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OSF/SFWP and 1979: where did branches and candidates go after that? May 21, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

And now for something entirely unrelated to the referendum. Reading back to this thought provoking post from IEL on elections outside of Dublin since 1973 for the left a paragraph he wrote really caught my eye.

One thing that struck me looking at the results was how widespread OSF/SFWP/ WP were. As a party Dail seat wise and poll wise their trajectory went upwards from 1981 until the DL split. Yet its in 1979 that they had a far bigger geographical spread of candidates  with candidates put forward in Cavan,Mayo, Laois, Offaly , Longford and Sligo. These were places where they never stood again. Did the local organisations die out in that time?

It’s a great point, not least because we see SF TDs in many of those places now – though obviously not all. Was it the hunger strikes? Something else, that saw a shift in allegiance, energy, activity?

Anyone know or have any thoughts on the phenomenon?


1. Michael Carley - May 21, 2015

Did they concentrate their effort on a smaller number of constituencies with the aim of winning seats?


2. sonofstan - May 21, 2015

Complete guesswork but would it be in each of those places there would have been a nucleus of pre-split SF that stayed with the official wing but was gradually alienated by the more and more explicitly leftist complexion of the- soon -to be WP?


Joe - May 21, 2015

I’d guess that’s it too. Alienated by the leftism and also by the party’s developing line on the North. Just guessing though.


WorldbyStorm - May 21, 2015

And of course the hunger strikes. That was a point of rupture too.


3. Paul Wilson - May 21, 2015

The WP had a branch and a local authority seat in Ballina Mayo until the DL breakaway in 1992, I honestly cant say about the other countys mentioned.


4. Brian Hanley - May 21, 2015

In the 1985 local elections the Workers Party won seats in about a dozen ‘regional’ towns, ie. outside of Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Galway. Some of these were seats held since the 1960s; for example Seamus Rodgers in Donegal who held a seat from 1967-1999. Others were newer branches, for example Tipperary town where some ex-Labour members joined the WP. But while there was enough support and enough of a structure to win a council seat in those areas there wouldn’t have been the base for a Dáil challenge, Mallow and Joe Sherlock excepted.
The wider ‘rural’ organisation had begun to decline (or shrink) by the late 1970s- I think the Tralee SFWP councillor left during the hunger strikes. They also lost their Monaghan councillor around this time, though he stayed with the party. But Ard Fheis Clar would still show the existence of rural or small town cumann into the 1980s. And during that decade there was a newer influx with branches in Leixlip and other Kildare towns for example.


que - May 21, 2015

That’s very interesting Brian. The decline in the rural base – to what extent did that really mean a hollowing out if at least not in capacity perhaps in inherent loyalty. Was there an extent that the new arrivals, to use you examples Kildare etc., were less deeply committed to the party as an institution in the way that a Republican would look at it as an actual representation of the Republic rather than just a party. Naturally enough there is a lurking thought about how this feed into the later split.


Mark P - May 21, 2015

Well they certainly weren’t recruiting on the basis of Republican legitimist gibberish by the late 70s. But the Communist (Stalinist) tradition they had moved towards has its own emphasis on “the party” as something more than a mere vehicle for share activism.


que - May 21, 2015

Yes that’s a good point.


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