Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with republican veteran George Harrison

g-harrisonTwo months before George Harrison died, he gave a lengthy interview to the Rustbelt Radical blog.  Rustbelt has a lot of really good stuff on it, and I thoroughly recommend the site.  The person behind it is an American Mid-West marxist.  Please do go and listen to the interview – here’s how Rustbelt Radical describes George Harrison:

George was an immensely humble and decent man, belying all the media images of an IRA gun runner. Immediately at ease as we had cake and coffee served to us, the 89 year-old gave us recollections of a long life well lived in a room full of manifestations of those memories. Pictures of hunger strikers, of Bernadette McAliskey and her children hung on the wall, posters and papers from the movement were on the tables. His nurse and friend Prissy was there, along with her daughter, and it is Prissy’s voice you will hear at the very end of the interviews describing the beautiful relationship the two of them had and his impact on her.

In this lengthy interview George talks about Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Jim Lane: veteran socialist-republican – part two

Irish Republican and Marxist History Project

At present Mick’s interviews and various pieces of video footage of left-republican funerals, commemorations and so on are quite scattered.  They’re on youtube, many (but not all) are on this blog.  Mick’s daughter Rachel has set up a new blog, so they can all be together in one spot, although many of them will continue to be added here as he produces them.  The new blog is the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project.  Take a look at it, visit it regularly and please do whatever you can to support it.

Interview with Jim Lane: veteran socialist-republican

A couple of comments on the introductory words on the video as they contain a few small errors.  Saor Eire (Cork) was not involved in forming the Cork Workers Club, but some SE (Cork) members were.  (And, of course, the Cork group was entirely separate from the later group of the same name which emerged in Dublin.)  The Revolutionary Armed Forces’ An Phoblacht wasn’t a newsletter, it was a paper.

The interview was conducted and filmed by Mick Healy; Bas Ó Curraoin did the editing; Jim Lane supplied the photos; and the music is by The Tinkers.

I should add that the Cork Workers Club’s reprints of important socialist works on Irish history helped educate me in socialist-republicanism and they remain relevant today.  I’m hoping over time to get some more of them up on the blog.

Interview with Liam Sutcliffe – veteran socialist-republican

The interview below with Liam Sutcliffe, an IRA activist in the 1950s and 1960s and a leading figure in Saor Eire, was conducted and filmed by irish revolution contributor Mick HealyBas Ó Curraoin did the editing and added photos and music.  There’s a point in the interview about Liam Walsh’s death and whether it was 1970 or 1971; it was in October, 1970 (he died in a premature explosion).

We’ve also been working on doing an interview with Frank Keane, who was O/C Dublin Brigade during part of the 1960s and a founding leader of Saor Eire.


Below are a list of interviews that appear on the blog:

Gerry Ruddy:

Marian Price (from early 2000s, reprinted from The Blanket):

Tommy McKearney (2009):

Brian Leeson (2008):

2009 interview with Tommy McKearney

This is the main part of an interview I did with Tommy McKearney back in 2009.  In the next few weeks the blog will get up a review of his excellent book on the Provos and their incorporation by the Brits.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us a bit about the Independent Workers Union in Ireland?  How did it begin?  What sections of workers does it try to organise?

Tommy McKearney: The IWU is a general trade union that organizes among all section of the workforce. It has, however, found that some workers are more open to recruitment than others. This has come about partly due to our origins and partly as a result of the current situation in the Irish workplace. The IWU was set up seven years ago in response to an attempt by bureaucrats in the trade union hierarchy, working we believe in concert with the employers and the state, to stymie criticism of the Social Partnership agreement. The strongest criticism of partnership was at the time emanating from the Irish Read the rest of this entry

Interview with veteran socialist-republican Gerry Ruddy

I’ve corresponded with veteran socialist-republican activist and leader Gerry Ruddy, on and off, for some years now.  I finally got to meet him last month (December 2011) in Belfast.  Below is an interview with him which covers a lot of the main political events and lessons of the struggle in Ireland over the past 45 or so years:

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us a bit about how you first got involved in politics?

Gerry Ruddy: As long as I can remember I took an interest in what was going on in the world. For example I remember in 1956 when I was 10 praying for ‘Catholic Hungary’ when the Soviets invaded. I also remember the Cuban missile crisis when we all thought the world might end. I recall reading Michael Foot’s biography of Anuerin Bevan, the first real political book I had read, which helped direct me towards left politics. The election of Harold Wilson’s  Labour Government and its subsequent betrayals also helped direct me towards the left.  At university I joined the Labour Group and was influenced by the likes of Michael Farrell and Eamon McCann.

I joined both the Northern Ireland Labour Party and the Irish Labour Party (which had branches in my local town of Newry), plus I was involved in the Young Socialists, CND etc in the late sixties.  It was then I started reading the socialist classics, Lenin, Mao, Trotsky, Fanon, Guevara, Gramsci, Luxemburg and, of course, James Connolly.  I remember selling copies of the Irish Militant on the Falls Road at the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

PF: How did you come to join People’s Democracy?

GR: I was still at university and along with other militants participated in the mass demonstrations that spontaneously followed the October 5, 1968 attack by the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) on a peaceful civil rights  march.  In the following months there were many protests and meetings and it was a great political education.  Gradually one could see the differences emerge between the left and the moderates both within Peoples Democracy and the broader civil rights movement.

PF: How would you evaluate the role played by PD in its early years?  For instance, some people in the Provisional IRA have talked about seeing PD as being more in tune with their politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s than Provisional Sinn Fein.  On the other hand, a number of PD members went on to fairly anti-republican politics.

GR: Personally I believe that PD was for the years 1968-73 the driving force of the mass movement.  When others took their foot off the pedal it was PD that would accelerate the engine of mass protest.  Burntollet was one clear example of that.  While building PD itself we also participated in united front tactics working within NICRA (the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association), the Northern Resistance Movement, the Political Hostages Release Committee and God knows what else, as well as making contacts with socialist groups within Ireland and abroad.

Naturally our militancy appealed to the nationalist working class in Belfast and some of our people worked closely with Provisional IRA members, some of whom had been originally in PD.  We even had educational classes in marxism with some of them.

While Provisional Sinn Fein was then regarded as a right-wing traditionalist party both PD and the PIRA were in favour of “Smash Stormont” unlike those in the Official IRA who along with the CPNI (Communist Party of Northern Ireland), favoured the democratisation of Stormont.  So it was natural for us militants in PD to try to influence and win over to marxism and socialism working class militants within the Provos.  However we always regarded the Provos as a petit-bourgeois nationalist organisation that was anti-imperialist.

Inevitably mass movements break up. Some of the PD activists ended up in the judicial system, implementing British law and order. Others went into academic life and began to revisit history. Some became Unionists (ie supporters of the six counties being part of Britain – PF), some of us marxists, others republican and continued to try to change the world.  Others simply went into the media or disappeared from public life.

Don’t forget that in the late sixties and early seventies there were massive changes in the way in which we looked at the world.  The personal became political.  We became aware of Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Marian Price from early 2000s

Marian Price is a long-time revolutionary activist in the national liberation struggle in Ireland.  She was imprisoned in Britain in the 1970s for her activities in the IRA (Provos).  While in prison she went on hunger strike and was force-fed for more than 100 days.  Marian left the Provos in 1998 over disagreements with the direction taken by the republican leadership.  She is now active in the 32-County Sovereignty Movement and is chairperson of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association. Marian is currently being held in prison in the six counties; see here.

Below is a slightly-edited version of an interview with her conducted by Carrie Twomey, which appeared in the Irish republican internet journal The Blanket.  It has mainly been edited with an eye to a NZ readership not necessarily familiar with particular groups, individuals and events.  I copied and pasted it into a word document in 2004, but there’s no trace of when the interview took place and appeared in The Blanket and I can’t find it by googling.  I assume the interview was done, therefore, in 2004 or at most a year or two earlier.

Carrie Twomey: How do you see the lay of the land for Irish republicans?

Marian Price: I think it’s very interesting.  I felt and still do believe that Sinn Fein will go the whole way.  I don’t think they have any intentions of going back from the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).  As far as republicanism goes, I wouldn’t consider SF today to be republican.  I see SF now as being a nationalist party.  And that’s by choice.

For republicanism, I think we had a setback.  I believe that it’s fragmented.  But I think that if we just stop and take stock, we can Read the rest of this entry

Building an alternative movement in Ireland: interview with éirígí national chairperson Brian Leeson

The following interview was conducted back in late 2008, and first appeared in early 2009 in The Spark newspaper.  Over the next few weeks I hope to  carry out interviews with a number of Irish union militants and socialist-republican activists to put up on the blog.

Philip Ferguson: Could you tell us how you first got involved in political activity?

Brian Leeson: I suppose I first became politically active in the summer of 1989 when I attended a large protest in Dublin that was demanding a British withdrawal from occupied Ireland.  It was called to mark the 20th anniversary of British troops being re-deployed onto Irish streets back in August 1969.  For a few months before the demonstration I had been becoming more politically conscious, particularly with regard to the war that was then raging in the occupied Six Counties.

What struck me most about that day was the contrast between the sheer size of the protest and the tiny amount of media coverage it received.  Despite the fact that more then 20,000 marched that day, it hardly registered on the political landscape at all.  Of course, this was at a time when state censorship by both the London and Dublin governments excluded republican spokespeople from the airwaves.

Within a couple of weeks of that demonstration I had taken a decision to become politically active.  I applied to join Sinn Féin, but at 15 years of age I was too young.  Instead, I started to sell the An Phoblacht newspaper each Saturday morning outside of the General Post Office on Dublin’s O’Connell Street – a building which fittingly had served as the headquarters of the 1916 Rebellion.

From then on I became ever more involved in the republican struggle and the Provisional Movement, which I remained a part of until early 2006.

Read the rest of this entry