Monthly Archives: December 2016

Seamus Costello interview (1975) on Officials’ attempts to destroy the IRSP

seamus-costello-sinn-fein-ard-fheisThe following interview was carried out in Dublin on May 16, 1975.  The Irish Republican Socialist Party  had been founded in December 1974, mainly by people who left the Official IRA and Official Sinn Fein as the Officials had abandoned both the national question and armed struggle against the British state’s intervention in Ireland and was moving rapidly into the political orbit of the East European regimes.  Costello had been a member of the seven-person IRA Army Council and vice-president of Sinn Fein and was the most prominent founder of the IRSP.

Shortly after its formation, the IRSP came under violent attack by the Officials.  The Officials, having been overtaken by the Provisional IRA in the six counties, seemed determined to destroy the IRSP because of the political threat it posed to them as they moved away from socialist republicanism.

 In October 1977, Seamus – by now the foremost representative of genuine socialist-republicanism – was murdered by the Officials as they continued to develop into an essentially pro-imperialist current, allied with the Soviet bloc regimes.  The interviewer was US socialist Gerry Foley and the interview appeared in the July 21 issue of Intercontinental Press, a weekly internationalist magazine connected to the Fourth International.

Gerry Foley: What happened to the truce that was in effect last time I was here, in early April?

Seamus Costello: What the truce consisted of was our people staying ‘offside’, not staying at home, not going to work, or not going to the Labour Exchange if they were unemployed.  We decided and the Belfast Regional Executive decided that the members would return to their homes and their jobs and resume party activity on a certain date, and we issued a public statement to that effect.  The night that they returned, one of them was shot – five bullets – by the Officials in the Andersonstown area.  So, that effectively ended the truce.

Gerry F:  What are the reasons for the escalation of the conflict since then?

Seamus C: It has escalated because the Officials chose to escalate it.  They have consistently ignored every single attempt at mediation made by people outside of both organisations.  We have consistently called for mediation and indicated our willingness to accept the various mediators who offered their services.  But the Officials refused, and this is the reason why it has got worse.

Gerry F: You said earlier that it was the policy of the Officials to physically smash the IRSP.  Do you think that is still their policy? 

Seamus C: At the moment I could not answer that question, since attempts at mediation are under way again.  A few days ago, Tomas Mac Giolla (president of the political wing of the Officials)issued a public statement calling for mediation.

This was the first declaration by any leader of the Officials that in any way indicated that they were interested in peace.  And it came four days after the attempted assassination of myself in Waterford.  There’s no doubt this caused a lot of support to be lost by the Officials.  People were very critical of it in many parts of the country.  This may have had something to do with the statement by Tomas Mac Giolla.  Since last Monday we have been in touch with mediators and it seems at the moment that there is some kind of intention to engage in peace discussions.

Gerry F: To what extent do you think the leadership of the Official IRA is in Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

On the Saor Eire Action Group, 1967-1975

Below is the talk given by Séan Ó Duibhir at the social/political history conference From Civil Rights to the Bailout organised in June 2015 by the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour & Class.

Fintan Lalor to Gavan Duffy on Repeal, the land question and the weaknesses of ‘moral force’

0025photo

The above statue was created to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Fintan Lalor. The inscription on the plinth says, “Ireland her own, and all therein, from the sod to the sky. The soil of Ireland for the people of Ireland”.

The following is the text of a letter by James Fintan Lalor to C. Gavan Duffy, at the start of 1847.[1]  In it Lalor provides a critique of Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal movement, emphasises the crucial importance of the land question (ie the social question) over the purely political issue of repeal of the 1803 Act of Union, and indicates the weaknesses of the ‘moral force’ argument.  Tinakill was the Lalor family home in Co. Laois.  The Lalors had to rent land which their family had once, hundreds of years earlier, held as sept land.  Indeed, the Lalors had been one of a group of septs that resisted the expansion of the Anglo-Norman conquest for 400 years and, from time to time, making incursions into the Pale.

When these septs were finally defeated by the conquerors, most of the Lalor leaders were executed or forcibly removed to Kerry.   While managing to make their way back, they did so as renters.  Nevertheless, by the standards of Catholic farmers, they were certainly well-off.  However, they kept a rebellious spirit – James’ father Patrick was a leading figure in the anti-tithe movement and the family had associations with the rural secret societies, Laois being a centre of agrarian unrest.  In 1832 Patrick’s prominent role in the unrest led to him being elected MP for Laois.  He enjoyed widespread support among the rural poor in particular although, of course, they didn’t have the right to vote.  Patrick signed up to O’Connell’s Repeal movement, causing substantial arguments with Fintan.  Indeed, Fintan was forced to leave home and subsequently lived in Dublin and Belfast.

The deterioration of his health, however, forced him back home.  But Patrick himself was to leave O’Connell’s movement, deciding that the ‘Great Liberator’ was a fraud, that O’Connell was trying to play the masses in order to enhance his own position and that fake radical rhetoric was just being used to garner mass support from the poor.

Father and son relations then improved.

Fintan Lalor’s opposition to Repeal and O’Connell was rooted in his feelings that the key focus for struggle by the mass of the Irish people should be the land question.  What was the point of exchanging an Anglo-Irish exploiting class for an indigenous one?  The contradiction between the political demand of O’Connell’s movement and the need of the masses for the basics of life was especially pronounced because even the early 1840s, before the famine, were marked by massive impoverishment and destitution.

During the famine, Fintan attempted to organise tenant societies and rent strikes.  However, his health handicapped him as an active organiser.  But he was still able to write and his articles in the Irish Felon urged armed resistance to the landlords.  The British had suspended habeas corpus in the wake of the 1848 Rising and Lalor was among those arrested and imprisoned, his health deteriorating again.  The British were forced to release him in case he died in prison.  Rather than recuperating, Fintan began renewed efforts to organise another Rising in September 1849.  By the end of the year, sadly, Lalor was dead, passing away just two days after Christmas and being buried in Glasnevin.

While being the most important thinker of the republican movement of the 1840s, Fintan never won the leadership of Young Ireland to his perspective.  He did, however, have a major impact on a number of key activists who would carry his ideas forward into the following generation of resistance; the ideas thus played an important part in both Fenianism – Lalor’s disciples being people such as Charles Kickham, John O’Leary, Thomas Luby and Devin Reilly – and, even more importantly, the Land War led by Michael Davitt, perhaps the most important of all Fintan’s disciples.

In The Separatist Idea, Pearse identified what he considered the real republican tradition in Ireland.  Lalor was one of the four great prophets of the republican gospel, said Pearse.  (The other three he listed as Tone, Davis and Mitchel.)  The founder of Irish Marxism, James Connolly, also identified James Fintan Lalor as one of the great social thinkers thrown up by the material conditions and movements of resistance in Ireland.

On a side note, his brother Peter emigrated to Australia in the early 1850s to try his luck on the Victoria goldfields.  He played a leading role in the Eureka Stockade rebellion, losing an arm in the process.  He was later elected by miners as the MP for Ballarat and served in the Victorian parliament for many years and turning down a knighthood.  Another brother became the MP for Laois and was prominent in the Land War and as a supporter of the Fenian prisoners.

Fintan Lalor’s life was fairly short (1807-1849) and he was troubled throughout it by chronic bronchitis and a crooked spine.[2]  His contribution, however, makes him a giant of the Irish revolutionary tradition, in particular the first to establish the over-riding importance of the social question within the Irish revolution.  In his day the key oppressed and exploited class was the mass of the peasantry and the key social question was ownership and control of land.  Today, the key oppressed and exploited class is the working class and the key social question is the ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange.  Lalor is thus the forerunner, indeed the most important forerunner , of Irish socialist-republicanism and Irish Marxism.

Over the coming months I intend to write an appreciation to be called James Fintan Lalor in the Irish Revolution.  My aim is to do it in both article and pamphlet form.  I also plan to get his writings up on this blog.

  • Phil F

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tinakill, Abbeyleix
January 11, 1847

I am one of those who never joined the Repeal Association or the Repeal Movement – one of Mr O’Connell’s “creeping, crawling, cowardly creatures” – though I was a Repealer in private feeling at one time, for I can hardly say I am one now, having almost taken a hatred and disgust to this my own country and countrymen.  I did not join the agitation, because I saw – not from reflection, but from natural instinct, the same instinct that makes one shrink from eating carrion – that the leaders and their measures, means, and proceedings, were intrinsically and essentially, vile and base; as such as never either could or ought to succeed.  Before I embarked in the boat I looked at the crew and the commander; the same boat which you and others mistook in ’43 for a war-frigate, because she hoisted gaudy colours, and that her captain swore terribly; I knew her at once for a leaky collier-smack, with a craven crew to man her, and a sworn dastard and foresworn traitor at the helm – a fact which you and Young Ireland would seem never to have discovered until he ordered the boat to be stranded, and yourselves set ashore.[3]

I would Read the rest of this entry

Support the POWs this Christmas

Sean Bresnahan, Chair of the Thomas Ashe Society in Omagh, calls on people around the world to support initiatives for prisoners and their families over the Christmas season.

Today, December 12th, is the International Day of Action for Political Prisoners. With that in mind, the Thomas Ashe Society extend solidarity to all political prisoners, worldwide, who share our understanding of the wrongs in this world and who face ongoing detention accordingly. We remember especially those here in our own country, in Maghaberry and Portlaoise, where the issue of political prisoners and their unjust treatment remains a blight on society.

We encourage the wider Irish public to better inform themselves of the situation in the prisons and to donate, where possible, to the various campaigns that seek to highlight this issue and to support the families of those impacted. To those families – most especially at this time of year: our thoughts are with you and we extend our full support over the Christmas period and beyond. To the prisoners themselves: your cause is a noble one and we commend your ongoing sacrifice. Know that there are still those who respect and recognise your endeavour.

The gaols of our country have for too long been filled with those who seek nothing more than the legitimate goal of an Independent Ireland, free from British rule. May that All-Ireland Republic, our shared objective, some day soon be won, bringing an end to the wretched phenomenon of the political prisoner in Ireland.

Sean Bresnahan
Chairman, Thomas Ashe Society Omagh

Engels on internationalism and Irish freedom

imagesFrom Report by Engels to the May 14, 1872 meeting of the General Council of the First International:

“If members of a conquering nation called upon the nation they had conquered and continued to hold down to forget their specific nationality and position, to ‘sink national differences’ and so forth, that was not Internationalism, it was nothing else but preaching to them submission to the yoke and attempting to justify and to perpetuate the dominion of the conqueror under the cloak of Internationalism.  It was sanctioning the belief, only too common among the English working men, that they were superior beings compared to the Irish, and as much an aristocracy as the mean whites of the Slave states considered themselves to be with regard to the Negroes.

“In a case like that of the Irish, true internationalism must necessarily be based on a distinctly national organisation. . . (Irish sections of the First International) “not only were justified, but even under the necessity to state in the preamble to their rules that their first and most pressing duty, as Irishmen, was to establish their own national independence.”

 

Willie Gallagher on 40th anniversary of IRSP

This is actually two years old, but I only just came across it.  It is a talk given by Willie Gallagher to the 2014 Irish Republican Socialist Party ard fheis in October 2014.

 

wullie gComrades,

the difficulty I had when first asked to give this presentation was ‘how do I condense 40yrs of our history into a 10 to 15 minute presentation. A definitive and detailed account would take many months, if not years, of research as well as interviewing scores of past activists. The following account is my no means definitive and of course is subject to criticism given the fact that it is laced with my own personal opinion and interpretation.

Even though this year is the 40th anniversary of our birth the Irish Republican Socialist Party can trace its roots back to James Connolly and the Irish Citizens Army.

After the border campaign in the 1950s, serious debate took place within the Republican Movement about how exactly it could become more relevant to the everyday needs of the people in an Ireland vastly different from the times of Connolly and the ICA.

The Republican Movement after the unsuccessful border campaign was not ideologically united and consisted of Read the rest of this entry

Remembering IRA C/S Charlie Kerins, hanged in Dublin, Dec 1, 1944

I got this from Jim Lane’s facebook page; I assume Jim wrote it:

15253589_1094029870646383_8626927344691479519_n

Charlie Kerins was born in Tralee County Kerry in 1918. At the age of 17 he joined his local unit of the IRA and took part in action against the Blueshirts in the area. In 1942, Charlie travelled to Dublin to join the GHQ staff, then under extreme pressure from the Free State Government of Fianna Fáil. Hundreds of IRA members had been arrested and interned without trial or sentence.

A year later, when Hugh McAteer was arrested, Charlie became Chief of Staff. He moved about the city under the name of Charles Hanley, constantly on the run and with a price on his head.
These were dark days for the IRA; its ranks had been depleted by constant arrests at the hands of former comrades who had taken the Free State shilling and were now members of the Broy Harriers. One of these men was Sergeant Dinny O’Brien.

Dinny O’Brien had fought with his two brothers, Larry and Paddy, in the Marrowbone Lane garrison in 1916; afterwards they had fought together in the Tan War and in 1922 Paddy was shot dead by the pro-Treaty forces in Enniscorthy.

Dinny O’Brien stayed in the IRA until 1933, when, along with a number of other IRA men, he was inveigled into the Broy Harriers on De Valera’s plea that “we need you to fight the Blueshirt menace”. Within a few years, he was fighting and hunting his own, as rapacious as the most dyed in the wool Stater. In his time, he cut down quite a few republicans, Liam Rice and Charlie McGlade among them, shot while resisting arrest. O’Brien built up his own secret network in pubs, hotels, at stations and among the news vendors on the streets. By 1942, he had turned into a vicious and determined hunter and the IRA gave the order that he was to be Read the rest of this entry

David Reed’s 1988 review of Republican POWs’ Questions of History

 

downloadby David Reed

The defeat of the hunger strike in 1981 was a severe setback for the Republican Movement. While initially, in the wake of the heroic sacrifice of the prisoners, certain political gains were made especially on the electoral front, the last few years have not seen any significant political advances by the revolutionary forces in Ireland.

The greater emphasis on electoral work and the decision to reject abstentionism in elections to the Dail has not led to the gains clearly expected. The work around ‘economic and social’ issues has not yet produced any substantial results. The revolutionary forces in Ireland have been unable to halt the growing collaboration between British imperialism and the puppet governments in the Twenty Six Counties. Finally, on the military level, the stalemate which has existed for some time between the IRA and the British and loyalist security forces remains.

Inevitably in such a period every revolutionary movement is forced to reassess and rethink its strategy if the impasse is to be broken. The Republican Movement is no exception. It is in this context that we should welcome Questions of History written by Irish Republican Prisoners of War and produced by the Education Department of Sinn Fein ‘for the purpose of promoting political discussion’. Part I has so far been made available and covers the period from Wolfe Tone to the Republican Congress (1934).

The book is a valuable historical document which uses the history of the Republican struggle as a vehicle for raising crucial Read the rest of this entry