Category Archives: Historiography and historical texts

Grief porn for the curious: ‘The Funeral Murders’ (BBC) reviewed

Funeral cortege of the Gibraltar Three, Belfast, 16 March 1988. Photograph: Unknown/BBC/Chris Steele-Perkins

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (21 March 2018)

I had great expectations from this documentary. Its own publicity said it was the first documentary to deal with the events of March 1988 and that it included footage and interviews with people who had never spoken about the events before. That much was true; there are new interviews included. On that level the documentary lived up to the hype.

It included interviews with RUC officers in charge of security on the days in question, loyalist paramilitaries, republicans and relatives of those killed. Some of the interviews are informative and many of the interviews with republicans and relatives are poignant and they are allowed speak for themselves. The technique employed by the documentary maker is to let the interviews to speak for themselves, with very little input or voiceover. This is supposed to lend an air of objectivity or neutrality, but it doesn’t. The infrequency of commentary and discussion serve only to highlight the bias and the political position of the documentary. This is, we are told, a documentary about a time in the north when Protestants and Catholics were fighting each other – there is no mention of the British state as part of the conflict. We are introduced to a Read the rest of this entry


Marx 200: Marx on Ireland & the British revolution

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx and the 135th anniversary of his death; also the 170th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto.  Marx and his political partner and friend Frederick Engels were staunch supporters of the struggle for Irish freedom against British political rule and economic exploitation.

So, over the course of this year, I’ll be sticking up various bits and pieces of Marx (and Engels) on the Irish national liberation struggle – and also on its relationship to the British revolution.

Anyway, here’s an extract from a letter by Marx to Engels, December 11, 1869:

“As to the Irish question. . . .  The way I shall put forward the matter next Tuesday is this: that quite apart from all phrases about “international” and “humane” justice for Ireland – which are to be taken for granted in the International Council – it is in the direct and absolute interest of the English working Glass to get rid of their present connection with Ireland. And this is my most complete conviction, and for reasons which in part I cannot tell the English workers themselves. For a long time I believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime by English working class ascendancy. I always expressed this point of view in the New York Tribune. Deeper study has now convinced me of the opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.”

Unfortunately, most of the British left, especially in England, have never really grasped Marx’s work on Ireland and the British revolution.  Instead they Read the rest of this entry

Constance de Markievicz: What Irish Republicans Stand For (1923)

In Citizen Army uniform with her beloved revolver

Today, February 4 (2018) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Constance Gore-Booth/Constance de Markievicz.  To commemorate the anniversary, I’m putting up the text of her 1923 pamphlet What Irish Republicans Stand For.

I have had a copy of this pamphlet since the late 1980s – ie for about 30 years! – dating back to when I first began collecting her writings, many of which appear on this blog.  I drew on her writings for my MA thesis which was written in 1995 and the first few months of 1996 – the thesis chapters also appear on this blog.

Ever since I started this blog in 2011, I have meant to stick it up here, but wanted to coincide it going up with some anniversary relating to her.  I had intended, finally, to put it up on July 15, last year, the 90th anniversary of her death, but got caught up in other things and the day came and went.

Addressking mass rally in Boston, during speaking tour in the United States

However, the 150th anniversary of her birth seems an even better time.  So, finally here it is.  Nick Scullin typed up half of it from a photocopy of the original pamphlet; I typed up the other half.

At first, I thought it was published in 1924 but it appears that it is 1923.  I don’t have access to libraries with copies of daily papers from that time so haven’t been able to double-check – Markievicz, for instance, cites several newspaper articles, giving the day of the month, so these could be looked up to verify 1923 is the year and not 1924.

The original includes the words, “Reprinted from Forward by courtesy of the Editor”.  This was a left-wing Scottish newspaper, based in Glasgow.  Revolutionary socialists such as James Connolly and John Maclean, plus others associated with ‘Red Clydeside’  wrote for it, as did a range of reformist socialists.  After WW1, the paper was particularly associated with the ILP (left social-democrats).  Although Forward had its own printing and publishing company, What Irish Republicans Stand For was printed by Civic Press Ltd of Howard Street in Glasgow.

We typed it up in line with the original pamphlet – ie where it used italics, bold, capitals etc, we left them in place and where headings were centred in the original, we left them centred.  I have, however, put in gaps between paragraphs where the original simply indented a few spaces to indicate new paragraphs.

I’ve not corrected mistakes – eg Eamonn de Valera did not draw up the Democratic Programme (he, like Markievicz, was in prison in England at the time).  Also, some of the language now seems quaint.  Co-operative Commonwealth, for instance, was often used as a synonym for socialism.  There was also the view that pre-Conquest Gaelic society was a pre-class society, so references to “Gaelic ideas” often referred to this; regardless of the exact nature of Gaelic society, certainly both feudalism and capitalism were imposed on Ireland from across the water.

It is also important to keep in mind the time in which this was written.  A counter-revolution was taking place, reactionary elements within the independence movement were gaining control and imprisoning and murdering their former comrades, including people Markievicz had worked with.  Although Markievicz staunchly opposed the Free State, the counter-revolution took a heavy toll on her and she died just four years after the end of the civil war.

The cover has a box with the following in it, just below the title and by-line.  NB: the misspelling of Wolfe, Mitchel and Lalor are as on the cover.


“The conquest of Ireland has meant the social and political servitude of the Irish masses, and therefore the reconquest of Ireland must mean the social as well as the political independence from servitude of every man, woman and child.”

I offer this little leaflet humbly to the memory of Wolf Tone, of Mitchell, of Lawler, and of James Connolly to whom I am indebted for the faith and the knowledge that inspired it.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


by Constance de Markievicz

Free State as Tool of British Capitalism

In these articles I am going to discuss Ireland and the “Irish Free State” from an economic point of view, and endeavour to show that this “Free State” is but a further attempt to force the English social and economic systems on a people who cling instinctively and with a passionate loyalty to the ideals of a better civilisation, the tradition of which is part of their subconscious spiritual and mental selves.

It was devised by the British Cabinet of imperialists and capitalists and accepted by their would-be counterparts in Ireland, whom they supply with money, arms, and men for the purpose of breaking up the growing movement towards the development of the Co-operative Commonwealth in Ireland. I claim that for this reason the Free State can never be acceptable to the people of Ireland, and, moreover, that this is the key that opens the door to a thorough understanding of the Irish question, and that there is no other key.

For 800 years Ireland has been devastated again and again by English armies and tricked by English politicians for but one object – the destruction of the Gaelic State to its last traditions and relics, and the establishment, in its place, of the feudal-capitalist state.

The military and political conquests were but means to this end, whole clans were massacred, dispersed or starved to death, whole provinces laid waste again and again for this one purpose – the forcing of an alien and repugnant civilisation on a civilised people.

It is only in latter years that the history of Ireland has been approached in a scientific manner, and that this has been made clear.  Mrs Alice Stopford Green is the great pioneer in this work.  For many years she has been digging laboriously into the past and bringing to light all that she has gleaned from the old documents that survive the systematic destruction of the records of Ireland’s greatness by the English.

James Connolly went further. A student of labour, viewed as a world question, from both scientific and historical sources, a man of practical experience as an organiser, agitator, and speaker in two continents, he mated his knowledge and experience with the facts disclosed by Mrs Green, George O’Brien and others, and has left us in his books a wonderfully comprehensive sketch of Ireland’s real struggle. Her past sufferings, her present slow awakening and struggle and her future hopes and aspirations.

I would appeal to my readers in his words: “The sympathetic student of history, who believes in the possibility of a people by political intuition anticipating the lessons afterwards revealed in the sad school of experience, will not be indisposed to join with the ardent Irish patriot in his lavish expression of admiration of his Celtic forefathers, who foreshadowed in the democratic organisation of the Irish clan the more perfect organisation of the free society of the future.”

Padraig Pearse also dwelt much on the Gaelic State. He emphasises his vision of an Ireland “not free merely, but Gaelic as well.”


The reason why the Republican movement was accepted by the people, and a Republic was brought into being by them at the price of such terrible sacrifice and suffering was that the ideals embodied in that Republic touched into life all that was most vital and most Read the rest of this entry

Irish Marxists and the Civil War

Members of the anti-Treaty IRA in Grafton Street during the battle for Dublin, mid-1922

by Charlie McGuire

The Irish Civil War of 1922–23 is one of the most neglected events in Irish history. In contrast to the Tan War of 1919–21, a celebrated event about which a great deal has been written, very little attention has been paid to a conflict that not only exacted a heavier toll in terms of casualties, but was also more significant in shaping subsequent political divisions within the southern state itself.

Ken Loach’s acclaimed film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is perhaps the first film to look in any detail at the nature of the divides that existed within the Irish independence movement, and the manner in which these worsened after the signing of the December 1921 Treaty.

Leaving aside the predictable hostility from the armchair imperialists of the English Tory press, most serious critical comment concerning the film has been positive and has recognised the importance of opening up a debate on this important period in modern Irish history. It is as a contribution in this direction that this article on the experience of communists in the Irish civil war is intended.

The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) was formed in Read the rest of this entry

Excellent article on Liam Lynch

Readers of this blog will be aware that I have no time for Liam Lynch, the walking disaster that ran the anti-Treaty IRA during the Civil War and led it to defeat when the anti-Treaty forces actually had the clear advantage in early 1922.

This is an excellent piece by Daniel Murray that examines Lynch’s performance in Limerick city; the performance was typical Lynch: start with the advantage, prevaricate and prevaricate and waste the advantage, then lose it, then retreat.

I have talked in the past about writing about Lynch and the problems with him, but I don’t think I need to now.  Daniel Murray has done a fine job in his series on Lynch (follow the links).

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

by Daniel Murray

Limerick Lost

The ten-day battle for Limerick reached its weary climax before midnight on the 19th July 1922 when the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA) decided that enough was enough. Following the orders of their Chief of Staff, Liam Lynch, the men evacuated their positions under the cover of darkness and left the city in a line of motorcars, passing northwards through the Ballinacurra road, the only route still open to them.

They did not depart quietly.

A rear-guard kept up covering volleys of machine gun and rifle-fire. At 12:30 am, two or three explosions ripped through the gate of the New Barracks, courtesy of a detonated mine. So strong was the blast that stones and debris were hurled into nearby streets, tearing the roofs of houses.

Two hours later, huge columns of smoke were seen billowing out from two separate places, the New and Ordnance Barracks, the flames beneath lighting up the night sky and granting the milling crowds a view of the latest drama in their city as it was played out. Soon, a similar sight could be observed over the Castle Barracks. The Anti-Treatyites had set their posts ablaze before retreating. . .

full at:


1916 Cmdt-General Sean McLoughlin on how anti-Treaty forces could win the civil war

On the Friday evening, as the 1916 Easter Rising which had begun on the Monday morning was drawing to a close, 21-year-old Sean McLoughlin had so impressed James Connolly and other leaders that he was appointed overall military commander.  This was done due to the incapacitation of the badly-wounded Connolly, the original commandant-general of all the insurrectionary forces.  McLoughlin then led the break-out from the GPO and into Moore Street.

Below is an article that Sean McLoughlin wrote shortly after the civil war broke out in June 1922.  Along with Roddy Connolly and others, he had set up the shortlived very first Communist Party of Ireland and the article was published in the August 19th issue of their paper, The Workers Republic (named after James Connolly’s pre-1916 paper).

In the original, the second section (“Free State Methods”) was one huge paragraph.  I have broken this up into several; this is the only editing – I decided, for instance, not to change his use and non-use of commas and the bold, upper case subheads are as in the original.

This is the first of several of his articles which I will be getting up here, although I am also busy typing up more articles from the 1840s by Fintan Lalor, a project which got stalled for some time unfortunately.

The text here is taken from Charlie McGuire’s excellent bio of Sean McLoughlin – I thoroughly recommend this to all republicans, especially socialist-republicans.  Buy it!  Read it!  If you can’t afford it, get your library to buy a copy.

Social Programme for Republicans

by Sean McLoughlin


Since the beginning of the present struggle against the forces of the Free State the Irish Republican Army in the field has been able to withstand all the attacks of its enemies, and at the present moment occupies a favourable position from a military point of view.  The positions held are being strengthened, supplies are good, and most important of all, the morale of the Army is splendid.  Yet these things while being fine achievements do not necessarily spell victory for the Republican forces.

In order to carry the war to a successful issue, it is essential that the Republican authorities seize every opportunity of any nature, that will Read the rest of this entry

Book launch of Mick Ryan’s ‘My Life in the IRA’

Video on the book launch; the book I think concentrates on the years of the Border Campaign (Operation Harvest):


Éirígí New Year Statement – 2018

As 2018 begins, Éirígí acknowledges and commends the significant political activism of our members and supporters during 2017. Your work, alongside the work of other progressive forces, offers hope to the Irish people in a time of global turmoil and widespread despair. For this you should be immensely proud.

In the coming year Éirígí will continue to work within our communities to fan the flames of hope and to provide a credible, coherent alternative to the failed politics of the past.

2018 will mark the centenary of the seminal 1918 General Election, the last occasion where the people of Ireland collectively voted as one Nation.

The subsequent formation of the First Dáil Éireann and adoption of the Declaration of Independence and Democratic Programme of the First Dáil on January 21st, 1919, represented the high point of the 1913-1923 revolutionary period.

The divided, unequal Ireland of 2018 bears little resemblance to the Republic envisioned by that First Dáil a century ago.

On January 20th, 2018, Éirígí will publicly launch ‘A Democratic Programme For The New Republic’, a major new policy document which will map out our vision for a future new all-Ireland Republic. Below we publish, for the first time, the opening section of that document.

The public launch of A Democratic Programme for the New Republic will take place at 4pm, Saturday, January 20th, Wynns Hotel, Abbey Street, Dublin. It’s free of charge and open to all. Bígí linn.


“To the people of Ireland,

In the words of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Éirígí declares the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be sovereign and indefeasible.

We assert that partition, the domination of private capital and the interference of foreign powers are collectively preventing the social, cultural, political and economic advancement of the Irish Nation.

The failings of the Six and Twenty-Six County states can be measured in the emigration of millions of citizens, in the escalating exploitation of workers, in the deepening levels of inequality, in the crippling levels of national and personal debt, in the destruction of our natural environment, in the collapse of gaelteacht communities, in the slavish obedience to the diktats of foreign governments and in the endemic corruption of the gombeen ruling class.

We reject these two failed states and commit ourselves to building a Read the rest of this entry

1995 PhD thesis (USA) on the IRA’s WW2 “England Campaign”

I got this from a friend in Belfast; it’s the list of details of a PhD thesis on the IRA’s bombing campaign in England during WW2 (S-Plan).

It can be difficult pdfing stuff, with letters running together. Thus, in the table of contents, number II currently reads “To blow and bum England from her moorings” – this would suggest a rather different kind of IRA and rather different set of campaign activities! It should actually read “To blow and burn England from her moorings”!


A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky

By Jane C. Woods
Lexington, Kentucky
Director: Thomas Cogswell, Professor of History
Lexington, Kentucky


Table of Contents…………………………….. iii
Table of Charts………………………………… v
Table of Illustrations…………………………. vi
Notes on Sources……………………………….. 1
Introduction …………………………………. 7

I. “Direct Action”: 16 January – 28 February . . . . 32
Chapter 1. “Zero Hour” …………………… 34
Chapter 2. Minimal Force …………………. 51
Chapter 3. The Legalities…………………. 93

II. “To Blow and B u m England from her moorings”: 1 March – 28 Jul y ……124
Chapter 4. The Second Phase………………. 128
i. “The I.R.A. meant business” ………. 128
ii. “We have them on the run ” ………….. 168
Chapter 5. A Throughly Unpleasant Duty . . . . 191
i. Diligence Without Assistance ……… 191
ii. Situation Critical ……………….. 204
Chapter 6. “The Courts are making a hash of things”….. 226

III. “Drastic Demands” ………………………. 268
Chapter 7. The Government1s Solution……….. 268
i. The Committee for Home Affairs………. 274
ii. First and Second Readings – Commons . . 292
iii. “No more than half a policy”………… 307
iv. Committee of the Whole House and Third Reading….310
v. The Lords …………………………. 321
vi. The Commons – Final Reading and Passage…………..327

IV. “Each Irishman knows how to die”: 29 July – 1 December…..339
Chapter 8. “Hitler will finish the job you’ve started”……………………..339
i. “I never thought . . . that I would be going back like this”…………. 339\
ii. “We have the bombs and we know where to plant them” ………..359
iii.”There was a loud boom ” ……………..371
iv. “Masters in our own house”………….. 387
v. “The great December cartridge hunt” . . 408
Chapter 9. “A dangerous game we are in” . . . . 418
i. “It is your job to find out ” ………… 418
ii. “Something of importance was going to happen”: The Trial of the Coventry Conspirators ..429

Conclusion……………………………………. 464
Epilogue……………………………………… 473
Bibliography ……………………………….. 480
Vita …………………………………………. 488

The New Republic we need – public meeting, Dublin, 4pm, Saturday, January 20


Public launch of a major new Éirígí policy document – ‘A Democratic Programme For The New Republic’ – 4pm, January 20th, 2018, Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey Street Lower, Dublin. Main speaker: Cathaoirleach Éirígí, Brian Leeson. Coinciding with the 99th anniversary of the adoption of the ‘The Democratic Programme of the First Dáil Éireann’, this event will also include a talk on that historic document by the renowned historian Dr Ruan O’Donnell.

The Ireland of 2018 is a pale Read the rest of this entry