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Left Archive: A State Conspiracy – IRSP and The ‘Great’ Train Robbery Frame-up… Kildare 6 Defence Committee c.1976/77 April 12, 2010

Posted by leftopenhistoryteam in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Politics, Irish Republican Socialist Party, Kildare 6 Defence Committee, The Left.


This is a document, and thanks to JM for forwarding it, published by the Kildare Six Defence Committee and initiated by the Irish Republican Socialist Party on behalf of members who were arrested after the Sallins Train robbery. Published sometime in 1976 or 1977 (a more accurate date would be much appreciated – but it clearly was produced between the Sallins robbery and the murder of Seamus Costello) it provides an overview of the formation of the IRSP as well as a graphic outline of the ill-treatment of IRSP members in the wake of the train robbery. In regard to the former it notes that:

The events of the first 7 months of their existence are well documented. With 3 of their members murdered and over 30 wounded in Belfast it was made clear that the party would not be intimidated out of existence. Throughout the duration of the conflict the media in general sided with the Officials and presented the false image that the IRSP was composed of gangsters and sectarian killers.

Despite being only 16 pages long it is an exhaustive window into a particularly bleak period of modern Irish political and social history.

The analysis presents the actions of the state as follows:

Anyone who doubts our claim that the frame up is politically motivated or who believe that the torture took place without Official sanction should look closely at the evidence.

The arrest of the party Chairman, the Secretary, the Editor of the party paper, the illegal seizure of the party office, the burning of office files, all were designed to cause the maximum of disruption of legitimate party activity. In fact many people were solely questioned about the political activities of the IRSP.

All Republican, Socialist and Democratic organisations must unite in defence of democratic rights. It is the task of the above to build up a political interest in the case among the working class. This would effectively put a brake on the steady drift towards a Southern police state and the daily erosion of basic civil liberties.

Worth noting that the distinction between the Kildare 6 Defence Committee and the IRSP is not entirely clear, to the point that there is an advert for the ‘Starry Plough’ on the second last page.

By the way, for any interested in seeing the actual printed document the National Library has a copy.


1. Jim Monaghan - April 12, 2010

By the time the IRSP and allied organisations were formed the repressive forces had clearly got their act together. As late arrivals (in spite of taking some experienced Sticks) Seamus was starting late. This affected his ability to form a stable movement. I also feel that the enslaught from the Official IRA put the IRSP in trawl to militarists. It alas attracted some who had been expelled form the Officials for probably good reasons, but given the situation the IRSP could hardly refuse help from any quarter.
The early IRSP was a very attractive groupy militant and very brave. They would have been typical of the best of the far left milieu across Europe. Caught between the state repressive forces and the Sticks left them very little room.
I remember the “heavy gang” and the palpable fear they engendered. One editor of the Irish Times was effectively sacked for demurring at the illegal activities of some in the Special Branch.
I knew most of the arrested. They were seriously assaulted. These were in some cases people who could take a lot of punishment and that is what was meted out.
I have to say I am somewhat amused at the shock and horror displayed at attacks on say the “reclaim the streets march” and the juvenile antics of the so-called Black Block.
Let me assure you what was given to the IRSP was many times worse.
If you are going to seriously challenge the state be prepared and make sure that you have a chance of winning. The state is quite prepared to take the gloves off in extremis.


Budapestkick - July 17, 2010

The point about the impact of the Officials feud is an important one. It’s also signficant that Costello refused to have the name INLA used during that feud. He didn’t want his brainchild to be sullied by non-political internecine feuding. The impact of the feud was an important one though, created divisions between the Belfast INLA and the Dublin leadership, exposed IRSP as a front for the INLA early on, led to the departure of Devlin and others and killed the political wing before it got off the ground. Potentially the IRSP could have hoovered up the base enjoyed by the PDs and even gone beyond that due to the Provisional’s (then) lack of a real political wing and the fact that they were still regarded (accurately or otherwise) as a ‘Rosary Bead Brigade’. However, it wasn’t to be.

I think the generation gap in the INLA between the Costello to Hunger Strike period and the post-hunger strike period is more significant than people appreciate. There were still enough political people (particularly ex-OIRA) in the early days that the group were relatively cohesive and disciplined. From the early 80s onwards they were rendered politically unnecessary by the leftward turn of the Provos. As well as that, the second generation of INLA were considerably less political and the period saw lots of petty criminals, sectarians (see Darkley massacre) and people too undisciplined to be let into the Provos joining up (this tendency finding its most extreme manifestation in the IPLO).

I have to disagree with Jim’s point that ‘enslaught from the Official IRA put the IRSP in trawl to militarists’. I think it was always going to be the case. The INLA and IRSP were formed on the same day and I doubt Costello was going to let the IRSP broaden out. The contradiction between the control of the army and the development of the IRSP was what led to the disintegration of the IRSP in the first place. In the absence of the Officials feud and state repression that contradiction would still have found expression. There was also the fact that the Belfast people had joined Costello mainly out of anger at the lack of action and military support by the Official leadership. There was a lot of tension between these people and the more political, at times idealistic leadership around Costello in the south. During the feud, northern members even occupied IRSP offices to demand weapons. The contradiction between Belfast and Dublin would also have emerged explosively regardless of the Sticks or the state.

Just some thoughts. Incidentally there is a real need for a real academic history of the INLA / IRSP to be produced. Deadly Divisions is ok, though the authors frequently come across as condescending and wankerish. Does anyone know if there’s one in the works?


Garibaldy - July 23, 2010

I missed this earlier. AFAIK there is a work underway on the IRSP/INLA by two American academics, John O’Connor and Stu Ross. Should prove interesting.


2. Ciarán - April 12, 2010

There was an excellent documentary on TG4 a few years ago about human rights abuses in the Free State in the 1970s, and the Sallins Robbery was the centrepiece of the programme. It’s probably still online somnewhere.


Ciarán - April 12, 2010
WorldbyStorm - April 12, 2010

Thanks for that Ciarán, much appreciated.


NollaigO - April 13, 2010

Very good link.


Seán Ó Tuama - April 13, 2010

Very good programme. I had heard about this but never seen it.

Interesting interview with Tony Gregory in which the only reason he gives for not having become more involved in the IRSP was that he did not want to go back to routine party-building activity such as paper selling.


3. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - April 13, 2010

[…] Kildare 6 Defence Committee: A State Conspiracy – IRSP and The ‘Great’ Train Robbery Frame-up (~ […]


4. Irish Left Review · Faoi Lámha an Stáit | At the Hands of the State - April 13, 2010

[…] From a link on Cedar Lounge Revolution. […]


5. CB - April 13, 2010

Thanks for uploading the programme. I recently bought Blind Justice up in chapters and am lookind forward to reading it again.


6. Left Archive: No Hanging Here: The case of Marie and Noel Murray, Murray Defence Committee, c.1976/7 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 31, 2011

[…] it to the Archive] that serves as a companion piece in some respects to the pamphlet in the Archive on the Sallins Train Robbery and the subsequent arrest of members of the […]


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