Monthly Archives: July 2012

That handshake and the nature of royalty

The piece below is taken from the July/August issue of the Socialist Democracy bulletin, here.

Most commentary on the royal visit to the North have focused on the symbolic significance of the handshake between Elizabeth Windsor and Martin McGuinness.
For the remaining republicans, the handshake symbolized capitulation. The main significance was that Elizabeth was visiting as head of state and it is a traditional republican trope that she would be welcome once Ireland was united and independent. The current meeting could only signify acceptance of British rule.
Sinn Fein, on the other hand, argue that the Good Friday Agreement offers a mechanism for resolving conflict. In this context the handshake with British royalty was symbolic of reconciliation. The logic is consistent, although it would have helped if the unionists had agreed rather than maintaining a barrage of abuse.
As for most of the small socialist movement, the symbolism is empty, representing an outdated sectarian division that can be resolved by workers keeping their head down and building around “bread and butter” economic demands.
The literature of Marxism takes a very different position. The power of royalty is a material Read the rest of this entry

They Died By Pearse’s Side

National Graves Association

I want to start putting in some plugs for the NGA.  The work it does is not ‘exciting’ or ‘glamorous’, but it’s vital, solid, hard work.  Below is an ad for the NGA’s next Glasnevin walking tour.  I’d also urge people to support the NGA financially.

The next N.G.A. tour of Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin will take place on

Sunday 12th August at 11.15 a.m.

Our guide will be Ray Bateson, reknowned author and historian.

Assemble at main gate. Tour open to everybody. More info from 0872282033

The Girdwood Plan – sectarianism trumps need

There is an excellent article on the Girdwood housing development plan in Belfast on the Socialist Democracy site, here.  It explains how the plan has nothing to do with objective need but is about “group rights”, specifically the allocation of resources along sectarian lines.  Sectarian division is thus reinforced.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party have been pointing out that this is a carve-up between Sinn Fein and the DUP.  On the part of the Shinners, it is indicative of their shift away from republicanism and toward Catholic nationalism in the north.  There is a division of resources – whatever the British state is prepared to supply – with the DUP ‘representing’ the ‘Protestant’ section of the population and the Shinners ‘representing’ the ‘Catholic’ section.  Read the IRSP condemnation of the sectarian carve-up here and the North Belfast IRSP statement calling for a non-sectarian vision for Girdwood here.

Louise Minihan and the state’s different rules for political cases

The jailing of Louise Minihan over the past seven days indicates the way in which the state treats political cases differently from ‘ordinary’ criminal cases.  This is true throughout the capitalist world, but it’s been particularly true in Ireland.  Louise reports, “On my first day in Mountjoy it was confirmed to me by the governor of the Dóchas centre that I was to be treated differently because I was a political prisoner and that I would be held for the full length of my sentence.

“While not surprising, it is still an absolute disgrace that political prisoners should be singled out in this way, to serve longer periods in jail than comparable non-political prisoners.  The notion that the justice and penal system in this state are independent and impartial has been further eroded by my case.

“When similar political interference in the justice system occurs in countries on the other side of the world the Labour Party are quick to cry their crocodile tears, but when it happens here their silence is deafening.”

As so often in the past with republicans and revolutionary socialists, this treatment has simply made her more determined to fight back against capitalist austerity.  “Over the coming months and years,” Louise states, “I intend to work with the people of Ballyfermot and beyond in building a mass anti-austerity movement to reverse the damage that has been done by the Troika, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party.”

Information taken from an éirígí press statement, released Tues, July 24.

Johnny White: an appreciation

I recently missed marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Johnny White in 2007. Below is the oration delivered at his grave on May 2, 2007 – video of funeral, here – by Johnny’s close friend and comrade Terry Robson:

Comrades and friends:

We are gathered at this place to mourn the death and to honour and celebrate the life of our friend and comrade Johnny White.

In celebrating his life, we are expected to say that he lived life to the full and that we are able to remember the good times as well as the bad. His family will be left to mourn a man of generosity, of simple pleasures who was most at ease in the company of his own family and of his friends. But we also know that Johnny’s life since the death of his wife Maura was one of sadness and of loneliness. Although he was always comforted by the closeness of his sons and daughters, the light in his life flickered and never really recovered since the death of Moria.

But as many of you who stood at this same spot some three years ago will remember and who observed the effect on Johnny of the deep tragedy of Moria’s death and the pain that was evident in his face, there was also a realization that we were probably witnessing the beginning of the end of Johnny’s life as well.

There is a deep irony in claiming to be wise after the event, but there were those of us who knew him well who quietly looked at each other and understood instinctively that the man mourning the death of his wife was confronted by a deep and painful agony with which he was to grapple from then until now.

But just as it is important to express and make clear the hurt of this loss suffered by all of us and especially by his family, it is also important to make clear that Johnny White was no ordinary man and that in our individual and collective grief we should be able to record for posterity, our admiration for his intellect, our respect for his political commitment and our gratitude for his loyalty and devotion to his friends and comrades.

This connection with Johnny goes back a long way and in my case for almost forty years. During the heat of political debate and in the confrontations of street conflict, it was Johnny White who made it clear to me and to others that what was taking place in the struggle for civil rights in the North was both a struggle for national self-determination and a struggle for Read the rest of this entry

Frank Conroy, Kildare republican and communist, died in Córdoba, Spain 1936

by Mick Healy

Christy Moore paid tribute to the Irishmen of the International Brigades with his poignant song ‘Vive la quinta Brigada’. In the final verse Moore names Frank Conroy, his fellow county man, “who fought and died in Spain with the International Brigade”.

Frank Conroy came from Fair Green, Kildare town and was an IRA activist who fought with the working class against the fascist Blue Shirts in Kildare and Dublin during the hungry 1930s. Like many Republicans he joined the Republican Congress and Communist Party. Conroy volunteered to fight with Republican leader Frank Ryan in the International Brigade to defend the Spanish Republic against Franco.

A report from Spain written by Donal O’Reilly recorded, “May, Fox and Conroy can’t be stopped taking down and cleaning their machine gun. A comradeship of heroes.  The company forms and moves to the attack.  The fire is terrific, Read the rest of this entry

Support the pickets for Louise Minihan

The éirígí site reports that since the jailing of Louise Minihan there have been daily protests outside Mountjoy Prison.

To find out when the next pickets are, contact éirígí at:

Phone: 00353 (0) 86 236 72 98              Email:


Given that rather too many times than I care to recall, I’ve said this or that would be up on the site and it hasn’t materialised I’m reluctant to make promises.  But these are some things currently under way:

* Constance Markievicz’s 1923 pamphlet, What Republicans Stand For

* Reviews of the Socialist Democracy book on the credit crunch; the Augusteijn bio of Pearse and the Ó Beacháin book on Fianna Fail’s first 50 years


Louise Minihan jailed over Harney protest