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Left Archive: Grille – The Irish Christian Left, Revolution and Violence, Grille 3, Winter 1968 September 8, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Grille - Irish Christian Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.


To download this file please click on the following: GRILLEGO12

To go to the Left Archive please click here.

This is an unusual addition to the Archive being a periodical edited by John Feeny and William Ledwich that positions itself overtly on the Christian Left. An outline of how the group around Grille – which explicitly regarded itself as Christian Socialist and came into direct conflict with conservative Catholics – came into being is given here on Come Here To Me earlier this year, as well as where many of those involved went subsequently.

The cover headline is ‘Revolution and Violence’ and the contents addresses these subjects through a broad range of articles, including those on The Ecclesiology of Violence, the Theology of Violence, Black Power, The Educational Policy of the Irish Labour Party and Student Unrest.

There is too much content to adequately address here, but the Editorial is useful in offering an insight into the project.

When this Spring, those who were to become the editorial board of Grille, thought out the possibilities of an movement of the Christian left in Ireland, they had little or no idea about how it would succeed. Our plans were vague, and while we believed that hopes were well founded, we were continually frustrated by opposition from antagonistic christians and marxists and by despair from sympathisers who still thought that ‘Ireland’s not ready for it yet’ or ‘There are enough magazines already’.

Since the magazine started, however, we found that a magazine could not in itself do all that had to be done. The Encyclical on birth control divided the christian world into two shapely defined categories; there were conservatives and progressive on this issue i every denomination… In the same week Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, and here again the recognisable borders between capitalist and socialist countries were blurred.

It notes:

The two events demanded spontaneous action, and we thought of a pray-in in Westland Row Church. Again, when the Chicago police came to Dublin soon after their now famous neo-fascist brutality, more was clearly needed than a comment in Grille, ready by a maximum of two and a half thousand people three months later. So we held an all-day fast.

On both events we were heavily criticised, now even by those who had supported us; liberals mostly, who said, ‘A magazine is alright, which people can read in a civilised way. But don’t sit on th street; don’t break the law; don’t be a nuisance.’

And it continues:

But it was not possible to respect the limits they set us; we found in effect that they were preventing us being fully heard. A magazine was important bout outrageous disreputable action was need as well. It was the only way in which we could break through the set channels of critical thinking, and make the readers of the evening papers be challenged and upset. The liberal’s answer of patient limited protest within conventional patterns was inadequate; were were compelled to extremism as is every christian, even at the risk of alienating our cautious middle class supporters.

We do not intend therefore to restrict our challenge to society and the church to the magazine, though this will, we hope remain the articulate focus of our work. But we can see that an active organisation will have to be formed, with branches throughout the country, including the north. Through it christian marxists can work together in every part of the country, meeting regularly, and acting spontaneously of the present cruel society, which it is Grille’s purpose to opposite and to help change.

There is a notice of the Grille Study-School on ‘Who Owns Ireland’ – ‘Papers on the ownership of capital in Ireland and discussions on the Socialist alternative – Industrial Democracy’ which notes that speakers include ‘Roy Johnston’ and Dr. Noel Browne’.

On the back cover it advertises the “Grille Retreat for left-wing Christians” which has ‘Readings from Connolly, Che and Mathew’ as well as ‘Lectures from Various Clerics’ and ‘Praying – Talking – Drinking etc’.

An illuminating document.

Just on a personal note, my father had this amongst his own documents. Unfortunately I never had an opportunity to discover how he acquired it.


1. Gerryboy - September 9, 2014

An attempt to blend post-stalinist marxism (of the Italian variety, known as Eurocommunism?) with an imagined Irish post-ultramontane, post John Charles McQuade catholicism was bound to attract few supporters in the late 1960s. State marxism collapsed around 1991-94 everywhere except Cuba and China. Ultramontane catholicism is finished in Western Europe, although middle ground catholicism continues to grow in Africa and parts of Asia, and holds its ground in large swathes of Latin America, where socially radical ‘basic christian communities’ thrive in the shanty towns (favelas & barrios) and impoverished rural areas. Grille was an extraordinary flash in the pan for a couple of years, but Irish society slipped off in other directions. The great apathetic rump is still inactive in our stumbling state, its preferred ism being indifferentism.


2. Jim Monaghan - September 9, 2014

I knew John Feeney in UCD circa 1969. On a personal basis he was a very nice guy. His politics went to the right in my opinion and he ended in the Irish Independent as a gossip columnist. He and Kevin Myers were 2 of the “stars” of the UCD left. He wrote a bio. of McQuaid which from memory (possibly faulty) was not that harsh.


Gerryboy - September 10, 2014

Student politics exists in a hothouse atmosphere. The real bourgeois world with its status, its perks, its privileges and its lucrative rewards assails graduates when they embark on career paths.Much news gathering is done in five-star hotels, in salubrious conference halls and in grand government buildings. Journalists seldom visit a factory floor, a hospital canteen or a mucky small farm. It’s important to be mindful always that newspapers and television and radio FM stations are fundamentally businesses. Journalists are conscious that readership statistics, TAM ratings and radio audience market share are what count in the search for advertising revenue. Commercially minded media are inevitably on the side of the A and B socio-economic categories, regardless of occasional sympathy shown in individual feature articles or documentary programmes.


WorldbyStorm - September 10, 2014

Yes, student politics is broadly speaking a sideshow. It reminds me of the old jibe “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low”.

Not that it hasn’t provided a handy conveyer belt for ambitious wannabe politicians into the political system over the years.

Very true re attitude to workers and their lives from the media.


3. Gerryboy - September 10, 2014

In the last sentence I meant to say “Commercially minded media are inevitably on the side of the A and B socio-economic categories, regardless of occasional sympathy shown in individual feature articles or documentary programmes” – for the individuals and communities at the bottom rungs of the social ladder.


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