Category Archives: Civil rights movement

Socialist Workers Network and civil rights: misremembering the past, promoting reformism today

People’s Democracy’s famous Belfast to Derry march, January 1969; the march was attacked by both loyalist and police thugs

The article below is from the Irish revolutionary group Socialist Democracy, the successor current to the original radical student-based group People’s Democracy, which played a key role in the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The Socialist Workers Party, one of the two main Trotskyist organisations in Ireland, has just dissolved as a party organisation.  It is now just a ‘network’ which operates through, and rather bureaucratically controls, the People Before Profit Alliance, an electoralist and non-revolutionary formation. 

On March 24th a meeting under the banner of “Remembering 1968: The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland” was held as part of events organized by the Institute of Irish Studies. A supporter of Socialist Democracy attended under the impression that it was an academic symposium to discuss the origins of the civil rights movement.

It quickly became clear that the appearance of academic neutrality was cast into doubt by the role of Socialist Workers Party/People Before Profit. A PBP councillor, Matt Collins, opened the seminar with an exposition which displayed a common fault of his organization- viewing the past through the prism of the current political line of the organization. We can take it for granted that this is the first bird of spring and that political groups from all sides will shortly be presenting their own misremembering of the civil rights struggle. In fact the first shots have been exchanged in a dispute between Sinn Fein and Bernadette McAliskey about a fictitious role for Sinn Fein in the early struggle.

The SWP’s economism led to Matt portraying the revolutionary left organization People’s Democracy as resembling an early version of the Alliance Party. The presence of students from nationalist and unionist backgrounds seemed more important than their common commitment to the revolutionary overthrow of the Stormont regime.

The speaker could easily have clarified things by discussing with Socialist Democracy, the successor organization of People’s Democracy. However the SWP had closed that door with a “theoretical” document claiming that the success of their electoral opportunism in the North made their organization the inheritors of People’s Democracy.

Eamonn McCann could have, if he wished, corrected some of the misconceptions. However he arrived late and confined himself to anecdotes of the early days. Historian Brian Hanley added some gravitas to the day but was Read the rest of this entry

Eirigi on the roots of the public housing crisis in the six counties

The Six Counties, like the rest of Ireland, is in the midst of a severe public housing shortage with supply far outstripping demand.

The issue of public housing played a key role in the Civil Rights movement during the late 1960s/early 1970s.

Prior to the creation of the Housing Executive in 1971, public housing had been allocated by local councils, and within unionist-controlled councils, discrimination in housing allocation was widely practiced against members of the minority Catholic community.

Indeed, the right to, and fair allocation of, public housing were key demands of the Civil Rights movement.

Through the creation of the Housing Executive, housing decisions were taken out of the political arena and placed in the hands of a neutral specialised organisation.

By 1983/84, public housing – almost all of which was controlled by the Housing Executive – accounted for 37% of continued here. . .

From the IRA to Saor Eire: Remembering socialist-republican Liam Walsh

Liam Walsh’s funeral cortege, Dublin, October 1970

 

by Mick Healy

Liam Pearse Walsh, who was born in Dublin in 1933, was totally committed to whatever he did: to his trade as a fitter-welder or the Socialist Republican struggle.  He was fiercely loyal to those around him: his comrades, family and especially his four young daughters.

Recruited into the Irish Republican Army by Liam Sutcliffe in 1954, Liam Walsh was active in Operation Harvest, the IRA border campaign of 1956-1962, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer of the South Dublin Unit of the IRA.

In 1957, he was interned without trial in 1957 in the Curragh Internment Camp in Co. Kildare.  His girlfriend, Jacqueline Barry, and his father, Joseph,visited him and brought food parcels and cigarettes.

Shortly after they were married in 1960, Liam and Jacqueline, like many of their generation, Read the rest of this entry

Miriam Daly – murdered revolutionary

Video of the discussion period at Peter Graham commemorative meeting

Martin McGuinness: a political obituary

by John McAnultydownload

Many commentating on Martin McGuinness’s retirement as a public representative for Sinn Fein will not be able to resist the cliché of his journey from IRA commander to central architect of the local peace process. Fewer will draw on the metaphor of his present state of ill health and the parlous state of the settlement that was to be his legacy.

My own clearest recollection of Martin is during the attack by loyalist imagesMichael Stone on the funeral of Sean Savage (in 1988 – PF), assassinated by the SAS in Gibraltar. Two grenades exploded at my back and a mourner beside me was shot in the leg. As I retreated with other members of my family I saw Martin and a group of unarmed young men rush past me towards Stone and drive him back.

McGuinness is an extremely brave and determined man. These qualities mean that he will pursue a strategy to its Read the rest of this entry

The fight for women’s right to abortion in Ireland

thousands-take-to-streets-in-dublin-as-irelands-abortion-debate-heats-up-again-1443290602-1

Right to abortion march, Dublin, September 2015.  Pic: Amnesty International

by J. McAnulty

On 25th November thousands of activists demonstrated in Dublin calling for the abolition of the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution – a section that asserts equal rights to life between the mother and foetus (the wording refers to the “unborn” which assumes that that life begins at conception). The demonstration was in part was a celebration of the decision by ICTU, the Irish trade union congress, to support the call to repeal the 8th. In tribute to recent mobilisations by Polish women, many wore black – the main symbol for the Polish demonstrations.

Yet the two campaigns are very different, and the comparison shows up many weaknesses in the Irish movement. They are similar in that both involve the mobilisation of tens of thousands of women, fed up with church and state ruling over their bodies. However in Poland we had a spontaneous movement that took strike action and went onto the streets in an instant and successful counter to an attack by the right, designed to extend the law to prevent abortion under any circumstances. The Irish movement is based around a call for a referendum to remove a decades old element of the constitution and is heavily dominated by the trade union bureaucracy and the populist and reformist politics they espouse.

The colour and militancy of the demonstrations tends to disguise the fact that the repeal campaign, as with anti-austerity campaigns and protests against water charges led by the union bosses, is at its heart a lobbying campaign aimed at persuading the Irish bourgeoisie to change direction. This limits both policy and tactics.

Weak campaign

Of course the idea that the constitution poses such a direct threat to women is repulsive and should always be opposed, but it is the Read the rest of this entry

When gardai brutally attacked march on 1st anniversary of Bloody Sunday

Gardai attacking marchers at Garden of Remembrance

Gardai attacking marchers at Garden of Remembrance

by Mick Healy

There was a march in Dublin on the first anniversary of Derry’s Bloody Sunday.  The march started from the burned-out British embassy in Merrion Row. It included more than a thousand supporters of the Irish Civil Rights Association, including a large contingent from the People’s Democracy group.  The marchers aimed to walk peacefully through the city, carrying black flags to the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, but at the Garden they were confronted with a cordon of over a hundred Garda wielding batons.

The main speaker from the People’s Democracy called for a minute’s silence and asked could the gardai lower the Tricolour in respect to the victims of Bloody Sunday, but the cops refused.  Ciaran McAnally of ICRA told the crowd that the gardai had refused to lower the flag and said they would not interfere with the flag.  He called for a peaceful commemoration, while noting that the Derry dead had been insulted by refusal to lower the Tricolour.

It did not take the Southern state long to get Read the rest of this entry

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

Rare photo of Mairin Keegan and Eamon McCann

Mairin Keegan and McCann 1970

Mairin Keegan and Eamon McCann

A front-page news story of the September 17, 1970 issue of the Irish Times informed readers of the disruption of the satirical review “A State of Chassis” at the Peacock Theatre.  The show was about the civil rights movement and growing conflict in the six counties and was written by   John D. Stewart, Tomás MacAnna and Eugene Watters.

Protesters objected to what McCann called the “abysmally ignorant” portrayal of the north and its caricature of Bernadette Devlin.

Among those taking part was Mairin Keegan, a prominent figure in the Marxist-republican organisation Saor Eire.

Further reading:

Tribute to Mairin Keegan, 1932-1972 

Video of the 1997 commemoration to Mairin on the 25th anniversary of her tragic death