Category Archives: Provos – then and now

Interview with veteran Irish working class and Marxist activist Kevin Keating

This is an interview that Mick did recently with Kevin Keating, a veteran activist in Dublin.  Kevin’s many years of activism go from the IRA to the fused People’s Democracy (merger of the original northern-based PD and the southern-based Movement for a Socialist Republic), which became Socialist Democracy in the later 1990s.

Kevin has very serious health problems these days.  Happily, this was one of his better days.

 

See also the interview with John McAnulty of SD.  John was a leading figure in People’s Democracy in Belfast over decades.  Mick spoke to him last October about the experience of 50 years of struggle.  See here.

Southern Irish election: Sinn Fein takes the lead

I wrote an article on the elections just after I saw the exit polls, then updated it earlier this morning (NZ time; Sunday night, Irish time).

by Philip Ferguson

With almost all the votes now counted, Sinn Fein looks like being the big winner in Saturday’s election in the south of Ireland.

Exit polls showed a three-way virtual tie between the main parties in the south of Ireland. Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were all on just over 22% of first preferences: FG on 22.4, SF on 22.3, FF on 22.2.  These polls indicated that almost 32% of 18-24 year-olds voted Sinn Fein.

But now, with 96% of the votes cast, SF is sitting on 24.1% of first preferences and both FF and FG are on 22.1%.  For the first time

SF didn’t expect to do so well, especially after suffering substantial losses in the Euro and local government elections last year, so ran a limited number of candidates – it looks like it will get less seats than it could have gotten if it had’ve aimed for two seats in more constituencies.  At the same time, its surpluses have transferred significantly to two Trotskyist parties, helping them keep their seats. . .

See full article at: Sinn Fein takes the lead

Statement on Sinn Fein and PSNI by families of republicans murdered by UVF, with police help, in Cappagh, March, 1991

On March 3, 1991, pro-British terrorists of the Ulster Volunteer Force attacked people drinking at Boyle’s Bar in the village of Cappagh in the six counties (“Northern Ireland”).    They shot dead four people, three of whom were IRA members (Cappagh is a staunchly republican village).  Tommy O’Sullivan (51) was the civilian and was in the bar; John Quinn (23), Malcolm Nugent (20) and Dwayne O’Donnell (17) were the IRA Volunteers, who were shot in a car arriving in the car park.  Local IRA leader Brian Arthurs survived as patrons barricaded the doors when they heard shooting outside.  This was one of the many occasions in which loyalist killers collaborated with state forces.  Representatives of the families of the Cappagh Victims have released this statement, as Sinn Fein has been embracing the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which is riddled with people involved in collaboration with loyalist killers, collaboration that is integral to the whole repressive apparatus of the British state in the occupied part of Ireland. – P.F.

Statement by Representatives of Families of Cappagh Victims

“On Sunday 3rd March 1991, our sons and brothers were stole from us, brutally murdered by agents of the state.

“Like many families out there who have lost their loved ones to state agents, the past can never be the past until we have the truth, until we have vindication that these deaths were wrong. We deserve recognition that these horrible acts were perpetrated upon us and that it should never have happened. We, as families have a right to the truth and any denial of this truth is a further act of vengeance on us.

“Any attempts to investigate the murders of our loved ones are faced with obstruction. The government fails to disclose material it holds that would allow us the truth to be established, inquests, ombudsman’s inquiries, litigation and police reviews that have been dragged on for decades for the sole purpose of delaying the process.

“The initial inquest was a whitewash! The forensics were Read the rest of this entry

Frank Keane, veteran socialist-republican and former national organiser of Saor Eire, interview

Frank Keane is one of the living people I most admire and respect.  The questions for this interview were written by myself and Mick Healy, and Mick conducted the actual interview.  Mick has done more than anyone to retrieve the story of Saor Eire, which disbanded in 1973, and its significance and relevance.

 

Photos of Vol Bobby Sands, Vol Jimmy Roe

Bobby Sands on left; Jimmy Roe on right, with Tricolour.

Bobby died on hunger strike in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981; Jimmy, one of an earlier generation of fighters, rejoined the armed struggle at the start of the 1970s, in his 40s, and died in 1996.

John McAnulty on lessons of People’s Democracy & 50+ years of revolutionary struggle in Ireland

Some time back I suggested to my friend Mick that John McAnulty was someone he should interview for his series of videos.  I have a bit to do with John from time to time as I have immense admiration and respect for the original People’s Democracy group.  I finally met John in Belfast in 2013 and spent several hours talking to him.  Mick also got John down to speak in Dublin a couple of years ago to speak on political developments involving anarchism and Marxism (with anarchist Alan MacSimeon) in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Alan, sadly, has since died.

 

The risen children. . .

I actually saw this on Jim Lane’s fb page.  So much good stuff there.

In Review: Marisa McGlinchey’s ‘Unfinished Business’

Marisa McGlinchey, Unfinished Business: the politics of ‘dissident’ Irish republicanism, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2019, 231pp; reviewed by Philip Ferguson

Marisa McGlinchey’s book should be read by all radical republicans, Marxists and anyone else genuinely interested in national liberation and socialism in Ireland.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the back cover features praise for the book from the likes of Lord Bew of the Stickies and Richard English, both of whom have carved out well-rewarded academic niches writing attacks on republicanism and producing material that can only aid British imperialism.  Their reasons for praising the book are entirely different from those of anti-imperialists.

There are two key strengths to this book.

One is that it is based on on a substantial set of interviews (90 in all) the author conducted with republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement and the Provo leadership’s move into the service of the British state and the statelets which are the result of partition in Ireland and the Provos’ move from sort sort of vision of socialism to embracing the market and capitalist austerity.

The other strength is that she largely lets the interviewees speak for themselves, rather than trying to stitch them up.  Thus, for instance, she refrains from referring to them in the book as “dissident” republicans – the book’s sub-title was chosen, presumably, by the publisher.  Instead, she refers to them by the much more accurate term of “radical republicans” and treats them as rational political activists rather than some kind of pathology.

The interviewees, some of whom are now dead and some of whom have left the organisation they were in at the time they were interviewed, cover the gamut of radical republican groups, some of which are linked to armed organisations and some of which are not.  Thus the interviewees include independents and members of Eirigi, RNU, Saoradh, the IRSP, RSF and the 32CSM.  They range from younger activists such as Louise Minihan to veterans who go back to the 1956-62 border campaign and even earlier, such as Peig King and Billy McKee.  Some of the activists support Read the rest of this entry

The political evolution of the Provisionals

The article below appeared in the July issue of Socialist Voice, paper of the CPI, as an opinion piece under the headline “Provisional Sinn Féin, republicanism, and socialism: Some comments”.

by Eddie O’Neill and Mark Hayes

By any relevant psephological indices, it is absolutely clear that Sinn Féin did exceedingly poorly—perhaps disastrously—in the recent local and European elections; and the results have clearly precipitated some reflective introspection by various party members.

For example, a defeated Sinn Féin candidate in Dublin, Lynn Boylan, has called for dialogue and co-operation with other “left-wing parties” in future, arguing that competition for votes had handed seats to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. She claimed: “I am a republican, I am a united Irelander, but I am a left wing activist.” Indeed she went on to claim: “That’s how we were able to stop water charges—it’s because the left came together and worked together.”

Let’s just leave aside Sinn Féin’s specific role in the campaign against water charges, which is contentious, and concentrate on the more significant ideological proposition about Sinn Féin and its relationship with “the left.”

Over the years the Provisional movement has undoubtedly flirted with socialism as an ideology. For example, the original Éire Nua programme articulated by the Provisionals had a reasonably well-defined social component, with the emphasis on a more equitable and decentralised distribution of resources. By the late 1970s, under a new “Northern” leadership, this trend was accentuated. This was perhaps most vividly expressed in Jimmy Drumm’s speech of 1977 (apparently written by Adams et al.) which stressed the need for social liberation and the importance of standing in solidarity with workers against British colonial rule and the “fascist” Free State. (The speech also, incidentally, rejected a reformed Stormont and power-sharing.)

In this period Adams not only criticised capitalism, he was fond of quoting Connolly, while Sinn Féin explicitly identified itself with the ANC, PLO, and Sandinistas. Some commentators even detected the influence of Marxism; and though this was hugely exaggerated, there was a sense in which Sinn Féin identified itself as an integral part of a global “left” movement. It undoubtedly established its radical credentials through community work and activism in working-class areas.

However, there was always another, more pragmatic and opportunistic dimension to Sinn Féin strategy. This could be detected during and after the Hunger Strike, when the process of politicisation sought to reconfigure Sinn Féin as an electoral force. It was confirmed in a very personal way to one of the writers of this article when a letter was smuggled out of Albany prison in 1983 (written by Eddie O’Neill and Ray McLaughlin, and signed by other Republican prisoners). This missive explicitly addressed “the left” and urged all comrades to show solidarity with the Irish revolution while calling for a “broad front” of left progressive forces to form a common platform against imperialism.

The correspondence was completely disregarded by the Republican leadership at the time. The writing was on the wall: Sinn Féin was moving towards conventional constitutional politics. It eventually came to see itself as the natural repository for middle-class Catholic votes and positioned itself as the successor to the SDLP as the primary representative of the “Nationalist” community.

In relation to the north, Sinn Féin eventually adopted the diplomatic strategy of. . .  continue reading here. . .

Behind SF’s dramatic electoral decline in the south

SF leader MaryLou McDonald and deputy-leader Michelle O’Neill don’t have much to celebrate now. While SF roughly held its ground in the north, it lost about half its council seats and two of its three Euro seats in the south.

The author of this article, Vincent Doherty, was a member of People’s Democracy in the 1970s and early 1980s and, later, Sinn Fein.  In recent years he has been an independent marxist and anti-imperialist.  

Now that the dust has settled on last week’s elections, it is possible to appreciate the magnitude of Sinn Fein’s electoral collapse. For the usually well-oiled Sinn Fein electoral machine, results in both the local council and European elections across the 26 counties were nothing short of catastrophic. At the Dublin counts in the RDS, seasoned Sinn Fein cadre looked punch drunk, as one after another their council seats vanished from a local authority where they had been the majority party over the past 5 years. Across the 26 counties as a whole, they lost half their council seats. Even more dramatically, two of their three European seats in the 26 counties have been lost (confirmed on Wednesday after the recount was completed, that the SF seat in South Constituency was lost to the Greens).

Dublin collapse

In Dublin, where they topped the poll in the last Euro elections, their vote this time fell from just under 25% to less than 10%, despite a popular, effective and well-liked candidate in Lynn Boylan. The party also lost control of  Dublin City Council, where they lost half of their seats. This decline was repeated in the other urban areas like Cork, Limerick and Waterford.  Right across the 26 counties the story was the same, even in their hinterland constituencies along the border. The party’s vote was decimated, as they were effectively abandoned by an electorate clearly tired of Sinn Fein’s zigzagging on major issues. From the Dublin European election count, it was clear that people looking for a fighting left candidate abandoned Sinn Fein in favour of socialist campaigner Clare Daly, whilst the soft left element of the Sinn Fein vote was hoovered up by the Greens. The fact that climate change has been front and centre in the news of late obviously contributed to the “Green wave”, this despite the fact that the Irish Greens are well to the right of many of their European sister parties.

Coalition: a poisoned chalice

Perhaps most damaging of all for Sinn Fein, was the leadership-inspired decision at the last Ard Fheis (Annual Delegate Conference), to support. . .

continue reading here.