jump to navigation

Irish Left Archive: Outline Policy on Northern Ireland – Democratic Socialist Party, 1981 December 7, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
1 comment so far


To download the above please click on the following link. DSPNI

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to Bobcat for forwarding this and other documents to the Archive.

At five pages of text this is a short document and one of a series of Outline Policy documents issued by the Democratic Socialist Party. It is divided into three sections. Self-determination, Are the Unionists serious? and The Settlers.

It gives an outline of the then conflict which it describes as ‘Catholic nationalists are in conflict with Protestant unionists’. It argues that:

The DSP believes that it is time to accept the right of the Protestant unionist majority in Northern Ireland to opt out of the Irish nation-state and, corresponding, the duty of the Catholic nationalist minority to accept the democratic limits of their position as a national minority within the UK. Articles 2 and 3, which deny all this, must be repealed.

It continues:

If the movement for a united Ireland seemed capable of succeeding, and if a system of politics uniting Catholic and Protestants and expanding their freedom and prosperity seemed implicit in its success, the DSP would be energetically anti-partitionist. We believe, on the contrary, that the limit of possible success for the anti-partitionist movement is an all-Ireland sectarian cvil war, followed at most by a repartition. Ulster Protestant resistance to an all-Ireland state could not conceivably be contained or in the foreseeable future exhausted. But we believe that the IRA can be exhausted physically (by the withdrawal of active support in the Northern Catholic community) and morally (by the withdrawal of support on basic principle in the Republic – the repeal of Articles 2 and 3 in particular).

It suggests that:

…afterwards, when once the Northern Catholics come to terms with their position s a national minority in the UK they cannot easily be excluded from the UK’s class politics.

Under the section ‘Are the Unionists serious?’ is the following:

Historic attachment to Britain, opposition to the power of the Catholic Church in nationalist Ireland, and economic interests are important strands in the Protestant motivation. But most of all, the Protestants want to survive. Nationalism, they believe, threatens their survival (as unionism manifestly does not threaten the survival of Northern Catholics). Considering the Protestant community in the Republic which has fallen in the course of 60 years from 12% of the population to about 3% can that be called a bad judgement?

Under the heading of ‘The Settlers’ the piece concludes by suggesting that ‘an illusion that Ulster Protestants, despite everything they said and did, belonged to ‘the Irish nation’ has delayed the inevitable decision to come to terms with them’. And it also argues that:

Since the Ulster Protestants did not exterminate the natives in their region, their position is not now as strong physically (or, perhaps, morally?) as the position of the white Americans or Australians. Nevertheless, it is tenable. They have made an Industrial Revolution while they haven den in Ireland, and such achievements count for something. They are in Ireland to stay. The sooner this is accepted, the sooner they will modify their terms to accommodate the Catholics who live amongst them – and the sooner politics in NI will cease to hinge on a simple and arid political/religious hostility which does so much less than justice to the capacities of its people.

The Coffee Circle Papers (Papers and responses from the series of political forums organised during 1998 by Democratic Left): Paper 4 – Equality and Difference February 2, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
add a comment


To download the above please click on the following link. EQUALITY SECTION DL

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to Catherine Murphy TD for donating this document to the Left Archive. Due to its length it will be posted up in individual sections over the next twelve months.

As noted previously:

This document [published on foot of a series of meetings] is unusual in respect of the Irish left in that it sought to challenge fairly directly the assumptions held by a political formation. That formation, Democratic Left, less than a decade old had recently left government after Fianna Fáil had won the 1997 General Election. It had also shed two seats from its complement of six TDs.

Due to the length of this document it has been broken up into sections, and is being posted non-sequentially over the next year or so.

This chapter engages with the issue of Equality and Difference and is based on discussions held in Mao’s Café on International Women’s Day, 1988. There are two contributors, Kathleen Lynch of the Equality Studies Centre and a response by Orlagh O’Farrell, Lawyer and expert in equality law.

The summation is made by Deirdre O’Connell, a member of Democratic Left Women’s Committee.

The section includes two poems, one by Rita Ann Higgins and the other by Robin Morgan which were read by Ann Clune on the day of the discussions.

The papers are of considerable interest, the submission by Lynch particularly so as she offers an overview of the very term ‘Equality’. In it she argues strongly that distributive models of justice and equality are not sufficient, that it necessitates the inclusion of difference models. She also outlines concepts of ‘basic equality’, ‘liberal views of equality’, ‘focus on Juristic Forms of Equality’, ‘Women and Liberalism’ and the question as to whether ‘Radical Egalitarians have Answers?’. In this latter section she engages with various mechanisms for ‘realising equality of conditions’, many positioned in Marxism.

She concludes by suggesting that:

Equal rights of access and participation are crucial, but they may be meaningless when one finds one is allowed to participate or succeed only in lower paid ends of the labour market, or in the political work that more powerful people will not do. Hierarchies and patriarchies of wealth and power must be addressed to give substantive meaning to respect for difference’.

The response by Orlagh O’Farrell takes a different approach and focuses on two main areas. ‘The first one is that the response of men to women’s fight for equality needs to be looked at, as you really can’t get past a certain point in terms of arguing for equality without looking for a response from men. That point has now come’. Secondly she argues ‘we need to work on how to take account of the needs and situation of different groups of women. How can they be recognised and accommodated in the same political movement’. On the first she argues for a ‘kind of transition to power sharing between women and men’. For the second she argues that ‘I don’t see why specific policies cannot be designed within the broad umbrella – for unemployed women, for women in rural areas, for disabled women, for women travellers, lesbian women, for migrant women and for older women’. And she continues that ‘as a passport to economic independence for women, work is the key and work, I mean work in the formal economy, as been improving over the last number of years. It is no secret that many of these new jobs are precarious low-paid jobs.’

The summary of the discussion by Deirdre O’Connell briefly attempts to synthesise the thoughts of both contributors and notes that:

Other issues discussed were the mainstreaming of rights issues. Media major institution of ideology. Political resonance of language and other general issues of the question of democracy and equality. Relative advantage was also mentioned, to date liberal policies have advantaged the advantaged e.g. in relation to public transport.

Left Archive: Times Change, Democratic Left, Spring 1997. July 8, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.



This edition of Times Change from Democratic Left has a number of oddly contemporary resonances. It leads with an article entitled ‘Tackling the Drugs Crisis’. However, it was written at a time leading towards the end of the Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left coalition formed in 1994 on foot of the disintegration of the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition. It is therefore informative that the editorial concentrates on the prospects for a Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat coalition.

The list of questions asked are of interest at this remove:

Will the PDs accept the subservient role laid down for them by Mr. Ahern. For despite the attempts by the other Mr. Ahern to paper over the cracks, all the PDs are being offered is a walk-on role in a Fianna Fáil government. If, however, the PDs were to assert themselves and win a real say in government, would FF be happy to re-introduce water charges as advocated by Mary Harney? Would FF cut taxes as required by the PDs and, if so, what public spending cuts would it make? Would FF sell off profitable state companies like ACC, ICC, TSB and Aer Rianta? And would FF have the nerve to ask workers to be poor but happy?

It continues:

A Fianna Fáil/PD coalition would be inherently unstable.

It argues that:

The contrast with the outgoing government could not be greater. The three-party coalition…. took office in difficult circumstances unprecedented in Irish political history, yet quickly got down to business. Prudence and decisiveness have been the hallmarks of the government’s management of the economy. Economic growth at 6 per cent in 1996 was well above the EU average while inflation at 1.6 per cent was at the lower end of the EU scale.

It makes a most interesting assertion in the following;

One lie needs to be nailed as the election draws near. Elements of FF together with SF continue to accuse the government for being responsible for the ‘breakdown’ of the IRA case-fire. This is nonsense. The IRA alone is responsible for ending its ‘complete cessation’, not the Brits, not the unionists, not ‘those bastards in power in Dublin’ (as leading republican Brian Keenan describes the Irish government. The ‘Irish Peace Initiative’ was blown to smithereens by its creators at Canary Wharf and it is now up to democratic parties, both nationalist and unionist to fashion a genuine peace process. Neither violence nor pan-nationalism have anything to contribute to such a process. The best contribution that the Republic can make is to continue the government’s even-handed approach’.

Given events that were to occur within the next twelve months the restatement of such a deeply sceptical, arguably even hostile, approach to the peace process is oddly telling.

it concludes:

The government is working well, the Republic is in good hands. The forthcoming general election will decide whether this remains the case or whether a shaky coalition, leaning to the far right and hopelessly divided on basic issues will be entrusted with the governance of the state.

Elsewhere there are a range of other articles with equally contemporary resonances including ones on the European Monetary Union.. Conor Murphy writes that:

As a small open economy, highly dependent on international trade, Ireland stands to benefit disproportionately from the lower transaction costs associated with EMU.

And he concludes:

On balance it is probably in Ireland’s best interest to take the EMU option with or without the UK.

Gary Kent has a piece on New Labour, approaching their own General Election landslide in Britain, and there’s a comparison between the IRA and ETA which concludes by arguing that the comparison made by the then RUC Chief Constable is fundamentally misconceived… ‘by leaving out the inevitability of a strong loyalist paramilitary response it puts the sort of optimistic gloss on Republican strategy which was characteristic of the analysis given by his predecessor Sir Hugh Annesley’.

There’s much else including a ‘What’s in store for the left article’ and a defence of democratic socialism under the line ‘Modern Myths and the need for democratic socialism’. And in passing interesting to note a reference on P.29 by Paul Bew to a text about to be published soon after that also has a contemporary resonance.

Left Archive: Democratic Left Coffee Circle Document, Section Six – Whither Irish Politics After the Referendum [on the GFA/BA], 1998 March 11, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.
add a comment


To download the section from the above document please click on the following link: DL DOC NORTH

Many thanks to Catherine Murphy TD for donating this document to the Left Archive. Due to its length it will be posted up in individual sections over the next twelve months.

As noted late last year…

This document [published on foot of a series of meetings] is unusual in respect of the Irish left in that it sought to challenge fairly directly the assumptions held by a political formation. That formation, Democratic Left, less than a decade old had recently left government after Fianna Fáil had won the 1997 General Election. It had also shed two seats from its complement of six TDs.

Due to the length of this document it has been broken up into sections, and will be posted non-sequentially over the next year or so. This chapter engages with the issue of Irish politics in the aftermath of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and the referendum on foot of that. There are two contributors, Dr. Paul Bew of Queens University, Belfast and a response by Fergus Finally, formerly Special Advisor to Dick Spring, leader of the Labour Party. Thatt both were advisors to different parties at various stages during the peace process their contributions are of some interest.

The summation is made by Paddy Gillan, then editor of Times Change.

All are short and remarkably undetailed, one might even say they were vague. The focus is on unionism, to an almost remarkable degree. And largely the theme of the papers is not addressed. Nor is it clear what the implications, as then perceived, for the left are.

The summation is arguably more interesting, with Dr. John McManus of DL arguing that the agreement ‘marked a ‘full stop’ to nationalism. Proinsias De Rossa argued that ‘Sinn Féin had a long road to travel. There was not just a time difference but a very large ideological gap. He felt that we must challenge the idea of SF being the guardians of equality agenda; there is a need to recover the equality project for the left – we can’t let them demean equality the way they demeaned republicanism.’

Perhaps tellingly there is no mention that Democratic Left organised and had elected representatives in the Northern Ireland.

Left Archive: Foreword and Paper One: Crunch Time for Socialist Politics – The Coffee Circle Papers – Papers and responses from the series of political forums organised during 1998 by Democratic Left December 10, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.


To download the above document please click on the following link:Introd and Paper 1

Many thanks to Catherine Murphy TD for donating this document to the Left Archive. Due to its length it will be posted up in individual sections over the next twelve months.

This document is unusual in respect of the Irish left in that it sought to challenge fairly directly the assumptions held by a political formation. That formation, Democratic Left, less than a decade old had recently left government after Fianna Fáil had won the 1997 General Election. It had also shed two seats from its complement of six TDs. As the Foreword, written by Prionsias De Rossa notes:

In late 1997, a number of DL members came together to organise a series of ‘Coffee Circles’. These were informal gatherings, held first in Bewley’s Oriental Café… in March 1998 when Bewley’s closed for refurbishment, we moved around the corner to Mao’s Café and, in the Summer, the last two Coffee Circle’s were held in the Dock Offices… in the heart of the International Financial Services Centre.

He continues:

The idea was to provide a comfortable, congenial setting for discussing uncomfortable, contentious issues. Issues and problems that socialists everywhere, not just in Dublin (sic), were grappling with and seeking to resolve. They included some very fundamental issues for socialists facing into the 21st century. Like what relevance the concept of socialism has nowadays; what power the Left exerted, even in government to really change capitalism and the way it works; what links we have with other socialists, in other parts of the world and what help we can give each other. Also: what common interests do we have with other progressive movements and organisations in Ireland and elsewhere – the environmental lobby and the women’s movement, for example.

He also notes:

And if there were to be a ‘historic compromise’ between nationalism and unionism, involving the British and the Irish governments, would this fundamentally alter the face of Irish politics – and what would be the implications for all of us in Ireland.

Interestingly he notes the background to the discussions, and how there were both positive and negative attitudes to the experience of government before then shifting gears somewhat and admitting that while there was the intention to continue the discussions after they ended in July 1998 ‘a few other developments intervened’.

This he says was due to ‘Most of the ‘Coffee Circle’ organisers [being] involved, directly or indirectly, in the discussions about the need for a new political formation on the Left – discussions with the Labour Party and discussions within Democratic Left itself. So publication was delayed until early 1999.’

And by the time the discussions were published Democratic Left was no more and de Rossa was president of the Labour Party.
In that respect this and the accompanying documents are somewhat suspended in time with many of the suggestions applicable only to a smaller left of Labour political formation.

The first section, entitled Crunch Time for Socialist Politics, has the unwieldy subheading: Some clarity on Fundamentals: Our Values, Visions and Ethical Foundations, What Democratic Socialism Means Today, The Market: Malleable Monster or Uncontrollable Menace? There is a synopsis of a paper addressing the above by David Jacobson, a Lecturer in Economics in Dublin City University. There’s also a response by Feargus O’Raghaillaigh, a Financial Journalist and a Summary of discussion by Mary Maher, Journalist and NUJ member.

These submissions are quite lengthy, but it is worth noting that Jacobson takes a strongly democratic socialist line wherein he seeks to position his analysis leftwards of social democracy and rightwards of ‘Soviet-type’ economies which he posits were ‘arguably state capitalist systems’. And he argues quite strenuously that ‘what is generally taken as a social democratic [socio-economic] system is one in which there are no qualitative differences to liberal democracy. It is the question of degree of ‘correction’ by the state. In social democracy there is likely to be higher taxation of the wealthy, more redistribution, more public health services, higher unemployment benefit. There is little evidence of fundamental difference at the level of governance of markets or of individual firms’. He counterposes this with ‘Democratic socialism… [which] would see markets themselves subjugated to the interests of society’. He continues ‘If there is a qualitative difference between social democracy and democratic socialism, it is in the willingness to determine where and when such ‘free’ markets are not appropriate, where it is in the social interest for them to be controlled’. But most importantly he argues presciently that:

Unless there is evidence of a transformation of the Labour Party from social democratic to democratic socialist, there is, if anything, all the more reason today for the continued pursuit of socialist ends by an independent political party. If it is not Democratic Left, it is quite likely that some other party will fill the gap.

The response by Feargus O’Raghaillaigh is of interest in that he positions himself as a ‘communist’ and is somewhat scathing of both the terms ‘democratic socialist’ and the use of the word ‘socialist’ in this context. That said on a functional level he admits that:

I would stress that I do not believe my position is one that requires me to maintain my purity and distance from practical politics. I do believe in an agenda that has central to it getting back into government – if, realistically this is within a coalition framework or context. But more than that, I believe that the agenda for coalition needs to be coherent and implementation of a programme will take time. This I would stress is not the same as saying the agenda and its pursuit is ‘long-term’. My own view of coalition, given my little experience eof it, is that it is a framework for political progress, and also one that calls for calculation.

And he continues:

In all of this am I having my cake and eating it, calling myself communist but being a carpet-bagging compromiser? I do not think so because in the end, my project remains the delimiting and ending of private property, capital.

Mary Maher’s piece although considerably shorter is also of interest. In it she records the response from the audience to the papers where a very broad range of opinions are expressed.

Left Archive: Times Change, Number 1, Spring 1994 – Democratic Left February 27, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.

To download the above file please click on the following link: TC SPRING 1994lo [apologies for size – 18mb].

This first edition of Times Change is of particular interest because it is the first published example of the thinking of Democratic Left after its establishment outside of election manifesto’s [for more Times Change please see here]. As such its contents suggests a broad range of interests, from articles on the European left, an analysis of the first year of the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition, a staunch defence by Des Geraghty of ‘social enterprise’ against ‘economic chaos, while Proinsias Breathnach examines ‘workers’ co-operatives. What’s also of interest is the avowedly ‘cultural’ aspect to the publication. Ruth Riddick writes about the then nascent Irish film industry, George O’Brien about the legacy of Sean O’Faolain and Maurice Goldring discusses the role of The Bell during the war period and after. Add to this a short story and a poem as well as reasonably extensive book reviews and it is clear that Times Change sought to position itself some ways from its Workers’ Party predecessor, Making Sense.

An article by Paddy Smyth on Section 31, only then recently done away with by the coalition provides an example of some thinking within the party. Smyth cautiously welcomes the development and argues that ‘the notion that Joe Public is likely to switch parties because FF has received marginally more of its ‘fair’ share of sound bites is one that is deeply contemptuous and patronising of the citizen. It assumes a passivity on the part of the audience that is simply not supported by the evidence’. And he continues ‘It is is no more true to say that ‘there was no sex in Ireland before television’ than to suggest that a gullible public will have its fundamental values shaken by its occasional exposer to Gerry Adams on television’.

Smyth goes further and argues that the ‘mistaken notion of the passive and gullible audience is far more central to the argument about Section 31 than arguments about the civil rights of Sinn Féin supporters or journalistic rights’.

And he makes a basic point that ‘the truth is the status quo on S31 was no longer tenable. The recent report of the UN HRC argues quite correctly that the actual threat to our state is not such as to justify either a state of emergency or the provisions of the broadcasting ban.The government is under an international obligation to repeal it’.

The editorial under the heading “Adams agonistes” engages with Sinn Féin and the Downing Street declaration. Stating that while the IRA had not formally rejected it, it argues that the Provisional response had been ‘thus far singularly negative’. And it suggests that ‘The protracted consultation of SF members (administered by the Orwellian-sounding ‘Peace Commission’) is an elaborate charade. SF is an instrument of the IRA,and democratic debate is not part of conspiratorial politics. Likewise peace is not the first item on the IRA agenda‘.

Indeed the view is profoundly pessimistic.

Rather the diehards of the IRA are intent on victory. Having failed to achieve this through violence, they thought they had found the answer in the Hume/Adams initiative. The IRA viewed Hume/Adams not as a peace process but as the foundation stone of a pan-nationalist front which would eventually involve the Irish government.

It has been a long-term strategy of the Provisionals to embroil the Republic in the Northern conflict. Hence the attempts to foment civil war in the Seventies, and the emotional blackmail of the hunger strikes. This time with John Hume on board, the Provisionals thought they were home and dry.

And later it suggests that ‘[Hume/Adams] would have been the catalyst for another 20 years of violence’.

That said it also acknowledges − albeit seemingly in the context of working around rather than with SF – the need for ‘[a] settlement with or without all parties… cross-border institutions [which] should be established to underpin such a settlement, which would also formally acknowledge the equal rights of all identities and traditions in NI. A settlement of this kind will require nothing less than a historic compromise if it is to succeed. It will not give everybody everything they want. But it will provide the means whereby legitimate political objectives can be pursued in peace and democracy.’

The Irish Left Archive: Times Change, Number 9 Winter 1996/7, Democratic Left June 22, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.



The headline on this edition of Times Change, the Quarterly Political and Cultural Review from Democratic Left, is “What’s Left?” set beside an image of Marx. The subhead is “Transitions in Socialism”. It is an edition from the period when DL were in government with Fine Gael and Labour and therefore permits an insight into some of the issues that exercised the party during that period.

The issue of neutrality looms large in this issue, due to the then recent White Paper on Foreign Policy which contained a proposal to consider participation in the NATO “Partnership for Peace”. The editorial is certainly clear in its adherence to a traditional line on neutrality arguing that proponents of abandoning it ‘fail to make a convincing case’. And inside there is an article from Roger Cole underlining that. However the editorial also argues for ‘disentangling European defensive arrangements, conflict prevention and peace-keeping from NATO by basing these squarely in the UN, the OSCE and the EU’. An interesting paradox is aired by Cole who notes that… ‘the Fianna Fáil party, Democratic Left, the Greens, the Workers’ Party and other groups have opposed the Fine Gael/Labour decision to move closer to the nuclear armed WEU and NATO’. That DL was in coalition with FG/Labour is implicit but left unstated.

Meanwhile there is a further editorial that links to an article by Johan Lonnroth [of the Swedish Left Party] that discusses the ‘challenge to the left’. It asserts that ‘some socialists, will strongly disagree with Lonnroth’s statement that ‘the left is against capitalism, not against the market’.

As an example of a perennial concern of the party the article by Deirdre O’Connell on the Constitution Review Group attests to the strongly social liberal strand within DL.

Another concern, that with Unionism is expressed by Gary Kent’s article on David Trimble. Entertaining, at this remove, to see the line ‘some dissident liberal members [of the UUP]..maintain that [Trimble and his followers] are pushing the UUP towards a hard-right ideology of the Thatcherite type although Trimble votes twice as often with Labour as the Tories’. Remind me again where Trimble sits in the House of Lords? And there’s surely a telling analysis of the state of Ulster Unionism where Trimble’s ‘hard-line reputation could help win the rest of the party… this is why he is sometimes compared to Richard Nixon – the only US President who could recognise Communist China. Other comparisons might include Fianna Fáil as the only party that could intern the IRA..’ and then juxtaposes this with the following…

‘Some of Trimble’s conference themes may have gone over the heads of the audience – decent and solid farming folk in the main. The rhetoric involves inclusiveness – reaching out to the 85 per cent of Northern Catholics who are not what Trimble’s spin-doctor, David Burnside [oh how times change, indeed] called ‘rebels’, making a deal with John Hume, doing business with the South (without infringing sovereignty)…’

As an assessment of the willingness of Ulster Unionism in its then largest form this surely provides evidence that selling a deal to share power with Nationalism was a big ask alone, let alone with Republicanism further down the road.

There’s more – if I can be allowed to editorialise just a little – not least in an analysis of Sinn Féin that verges on the bizarre (given the nature of the events that had occurred already in drawing Republicanism away from armed conflict during the preceding half of the decade) during a review of Brendan O’Brien’s The Long War and M.L.R. Smith’s Fighting for Ireland? The Military Strategy of the Irish Republican Movement.

‘The Provisionals are a long way from undertaking the sort of democratic transformation which would allow us to conclude with confidence that the restoration of a permanent cease-fire and the entrance of SF into non-violent , democratic politics are realistic prospects. It may be that a combination of fudge, wishful thinking and political miscalculation on the part of the current republican leadership has left them bereft of any coherent strategy at present – marooned in an unhappy limbo of non-identity. It will not help matters for democratic politicians in either Dublin or the SDLP to help perpetuate their self-delusions’.

That – contrary to this analysis – a permanent ceasefire would be restored within half a year and that the Good Friday Agreement would be signed a little over 18 months later, is indicative of the usual DL pessimism as to any potential progress, despite the fact that many within its ranks came from a movement that had charted a similar if not identical path away from the use of political violence (and many beyond the party could see that Republicanism had nowhere else to go but cessation and engagement).

And an almost atavistic fear of Sinn Féin is reflected in a review of the film Michael Collins which losing all proportion argues that it is ‘fascist art’ (according to Paul Bew) and ‘at best [it] is an action movie with Blarney; at worst – I hope I am wrong – it is a symptom of the growing cultural power of Sinn Féin’.


The Irish Left Archive: “Times Change” from Democratic Left, Summer/Autumn 1995 March 23, 2009

Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.



The quantity of Democratic Left material in the Archive is fairly limited. However, due to a donation some time ago of a series of “Times Change”, the DL’s political and cultural review (which I have yet to return – so an address would be handy!) which are now scanned in that is set to change.

This Summer/Autumn edition appears at a particularly interesting time not least since the IRA ceasefires had occurred fairly recently. And the approach of Democratic Left to this development is best characterised in an editorial under the heading of “The Art of compromise” which is profoundly negative of the outcome.

Reading it at this remove it is remarkable how pessimistic a view of the capacity of others to change as DL had was intrinsic to their analysis. So we read that:

…what is the Republican Movement prepared to do to move the peace process forward?

Decommission arms? No.
Stop punishment beatings? No.
Release the bodies of the disappeared? No.
Agree to reform of Articles 2 and 3? No.
Agree to the principle of unionist consent? No.

A piece by Arthur Aughey on the response of Unionism to the developments is equally pessimistic in tone. Indeed he argues that:

The frameworks have proposed some half-way house between unionism and nationalism, thereby equating the fact of the Union with the aspiration to Irish unity (without a proper deal on Articles 2 and 3). That is what Dick Spring understands ‘balance’ to mean. For the reasons I have outline, such a balance is unacceptable to unionists and will not achieve widespread acceptability. There needs to be fresh thinking.

Again, an intriguing analysis in the context of what has happened since.

Central concerns of Democratic Left including a leftist internationalism are seen in pieces on Nicaragua and France. An emphasis on social liberalism is articulated in an article on divorce, and it is notable that James Kelman is interviewed in this issue. There is an interesting, and perhaps somewhat unexpected, short appraisal of Roy Foster’s approach to the Famine in an article by Peter Connell which chastises historical revisionism in this context for ‘blurring the Famine’s impact…’. This is in addition to an article on the meaning of Famine commemoration by Proinsias O Drisceoil which makes some contentious assertions.

All told a useful insight into the party at that point in time.

This text and these files are a resource for use freely by anyone who wants to for whatever purpose – that’s the whole point of the Archive (well that and the discussions). But if you do happen to use them we’d really appreciate if you mentioned that you found them at the Irish Left Online Document Archive…


The Left Archive:”Times Change” from Democratic Left, 1994 November 5, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democratic Left, Irish Left Online Document Archive.


So, here it is to start off the week. “Times Change”, DL’s irregular successor to Making Sense by the Workers’ Party. A mere £1.50… which in 1994 was actually worth something, and an interesting run through of some of the oddities of the DL approach during this period. This ranges from Richard Dunphy’s not entirely prescient text on national self-determination and the IRA which in the text actually does move towards noting that Unionism might… y’know… be a form of national identity but then retreats, to a good piece on the Spanish United Left which has resonances today for those seeking to forge left projects here and there and on to a frankly odd article about Bosnia (got to love the comparison between Bosnian Serbs and…er… Unionists). Meanwhile there are articles about the Italian left and a predictable lash at the extreme right. One interesting aspect is the emphasis on Europe. That never really went anywhere, but…on the other hand at least they tried.

If anything it strikes me on re-reading this that there wasn’t a clearly defined role for the Party. There is no clear ideological direction. Indeed there is no mention of ideology or a specific ideological framework at all. It’s clearly of the left, but there is little here to indicate that its much further left than the Irish Labour Party – and if anything the concentration on parties in Europe seems to act as a sort of substitution for something lacking in itself. In fact there is no tangible engagement with the nature of the party itself whatsoever.

Nor, notably, was there a letters page. And the image on the cover strikes me as typifying the sort of annoyingly gratuitious anti-Republican stance the party adopted that began to seem more and more detached from the reality of what was happening in Irish politics throughout this period (indeed I could also say something about the peculiar pornography of violence and its attraction for those who support or oppose it as a visual shorthand… but I won’t!).

So all told, despite the reasonably high quality of the production, and the standard of some of the pieces, it appears confused.

Anyhow, here it…


%d bloggers like this: