Joe McCann 1972 and the HET January 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
From An Phoblacht… many thanks to the person who forwarded this.
Joe McCann Commemoration April 14, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Repost from last week
Sunday, April 15th, Participants will from-up at 2:15hrs in Upper Stanfield St, in the Markets area of Belfast and march to the Hamilton St./Joy St. junction. Ciaran McCann will open and close the proceedings. These will consist of an oration on behalf of the family given by Feargal McCann and a song in memory of their father will be performed by Aine McCann. Joe’s wife Anne McCann will lay a wreath at the spot were Joe died.
Non party political, all groups invited to attend to remember Joe.
Organised by the McCann family
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Many thanks to the person who forwarded this…
‘The march to commemorate our late father, ‘Big Joe’ McCann, will take place on Sunday the 15th of April 2012. Participants will from-up at 14:15hrs in upper Stanfield St, in the Markets area of Belfast and march to the Hamilton St./Joy St. junction. Ciaran McCann will open and close the proceedings which will consist of an oration on behalf of the family given by Feargal McCann and a song in memory of our father which will be performed by Aine McCann. Final respects will be paid to a true ‘Working Class Hero’ when Anne McCann (Joe’s wife) lays a wreath on the spot were Joe died and the flags are lowered to the sound of the ‘Last Post’. All are welcome to attend this historic event and we look forward to seeing you there.’
McCann Family Press Conference on the HET Report January 31, 2013Posted by Garibaldy in Justice.
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Full text of the press conference held by the McCann family regarding the release of the HET report into the murder of Joe McCann. Taken from here
Press Conference. Clifton House, Belfast. Jan 29th 2013
Paul –welcome & intro
First family member
On April 15 1972 our father, Joe McCann, was shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment in Joy St, Belfast at approximately 3pm. Much has been written over the years about the circumstances surrounding his death. Some of what was written was incorrect, some was correct. Today we want to set the record straight.
In the Belfast of the early 1970’s the British Army and RUC made no secret of their intent toward Joe McCann. Death threats were issued on a regular basis through family and friends.
Joe was a member of the Official IRA, an Irish Republican who didn’t have a sectarian bone in his body. He worked within his community with regard to social justice, encouraging people to be active at whatever level they could. He was involved in numerous civil-rights marches, campaigned for better housing and set up co-ops. He drew admiration for his humanity from unexpected sources with Gusty Spence, the U.V.F. leader, paying tribute to him after his murder. He was a loving husband to our mother, Anne and a caring father to the four of us.
For some time we have engaged with the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) with the support of the Pat Finucane Centre. Today we intend to make public the preliminary findings from the HET into the events that occurred that sunny Saturday afternoon in April in the Markets. We still have a number of outstanding issues to be resolved with the HET as we differ on some aspects of the investigation. But where we do agree, is on the main findings in the report surrounding the legality, or not, of the actual shooting.
Second family member
Two plain clothes members of RUC Special Branch in an unmarked car claim to have spotted Joe crossing Cromac Square that afternoon. They then claim that they drove into May St where they encountered a patrol of the Parachute Regiment, 1 Para, at the junction of May St and Joy St. One of the Special Branch officers admits that he then briefed the ‘Para’ patrol that Joe was in the area. The version of events that unfolded – as contained in the statements of the Branch men and the Para’s who opened fire – are totally contradictory and self –serving, in terms of times, distances and whether warning shots were fired.
Policeman B, as he is referred to in the HET report, claims to have stopped Joe at the corner of Little May St and Joy St, to have identified himself as a police officer and to have then told Joe to take his hands out of his pockets. He claims that Joe pushed him away, turned and ran down Joy St. At this point all three soldiers, A, B and C opened fire and Joe fell, having been struck by three high velocity bullets. He was unarmed.
It has not been possible to question the Special Branch version of events because, incredibly, the RUC then and the PSNI now, claim not to be aware of the identities of the two Special Branch officers who were following Joe that day. According to the HET and I quote,
‘The lack of access to their identities has been a major inhibitor in being able to provide a full and comprehensive review of all the circumstances of Joe’s death.’ End quote
In the view of the family, a view shared by the PFC, the refusal of the PSNI even today to divulge the identities of these two officers is shameful and has denied us the right to an Article 2 compliant investigation. We do not accept that their names are not known. Special Branch knows who these two men are.
Third family member
As Áine has pointed out, the statements of the soldiers and the two Special Branch men are contradictory and self-serving. Times, distances and adherence to the ‘yellow card’ rules are all at odds. Nor was any attempt made at the time to investigate these contradictions. Nevertheless the HET has come to very clear conclusions regarding the central issue of the legality of the shooting. I want to quote the HET report on this issue.
“The law dictates that once the defence of self-defence is raised, it is incumbent on the prosecution to rebut it. No attempt was made by investigators to do so despite the fact that there was no doubt that Joe had been unarmed when he was shot and that he had been running away from the police and soldiers”.
“The HET considers that Joe’s actions did not amount to the level of specific threat which could have justified the soldiers opening fire in accordance with the army rules of engagement or their standard operating procedures. This meant that the important issues that required a thorough investigation and examination related to the lawful use of reasonable force, as defined in Section 3, Criminal Law Act 1967. No such investigation took place”. End quote
The shooting of our father was not justified. It was unjustified. David Cameron described the actions of the soldiers of the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday on January 30th 1972 as unjustified and unjustifiable. According to the HET the actions of the soldiers of the Parachute Regiment on April 15th 1972,a mere nine weeks later, were also unjustified.
We have always known this. Now it is the findings of an official report and we welcome that.
Fourth family member
So, the HET found that the soldiers were not justified in opening fire and that Joe posed no threat to them, I quote directly,
‘Joe was not armed and there is no evidence that he was doing anything other than trying to escape when he was shot.’ End quote
In the conclusions the report refers to the army rules of engagement, the yellow card in other words, and their standard operating procedures. This is highly significant.
The HET discovered a document in the archives of the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment entitled, Standard Operating Procedures for internal security duties in Northern Ireland. This is the first time that the existence of this SOP, has been divulged.
It is significant, not only in Joe’s case, but also in other cases involving members of the First Battalion The Parachute Regiment.
It contains instructions on when soldiers may and may not open fire and I quote,
When not to fire: You may not fire at someone who either;
(A) Does not halt when you challenge him but is not yet causing any danger to anyone’s life or to the place you are guarding.
(B) Runs away when you challenge him or drives away in a car.
Why then, when it became clear that soldiers A, B and C had violated both the ‘yellow card’ and their own Standard Operating Procedures, was a criminal investigation not carried out as the HET makes clear should have happened?
The HET stated the following,
“The circumstances of the shooting must have been considered contentious at the very least. The full investigation procedure that should have been instigated by the RUC did not materialise and it is the view of the HET that it should have done.”
“The reality is that many important questions remain unanswered despite this review.”
In summation, the findings of the HET report into Joe’s killing have concluded that;
Ø The Para’s acted unlawfully by contravening not only the Army’s ‘Yellow Card’ rules of engagement but their own ‘Standard Operating Procedures’
Ø The Para’s were unjustified in their use of lethal force, as Joe was unarmed and was running away when shot.
Ø The RUC/SB and the RMP/SIB both failed in their duty to properly investigate the killing.
We will now leave the last word to Mrs Josephine Connolly, her contemporaneous eyewitness report was recorded just after the incident.
We would like to thank Clifton House for facilitating this Press Conference and we would especially like to acknowledge all the help and assistance afforded us by Paul O’Connor and all the staff at the Pat Finucane Centre over the last number of years.
And finally, we would like to thank you all again for taking time to attend.
An Phoblacht…latest issue January 12, 2017Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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In the January edition:
- Stormont: ‘There can be no return to the status quo’ – Martin McGuinness
- Martin McGuinness resigns as deputy First Minister – What the leaders say and what the papers say
- The 1972 killing of ‘Official IRA’ leader Joe McCann and the Tory fightback against Para prosecutions
- Blanketmen – Remembering protesting POWs
- The Kilmichael Ambush – Turning point in Tan War
- Sinn Féin in Palestine – Speaking to Fatah and Hamas
- ‘Fake news’ – Is it news?
- Michael Mansfield QC delivers McGurk’s Bar Memorial Lecture
- Bliain lán dúshláin, bliain lán dóchais
- ‘Farewell, Fidel’ – Gerry Adams in Cuba
- European Parliament: Apple under fire, ‘super trawlers’, Britain’s Brexit agenda, militarising the EU
- Do we really need another new party on the Left?
- Féiniúlacht agus Cothromas á bplé ag an Slógadh
A complex set of relationships on this island July 23, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Thanks to the friend of the CLR who sent this link from the NewsLetter.
A former DUP firebrand Assemblyman and Free Presbyterian minister has told how he wept when he heard that an IRA man had been shot dead by a paratrooper.
Writing in today’s News Letter, the Rev Ivan Foster recounts how when he was jailed with Ian Paisley half a century ago he struck up an unlikely relationship with Official IRA man Joe McCann.
This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The two best lps the Bothy Band recorded and four they didn’t. January 23, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
A very welcome guest post this weekend from Anarchaeologist and if you scroll down to the end of the text there’s an opportunity to hear tracks from the Bothy Band tomorrow at the Dice Bar – details below…
The Bothy Band 1975 opens with a bouzouki chord aggressively strummed for 3 bars. The chanter on set of uilleann pipes opens a drone from the fourth bar before picking up the tune on the sixth, at perhaps twice the speed it’s usually played. The tune’s then picked up in counterpoint on the bouzouki with a fiddle slightly higher in the mix. This is the Kesh Jig like you never heard it before. By the time the band hits the second tune in the set, Give Us a Drink of Water, all six cylinders are on fire. And then it stops, the Flower of the Flock is picked up on the flute and chanter on the next beat and the band cracks straight into the Famous Ballymote. And that’s just Track 1.
The impact the Bothies had on Irish traditional music is evident at any session you’ll go to today. The sets put together on their three studio albums for Mulligan Records are still played in the same sequences and have become part of the canon. It’s difficult though to appreciate how this music was fundamentally different from that which had passed before. Although tune sequencing and arrangements had been messed around with by Sean Ó Riada’s chamber-trad Ceoltóirí Chualann (later to become the Chieftains), and indeed Planxty a few years later, traditional dance music as played by the céilí bands was played strictly for dancing. Percussion was usually provided by a slightly out of tune piano vamping harmlessly away in the background. The tunes were played by all the musicians together with no variation at a leaden tempo. Soloing on the tune was frowned upon.
A recent interview in Rabble with Belfast flautist Harry Bradley recalls how ‘Gaelier-than-thou theocrats fucked up trad’. The Public Dance Halls Act of 1935 brought an end to the enduring practice of house and crossroads dances that had been a socio-cultural staple of rural communities up and down the country, although ironically the legislation was intended to protect Gaelic culture from insidious foreign influences. The Act gave rise to the more formal, officially-sanctioned céilí dances in parish halls, events which could be overseen and controlled by the priests. According to Bradley, the pre-Dance Hall Act music was vibrant and highly developed, with distinct regional variations heard on archive recordings by musicians forced to emigrate to the States in the ‘20s and ‘30s. This music was virtually extinguished in later years by the hegemonic Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which fostered a competition standard on a younger generation of musicians.
Bradly sees it as no accident that Travellers produced some of the most remarkable music of the last century. Having the freedom to be able to avoid assimilation into stifled, formulaic mainstream cultural-nationalist movements, they were able to retain their distinct creative autonomy.
The Bothies transmitted something of the wildness of the old music, anchored on the work undertaken by the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill for the Folklore Commission, collecting songs and tunes in places like west Donegal where the tradition had remained alive. Before the Bothies, he’d cut the Scara Brae album for Gael Linn with his sisters Tríona and Maighread and guitarist Dáithí Sproule, an lp which somewhat lacks the bite of his later recordings. A while later he began performing with Mick Hanly in a duo called Monroe. In 1974 they released Celtic Folkweave, which featured four future members of the Bothy Band. And this is where it really started.
The Bothies formed as a seven piece, Seachtar, founded by bouzouki player Dónal Lunny, who’d left Planxty to set up Mulligan Records. One version of the story has Lunny inviting piper Paddy Keenan, flute player Matt Molloy, fiddler Paddy Glackin, and box player Tony MacMahon to get involved in an early project for the new label. They were subsequently joined by Ó Domhnaill on acoustic guitar and Tríona on clavinet and vocals. Another has the group minus Lunny playing sessions in Dublin pubs before being asked by Lunny to record a few tracks. The name change came after MacMahon left to work as a producer for BBC, the Bothy Band being a nod to the migrant workers of Donegal and Mayo who’d work the Scottish potato harvests, living in deplorable conditions, but bringing the music over with them.
The first lp was recorded with Tommy Peoples on the fiddle. Peoples had replaced Glackin and both brought something of the Donegal tradition to their playing, a fast, highly ornamentative attack, frowned upon by the Comhaltas cultural fascists as being derivative of Scottish fiddling. Keenan came from the Traveller tradition of piping, his flowing, open-fingered style echoes the great Johnny Doran; although he was 19 or 20 when he first heard a tape of Doran’s playing, his own style was a direct result of his father’s tutelage. Lunny’s description of him as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of the pipes’ might be a bit off the mark, but his playing and especially that with the Bothies’ third fiddler Kevin Burke, brought life back to the pipes as an ensemble instrument where before the volume it produced relegated it to solo performance.
Lunny was probably the best-known of the lot of them, having played with saccharine charting folk band Emmet Spiceland before holing up with Christy Moore on the Prosperous lp and putting Planxty together. The bouzouki at this stage had been popularised by Johnny Moynihan and Sweeney’s Men and Lunny brought it to the Bothies as a percussive force, where, with Ní Dhomhnaill’s heavy left hand, they redefined the concept of the rhythm section. Molloy was also from an older tradition. A child prodigy on the flute, he’d moved to Dublin from Mayo in the ‘60s and played in a distinctive style which used a technique similar to that of the travelling pipers. Where his contribution to the first album is equal to the rest of the band, it was his playing with the third Bothy fiddler Kevin Burke from the second lp that marked him out. London-born Burke was steeped in the Sligo tradition, one which was rarely heard around Sligo anymore in but survived in ex-pat communities abroad and especially in the recorded music of Michael Coleman.
It’s difficult to talk about The Bothy Band 1975 without referring to the production. Undertaken by Lunny and Ó Domhnaill, whichever way the studio microphones were placed managed to capture the subtleties inherent in a music produced by a variety of instruments, all with different characteristics and volumes. Nothing was lost in the mix. The clips below show that none of the Bothies were foot-tappers, yet on vinyl at any rate a foot can be heard faintly over the few quieter moments in the sets. At one point you can even hear Lunny smile.
The album rescued tunes from the north Connacht and Donegal traditions that while ubiquitous today, were rarely heard on the wireless and were well beyond the repertoires of the céilí bands. There was an obvious analogy with punk rock (picked up on in the Bradley interview), a musical snook at the ‘new’ traditionalists with a deep respect for the old. Where it certainly wasn’t dance music, you couldn’t fault the musicianship. What’s interesting today though is the audience reaction on the televised clips linked below which mostly date to the period just before the band broke up in ‘79. There’s seemingly little joy to behold in the room behind the smug of cigarette smoke, although Kevin Burke’s comedy turns would usually raise a laugh.
Apart from Burke’s party pieces, the songs were sung by the Ó Domhnaills, mining a seam of Donegal songs collected by Mícheál from his Gweedore relatives and their neighbours. As the Sweeneys had done before them these were songs well outside the come all ye bar room republican tradition. Pretty Peg sung by Tríona runs effortlessly into Craig’s Pipes, a tune common to both Irish and Scottish traditions though played to different rhythms. This is followed on the lp by a strathspey and reel, Hector the Hero and The Laird of Drumblaire. The Scottish influence in their tunes waned somewhat with the departure of Tommy Peoples but remained in the band’s name. Grounded on Ní Dhomhnaill’s clavinet, the Butterfly if anything demonstrates what can be done with the tradition when the musicians aren’t all beholden to play the same notes at the same time. We’ll come back to the Butterfly later. It’s the sets however that made the lp; the attack was relentless, the tunes took off, as one critic put it, like jet engines. Even if you’ve a deep-seated aversion to anything folky, it’s an lp that might just be a gateway drug into the wider tradition.
The Bothies had a reputation for being fond of a few jars and were constantly on the road. A lethargy and world-weariness can be heard to some extent on their third studio lp Out of the Wind – Into the Sun (1977) where the attack was maintained for their second Old Hag You Have Killed Me (1976). This featured their biggest ‘hit’ Fionnghuala, was an exercise in close harmony mouth music collected by Ó Domhnaill in the Hebrides. You’ll hear another slicker version these days advertising something or other on the telescreen.
Their final lp After Hours was recorded in front of a Parisian audience and where the songs don’t appear on the studio albums and lag somewhat in a live context, the tunes come alive with even better performances than the versions previously recorded. It’s probably the easiest Bothy Band album to pick up second-hand and many’s the night it’s kept me awake driving across the country from some event or other.
The Bothies seem to have simply burned out. Constant touring and frequent refreshment stops on the way took their toll for little financial award. Lunny had been there before with Planxty and it must have been difficult for all of them to stop making such vital music together. Stop they did as a band but they continued to play together in various combinations, pushing the music forward in different ways but never looking back to the speedier days of their younger selves. But here is probably where they influenced the tradition more and a handful of albums to come held on to the Sligo and Donegal traditions, bringing them to places they hadn’t been before.
Paddy Glackin continued playing possibly less lubricated sessions after he left the Bothies, but what he recorded in 1980 brought the Donegal fiddle tradition straight into the world of electronica in Hidden Ground, his one-off collaboration with keyboardist and polymath Jolyon Jackson. Jackson has been mentioned here before in connection with Supply Demand and Curve, a Dublin jazz rock combo who swam in the same bohemian waters as Phil Lynott’s Orphanage and Dr. Strangely Strange. Where Glackin brought the fiddle and the tunes (many of which appeared on Bothy Band set lists), Jackson brought a list of instruments too long to list here, but principally an ARP Odyssey and a Polymoog. The former was a portable analogue synthesizer introduced in 1972, one of the first with duophonic capabilities (you could play two notes at the same time) with a sample-and-hold function controllable with sliders and buttons to the front. The Polymoog was a more serious machine altogether, associated more at the time with Gary Numan. Comhaltas have yet to assign a competition category for either device. The first track, The Long Note, was the name of a long-running wireless show hosted at different times by Glackin and Ó Domhnaill. The lp is a divil to find second-hand but their version of The Butterfly can be heard below. If you like what you hear, some useful soul has uploaded the entire album.
Tommy Peoples wasn’t idle either. His 1976 lp The High Part of the Road was recorded with Paul Brady playing what can only be described as tasteful guitar, accompanying the Donegal fiddler on the tunes that had been forgotten prior to the Bothies’ intervention. A more ‘traditional’ album than the others mentioned here, it was recorded the same year Brady got together with Andy Irvine to produce their lysergic exploration of the outer boundaries of dub … well no, but you see where I’m coming from. The High Part of the Road hasn’t made it onto YouTube yet, but most of the tracks on the next lp recorded as a trio with Matt Molloy in ’78 are up there. Brady’s guitar predominates and where he picks out the tunes rightly, the guitar is no substitute for Peoples’ fiddle. As an aside, I’ve only seen Paul Brady once; this was in the back room of a pub in Ballyshannon where instead of giving us Arthur MacBride at The Lakes of Pontchartrain, we were treated to a raucous hour of boogie-woogie piano. Respect.
Burke and Ó Domhnaill kept going as a duo after the Bothies. The experience must have had a profound effect on the fiddler whose outward appearance underwent a change similar to that forced on Dexy’s Midnight Runners by Kevin Rowland in the run-up to their third lp. Burke cut If The Cap Fits for Mulligan in 1978, an album that featured Lunny, Ó Domhnaill and several others on the Mulligan label. Side 2 is essentially one long breathless set starting with Toss the Feathers and with a modicum of fiddle overdubbing throughout, you can close your eyes and you’re in some auld fellas’ pub in Sligo, with Paul Brady coming in on a céilí band piano as the track fades out.
Burke’s liner notes are good, evoking the concerns still being voiced by the likes of Harry Bradley today:
‘I have tried to retain as much as possible the old traditional moods of Irish music as it used to be played long ago in rural areas by small groups of musicians. Many of these older musicians used to play by themselves and for themselves as an expression and a relaxation, just like the old bluesmen. At other times it meant relief from more worldly troubles, a therapy. Today impact and communication are regarded as essential, and I feel that at times people forget that the musician often plays for his own enjoyment. Traditional music in Ireland sometimes suffers from an overdose of severity. This is probably brought about by the tense atmosphere of competitions in which so many young people in the last 20 years have been forced to play. Something I’ll always remember about the Irish musicians that I met when I was a child, was that there was always an element of fun, in their playing and in their music. Sometimes this gave way to a plaintive wistful mood, but the fun was never far away …’
Burke and Ó Domhnaill continued as a duo after the Bothies. Before basing themselves in Portland Oregon for what seemed like a millennia, they cut Promenade for Mulligan in 1979, an album known for the version of Lord Franklin and which should really be better known for Ó Domhnaill’s rendition of Coinleach Ghlas An Fhómhair. If the fans expected a fourth Bothy Band lp they were to be disappointed. This was a more laid back affair, the title track a bossa nova slip jig, the tunes played at a much slower pace as if Burke was still getting his breath back after his time on the road with the Bothies.
Personally speaking, things started to go downhill in the ‘80s when the whole scene began tilting towards the New Age. Certain former Bothies were as central to this development as they had been to the transformation of the tradition 10 years earlier. That still upsets me.
If you happen to find yourself on the northside of Dublin tomorrow (Sunday 24 January), myself and an archaeological colleague will be selecting this sort of stuff on the wheels of steel in a Smithfield hostelry from 8.00. Put it this way, it’ll be the first time Dice Bar hipsters will hear Christy’s version of Joe McCann.
The Kesh Jig
The Green Groves of Éireann
Mrs Gilhooley’s Party
Martin Wynne’s/The Longford Tinker
Casadh an tSugain
Farewell to Erin
The Pipe on the Hob
Toss the Feathers
That handshake… May 19, 2015Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Interesting to see amongst those protesting outside NUI Galway where Gerry Adams shook hands with Britain’s Prince Charles the following:
Crowds gathered at the entrance to NUI Galway, along with several protest groups, including members of the Socialist Workers’ Party.
Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and students from Femsoc demonstrated over gender equality.
One protester carried a placard reading “Joe McCann – murdered by 1 (one) Para 15/4/72” – referring to the killing of IRA volunteer Joe McCann in Belfast in 1972. Prince Charles is commander-in-chief of the British Parachute Regiment.
IRCA Easter 2014 Address April 22, 2014Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, The Left.
Irish Republican Comrades Association – Easter 2014 Address
Speaker Pat John Kelly.
Welcome friends and comrades to the 2014 Official Republican Commemoration organised by the Irish Republican Comrades Association.
We are here to remember friends and comrades and all those who gave their lives in pursuit of an independent Irish Republic based on the needs of the Irish people linked with the beliefs of Tone and Connolly. In other times we would have naively called upon the Irish people to follow us alone in leading them to the promised land of the Socialist Republic. Unfortunately some still cling to that forlorn hope.
Republicanism has always been strong on tradition and has looked back for guidance and has regarded past tactics, with slight modifications, as being the only way forward. Should we be saying today that we hand on the torch to the next generation, therefore dictating without stopping to think what the next generation might want or believe? I don’t believe they would accept that, just as we did not accept it in our youth.
We, as the then Official I.R.A in the early 70’s, did our best to stem the seemingly unstoppable decent into all out sectarian war in this part of the island. Words spoken, and actions taken at the time, attempted to show that there was an anti-sectarian republicanism, founded and championed by the United Irishmen and modernised with the socialist critique of Connolly, still in existence. Thinkers and political activists like Liam McMillen, Cathal Goulding, Joe McCann, and others, recognised the critical nature of the impending disaster our society was spiralling towards and called for talks between all of the armed protagonists and political representatives!
Today, simply acting like old soldiers who held to the one true faith and reminding people as to how right we were all along and that the political compromise we called for over 40 years ago has in some way come to pass is simply not good enough. Some people could do that, and maybe believe that they are entitled to do that, but it would no basis for the forward movement of politics in our society. Friends and comrades it is time for an honest appraisal and critical look at our position and sphere of influence in the reality we live in today.
In recognition of the current reality the majority of our membership formed the Irish Republican Comrades Association because it best describes who and what we are. We conferred no grandiose titles on ourselves as was the case in the past. Irish Republican because we are followers of Tone and the enlightenment Republicanism of the United Irishmen and Comrades to denote our adherence to the socialist beliefs and principles of the Movement we came from. We therefore invite all those who still adhere to the principles of the Official I.R.A as it was termed and its political manifestations to forsake conspiracies and join with in this honest endeavour.
All who claim to be adherents of that tradition and background have to remember that it is the living we have to convince and work with politically, not the dead. Those who are seemingly in ongoing contact with the dead in relation to existing political reality must grasp and accept the fact that it is conversations with the living that have to take place now.
In recent history each Republican and or Socialist grouping has tended to regard their political interpretations with an almost religious fanaticism. Those who differed were classed as “heretics” deserving of more hatred than those who actually rob the people of their entitlements. In Belfast, the modern cockpit of Nationalist/Republican vitriol and rancour, led to school friends from the poorest neighbourhoods labelling each other Trotskyites or Stalinists, Nationalists or Communists. Of course the all-encompassing description “traitor” served, when other labels did not quite fit, leading to the same school mates and friends shooting and killing each other at the behest of malignant gurus.
Was it worth it? Let’s face it we all practised forms and degrees of fanaticism. The time is long overdue for a serious degree of realism in how we treat and engage with one and other and how we will attempt to influence the next generation.
This will be of major importance in creating the necessary tolerance, understating and trust to accommodate and build a meaningful and relevant “popular front” in building a strong alliance in opposition to the current right-wing political and economic orthodoxy accepted across these islands and around the globe. It is no longer of any relevance to the Irish people today which modern day historical group or organisation claims to be the one and only true inheritors of the political beliefs and value systems of Republicanism or Socialism.
In the monumental task ahead the one thing we have that the present and future generation of activists may require is experience. Experience at organising, experience at making mistakes, experience at weathering defeats, experience of not simply taking the populist line that always leads to the corruption of political ideals. That is what we can pass on, along with our political views of course, and help to inspire working people to strive for a new way forward.
Are we any closer after all the years of struggle and sacrifice to achieving the goal of a new way forward? What is the feeling among the broad range of people and groups on the left? Is it hope or despair? I fear it is the latter. We all failed in not having the courage to seriously address this issue. The broad left has failed, though many groups seem to still believe the failure is due to the reason that all the others did not adhere to their particular position.
We have had several generations of excuses for the failure of serious engagement to assist in the building of progressive politics. I am not saying that each group should simply abandon their individual political analysis. Just that we cease to abandon the potential for creating political progress in the interests of group or organisational self-righteousness! Many of the older so called left parties seem to have lost their way entirely. This of course could be blamed on lack of pressure from the grass roots. Are we and many groups like us too contented in our own small comfort zones to rise to the real and necessary challenge of a new left re-alignment?
Politics for the working class North and South have not progressed in our time. Like most countries they have regressed. While class enemies reap their ever-increasing bounty unimpeded at the expense of general humanity a political, economic and social battle-plan is being implemented across the capitalist world. It is aimed at dismantling of all the gains achieved by the struggles of working people in all countries over the last 150 years.
The only two political philosophies that have in the past been truly international are Capitalism and Socialism. Capitalism now enjoys runaway success and now views even the mildest forms of Social Democratic politics, grudgingly tolerated in the years of the modern Cold War, as a dangerous threat to their interests.
If “international communism” was Capitalisms deadliest enemy during that time, it is now the concept of “Social Democracy” itself that capitalism has now openly declared war on. It is fighting that war on all fronts with a ferocity not seen in history since the epoch of Capitalist, Colonial and Imperialist expansion of the 18th & 19th centuries. The current crisis and lack of a serious left political response is an international one.
If Social Democracy, and the parties who have represented it and still claim to represent it, cannot be bought, bullied or bribed into the acceptance of their economic and political hegemony, then they must be smashed and destroyed.
Here on this island and in Britain that process has already taken place with hardly a whimper of organised protest. The political structure in the Republic now lacks even the semblance of a Social Democratic voice, a necessary touchstone for all progressive politics.
This is all taking place while the groups and organisations on this island who should be working in defence of our class are furiously quacking at each other like angry ducks in an ever diminishing pond of political relevance. Continuous and ultimately futile deliberations about the philosophical minutiae of what the ultimate socialist society is and will be, must be left for another and less important day.
What is our response locally? Firstly no group should continue to dictate their analysis as the only way forward in an all or nothing syndrome. The way forward has to come about as the result of intense debate involving all those who strive for a just and humanist society. The main issues effecting working people of fair and decent wages, housing, health, education are the battlegrounds where common purpose should be found and acted upon.
We would advocate that there must be a whole new approach to co-operation and forming a united force to confront the advancement of the modern Capitalist agenda. Had anyone predicted fifty years ago that the banking and financial system would collapse as a result of gambling debts and the majority of working people would foot the entire bill people would have been laughed at!
The building of a “Social Forum” could begin the process to remedy that situation. A Social Forum north and south to re-awaken and re-invigorate the Republicanism and Socialism of James Connolly, Liam Mellows, Peader O Donnell, George Gilmore and Jim Larkin. A Forum that takes cognisance of the modern society and reality we live and exist in today would be a good starting point. Republican Congress was 80 years ago it is maybe long overdue that a similar concept at least be talked about in relation to the idea.
No matter what the pundits may say sectarianism is being challenged daily by a range of working class groups and organisations, ourselves included. If the sectarian language and chants seem louder and shriller today it is because the element of doubt is beginning to register. In saying that we still have a long way to go to rid our society of this ancient plague is an understatement to say the least. Sectarian voting patterns, and the outdated concepts of British and Irish nationalisms that perpetuate it in the North, pollutes Irish politics both North and South.
The present political power holders in the North continually highlight the differences between the two sides of our divided society, inventing new cultural ones as required. This is to perpetuate the “them and us” syndrome that saves them real political campaigning at elections.
A Social Forum in the North could provide a middle ground where working class groups could concentrate and elaborate on the commonalities of both sides. It could act as a venue where activists place one foot in with the other foot firmly in their own camp until the term “traitor” so beloved of Irish politics loses its power over progressive thinking.
This concept is not being proposed as some kind of magic formula or a quick fix solution to entrenched sectarian attitudes. It would be more the beginning of a long drawn out process to introduce the real politics of left versus right to a tribal voting system.
Friends and Comrades this is not a day for smugness of any kind. It time to think and renew open and frank debate and consider with others the proposition of a new departure.