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Left Archive: Shankill Bulletin – October 1981 December 16, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Shankill Bulletin.


To download the above file please click on the following link:
Shankill Bulletin 1981 lower

This is an interesting document donated to the Archive by Alan Mac Simoin. Produced by community groups on the Shankill under the ‘Shankill Education Workshop’ from the late 1970s into the early 1980s, it commemorates the Hunger Riots of October 1932.

For more information on the SET and the aims of the Shankill Bulletin this site is very interesting, as well as giving an insight into the growing role of community development.

What is striking is how strongly class oriented it is. The leading article on the Hunger Riots notes that:

Forty nine years ago this month was a truly historic moment in the history of the working people in Belfast, when the Falls and Shankill fought side by side against the evils of poverty and starvation. The depression of unemployment had soared to over 60,000 and conditions were appalling.

It also quotes Mr. T. Geehan, Chairman of the Relief Workers Committee that ‘the workers are going out on the streets… if there is any trouble the responsibility will lie on the shoulders of the authorities… for long years the working class of Belfast has been divided by the old artificial barriers of religion and politics – they are now united in a struggle around one common platform, the motto of which is the right to live.’

The piece is accompanied by a range of photographs.

Also included in the newsletter is an interview with Inez McCormack of the National Union of Public Employees. And this too takes an explicitly working class line. There’s also a strongly anti-Tory emphasis, as exemplified both in the McCormack interview and in articles on Housing Policy. In terms of Northern Irish politics mention is made of the DUP.

There’s a strong community emphasis to this production including a piece on development of the Hammer Site. One further element of interest is that the comic strip Screw the Bap & Head the Ball ran throughout the issues and apparently, according to this site, were published as an album in 1979.

As Alan notes;

The Sammy Miller mentioned on page 13 was a leading member of the UDA, who got elected – in a by-election – to Belfast City Council in the year of the Hunger Strike, 1981.  During the full Council elections a few months later he held on to his seat.  The Provisional IRA tried to kill him but only managed to wound him.

In sum the document is a reminder that there was a significant element of loyalism in the 1970s that grew out of a trade union and left background, something that is often forgotten in the image of loyalism as being populated exclusively by Johnny Adair types.


1. Bob Smiles - December 16, 2013

Where are the left loyalists gone? Is there any NILP type space now?


2. Joe - December 17, 2013

We discussed the idea of left loyalists here on CLR before. The majority opinion was that they can’t exist. Socialist unionist, left loyalist – these are oxymorons. You cannot believe in and support the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and also be a socialist. It’s a dialectical impossibility, apparently.


Bob Smiles - December 17, 2013

Dont see why not. PUP support right to choose and NHS. Right wing labour supporters in Britain support monarchy.


WorldbyStorm - December 17, 2013

I think it depends on the nature of the British state one affords loyalty to. I don’t believe one can genuinely be a socialist and be a monarchist. I even think that asserting one is a social democrat and a monarchist is a contradiction in terms. I don’t think any serious definition of left – whether radical or moderate – doesn’t incorporate the concept of a non-monarchical political structure.

Of course the nature of the identification is another issue, for example, one could choose to say I’m against the monarchy but will work within the system, and that’s fair enough. Or try to ignore it altogether. But I think that that one or other of those approaches would have to be taken.

So if one can integrate that, or perhaps ignore it, I’d argue that one could easily be a unionist and a left winger, some would argue that functionally many are, but a unionist whose identification is with the monarchy? I’m pretty sure that’s a deep contradiction.


Bob Smiles - December 17, 2013

Why about Swedish or Danish monarchs? Do the social democrats there demand abolition ? I don’t know if they do or not. But in north of England strong labour voters often v patriotic about queen and even British army


WorldbyStorm - December 17, 2013

Sure, and I’m not doubting that they consider themselves left wing and may within broad parameters functionally be left wing, but I think intrinsic to any developed leftism is a republicanism – for want of a better term. There are also significant questions as to the degree that such differentiation between citizens in societies that retain such trappings operates as an impediment to the full achievement of left wing and progressive goals.


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