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Attitudes to the IRA in the Republic of Ireland since 1969 – article in Irish Historical Studies by Brian Hanley. July 30, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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A very interesting piece by Brian Hanley in a recent edition of Irish Historical Studies [Irish Historical Studies Vol. XXXVIII No. 151, May 2013] where he considers the attitudes to the I.R.A. in the Republic of Ireland since 1969. He characterises those attitudes as ‘confused and contradictory’ with a wish ‘to identify with them’ but a situation where they ‘were repulsed by their actions’.

In some respects it is unsurprising, significant spikes of support in the early years (where the situation was complicated by two I.R.A.’s) then actually quite a low level of support through the 1970s, interspersed by peaks in response to various events – Bloody Sunday – being perhaps the most obvious one. A sharp rise in support – albeit borne of complex motivations, some of which might hardly be regarded as Republican – during the H-Block campaigns. The 1980s though brought a disillusionment with armed struggle.

Hanley recounts Christy Moore’s waning support for same which in the wake of Enniskillen had almost entirely faded away.

Reading it it is difficult not to see the roots of later political developments, and not merely the responses in the Republic, as appearing perhaps as early as the 1970s, given the very low political support for SF (and indeed low but more variable support for armed struggle). Difficult indeed not to disagree with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh’s sentiment that ‘[while] the mass of the people could be stirred on occasions of high dramatic situations like in Derry’s Bogside it was only a minority of people [who] have always in the past and will in the future given solid support’.

It is particularly interesting in relation to the way in which there was a very conscious appreciation that the actions of the I.R.A. would impact upon attitudes towards the foundation of the state and the struggle for independence. And also in relation to the blame sometimes attached by Republicans to the citizens of the Republic for their indifference to what was occurring in the six counties.

One of the most striking propositions is that throughout the conflict attitudes in the Republic remained antagonistic to any elision between the I.R.A. in that conflict and earlier incarnations of that organisation. Indeed Hanley concludes:

Most southern Irish nationalists rejected [the proposition ‘that the members of the Provisional I.R.A. were the heirs of those who had won independence (being) the only thing Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Conor Cruise O’Brien would ever agree on’] however, instead identifying with the sentiments of Fianna Fáil’s Erskine Childers that ‘the I.R.A. of those days [the WOI] had completely different objectives and ideals to those who called themselves by the same name today’.

That would certainly serve to explain the limitations on the political purchase Sinn Féin had during that period, and perhaps go some way to explaining why once armed struggle began to be jettisoned that a more purely political approach began to reap some measure of support in the South.

And of course, none of this is to deny a broad, if unfocused, sympathy both towards those in the Northern Ireland and – although this was more variable – towards the eventual goal of unification throughout the period, albeit limited in effect, but it does suggest that with Fianna Fáil in situ in the Republic there were easier means for that to be expressed than switching to outright political Republicanism.

Anyhow, well worth a read for those who can get their hands on it.

Comments»

1. Ramzi Nohra - July 30, 2013

i dont rate my chances of getting hold of a copy in London but I will perserve. Senor El Hanley’s articles are of a consistently high standard.

Does the article cover suport for the IRA among people who would have voted non-SF? I remember reading an interview with some on the run maze escapee who said they stayed with FF people (absolutely believeable) as well as the odd FGer and PDer (i guess possible).

i would also presume support varied substantially by geography in the Republic, with peaks in the border counties, Kerry and maybe parts of Dublin.

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Gearóid - July 30, 2013

Interestingly, when Joe McDonnell stood for election in Sligo/Leitrim1981 his vote was seen as coming from Fine Gael moreso than FF.

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Gearóid - July 30, 2013

*Sligo/Leitrim in 1981

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Jim Monaghan - July 30, 2013

I doubt this. What was shocking was the lack of transfers to him after the first count. The Republican vote was an isolated one. SF now, North and South, is far more transfer friendly. Mind you they are far more house trained

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Gearóid - July 30, 2013

It was the view of the Sligo Champion from the time, I found it surprising myself. Fianna Fáil was seen losing less votes to McDonnell than expected, especially in North Leitrim. The only Sligo-Leitrim TD to sign a H-Block petition was from FG, Eugene Gilhawley, maybe FF were more reluctant to give support because they were incumbents.

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2. Starkadder - July 30, 2013

I’m guessing there was always far less sympathy for those “dirty
commies” in the Official IRA..

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Jim Monaghan - July 30, 2013

Republicanism has always been seen as far more dangerous than all sorts of marxisms, communisms etc. Middleclass people see this as their kids playing with ideas. They are expected to get over it when they grow up. But republicanism and the thought of completing a revolution, now that is another thing.

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chekov - July 30, 2013

Or, probability of being killed / tortured / ending up in prison for ever / killing innocent civilians…

I’d say that, whatever about completing a revolution, most parents are way, way more concerned about the immediate mortality issues.

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Starkadder - July 30, 2013

I’m not sure about that. Remember Jim Cusack’s reports
on Gerry McGeough in 2006, that downplayed the
latter’s politics and implied Gerry was being demonised
by “the Left? The implication of Cusack’s
article seemed to be that republicanism
wasn’t so bad if it was unattached to any kind of
progressive politics.

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dilettante - July 30, 2013

True enough.

If we’re going to seriously change things in this little part of the world then this socialist/republican issue needs to be sorted out (and not in a pro-empire sort of way)

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Philip Ferguson - August 2, 2013

I agree entirely. Republicanism scares the nauthorities much more than the non-republican left groups. And soicalist-republicanism especially scares the authorities, which is why they pay special attention to suppressing its manifestation.
Phil

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3. workers republic - July 30, 2013

There was a Fine Gael peace commissioner convicted of IRA membership and who served time in Portlaoise in ’75. I knew several FG and FF people who supported the IRA in the 70s, especially veterans of the Tan War ( or also the State War with FF vets) or the children of IRA veterans.
My grandfather used to say that the IRA did not have large support until they appeared to be winning. At the Truce people who never supported them suddenly became ” supportders”

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4. Mick - July 30, 2013

The late Paddy Wright Sinn Fein Councillor Athy Co. Kildare, said at a public meeting “that in 1969 a FG member gave him a weapon to be sent up north to help defend the Nationalist”.

He was a good friend of FG Councillor Nancy Moore (Christy moore’s mother.In addition Paddy’s SF comrade was Terry Moore Christy’s sister, former Revolutionary Struggle member.

Paddy on utube.

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Joe - July 31, 2013

“FG Councillor Nancy Moore (Christy moore’s mother”

Don’t think that’s accurate. Was she (Christy’s mother) not an SF councillor? I thought I read or heard somewhere that she took the seat when Christy’s da (an FG councillor) died. But the ma took the seat and joined SF cos that was her political leaning.

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Florrie O'Donoghue - August 1, 2013

She was a member of Fine Gael. A councillor and an unsuccessful general election candidate. She took in a family that was forced to flee from loyalist violence in Belfast.

Is mise.,

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5. CB - July 30, 2013

https://soundcloud.com/nearfm/the-history-show-episode-13 The Irish History Show on Near FM did an interview with Brian Hanley about this subject a couple of months ago.

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6. Mick - July 31, 2013

Jun 26, 2009 – speech to FG’s 75th Ard Fheis …. His party colleagues on the ticket for that election included Nancy Moore, mother of Christy,

In his last election, in June 1969, Sweetman was again returned to the Dáil for a 7th successive term. His party colleagues on the ticket for that election included Nancy Moore, mother of Christy, and Kildare Town’s own Michael McWey.

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Joe - July 31, 2013

Thanks Mick. This from a story/interview with Christy in the Irish Independent: “After Andy Moore’s death, Nancy took over his Fine Gael council seat. She had been in Sinn Féin in her youth. Later she became an independent.”

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7. Mick - July 31, 2013

Joe thank you for the information .

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8. Philip Ferguson - August 1, 2013

In relation to Provo strategy and the south in the 1970s, and how their forward march was partly given away, folks might find this interesting:
http://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/the-burning-of-the-british-embassy-40-years-on/

Phil
http://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/

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9. Florrie O'Donoghue - August 1, 2013

I have not read the article itself yet, though I intend on doing so.

However, the comment in the OP, ‘That would certainly serve to explain the limitations on the political purchase Sinn Féin had during that period’ is perhaps based on a naive assumption that political support for Sinn Féin was anything at all the same as support for militant republicanism.

Perhaps the three best contemperaneous works on this issue give a more nuanced insight into support for militant republicanism – something that was capable of being entirely divorced from casting a vote for Sinn Féin.

MacGréil’s two works, ‘Prejudice and tolerance in Ireland’ (1977) and ‘Prejudice in Ireland revisited’ (1996) are based on considerable data derived from questionaires dealing with – among other things – the northern conflict. There is a clear decline in support for militant republicanism, as well as a slight hardening of anti-nothern attitudes generally, in the two books. However, they both reveal a support or tolerance for militant republicanism which belies electoral support for the political ‘wing’ of the IRA.

Perhaps more insightful still is the paper by E. E. Davis and Richard Sinnott, ‘Attitudes in the Republic to the Northern Ireland problem’ (1979 or 1980, I don’t have it to hand). A quaintly euphemistic title, no doubt. However, as one of the author’s acknowledged in a follow-up paper – ‘The controversy concerning attitudes in the Republic to the Northern Ireland problem’ – they were both deeply disturbed that their findings revealed a much greater support for militant republicanism across a broad base of people as could ever be understood from an analysis of Sinn Féin’s electoral support.

An unknown (and, alas, unknowable) portion of the Irish people in the south have long been able to divorce the two issues, militant and political, where conflict in the north is concerned it seems.

Is mise srl.,

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10. workers republic - August 1, 2013

The killing of Gardai and a security man was a major factor in waining support for the IRA. I remember a workmate whose brother a political prisoner and a friend/comrade of mine, telling me that a a Garda, a hurler, a friend of his was kill in a robbery; he was very upset about it. The Army Council men from the 26Co. understood this. Some 6Co members did not.This was a major
factor

rstood the valid reasons for a.o.8th. Many 6Co. members of A.C. did not.

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workers republic - August 1, 2013

Another thing that hardened attitude against the campaign was the civilian deaths caused by car-bombings.Claudy and Belfast City center especially.
Land-mines and sniping were the tactics that were acceptable to supporters and the wider public; thry
were military targets; “armed propaganda”
Is mise WR

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Philip Ferguson - August 2, 2013

Armky Order 8 was all very well and good, but the problem was that it also symbolised a certain attitude to the southern state. Sure, there was no point in armed actions against it, but there was no Plan B. There was no idea of organising politically, in a hard way, against the southern state.

In my experience – and, for my sins, I was a very active Shinner for about 8 years, the northerners – most especially the ‘noprthern radicals’ had very little understanding of the south and were very hesitant about any sort of political campaigning that mioght destabilise the southern state.

Mellows’ idea that the southern state was a barrier state to Irish freedom and had to be removed in the course of a struggle for the emancipation of the country – which was a very basic republican view – was anathema to the northern ‘republicans’, many of whom, in hindsight, were more nationalist than republican, even when they toyed for a while with socialism.

Phil
http://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/

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11. Philip Ferguson - August 2, 2013

I think an ceven more interesting question than the one dealt with by Brian Hanley is why republicanism lost so much ground in the south after the civil war. The anti-Treaty side had most of the advantages in early 1922 and yet essentially handed victory to the Free Staters to establish and entrench their neo-colonial regime. Yet within ten years the main body of anti-Treaty forces were in government in the south and their party remained the dominant party for the next nigh on 80 years.

For the first 30-odd years following partition and the civil war, the main enemy of republicans was the southern state. And for a part of that time, a substantial minority of the southern population did not regard that state as a legitimate state. Really, it was Fianna Fail which saved the southern state.

The IRA had grown again in the later 1920s and early 1930s as it took up socio-economic issues, but after the defeat and departure of much of the left, and then the split and collapse of Republican Congress, the IRA’s degeneration into simple-minded militarism under Sean Russell ensured the southern state the ability to consolidate its legitimacy to the point where acceptance of its legitimacy became the ‘common sense’.

Republicans never again saw the south as the key to the struggle. The south became simply a back-uip base to the ‘real’ struggle in the north, an utterly hopeless perspective and one which inevitably led to defeat and the incorporation of the Provos in the establishment both sides of the border. The exception to this was the early IRSP but after Costello’s murder (and very heavy repression) they weren’t able to build.

I think it’s very encouraging that eirigi has picked up where Costello left off and pursues a 32-county struggle, rather than partitioning the politics of liberation.

Phil
http://theirishrevolution.wordpress.com/

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12. Jim Monaghan - August 2, 2013

On the question of the South being key I would agree. Could I add that this is a problem for Palestinians as well. The regimes in the Arab world are an obstacle as well. And most Palestinian groups made the mistake of being clients of one or other regime.

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workers republic - August 4, 2013

Regarding Palistine Sinn Fein and the Palistine Authority are in a similar position, they are part of the Occupation.
In1971 I was talking to Liam Kelly ,( of Saor Uladh) and he said “all they want to do in Kerry is fight the Civil War again. That attitude was typical of many

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workers republic - August 4, 2013

In the 20s there were very few socialists in the IRA Documents written be Peader O Donnel can be missleading the fact that the IRA did not support the strikes by farm workers and the Soviets.

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13. http://www.hamelerspalletten.be/tess.asp?p=12 - November 25, 2013

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http://www.hamelerspalletten.be/tess.asp?p=12 http://www.hamelerspalletten.be/tess.asp?p=12

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