Category Archives: Liam Mellows

Who drove the Rising?

imagesI’m well-disposed towards the 1916 Societies, so this short piece should be taken as a disagreement in a comradely spirit.

A recent article on their site says, “The driving force behind the Rising was the IRB; it was in effect a Fenian Rising.”  (See here.)

I think this is not only wrong historically but it has some important political implications for today too.

The IRB was not the driving force behind the Rising and nor could it be.  Connolly, Mallin, Markievicz and the Irish Citizen Army made up the driving force.  From the time the First World War broke out, Connolly determined on a Rising and began preparations.  The IRB position was rather more confused.  The left of the IRB – Clarke, Pearse, Mac Diarmada etc – also wanted a rising, but the situation in the IRB was far more complicated as the organisation contained far more equivocal figures, like Bulmer Hobson, and wavered continually.

The classic example is that the IRB capitulated to Redmond’s demand for a bunch of his sycophants – 25 of them I think! – to be added to the leading body of the Irish Volunteers.  If you are the driving force for an imminent rebellion you don’t agree to have a large number of opponents of such a rebellion being added to the leadership of what is ostensibly to be the main force of the rebellion.

And, utterly predictably, when war came, the Redmondite element of the Irish Volunteer leadership supported British imperialism and they and Redmond took the vast majority of the members of the Volunteers out of the movement and into the British Army and onto the imperialist killing fields in France.  The IRB leaders who were responsible for the capitulation of Redmond had not only made a serious political error, they had in effect sabotaged the Volunteers.

While the IRB floundered about, with its left elements wanting an insurrection but not really understanding how to proceed, Connolly was pursuing a consistent Read the rest of this entry

Maire Drumm oration at Liam Mellows commemoration

10426138_739143896162146_7338625163957999468_nBelow is the text of the oration delivered by Maire Drumm on Saturday, December 13, at the annual éirígi Liam Mellows commemoration.  The event took place at Mellows’ grave in County Wexford.  Wreaths were laid at the event by the Independent Workers Union and éirígi.

Mellows is one of the giants of Irish left-republicanism.  As a teenager he was a member and leader of the first republican military organisation of the twentieth century, the Fianna Eireann movement founded by Constance Markievicz.  Later he was a founder-member of the Irish Volunteers and led the 1916 Rising in Galway.  Following the defeat of the Rising and imprisonment, he played a vital role in rebuilding the republican movement, in particular the newly-republican Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army.  He was part of the Sinn Fein landslide in Ireland in the 1918 British general elections.  The republicans won 73 of the 105 Irish seats at Westminster on an absententionist and independence basis, duly establishing a parliament of their own in Dublin (Dail Eireann) and declaring independence.

Liam Mellows

Liam Mellows

When the British government refused to recognise the will of the Irish people and moved to use violence to suppress their will, Mellows was to the forefront of the resistance.  A war for independence took place from 1919-1921 when the more bourgeoisified elements of Dail Eireann supported a treaty with Britain which gave the British state continuing control of six north-eastern counties of Ireland while also creating a 26-county neocolonial state in the south and west (the Free State).  Mellows opposed the Treaty and was part of the central leadership of the republican side in the 1922-23 civil war until his execution on December 13 1922 by Free State forces while a prisoner in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin. – Phil   

Maire Drumm Oration:

It is an honour to be invited to speak at this commemoration to pay tribute to Liam Mellows and his three young comrades – Joe McKelvey, Richard Barrett and Rory O’Connor – on the ninety second anniversary of their execution by Free State forces. We also remember all those died in the struggle for national freedom.

Liam Mellows and his comrades were executed on December 8th 1922 without any trial and without any charge being laid against them.

In the eyes of the counter-revolutionary Free State government, the only crime was the four men’s adherence to the political objectives which had been succinctly set out in the 1916 Proclamation and expanded upon in the Democratic Programme of the Republic of 1919.

Those documents laid out a political agenda based upon national self-determination, social and economic justice and democracy; of cherishing all the children of the nation equally, of claiming the wealth of Ireland for the people of Ireland; of securing the greatest measures of political, social and economic freedom for the mass of the population.

Those revolutionary objectives were later ditched by an anti-Republican political elite in favour of a Treaty that saw the creation of two partitionist states within the British empire whereby control of the means of production and wealth generation would still remain in the hands of a small, but very wealthy, minority.

The men we honour today recognised that fact. They completely opposed the Treaty with its two state political solution to reinforce an all-Ireland economic status quo.

Those who led resistance against the Treaty and partition were well aware that the forms of government proposed would in no way be Read the rest of this entry

Fianna Eireann history site

I’ve just put up a link to a site dedicated to Fianna Eireann.  You can read about individual members of the Fianna and the Citizen Army’s scouts as well.  At present the site covers 1909-1923.  It’s:

I was delighted to hear from the person behind it and apologise profusely for not getting back to him sooner, as the email address I’ve probably given for this blog is one used by another blog I’m involved in, Redline, and the email there only gets cleared intermittently.



Constance Markievicz and the Irish Revolution

imagesJust in case there are any readers in Christchurch, New Zealand or any readers who know anyone in Christchurch, New Zealand, you might be interested in this talk on Thursday, September 5:

The talk is likely to end up in two parts, with the second part on Thursday, September 19.  Further talks will be on Padraic Pearse and also James Connolly; followed by some film screenings – for instance, “Off Our Knees”, made by Bernadette (Devlin) McAliskey in 1988, on the previous 20 years of struggle; plus a talk on the 1981 hunger strike and a talk on 1913 in Ireland and New Zealand.  (During the Great Dublin Lockout, NZ also saw its largest-ever industrial dispute in terms of the numbers of workers involved, with many of the activists being influenced by the same ideas as Larkin and Connolly.)

IRSP Easter statement, Belfast 2013

Delivered by Aisling Nic Giolla Rua


Friends and Comrades,

It is an honour and a privilege to be asked to speak at the IRSP’s Easter Commemoration this year. These types of words are spoken at the beginning of most of these events and sometimes they can be overused and thus lose their significance.

But comrades, when I hear stories about the actions and the bravery of those who we gather to remember I can only stand in awe of their immense sacrifice. So for me, it truly is an honour to be asked to speak here today to remember people like Seamus Costello and all those brave volunteers and political activists who came before and after them. And it is a privilege to represent the movement to which they gave their allegiance, the Irish Republican Socialist Movement.

And not only do we remember those brave men and women of this movement but we also remember those who took up arms in 1916 in a bid to overthrow the British establishment in Ireland. When the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read from the steps of the GPO Connolly knew that the British would not accept any Read the rest of this entry

Liam Mellows / Four Martyrs Commemoration, Co. Wexford


éirígí upcoming events


No Cuts to Child Benefit!

Join this éirígí-organised protest

11am, Breandan Howlin’s Office,

Coolcotts, Wexford Town

Saturday, November 24th



Protest Against the Home Tax and Austerity!

Join with éirígí for the pre-Budget protest

Assemble 1pm, Parnell Square, Dublin

Saturday, November 24th

Organised by the CAHWT & DCTU



90th Anniversary Commemmoration of the Mountyjoy Four

Join  this éirígí-organised event to remember Liam Mellows,

Rory O’Connor, Dick McKelvey and Dick Barret.

Assemble 2pm, Castletown Cemetery, Clonattin Road

Gorey, Co Wexford, Saturday, December 8th

Main Speaker: Councillor John Dwyer

This is Ireland – we DO fight back

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

Michael Collins and Irish Freedom

I wrote this back in early 1997, when Neil Jordan’s movie about Collins was attracting large audiences here (and elsewhere); it appeared at the time in the first issue of revolution, a NZ-based marxist journal

Director Neil Jordan waited ten years to make his movie about the legendary republican leader.  It was only when the IRA leadership declared a ceasefire, as of September 1994, that Jordan felt comfortable about beginning it.  Needless to say, the end of the ceasefire, just as production was drawing to a close, made Jordan uneasy about the possible effects of the film.  Like the rest of the comfortable southern Irish middle class, one of Jordan’s chief preoccupations is the way in which raking over the past may end up legitimising the struggle for Irish freedom today.

Response to Michael Collins in Ireland and Britain

The southern Irish establishment has moved over the past 20 years to ban republicanism and root it out of society, through a combination of repression, censorship and rewriting of history.  In this situation, the movie came as a breath of fresh air for a public deprived of knowledge of their own recent past and daily subjected to a barrage of anti-republicanism from the Irish and British media.

Debate raged in the Irish papers and on radio and TV about the film and the effect it might have in winning sympathy for the anti-imperialist cause today.  Indeed, in Ireland virtually all representations of the past – whether in history books, films, plays or any other medium – are written with the present in mind.  The southern Irish establishment has been particularly keen to expunge the long history of British injustice in Ireland and to legitimise the neo-colonial set-up over which it presides as Britain’s partner in maintaining exploitation and oppression in the country.  In the end Jordan and the southern establishment’s fears are somewhat overdetemined.

The resumption of armed activities by the Irish Republican Army does not represent any threat to the established order in Ireland; as the Belfast Irish language paper La noted on January 6 this year (ie 1997 – PF), the ceasefire ended in order to prevent a split in the IRA ranks.  Another aim is to provide the British government with a little armed lobbying, the highest aim of which is, as veteran Irish revolutionary leader Read the rest of this entry