The 1985 Sinn Fein Good Old IRA pamphlet and historical revisionism – a response to comments October 16, 2012Posted by guestposter in Irish History, Irish Politics, Uncategorized.
Here is a guest post from Niall Meehan which relates back to some of the discussions over the last week or two on the CLR and elsewhere.
I commented on Brian Hanley’s discussion of the 1985 Sinn Féin pamphlet The Good Old IRA in his generally excellent contribution to Terror in Ireland 1916-1923 (edited by David Fitzpatrick). This commentary was omitted from my original review of the book. It appeared as an addendum to my reply to David Fitzpatrick and Eve Morrison’s response to the review.
In the book Brian’s discussion of and use of the term ‘terrorism’ is more critical and objective than that of editor, David Fitzpatrick. His noting of historians’ failure to address state involvement in sectarian killings in Northern Ireland in the 1920s and post 1968 was spot-on in that book in particular.
However, Brian did not engage with criticism of the late Peter Hart’s approach, apart from mildly caricaturing it. Thus, he portrays critics of Hart’s republican sectarianism thesis as naive upholders of the IRA’s ‘honour’. On the related controversy about Hart’s treatment of the November 1920 Kilmichael Ambush, they apparently believe Ambush Commander Tom Barry ‘wasn’t capable of lying’. His response on Cedar Lounge to my commentary on his discussion of the Good Old IRA pamphlet was:
8. Brian Hanley – October 6, 2012
Briefly re ‘The Good Old IRA’. It is far from the only example of republicans in the 1970s/80s dismissing that the idea that the 1919-21 war had a democratic mandate. It was a serious attempt to create a counter to the prevailing southern nationalist view that there was a fundamental difference between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ IRAs. Danny Morrison spoke about this at a debate in Drogheda during July and I didn’t get the impression that the project was intended to be ‘tongue in cheek.’
Perhaps Brian did not have time to contribute more. Also, he was responding to another poster who extracted the ‘tongue in cheek’ phrase from what I had written. I wonder how productive a discussion about that phrase might prove. As for the rest of Brian’s comment there is not a lot to go on.
Other posters on Cedar Lounge brought up the 1985 pamphlet independently. See here for more.
As I pointed out, the pamphlet was also presented recently by QUB’s Paul Bew as a significant precursor to the approach adopted later by Peter Hart. Clearly, there is more to this document than meets the eye, particularly if historians like Bew and Hanley view it as important in the contentious debate about Peter Hart’s work.
I hope in what follows to illuminate the origins of the Good Old IRA pamphlet, its aims and limitations, plus its importance to ‘revisionist’ historians.
To download Niall Meehan’s detailed response to the discussion please click on the following link: 1985 SF pamphlet (b) Cedar Lounge discussion
To download The Good Old IRA pamphlet in PDF form please click on the following link: Good Old IRA SF Publ Dept 1985