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Left Archive: The Just Society [version], Fine Gael, 1965. July 11, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Fine Gael, Irish Left Online Document Archive.

To download the file please click on the following link: Just-Society-1965

Some time back the CLR sent out an appeal for a copy of this document to scan because it wasn’t available on the internet, as far as could be judged. We’re therefore indebted to two people for forwarding documents relating to the above. Firstly PM who forwarded the response in the Irish Times to the program as published. Some of the information from that will be posted up in the near future. Secondly Conor McCabe who last week sent the document above to the Archive.

There is a question as to whether this should be in the archive at all. Fine Gael is not a left wing party as the term is generally understood, and their position – for example in respect of their membership of international political associations – is with European Christian Democracy. And yet this document written by Declan Costello and …. has taken on a rhetorical life as a strongly progressive, even left wing artifact. However it is true that there was a strand within Fine Gael which self-identified with the term ‘social democrat’ and in doing so pointed to the Just Society as the foundation stone of their political approach. So in that sense it seems useful to include it even as and indication of what they considered social democracy to be.

Whether this identification is accurate is left to readers to decide. Conor McCabe makes the following point:

After 16 pages of chest-beating about fairness and equality – a game that is still played today – Fine Gael finally produces its solution regarding social investment:

“We propose to establish, as part of the machinery of planning, a social commission representative of the government, local authorities, voluntary charitable organisations, educational and health authorities whose functions will be to assess the social investment needs for the whole country, and to draw up and integrate plans to meet them.” (p.17)

Voluntary charitable organisations? Educational and health authorities? This is 1965. What Fine Gael is talking about here is the Catholic Church. The plan put forward was one which involved government sitting down with the Catholic church and working out the social investment needs of the State.

There is some further information here on the genesis of the document.


1. Dr. X - July 11, 2011

Hang on, I always thought that the Just Society thing was about modernising FG and Ireland as a whole, and bringing the country into the modern world of the 1960s. But this ‘voluntary charitable organisations’ – it’s just reheated 1930s corporatism.


2. conor McCabe - July 11, 2011

“But this ‘voluntary charitable organisations’ – it’s just reheated 1930s corporatism.”


Wait till you read all of the document itself. It is exactly as you say – 1930s corporatism, or to give it its Irish variant name, “vocationalism”.

It also calls for the privatization of social housing, and for mortgage relief to encourage house purchases.

Vincent Browne thinks that ‘The Just Society’ is a left-wing document. What a moron.


3. Mick Ahern - July 11, 2011

Some years ago I came across a few Cumann Na Gael pamphlets fromthe 30’s. This could have come from one of them….possibly from the likes of James Hogan.


4. Nick Byrne - July 11, 2011

Mick, maybe it could also possibly have come from the likes of Blyth, the very man whom sneered and scuffed about the democratic programme subsequent to attaining his position of power.

I note a section relating to grants been given to the rancher farmers, for the errection of hay barns, cow sheds and the like.. I wonder if the fine, fine, gael pillars of society entrepreneurs , whom set up foundrys and iron works to turn a profit from providing such products, gave decent pay and conditions and redundancy payments to their honest hardworking employes.

Or was it possible that these pillars of society treated their employees with contempt, while attempting to keep them subjugated through the pincer movement of baton wielding fascist elements of the state and back stabbing treacherous elements known, as the established church.

I wonder what would the old stock, if there are any still around, of Bagenalstown Co Carlow have to say on the matter.


Mick Ahern - July 11, 2011


Conor McCabe in his new book has some excellent analysis of the development of agriculture in the interests of the ranching element by the ranching element.

On a personal level, I remember talking to your late parents about those who worked for ranchers.Your father told me that it was ok for him to milk cows on a Sunday morning as long as he received no payment for same. It seems that it was okay to work but it was a sin to pay a worker. It was a stance that was backed by the local clergy – most of whom had come from a big-farming background. Many of those same farm workers were given the choice of marching with the blueshirts or having no work.
This was the “Just Society” of the 1930’s.

In 1962 Keenan workers went on strike in Muine Bheag (Bagenalstown) for six months to uphold new agreed rates and conditions. The response of the company was to try and starve the strikers. And the response of the state was to have the Gardai baton charge strikers – including members of your own family, The church remained silent on this matter. So much for social justice.

Unfortunately there are few of the old stock left in the town but there are descendants of scabs who are more than willing to interpret the strike and the actions and lives of the strikers.

Apologies to CLR for the slight digression.


WorldbyStorm - July 12, 2011

Not in the slightest. I think it’s on-topic with the broader interests of the site.


Paraffinalia - July 12, 2011

Not off topic in the slightest; and I asked the ma if she remembered it. There is still one family in the town known as `the scab Xs’.


Mick Ahern - July 13, 2011

Paraffinalia, just to let you know there are several families left in the town …the scab X’s, more scab Y’s and even another family of scab Z’s.
One scab family really prospered and family members are well ensconced with merchants, developers and even more developers.
Glad to hear that your ma remembered the strike. Next year will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Strike by the 75 workers.


T - July 13, 2011

This is all very interesting. Anything being organised to mark the 50th anniversary?


5. Irish Left Review · Fine Gael and the Just Society, 1965 - July 12, 2011

[…] of Cedarlounge has just put up a post on The Just Society. I want to focus on a particular aspect of that document, one which ties in with the present […]


6. Terry McDermott - July 12, 2011

‘Vincent Browne thinks that ‘The Just Society’ is a left-wing document. What a moron.’

I presume his show doing a feature on your book is out of the question then?!


Conor McCabe - July 12, 2011

The Vincent Browne show is basically five people shouting at each other followed by an ad-break.

When was the last time – if ever – that you finished watching an episode of the Vincent Browne show and felt you had been informed of something?


sonofstan - July 12, 2011

Patrick Honohan’s perhaps inadvertent explanation of why we are honouring unsecured bondholder debts on the tribute to Brian Lenihan show?


LeftAtTheCross - July 12, 2011

Conor, apparently Declan Ganley will be hosting some of the programmes while VB is off on holidays for the summer. Would you not relish the chance to debate the historical foundations of the crisis with him? Pretty please.


conor McCabe - July 13, 2011

I’ve a couple of friends from Albania who wouldn’t mind debating a few things with Declan Ganley, pyramid schemes and what not.

Found it funny that Ganley talked about Kieran Allen having ‘blood on his hands’ for being a Marxist when Ganley makes his millions from contracts with the american military.

Mary O’Rourke is hosting tonight – i can only presume that people like Ganley and O’Rourke were the kind of marginalised voices that Browne wanted to reach out to when he made his call for same a couple of months back.

no chance of Michael Taft hosting the show for a week, or Scott Millar, or Mick O’Reilly.


7. Paraffinalia - July 14, 2011

@Mick Ahern: no names (my name isn’t Bagenalstown anyway), since it’s a small town, but me ma remembers your house being raided. I’m sure the site can pass on a message from you and we can deal with this elsewhere.


Mick Ahern - July 14, 2011

I don’t understand the point of your anonymous post!

My point re remembering Keenan’s Strike is that very few people now know of the strike.It is great that people remember the strike, and the hardships endured by the strikers and their families and also the remarkable community spirit that grew from that strike but that genaration is sadly dying out.. The danger is that the strikers and their families will be written out of history

Most young people in the town today don’t even know where Keenans’s foundry was – let alone the history of the strike. Perhaps a pamphlet on the strike featuring the recollections of the few surviving strikers and supporters would be of benefit before they are lost. I myself regret not taping interviews over the years with people who had so much to contribute to history. I just assumed that someone else would do it or that I’d get a chance to do it later. But that seldom happens. So much oral history has been lost that way. And only the history of the bosses and the rulers remains.

Re Raids:Well I also remember some of the raids. Socialists, Republicans, Communists, and other political Dissenters have always been subject to political harrassment. I can make no special claim to fame on that, as I’m sure many of the readers/ contributers to this site can attest.

My family has always been a proud republican/socialist family. . The house I currently-live in has been raided over the years by the Black & Tans, the Heavy Gang and the Special Branch. I am proud of that history. I am also proud of our political involvement.


Paraffinalia - July 14, 2011

The main point was that the strike is remembered. My mother had left the country around the start of it but remembers the bitterness and some of the details from her family. Wasn’t the mill closed down around the same time?

The anonymous bit is because people in small towns don’t always like having their names thrown about and it’s not for me to do the throwing.


Mick Ahern - July 14, 2011

Sorry about the hiccup but see reply at 8 below.


8. Mick Ahern - July 14, 2011

Fair enough!

The Mill (Browne & Crostwaithe) was closed around that time. Again it would make a good subject for local/labour history. I was only a garsún at the time but I remember the devastation on peoples faces when the mill closed.

The mill men were renowned for their strength. They were all big men who spent their days hauling and hoisting sacks of wheat and flour. Paddy Roche, a local publican told me that they were great workers and great drinkers. He loved to see them coming. With the chaff and dust from the mill they needed a few pints to clear their throats. It was tough work.!

Browne & Crostwaithe were a patriarchal outfit. Their men were encouraged to enlist to fight in the Great War. The company also ran a Cricket Club a sport at which many of the workers excelled. They could safely beat the bosses without any fear of retaliation. The late CLR James has chronicled similar happenings in the West Indies.

For us children in the early 60’s Browne’s was the place to go on Christmas Eve when we’d all queue for sixpence each. Yes, I admit I took the half-shilling from Eric Browne.

In the end the Sean Lemass’s Fianna Fail Government set about rationalising flour production and as a result many smaller mills were closed. Needless to say Browne & Crostwaithe got adequate compensation.


9. Nick Byrne - July 15, 2011

@T re: 50th Anniversary of Keenan’s Strike.
With the intent of preserving labour history, it is planned that a pamphlet will be published in time for the 50th anniversary and lodged to the Irish Left Archive and the Irish Labour History Society.
Those interested in contributing to this pamphlet, can contact me at nickb@dublin.ie


10. From 1973 A letter from Fine Gael TD Eddie Collins in reply to someone looking for a seat on the RTE Authority | Irish Election Literature - October 8, 2013

[…] found this in a copy of Fine Gaels ‘Just Society’ that I had at the bottom of a drawer. Its a letter from Fine Gael Waterford TD Eddie Collins to , […]


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