Category Archives: 1930s and 1940s

From the slums of Dublin to the battlefields of Spain: Brigadista Bob Doyle (1915-2009)

Brigadista Bob Doyle — Image designed by Nekane Orkaizagirre
Brigadista Bob Doyle — Image designed by Nekane Orkaizagirre

by Stewart Reddin

Robert (Bob) Andrew Doyle was born on 12th February 1916 at 15 Linenhall Street in Dublin’s northwest inner city. He was the second youngest of five siblings. Bob’s parents, Peter Doyle and Margaret Alldritt, were married in Dublin on 13th November 1904. Peter, aged 20 at the time, was employed as a seaman and lived on Upper Dorset Street with his three sisters. It appears that both his parents were deceased by 1901 as his eldest sister Anna, aged 20, is recorded in that year’s Census as head of the family.

Bob’s mother Margaret was 19 when she married and she lived in Kilmainham with her family. Alldritt is not a common surname in Ireland (in his biography, Brigadista, written in conjunction with Harry Owens, Bob’s mother’s family name is recorded as Aldridge, however the birth, marriage and census records confirm her family name was Alldritt). In the 1911 Census there were just seven Alldritt families recorded in Ireland; four were located in Dublin and three in Co Antrim. All of the Alldritt families were Protestant, with the exception of Margaret’s family who were Catholic.

Following their marriage, Peter and Margaret lived at 18 Moore Street, later moving to 33 King’s Inn Street where they shared a room with Margaret’s parents, Ignatius and Margaret Alldritt, and sister Annie. According to the 1911 Census Bob’s grandmother Margaret was 75 years of age (she was born in 1836 almost a decade before the Famine) and was 20 years older than his grandfather Ignatius. Bob’s grandparents had married in the Catholic church of St Andrews in 1874 and his grandmother was 50 years of age when she gave birth to Bob’s mother.

By 1911 Bob’s father was employed as a marine firefighter in Dublin’s docks and his mother Margaret had given birth to three children. However, two of her children had died in infancy and only one, Mary aged four, was surviving. Sadly, this was an all too familiar feature of working-class life in Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century.

High unemployment, overcrowded accommodation (one third of all families in Dublin lived in one room dwellings) and lack of public sanitation resulted in Dublin having the highest infant mortality rate (142 per thousand births) of any city in Ireland or Britain. Following the redevelopment of the area around North King Street and Church Street in 1915 Peter and Margaret moved to a newly built home at 15 Linenhall Street.

The wretched slums of Dublin

Linenhall Street contained some of Dublin’s worst slums

Linenhall Street is enclosed within a triangle of main thoroughfares — Church Street to the west, North King Street to the south and Henrietta Street to the north. In the 1700s the area was at the centre of Dublin’s burgeoning linen industry. It was the site of the city’s magnificent Linen Hall with its splendid façade, distinguished by a domed gated entrance which faced onto Linenhall Street.

However, by the late 1700s the linen industry in Dublin had Read the rest of this entry

In Review: Michael Ryan’s Border Campaign

Michael Ryan, My Life in the IRA: The Border Campaign, Cork, Mercier Press, 2018; reviewed by Philip Ferguson

Opinions differ in republican circles about Operation Harvest (the ‘border campaign’).  Often it has been suggested that the entire campaign was misconceived and then poorly executed, turning into a disaster for the Movement.

Some more recent interpretations have suggested that it had more going for it.  I certainly find it a bit difficult to see that someone of Sean Cronin’s intelligence and military experience would have put together a plan of campaign that could only ever have been a disaster.  Moreover, things started out well – Sinn Fein had captured two six-county seats on an abstentionist basis in the 1955 British general election, winning over 150,000 votes there and then got four further (abstentionist) candidates elected to Leinster House in 1957, taking over 65,000 first-preference votes.   And, after almost being destroyed in the 1940s, the IRA had been able to substantially re-arm, with a series of arms raids in both the six counties and England.

The degree of optimism was such that Mick Ryan writes how he and other Volunteers felt they’d free the north in three months! (p91)

However, very early into the border campaign, problems arose.  Ryan’s book suggests that these problems were Read the rest of this entry

The IRA Constitutional and Governmental Programme for the Republic 1933

In the later 1920s and early 1930s, with Moss Twomey as chief-of-staff and figures such as Peader O’Donnell, Frank Ryan, Michael Price, David Fitzgerald and George Gilmore in the leadership, and in the context of the Great Depression and the ruthless right-wing economics of the ruling Free State party Cumann na nGaedheal, the IRA developed clearly leftwards.  It initiated a left-wing party, Saor Eire in 1931.  It was viciously denounced as “communist” by the Catholic hierarchy and banned by the repressive Free State regime.  There were also differences in the IRA, as the rightist elements were uncomfortable at SE’s radical social programme and did not like the idea of standing up to the Catholic hierarchy on social issues.  SE lasted only a matter of months. 

The IRA then abandoned trying to build a political formation and simply continued as a military-political organisation.  In 1933 it adopted the programme below.

Moss Twomey: acting chief-of-staff, 1926; chief-of-staff, 1927-1936

We have within our own nation all the resources which are required to provide every citizen not only with the essentials of life but with comfort. Luxuries may not be yet be available, but the first stage is to provide an adequate standard for all.

The resources and wealth of the nation are very largely in the possession and under the control of those sections who are hostile to national freedom , and who have allied themselves with british imperialism. The immediate task is to rescue from them the heritage which they have robbed and plundered from the mass of the people. The powerful interests which dominate Irish life at present were built up on the basis of the conquest.

The machinery of the state was devised and has been developed to serve these interests. The powers of this state machine must be smashed. The machinery of the state of the republic of Ireland will be devised to serve, not any privileged sections, but the needs of the whole people.

Members of the Irish Republican Army must accept the responsibility which the organisation has shouldered and which history and tradition has imposed on it; that is the leadership of the struggle for national freedom and for the economic liberation of the people. They must make themselves  Read the rest of this entry

From the vaults: British Labour Party & Ireland – 60 years of shame (1981)

Supporting the Tories against the hunger strikers in 1981 was typical of the British Labour Party; moreover, they were the ones who removed political status for republican prisoners in the first place

The following article is from the July-August 1981 issue of the next step, a Marxist review published in Britain from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.  It was put out by the Revolutionary Communist Party, who were the force behind first the Smash the Prevention of Terrorism Act Campaign and then the Irish Freedom Movement.  I’ve added the word ‘British’ in a few places to make clear it is the BLP and not the (equally awful) Irish ones the article is about.  Although it irks me that the Dublin regime is referred to as “the Republic” I have left the term as is, because that is how it was written in the original article.

by Dave Douglas

“Your Labour Party is the subject of jest in Ireland.  You sent us a deputation, and one of its members was a member of the Government which shot Connolly, and all of them have been and are still silent on Larkin’s exile.  Our memories are long: is it any wonder they are bitter?  In a few days your Parliament will vote on the Military appropriations.  Will your Labour Party oppose them, or will they vote payment for a military occupation of Irelan?  Of what use is their hypocritical sympathy for us, their acts give the lie to their words.”

  • Eamon Macalpine, “Open Letter to the British Workers”, in the Sheffield Worker, April 1920, quoted in Bill Moore, How we stopped the war against Russia but failed to free Ireland, Sheffield, Holberry Society, 1981.

A few days after the British Labour Party’s ‘Northern Ireland’ study group agreed that the party should accept a commitment to Irish unity, an overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted for the renewal of Read the rest of this entry

Tracing Frank Conroy

by Mick Healy

On 13 December 1936 Frank Conroy, a member of the Republican Congress and the Communist Party of Ireland, sailed on the Holyhead ferry, alongside Frank Ryan, determined to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist rebellion.

This Spanish Civil War hero died on 28 December 1936 fighting with the 15th International Brigade.

With no clue to when or where Frank Conroy was born or any trace of his family, and with only a few snippets of information about his involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the Frank Conroy Commemoration Committee organised its first event on 16 December 2012 at the Republican Memorial in Kildare.

Historian James Durney, who attended this first commemoration, said that, while all historical references to Conroy mention that he was from Kildare, it’s not clear if he was from the Read the rest of this entry

The 1932 Belfast Outdoor Relief riots and lessons for today

Seán Mitchell, Struggle or Starve: Working-Class Unity in Belfast’s 1932 Outdoor Relief Riots, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2017

Does intense class conflict with bosses, cops and government necessarily lead workers to draw radical conclusions asks Barney Cassidy? To put the question another way, does struggle mean that the working class becomes conscious of what is in its own best interests?

In 1922 striking miners defending their jobs in the South African town of Witwatersand fought gun battles in the streets killing about 70 troops. The political conclusion those white workers drew from their experiences was that they needed a Nationalist-Labour Pact with the Afrikaaner Nationalist Party. This was despite the involvement of the newly founded Communist Party of South Africa in the struggle. Even intense and bloody class conflict is no guarantee that the working class will necessarily act in its own best interests.

That’s a lesson it’s worth holding in mind when reflecting on politics in the north of Ireland.

Seán Mitchell, a member of Read the rest of this entry

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 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:

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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

Republican Congress doco – in review

Nora Connolly - she was right! She should be given her due.

Nora Connolly – she was right! She should be given her due.

by Shan Van Vocht

A few nights ago I finally got around to watching the Republican Congress DVD. The revival of left-republicanism in the wake of the Provisional leaderships’ sell-out is a very welcome development.  Among other things it has sparked renewed interest in important left initiatives in the 15 years following the Treaty between the British ruling class and the southern Irish bourgeoisie.  So this document is a very worthy project.  At the same time I think it has some important weaknesses.

Let’s not beat around the bush.

What is the utterly despicable Ann Matthews doing in it?  Her life these days is devoted to attacking republican women of the early 1900s, especially Markievicz.  She says things about these women that are blatantly untrue (like we only have Markievicz’s word for it that she was second-in-command at Stephen’s Green), she suppresses evidence that doesn’t suit her vilification of Markievicz and others (for instance, she uses Free State unionist judge Willey’s 20-years-after-the-event ‘memory’ of Markievicz breaking down at her court-martial while not telling readers that the official court-martial record shows no such thing), she’s written a viciously anti-Markievicz play and her two books on republican women of the 1900-1940 period are extended diatribes aimed to destroy these women’s reputations.

West Brit audiences and readers no doubt love what she writes.  However, she should be absolutely persona non grata on the left and yet she pops up here and there – in this doco, as speaker at a left meeting in Sligo with Declan Bree in the chair for chrissakes, launching her book on the ICA in the GPO with Eamonn McCann for chrissakes helping her.  And in the Republican Congress DVD she claims the Cumann na mBan women who initially were favourable to Republican Congress backed off as they were “religious conservatives”. Sure, Sheila Humphreys was a right-wing Catholic!!!  She also claims there were no political brains in Cumann na mBan, as if they were all airheads like herself.  Chrissakes, why would the makers of this documentary invite her to spout this ludicrous crap in their documentary?!!!!  (Matthews’ stuff on republican women is so off-the-wall, I started to think a while ago that she might have mental health issues.)

My two other gripes was that they gave a platform to fake-left Read the rest of this entry