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Left Archive: Outline policy on Church and State – Democratic Socialist Party, c1981 March 7, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Socialist Party, Irish Left Online Document Archive.

Please click on the following link to download the file: DSP

This is the first document from the Democratic Socialist Party that has been added to the Archive, a notable omission. The DSP is most famously the organisation founded by Jim Kemmy in the very early 1970s following his departure from the Labour Party.

It was notable for its social liberalism on a range of issues, including the areas covered in this document, as well as being strongly anti-Republican. In that respect there was some crossover of activities with both BICO and the Socialist Party of Ireland (1970s). Kemmy was elected to the Dáíl in 1982 where he remained until well after the merger of the DSP with the Labour Party in 1990. The wiki page above suggests that some members of the DSP later joined Democratic Left. As has been noted here, a number of contemporary Labour TDs can trace their political lineage back to the DSP.

The document itself is, as it notes, an ‘outline’ policy on Church and State. As it states in the introductory paragraphs:

The DSP stands for the separation of church from state in the Republic of Ireland. We are not opposed to religion: rather, we view it as a private matter between the individuals and his/her church, if he/she has one.

We recognise the rights of individuals, churches and religious associations to hold and proclaim their various views; we oppose the enshrining of religious beliefs in law. In particular we believe that religious organisations would not control public institutions. Democratic control of such institutions and public accountability for public funds: these are the keystones of our policy in this area.

And overview of past Church State relations is provided and this engages with a range of areas, including Education, Divorce, Contraception, Health and ‘Other areas in need of reform’.

There is a veiled reference to abortion under Health, and the Education area is dealt with in some detail. All told it makes for striking reading some thirty years later.

**IEL adds
I’m lucky enough to have a few Election leaflets from the DSP that may add to the article. John De Courcy Ireland from November 1982 and the 1984 European Elections as well as a 1984 ‘Special Election Edition‘ of The Free Press.


1. irishelectionliterature - March 7, 2011

Kemmy was elected in February 1982 and lost his seat in the November 1982 Election. From what I recall he was denounced from the pulpit for his socially liberal views and other candidates would have spread the word that he wasn’t ‘pro life’. Literally everything in the above document would have provided opportunity for opponents to accuse Kemmy and the party of being anti church.


Earl Williams - March 7, 2011

I remember an interview with Kemmy where he said that small children (educated by nuns, presumably) would point at him in the street and say ‘Mammy, is that the man who kills babies?’


Jim Monaghan - March 7, 2011

And some of these were Labour people, lest we forget.
The small peoples Democracy group in Limerick were pro-choice and got stick too.


2. Earl Williams - March 7, 2011

What’s the current situation with regard to the Church and the hospital system? Does it still control over half of all beds with little or no proper budgetary oversight?


Joe - March 7, 2011

It still has a major say in the big voluntary hospitals in Dublin – Mater, Vincents, Tallaght, Crumlin. But as to who really controls I’d say the Medical Consultants would have more control than the church in many ways. And there is certainly serious budgetary oversight on behalf of the State through the HSE.
PS: In Tallaght’s case, the church influence would be Protestant, I presume CofI but not clear on that.


. - March 7, 2011

One of the reasons I was attracted to the DSP (as a voter, though not as a member) was that it was Protestant-friendly, something that mattered more in the eighties. Policies were socially liberal – which also mattered more then. There were individuals of courage and stature, like Kemmy and Dr Ireland.Sectarianism was eschewed. All in all, it seemed a congenial party for a southern Protestant of leftish views.
The preservation of a protestant ethos in Tallaght Hospital, at the time of the Adelaide’s closure, was questioned by many at the time. Events such as the activities of Dr Neary showed why the minority communities thought it a necessity.


3. Mark P - March 7, 2011

The cover design is very much better than the vast majority of items in the archive.

I’m a bit curious as to the exact relationship between the SPI, the BICO and the DSP. Am I correct in thinking that the SPI actually dissolved into the DSP, while the BICO had a more ambiguous relationship with it?

Also, I asked this in the electoral legacy of the Workers party discussion and I don’t think anyone answered: Are any of the three ex-DSP Labour TDs also ex SPI or ex BICO?


WorldbyStorm - March 7, 2011

The SPI did indeed dissolve in, though some went back to the WP. That joint leaflet in the Archive is a fascinating one, isn’t it? They seem to have hovered around each other.

That’s a great question re people being ex SPI or ex BICO. I doubt it, but…


Mark P - March 7, 2011

It’s odd how the SPI seemed to anticipate the Worker’s Party every move a few years earlier – hardline Stalinists before the WP got there, then dissolution into a small left Social Democratic party before the WP parliamentarians got there.


4. Starkadder - March 7, 2011

Mark P-I’m fairly sure none of the ex-DSP Labours
TDs were ever in the B&ICO, though I couldn’t say whether they were in the SPI (or the B&ICO offshoots the Workers’ Association and Socialists
Against Nationalism, both of which Kemmy worked

To add to irishelectionliterature’s comment: I can
also remember Kemmy being criticised by his stance on Northern Ireland, and I remember a letter in the Irish Times portraying the DSP as the enemy of everything traditional FF-ers held dear.


5. John O'Neill - March 7, 2011

Mark P
There is one of your comrades from Finglas that could find out by asking his Dad.


Mark P - March 7, 2011

I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

There’s no shortage of people in the Socialist Party whose parents were in other left formations at some point, most often the Workers Party but also other groups.

I’m curious because according to (the not always reliable) Wikipedia, all three of the ex-DSP Labour TDs joined the DSP in 1982… as did the Socialist Party of Ireland. Maloney and Conaghan are also Dublin based, and as I understand it, much of the Dublin component of the DSP was ex-SPI.

It’s also the sort of thing that a Labour Party politician probably wouldn’t be as keen to draw attention to as former sympathies with the DSP.


6. John O'Neill - March 7, 2011

The person I’m referring to his Mother ran for the DSP in Finglas and Da would have been close to B&ICO


7. Mark P - March 7, 2011

Speaking of matters archival, I’ve just seen a fascinating document by Bob Purdie in which he gives an account of his dealings with the Officials down through the years. It’s on the Red Mole Rising blog, which is attempting to scan the publications of the now defunct International Marxist Group in Britain.

Click to access remembering-the-officials.pdf

I’m not sure if this document has already been discussed here.


WorldbyStorm - March 7, 2011

I think it has, but I’m not certain. Good to see it either way.


NollaigO - March 7, 2011

I have read the document but didn’t know that it was in the public domain. You should have a copy WbS!
It was written by request for TLR and many passages are quoted in TLR.
It would be a useful document for the Archive.


8. Brian Hanley - March 7, 2011

Yes, Bob Purdie was kind enough to write this and give to us in 2006. Many who have read and were around during the events he mentions find it very evocative.
On the DSP. I think the party was founded in 1982. In 1972 Kemmy and a number of others had left the Labour Party in Limerick and started the Limerick Socialist Organisation (after lots of conflict with Stevie Coughlan and co). That group published it’s own paper, the Limerick Socialist, which covered local news plus published a lot of Workers Association/BICO material.
The WA had taken part in a debate with the Labour Party on the national question in Limerick during 1971. Until then Kemmy had held fairly conventional socialist republican views on the North. Kemmy was at various stages, secretary of the Building Trades group in Limerick and the Bricklayers union. There was a lot of good local coverage in the LSO paper and various historical stuff (the first criticism of Sean South for example). Kemmy was elected to the council in 1974, representing the area that included Garryowen, his home turf. He was very critical of Labour, and promised to represent working class interests on the council. He was also openly ‘two-nationist’ and publicly argued for the deletion of articles 2 & 3 etc. He was widely recognised as a very hard worker and slowly built up a base in the city, eventually winning a seat in 1981, losing it in 1982 and winning it back in 1987.
Elements of the local Labour party certainly colluded in the attacks on Kemmy over abortion in 1982.


9. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - March 9, 2011

[…] Democratic Socialist Party (DSP): Outline policy on Church and State (~ […]


10. Left Archive: Outline Policy on Full Employment – Democratic Socialist Party c. 1981 | The Cedar Lounge Revolution - October 28, 2013

[…] in the late 1970s and early 1980s [for the other leaflet from the DSP in the Archive please see here]. Each pamphlet took a different policy area and expanded across four or five pages on the approach […]


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