1932 Open Letter from leadership of Irish Republican Army to men and women of the Orange Order
[This is the text as quoted by The Kerryman on 16th July 1932. It was published in An Phoblacht, the weekly newspaper of the Irish Republican Army, the same day. It was largely written by Army Council member Peadar O’Donnell. Along with a covering letter from the IRA’s Adjutant-General, Donal O’Donoghue, the address to the Orange Order had been sent out to newspaper editors on July 8. Most, even the Unionist Belfast Newsletter, published abridged versions as early as July 11, 1932. The formatting here is from The Kerryman version. The address was distributed as leaflets in Unionist districts of Belfast by IRA volunteers.]
AN ADDRESS FROM THE ARMY COUNCIL OF THE IRISH REPUBLICAN ARMY TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE ORANGE ORDER (JULY 1932)
Fellow Countrymen and Women,
It is a long call from the ranks of the Irish Republican Army to the marching throngs that hold the 12th July Celebrations in North East Ulster. Across the space we have sometimes exchanged shots, or missiles or hard words, but never forgetting that on occasions our ancestors have stood shoulder to shoulder. Some day we will again exchange ideas and then the distance, which now separates us, will shorten. For we of the Irish Republican Army believe that inevitably the small farmers and wage-earners in the Six County area will make common cause with those of the rest of Ireland, for the common good of the mass of the people in a Free United Irish Republic. Such a conviction is forming itself in an ever increasing number of minds in North East Ulster.
The Irish Republican Army – within North East Ulster as well as in the rest of Ireland – believe that the mass of the Working-Farmers and Wage-earners must organise behind revolutionary leadership if they are to rescue themselves from a system within the few prosper and the many are impoverished.
It is our opinion, a conviction driven in on our mind by the facts of life around us, that capitalism and imperialism constitute a system of exploitation and injustice within which the mass of the people can know no freedom.
The burdens of to-day’s bad times are falling with increasing weight on Working Farmers, who must surrender an increasing part of their produce to meet rents, taxes, bank interest, etc, while their incomes diminish The unemployed workers are being torn at with economies in social services – adding daily to the destitute. The wage earners are finding their conditions of employment and standard of living steadily worsening.
We can see no permanent solution of these evils except by the transfer of power over production, distribution and exchange to the mass of the people.
The power to produce what the many require exists; the organisation and its distribution presents no insoluble difficulty. But the vested interests of a privileged minority are across the road and progress is impossible, unless we are prepared to clear away these obstacles.
These interests that deny their rights to the many are those on which the Empire rests. Touch or threaten these privileged interests and the whole force of the Empire is invoked for their protection. Thus it is that we see and say that the freedom of the mass – of the Irish People is impossible without breaking the connection with Imperial Britain and with all the Imperial system connotes.
Do you see any other road to freedom for yourselves and your families?
You must realise that the chief industries on which the former alleged prosperity of North East Ulster rested are gone beyond hope of being revived; that the same thing has occurred in Great Britain; that everywhere the pinch grows tighter on those who are unemployed as a result of this breakdown in the whole structure of capitalism. Can the British people help you while their own workers and industries are struggling desperately to exist and are not succeeding in these days? Where do you see any hope?
Working-farmers and Wage-earners of North East Ulster. You surely must see that your future is bound up with the mass of the people in the remainder of Ireland. To preserve yourselves from extinction, you and they must combine and go forward to the attainment of A Free Irish Nation within which life and living will be organised and controlled by you to serve your needs and thus end the present economic and social injustices for ever.
The industrial capacity, and training of you industrial workers, of North East Ulster ensure you a leading influence and place in the economy and life of a Free Irish Nation.
EXPLOITATION OF RELIGIOUS PREJUDICES
To prejudice you it is emphasized that we of the Irish republican Army and the mass of Republicans are mainly Catholic, and that your religious beliefs would not be respected in a free Ireland! It is quite true we are mainly Catholics, but in Southern Ireland the same political and economical interests and voices that tell you we are Catholics, tell the Catholic population of the South that we are Anti-God fanatics, and yearning for an opportunity to make war on the religion to which the majority of us belong!
The fact is we are quite unaware of religious distinctions within our Movement.
We guarantee you, you will guarantee us, and we will both guarantee all full freedom of conscience and religious worship in the Ireland we are to set free.
This is the simple truth, and just now when Imperial interests are attempting to conceal themselves behind the mad fury of religious strife you and we should combine to make certain that no such escape should be provided them.
In the process of exploitation of the wage-earners and small producers, do you not realise how little religion matters to the exploiters? Orangemen and Catholic, Catholic women and yours toil side by side in the factory and mill, all equally victims Those who thus exploit mercilessly your labour and energies, would outside set you at one anothers throats, because it is to their advantage to divide you and lead you into conflict by arousing religious issues and inflaming passions.
Do yon not find yourselves queued shoulder to shoulder outside the Unemployed Exchanges waiting for the ‘Dole’, that crumb which the exploiters throw to the exploited of different religions? In these vital matters your religion or your membership of the Orange Older counts for little, nor does Catholicism to the unemployed and starving Catholics in Southern Ireland.
The fact is that the religious feelings of the masses of both Orangemen and Catholics are played on and exploited by the Imperialists and Capitalists the more surely to enslave them.
THE VICTORY OF THE BOYNE!
You celebrate the victory of the Boyne. This battle was a victory for the alliance of the then Pope; and William of Orange; strange alliance for you to celebrate; strange victory for Catholics to resist! History has been muddled to hide the occasions when your forefathers and ours made common cause, and passions are stirred to manufacture antagonisms. If William of Orange and His Holiness could achieve an alliance, there is hope that “NO SURRENDER” may come up from a throng, which also roars “UP THE REPUBLIC”.
Your stock was the founders and inspiration, the North East Ulster the cradle, of the modern Revolutionary Movement for National Independence and Economic Freedom. Your illustrious ancestors and co-religionists, the United Irishmen, by their gallant struggle in 1798 set aflame the ideals of Republicanism which never since have been extinguished. We ask that you should join us to achieve their ideals — National Freedom and religious toleration.
It was John Mitchel, a Newry man of your stock, who addressed these words to your forefathers: “In fact religious hatred has been kept alive in Ireland longer than anywhere else in Christendom. Just for the simple reason that Irish landlords and British statesmen found their own account in it, and so soon as Irish landlordism and British domination are finally rooted out of the country it will be heard of no longer in Ireland any more than it is in France or Belgium, now.”
Fraternally, Your Fellow countrymen,
The Army Council
On Behalf of the Irish Republican Army
The letter above is taken from the fascinating TreasonFelony blog, here. The intro is slightly edited from TF’s intro by John O’Neill.
Posted on August 26, 2017, in 1798 - 1803, 1930s and 1940s, Economy and workers' resistance, Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Imperialism (generally), Partition, Political education and theory, Republicanism post-1900, Unionism, loyalism, sectarianism, Workers rights. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.