Category Archives: national

After the Stormont election: the way forward

by John McAnulty

The common assertion arising from the latest election in the North of Ireland is that Sinn Fein now has the upper hand. That reform of the local settlement is now inevitable and Gerry Adams has gone so far as to assert that a united Ireland is now back on the agenda.

However the loss of the overall unionist majority is largely a profound psychological shock rather than a practical issue. The seats are:

(inc 2 Green, 1PBP) 
28  27  12  10 8 5


So The DUP remains the largest party and would nominate the first minister. The loss of the overall majority relies on the dubious idea that Alliance is not a unionist party – they have in the past designated themselves as unionist to save the assembly and until recently fulfilled a role as lynch pin for the sectarian setup by holding the justice ministry position.

In addition in the coming negotiations Sinn Fein will be facing the British government. They themselves have complained that the pro-unionist positions of the British secretary, James Brokenshire, should make him unsuitable as chair.  They will also be appealing to a Dublin government hostile to Sinn Fein that acts as an agent of reaction in both parts of the Island. 

The settlement in Ireland is not designed to lead to a united Ireland and the issue depends entirely on gaining permission from Britain to hold a vote restricted to the six-county area – permission that will not be forthcoming.  Read the rest of this entry

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

Get this book!

constance-markieviczAnne Haverty’s updated new edition of her bio of Constance Markievicz is well worth a read (and a buy). Among other things, Haverty disproves the notion that Markievicz shot an unarmed cop at the beginning of the takeover of Stephen’s Green and then ran back inside the Green exulting in the killing. Personally, I happen to think members of the Dublin Metropoitan Police were legitimate targets, but the attack on Markievicz is that she shot him at point blank range when he was unarmed and had no chance to surrender. Various professional anti-republicans (the historical revisionist school, for instance and folks like Ann Matthews, whom I simply can’t take seriously as any sort of historian) have peddled this nonsense, using highly questionable ‘evidence’.

Haverty runs through, for instance, the use of a Geraldene Fitzgerald’s account which revisionists typically classify as being from her diary. Haverty points out that it is actually two typed pages that read like a deposition for a prosecution, one the state did not pursue (which itself says something about the fanciful nature of the claim). Haverty shows how Fitzgerald’s testimony is faulty (different time to when the policeman was actually shot; distance from the shooting and yet Fitzgerald claimed to hear words spoken in the Green!!!) and concludes of Fitzgerald’s ‘evidence’: “Only the Read the rest of this entry

Workers and the way forward: a socialist-republican perspective

In order to get real action, the workers will need to act for themselves not rely on ICTU leadership

by Philip Ferguson

It seems a long time now since trade union members in the south of Ireland voted to reject Croke Park 11, a deal promoted by leaders of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in partnership with the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government in Dublin.  The current coalition, like the Fianna Fail/Green coalition that preceded it, has sought to make southern Irish workers pay for the financial crisis of Irish banks and the meltdown of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy.

For several decades the bulk of the union leadership has pushed tripartite deals with the bosses and the state, a ‘partnership’ model which has been held up by union leaderships as far afield as New Zealand as worth emulating.  But these tripartite deals did not deliver to workers even during the ‘good times’ of the ‘boom’ periods in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Now the boom has turned to bust the partnership model has simply locked unions into accepting responsibility for the financial crisis and agreeing to the austerity measures demanded by the Troika.

Rhetoric v resistance

The leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has engaged in some token rhetoric about ‘sharing the  burden’ of the crisis and they have marched workers up and down the hill and then sent them home a couple of times.  But, in general, they have acted as faithful lieutenants of the state and capital, serving more to Read the rest of this entry

Public event: Revolutionary politics of Seamus Costello

download6-9pm, Saturday, Nov 14

Newtown Community Centre


Co. Wicklow


Chair: John Davis

Brian Leeson (éirígí ) on the Great Natural Resources Robbery
Erika Brennan (community activist) on the Housing Crisis
Sean Doyle (co-worker of Seamus Costello) on the Politics of Seamus Costello in Today’s Struggle

Pádraig Ó Fearghaíl (Wicklow Remembers 1916 Committee)
Ruan O’Donnell (historian, University of Limerick)

Bígí Linn


éirígí rejects secret talks with Sinn Féin, calls for open, public debate

eirigiéirígí issue call to Sinn Féin – “Let’s have an open, public debate”

The socialist republican party éirígí has formally proposed that a series of public debates should take place between its representatives and representatives of Sinn Féin.  In a statement, the party has revealed that it put a written proposal advocating a process of public debates to Sinn Féin in recent days.

Commenting on recent interaction between the two parties and the éirígí proposal, the party’s Rúnaí Ginearálta/general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, stated: “Sinn Féin recently invited éirígí to participate in private bi-lateral meetings, with the stated aim of developing ‘common ground’ and establishing ‘potential areas of agreement’ between the two parties.  Having fully discussed Sinn Féin’s proposal, éirígí has declined that invitation.

“As an alternative to that format, we have put forward our own proposal which would see the commencement of a series of public debates between éirígí and Sinn Féin. We believe that our proposal would engender widespread support and public interest.”

Explaining éirígí’s decision to decline private bilateral talks, Mac Cionnaith said: “It is our view that the ideological and strategic distance between éirígí and Sinn Féin is simply too great to permit the development of the sort of ‘common ground’ or ‘areas of agreement’ that Sinn Féin is proposing.

“This is particularly true in the context of the current Sinn Féin strategy which advocates the Read the rest of this entry

Ireland in the world order: a history of uneven development – an intro

Image.ashxI’m aware that I’m really badly behind in terms of a couple of reviews and will be knuckling down to these over the next couple of weeks, even as I read new stuff.  What I’m presently reading is Maurice Coakley’s Ireland in the world order: a history of uneven development (Pluto, 2012).  I’m only a handful of pages into it, but it looks very good.  Here, for instance, is an extract from the preface:

“In November 2010, when the Irish government was negotiating with the European Union (EU) and other transnational bodies on schemes to resolve Ireland’s financial problems, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came up with a proposal that would have involved the major bondholders taking a significant ‘haircut’, in the process reducing the Irish debt to a potentially manageable level.  The European Central Bank (ECB) strongly opposed any ‘haircut’ for the bondholders, insisting that the Irish state pay all the debts incurred by the privately-owned Irish banks, even though this would most likely bankrupt Ireland.  In this dispute, the Irish government officials sided with the ECB, leading one IMF staff member to describe the Irish government negotiators as displaying elements of the ‘Stockholm syndrome’, a situation whereby hostages sometimes come to identify with their captors. . . .

“Why were Irish government officials suffering from ‘Stockholm syndrome’?  Or to put the question differently, how is it that Irish government officials had come to identify with transnational institutions Read the rest of this entry

For legal and free abortion – as early as possible, as late as necessary

by Philip Ferguson

The death of Savita Halappanavar on October 28 at University Hospital Galway has put the abortion issue right back in the centre of Irish politics – not just in the southern state, but throughout the country.  This is especially the case as it coincides with the opening of a Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast.

The Halappanavar case is especially tragic and dramatic because the foetus was clearly unviable, she was in the throes of a miscarriage and Savita’s life was in danger.  She was denied an abortion because there was still a foetal heartbeat.  That heartbeat took precedence over the heartbeat, and life, of a woman.  Moreover, whatever we might think about the callousness of the doctors, they were obeying the law.  Legally, an abortion is only allowable if the woman’s life is in immediate danger.

Abortion law on both sides of the border constitutes a major restriction on women’s rights and a major intrusion by church (both Catholic and Protestant) and state into women’s lives.  The opposition of so many Unionists to the extension of the British 1967 Abortion Act to the six counties is one of the things that reveals the hollowness of Unionist claims to ‘being British’.  They are ‘British’ when it suits them, and only then.

The opposition of Sinn Fein to women’s right to abortion, at the same time, is indicative of the equivocal nature of the Shinners’ republicanism.   Just as the Unionists are ‘British’ when it suits them and then don’t want a bar of British law when it comes to abortion, so the Shinners are republican when it suits them but then don’t want a bar of secularism when it comes to abortion.  Well, in the north at least.  South of the border the Shinners are opportunistically trying to put themselves in the van of the movement to ‘tidy up’ the legislation so that deaths like this won’t happen again but women will still be denied access to terminations.

It’s a mark of the deeply reactionary nature of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail that southern Irish law on abortion is so tied to Catholic teaching.  The idea, enshrined in the 1937 Constitution, is that women’s place in society is primarily that of wife and mother.  If something goes wrong with a pregnancy, it’s the woman’s fault – some kind of sin has been committed and miscarriage is God’s punishment. . . as is death in childbirth or death in miscarriage.

Republicanism has always been a modernising and secularising movement in Ireland.  This means that it stands for the emancipation of women, an emancipation which is simply not possible as long as the church and state have more control over women’s bodies than women themselves.

What is needed is the scrapping of all restrictions on women’s democratic right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.  Abortion should be legal and free.  In terms of time-limits, women seeking terminations are likely to seek them early in the pregnancy, but the option needs to be open – in other words, as early as possible, as late as necessary.

The struggle over the right to abortion is a struggle over the nature of Irish society.  And that means north and south.

Maud Gonne; her perspective of free women in a free Ireland is in urgent need of revival

A hundred years ago, Connolly, a strong supporter of women’s emancipation, argued that partition would lead to a “carnival of reaction” with the most backward and reactionary forces in power in both statelets.  Savita Halappanavar is the latest victim of that carnival of reaction.  A struggle for legal, free abortion, carried out on a 32-county basis, would be a massive blow against that carnival of reaction and for progress, secularism, freedom and equality across the whole island.  It could show that the interests of the mass of Irish women are obstructed by both reactionary statelets but could be met in a free Ireland.

Over a hundred years ago, Inghinidhe na hEireann, the revolutionary republican women’s group founded by Maud Gonne, put forward the idea that women’s freedom could only be achieved in a free Ireland.  It’s long since time to renew that perspective.

Rally for Marian Price, Dublin, November 3

Remembering and celebrating Seamus Costello, 1939-1977

The pieces below first appeared on the éirígí site.  They are an article about a Dublin commemoration of Costello on October 6 and the speech given by Louise Minihan at the main Costello memorial event in Newtownmountkennedy that night. 

The embrace of Costello and his legacy by éirígí is incredibly heartening.  Up to now, I’ve been a partisan of both éirígí and the IRSP.  But I have to say, now, that I think the place for socialist-republicans in Ireland is in éirígí.   I still very much respect aspects of the IRSP and the way that these comrades have tried to rebuild, after a long period of incredibly difficult and dangerous times, but things move on.  éirígí, in my view, is now Connolly and Costello for the twenty-first century.

People who might have been a bit sceptical when éirígí started, on the basis of thinking that the founders were rather tardy in parting company with the Shinners (a thought that was once at the back of my mind too), have no reason to be sceptical now.  In its brief existence, éirígí has more than proven its socialist-republican credentials.  It has put up in a way that no other current on the Irish left has, whether it be around ‘straight’ class issues or the national question.  While I would still hope that éirígí attempt to pursue discussions with the IRSP towards joint work and, if that went well, a possible merger further down the track, I think socialist-republicans in the here and now should be in éirígí.  No ifs, buts, qualifications.


Dublin commemorative plaque

Friday October 5th marked the 35th anniversary of the murder of the great socialist republican leader, Séamus Costello. The Wicklow man was shot to death on Dublin’s North Strand by counter-revolutionary elements.

On Saturday October 6th a number of events were held in Dublin and Wicklow to remember Costello and pay tribute to his selfless sacrifice and service to Ireland and the working class.

At 11am up to 40 people gathered in Dublin’s north inner city at a new plaque erected in honour of Costello, near the spot where he was murdered on the North Strand Road. The plaque is one of a number recently Read the rest of this entry