Monthly Archives: August 2011

Selective internment – IRSP and éirígí statements

Below is a press statement on the release of Brendan Lillis and the continued holding of Marian Price and Martin Corey.  Revocation of licence threatens many ex-prisoners.  When prisoners were released as part of the “peace process”, the releases was conditional on a kind of “good behaviour”, that behaviour of course to be determined by the police and the Northern Ireland Office.  If you step out of line your licence can be revoked and you can be imprisoned again.  Some comrades from IRNews are doing up a piece for this blog on the Marian Price case and the problem of revocation of licence; I’ll stick it up as soon as it comes through.  Underneath the IRSP statement issued on August 26 is a statement from éirígí on the Price case from May:



The Irish Republican Socialist Party welcomed the news that Brendan Lillis was released from custody last week. The decision to release Mr Lillis should have been taken weeks ago and the subsequent delay in moving him to an outside hospital can only be described as callous and inhumane.

Whilst we welcome the release of Brendan Lillis we will continue to condemn modern day internment through the revocation of licenses.

Marion Price and Martin Corey are both being held in Maghaberry Prison through revocation of license. This has been conducted without trial and is plainly modern day internment. We would also state that this also makes a mockery of the notion that the Good Friday Agreement marked an end to the conflict. It is certainly no coincidence that those people currently being pursued by the state are prominent activists who have expressed their opposition to the GFA. The British government are also channeling funds and personnel into the Historical Enquiries Team. This institution is in pursuit of political activists for so-called crimes committed during the 1970s and the 1980s.

We conclude from this that the British government is conducting a major operation against those whome they would still deem a threat to imperialism. They are also responding to those opposed to the GFA by utilising an old method – Internment. But similarly to when used before, internment will only stoke the anger of the Irish working class.

Internment will not silence us. We will not be criminalised and we will continue to fight imperialist aggression by any means neccesary.

End Internment now!



Rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith has said the move by the British government to revoke the release license of Belfast republican Marian Price is indicative of the perilous position many republican ex-prisoners are living under.

Despite being granted bail in a Derry court earlier today [Monday], Price was detained after British secretary of state Owen Patterson revoked her release licence. She will now appear in court via video link on June 9.

Mac Cionnaith said: “The deplorable decision to incarcerate Marian Price under a decades’ old licence is evidence of the Damocles’ sword the British government continues to hold over the heads of republican ex-prisoners.

“In effect, what the British government is saying is that, if you don’t toe the line, or at the very least stay silent, it has the power to make you stay silent. This is akin to the Defence of the Realm Act which the British government used to habitually incarcerate Irish republicans in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

“Those republican ex-prisoners living under licence would never have been imprisoned in the first place had it not been for Britain’s interference in Ireland’s affairs and its creation of an armed conflict here. Threatening to return these people to prison if they are deemed to have spoken out of turn is simply heaping injustice upon massive injustice.”

Mac Cionnaith added: “The legislation which allows for the repeated incarceration of republican ex-prisoners, without trial or conviction, should be repealed immediately and the people concerned allowed to get on with their lives.

“The first step in this process should be the immediate release of Marian Price and Martin Corey from Lurgan, who is being interned under the same legislation.”

Women’s rights and the national struggle, 1916-1922

by Philip Ferguson; this is chapter 9 of the thesis


In this chapter, I will be looking at the role of women in the national struggle between 1916 and 1922, the activities of women’s rights organisations – especially the IWFL – during this period, the interconnections between the “national question” and the “woman question” and how these were reflected in the activities and debates which went on within and between the organisations involved.  I will show that women were involved on a substantial scale in radical political activity – in feminist, republican and labour struggles – and gained in both practical experience and self-confidence.  At the same time, women were affected by the limited goals of much of the male leadership of the independence movement.  This leadership’s social views acted as an obstacle to women’s progress and ensured, at the time of Treaty settlement, that women’s large-scale involvement in national political life was no longer wanted.  The conservatism of much of the male leadership will be contrasted with the radicalism of many of the women activists.


When the Irish Volunteer leadership, most especially Hobson and MacNeill, capitulated to Redmond in June 1914, the leadership of Cumann na mBan had been horrified.  Not surprisingly, when the split between the Redmondites and the IRB/MacNeill group came, with most of the IVs siding with the Parliamentarians, the vast majority of Cumann na mBan stayed with the Irish Volunteers.  In these cases, and again in the future, the republican women stood to the left of much of the male leadership of the movement.[1]


Women and the Easter Rising

By 1915, despite the continuing criticisms of the IWFL, Cumann na mBan had, to some extent, moved beyond its initial role of fund-raising for the men-only Irish Volunteers.  For instance, the branch to which Kathleen Clarke belonged now “ran lectures, classes in first aid, signalling and rifle practice, lessons in cleaning and loading rifles and small arms.”[2]  In Belfast, rifle practice was carried out and a number of the women became excellent shots.  Belfast Cumann na mBan even challenged the local Irish Volunteers to a shooting competition.  Winifred Carney, one of Connolly’s chief associates in organising female mill workers and present in the GPO during the Rising, won one of the competitions.[3]  However, the nature of these branches can be explained in large part by the fact that Clarke’s branch was the one which the Inghinidhe women had joined, while Nora Connolly was the Belfast organiser for Cumann na mBan.  These women ensured that activities were implemented which challenged accepted notions of women’s role, but overall the organisation remained separate from and subordinate to the all-male Volunteers.

In contrast, the Irish Citizen Army, the workers’ militia, involved both sexes at all levels – in the ranks and the leadership.  Markievicz was a member of the seven-person Army Council, Dr Kathleen Lynn held the rank of lieutenant and was in charge of the medical section, and Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen was a sergeant.  Interestingly, the class background of the women who held ICA rank Read the rest of this entry

Miriam Daly and ‘conflict resolution’; speech by James Daly

miriam_daly03This month is an important one for hunger strike commemorations.  As well as the ten revolutionaries who died on hunger strike – or, perhaps more accurately, were murdered by Thatcher, her Labour Party allies and British imperialism – key activists in the solidarity campaign were targeted for murder, especially IRSP activists.  Miriam Daly was one of these, being murdered on June 26, 1980.  At the time of her execution, Miriam was the national chairperson of the Irish Republican Socialist Party.  Below is the speech by her husband and fellow activist James Daly, at the 25th aniversary commemoration in 2005.  It’s taken from the Irish Republican Socialist Movement site:

25th anniversary commemoration of the death of Miriam Daly, at her graveside, Swords, County Dublin, 25 June 2005. Address by James Daly.

At commemorations like this in earlier years, while the struggle continued, we could think in terms of the nobility of the cause transcending the horror of Miriam’s death, and I could quote James Connolly’s last message to his wife, “Hasn’t it been a good life, Lily, and isn’t this a good end?” But lately the cause for which she was tragically martyred has slithered down into slapstick comedy, farce and low buffoonery. Trimble with impunity calls Republicans dogs and pigs. War criminal Blair backs Paisley’s theocratic demand that since Republicans have sinned in public they must repent in public. That from an alumnus of Bob Jones University, whose president’s wife, Mrs Bob Jones III, asked for her opinion on something, stated “Good book says wife don’t have opinion, husband head of household have opinions”.

But this is not a case of harmless mud wrestling – entertaining, colourful folklore. Murderous buffoons are not confined to the six counties. George W. Bush launched his first presidential campaign from Bob Jones University. And in the six counties, to use an animal metaphor which doesn’t degrade the user, the fox has been put in charge of the chicken coop. Paisley, the master of destruction, the organiser of chaos, has got rid one by one of every previous leader of unionism, O’Neill, Chichester-Clarke, Faulkner, Molyneux and Trimble. His next target is the Parades Commission. When UDA banners are forced by the PSNI/RUC through Catholic areas like Ardoyne, murder is not far behind. Under that threat, the parades commission, if it still exists by then, could well allow the Orange Order to march down Garvaghy Road next year.

This year, on the 25th anniversary of Miriam’s death I feel there is at least one thing I can do, and that is to restate an important message she never tired of repeating. It was: to beware of and shun so-called “conflict resolution”, the alleged academic discipline which is in fact an imperialist confidence trick.

Read the rest of this entry

In Review: Kevin Bean and Mark Hayes (eds), Republican Voices

This book review was done in 2002 and appeared in several different places, such as The Blanket.  I thought I’d stick it up here, because it’s still a very good book, well worth reading.  Also, however low an ebb things may be at right now, there have been significant advances since the book was written.  Two stand out to me – the formation and development of éirígí and the development of the Independent Workers Union.


Kevin Bean and Mark Hayes (eds), Republican Voices, Monaghan, Seesyu Press, 2001.


In the southern Irish elections of May 17, Sinn Fein increased its parliamentary seats from one to five and came close to winning several others. In local government it has rapidly increased its elected positions in the past few years. In the north of Ireland, the party has now overtaken the middle class SDLP as the chief representative of the nationalist community and is a part of the Stormont government. These substantial electoral gains have seemed to confirm that the end of the republican armed struggle for Irish freedom and the effective disarmament of the IRA, pioneered by the current leadership, have paid big dividends.

In Republican Voices, half a dozen former IRA activists, each of whom served substantial prison sentences for their activity, discuss the ‘new departure’, along with aspects of the struggle in the 1970s and 1980s. The book is arranged in five sections, each dealing with a specific topic presented in the form of a conversation among the participants.

Early sections of the book provide very welcome counters to the banality and downright falsehoods of so much writing about the IRA and the motivations of those who joined. Writers such as Kevin Toolis, for instance, have presented IRA members as being motivated by some bizarre desire to shed blood for Ireland. These six activists, who are typical of a generation that joined up in the late 60s and early 1970s, explain what actually led them into armed struggle, what they did, and how they view it all now.

Although the original idea was to have a range of republican viewpoints in relation to the current course of Sinn Fein and the IRA, the top leadership dissuaded a number of people from participating, Read the rest of this entry

The working class and the national struggle, 1916-1921


by Philip Ferguson; this is thesis chapter 8

In this chapter I will be examining the role played by the working class and labour movement between 1916-21, in the light of the radicalism of this period and the threat of Bolshevism perceived by the Irish establishment.  These labour struggles posed challenges both to the old order and to the new nationalist leadership. Whether of an economic character (eg, wage struggles) or a specific political character (as in the case of the general strikes against conscription and for the release of political prisoners), they challenged British rule since it was this rule which organised the relationship of the classes in Ireland.  Given that, as Milotte has noted, “In Ireland after the Easter Rising there was a political vacuum: no national movement and no national leadership had yet emerged to replace the declining and increasingly irrelevant Irish party”,[1] I will argue that such struggles presented opportunities for the working class to take political leadership of the struggle for Irish independence and give that struggle a proletarian political character, ie give it a political programme and leadership in which the interests of the working class were dominant.

At the same time, urban workers were not the only disadvantaged class. Given the nature of Ireland as a largely rural/agrarian society, the land question remained a potent source of class conflict.  With the war inhibiting the mass emigration of previous decades, there was a growth of the landless rural population and those holding uneconomic units. Since the large landowners were supporters of British rule, struggles over land, like struggles over wages and conditions on the part of the working class, inevitably meshed with the national struggle for independence.

Thus the nature of class and national conflict in Ireland posed possibilities of a two-fold revolution: Read the rest of this entry

Brendan Lillis update

Brendan Lillis was released from prison on Thursday, August 18, and taken to City Hospital, Belfast.  At present, I’m not sure whether he is still there or has been able to return home.

For background on the case, see:



Republicanism and the national independence struggle, 1916-21

by Philip Ferguson; this is thesis chapter 7


In this chapter I pick up the course of the national liberation movement where we left off in chapter four, on the eve of the Easter Rising.  Given the interconnectedness of the republican, labour and women’s movements, this chapter also provides a continuation of the chronology of chapters five and six.  In this chapter, I will trace the development of the independence struggle from 1916 until the Treaty at the end of December 1921.  During this period, the Irish Parliamentary Party, the dominant force in Irish politics – especially in nationalist Ireland – disintegrated, to be replaced by a reconstructed, republican Sinn Fein.  Labour which, as we have seen, was in the strongest position of any pro-independence group outside the IPP, was bypassed.  The reasons for both these developments will be explored and I will identify key points in the contestation over the nature of the independence movement – would it be revolutionary or moderate, would it stand for fundamental social change or simply for political independence? – and how these tended to be resolved in favour of the less radical leaders and policies.

The elections of December 1918 showed that, on the political level, mass sentiment had swung away from Home Rule and towards complete political independence.  For the first time since the United Irish rebellion, the majority clearly signified that it was no longer prepared to acquiesce in British rule.  The development of armed struggle, following the setting up of Dail Eireann in 1919, provided a powerful military challenge to British rule.  I will show that through 1920 and 1921, the combination of political support for Sinn Fein and the military challenge provided by the IRA made direct British rule no longer tenable.  But, while Britain was forced to the negotiating table, in a situation in which revolutionary possibilities had emerged, the outcome of the negotiations was a counter-revolution, as we shall see in section five.


The Rising

On Easter Monday 1916 a majority of the Dublin Irish Volunteers and virtually the whole of the Irish Citizen Army raised the banner of insurrection in the capital.  They took over the General Post Office, St Stephen’s Green and established a string of other posts in the city.  A proclamation was published, announcing the formation of an independent Irish Republic, claiming control for the people over the resources of the country and declaring equal rights for all men and women in Ireland.

Originally, the IRB republican leaders in the Irish Volunteers had used their control of much of the IV apparatus to call for manoeuvres at Easter.  The Volunteer manoeuvres would be turned into a rebellion.  But, as we saw in chapter six, MacNeill, who was opposed to an insurrection, called off the manoeuvres by placing an advert in the press.  The rebels had little choice but to go ahead anyway, or face being rounded up and losing any chance of rebellion during World War 1.  They immediately sent couriers to areas outside Dublin, but MacNeill’s countermanding orders effectively prevented the extension of the Rising.  Volunteers rallied in several places, such as Galway under Liam Mellows and at Ashbourne (County Meath) under Thomas Ashe, but the bulk of the Volunteers outside Dublin did not mobilise.  This allowed the British to concentrate their superior forces on the capital.  Read the rest of this entry

In sight of freedom, 1916-1921: introduction

This is the introduction to section four (“In sight of freedom”) of the thesis:



In a letter to her sister Eva at the end of 1916, Markievicz wrote that she had done what she was born to do.  She believed, too, that “The great wave has crashed up against the rock, and now all the bubbles and ripples and little me slip back into a quiet pool of the sea.”[1]

However a new wave was to rise, far bigger than the previous one, and to crash against the rock much more formidably.  The first attempt to remove the rock had foundered, losing whatever chance it had, due to the grave political weaknesses of the IRB and Irish Volunteers, epitomised by their placing of the irresolute and socially conservative Eoin MacNeill in a psoition to undermine the plans for insurrection.  The lesson of this was not learnt.  The post-1916 wave of republicanism not only continued to incorporate such elements but placed them in the leadership of the entire movement.  This, in turn, reflected the muddled politics of republicanism and extra-parliamentary nationalism.  A pan-nationalist alliance, incorporating radicals and conservatives, but leaving out the woking class and marginalising women, replaced the revolutionary alliance which had fomented the Easter Rising.

In this section I will examine the nature of the politics of the pan-nationalist alliance. In particular I will look at the interplay between the national issue and independence movement (Sinn Fein/IRA) on the one hand and workers’ and women’s rights on the other.  I will consider how the organised working class was used as a mere stage army to challenge the British over conscription and political prisoners and treated as a hostile rabble when they took over their workplaces or tried to break up large estates.  Similarly while women played an important role in the national independence struggle, in both the political and military activities, and gained a heightened awareness of their rights, demands for equality were constantly frustrated.  The attitude of the pan-nationalist leadership on these issues not only acted against the achievement of workers’ and women’s rights but also proved an obstacle to mobilising the mass social forces necessary if there was to be any chance of securing Irish freedom.

The struggle of 1916-23 was not only between the forces of Irish nationalism and British imperialist rule, but was also a clash between different elements within Irish nationalism for the allegiance of the Irish nation and the determination of the nature of Irish nationalism itself.  The outcome of these intertwined conflicts would determine the outcome of the struggle for independence and civil war and decide the shape of the Irish state which emerged in the 1920s.  I will therefore look at how those individuals and groups which stood for the interests of the most exploited and oppressed layers of Irish society – the urban working class and rural poor – were consistently marginalised by the pan-nationalist movement and by the labour leadership.  Although great reverence was shown by the post-1916 republican leaders to the Easter Rising and its martyrs, Markievicz and others who maintained the socially revolutionary politics of the 1916 movement  – particularly Connolly’s perspective – were effectively prevented from establishing those politics as the basis for the post-1916 movement.  Within the labour movement, the more readical actions of the workers were constantly undermined by the failure of the ILPTUC leadership to provide material support or develop an overall strategy by which the working class could assert its own interests in a co-ordinated, national way rather than in merely spontaneous, short-lived workplace seizures.

One of the most notable features of the aftermath of 1916 is that the executed leaders’ revolutionary politics were particularly upheld by a small group of women – mainly, but not exclusively, women associated with the Irish Citizen Army and Connolly.  These included Markievicz, Helena Moloney, Kathleen Lynn, Madeleine Ffrench-Mullen, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Nora Connolly, Winifred Carney and others.  The fact that these women were excluded from any leadership roles in the military struggle – although a number of them, especially Markievicz, had as good soldierly credentials as anyone else – coupled with the way in which the political leadership marginalised them, had major repercussions for women, for socially transformative politics, and for the outcome of the independence struggle.

I will also deal with the response of those who were being marginalised.  The fate of working class and women’s rights was not simply in the hands of the more conservative elements of the national independence and labour movements.  Also, however much they chaffed about what was happening, the more radical elements of SF and the IRA, including the women mentioned, by and large submitted and subordinated themselves to the more socially conservative leaders.  No serious challenge was ever mounted to the hegemony of these leaders and no separate left-wing power-base, comparable to that of Connolly with the ITGWU and ICA, was constructed by the radical elements.

[1] Letter from Constance Markievicz to Eva Gore-Booth, December 29, 1916, in Countess Markievicz: Prison Letters, London, Virago, 1987, p158 (first published by Longman’s Green, 1934).

Independent Hunger Strike Commemoration speeches from éirígí and IRSP

While the Provo co-adminstrators of continuing British rule in the six counties have managed to establish a monopoly over the commemorating of the 1981 hunger strikers, more radical forces which continue to uphold the principles for which the ten men died have formed an independent hunger strike commemoration committee.  Among them are the Irish Republican Socialist Party and éirígí.  As a strong supporter of socialist-republican co-operation and the eventual unification of all the socialist-republican forces in Irleand, I think this is a really positive initiative.  Below are vids of Brendan Mac Cionnaith of éirígí, himself a former political prisoner and hunger striker, and Paul Little of the IRSP, a former political prisoner, speaking at the Belfast commemoration last Sunday (August 21).




Markievicz on 1916

The article below was written just a couple of months before Markievicz’s death and five years after the disillusionment of the Treaty and then, later, the split that led to the establishment of Fianna Fail, which Markievicz was a founding leader of shortly before her death.  Needless to say, I don’t share her religious views.  It will take the working class, without the help of any sort of “god”, to free Ireland and free themselves in the process.  In her religious views, of course, Markievicz was a product of her times and, indeed, she was never devout.  Above all she was a socialist-republican of her time and place and her final political collapse, following de Valera and helping him set up Fianna Fail, was the product of years of defeat.  By the time she wrote her last articles in 1927 she was already telling friends how she “longed for the peace of the Republican Plot”.   In any case, this article is not only historically interesting but contains some valuable lessons for today – such as  “in a campaign like ours, you may lose more by evading a fight than by bravely facing a defeat”.



by Constance Markievicz

As the years go mournfully by, each bearing its sorrowful tale of wrong triumphant, of traitors exhalted and enriched climbing to power over the dead bodies of their murdered comrades, of iniquitous laws, of ever-increasing poverty and misery, we should despair if it were not for the memory of the men of Easter Week.  The memory of their marvellous selflessness, their vision, and above all, their faith.  This faith of theirs led them out on Easter Monday, 1916 to challenge an Empire, with but the remains of a gallant army disbanded by treachery.

I sometimes wonder if the rising generation understand and appreciate the selflessness of these men and the motives that prompted them in making their decision to fight.

They knew that they were going out to certain defeat, and that defeat would mean death at the hands of a vindictive foe.  But they knew, too, that in a campaign like ours, you may lose more by evading a fight than by bravely facing a defeat.

The terrible disappointment and disillusion that had come to them would have paralysed most men and left them incapable of fighting for a time, anyhow.  The prospects had been so bright, when one of their own inner circle, Professor Eoin MacNeill, had at the last moment “cut the ground from under their feet”, by dispersing their army.

The prospect had been so splendid just a few short hours before.  Read the rest of this entry