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‘Rethinking the Republic’ – redux… July 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Republicanism, Sinn Féin, The Left.

A while back we marked the launch of Matt Treacy’s book ‘Rethinking the Republic’. In the interim there were various issues, but these have now been dealt with. So, for those of you who have read it here’s an additional resource with which to contextualise it, Jim Lane’s useful Miscellaneous Notes on Republicanism and Socialism in Cork City, 1954 to 1969. The accompanying article was written by Conor McCabe and provides an excellent overview.

I’d be interesting in the thoughts of those who have read Matt Treacy’s text already or would like to comment on it in the context of Jim Lane’s thoughts.

We’ll have more on ‘Rethinking the Republic’ next month. Here in the meantime is a discussion with Matt Treacy and Malachy Steenson. It provides an excellent insight into Matt’s approach and the general discussions about this period of time.


1. EverRed - July 30, 2011

Never before have I had to await a book’s delivery as I have had to with this one. I understand that for legal reasons it was taken off bookseller’s shelves for several weeks until the matter was settled. For someone with an an interest in Socialist and Republican developments during this period of 1956-69 it was worth the wait. Well written, well researched and with some wellknown participants of the period supplying their memories of events.The list is interesting to anyone thinking of purchasing a copy. Correspondence and interviews were supplied by the following : Sean and Ruairi O’Bradaigh, Tom Mitchell, Tony Meade,Sean Dunne, Martin Casey, Jim Lane,Jim Monaghan,Eoin O’Murchu, Noel Kavanagh, Richard Roche,Anthony Coughlan, Roy Johnston, Cathal Mac LIam, Shay Courtney, Sean Garland and Sean Bermingham. Brian Hanley also helped with the sharing of views. The author, Matt Treacy tells us that he had several others helping, who preferred to stay anonymous.
The contents cover the 1956-62 period of the armed campaign, the ideology of traditional republicanism, abstentionism and the growth of internal divisions, the Wolfe Tone Society and the communists, 1966 and the revival of the IRA “threat”, the proposed National Liberation Front, concluding with the Northern Crisis and the Split.
Of particular interest to myself is that the Irish Revolutionary Forces / “An Phoblacht” group which was based in Cork and attacked the IRA leadership not from a traditionalist perspective but from the left, have been given much coverage, be it in interviews with Jim Lane or in extracts from their paper “An Phoblacht”. Treacy says of them, “There were similarities between “An Phoblacht’s” critique and the concerns of traditionalists like O’Bradaigh and Mac Stiofain,and some of their supporters later joined the Provisionals , but that “An Phoblacht” did not share the traditionalists’ attachment to the de jure Republic,nor their antipathy to Marxism”. Treacy also says that “Ruairi O’Bradaigh knew that some of them were still IRA Volunteers at the time. He says that “An Phoblacht” was circulated to people who were perceived to be ‘players’ within the movement, and that it did clarify for many republicans the motivations and objectives of the Goulding faction.”
(interview with Ruairi O’Bradaigh, 11May 2002).
The big problem about this book is the price. It cost me €57.57 ex Amazon, but it can be much dearer in Irish shops. When can we expect the paperback version ?


Budapestkick - July 30, 2011

Incidentally 5 issues of ‘An Phoblacht’ are available in Cork City Library.


WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2011

That’s a very good question about a paperback version.


2. A reader - July 30, 2011

No main problem with this book is it’s factual inaccuracies and off the wall analytic jumps in reasoning.


Tumbles - August 2, 2011

Such as?

BTW, seems quite clear from the radio interview that Treacy is not promoting any sort of ‘communist conspiracy’ theory.


3. Budapestkick - July 30, 2011

Still waiting for the damn thing to clear processing in UCC library.


4. Pat - August 1, 2011

New book that will interest quite a few here no doubt –


Launch dates – http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Provisional-IRA-From-Insurrection-to-Parliament/232078043490546

This book will do more to undermine dissident militarism than a hundred statements from SF


WorldbyStorm - August 1, 2011

Entirely agree. Thanks Pat.


5. Scott - August 8, 2011

‘the concerns of traditionalists like O’Bradaigh’

I know that Ruairi O’Bradaigh is quite often chracterised as a fairly dogmatic and traditional thinker in the discussions on this (excellent) blog, but I actually found his ideas fascinating and exciting when I encountered them. I’m on the other side of the world, and I could be missing something – I probably am, in fact – but there are many interesting resonances between stuff like Eire Nua and O’Bradaigh’s writing on dual power and co-ops and the experience of the left and anti-imperialists down here…that’s my excuse for writing this, anyway:



WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2011

Your point deserves a much longer post, and by the way, very nice site you’ve got there at Reading the Maps.

Just very briefly, I’d have some respect for RÓB, even if I think he and his approach has been profoundly wrong in areas. But I it doesn’t seem to me that he’s that far to the left to be honest.

Re your post two small things I’d wonder about. Is it entirely fair to characterise the Adams approach in the late 70s as necessarily sectarian, though for some it could have masked such, as regards Eire Nua? Or to put it another way I think that Adams et al were correct that the EN approach was a sop to Unionism, albeit as unlikely to be implemented as the approach that came after. Secondly, did they really tilt orthodox Marxist? I always had the impression that that line was out of bounds due to the WP being closer to Moscow. And it’s hard to square that with the influx of Peoples Democracy activists in the mid 80s. That said there’s no doubt there was some machinations on either sides.

On the other hand again, I think there’s a lot in what you say about agrarian and semi-agrarian. Certainly I think Official Sinn Féin, WP by downplaying rural workers in the mid 70s did an disservice to them and to the broader left cause.


6. Scott - August 11, 2011

Thanks very much for your comments World By Storm. Garibaldy left an interesting comment on my blog which echoed a number of your points; I’ve replied rather ineffectuallly to it.


7. Tumbles - August 12, 2011

R O B is an interesting character. To describe him as ‘apolitical’ or as a dogmatic ‘militarist’ as opposed to the ‘politicisers’ is erroneous.

As you say, his politics (and those of a substantial number of the ‘traditionalists’) were similar to those of others on the left, including the libertarian left.

Treacy’s book has a chapter on the ideology of the traditionalists which were later encapsulated in Eire Nua and which R O B and others claim were almost fully developed as part of the rethink within the RM after 1962 but which were superseded by the influence of people like Johnston. He also makes the point that the key differences were not so much political (and indeed RJ referenced Comhar na gComharsan) but strategic to do with the RM’s attitude towards the state, the role of the IRA and its relationship with ‘the left.’ I don’t think R O B and others had a problem with being part of the left. It had more to do with the ‘modernisers’ conception of what constituted that left, and that was clearly focused on the CP and CP inclined individuals and groups. Indeed they were quite hostile to other elements of the left in the late 60s such as the PD who they described as ‘ultra leftists’ and who they blamed for disrupting their prognosis of the CRM leading to a raaprochement with the Unionist working class.


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