jump to navigation

My Life in the IRA – The Border Campaign Book Launch Video January 13, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
trackback

Thanks to the person who forwarded the link.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. GW - January 14, 2018

Fascinating talks from Brian Hanley and Mick Ryan. As Brian said it’s a shame the publisher has taken out some of the social history from Ryan’s book, but it’s definitely on my ‘to read’ list.

Like

2. Jemmyhope - January 14, 2018

+1

Like

3. roddy - January 14, 2018

Was going to buy it but baulked at it when Ryan listed those from the border campaign who had since died.All had turned neo unionist bar Frank McCarry.and had died in their beds.Could,nt even mention people like SF councillor John Davey done to death by loyalists or Seamus Costello assassinated by neo unionists in the south.I shouldn’t have been surprised seeing Hanley was involved.90% of those involved in operation harvest through time rejected the neo unionism of the sticks.

Like

Alibaba - January 14, 2018

Good evening, roddy. Why not buy and review the book for us anyway? And keep carrying on. Other informed views are always appreciated here.

Like

4. WorldbyStorm - January 14, 2018

“I shouldn’t have been surprised seeing Hanley was involved.”

What does that mean exactly roddy?

Like

EWI - January 14, 2018

Roddy, I’m not in any sympathy with what became a unionist tendency within the OSF/OIRA (never mind the Peace Train lot, some of whom are the most right-wing fascism-loving f**kers around), but I do happen to know both Padraig Yeates and Brian Hanley in person.

While I would have differences of opinion with both of them (especially Padraig) on some of the things they’ve said in the past, I don’t at all doubt their bona fides as Irish republicans.

Liked by 1 person

5. roddy - January 14, 2018

Hanley has form.describing two armed groups going toe to toe on the streets of Belfast as a “pogram” and the provos were always the bad guys in the feuds. Group B were highly motivated idealists ,whilst the provos mere street thugs.Thing is go over some of the threads here where the ORM and WP at street level got stuck into each other and among the incoherent ramblings you get a somewhat truer picture of “official republicanism” in its raw state.You see there is absolutely no grace in stickyism whatsoever.I foolishly thought that Ryan could gracefully acknowledge in that speech his former comrades who followed different paths.In all his writings Gerry Adams never failed to mention in a respectful manner people like Liam McMillan or Jim Sullivan and even got every SF parliamentarian on this island to support Garland in his fight against extradition.The thanks he got was for Garland to appear alongside fuckers like Ruairi Quinn within weeks on an RTE anti Adams hatefest.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 14, 2018

Wow, just wow. BH has a vastly more nuanced view than the one you describe. But why let the facts get in the way?

Like

6. roddy - January 14, 2018

Read his book again WBS .Show me one instance where the provos were portrayed as anything but the villians in the various feuds.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 14, 2018

Perhaps you should read it again roddy. The chapter on the 1975 feud is entitled “The ‘Pogrom'” with the word pogrom in inverted commas, so clearly the authors were not buying in uncritically to the usage of that. And in dealing with that aspect they note that it was the Officials who regarded it as such, not that it was such.

As to the provos being portrayed as villains… I don’t think having just reread the chapter that is fair. It is clearly critical, it’s difficult not to be, the events that kicked off 29th Oct 1975 were clearly initiated by PIRA, not OIRA. To say it was two armd groups going toe-to-toe may comfort you but I suspect most would see an unprovoked attack between two groups that were not in direct armed conflict with one another in a different light. Finally keep in mind as IIRC A Secret History of the IRA notes, though it could be another book, that certain of those inside H-Blocks on the PIRA side were deeply critical of the feud(s). They were right to be deeply critical.

Like

7. roddy - January 14, 2018

One feud broke out when the sticky easter commemoration was bombed by the uvf. (obviously by mistake as the uvf and group b were involved in joint fundraising rackets for decades and even swapped weapons on occasion.) The sticks immediately blamed the provos and launched attacks on them.Gerry Adams more than anyone else was totally opposed to the feuds and along with radical priest Father Des Wilson did all in his power to stop them.The sticks willingly engaged with fr Des in these negotiations but then when they had used him they shat on him like they did on everybody else who did,nt agree with their neo unionism.With the typical ungraciousness which I have mentioned before ,they labelled him a “catholic Paisley”.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 14, 2018

Hold on, but we’re not talking about ‘one feud’. We’re talking about the big one. Nice bit of evasion given you’re the one brought it up in the first place when you complained about BH etc and the ‘pogrom’ (and fantastic comment given that you clearly tick off all the boxes exercising you – sticky collusion with UVF (check), sticky attacks on Provos (check), sticky duplicity in relation to Fr. Des Wilson (check), sticky ungraciousness (check). Good lord, if only the sticks hadn’t been around sure everything would have been grand years before it was!).

Like

8. roddy - January 14, 2018

and Yes everything would have been grand years before.They used their infiltrators in the media to create hysteria against anyone advocating dialogue with SF.They set up phoney movements like the peace train and organised counter demonstrations against the likes of Tony Benn when he came to Dublin to address pro Irish unity meetings.They met with RUC special branch and distributed the montages they got from them at WP meetings. (this was even too much for some of their members who refused to identify people on the montages.)Going back to Benn ,he described them as the most bizarre outfit he ever encountered.I have deliberately kept off the net recently because I have realized constant negativity benefits nobody.I was prepared to give Ryans book a fair wind just as I try to have some civility with the handful of sticks left in south Derry.However they continue to live up to the lowest of my expectations like Ryan did in that video when he could,nt even mention one of the hundreds of operation harvest veterans who did,nt fall for stickyism.(His audience would let Frank McCarry,s name slip through as he would be virtually unknown outside Ballycastle).

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 14, 2018

Tiresome. All this because you can’t contain yourself when there’s even the mention of someone who went with the Officials and wrote a book about the Border campaign.

BTW you do know of course that Aengus Ó Snodaigh was there on the evening at the launch? I didn’t hear that he stormed out in fury at the temerity of Ryan (or Hanley) in being there or saying their piece?

Like

malachysteenson - January 16, 2018

As was Aengus’s father

Like

Michael Mullan - January 15, 2018

This conspiratorial notion of “their infiltrators in the media” is intriguing. I know there were some media workers (like me) who identified with the party, openly or in private, but the idea that we were infiltrated into the industry is a tad fanciful. Jobs in journalism, especially in such a self-obsessed, news-hungry society as (northern) Ireland, have always been hard to earn, and media owners are not generally of the left. To be a left-winger employed in the media, you have to be good at the job, which even if you come from the right means being literate, well-informed, thoughtful and articulate.
My own first job with an Irish media outlet was with a Coleraine newspaper owned by a Unionist freemason (not an Orangeman, so far as I know) whose politics were very distant from mine. No funny handshakes were involved; the late Bertie Troy only needed a competent journalist, and I needed a job. Whether Bertie ever knew my politics, I can’t say for sure, What I can say is that the party had absolutely no influence in “infiltrating” me, and I’m sure the same could be said for others like the late Liam Clarke (hired by the News Letter).
There are some still-working journalists, writers and photographers, in Ireland (whom I won’t name without their permission), whose paths crossed mine and it was often a pleasant surprise to find out – perhaps at a union conference or an awards ceremony – that we were on the same political wavelength, let alone sharing a party allegiance.
We had party comrades who drove buses or worked small farms; does that mean the sinister, manipulative backroom plotters of the WP directed their acolytes to “infiltrate” the transport or agriculture sectors? Or does it simply indicate that intelligent people made their own political choices?

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

Yeah always thought the infiltration stuff was overblown – quite apart from the fact that ‘control’ was spotty at best. And there’s another point I’d make which is that there’s an often unspoken corollary of the argument that if only the WP hadn’t had members in RTÉ or the IT or wherever coverage of the north would have been different in some way (presumably more favourable to PSF etc). But I think that’s a huge category error. I think, as an ex member, the WP erred too far in terms of coming uncomfortably close to a sort of sub-unionist analysis (though not quite and there was always more distance than its detractors like to admit) of certain aspects of the conflict.

But in truth it would always be playing catch up with a Lynch style FF approach, or FGers or a raft of Labour or indeed a general approach that saw sentiment in the Republic in the 70s and 80s fairly firmly set in one direction (except at passing times) and which when push came to shove had little or no political support on the ground. There were contradictions, we’ve argued them out on this site time and again but the WP was in a way pushing an open door in terms of a broader societal orthodoxy on the north.

And something that wasn’t mentioned on this thread prior to this is the simple reality of the impacts of 1974 and 1975 in terms of how that pushed OSF in a certain direction following the split with the IRSP and the feud of the latter year with PIRA. Anyone who reads TLR or other works on those years will see that the latter in particular had an enormous effect in regard to the perception of republicanism, the armed struggle, engagement with the British etc. Indeed the list of complaints about the WP – some valid, some not, some ascribable to many other formations in the conflict – can largely be attributed to the period subsequent to those years and events, and in some part consequent on those events. And more astute figures inside PIRA knew this and did their best to ameliorate it on the ground but by then – as we know – history had moved on (I’d never argue that OSF/SFWP might not have wound up in a similar place to that it did occupy eventually, who can tell, but the feud in particular clearly did influence matters hugely).

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

“There was the progressive infiltration of trade unions and the media, particularly RTE — entryism on the grand scale of which objective truth was often the first casualty.”
(Maurice Hayes reviewing TLR.)

Yet the Stickies..

“did manage to get it right in so many ways — in the early civil rights movement, in a more subtle analysis of the issues, in the recognition of unionists as a community with their own interests and values, in the need to restructure Stormont and reform the police, and in the principle of consent. In the rush to recognise Protestant rights, however, they were prepared to discount those of Northern Catholics, who found themselves re-defined from victims to villains.

Still, it took the other (initially dissenting) branch of republicanism another 30 bloody years to reach roughly the same position.”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/peeling-back-the-truth-about-the-stickies-26572454.html

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

“Eoghan Harris was a secret member of the Workers Party…
he was instrumental in establishing a secret branch of the party within the Workers Union of Ireland (WUI) membership at RTE and this branch attempted and succeeded in slanting RTE current affairs programmers on radio and television through the judicious placement of its members and associates in key roles. ”
http://politico.ie/archive/eoghan-harris-and-workers-party

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

Establishing secret branches, a practice I abhor, doesn’t per se mean hegemonic influence. I’ve no doubt that in parts efforts were made and succeeded in tilting the balance. But the WP wasn’t the only group in all this, the state itself, individual and other parties, PSF sympathisers too. All were in the mix. The point I’m making is (and I’m no fan of Harris or indeed his approach in all this, and having been directly attacked in print by him over a [mostly] unrelated issue I’ve some distant sense of what it must have been like for people who didn’t tow the line) – that RTÉ current affairs programming would reflect the broader societal trends which were by no means pro-Republican let alone pro-PSF and fundamentally as the state broadcaster was never going to be ‘pro-Republican’ as such.

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

Infiltration of trade unions and RTE does not mean ‘hegemonic influence’, but such entryism surely had some not inconsiderable effect.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

Well I wouldn’t dispute what Michael Mullen said above – these were people who had started out in RTÉ. Harris was there in the 7 days period (I remember 7 days) and that was 66-76. So the idea of infiltration seems a bit over the top. They rose within the organisation. But when Harris was transferred out of current affairs in 1974 (as per pp280-81 of TLR) it was because he was against Section 31 and had as a producer on 7 days done a programme against internment which included interviews with ex-internees etc. That famous Stalinist (I jest) Charlie Bird got his job in RTÉ on foot of a recommendation by… Eoghan Harris! None of this strikes me as ‘entryism’ as the term is commonly understood. It wasn’t that OSF/SFWP attempted to enter RTÉ. They were already there. What did happen was that their views changed over time from anti-internment, pro-IRA, republican, to something different… and returning to the thread some of that has to be a function of events like those of 1975. And of course as already noted there were supporters of other parties there, or who entered. Alex White was LWR, etc, etc.

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

If secret cumainn in RTE and elsewhere is not infiltration and/or entryism then how should these secret cumainn be characterized and what were their purpose? Why the secrecy?

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

Well I don’t think it’s classic entryism like say one party entering another. It’s more a case of establishing secret networks within a workplace. And given they were all in situ anyhow, or at least sufficient at that time it’s not exactly infiltration (or not in the sense I understand the term). I can’t help but think there’s a lot of playacting about this, secret cumann might have impressed them but really what it was was groups together working in one way or another ahead of meetings and so on to maximise their influence. That goes on all the time in less self-regarding ways. On the other I also know (having read the accounts from Mary McAleese and others) about the noxious effects the atmosphere generated by this could create. In a way this strikes me as a conspiracy in plain sight. There can’t have been many in RTÉ current affairs who didn’t realise EH was a stick. And his acolytes likewise. And all the time his profile was getting higher. And during the period where this was most concealed arguably they were at their most ‘republican’ and it was later when they were getting more and more attention that they were shifting towards the orthodoxy or outstripping it with their tilt towards gestural unionism.

By the way I don’t much like to seem to defend these. And that’s not my intention. I disagree with secret cumann as I’ve noted before, I disagreed with Section 31 and still do, and so on. But there’s an element of hyperbole about all this and a bit of sense of forgetting. For a secret conspiracy it’s worth keeping in mind that the WP influence or that of OIRA more broadly was tackled in Hibernia on numerous occasions (by EM IIRC), the IT had pieces by Olivia O’Leary in the late 70s, the Sunday Tribune in the mid to late 80s, Magill on a near constant basis, Today Tonight in1986 tackled paramilitary fundraising looking at a party with the initials P and W, and so on.

There’s a bit of a myth that this was never tackled. Anything but. Almost every year from the late 70s onwards there was one piece or another in the IT, Hibernia, etc etc on the issue. One couldn’t be a member as I was, and not be aware of the negative media impression of the party, and it was. And in reality one would have had to be very blind with any interest in Irish politics not to be aware of the OIRA etc. Or the allegations at the time that were made on a fairly regular basis. Prosaically I think people didn’t much care – the Officials weren’t active like other groups and that gave them a pass in the general mind while perhaps the fact they had been active gave them a certain credibility. And it’s not as if RTÉ didn’t have say FF or FG or LP pools of influence over the years.

As to wider influence. In the 1980s on doorsteps in Dublin North East I never once heard anyone discuss the OIRA or stuff like that with me during canvassing or collections or paper sales. They certainly didn’t hang on every word of Eoghan harris or Today Tonight. The dull truth was that it was work on the ground that made the difference, not stuff that impacted on a small enough tranche of people. And just on impacts – I recall in national school the teacher putting up spreads from the Press or Indo after the Le Mons bombing on our class room wall. He was an FFer I believe. In Community School during the hunger strikes some teachers wore black armbands but there was remarkably little comment about it at the level of us.

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

Don’t think they were all ‘in situ’.

“Harris had been on the interview board that had decided to hire Gerry Gregg…
The Ned Stapleton members had an influence on RTE’s output that belied their relatively small numbers”
(TLR,p. 371)

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

precisely why I said immediately after that ‘or at least sufficient at that time’. Of course new people came in.

But look, let me ask you, what can you point to in regard to an outcome that Harris can claim in relation to RTÉ current affairs output that would be distinct from the government of the day?

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

I don’t think such a question can be answered. How to separate out different strands which influence certain outcomes? Impossible.
Whether the influence of the SFWP in RTE and trade unions is called entryism/infiltration or not, the views of Maurice Hayes, Vincent Browne, and the TLR that there was influence, and that those wielding the influence tried to remain hidden, should be taken into account.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

Yes agreed and it is one reason I heartily dislike EHs politics. But there’s a problem, the secrecy stuff was only for a relatively short period of time and really though the networks would persist it became much less important – again tlr points to how everyone knew about OSF/WP members and fellow travelers – and there’s the doc in the archive which Harris did on dealing with SF on tv, that wasn’t WP, that was off his own bat, he and they weren’t secret by the 80s, not functionally. That doesn’t surprise me because by then there was a cosying up to power centers beyond the left.

Reading McAleese and tlr there was an oppressive culture or attempts at same but even that didn’t work, or nowhere near completely, for example in 87 EH and his crew tried to get rte producers to support a resolution condemning the Enniskillen bombing unsuccessfully, which suggests to me good sense on their part given it wasn’t the function of tv producers to do so.

I don’t want to seem dismissive about your concerns either. Still the word play acting comes to mind in regard to eh et al, vile on occasion, wrong etc but the real power is evident when one considers section 31 was introduced in 1971 by Fianba Fail’Gerry Collins and it survived through fg govts and two or was it three haughey terms into the 90s. EHs antics were lamentable but the state itself even under supposed republican minded folk was setting the direction.

Like

CL - January 15, 2018

Yes but Harris and his acolytes at RTE ,-public broadcasting-did influence public opinion which in turn influenced policy regarding Sec 31

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 15, 2018

I have to be honest I think that is a stretch – and buys into the fairly carefully constructed myth Harris himself liked to construct retrospectively. S31 was brought in by FF. Continued by FG, continued by FF, FG, FF etc… the idea that public opinion had much to do with it is a stretch. Int truth I suspect the public would have been reasonably happy if it had gone (though I’ll have to look at the stats). And keep in mind Harris was against S31 from 1971 to about 1975/6 perhaps later (the WP was against it too, at least on paper and at AFs right through the 1980s, to the extent that it was kicked into touch with the idea of an incitement to religious and other hatred act which never materialised).

Like

EWI - January 16, 2018

That famous Stalinist (I jest) Charlie Bird got his job in RTÉ on foot of a recommendation by… Eoghan Harris!

That would be this Charlie Bird:

https://www.revleft.space/vb/attachment.php?attachmentid=16671

Like

EWI - January 16, 2018

and I’m sure the same could be said for others like the late Liam Clarke (hired by the News Letter).

I really don’t want to get deeply involved in what is at turns an unpleasantly emotional thread, but the utility of a capable and vitriolic anti-Republican polemicist (like WP member Liam Clarke) to an organ of Unionism is obvious. This was the same USP of southern brethren to the Dublin media.

Like

O'Connor Lysaght - January 16, 2018

Yep EW, that was Charlie;. Some months after he was photoed at Peter graham’s funeral, he went off and joined the Stickies.

Like

9. roddy - January 14, 2018

Southerners like Aengus did,nt witness or see the effects of their duplicity up close like us northerners.Two men who I knew all my life had guns put in their hands by WP members and went on to die on hunger strike. (in fact 5 0f the 10 dead men were ex officials).I had to listen to these hypocrites spout “no special treatment for terrorists” (despite their own members accepting pow status won by a previous provo hunger strike.Building workers will tell you about money being handed over to sticky gangsters every Friday on every building site in nationalist Belfast.These gangsters openly brandished rifles to complement the RUC legal revolvers in their inside pockets.The tax exemption scam made millions while suave WP members issued statements about “reforming the tax system and stamping out evasion”! WBS ,you were genuinely involved in good political work in Dublin but I can assure you the reality up north was totally different.However I’m away for another months holiday from the cut and thrust of the internet and the relative peace to be gained by doing so.!

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 14, 2018

roddy, I think you should reflect on how no one, not one group of republicans on this island, be they OSF, SF, IRSP etc can look back on their record with any degree of complacency or happiness or real satisfaction. All that you describe above can be ascribed at one point or another to pretty much everyone involved (indeed bar the Alliance and the SDLP no one was ‘innocent’ and those two had their own failings too in different ways). There’s no percentage in trying to elevate oneself above others in the hope of finding some moral high ground. There isn’t any. It was all, whatever the nobility fo the intentions, pretty grim. Nor is there much point in carrying on the futile and useless feuding of the past – whatever quarter one comes from.

Much better to acknowledge differences over the past, that people like MR write what they do with no insult intended (and credit BH with the even-handeness which characterises his work) – and better too instead of your getting riled because on his night, when he was celebrating the achievement of writing something that was dear to his heart (and getting threats too from various parties that stuff he had written might potentially have ramifications that might impact on him) he didn’t mention x y or z perhaps you could have the generosity of spirit to say, fair dues, he’s done something no one else has done to date which is write a first hand account of the Border Campaign and leave it at that.

I read RÓB’s biography a while back and wasn’t going through it complaining to myself that he wasn’t detailing this figure or that who went on to the Officials? Why would I? What possible irritant would that be to me?

Like

EWI - January 14, 2018

indeed bar the Alliance and the SDLP no one was ‘innocent’

Let’s not forget ‘Lord’ Fitt.

Like

10. Brian Hanley - January 15, 2018

Like yourself Roddy I deplore the negativeness of the internet. All I would ask is that you perhaps re-read The Lost Revolution and see how the long list of events you mention were dealt with in that book. I would be happy to discuss my views on Irish republicanism at any public forum; having done some work for a group commemorating 1916 in your neck of the woods last year I’d be more than happy for the chance to speak in your locale. Lastly, I doubt it is correct to suggest that Sean Cronin became a ‘neo-unionist’ or to assume that other people were not thanked or acknowledged in Mick Ryan’s book.

Like

11. malachysteenson - January 16, 2018

Perhaps Roddy you should read the book before coming to a conclusion, Mick only had limited time to speak and is now 81 and not in the best of healt, perhaps that should be borne in mind.

Like

12. O'Connor Lysaght - January 16, 2018

It is perhaps as well to analyse this matter. There has always been a tendency for republicans to give up the gun for politics and then, after an indeterminate period, to show by example that their idea of politics is reformist. This has been shown in the New departure, the Treatyites, Fianna Fail, Clan na Poblachta and Official Sinn Fein (as it was). I would fear that it may be happening to Sinn Fein now.
In the case of the Officials, I was an observer of the process. As a critical sympathiser, I was generally on their side at the time of the split, as I do not think Abstentionism butters parsnips unless it has the sort of massive support it had in 1918. Moreover, at that time, Official SF’s socio-political line was closer to mine. Accordingly during the first half of the seventies my comrades and myself often worked with the Sticks on a number of issues and, inevitably, we discussed politics. What I found was that I could agree with them on many issues, but then the north would arise. It would seem as if their eyes would glaze over and they would repeat the mantra that they were opening/ about to open friendly relations with the Loyalists but that the Provos were ruining/ had ruined everything. On one occasion, I asked for an example and was told how their front community group on the Falls had been in correspondence with a community group on the Shankill (headed, incidentally, by the notorious Loyalist murderer, Jack McKeag). I knew from other information that this correspondence consisted of several missives from the Falls asking for talks and, after the last, a formal message from the Shankill, noting receipt of the last. I mentioned this to my sticky friend and got the reply, ‘There you are; there is correspondence.’ The persistence of this illusion led to the demonisation of the Provos, firstly as British agents, but then (as OSF became more isolated in the 6Cos.)as native fascists against whom even the Brits were welcome allies.
Mind you, I think the whole weakness goes back further, and is shared by SF, to the basic error that north and south need separate campaigns, not just immediately but until the republican party can take governmental power north and south. The realistic alternative is another story.

Like

EWI - January 16, 2018

It is perhaps as well to analyse this matter. There has always been a tendency for republicans to give up the gun for politics and then, after an indeterminate period, to show by example that their idea of politics is reformist. This has been shown in the New departure, the Treatyites, Fianna Fail, Clan na Poblachta and Official Sinn Fein (as it was). I would fear that it may be happening to Sinn Fein now.

I don’t think that ‘the gun’ has ever really genuinely had primacy in Republicanism, apart from as the obvious means to counteract a State monopoly of force. Going all the way back, the United Irishmen and then the Young Irelanders (which the IRB and the Fenians came from) both started off as open groups of radical political campaigners before being forced to the gun, after being suppressed by Dublin Castle. The IRB themselves went ‘slightly constitutional’ with Parnell and the Plan of Campaign (though that crypto-blueshirt outfit, the so-called ‘Parnell Society’, would never admit it). A turn back to electoral politics was always inevitably going to happen?

Like

O'Connor Lysaght - January 16, 2018

I take your point about the United and the Young Irishmen. However, since the Fenians, I would suggest my argument prevails.
I agree with the necessity to use physical force to counteract the state monopoly of that. I would argue, however, that, since the 1850s, the republican tradition has interpreted accordingly armed struggle as the sole revolutionary strategy and has found itself accordingly when the objective conditions for it do not exist either isolated or else committed to a reformist path.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2018

A bit tied up so haven’t had a chance to put my thoughts together re some of the contributions today, but a quick thought here, in some ways armed struggle was the glue that held formations together, or the prospect of armed struggle through good and bad. But of course that could see formations dwindle in numbers quite significantly. On the other hand one could argue that in comparison to Marxist groups the public profile armed struggle gave, as well as on occasion leverage was quite significant. And of course the tendency of republicans to shift to constitutional politics or to use it at times, as with SF in the 1910s, FF in the late 20s, PSF in the 80s on saw them expand their influence, albeit also temporarily for the most part. Though given the republican tradition has only been sporadically leftist, and even when it claimed to be so, it doesn’t strike me as a huge surprise that its conception of revolution is radically different to Marxists. Indeed in terms of groups with any weight one could make an argument that consciously Marxist or left of social democratic republicans have been conspicuous by their absence with only Official Sinn Féin, Republican Congress and intermittently the IRSP really slotting into those categories as groups with any great weight and in some ways they flared up and went in fairly short periods of time. And even then compared to the broader population they would still be marginal. Sinn Féin – the current incarnation seem to me to have had a rather rhetorical Marxism in the very late 1970s and perhaps for some years after that but functionally wasn’t wedded to it – in the sense that it wasn’t programmatic, wasn’t taken up by either activists or supporters, and didn’t sustain it. And in truth I suspect that mild social democracy probably would characterise them as a party across many decades now. No great sin in that but it is what it is.

On a slight tangent that makes me wonder has there been a misperception that armed struggle brought about, in terms of making organisations that were actually rather conservative appear more radical (not least given their need to win allies and connect with broader networks – after all, if you’re stuck in Ireland on the north western tip of Europe who do you contact in relation to arms supplies etc, particularly if you have by dint of your history an effective anathema on dealing with outright state socialists).

But another thought that strikes me is given the relative weakness of Marxist forces on this island and the one to the east is there any great surprise that republicanism would be uninclined to shift its conception from one form of revolution to another. What percentage would they see in that?

And to wrap it up, while it might appear to be a glitch from the perspective of Marxists the ability of armed struggle to knit together coalitions of class and other interests – say in the case of PSF, is quite something to behold (and tellingly is only really beginning to splinter now a good two decades after armed struggle, one sustained for the best part of thirty years before that, ended. One could argue that from their perspective it was a feature. Granted one could also say it didn’t work on its stated terms, and that it ignores many other societal issues and so on.

Like

EWI - January 17, 2018

But of course that could see formations dwindle in numbers quite significantly. On the other hand one could argue that in comparison to Marxist groups the public profile armed struggle gave, as well as on occasion leverage was quite significant.

I think that the ‘dwindling in numbers’ argument can be misleading. When there’s actual peril involved then the hangers-on and such will naturally fall away, leaving only the hard core. On the other hand, there was always clearly popular passive support among the Irish population.

We can see this not just in the 1918 election results, the first even approaching democracy, but also in the traditional Irish Party appeals to be heirs and admirers of the Irish republicanism (even with Redmond until his volte-face in 1914). There were truly massive rallies in support of Fenian prisoners in the late 19th century. It wasn’t just ‘1916’.

And of course the tendency of republicans to shift to constitutional politics or to use it at times, as with SF in the 1910s, FF in the late 20s, PSF in the 80s on saw them expand their influence, albeit also temporarily for the most part.

I think that buying into the whole ‘constitutional politics’ line isn’t useful to anyone other than the establishment (whoever they may be at the time, it always really refers to effective resistance). It’s not just a cliché that war is politics, and vice versa. The saintly John Redmond sent tens of thousands of Irish men to their deaths in WWI for no good reason.

Though given the republican tradition has only been sporadically leftist

I wouldn’t agree. The ultimate aim has always boiled down to a free and democratic republic based on equal citizenship – which in the eighteenth/nineteenth centuries we know was the origin of the term ‘left’ – and radical enough to earn a bullet (here and abroad) even into the twentieth and twenty-first. Compare to the narrow sectarian, misogynist, eat-the-poor and imperialist approach of the Redmondites at the point of their collapse.

and even when it claimed to be so, it doesn’t strike me as a huge surprise that its conception of revolution is radically different to Marxists. Indeed in terms of groups with any weight one could make an argument that consciously Marxist or left of social democratic republicans have been conspicuous by their absence with only Official Sinn Féin, Republican Congress and intermittently the IRSP really slotting into those categories as groups with any great weight and in some ways they flared up and went in fairly short periods of time.

I’m not really qualified to give an answer on the Marxism question. My personal feeling, though, is that there hasn’t been an effective leader of Irish socialism since a firing squad put bullets into Connolly.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2018

Limited passive support – particularly in the 20th century once partition came into play. It is true there was wider support prior to that – perhaps because the contexts were less complex and where power lay more clear.

OCL refers to reformism, me to constitutionalism. It is impossible not to in the context of the 20th century see a pattern where party after party or split after split has made its peace with constitutional politics or entered it toe first and then wholeheartedly. This isn’t about proving Redmond bad or someone else good – quite apart from the fact Redmond was in a completely different position and historical moment to say the governments of the Free State or Éire in regard to his influence over significant numbers – it’s a simple observation of a political dynamic.

A free democratic republic with equal citizenship is a start but it is something any number of people on any scale from the American and French revolutions onward could adhere too.That’s not a problem to me, but it’s not necessarily progressive on its own terms (though more progressive than what preceded it) because as we know in the American case democracy is dependent on how wide or narrow we constrain those able to vote. On some schema the North was entirely ‘democratic’ in the period from the proroguement of Stormont – one person one vote for Westminster. But clearly that is insufficient – and even that example is not one of the ‘left’ as such. Not that I disagree that free and democratic are better than aristocracy etc, but if we’re simply returning every time to Redmond as our yardstick that simply doesn’t seem convincing.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2018

Just to be clear reformism and constitutionalism distinct and different but in this context similarities

Like

EWI - January 17, 2018

Limited passive support – particularly in the 20th century once partition came into play. It is true there was wider support prior to that – perhaps because the contexts were less complex and where power lay more clear.

I don’t think that’s true at all, or we wouldn’t still have the spectacle of the State, as well as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians, having to ‘render unto Caesar’ two years ago (and being very circumspect about the rest of the anniversaries). There’s clearly a massive amount of latent support for Irish republicanism there still. You see it coming out in other regards such as the support for neutrality, too.

OCL refers to reformism, me to constitutionalism. It is impossible not to in the context of the 20th century see a pattern where party after party or split after split has made its peace with constitutional politics or entered it toe first and then wholeheartedly. This isn’t about proving Redmond bad or someone else good – quite apart from the fact Redmond was in a completely different position and historical moment to say the governments of the Free State or Éire in regard to his influence over significant numbers – it’s a simple observation of a political dynamic.

I think you’re missing the cynical nature of the supposed ‘constitutional’ position, and I think that accepting this false dichotomy is a mistake. The intention with it is clearly to reinvent Redmond (and, incidentally, Michael Collins) as something they weren’t – both were intimately tied up with strongman policies and secret societies (there’s a reason that the recent glut of Redmond biographers are cagey about his early years).

A free democratic republic with equal citizenship is a start but it is something any number of people on any scale from the American and French revolutions onward could adhere too.That’s not a problem to me, but it’s not necessarily progressive on its own terms (though more progressive than what preceded it) because as we know in the American case democracy is dependent on how wide or narrow we constrain those able to vote.

Yet it is the only basis on which we can possibly build. If you don’t have a functioning democratic republic, then all else is moot bar revolutionary activities to overthrow that state of affairs. It’s a natural human impulse, recognised in our nearest neighbour by a policy of creative ambiguity over the monarchy for the past hundred years or so.

And as I stated before, it’s an idea which was the very origin of the Left and can still get you killed in large part of the world.

On some schema the North was entirely ‘democratic’ in the period from the proroguement of Stormont – one person one vote for Westminster. But clearly that is insufficient – and even that example is not one of the ‘left’ as such.

I’m not sure what you’re saying here.

Not that I disagree that free and democratic are better than aristocracy etc, but if we’re simply returning every time to Redmond as our yardstick that simply doesn’t seem convincing.

Redmond comes into it simply because his supporters and admirers are (rather unwisely) using him as the yardstick for the superiority of the supposed ‘constitutional’ position. You seem the same dynamic, likewise doomed to failure, with recent efforts to rehabilitate Liam Cosgrave as a champion of democracy.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2018

I don’t think that’s true at all, or we wouldn’t still have the spectacle of the State, as well as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians, having to ‘render unto Caesar’ two years ago (and being very circumspect about the rest of the anniversaries). There’s clearly a massive amount of latent support for Irish republicanism there still. You see it coming out in other regards such as the support for neutrality, too.

I think commemorations are fundamental to the self-image of the state (albeit contradictory). It would be bizarre if there weren’t commemorations of such a foundational event – particularly given the genesis of the parties (and it’s telling to me how up until the Troubles none of 1916 was in the least bit problematic for them either – speaks of a partitionist mentality but one easily able to assimilate that years events. Indeed absent the Troubles almost certainly the state would still have no issue with them). I don’t think that neutrality and republicanism are as intertwined as that either – there is a relationships but quite non-republican folk tend to be pro-neutrality. That may come more from the self-image generated during the Emergency than anything else. I don’t know.


I think you’re missing the cynical nature of the supposed ‘constitutional’ position, and I think that accepting this false dichotomy is a mistake. The intention with it is clearly to reinvent Redmond (and, incidentally, Michael Collins) as something they weren’t – both were intimately tied up with strongman policies and secret societies (there’s a reason that the recent glut of Redmond biographers are cagey about his early years).

Nationalism managed to straddle both secret societies/militant movements and constitutionalism in much of the 19th century and up to partition. Once that latter had occurred and nationalism in essence took over the state in the South it rapidly jettisoned the former because it had no need of it. Indeed in a way that’s the most fascinating aspect, that it was near enough content with what it had it held. Moreover constitutionalism isn’t necessarily cynical – anymore than any other political position. I also think you’re merging a lot of different areas – the manner in which OSF moved to the WP and in essence constitutionalism is simply not analogous with Redmond. Similarly with SF today. You talk about reinventing Redmond, but outside of a fairly small group no-one in 2017 cares in the slightest about Redmond. For people in this state and the North he’s not on their radar – Collins a bit more so, but not much either. Nor does Stephen Collins idee-fixe about him matter in the broader scheme.


Yet it is the only basis on which we can possibly build. If you don’t have a functioning democratic republic, then all else is moot bar revolutionary activities to overthrow that state of affairs. It’s a natural human impulse, recognised in our nearest neighbour by a policy of creative ambiguity over the monarchy for the past hundred years or so.
And as I stated before, it’s an idea which was the very origin of the Left and can still get you killed in large part of the world.

As I noted I see Republicanism key to the left, but the left not key to Republicanism. I’m not sure about natural human impulses – societies that were by any definition the antithesis of republicanism existed on this planet for millennia. It’s in its most modern form a pretty novel concept.
And of course I support it fully and would agree that it should be the only basis…etc (emphasis on should, not sure it is the only basis).

I’m not sure what you’re saying here.
That under direct rule with MPs in Westminster and one person one vote the North was on paper democratically represented (or one could argue that under Stormont with one person one vote that too was ‘democratic’ and free – in that anyone could stand). But of course one has to heavily qualify those two examples as being free and democratic because of a permanent Unionist majority built into the system from the off which meant precisely the opposite, that they weren’t representative (indeed that’s one of my major disagreements with WP policy on NI in the 80s which largely eschewed power sharing and thought a Bill of Rights would take up the slack). In other words on paper something can be entirely democratic and free but in practice it can be anything but (and for some of us that is why simply flipping the situation to a traditional UI is problematic too. I want a UI but I also think that unionism should be accommodated by political and other links east/west). That’s why to say one is Republican or that Republicanism is the epitome of democratic freedoms is insufficient to me. It’s short-hand and needs to be carefully applied to real-world examples.


Redmond comes into it simply because his supporters and admirers are (rather unwisely) using him as the yardstick for the superiority of the supposed ‘constitutional’ position. You seem the same dynamic, likewise doomed to failure, with recent efforts to rehabilitate Liam Cosgrave as a champion of democracy.

I think our usage of the term constitutional are actually at cross-purposes here and we aren’t in real disagreement. I don’t regard that as constitutional politics – i.e. the political set up pre-1921 on this island, though I agree some do. To me that was an undemocratic situation, not simply due to the lack of a Republic, but of a functioning democratic polity based on this island (it goes against my grain to say this but even a democracy on the island with a local ‘constitutional’ monarch would have been an improvement on that). And while I’d be critical of the Free State and Éire and on through to the ROI (albeit to increasingly lesser degrees) I don’t think that they’re comparable to that status quo ante – even accepting partition (which I’m not certain there was much that could materially be done about then or after).

But again, I’d have a bit of a problem re Cosgrave being roped into the Redmond camp – the situations are too different to compare easily. I agree with you those who make that as a single argument are doing so for expedience, and are wrong, but Cosgrave for all his faults was an elected Taoiseach with democratic legitimation. And he was contradictory too. The thing is what does one expect of a Cosgrave, or indeed any Taoiseach, that they’ll support the IRA? That’s not going to happen given their own political heritage (Haughey is an odd case but at this remove difficult not to see him losing the head in 68-70 due to the nature of the crisis). And it wouldn’t wash in the South anyhow in the 70s. Support for PIRA was very very limited, OIRA perhaps even less so in some ways.

Like

EWI - January 17, 2018

I would argue, however, that, since the 1850s, the republican tradition has interpreted accordingly armed struggle as the sole revolutionary strategy and has found itself accordingly when the objective conditions for it do not exist either isolated or else committed to a reformist path.

I’m not so sure on that score. They did choose to pursue other paths pf opportunity such as the New Departure/Plan of Campaign with the IPP, starting civic movements such as the GAA and anti-war movements against both the Boer War and WWI, trade union activism, involvement with Sinn Féin from its earliest beginnings etcetc. (how many people know that Tom Clarke was a senior SF figure?).

There were a number of claims, by people such as Seán T. O’Ceallaigh, that the political goal of 1916 was to gain recognition at the post-war peace conference (they did eventually go to Paris, only to be turned away by the supremely hypocritical Allies). As with the example of de Valera’s insistence on a high-profile target (the Custom House) being attacked during the WoI, it seems to me like evidence of a primacy of political methods within the movement rather than simply the military considerations.

There was a problem with unsanctioned splinter groups engaging in bombings and such in the late nineteenth century, which I think is now generally accepted to have been British fingers pulling strings aimed at discrediting Parnell. The militancy situation from the 1920s onwards has been down to a fatal lack of political leadership by the successors of SF, both FF and FG. It took the eventual organic emergence of a real political leadership, from nearly scratch within the Provisional ranks, to establish that ‘soldiers’ should serve the movement and not the other way around. The dead-enders in the alphabet soup IRA splinters need to go away – they should look to the 1880s example to see who they’re actually benefitting, and how completely futile such activity is.

Like

O'Connor Lysaght - January 18, 2018

Well, who’d ha thunk a simple launch would have stimulated such a discussion – and not a bad one, either?Presuming that the EWI-WBS polemic is not just a private row but that anyone can join, there are some points that should be made.
Firstly, constitutionalism and reformism may not be the exact same, but they overlap enough for them to be regarded closely enough as similes. The revolutionary tradition can incorporate reform, but it knows that eventually it has to smash the constitutional state if only to protect such reforms under its own state power.
And, yes EW, ‘a free and democratic republic based on equal citizenship’ is, indeed the foundation of a true republic. The problems are a/ what sort of structure are you building on these foundations? and b/ how? As to the first, the Cowardly Lion would insist that his type of society is quite consistent with a republic and, no, he would not be hypocritical; such people just do not see the need for economic equality. We can go back to 1916; among the signatories of the proclamation Connolly’s socio-political vision was opposed diametrically to the minimalism of MacDiarmada. Indeed, Labour’s stand on the sidelines after Connolly’s death ensured that the new SF would reaffirm a position far closer to MacDiarmada’s.
The traditional republican position has meant programmatically as much as the constitutionalist one a perspective limited to that of Connolly’s green pillar boxes, which, admittedly, they have been successful in achieving. they have taken up agitations. so have the constitutionalists, and usually the latter rather than the former have recruited as most of the time there is not a revolutionary situation to exploit. Both reformists and revolutionaries see mass agitation as a tactic, with the real business being done either in the council chamber or at the point of a gun..
As to Sean T. he wrote, if not from Aras an Uachtaran than shortly after his term there and I don’t think he mentions that 1916 was fought not just to get terms for Ireland at any subsequent peace conference, but to ensure that such a conference would be rigged by a victorious Germany as Versailles would be rigged by the Entente. By the time he visited the actual meeting, the Volunteers had regrouped and sporadic fighting had begun.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2018

Definitely not a row, private or otherwise, to be honest I think myself and EWI would agree we have slightly different perspectives, though we both share a dislike of attempts by those like Bruton etc to pretend Home Rule was a viable course to independence.

It’s interesting what you say, because Republicanism (Irish) does straddle revolutionary and constitutional positions – and has applied them both and both tactically and strategically but for many the former is represented, indeed reified, by armed struggle and interestingly that becomes regarded the exemplar of ‘true’ republicanism.

Like

13. Ghandi - January 16, 2018

Yes but the book is not about any of that, it deals solely with Harvest, and does not deal with the politics of that period in any detail, it’s more about the journey Mick was on that that time, for me what comes out of it all is that this group on Vols., who started of at about 200 and dwindled to about 20 gave their all for possibility of success. It’s about those who had the least being prepared to give the most for the ideal of a united and free Ireland. Again perhaps people should read the book before condemning it, as its clear that many of the above have a pre determined view of the book based onthe writer, any in Roddy’s case based on an small talk at a launch from a man in ill health.

Liked by 1 person

O'Connor Lysaght - January 16, 2018

I agree. I do not condemn the book, but from Ghandi’s own description, more analytic work is needed.

Like

Ghandi - January 17, 2018

Very true, but this book does not set out to do that, so it should not be seen in realtion to MR’s roll post 69 or the Sticks post 69. Or are we to conclude as usual that if we disagree with someones political position on some issues taht everything they write is dismissed.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2018

That’s a fair point G you make. Of course OCL is right that more analysis is needed but as you say this isn’t the function of this book, and I think the fact a memoir from a person with a working class background inner Dublin city etc who got caught up in truly historic events of interest to all strands of republicanism on this island is justification enough. That said Operation Harvest etc has remarkably few books about it in some ways.

Liked by 1 person

Ghandi - January 17, 2018

And WBS I think that is the key thing, how & why someone like him becomes involved, as I have said this book is not about the politics of it other than in a general sense its about a journey. Bear in mind also that the first draft was 200,000 words and the book is 60,000. There are a number of things not in it, some of which would show a valuable insight.

Also I should point out that one of my mother’s brothers (Eamonn RIP) was married to Mick’s sister Greta.

Also WBS you might note in your own local that his mother Mona who died a few years ago in her 90’s was one of the original founders of EWCU which itself was one of teh first in the South.

Like

O'Connor Lysaght - January 18, 2018

Again, quite true, Ghandi but lets wait and see how the WP use the book to gild their brass.

Like

Phil F - January 20, 2018

I have ordered the book for exactly the reasons mentioned by WBS, and I’m anti-Stick. (Broadly speaking I’m more the Costello way of thinking and I admire folk like O Bradaigh and O Conaill, although I don’t think the latter two offered a practical way forward). I am looking forward to reading Mick Ryan’s work and hope it is a good book. We need a lot more on the Border Campaign and a lot more memoirs by people on both sides from the period of the great split in the Republican Movement.

Liked by 1 person

14. CL - January 17, 2018

‘‘Prisoner 1082, Escape From Crumlin Road – Europe’s Alcatraz’ relives the story of the preparations and escape of Danny Donnelly, an 18-year-old student from Omagh, County Tyrone, convicted of IRA membership in 1957 and sentenced to ten years….
His brothers all emigrated except himself: “I went to jail,” he says…
Lord Chief Justice Mc Dermot, however, singled him out from the rest of his comrades and said, in passing sentence: “It is quite clear to me that you are one of the ring leaders. Parliament has made provision that the manner in which accused like you may be punished includes, not only long terms of imprisonment and whipping, but the sentence of death”.”
http://www.bobbysandstrust.com/archives/1704

‘“I went to live in Rebel Cork,” he says. “I lived on Blarney Street. The authorities in Ireland knew who I was and they ensured that my landlady and my employers knew who I was too.’
http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/how-donal-donnelly-escaped-prison-and-escaped-capture-for-36-years-353571.html

Like

CL - January 17, 2018

‘He was named as Literary Executor for the well known writer Peadar O’Donnell.’

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 17, 2018

I met him in the mid-00s. Found him very pleasant. He and O’Donnell got on very well together.

Like

15. Ghandi - January 19, 2018

OCL, don’t think WP will be using it all, he fell out with them years ago.

Like

WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2018

I think you’re right Ghandi.

Like

Ghandi - January 22, 2018

On the McS book I was looking through my collection and have two copies same content but with different names 1. Memoires of a Revoluntionary and Revoluntionary in Ireland. They have slightly different IBAN numbers. Any ideas why.

Like

CL - January 22, 2018

‘Revolutionary in Ireland’ may be the U.S. edition.

Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: