Category Archives: Social conditions

In Review: Michael Ryan’s Border Campaign

Michael Ryan, My Life in the IRA: The Border Campaign, Cork, Mercier Press, 2018; reviewed by Philip Ferguson

Opinions differ in republican circles about Operation Harvest (the ‘border campaign’).  Often it has been suggested that the entire campaign was misconceived and then poorly executed, turning into a disaster for the Movement.

Some more recent interpretations have suggested that it had more going for it.  I certainly find it a bit difficult to see that someone of Sean Cronin’s intelligence and military experience would have put together a plan of campaign that could only ever have been a disaster.  Moreover, things started out well – Sinn Fein had captured two six-county seats on an abstentionist basis in the 1955 British general election, winning over 150,000 votes there and then got four further (abstentionist) candidates elected to Leinster House in 1957, taking over 65,000 first-preference votes.   And, after almost being destroyed in the 1940s, the IRA had been able to substantially re-arm, with a series of arms raids in both the six counties and England.

The degree of optimism was such that Mick Ryan writes how he and other Volunteers felt they’d free the north in three months! (p91)

However, very early into the border campaign, problems arose.  Ryan’s book suggests that these problems were Read the rest of this entry

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.

Social Class in Dublin

Thursday, 4 April 2019, 6:30 – 8pm

A panel discussion with Dr Carole Holohan (TCD), Prof Kathleen Lynch (UCD), Dr Michael Pierse (QUB) and Garrett Phelan as part of the ‘Trinity and the Changing City’ Series.

There has been very little public debate on class in Dublin compared to other social issues. Yet there are many class signals that lots of Dubliners can read, including accent, neighbourhood and educational background. Social class is not only difficult to break out of but also impacts the life chances and health of Dubliners. In this interactive session Dr Carole Holohan, Assistant Professor in Modern Irish History at Trinity, Prof Kathleen Lynch, Professor of Equality Studies at University College Dublin, Dr Michael Pierse, Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts, English and Other Languages at Queen’s University Belfast, and Visual Artist Garrett Phelan shed light on one of the final taboos in Irish society.

Register here

Joanne Pender not standing again in Kildare

by Mick Healy

“If we have learned anything from recent progressive changes in Irish society with the Repeal movement and the Water Charges campaigns is that it is through struggle, constructive participation and direct action that change really happens.”         
– Joanne Pender, February 2019.

During the people’s resistance against injustice in the North of Ireland, it was said that ordinary people did extraordinary things.  This could be said of socialist Joanne Pender, originally from the Curragh Camp but now living in Kildare Town with her husband and two children.

In February 2012, hundreds of people packed into the Hotel Keadeen in Newbridge for a meeting organised by the Anti-Household Charge Campaign.  The attendance included Joanne, who had never before considered Read the rest of this entry

“My object is to repeal the conquest – not any part or portion, but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years”: Fintan Lalor, 1847

A letter from Lalor to John Mitchel on the landlords, repealing the Union and repealing the Conquest.  Lalor subsequently shifted from the views here, becoming totally opposed to the landlords as a class.  (See “They or we must quit this island: Fintan Lalor on the landlord class, June 24, 1848”; I will have this up on the blog by the end of this month.)  The piece below originally appeared as a single, long paragraph; I have broken it up into shorter paragraphs.

From Sir C. G. Duffy’s Four Years of Irish History: 1845-1849, London, Paris & New York, Cassell, Petter, Galpin, 1883.

I know the Confederation and you by speeches and writing only.  But men may speak and write forcibly and yet act very feebly, and be very competent to criticize, yet utterly incompetent to construct.  Ireland’s greatest and last opportunity was in your hands – a revolution that would have put your own names in the blaze of the sun for ever was in your hands; you have flung it away as the cock flung the diamond, useless to him as the crisis was to you. Vain to him the flash of the gem which he could not polish; vain to you were the lightnings of heaven and the meteors of earth, which you could or would not kindle and guide.

You appear to be under mistakes as to my objects which I cannot permit you to retain.  I have nothing to do with the landlord and tenant question, as understood.  The question of the tenure by which the actual cultivator of the soil should hold his land is one for an Irish Parliament.  My object is to repeal the conquest – not any part or portion, but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years – a thing much more easily done than to repeal the Union.

That the absolute (allodial) ownership of the lands of Ireland is vested of right in the Read the rest of this entry

“The country was completely ruined by the English wars of conquest. . .” Engels on Ireland, May 1856

Depiction of Famine Ireland

In May 1856, less than a decade after the official end of the 1840s Famine, Frederick Engels and his partner Mary Burns visited Ireland, Burns’ homeland.  On May 23, Engels wrote the following letter to Karl Marx, his political co-worker, in London.  I’ve taken the text from Marx/Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, Progress Publishers, third edition (1975), pp86-88.  I have slightly edited the translation to improve punctuation.  Also, I have replaced Traice with Tralee – I assume Traice is a mistake as there is no such town in Kerry, whereas Tralee is on the route between Tarbert and Killarney.  Lastly, I’ve broken up the paragraphs.

Dear Marx,

During our trip to Ireland we traveled from Dublin to Galway on the West Coast, then 20 miles north and inland, on to Limerick, down the Shannon to Tarbert, Tralee and Killarney, and back to Dublin – a total of about 450-500 English miles within the country itself, so we have seen about two-thirds of the whole country. With the exception of Dublin, which bear the same relation to London as Düsseldorf does to Berlin, and has quite the character of a small one-time capital.  It is, moreover, built entirely in the English style.  The look of the entire country, and especially of the towns, is as if one were in France or Northern Italy. Gendarmes, priests, lawyers, bureaucrats, country squires in pleasing profusion and a total absence of any industry at all, so that it would be difficult to understand what all these parasitic plants live on if the distress of the peasants did not supply the other half of the picture.

“Disciplinary measures” are evident in every corner of the country, the government meddles with everything, of so-called self-government there is not a trace.  Ireland may be regarded as the first English colony and as one which, because of its proximity, is still entirely governed in the old way, and one can already notice here that the so-called liberty of English citizens is based on the Read the rest of this entry

James Connolly on the Irish Citizen Army

The article below was written by Connolly and appeared in the paper Workers Republic, October 30, 1915.  The version below was transcribed in 1997 by the James Connolly Society and appears in the Connolly section of the Marxist Internet Archive.

The Irish Citizen Army was founded during the great Dublin Lock-Out of 1913-14, for the purpose of protecting the working class, and of preserving its right of public meeting and free association. The streets of Dublin had been covered by the bodies of helpless men, women, boys and girls brutally batoned by the uniformed bullies of the British Government.

Three men had been killed, and one young Irish girl murdered by a scab, and nothing was done to bring the assassins to justice. So since justice did not exist for us, since the law instead of protecting the rights of the workers was an open enemy, and since the armed forces of the Crown were unreservedly at the disposal of the enemies of labour, it was resolved to create our own army to secure our rights, to protect our members, and to be a guarantee of our own free progress.

ICA Army Council members Michael Mallin and Constance Markievicz being led away by British troops after the defeat of the 1916 Rising

The Irish Citizen Army was the first publicly organised armed citizen force south of the Boyne. Its constitution pledged and still pledges its members to work for an Irish Republic, and for the emancipation of labour. It has ever been foremost in allnational work, and whilst never neglecting its own special function has always been at the disposal of the forces of Irish nationality for the ends common to all.

Its influence and presence has Read the rest of this entry

Fintan Lalor on Repeal, land ownership, insurrection and saving the Irish masses in the Famine

Lalor argued that only a social revolution could save Ireland from the destruction wrought by the landlords and British state through the Famine

The following article appeared in The Irish Felon, July 1848.  It was titled “To the Irish Confederate and Repeal Clubs”.  The sentences in brackets were Lalor’s introduction to the piece.  In this lengthy feature Lalor criticises the Young Ireland movement for the partial nature of its break with Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal Association; argues that the goal of the struggle has to be a social revolution and not simply repeal of the 1801 Act of Union; outlines different forms of insurrection; identifies the landlord class as a garrison class; notes the socio-economic impact of Famine on Irish society; and how a plan of action is needed to fight immediately to save the country from ruin.

I must admit I was sorely tempted to break up the more massive paragraphs!  However, I decided to resist the temptation.  

by James Fintan Lalor

[The paper that follows was written in the last week of January, 1847 – just one year and five months ago and was forwarded to one of the leading members of the Confederation for private circulation among the council of that body. I now address it to you just as it was written.]

I see no reason to prevent me mentioning that, in about a month from the date and delivery of my paper, I received a letter from John Mitchel stating that, on perusal and consideration of its contents, he had fully adopted my views, and that he meant to act on them so soon as occasion should fit and serve.                                                                                                                                  – January 25, 1847

My sole wish or attention is to suggest. Any attempt to convert or convince would be useless. Individuals are never converted; they must convert themselves. Men are moved only in masses; and it is easier to convert a million of men than a single man. But neither is the attempt necessary. To you, or any of those whom this paper is intended, the end of the clue-line is enough. You will be able, if you choose, to follow it out yourself. To lead you on, link by link, would be needless and absurd.

To anyone who considers their speeches, resolutions, and proceedings, it will, I think, appear manifest and marked, as it does to me, that the “seceders” have gone into organized action upon mere vague impulse and general feeling; with their objects undefined, their principles unsettled, their course unmarked; without any determinate plan, or, consequently, any fixed purpose – for no purpose can long remain fixed, but must be ever veering and wavering, without a plan to guide, control, and sustain it; and a purpose without a plan to confine and confirm it, is no purpose at all. Such a plan, too, is wanting as a warrant and guarantee to yourselves and to others that your object is feasible and your means adequate ; that you have gauged your enterprise and measured your means; and that the work you call on us to do will not be wasted. There are few worse things, even in the ethics or economy of private life, than labour misdirected; but what should be said of those who would, for want of a full and exact survey and calculation, mislead and exhaust the labour and means and strength of a people? It is not 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

“(T)he clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political”: Connolly on Fintan Lalor

James Fintan Lalor, 1807-1849

The piece below is taken from chapter 14 (“Socialist Teaching of the Young Irelanders: Thinkers and Workers”) of James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History (1910).  I’ve broken up very big paragraphs.

. . . But the palm of honour for the clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political, must be given to James Fintan Lalor, of Tenakill, Queen’s County. Lalor, unfortunately, suffered from a slight physical disability, which incapacitated him from attaining to any leadership other than intellectual, a fact that, in such a time and amidst such a people, was fatal to his immediate influence. Yet in his writings, as we study them to-day, we find principles of action and of society which have within them not only the best plan of campaign suited for the needs of a country seeking its freedom through insurrection against a dominant nation, but also held the seeds of the more perfect social peace of the future.

All his writings at this period are so illuminating that we find it difficult to select from the mass any particular passages which more deserve reproduction than others. But as an indication of the line of argument pursued by this peerless thinker, and as a welcome contrast to the paralysing respect, nay, reverence, for landlordism evidenced by Smith O’Brien and his worshippers, perhaps the following passages will serve. In Read the rest of this entry