Category Archives: Irish politics today

Revisiting People’s Democracy and the ‘Burntollet’ march

The January 1969 Belfast to Derry march, organised by People’s Democracy, modelled on the US civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965

Last week I watched a video of a public meeting at the CP’s Dublin headquarters marking the 50th anniversary of the explosion of the civil rights movement onto the streets of Derry and the wider six counties.  One of the speakers was Tommy McKearney, someone whom I respect a great deal.  To my unpleasant surprise, however, Tommy wheeled out the old Stickies and CP attacks on “ultralefts” going destructively ahead with activities which unnecessarily provoked violent clashes instead of listening to the advice of more seasoned folk like Betty Sinclair.

Wow!

It’s hard to know where to start in responding to this, so I’m linking to two articles on the People’s Democracy organisation, the civil rights movement and Burntollet.  One is by Matt Collins, from SWN/People Before Profit looking back on the events as a Marxist today and the other is by John McAnulty, a veteran of PD and the movement back then and an active Marxist still.  John agrees with much in the Matt Collins article, which defends PD, while also noting a few things Matt got wrong.

Before linking to these, I just want to say something about Betty Sinclair and the question of ‘experience’.  Tommy is dead wrong to say Bernadette Devlin, Michael Farrell, John McAnulty and the “ultralefts” should have Read the rest of this entry

Roe 4 prisoners on “upsurge in harassment against our visitors”

Statement from Republican Prisoners, Roe 4, Maghaberry gaol (issued by Saoradh POW Dept):

“Over the past number of weeks Republican prisoners have witnessed an upsurge in harassment against our visitors. These escalations in provocative behaviour have now become a routine occurrence, with family, friends and loved ones enduring intimidation from bigoted screws.

“In the past week alone there have been several incidents. In the first one man was dragged from the visits, forcibly strip searched and held in isolation for 48 hours. This was highlighted at the time, but the gaol administration remained undaunted. Subsequently the so-called ‘drug dog’ reacting to visitors has been used to prevent visits from taking place.

“These dogs are notoriously unreliable and, in any case, Read the rest of this entry

Some reflections on Monday’s presidential election and blasphemy referendum

On the surface it’s a landslide for that puffed up little fake-socialist gobshite Michael D. Higgins. But, in reality, the vote is an indication of no-confidence in the political system – or at least in the office of the presidency. Less than 44% of voters actually voted in the presidential contest  The post of president – along with the Seanad – should be abolished.

This is unlikely to happen within the context of capitalism however as these two institutions are integral parts of the system of interlocking institutions, and checks and balances, by which the ruling class rules in the southern neo-colonial state.

The two positives I took from the presidential election were that a majority of people didn’t vote and that ‘Poppy’ Ni Riada only got 7%. Not so good that the Trump imitator got 20% of the vote. But keep in mind, given the numbers that didn’t vote, that’s less than 10% of the actual electorate.

Presidential elections have never been hugely popular.  The first contest, back in 1945, got the best turnout, but it was still only 63%.  The pattern has been downhill since then with occasional slight rises.

It’s interesting to see what has happened with turnout with the little kiss-arse currently occupying the post.  In 2011, when he still had some left credentials, the turn out was Read the rest of this entry

Bernard Fox letter on the road to armed struggle

The following letter appeared in the October 26 issue of the Belfast-based Irish News.  Bernard Fox spent decades in the Irish Republican Army, including a stint on the Army Council, the IRA’s seven-person central leadership.  He came to oppose the direction the Adams-McGuinness cabal took as they decided to become part of the political establishment across the island.

I commend The Irish News coverage of the emergence of the civil rights association and the events surrounding the Duke Street march 50 years ago. Leona O’Neill’s column (October 9) about her brave father’s involvement and decisions made then were made in response to what he experienced on the ground. However, at that time there were no easy decisions to make.

I was a 17-year-old in 1969 living in the St James’s area off the Falls Road. My interests were sport, the Beatles and girls. I was serving an apprenticeship in an engineering firm where I had many Read the rest of this entry

REITS, the rental crisis and how we fight back: Public meeting in Dundrum, Tuesday, October 23

Éirígí Dublin South have a really important public meeting coming up next week.  It will shine a bright light on the role that Real Estate Investment Trusts and other institutional landlords are playing in the Rathdown constituency, where half a dozen companies have amassed a portfolio of over 2,000 homes in just five years.

Thousands of citizens in Dundrum, Ballinteer, Sandyford and Leopardstown are now paying some of the highest rents in the country to these Read the rest of this entry

Republican POWs and the struggle in Maghaberry today

by Nathan Hastings

The following is designed to outline the historical context of Republican Prisoners and their conditions in Maghaberry Jail. This is not aimed at providing a detailed history, but at illuminating the issues which exist in Maghaberry today.

There is a long history of Irish women and men being imprisoned as a result of their opposition to the occupation of Ireland. Through-out this history there has been a recurring theme of Britain and its agents using imprisonment and conditions in the sites of imprisonment to attack and harass those who it has viewed as rebellious or troublesome. This has been carried out as a matter of both direct state policy and the cruelty and resentment of those in control in the sites of captivity.

In response to this there has been the recurring theme of struggle and resistance to oppression amongst those imprisoned through generations. This theme can be seen, for example, in the refusal of members and supporters of the Land League to wear prison clothes, shave or cut their hair whilst imprisoned, opposing the prison uniform. The response to this in the 1880s was an offer of civilian-style clothing.

This is almost identical to Read the rest of this entry

Éirígí on the housing crisis and how to fight it

The following was issued by Éirígí on October 4.  You can check out the party website by going to the links section on this site.

Yesterday (Oct 3) saw thousands of people mobilise in response to a call from housing groups, trade unions and political parties to ‘Raise The Roof’ in response to the housing scandal in the Twenty-Six Counties. The rally was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and supported by the National Women’s Council, the Union of Students in Ireland and others. These organisations represent hundreds of thousands of Irish workers, women and students that are being adversely affected by the chaos of privatised housing. The fact that such a breadth of ‘civic society’ is now coming together with housing and homelessness organisations to demand housing justice is a very welcome development.

Housing has been Éirígí’s key campaigning issue for close to three years. During that time our activists have consistently worked to build a mass campaign for housing justice. To this end we have distributed tens of thousands of pieces of literature; organised countless public meetings; participated in direct actions; helped form housing action groups and homeless outreach groups; networked with other like-minded individuals and organisations to build alliances in support of our key housing demands.

All of this work has been informed by our key housing demand, namely the creation of a new Read the rest of this entry

Seamus Costello in very first issue of ‘Starry Plough’ on differences between IRSP and the Officials

The following appeared in the very first issue of the Irish Republican Socialist Party’s paper, The Starry Plough. in April 1975.  The IRSP was founded on December 10, 1974.  A military organisation, the Irish National Liberation Army, was founded at the same time.

Q. What caused the present feud between the IRSP and the Officials?

As far as we can see, it is the fact that the IRSP is undermining the Officials organizationally, particularly in Belfast where the feud is most intense. During the past 3 or 4 months, since the party was launched on the 12th of December, the IRSP has taken some 200 members from the Officials in the Belfast area. This has led to a situation where, at the moment, the Officials in Belfast have only half the numerical strength of the IRSP. As a result of this, a request was made by the (Official) Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle to the Official IRA to prevent the organization of further IRSP branches in the Belfast area. Immediately after this request, starting on Dec. 12th, a number of our members were kidnapped in the Belfast area. From then until the murder of Hugh Ferguson, we have had dozens of people kidnapped, people beaten up, people wounded through shooting, houses petrol bombed, cars burned and so on. Undoubtedly the immediate cause of the feud is the fact that the Officials are losing members.

Q. What are the main ideological differences between the IRSP and the Officials?

The principal ideological differences would be their attitude towards the National Question as against our attitude. Basically, the position of the leadership of the Officials is that there is no hope of achieving National Liberation until such time as the Protestant and Catholic working class in the North are united and therefore there is nothing which can be done in political terms or in any other terms about this particular issue. Our attitude, on the other hand, is that the British presence in Ireland is the basic cause of the divisions between the Protestant and Catholic working class in the North. It follows from that, in our view, that the primary emphasis should be on the mobilization of the mass of the Irish people in the struggle for National Liberation. We believe, also, that the left in Irish politics should play a leading role in this struggle. Up until recent years, many of us felt that the Official Movement was capable of and willing to do this. Indeed the rank and file of the Official Movement had expressed their views on this at the 1972 and 1973 Ard Fheiseanna, where they rejected the position of the national leadership on the national question and put forward a policy which would have led to a more militant approach on this question.

However, the leadership disagreed with this policy and deliberately frustrated its implementation. The result of this was that the Official Republicans, who, at that time, were the largest single body of organized left-wing opinion in Ireland, deliberately divorced the working class struggle from the national struggle and gradually degenerated, taking a reformist position on a number of very important issues.

Q. What issues in particular?

The principal issues that come to mind immediately are the Civil Rights struggle, the Assembly Elections, the question of taking seats and the question of the rent and rates strike. In all these issues, the leadership of the Officials hesitated to take a stand. They have, for instance, regarded the Civil Rights struggle since 1969, as the only struggle worth taking part in. They ignored the presence of 15,000 troops on the streets. They ignored the torture and terror perpetrated by the British Army on the Nationalist population and they acted as though there was no change in the situation since 1969. In other words, they failed to realize the change in the nature of the struggle in Ireland, particularly in Read the rest of this entry

Jim Lane speech at 1982 Seamus Costello commemoration

Below is the speech delivered by Jim Lane at the commemoration for Seamus Costello on the 5th anniversary of his murder by the pro-Moscow ‘Official’ IRA.  Jim was a member of the central leadership of the IRSP at the time, becoming its general secretary in 1983.  The speech was delivered at Seamus’ graveside in Bray on October 3, 1982.

The original text had some very large paragraphs.  I have broken these up, simply to make it easier to read.  None of the text has been changed.

Special thanks to Mick Healy for passing the original text on to me and suggesting I put it up here.

Seamus Costello

Gathering beside the graves of our patriot dead is a long-established custom for Irish revolutionaries. In doing so, we honour our dead and seek strength and inspiration to help further the cause for which they struggled. Such strength and inspiration derives not alone in recalling the deeds of our dead patriots, but also in restating and clarifying our political philosophy, in terms of existing conditions. The deeds of our dead comrade, Séamus Costello, republican socialist and founder member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party are legion. This year in a fitting and timely tribute, such deeds have been recorded with the publication of a book by the Séamus Costello Memorial Committee. For an insight into the contribution that Séamus made to the revolutionary socialist struggle in Ireland, it is required reading, guaranteed to strengthen our resolve and provide inspiration. Therein can be found not alone an account of his life, achievements and writings, but an excellent collection of tributes from his friends and comrades. No words of mine spoken in tribute could match theirs.

Jim Lane today

Nora Connolly-O’Brien, recently deceased daughter of Irish socialist republican martyr James Connolly, considered him to be the greatest follower of her father’s teachings in this generation and hoped that his vision for Ireland would be realised in this generation.

For Tony Gregory, Séamus “personified more than any Irish man or woman, at least of our generation, the republican socialist – the revolutionary activist who organised and worked in tenant organisations, trade unions, housing action committees and cultural organisations.”

From the young men and women of the republican socialist movement, to whom he was friend and mentor, came the following tributes:

Gerry Roche – “Like Lenin, he was pragmatic in his tactics, and while recognising the corruption of the courts and parliament, he was quite prepared to use them as a platform while remaining totally inflexible in his politics.”

Seán Doyle – “Séamus Costello was a man of the people. He got his degree in working-class involvement, on the streets with his people, campaigning with them for justice.”

Niall Leonach – “He had an irrepressible dedication and energy to carry on with the struggle, to learn new lessons and to break new ground.”

Íte Ní Chionnaith – “Bhí a fhios aige in gcónai go raibh a bheatha i mbaol agus go mbeadh, an fhaí is a lean sé den obair a bhí ar bun aige ach níor lig sé dó sin cur as dó. Ba chailliúint gan áireamh é do phobal na tíre seo, thuaidh agus theas.”

And it was Miriam Daly, first chairperson of the Séamus Costello Memorial Committee and a member of the Ard-Chomhairle of the IRSP when Séamus was murdered, who highlighted the point that made him stand out as a republican socialist, when she said he never  Read the rest of this entry

The costs of capitulation

by Socialist Democracy

The Orange marching season in the North of Ireland kicks off each year with Twelfth of July marches, preceded by the 11th night bonfires.  This year the Twelfth demonstration passed almost without incident.  The 11th night bonfires saw a rash of hijacking and petrol bombing in east Belfast and parts of County Down.  These were protests following a court order applying fire safety rules to a bonfire.  The Ulster Volunteer Force gangsters behind the hijacking believed as a matter of principle that the bonfires should be free of any legal impediment.

They were a small minority.  The unionist population was indifferent, the paramilitaries had been paid off and, for the first time ever, the Democratic Unionist Party stepped forward to demand obedience to the law.

It has taken decades of conflict resolution and social engineering to get to Read the rest of this entry