Category Archives: Seamus Costello

In Review: The Lost Revolution – the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party

Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution – the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party, Dublin, Penguin, 2009, 688pp.

Reviewed by Mick Hall                                                                                                           (thanks to Mick for sending me this review, which he originally posted on Organised Rage on October 12, 2009 – PF)

As a previous reviewer of this book wrote, “It must rank as one of the most detailed and frank histories of any political party in Ireland or elsewhere.”  The Lost Revolution is undoubtedly well-written and enjoyable to read.  It tells the story of the tragic political journey of The Workers Party/Páirtí na nOibrithe (Stickies*) or ‘Officials’ from the split in the IRA and Sinn Féin in 1969-70, to the disintegration of the Workers Party in 1992 and the eventual departure of almost its entire leadership cadre to the right-of-centre Irish Labour Party.

This book is essential reading for all who are interested in the post-WW2 European left, for there is little doubt the history of how a section of IRA/Sinn Fein became the Official IRA, then Sinn Fein The Workers Party, then the Workers Party, and then Democratic Left is an object lesson in both how to build a broad left political party and how not to.

The most important lesson I came away with after reading this book was  Read the rest of this entry

Seamus Costello wreath-laying

Seamus Costello 35th anniversary event

The Seamus Costello Memorial Committee will also be erecting memorials across the County to remember Seamus’s life; please keep in contact with the committee for further details.


Main IRSP and éirígí Easter orations, Belfast, April 8 and 9 (2012)

Below are orations from both events.  Originally I had them up as two separate posts but, within a couple of hours, I thought “bugger it, just because they chose to have separate events doesn’t mean those of us who favour socialist-republican co-operation should treat them separately”, so I’ve combined them.  I also intend to do a short write-up on the Easter commemorations. The IRSP main oration appears before the éirígí one purely because it came first chronologically.

It’s certainly very encouraging to see excellent turnouts for both events but, who knows, maybe next year socialist-republicans will be able to organise a combined event, making it even more attractive and showing our side can work together where it makes sense to!  Live in hope . . .


Below is the oration delivered by Jason Nott of Cork IRSP at the party’s annual Easter 1916 Commemoration in Belfast on Easter Sunday, April 8:


today we gather to remember and salute the memory of our comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of a 32 County democratic Irish republic. An Irish Republic based on the finest principles of socialism – freedom, equality and fraternity.

We remember with pride those volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army and their comrades in the Irish Republican Socialist Party who lie buried in this plot and further afield.

Without their intellect, their courage and their bravery the integrity of republican socialism would have long ago been consigned to history, but I am proud to say we are still here following in their footsteps.

We also send fraternal greetings to all imprisoned republicans, our comrades in Portlaois and to the republican prisoners in Maghaberry who are on protest at this time. Especially in our thoughts is Marian Price, the victim of a vindictive British state, and we call for her immediate release.

Easter is the time of year when we commemorate not only the political vision of the men and women of Easter week 1916, it is also the time when we analyse the current state of the Irish republican struggle and its ability to confront the forces of British and international imperialism in Ireland. We also use this sombre time to review how we as the Irish Republican Socialist Movement continue to prosecute revolutionary struggle in Ireland.

The men and women of Easter week 1916 tilled the land of the nation and sowed the seeds of working class Read the rest of this entry

Sean Doyle on Seamus Costello

by Sean Doyle

(The following is the opening address delivered last October 22 (2011) by Sean Doyle, a veteran socialist-republican, former comrade of Seamus Costello, and member of the Independent Workers Union, Clann éirígí and the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee to the committee’s annual Costello commemoration.  The meeting was held in Newtownmountkennedy in Co. Wicklow):

On behalf of The Costello Memorial Committee I want to warmly welcome you all here tonight to our annual Seamus Costello commemoration. As we have other guest speakers here tonight I will confine myself to this brief tribute.

Thirty-four years ago at the age of only 38 Seamus was murdered by an instructed assassin under orders.  This I believe deprived Ireland and the working people of the most able revolutionary figure since James Connolly.  I am not alone in this assessment.  As years go by more people have come to realise his contribution and commitment to building a revolutionary movement in the Tone, Lalor, and Connolly vision.

I have no doubt as young leaders will emerge in the revolutionary tradition to take up the challenge to Read the rest of this entry

The burning of the British embassy – 40 years on

In the early 1970s the southern state was caught off-guard and couldn’t save their masters’ embassy from destruction

by Philip Ferguson

Last Thursday, February 2, marked the 40th anniversary of the destruction of the British embassy in Merrion Square, Dublin, following the Bloody Sunday massacre of civil rights protesters by the Parachute Regiment on January 30, 1972.  Donnacha O Beachain records, “There appears to be little doubt that the massacre was premeditated.  Indeed, even two decades later, the abiding memory of one of the most senior British officers was his surprise on hearing the number of deaths: he had been expecting at least fifty” (Donnacha O Beachain, Destiny of the Soldiers: Fianna Fail, Irish republicanism and the IRA, 1926-1973, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2010, p330).

The Irish Times reported on February 1 and 3, 1972 on the size of protests in the south – 100,000 in Dublin (this was before the march which burnt down the British embassy) and tens of thousands in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway and dozens of other towns.  The British embassy was under siege, coming under attacks from stones, projectiles and petrol bombs, as people displayed their anger at the massacre in Derry and their solidarity with the oppressed nationalist population in the six counties.

On February 2, funerals took place for eleven of the 14 people shot dead.  In the south, a day of mourning was declared.  Factories, offices and schools closed, along with public transport.  On this day tens of thousands marched on the embassy and it was set alight and destroyed. After the burning of their embassy, the British government even contemplated evacuating all their embassy staff from Dublin.

The British had requested that the Dublin government call out the Free State Army to help gardaí protect the embassy.  It was a mark of how much pressure the southern government was under that they turned down the request.  (They did, however, pay compensation to the British.)

The week after Bloody Sunday a mass march organised for Newry drew 25,000 (Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, The Lost Revolution: the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party, Dublin, Penguin, 2009, p218).

British ambassador Peck would later note in his autobiography that Read the rest of this entry

Socialist-republican heroes

Found this lovely video on the net.  Don’t know who made it, but nice job!

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 Aneurin 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

Miriam Daly on Seamus Costello

Miriam Daly’s reflection and the introduction to it are taken from the IRSP site:

The Costello Commemoration Committee owes much to its first chairperson, Miriam Daly, who was a member of the Ard Chomhairle of the IRSP when Seamus was murdered.

Her politics were very similar to those of Seamus, and it was for her adherence to them she met the same fate and was murdered in her home by agents of imperialism. She was tireless and persistent in her efforts to see Seamus fittingly honoured, especially by the unveiling of the memorial at Little Bray churchyard. For that occasion, which meant so much to her, she wrote the oration, which was delivered by James Daly.

She made the occasion a time of meditation on the meaning of Seamus’ life and death. The themes she emphasised were his essential rationality and morality. She was conscious that the core-meaning of the life of a revolutionary is a universal one, and that it is nothing if not the embodiment of the highest ideals and aspirations of man, a struggle for the triumph of good over evil.

Her tribute to Seamus is in itself a tribute to her own kindred spirit.

OUR TIME OF mourning is over. Death, even the natural, peaceful death of an old person who has completed his life span and been blessed to live to see his children multiply and prosper, is always experienced by the living as a blow, as a threat to the security with which they plan ahead and relate to others. The pain of bereavement is like a sickness for which the only certain cure is time. And in the case of Seamus Costello the sorrow was all the greater and the suffering the more acute since he was struck down by a hired assassin at 38 years of age.

Today a memorial has been unveiled, a monument in stone and bronze conceived and executed by John Burke, an Irish socialist sculptor of genius whose labour as an artist has been dedicated to the same goals that Seamus pursued politically. Nora Connolly O’Brien, dedicated political activist, daughter, student and authority on James Connolly Read the rest of this entry

Seamus Costello: Democracy and the Mass Movement speech, February 1969

The following speech was delivered by Seamus Costello to a Sinn Fein educational conference in Dublin in February 1969.  It provides an excellent overview of the left developments that were taking place in the Republican Movement in the 1960s, especially the latter 1960s.  It also offers important insights into Costello’s own thinking and his role in these developments.  Moreover, it is not simply an interesting historical document.  His explanation of how the Republican Movement was built up in Wicklow provides useful lessons today to revolutionaries not only in Ireland but internationally.  The text is taken from

Mr Chairman, Comrades,

  1. My intention is to demonstrate during the course of this lecture how the working of democracy at both local government and national government level can be related to the work of mass movements.
  2. I will deal first of all with the experiences to our Movement at local level, showing the effects of our activities both inside and outside the local authorities.
  3. I then propose to relate those experiences to our Movement at national level, showing what I believe would be the likely effects of our involvement in parliamentary action.

In order to understand the present position of the Movement in Wicklow it is necessary to first of all trace the history and development of the Movement in that area since 1954. You may ask why 1954? The answer to that is that the first attempt made in modern times to re-establish the Movement in Wicklow was in 1954. At that time there was absolutely no Republican organisation in Read the rest of this entry