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Left Archive: Ainriail – A Belfast Anarchist Bi-Monthly – Jan/Feb 1987 February 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Ainriall - Belfast Anarchists, Irish Left Online Document Archive.

To download the document please click on the following link: AINRIAIL 87

This document begins to fill a gap in the Archive. We have, unfortunately, very limited samples of Irish Anarchist material – and those documents we do have were very kindly donated by Alan MacSimoin and the Workers Solidarity Movement.

The 12 page A5 document dates from early 1987 and was as far as can be determined produced by the Belfast Anarchist Collective, or a successor group, and was one of a series of regularly published leaflets [for more on the BAC see here].

The contents is strongly positioned within an anarchist viewpoint specific to Belfast during this time. Therefore it has articles on Strip-searches and an interesting two page contribution from Anthony McIntyre and Micky McMullan, both Republican prisoners at the time in Long Kesh under the heading ‘Ideas from Long Kesh’.

This is contextualisd as follows:

The following article is not meant to be a definitive analysis of present republican strategy in the struggle for Irish unity. However the issues it deals with are of consequence, and should not be ignored by Republicans when reflecting on the nature of the present struggle and the direction in which it is ultimately leading us.

Indeed it is telling how critical they are of ‘armed struggle’ – they write that ‘the present shape of the armed struggle – as distinctly opposed to the legitimate right of a suppressed people to use armed struggle – is in no way conducive to long term progress being made. Not only has it failed to remove the British, or substantially alter their resolve it has – because of its emphasis on ‘local targets’ given Northern Nationalists the peculiar appearance of ‘otherness’ in the eyes of many people in the South’.

There is a useful account of an Ainriail visit to England and a video and speaking tour which was organised by the Direct Action Movement, ‘an anarcho-syndicalist grouping’. The video chosen was ‘the Plastic Bullet video, ‘The Deadly Truth’ and ‘along with the half-hour talk, ensured a wide ranging debate on the role of the British state in Ireland’.

This further expands on Ainriail’s own viewpoint which it describes as this:

There is clear and common understanding by the two [anarchist] groups in the north, Ballymena and Belfast, and the Workers Solidarity Movement in Dublin and Cork, that we are anti-imperialist. That we are opposed to the division of the working class in the north, the division of the working class north and south, opposed to both sectarianism and partition, and to the cause of both – the British state’s presence in Ireland. And further more to the incorporation of Ireland in NATO.

But as anti-imperialists we are also opposed to the relations of production based on capitalist exploitation, whether from local or multi-national sources. Herein lies one of our differences with the republican movement, which is the largest, most active and influential of the anti-imperialist groups. At best they have a policy of nationalistaion, ie state run industry, and at worst a benign free capitalist attitude which favours more constraint on enterprises eg heavier taxation.

It continues with an analysis that is critical of Republicanism, whether ‘socialist or not… but concludes:

Having said that we have every respect for our Republican brothers and sisters who are committed to political and military oppostiion to the Britsh state. In Belfast we have, and will continue to work along side them and with other left wing groups…

There are more copies and further anarchist material which will be added to the Archive over the year.


1. James R - February 28, 2011

There was a few publications from this period uploaded and highlighted on this blog before. Eg http://www.wsm.ie/news_viewer/2285


2. jackwhite - February 28, 2011

Regarding gaps in the archive: documents on anarchism in ireland during the 1970s might be found in the Kate Sharpley Library in the UK.



3. WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2011

Excellent, many thanks James R and jackwhite.


4. Mark P - February 28, 2011

It’s interesting that the politics, and more particularly the political focus, of this publication was so different to the politics of today’s Irish anarchist groups.

There is still an anarchist group in Belfast, Organise!, but they have a completely different take on the national question: It is unimaginable that they would print a sentence like “we have every respect for our Republican brothers and sisters who are committed to political and military opposition to the British state.” The WSM, as I understand it, have over the years slowly moved to a position closer to that of Organise! and away from the “anti-imperialism” of this era.


jackwhite - February 28, 2011

While not privy to the minutiae of the Belfast story, I think the position espoused by Organise! has evolved over a pretty long period of time. In the early days of Just Books, which existed already in the 70s, there was a debate over, and decision to stock, An Phoblacht. From what I was told the bookshop was one of the few places where the paper was available in the city centre at that time.

But I guess JB went through many different incarnations. Actually the bookshop appears to be a very interesting tale in general; if you read “Further Afield – Journeys from a Protestant Past” (Marilyn Hyndman (of Northern Visions)), it is amazing how often it is named and was clearly one of the few spaces of dissident free-thinking open to those coming from Unionist environments. I thought is a tragic paradox that it closed down the very year of the first ceasefire, largely for financial reasons, notwithstanding having survived the ‘conflict’.

On a more yuff-tip, the Warzone/Giro’s crowd are another connected landmark – don’t know if their space still exists in any form – having roots in north belfast punk and suburban youth groups… there’s a history of it out there somewhere… but they were less political with a capital P, and basically refused to take any side in the conflict. I guess Animal liberation was a tad less charged! But there were a lot of positive elements, space for bands, an infoshop… etc

(I’m not from belfast by the way, just an inquisitive budgie who visited thereabouts)


WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2011

Am I way off here or is it true the WSM would have members in the North? I don’t know why, but I’ve always had the impression Organise! wasn’t the totality of anarchism there.


5. jackwhite - February 28, 2011

Whilst not a member, I know the WSM have a belfast branch of relatively recent creation (last 5-6 years). They clash heads with Organise! on libcom’s irish forum from time to time, predictably on the subject of imperialism and the provos. But the wsm’s own positions have changed over the years as well, partially because of that exchange.

By the way, I strongly recommend the Hyndman book, fascinating collection.


WorldbyStorm - February 28, 2011

Thanks jackwhite, that’s probably where I picked up on it.

Good collection indeed.


Mark P - February 28, 2011

The WSM certainly have some members in the North and at one stage had a Belfast branch. I don’t know if there is still a functioning branch there, there may well be. I think they have had a member or two in Derry as well, although again I don’t know if they currently do.

I think that Organise! had a member or two in the South for a while too.


6. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - March 2, 2011

[…] * Ainriail – A Belfast Anarchist Bi-Monthly, Jan/Feb 1987 […]


7. prettyinpink - July 18, 2011

There is a documentary about Giros produced by Northern Visions – who seem to have a lot material now online. Although short on specific politics it does provide a description of attempts to eke out an alternative culture in belfast in the late 70s and 80s.


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