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That OIRA ‘navy’? October 19, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

A while back I was loaned ‘Gunrunners: The Covert Arms Trail to Ireland’ by Sean Boyne, published by O’Brien in 2006. An interesting book in its own way, it tracks the means by which an array of formations acquired and imported arms to the island during the period of the conflict.

How much credence one can give it is difficult to judge, given that it sits at a nexus of journalism, rumour, state and paramilitary information and disinformation and so on… but there are some fascinating bits and pieces in there nonetheless.

For example in discussing Saor Éire it suggests, and I’ve heard this elsewhere, that Ernest Mandel would have been introduced to some of their activists, albeit they would not have been introduced as such. True? Incorrect? Who can say?

Some interesting material on Official IRA arms shipments in the early 1970s too. But here’s an anecdote and an half…

[Talking to a former OIRA activist] he did disclose an intriguing piece of information – he said that the OIRA at this period had its own trawler.’If they wanted to get stuff into the country they would have used it,’ he said. It appears the OIRA kept the trawler for only a short period, before deciding that it was a waste of mine. A decision was made to dispose of the trawler, and the OIRA ‘navy’ was no more, according to this source’.

Sounds a bit of a shaggy dog story to me… but then, who knows?


1. Michael Carley - October 19, 2012

The Cliona, the Maeve and the Macha, …


2. Dr. X - October 19, 2012

Disinformation will be a real challenge for future historians. A while back I read an MRD Foot paper about the effectiveness of SOE – written in the 1970s. At the end of it, he drops in a line about the USSR allegedly backing both sides in the north of Ireland, just for badness like.

Now that’s obvious nonsense, but someone somewhere thought it would be a good line to push.

As for Ernie M., didn’t Tariq Ali give an oration at the funeral of one Saor Eire cadre?


Michael Carley - October 19, 2012

Didn’t Claire Sterling claim, in her account of Soviet backing for anti-Western terrorism, that the PIRA overthrew the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973?


Seán Ó Tuama - October 19, 2012

Yes. Peter Graham was a member both of SE and the USFI so it is not unlikely that he, and possibly other members of SE, had met Mandel.


Jim Monaghan - October 19, 2012

Ernest Mandel visited Dublin once. He met amongst others Derry Kelleher, themn on the Ard Comhairle of Official Sinn Fein.He spoke at a public meetin in UCD.
Tariq made an ultraleft speech at the funereal of Peter Graham.Given the emotions caused by his death, he was probably quite upset athis death.


NollaigO - October 20, 2012

In Bob Purdie’s essay, “Remembering the Officials” there is a detailed account on Mandel and Ireland. This essay was written specially for the authors of TLR. Bob also commented on Saor Éire/USFI links in a correspondence with Liam O’Rourke in The Blanket in the early 2000s.
As Jim reminds us, Mandel only visited Ireland once and that was some time after Peter’s death. Peter did meet Mandel in London in September 1971 and possibly met him in London previously. Another member of the future RMG/MSR/PD was with Peter at that meeting and the discussion centered on theoretical and historical issues.
IMO it is highly unlikely that Mandel met any other Saor Éire members so the book account is highly fanciful.


michael - October 20, 2012

It is likely that Mandel met Saor Éire when he came to Ireland. Going by this comment that was posted on a Saor Eire article on The Irish Revolution blog. Sadly, other comrades were with Mandel at the talks, which proved inconclusive.
D.R,O’Connor Lysagh


maddurdu - October 20, 2012

Heres some pics of Tariq ali at the funeral (and look whos beside him)



3. Joe - October 19, 2012

Then there was the story about the Ard Chomhairle or similar meeting the time the Irps were forming. Garland was reading out a list of the branches (units?) that had gone over to the dark side. As the list got longer, MacGiolla, who suffered from ulcers, clutched his stomach in pain. “Don’t worry”, says Sean, “the airforce has stayed loyal.”


WorldbyStorm - October 19, 2012



4. Group F - October 20, 2012

I believe this trawler story to be correct. Brian Hanley or the father of a TD, or the TD, maybe able to assist.


WorldbyStorm - October 20, 2012

Since posting that yesterday I’ve been told that the story is correct. Interesting.

I think it’s a telling indications of the range of ambition (whatever about the practicality in the specific instance) of Official Republicanism as a political force during that period.


5. Dr. X - October 20, 2012

Re: visits by the international far lef to Ireland.

Someone told me that they saw Amilcar Cabral (leader of the anticolonial struggle in Guinea-Bissau and at that time considered a major figure in the theory of the African anticolonial revolution) in Dublin in the early 1970s.

And intensely charismatic he was too (later on, he would be murdered by a rival, and corrupt, member of the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cabo Verde) leadership).

Have we got any more examples of this sort of thing.


maddurdu - October 20, 2012


6. ejh - October 20, 2012
7. Paul Wilson - October 25, 2012

I have read about the trawler, cant quite remember where. It was purchased to bring in the Soviet arms shipment in ‘ Operation Splash’ in 1974.


8. A question on the IRA, the CPI and the USSR in 1969 « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - December 28, 2012

[…] to see another mention of a trawler in relation to the IRA (though is this the same trawler as the one mentioned in relation to the OIRA some time later?). But more importantly these seem to […]


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