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Left Archive: “Political Freedom and the Siege of Derry”, Reprint from Irish Political Review by NorthWest Labour Publications, 1997. March 19, 2012

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish Left Online Document Archive, NorthWest Labour Publications.

To download this document please click on the following link: PFatSOD

This is an interesting document, in that while it isn’t overtly badged by a left party or formation is clearly linked in some way to the Aubane Historical Society (formerly BICO). NorthWest Labour Publications were based in Derry.

According to the Introduction, penned by Pat Muldowney, it seeks to determine what ‘kind of historic event do the Apprentice Boys commemorate each August? It is time that some attempt was made to give a straight answer’.

And it asks ‘if what the Apprentice Boys commemorate annually is the birth of Constitutional freedom, why is the commemoration resented by most of the people of Derry?’

Following on from that it notes that ‘If the Closing of the Gates marked the birth of freedom, why did Derry itself have to wait until the 1970s for a local government based on the majority? And does not the political history of the city from 1689 to the 1970s suggest the Gates were Closed in the interest of establishing the dominance of an intolerant sect over the mass of the people?’

These are important questions. If the Apprentice Boys commemorate the birth of freedom, socialists should use their influence to discourage opposition to their parade. But if what they commemorate is sectarian supremacy, then it is their activity that should be discouraged.

We begin a discussion of this serious matter by reprinting an article from the Irish Political Review (October 1996).

The document contains the transcript of a Radio Ulster interview with Jonathan Bardon from 1996 which as it notes acerbically ‘[he was brought on] to explain[s] why the siege was a great event in the progress of humanity towards whatever it was progressing towards. Bardon’s exposition was followed by a discussion involving Gregory Campbell of the Democratic Unionist Party and others. Bardon a College lecturer in Belfast, is of Ascendancy background, which is not the same thing as Ulster Unionist background.’

It continues:

There was a time when the Ascendancy looked down with contempt or embarrassment on Protestant Ulster. But Bardon appears to be entirely in sympathy with it. And Gregory Campbell responded to his sympathy with a due, but nevertheless surprising, nod of deference.

This is followed by ‘a comment on it from the historian Brendan Clifford’. This comment runs for four pages and is structured under headings such as THE TRUTH, WHY THE GATES WERE CLOSED, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY.’

The conclusion is of some interest. Clifford asserts that ‘The reason there must be an accommodation between the Protestant and Catholic communities is because the Protestant community exists, and not because it stood for any kind of popular freedom in Ireland three hundred years ago. What it stood for three hundred years ago was conquest, plunder, genocide and Protestant theocracy.’

My Supper with Brendan… At the Aubane Historical Society… July 2, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Aubane Historical Society, British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish History, Irish Politics, The Further Left, The Left.

Many thanks to “An Interested Party” for the following…

While I was in Dublin on the 9th of May (staying with a relative), I decided to attend the Aubane Historical Society’s launch of the “Notes on Eire” book in the Teacher’s Club, out of curiosity. I’d heard about them on websites like Politics.ie and Indymedia-the former Unionists-turned-Nationalists. I was interested and wanted to discover what they were like in person.

I arrived at the Teacher’s Club at about 7.25 and there were several people waiting outside the entrance. As I was going in I was asked was I attending the book launch by one of the people. I replied “Yes”, and she gave me directions to the room. She was a friendly middle-aged woman with curled black hair and glasses and a distinct London accent, who looked like a scatty art teacher. So I went upstairs into theroom and there were seats assembled for a meeting. There were several otherpeople there, mostly men and all middle-aged.

Rather ironically, there was a copy of the Irish Times at the side of the room – publication the AHS has often strongly criticised. Two of the men there were discussing the IT’s obituary of the veteran B&ICO/AHS member Pat Murphy, who had passed away a few weeks ago. *

There was a guy on the right side of the room, running a table full of Athol Books magazines, -“Irish Political Review”,”Church and State”,”Irish Foreign Affairs”, “Problems of Capitalism and Socialism”, and “Labour and Trade Union Review”.

Numerous books and pamphlets were also there-the AHS’ famous book on the Coolacrease shootings, along with Angela Clifford’s pamphlets on Haughey’s role in the Arms Trial, Bowen’s “Notes on Eire”,and Desmond Fennell’s new book. Out of interest I bought a copy of the IPR from the man at the stall. After a while, more people started coming in, who all seemed to know each other.
I recognised veteran trade unionist Manus O’Riordan. After a while, there were about fifteen people in the room, including a priest, a man who looked like film critic Harry Knowles and a businessman who vaguely resembled Bruce Arnold.

So a few minutes passed, and then the “art teacher” woman (who another man called Angela-and then I recognised her as Angela Clifford, Brendan’s wife) told us Brendan clifford was coming in a few minutes. Two more men entered the room, and one of them assembled some notes, and then began to eat some chocolate ice cream for supper. “Brendan will be speaking in a minute, after he finishes his meal” said Angela to some laughs.

I gazed at the man called Brendan-this was the famous (or infamous,depending on your opinion) man behind the British and Irish Communist Organisation and Aubane Historical Society.

He is a man of average height,in his sixties or seventies, with a shock of grey hair that rises into curls in the middle, and a beard but no moustache (he struck me as resembling an aging Abraham Lincoln). After a few minutes Brendan finished eating and got ready to speak. Despite the previously informal atmosphere the other guests all quietened down and prepared to listen to him speak
(I was reminded of a teacher coming in and beginning a class). So he began to speak about the Elizabeth Bowen book. He has a soft, slightly reedy voice (despite his Cork/Kerry origins,it reminded me a little of Daniel O’Donnell, of all people!).First, he annouced that the other book announced for the launch (The Mansergh File) had been delayed in publication.

Then Clifford began discussing the details of the Bowen book and his research on her in WWII. He went into detail about her life and her WWII intelligence operations, which seem to be a strong interest of his. Clifford insisted that Bowen was not a North Cork writer, and that he had never met anyone from North Cork who regarded her an a Cork writer.
He turned out to be a rather rambling and slightly tedious speaker, as he kept wandering off the subject (once he digressed to discuss Maurice Hankey, the British politician).

However,when he mentioned Martin Mansergh and his father Nicholas, a note of genuine anger entered his voice. He stated that Mansergh wanted to “destroy us in the Aubane Historical Society” through his critical articles in the Irish Times. This made me slightly uncomfortable, as I got a feeling of “Don’t cross this man. Don’t make him angry” off him then.

After a while, he announced Jack Lane had found some new information about Bowen from his researches in London, and handed the platform over to him.

Jack Lane is a jovial Corkman with a moustache who somewhat resembles the late actor Joe Lynch.He was quite friendly and a far better public speaker than Clifford-a good, educated raconteur with a sense of humour.

He focused on the WWII activities of both Bowen and John Betjetman. I noticed that none of the speakers ever referred to Bowen as an “Irish” or “Anglo-Irish writer”-she was always the “English writer”.

Lane stated that the parts British government wanted to do several things to interfere with Irish neutrality-one of them was to set up a group of pro-British Irish businessmen in the Free State to further the UK’s interests.

Other things Lane discussed included putting UK propaganda messages in Irish products such as people’s laxatives (cue laughter) or plans to “interfere” with the supply of cinema films. I raised my hand to ask a question but Lane motioned me to wait until he had finished speaking. When he had finished, I asked if he meant the film thing was putting “subliminal messages”
or something similar in the films, but he said no, it was restricting films to frustrate the Irish entertainment industry. So the speech went on for a bit more, and Jack mentioned Manus was researching something on WWII, and also a red-haired woman called Eileen with a Cork accent began discussing “the Bell” magazine, saying it may have recieved paper supplies from the Irish government during the war. I got the feeling “The Bell” might be the next AHS subject.

I suppose I could have raised my hand and asked an awkard question like “Is it true you published material in the 1970s saying the 1920s IRA were sectarian?” or “Why did you support Likud in the 70s and Hamas today?” but I’ve always been a little shy about public speaking. And besides, the whole group seemed very “cliquey”-everyone seemed to recognise each
other. I was the youngest person there-the others were all in their 50s or older.

I did think about staying for the Fennell talk, but it was getting dark and I didn’t like the idea of walking through Dublin late at night. So after a while, there was a short break after Lane had finished his talk, and while they waited for Fennell, I left. I walked
out of the Teachers’ Club (there was a room full of Asian people and their kids that I walked past) and
went back to my relative’s flat.

She and her friend were having a chat when I got back, and I mentioned I’d gone to “a history discussion” on WWII. They were interested in it, and they asked who gave it.

“The Aubane Historical Society, from Millstreet” I replied.

“What’s a society from Millstreet doing lecturing in Dublin?” asked her friend, puzzled. Then I told them who was there. They’d never heard of most of the people there, but they did wonder what Manus O’Riordan the Communist was doing working with Desmond Fennell the Catholic conservative.

In the end, I didn’t really know what to make of the talk, or the people who gave it.
The Aubane Historical Society seem like a group of people genuinely interested in Irish history, but with some strange and contentious opinions. They also seemed like a very introspective group – felt like I’d walked in on a group of very close friends where I didn’t know anyone.

I’ll let my relative’s comments be the last word:

“I don’t know about these “Aubane” people, they sound like very strange folk indeed!”

Left Archive: “Irish Political Review”, No.1, 1986 September 8, 2008

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Aubane Historical Society, British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO), Irish Left Online Document Archive.


An anonymous contributor to the Archive has forwarded the above and written the following. Many thanks.

The “Irish Political Review” began in July 1986, possibly as a successor to the British and Irish Communist Organisation publication “The Irish Communist” which had ceased publication earlier that year. The first issue was largely anonymous except for the crediting of David Alvey as editor.
The main contributors included Brendan and Angela Clifford, Alvey, John Martin, Pat Maloney,Dick Spicer and Tadhg O’Connor.

Regular targets included the IRA (January 1988), Irish Neutrality (November 1986 & September 1989), John Hume (described as a “totalitarian” in the December 1986 issue) Garrett Fitzgerald (February & September 1987) and critics of the Diplock Courts and Section 31 (December 1987).
Although you wouldn’t see it in this issue,the Catholic Church was a regular target as well (March 1988 laid into the Catholic hierarchy, while January 1989 savaged Sister Stanislaus Kennedy).
This constant aggression was rather sometimes arbitrary – I’m still at a loss to know why the poor people of Charleville were also savaged in the October 1986 issue.

There was lots of coverage of the Irish Labour Party, possibly because many of Jim Kemmy’s Democratic Socialist Party (with B&ICO links) were thinking of joining the LP at the time (as the DSP ultimately did). Charles J. Haughey was often praised, especially for his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

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