriguing contradictions, not least the pre-eminence of ‘the State’ across a range of areas which perhaps points to the necessity to balance competing strands within what in truth was a fairly broad movement.

Indeed note point 7 in the Réamhrá which proposes that:

Private enterprise will still have a role to play in the economy but it will be a much smaller role than it has today. It will have no place in key industries and State incentives will favour co-operative projects as the most socially desirable. No non-national shall be allowed to have a controlling interest in an Irish industry.

That last sentence is somewhat tautological in the context of those preceding it.

But outright statism is avoided by recourse to ‘the main instrument of economic development’ which ‘will be co-operative enterprises in production, distribution and exchange’. And these are positioned within an explicitly Irish tradition… ‘These will be based on the Comhar na gComharsan philosophy which is fonded on the right of worker-ownership and is native Irish as well as being co-operative or distributist in character. Each individual worker will own an economic unit of the means of production in the form of farm, workshop, business or share in a factory or other co-operative’.

And this blending of radicalism with traditionalism continues throughout (although worth noting how reference to ‘the means of production’ informs the analysis).

In some respects the most interesting feature of the approach outlined here is the confident assertion that Ireland can avoid repeating the ‘mistakes’ of other nations. This is seen in reference to transport and other areas.

Consider the section on Education which places considerable emphasis on the restoration of Irish (and the idea of ‘ensuring the development and equipment of all the moral, intellectual an physical powers of children so that they will become God fearing and responsible citizens of a free independent nation’), but intriguingly although inter-denominationalism is promoted there is no sense that the structural ownership of schools would be altered.

And a further fascinating point, in the section on Trade we are told:

Sinn Féin would do as Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Iceland, Yugoslavia and many other European counties (sic) have done; seek Associate Membership or a trade agreement with the EEC while diversifying trade as much as possible… should Ireland be forced into the EEC on England’s heels Sinn Féin will resist and oppose Brussels domination just as the Irish people have resisted British domination for centuries.

A de facto National Health Service is proposed, albeit with ‘nominal charges.. for prescriptions, for those who can afford to pay them’. Note the point made… ‘the various features of other national health systems will be studied and there will be consultation with the medical profession at all stages’.

Nor is the former enemy within ignored… in the Réamhrá mention is made of the ‘past few years… devoted to preparing this Social and Economic Programme…. some of those who were involved in an attempt to take over the Republican Movement had it suppressed, however, in favour of a more extreme draft outline which was never published. During the past 12 months the programme has been revised, updated and prepared for publication’.

But it is Appendix which was to prove entirely contentious in future years. This laid out “The Structure” of a federal state in Ireland and strong Provincial Governments in Uladh, Laighean, Chonnacht and na Mumhan.

Or as it states:

The establishment of Dáil Uladh would be the first step towards the creation of this new government structure for the whole island. By thus creating a Provincial Parliament for the nine counties of Ulster within a New ireland, the partition system would be disestablished and the problem of the border removed. Dáil Uladh would be representative of Catholic and Protestant, Orange and green, Left and Right. it would be an Ulster Parliament for the Ulster people. The Unionist-oriented people of Ulster would have a working majority within the Province and would therefore have considerable control over their own affairs. That power would be the surest guarantee of their civil and religious liberties.

That the obvious issue as to whether the three counties abandoned by partition would necessarily want to coalesce with their separated brethren has generally been overlooked in the opposite but equal dynamic of Republicans from the six counties who as time progressed saw this as merely instituting Unionist rule in the context of a ‘New Ireland’. And for all that this was entirely symbolic and aspirational it was that sense that this plan simply did not address the realities of the situation that was – ironically – to provide much of the energy for those who would eventually replace the positions articulated in Éire Nua.

A useful contrast can be made with the text of the 1979 version, particularly the appearance of the term ‘democratic socialist’ in the 1979 version, as well as quotes from Connolly.

This text and these files are a resource for use freely by anyone who wants to for whatever purpose – that’s the whole point of the Archive (well that and the discussions). But if you do happen to use them we’d really appreciate if you mentioned that you found them at the Left Archive…


1. splinteredsunrise - February 9, 2009

Ah now, there’s one from the past. I still have the old orange pamphlet somewhere.

The socio-economic bit derived mostly from the programme for the united SF that Roy Johnston and Sean O Bradaigh (now there’s a combination) had been working on prior to the split, and which in essence was a moderate socialist one. I think it’s very much due to the dynamic of the split that PSF was flagging up the social Catholicism at the same time as OSF was pushing the Connollyite angle. (As late as 1978 Connolly was still looked on with suspicion, mainly because the Officials made such a big deal of him.) But really, the objections on the Provisional side weren’t to socialism as much as to constitutionalism.

The really interesting thing is how the socio-economic bit starts to meld in with the federalism, which really was the O Bradaigh specialism. There was a fair amount of talk, from those interested in such things, about “small is beautiful”, about the kibbutz system (less of that as time went on obviously) and about Nyerere’s African socialism. The pushing of Comhar na gComharsan over “democratic socialism” could be seen as a casting of radicalism in traditional terms that’s very much characteristic of PSF of that period or RSF today.

Also, remember that the southern Provisionals drew their strength very much from the south and west, and that federalism wasn’t just seen in terms of dealing with the northern problem. There was also the issue of the massive overdevelopment of Dublin as against the underdevelopment and depopulation of the west, hence the stress on decentralisation all round.


2. Garibaldy - February 9, 2009

Did the pamphlet not include pages 38 and 39 I think it is?

I think SS is right about the southern and western aspects of Federalism being important, and the stress on the Co-Operative tradition. I wonder though what percentage he reckons of the Provos as a whole at this point where interested in “such things” in any serious way. Brendan Hughes is often held up as representative of a serious socialist tendency, and certainly protrayed himself as one in his last years. Yet one of the striking things of Brendan Hughes’ account of his average day at this time is the total absence of any political activity. It has made me still more sceptical about the claims made by the Blanket/Fourthwrite group about how socialism was always key to them. I suspect it is the re-writing of histoy on a grand scale.


3. Jim Monaghan - February 9, 2009

When the federalist thing was dropped the then left in PSF saw it as a victory and regarded it as a sop to Loyalism.
My memory of the H-Block days is that the Provos saw themselves as practical and regarded discussions as a waste of time. Mind you if you have IWG types at a meeting it makes you anti discussion.(Getting a banance between discussion and decision making is somewhat of an art. My Left group friends thought me as authoritarian and my PSF ones as far too liberal when I was chair) It was usggested tio me that H-Block meeting should just be a list of activities.
The Officials cannot talk. Remember the Ard Fheis where they decided by a vote that they did not need to see the Costello/Garland tendency document.
On Foyrthwrite I would guess the prisons were a place for real debate. There was a prison journal where some real ideas emerged. It was replaced by a house tamed journal


4. Bakunin - February 9, 2009


I get your point, but in 1971 the Provos really were a Brits out movement. I don’t think what Hughes did or didn’t do during that time speaks to the significance of the document or its importance.

I always thought EN was more about situating the Provos politically — ie, that they were about more political than just swinging rosary beads.

Of course, the apolitical nature of the provos was really seen in the early 1990s when McGuinness discussed federalism as a possible solution, years after he helped trash it. I asked O’Bradaigh about that in an interview in 1995, he rolled his eyes and starting laughing.

I think Jim is right — whatever politics the provos had were forged in prison. I would think the Questions of History is more telling than EN.


5. Garibaldy - February 9, 2009

I was offering those thoughts as a comment on how to judge this document, and because SS seems to have some sense of how reflective it was. I’d be interested to know what he thinks. I would not disagree with what other people are saying about it, or why it was written, nor the centrality of the gaol to the development of provo political thinking, nor their pragmatism. But then that means that certain prominent writers are to be viewed sceptically, and worth thinking about given the emergence of a counter-narrative to the leadership’s from within the Provisionals.


6. WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2009

A lot depends surely on what we class as political activity?

Re any missing pages, let me get back to you on that!


7. Dunne and Crescendo - February 9, 2009

A comparison between the Dublin ‘An Phoblacht’ and the Belfast ‘Republican News’ from 1970 onwards might be interesting, as would the various local publications that the Provos produced, especially in Belfast,’The Volunteer’ etc. The various international alliances and influences can be traced through these as well.
‘Where We Stand’ from 1970 already includes Democratic Socialist Republic as the aim. Its usefully compared with the 1984 ‘The Split’ which is the Adamised version, but very interesting, particularly on the events of 1969.
The Distributionist stuff goes back to the IRA of the 1930s and they were influenced at times by often right-wing Catholic social thought. Remember in 1970 there was still quite a few people around who had been in the republican movement since the 1920s and certainly since the 1930s. Martin Whyte in Clare was one, Frank Driver in Kildare another, not to mention Dan Keating in Kerry. But not of all of these veterans sided with the Provos of course. What you’ll find is overall a very mixed bag but my suspicion is that for a lot of the young Belfast recruits it didn’t matter what their publications said.


8. WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2009

DandC, no chance that you might have those, or have access to copies? It all sounds brilliant. Good point though in your last sentence, and I’d bet much the same was true for some (many?) people who joined the Officials during the same period.


9. Dunne and Crescendo - February 9, 2009

Unfortunately I don’t have any of them! There must be some out there though. The first time I read An Phoblacht was in 1979, just after the Mountbatten assassination and Warrenpoint. The masthead was green as far as I remember, but I certainly recall the headline ‘IRA makes Britain pay.’


10. Dunne and Crescendo - February 9, 2009

The above mentioned ‘Questions of History’ produced in Long Kesh is also very interesting, if it can be got.


11. PJ Callan - February 10, 2009

Well the O’Bradaighs have a gra for federalism owing in part to their Swiss ancestry.

I can truthfully say that in my own case I’ve had copies of Eire Nua seized from me by the Garda Special Branch!


12. WorldbyStorm - February 10, 2009

Seriously? How recently?


13. Jim Monaghan - February 10, 2009

Oh I have to add the quote form a then leading Provo now a leading 4 Courts lawyer
“Better the rattle of a Thompson than a barrell of Marxist phamphlets”
On a footnote could miost members of far left groups give an explanation of the differences. I suspect that most are only organisationally loyal.
Costello lost out not because he did not win the arguement but because the majority were organisationally loyal.


14. splinteredsunrise - February 10, 2009

I’ve been thinking about this, but I’m very wary of being wise after the fact. What were hardened positions in ’78 weren’t necessarily obvious in ’71 or ’69. But the overall aim was to have some kind of positive programme that would show the movement wasn’t merely made up of mad Catholics and anti-political militarists. (Although both types were there in force.) There was at the time a fairly small circle of ideologues who were involved in writing this, but over the years you got a wider layer who were deeply committed to the programme.

Daithi O Conaill was the main progenitor of federalism, and also had a particular interest in the co-op movement although that had been a prior feature of republicanism. The stress on co-operativism and on social Catholicism was not least to do with staking out a different and more “native” position from the Sticks who, it was felt, were more and more under the influence of Muscovite communism. (Although IIRC they didn’t become a formally Marxist party until the late 70s.)

I’d echo what DandC says about the 20s and 30s generation. There was always a biggish reservoir of republicanism in the poorer rural areas out west, where you’d got the big republican votes in ’48 and ’57. These were people who really had a visceral hatred for the Free State that northern republicans found difficult to understand. You got this coming up again in ’86 when most of the Belfast people really did feel that abstentionism was about old men clinging to their dogmas, where on the other side abandoning abstentionism was genuinely felt to be treasonable.

I’d also stress the western element in that the people in the north were generally characterised by unideological Defenderism. While in Dublin the movement was extremely weak in the 60s – probably not much bigger than the CP – and a lot of the leaders there, like Mac Giolla, were rural transplants. But you also had a situation where the Dail Chonnacht initiative, while it never really gained a mass character, did reach well beyond the usual suspects, and for that brief period there was some idea of a revolutionary process in the south. Obviously it didn’t work out that way.

One other thing that you don’t find in Eire Nua but that does have a connection to it is republican foreign policy. Ruairi did and does have a strong streak of romantic pan-Celticism, but he was also the guy who was keen to forge links with the likes of the Basques and Catalans and Corsicans.

This is another area where I have to be wary of wisdom after the fact, because at some point in the 1980s I got to be interested in Krutwig. A lot of what he says doesn’t make much sense outside the very particular context of Basque nationalism, but there was a general them of the internal decolonisation of Western Europe linked to a sort of decentralised socialism. Now, I never heard anyone in Ireland mention Krutwig directly, but his stuff had some influence in the debates within ETA (I have some interesting LCR/ETA-V stuff that may be worth posting) and so might have filtered through to those people with an interest in the Basque movement. Also, Yann Fouere was very active at the time with his idea of a Europe of the traditional regions and small nations. This was the sort of thing that won interest from intellectuals like Des Fennell and Michael D Higgins – where are they now, I wonder?


15. Garibaldy - February 10, 2009

Thanks for that SS. I’d agree with your story of people gradually becoming more politicised over a longish timeframe, compared to the old ideologues, who subsequently went in 1986. I’ve always found the pan-Celtic thing a little bit mad myself.


16. ejh - February 10, 2009

where are they now, I wonder?



17. splinteredsunrise - February 10, 2009

Brittany? Well, there’s pan-Celticism for you right there.


18. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken - eine Auswahl « Entdinglichung - February 13, 2009

[…] Provisional Sinn Féin: Éire Nua […]


19. top roulette system - September 12, 2009

Irgend ne Ahnung wie sehr das verallgemeinerbar ist?


20. Jim Monaghan - September 12, 2009

A Socialist Europe would allow the flourishing of many currently marginalised cultures.I think many on the left accept the logic of Imperialist/capitalism that a lowest common denominator globalisation is inevitable.While there is a certain romanticism in the pan celtic thing I think it is a necessary part of a socialist program to recognise the langauge rights of minorities and assist in preserving these important cultural assets.The French state is amongst the worst on this.
I think the damage to the morale of people who are told their culture ia a mere patois and who much worse accept this causes immense harm.
For a diverse, with an immense range of cultures, Socialist Europe.
On a footnote more people speak catalan than dutch


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24. Acuvue Oasys Rebate - July 27, 2011

That was incredibly imformative. Many thanks for all of the content.


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26. Loyalist proposals to end the union – Willie Methven - November 4, 2018

[…] Ireland was not new. It had been first mooted by Provisional Sinn Fein in 1971 under the title, Éire Nua. The proposal was for four regional assemblies based on the four provinces of Ireland – […]


27. State Papers, Sinn Féin & Federalism • Dieter Reinisch - January 30, 2019

[…] solution to secure “a lasting peace”. This federal solution has been tightly linked to the Éire Nua programme. Following the split of the Provisional Republican Movement at the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis in […]


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