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ILA Podcast #13: Brian Hanley: The Lost Revolution – The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party October 26, 2020

Posted by Aonrud ⚘ in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Uncategorized.
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In this episode we talk to historian Brian Hanley about The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party, the book which he co-authored with Scott Millar, published in 2009. We discuss the history of Official Republicanism from the move to the Left in the 1960s up to the contemporary, and how Brian and Scott went about researching and writing the history of that movement.

Brian Hanley is Assistant Professor in Twentieth Century Irish History in the Department of History, Trinity College Dublin. His other books include The IRA, 1926-1936 (2002), A Documentary History of the IRA, 1916-2005 (2010) and The impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968-79: boiling volcano? (2018).

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party is published by Penguin .


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1. EWI - October 26, 2020

Congratulations to BH on the post! Long overdue recognition.

Liked by 1 person

Joe - October 26, 2020

You mean the job in TCD, not the post on the CLR I presume! I had to do a double take :). Yes congrats to BH for sure.

Liked by 1 person

Aonrud ⚘ - October 26, 2020

Downplaying the prestige of the CLR, just because you weren’t mentioned by name this week, Joe 😉

Liked by 1 person

Joe - October 27, 2020

He never phoned, he never wrote :). Listen, all involved, great podcast. And, re the not being phoned thing if you like, Brian made a very good point that the WP was more than just the leaders, the names that still get namechecked, the union leaders and politicians and judges and senior public servants and so on. That it was thousands of ordinary Joes and Marys who may not have read their Marx but wanted to and tried to make a difference. Hold yisser heads high, ex-comrades (most of yis anyway 🙂 ).

Liked by 4 people

WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2020

Yeah, I’d strongly agree with your last point. For all that I’d critique it I think it was absolutely necessary in a world of the PDs and Reaganomics etc that there was a serious party of the further left there pushing a line strongly against it. I’ve never regretted a day I spent in the party in respect of what people like you and me did in just getting out there, canvassing, going to meetings, etc.

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2. Colm B - October 26, 2020

Great stuff, BH carries off a very difficult balance for a historian of combining sympathy with objectivity. Keep up the good work!

Liked by 2 people

3. NFB - October 28, 2020

Enjoyed this one a lot. Was a student of Brian Hanley for a module on US History in Maynooth, he still sounds as impassioned as ever.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2020

BH – and I’m not sure that came across in the interview has been a huge help to the Left Archive. But hoping to get him back before Christmas for a chat about his own political life over the years.

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4. alanmyler - October 28, 2020

Very good interview. I think Brian is being a bit too modest about the political impact of the book. It might be stretching it a little but I would think the book was important in preparing the ground for the rejuvenation of the WP in Dublin a few years ago. Maybe the new members might disagree, but so it seemed to me at the time.

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yourcousin - October 28, 2020

Well one wouldn’t normally advertise being responsible for something like that now would they?

😉

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dublinstick - October 28, 2020

I’ve seen the LTR recommended as a book to condemn the WP even by Brian Cowen in the Dail, also I’m not aware of any WP member who has not read it and indeed it became a Xmas and other gift within the Stickie community – it’s basically the unvarnished truth, which excites disgust in some and pride in others.

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WorldbyStorm - October 28, 2020

I certainly don’t think it was a hagiography in any shape or form.Nor though was it a wrecking ball. As you say it didn’t hold back or conceal difficult truths. I know some people, I know you know them too, inside the party who were less than enchanted by it but… I think it certainly helped as AlanM notes in terms of opening up new terrain for the WP. Also more broadly for people, key to keep in mind it was a joint production.

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GearóidGaillimh - October 31, 2020

A person I know in the WP really resented it for allegedly focusing too much on the Group B stuff. I don’t know how widespread that feeling is in the party.

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WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2020

Very interesting point. In the party probably a lot, amongst former party members probably not so much.

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alanmyler - October 31, 2020

Maybe some amongst the party leadership took that view but I don’t think I’ve heard any negative comments from party members. It’s not that anyone necessarily would want to accentuate that part of the party’s history but at the same time people are realists and understand that it existed and played a part in the journey of the party and that the comrades involved deserve to have their history recorded and placed in the correct or appropriate context. Obviously amongst the NI comrades it’s going to be more contentious in that the reality of the duplicity was more raw up there. I can’t speak for anyone but myself in saying this but as a relatively new member (10yrs now) I’m not connected to any of that history directly not would I want a return to the dual nature of the party anytime soon, but I’m also appreciative of those who made different choices in different times and TLR is a very positive contribution to the memory of those comrades and the organisation(s) out of which the present incarnation of the party has developed.

Liked by 1 person

5. Pasionario - October 31, 2020

I thought the book was superb, and Hanley’s comments about how it would no longer be impossible to publish such a detailed work of Irish political history are dismaying (though, on the other hand, people are always churning out books about Fine Gael and Fianna Fail).

On a methodological note, they got the combination between oral and documentary history just right, and it was interesting to hear about how Millar knocked on a lot of doors to get people to talk on the record. The disagreements between the two authors are also intriguing.

One thing I thought might have come up in the podcast was the role of Gilmore, Rabbitte, Harris, and De Rossa etcetera. Presumably Hanley and Millar sought to interview them, and from them response there came none. But was that actually the case?

I’ve always found their total amnesia on this subject to be extraordinarily hypocritical, particularly given the gusto with which they would lay into Sinn Fein over the years. Gilmore wrote a pathetic campaign book during his “Gilmore for Taoiseach” period, in which he glossed over his time in the WP completely. And I’ve heard he’s like that even in private. No self-examination or reflection from that bunch whatsoever. Like Captain Raynault in Casablance, they were all SHOCKED, SHOCKED to discover that they were senior members of what turned out not to be an ordinary democratic-socialist party.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 31, 2020

Very fair criticism Pasionario. My sense is a lot less engagement by the DL > LP cohort but I can’t say for certain. Perhaps those closer in to the book might be in a position to do so.

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yourcousin - October 31, 2020

I take offense sir, Captain Raynault was extremely self aware, and totally appreciated the absurdity of his actions.

Liked by 2 people

Pasionario - October 31, 2020

Je m’excuse! And he also ends up on the side of the angels.

Liked by 2 people

EWI - October 31, 2020

I thought the book was superb, and Hanley’s comments about how it would no longer be impossible to publish such a detailed work of Irish political history are dismaying (though, on the other hand, people are always churning out books about Fine Gael and Fianna Fail).

Like a certain recent co-production involving Stephen Collins, which grandly titled itself ‘Saving the State’, no question mark at the end. And hid O’Duffy on the spine, excluding from the book cover lineup of FG leaders (and one Michael Collins).

Liked by 1 person

Pasionario - October 31, 2020

Ah yes, I see you caught my drift there. Funny the way Collins in the Bertie years wrote two enthusiastic histories of FF and the PDs. And now he’s moved on to the “Saviours of the State”. I wonder. Maybe if Mary Lou becomes Taoiseach, we’ll get a history of Sinn Fein entitled “From Peacemakers to Powermakers”.

Liked by 1 person

Pangurbán - October 31, 2020

Research is always useful before you reach for the keyboard
. PDR is included in the credits. Also Oliver Donohoe and Gerry Gregg both close colleagues of Harris

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EWI - October 31, 2020

Research is always useful before you reach for the keyboard
. PDR is included in the credits. Also Oliver Donohoe and Gerry Gregg both close colleagues of Harris

Hi, Eoghan. A more substantive response would probably go a long way?

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Pangurbán - October 31, 2020

You’ve got that wrong; I’m no fan: I was just reflecting on the need to check before hitting the keyboard

Liked by 1 person

6. rockroots - October 31, 2020

At a tangent, Brian Hanley also popped up on the always worthwhile Irish History Show podcast this past week or so, on an obscure but fascinating topic:
https://www.theirishstory.com/2020/10/22/podcast-the-irish-revolution-the-jewish-question-and-antisemitism-with-brian-hanley/?fbclid=IwAR2qfwV7Ze9L4QRnbmk7N4qSOG1darR1hNfb8ROFH0n2PWcKR9ZTpeGKNGs#.X511HRaH7IV

On another tangent – or is it? – I’m still wondering who daubed ‘Victory to the PDRK’ on the wall outside my flat in Finglas 3 or 4 years ago. You’d guess there would be a pretty short list of suspects!

Liked by 2 people

alanmyler - October 31, 2020

Are you underestimating the spontaneous anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses there RR?

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rockroots - October 31, 2020

Perhaps!

Liked by 1 person

7. Colm B - October 31, 2020

Finglas has form – the only piece of ISN graffitti ever was sprayed on a wall at the bottom of the hill on the main road into Finglas during the bin tax campaign. I don’t know who put it there I wasn’t in the military wing, known as Grúpa a Dó. Maybe it was Joe!

Liked by 3 people

Joe - October 31, 2020

What did it say?

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8. Colm B - October 31, 2020

Sorry Joe, nothing as spectacular as “Victory to the DPRK”, just something like “No Bin Tax – ISN”.

“Long Live Democratic Socialism as Expounded by Ex-Sticks!” might have been more catchy?

Liked by 1 person

9. roddy - November 1, 2020

The south was always in the hapenny place with regard to graffiti.Up here wall art has reached iconic status with bus loads of tourists coming to the Falls rd “international wall” for instance.Of course there is a wide spectrum of “art” too with 2 British secretaries of state receiving attention from sloganisers at the other end of the spectrum.”Hurd’s a turd” and “Tom King’s a specky bastard ” spring to mind!

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