éirígí: armed struggle is a tactic, not a principle…

Mick Hall has an interesting quote from a Northern Irish member of éirígí, a relatively recent phenomenon in Republican politics, which seems to have surfaced in Dublin much before organising in Belfast:

“The party defends the right of any people who are subjected to imperialist occupation to use whatever means they deem necessary to remove that occupation. However, we do believe that the elevation of military struggle to a principle as opposed to a revolutionary tactic has retarded the development of the republican project. The policy of militarism encourages elitism and stifles the initiative of our communities. Pursuing a military strategy at all costs also divorces the struggle from ever-changing contexts and hence, our ability to capitalize on them.”

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  • picador

    I suspect that any member of this nascent organisation who styled themselves as being Northern Irish would soon find themselves looking for another organisation to join – the Alliance party perhaps.

    I also suspect that any new ‘revolutionary party’ that subscribes to the axiom ‘by any means necessary’ would lose their deposit in any election. SF have shown that if you try to ride two horses at once sooner or later you will have to let one of them go. Armed struggle impresses none but the bloody-minded these days – eírígí to fall at the first hurdle.

  • Mark McGregor

    Picador,

    Strange how people read the same thing in different ways. I as a Republican read that as a call not to arms, you do the opposite.

  • McGinster

    Aye, that’s exactly what we need. A Republican party that stands for everything and nothing at the same time.

  • joe

    mick
    can i congratulate you on two things, first, removing ed moloney’s book on paisley from your “strongly recommended” list and leaving steve bruce’s account instead – that decision shows such subtle and informed judgement on your part. steve bruce (boy, what a writer!) got so close to paisley that at times i really did think he was almost viewing the man from a cecum-like vantage point whereas moloney is just obsessed with political morality, as if bloodstained hands on the levers of power have anything to do with politics in our wee norniron! secondly, thanks for ensuring that your coverage of moloney’s book on your blog was kept to the minimal, as it should be. well done mick – keep up the good work! we know we can always rely on you;
    yours
    GBO

  • picador

    Mark,

    I read it as being highly ambiguous. Does eírígí have a miltary wing yet? When can we expect them to start playing toy soldiers? In what cicumstances will they use the ‘military struggle’ tactic? Who will they fight against? To what ends? Haven’t we already had enough of this shite?

  • Jimmy

    Are there people who still believe in that Marxist claptrap? Which is another form of Imperialism by the way.
    Whoever heard of a Bloodless Revolution eh?. eirigi are a bunch of part time juvenile radicals,(I hear its mostly young people) most kids in belfast are more interested in a new pair of nike trainers than class politics.

  • abucs

    In referring to the headline …..

    I would think that if you are going to be voluntarily involved in war and the grim realities it invovles, it would have to be in agreement with your principles. (Rightly or wrongly).

    It might also be in accordance with tactics, but the seriousness of the whole thing means that principle comes before tactics IMHO.

    With regards to talking about the future of Ireland, best to talk politics and not war.

  • Mark McGregor

    Jimmy,

    Comment five on this indymedia entry would make your ‘juvenile radicals’ comment seem far off the mark.

    “Brendan Mac Cionnaith, garvaghy road spokesperson, former sinn fein -delivered a speech at their function in Dublin there
    David Highland – independant MLA former sinn fein is there too
    Dominic mc glinchey of the mc glinchey family of south derry
    A couple of high profile belfast republican ex prisoners, Alec Mc Crory and Rab jackson
    Geraldine Dougan former MLA, sinn fein

    And Bernard fox and Bernadette mc Aliskey have both spoken at events of theirs recently.

    So they have former and current elected reps,high profile ex prisoners and hunger strikers and they dont seem short on young people either by the looks of it!

    Obviously names are just names but i doubt if anyone in republican circles would refute the calibre of some of these people without it being politically motivated

    Say what you want about éirígí but there is potential there for the first time in years of a real republican alternative and people like those mentioned above are noticing it and more importantly putting their name to it.

    They dont get into the mud slinging of every other republican group who thinks that they are the ‘true owners’ of republicansm and all these heavy hitters who found it impossible to stop the rightward swing of sinn fein and see no validity in the hundred or so republican splinter groups see something different here.

    interesting times ahead!

  • Henry94

    The alternative is to say armed struggle is wrong in principle. That is a proposition republicans need to consider.

    Consider a hypothetical situation where the British could be removed from Ireland by military force and the six counties handed over to the Dublin government. The north would be in a unite Ireland rather than a united Kingdom. But the problem would not be solved.

    We would still have two communities on the island with opposing constitutional aspirations. Can anyone honestly claim that unionism would fade away any more than nationalism did in the north?

    So by falsely diagnosing the problem as a military one, armed struggle prevents us from solving it. Any future armed struggle would be a failure just as the recently ended one was a failure.

    Te real task is to take a long hard look at that failure and understand the reasons for it. To drop the “undefeated army” nonsense. To consider the double-think in sending people out to die for a united Ireland and then commemorating them at a devolved Stormont Assembly.

    And to ask where honest leadership for nationalism is likely to come from.

  • éirígí looks like a re-run of the Wolf Tone society and the Young Socialist Alliance/Peoples Democracy of the 1960s but in a very different context. Will Dublin stand idly by or will it play the nimby option once again? Is there another Paisley waiting in the wings?

    éirígí is still stuck on the horns of the constitutional question. It can be a working class organisation for all that sector of society or it can be a nationalist one; it can’t be both.

  • Mark McGregor

    Henry,

    The quote, incorrectly attributed to a Northern Irish [sic] member of éirígí, is taken from an address to an RSYM event. It comes from a section starting: ‘Chief among the failed experiments have been militarism, reformism and the policy of ‘labour must wait’.

    The full text can be found by googling RSYM, éirígí and militarism, for some bizarre reason Slugger is blacklisting the link so I can’t add it.

    Those seeing militarism are just seeing what they want to see rather than what was said.

  • Mark, how can you say incorrectly? The éirígí member isn’t named in that article.

  • Turgon

    So Mr. McGregor,
    Are you a member of this organisation and if so do you renounce killing people in an attempt to get your aims?

  • Henry94

    Mark

    I had a quick look at the éirígí website. It looks to me like the armed struggle without the arms. Demanding British withdrawal and attacking the Queen’s visit.

    If the objective is to mop up disaffected provos and recruit some young people it will work to some extent.

    But as a roadmap to a united Ireland it simply doesn’t cut it. We have to address unionism and how the hell does protesting about the Queen do that?

  • DC

    “Haven’t we already had enough of this shite?”

    Hear, hear. It would only be a troublesome stance if, economically, the Republic were going down the pan and the people couldn’t fry a sausage. But thankfully that is not so.

    Yawn…next item please.

  • Pennies and Pounds

    “if, economically, the Republic were going down the pan”

    Given that many economists are predicting a potential serious downturn in the global economy, the Republic’s dependence upon foreign investors with regards to its major growth over the recent decade or so, could make the Celtic Tiger particularly susceptible to decisions taken in board-rooms elsewhere. Added to that are the more “attractive” (in terms of lower wage levels)incentives within former Eastern bloc counties.

    If there is a major recession on the way, (and fingers, toes and everything else crossed that there won’t be) the Republic might be less immune than it appears on surface.

  • CS Parnell

    Physical force republicanism is deep rooted in the Irish (nationalist) psyche and, of course, we’re all supposed to believe it worked in 1916 – 1922 so therefore it is legitimate.

    But is it really? It has failed to achieve anything at every other outing from 1798 onwards and even in 1922 all it delivered was a dominion (ie not the republic) and of rather more lasting significance, partition.

    If Home Rule had come in 1920, Ireland would – had people desired it – been independent by 1948 (the Brits could hardly have let India go and keep their ‘oldest colony’). On the other hand the people of Ireland as a whole might have preferred some other form of association with Britain if it delivered unity on a 32 county basis.

    The republicanism of 1916 proved pretty much to be a dead end for the people of Ireland – particularly for the Northerners condemned to live in a sectarian state that treated them as second class citizens as a point of policy. But also for the, quite literally, millions who were driven off shore by its economic failure in the IFS/RoI.

    God bless Dick Spring and Mary Robinson for nailing down its coffin.

  • circles

    Ohhh nice to see the knee jerks are all still well in place here – from picador and his wories of a “revolutionary party” (as far as I know eírígí is not a political party pic, so you’re predictions of electoral failure are irrelevant. For the answers to your other questions just visit their web-site and inform yourself).
    To Henry and his disgust at republicans revolting against a visit from the Queen (come on Henry – I mean they are republicans for a reason you know. Unionists may not like that side of it, but their marches aren’t exactly addressing republican sensibilities either.) To Turgon and his knee jerk demands for the renunciation of violence from Mark based on the supposition that perhap he might once have shared a ciggie with a guy who knew a man who was at an eírígí meeting.

    I don’t see this quote in any way as being a call to arms. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but it looks to me be basically as saying that armed struggle in the irish context has had a serious negative impact even on republicanism.

  • Gerry lvs Castro

    It looks like eirigi are an organisation seriously out of step with 21st century realities.

    ‘Armed struggle’ of any hue is a complete non-starter. The support for such action (following lest we together an overwhelming vote for peace/the GFA/continuing partition) is miniscule and the supposed justifications risible.
    In a post 9/11 world, the Irish, British and US govts are singing off the same hymnsheet regarding terrorism.

    Marxism is a global beaten docket and the ROI electorate gave a firm thumbs down to SFs leftist ramblings last year.

    30 years of provo violence failed to secure a British withdrawal. Erigi’s similar-sounding strategy would have considerably less chance of success in today’s economic and global climate.

    Perhaps they could join forces with TUV and leap into oblivion together.

  • Gerry lvs Castro

    Sorry the word ‘together’ in third line should be ‘forget.’

  • Nevin @ 11:00 AM above refers to the “Wolfe Tone Society” (as does Ferriter, page 566).

    My recollection is that the Dublin lot mainly operated under the title of the “Wolfe Tone Bureau”. I certainly recall a public meeting in the Mansion House, about 1964-65, using that front. The republican orthodoxy then, of course, was entryism. The “Wolfe Tone Society” I had believed to be a North London small-and-select band of fellow-travellers.

    Can anyone help me to get the names straight?

    And, no, Jimmy @ 10:30 AM, “Marxist claptrap” (more definition needed there, I feel), is not “another form of Imperialism”, by any way. As for Mark McGregor @ 10:56 AM‘s catalogue of names, it does answer the question: Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan?

    As for eirígí, the sad truth is you give them a good word (“imperialism”) and a few selected quotations from Connolly, and they call that an ideology. Hmm … perhaps “Marxist claptrap” is not too far from the mark. It’s certainly ill-digested Marxism.

  • Garibaldy

    Malcolm,

    There is currently a London organisation describing itself as The Wolfe Tone Society, which is as you say it is.

    However, The Wolfe Tone Society referred to here (and there was more than one) was a republican think-tank in the 1960s set up under the auspices of Cathal Goulding, and which contributed to the rethink that went on within the republican movement at that time, and led to the rejection of militaristic nationalism, and an emphasis on addressing social and economic questions, and combatting sectarianism. It was at a Wolfe Tone Society meeting that the decision to launch the civil rights campaign was taken.

  • DC

    “God bless Dick Spring and Mary Robinson for nailing down its coffin.”

    Nah mate, try successive democratically elected politicians for such transitions!

    Re partition GFA endorsed. Move on as have the people who have actually been the real movers.

  • Henry94

    circles

    To Henry and his disgust at republicans revolting against a visit from the Queen (come on Henry – I mean they are republicans for a reason you know. Unionists may not like that side of it, but their marches aren’t exactly addressing republican sensibilities either.)

    It not disgust at all. I just don’t see anything new in it. Unionists might as well march against Mary McAleese. It’s ignoring the situation we are in.

    The Agreement was the best we could come up with. We had Clinton, Blair and Ahern on the job. Each considered the best political mind of his generation at home.

    We had Adams and Hume two substantial nationalist leaders on our team. Even Paisley had to accept it in the end. And it still looked enough like Sunningdale to make us wonder what the intervening years had been all about.

    Any departure in political life has to start from the Agreement if it wants to be considered serious.

  • perci

    good to see you blogging here again Henry94, norn iron blogsphere is a broad church 😉

    There must be only so much ATW yuz can take, what with “Lets bomb Iran” as the happy Easter story.

    On your above points, I think you’re spot on.
    For my part I’m trying to explain to the heathen on Balrog, that a united ireland must come though the front door, and not the back door.
    I’m none too popular for it. lol

  • URQUHART

    armed struggle is a tactic, not a principle…

    adolescent cliches are an irritant, not a political strategy…

  • picador

    circles

    Ohhh nice to see the knee jerks are all still well in place here – from picador and his wories of a “revolutionary party”

    I suggest you read the OP which speaks of eírígí being a party with a revoluionary project.

    Personally, having known nothing but the 30 years of bullshit euphemistically called ‘the Troubles’ I have had an eye-full of revolutionary bombast.

    To mis-quote Frantz Fanon “They may kill the evoluionary but they’ll never kill the evolution”.

    I’m an evolutionary mate so you can put your revolution where the sun don’t shine. Sorry if that sounds harsh but I can’t abide this kind of clap-trap any more.

  • picador

    According to Mark who I think is involved with eírígí they have been hanging out with the so-called Republican Socialist Youth Movement (i.e the INLA). In spite of all their pseudo Marxist-Leninist drivel this bunch of touts and gangsters (the RSM) pose an infintely greater threat to their own membership than they do to British rule in Ireland – and if you don’t believe me check the memorial notices in the Starry Plough (if it still exists). Watch your back Mark!

  • Desmond Greaves and the Connolly Association

    “NICRA itself originated at a conference of the Wolfe Tone Societies held in Maghera, County Derry, on the weekend of 13-14 August 1966.”

    More

  • baslamak

    Henry

    I think almost all accept the GFA as a political reality, but it is perfectly legit in a democracy to either oppose it, or wish to change it. Some will work with it, some will work against it, a few will totally ignore it and go their own merry way, such is life.

    Your saying people should recognize the agreement if they wish to be taken seriously, others are saying éirígí must give up their radical politics for the same reasons. In other words it is the status quo or nothing.

    What a dull world it would be if we all thought the same; and more to the point if we all agreed with the status quo human kind would never have moved beyond the cave. For it is those who are prepared to think outside the box who mainly move societies and science forward.

    By the way despite some posters trying to link éirígí with the armed struggle tag, on reading their web site, it strikes me what makes them different is they understand the limitations of armed struggle and are prepared to say so, especially when it comes to democratic accountability. They also make clear that at the present time engaging in armed struggle is not going to lead to a united socialist republic.

  • CS Parnell

    The Connolly Association was of course the Communist Party of Great Britain’s “united front” organisation for Irish exiles in GB. One part of it spawned the people who had such a decisive influence on Cathal Goulding, another bit fell in love with Chairman Mao and became “the Irish Communist Organisation” then the “The British Irish Communist Organisation” and then “the Ernest Bevin society”.

    Back in the 80s what was left of them used to hanga round in Cornmarket denouncing Neil Kinnock for refusing to waste the British Labour Party’s money by organising in the North of Ireland.

    There were people around the BICO who had some very, very strange politics. I don’t know enough about it but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had an influence on people like Gusty Spence and David Ervine.

    BTW: My comment about Spring and Robinson was because they were the people (Spring’s idea, Robinson as the legal necessity) who beat the dunderheaded republicanism of FF.

    FF may also have abandoned republicanism, but they did it because it didn’t work anymore.

  • picador

    By the way despite some posters trying to link éirígí with the armed struggle tag, on reading their web site, it strikes me what makes them different is they understand the limitations of armed struggle and are prepared to say so, especially when it comes to democratic accountability. They also make clear that at the present time engaging in armed struggle is not going to lead to a united socialist republic.

    Baslamak

    The main limitation of armed struggle, apart from the fact that it sends lots of people to early graves, to hospitals, to long stretches behind bars and makes life a misery for the rest of us, is that it has failed – and comprehensively so. Unfortubately that particular penny, nay lets call it a pound, does not seem to have dropped yet with eírígí and that is extremely worrying. The key phrase in your contribution is “at the present time”. There is a clear implication that at some point in the future the time will be right for renewing the “armed struggle”. And besides who wants a socialist republic anyway? Not the people of Ireland, that’s for sure.

  • CS Parnell

    picador,

    While I am basically in agreement with you, I think you need to see this for what it is: an admission that physical force republicanism is a dead letter.

    Incidentally, I imagine if he was ever pressed Adams would also describe armed struggle as a tactic. Certainly we all know what TUAS stands for, don’t we?

    Even that is a decisive break from Pearse et al. Pearse, saw armed struggle as a moral obligation. In that sense PFR has been imbued with the Catholic Church’s cult of death for most of the last century.

  • DC

    Perhaps a ‘socialist republic’ is just a tactic or pretext to use violence.

    A socialist republic down the barrel of a gun, sounds well thought out oh yea and count me in, ffs. Or, would I have any choice in the matter?

  • CS Parnell

    There is actually a rather good article on the BICO here. Their politics are even more bizarre than I remembered.

  • Thanks, Garibaldy @ 01:02 PM and Nevin on @ 01:57 PM. I’m glad of that clarification. It drove me back to try and review the processes involved, from the sources I can access at this moment.

    Except:
    1. I know I (or rather, my alter ego) attended that public meeting at the Mansion House; and that it was under the auspices of the “Wolfe Tone Bureau”. I’m pretty sure that Goulding was in evidence. Yes, I was a wee bit leery about the whole thing. Obviously there was some evolution still to happen.

    2. There’s a lot more to be said about the emergence of NICRA. Bringing in the name of C. Desmond Greaves is useful. My take would be that Greaves represented the CPGB’s attempt at remote control of Irish socialism, and therefore his analysis should be treated with considerable care.

    The strands that came together formally as NICRA and PD were there before late 1966: again, I remember a colloquium between QUB and TCD lefties (there may well have been the odd bod from UCD) in the autumn of 1965: that was already quite late in the proceedings. In retrospect what was happening was that the Young Turks were developing a new approach, and had escaped the shackles of both Gardiner Place and of Greaves and King Street — represented in large part by the Connolly Association and Greaves’s Irish Democrat. Single-issue campaigns (I’d suggest CND and EEC entry) were seminal. Most of all, though, NICRA was born out of impatience with the rituals of Trades Councils and the like passing resolutions. Rayner Lysaght, coming from a Trot point-of-view, describes the process as:

    The struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland was not going to be a matter of an intelligent labour aristocracy winning reforms from a liberal Premier for inarticulate underdogs.

    Where I’d have most reservations about éirígí is that it’s the same old voices addressing each other, and trying to maintain themselves as a Marxist-Leninist leadership cadre. It’s also a further sprig from the Gardiner Place tradition (which was the lot behind the Wolfe Tone Bureau/Societies I recall).

  • Rory

    The recognition of the right of oppressed peoples to resort to armed struggle is the principle.

    The exercise of that right is the tactic.

    Éirigí have, it seems to me, simply made a clarification of that distinction and pointed to the great error that results from elevating the tactic to the level of principle.

    In éirigí’s case this would seem an important (and prudent) distinction for them to recognise and one that does not yet seem to encroached upon the mindset of at least two dissident republican groups.

    But then the assumption of the right to use force of arms to impose one’s will is a principle that is dear to the hearts of all governments and the exercise of that assumed right has been observed all too often in recent days. Iran for example is surely bracing itself for an unhappy visitation of the exercise of that principle upon its territory within the forseeable future.

  • Rory

    “…and one that does not yet seem to encroached upon the mindset of at least two dissident republican groups.

    should read:

    “…does not yet seem to have encroached…

    Apologies.

  • baslamak

    While I am basically in agreement with you, I think you need to see this for what it is: an admission that physical force republicanism is a dead letter.

    CS

    I agree, but it seems to me éirígí are also saying armed struggle has had a detrimental effect on Republican politics organizationally, as armed struggle must entail a top down, non democratic internal structure.

    Due to the militarist structure of the republican movement which armed struggle necessitates. It is no accident that time and again the leadership makes bad decisions, as when making the decisions there is no democratic engagement with the membership. A good example of this is SF, in which a small leadership group comes to a decision then gets it accepted as party policy by fair means or foul.

    Due to armed struggle etc men and women are called to attention to support the party line, even if they disagree with it. Then what you end up with is a demoralized rump of an organization in which people are only going through the motions, and which has lost all its vitality.

    Republicans unlike the general population often over look the fact the solders rarely make good democratic politicians, not least because they are used to getting their own way by issuing orders alone.

  • Henry94

    baslamak

    What a dull world it would be if we all thought the same; and more to the point if we all agreed with the status quo human kind would never have moved beyond the cave. For it is those who are prepared to think outside the box who mainly move societies and science forward.

    It looks like the same old “32 county socialist republic” box to me. But then I’m no scientist.

    I think we do need new thinking in nationalism. We have to have a discussion about the armed struggle that is honest and unsentimental. It’s about a lot more than just turning it off. It’s about what it was all about, why it failed and how we change the thinking that led to it.

  • Malcolm, there seems to be a problem with the Stormont Papers website so I’ll post some of Sean Garland’s address at a Wolfe Tone commemoration on 23 June 1968:

    “The traditional policy of the I.R.A up to the present has been to prepare the army for an armed struggle and use the civil wings of the Movement simply as support groups for publicity, finance, recruits and suppliers of transport and friendly houses. There is nothing wrong with these ideas but the real and most important function of the civil wing has been overlooked and neglected – that is of being a bridge between the underground activities of the army and the people – the connecting link.

    The function of the civil wing of all successful revolutionary movements has been to act as the mass organiser of the people to lead them in their agitationary (sic) activities. Therefore we should be leading the people by means of the civil wings in agitating for better working, living and social conditions, in agitating for land, showing them in all these fights that their enemies are their landlords, their bosses and their gombeen exploiters and finally get them to understand that all these opposing forces are banded together in an organisation called the establishment.

    This changes drastically our traditional line of tactics. There are no longer two different types of republicans; physical force men and politicians. We in the Republican Movement must be politically aware of our objectives and must also be prepared to take the appropriate educational, economic, political and finally military action to achieve them.”

    Bill Craig: He went on to enumerate the burning of eight buses and the E.I. Shannon dispute as the sort of activities in which the civil wing should be engaged.

    IMO ‘civil rights’ was a fashion of the times and it was used as a smokescreen by the initiators of NICRA to further the cause of a 32-county Irish socialist republic. Just looking at our history from a unionist/nationalist perspective is likely to miss out the significant part played by a number of socialist groupings in destabilising society here. Their targets were the establishments in both Belfast and Dublin.

  • Nevin @ 03:26 PM:

    Thanks, again, for further insight into the workings of Garland’s mind. Umm: there’s a couple of terms in that last sentence that don’t seem quite appropriate.

    Once again I despair that we still get this assumption of the revolutionary “leadership” role. If only the WP could get out that particular box, it might be worth taking seriously.

    As for:

    the significant part played by a number of socialist groupings in destabilising society here. Their targets were the establishments in both Belfast and Dublin. [My dubious emphasis].

    All I can say is, “If only …”

  • picador

    CSP

    While I am basically in agreement with you, I think you need to see this for what it is: an admission that physical force republicanism is a dead letter.

    Well, I hope that you are right but eírígí’s postion seems somewhat ‘Jesuitical’ to me. If “military struggle” is a valid option then it follows that an armed organisation should be in place to pursue it if and when the conditions arise. I appreciate what you say about SF’s position but the difference is that Adam’s has used this argument to manage the Provos away from “military struggle”. I don’t see how eírígí have anything “new” to offer – far from it they are just a blast from the past judging by the article that Mark McGregor mentioned above. Why they feel the need to issue grandiose statements about “military struggle” is a mystery to me. I suppose it makes them feel that they are important in the scheme of things. Irrelevant more like!

  • picador

    I think we do need new thinking in nationalism. We have to have a discussion about the armed struggle that is honest and unsentimental. It’s about a lot more than just turning it off. It’s about what it was all about, why it failed and how we change the thinking that led to it.

    Well said, Henry. I chat to you about it at Milltown tomorrow!!

  • picador

    I tried to make a link to that speech Mark referred to earlier but it is indeed blacklisted – perhaps beacuse it is on the IRSP website (glorifying terrorism?).

  • Henry94

    picador

    I’ll be carrying a Sunday Independent and wearing a red carnation

  • picador

    LOL. I’ll be in the colour party at the RSF gig. Look out for the Ray-ban sunglasses.

  • CS Parnell

    Just looking at our history from a unionist/nationalist perspective is likely to miss out the significant part played by a number of socialist groupings in destabilising society here.

    I imagine that “here” is the north. Well, it certainly needed the destabilisation. It was rotten from top to bottom.

    Nothing excuses the decision of some – first the UVF, then the IRA – to respond by killing people, but there was no way the 1922 disposition was going to survive into the 1970s. A few unionists began to recognise this but even the milquetoast reforms they proposed were too much for many.

    NICRA may have been the creation of the republicans but it was there because of a real need.

    I speak for myself, but I know many others feel the same – even for Catholics now in their early 40s the sense of second class citizenship is ground into us. It’s a hurt and a repressed anger we will carry to the grave, made only worse because so many of us bent over backwards to seek compromise and yet almost every time had it spat back in our faces.

  • McKelvey

    (Henry94) Can anyone honestly claim that unionism would fade away any more than nationalism did in the north?

    I suspect, and I have no way of proving this, that in the final analysis most unionists are more anti-united Ireland than pro-union.

  • Mark McGregor

    It looks like the same old “32 county socialist republic” box to me. But then I’m no scientist.

    I think we do need new thinking in nationalism. We have to have a discussion about the armed struggle that is honest and unsentimental. It’s about a lot more than just turning it off. It’s about what it was all about, why it failed and how we change the thinking that led to it.

    Henry,

    I agree with you such discussions need to take place but if Republicans are seeing the aim of a 32 County Socialist Republic as questionable they need to be examining a lot more than just opinions on armed struggle. The éirígí piece being quoted is, in part, addressing the failings of militarism but not arriving at a conclusion the declared aim behind it was invalid or should be dropped.

    Perhaps the discussion you are talking about, if held honestly, may result in some accepting their current methodology and eventual destination is unlikely to produce their stated aims? Could people deal with publicly challenging or altering long declared ideals?

    It be a very interesting debate to watch but I doubt it’ll ever occur for many.

  • Mark McGregor

    Henry,

    btw. great to see you back, your contributions were missed.

  • cut the bull

    Is there any intention by Éirgí to field candidates in any parliamentary or local council elections north or south in the near future.

  • picador

    Mark,

    The vast majority of Irish people, north and south have consistently rejected socialism at the ballot box. National re-unification is a tall order but a 32 county socialist republic is pie in the sky. You can criticise SF all you want for embracing ‘real politik’ (in the north at least) but you have no viable alternative to offer.

  • Mark McGregor

    Picador,

    I’m a socialist, the ballot box and/or others’ politics can’t change that. And I haven’t criticised anything, people are perfectly entitled to change.

  • baslamak

    Picador

    There you go again, who gets to decide what is viable or not, you. In 1939 a majority in the UK would have said it was pie in the sky to believe there could ever be a welfare state, NHS, state owned coal mines, railways etc, ten years later it all became a reality. In 1975 when ever Thatcher said electric, gas and railways should and would be privatized people said, it will never happen, to think that is pie in the sky.

    Just because you cannot foresee such change, does not make it an impossibility beyond your closed mind. The reason the more thoughtful people on the right belittle socialists and our ideas is not because they believe those who advocate these things are crackpots etc, but because they understand from history that when change comes it comes rapidly and I do not just mean revolutionary change here. People can be very fickle politically and can change their minds extremely quickly and for all sorts or reasons.

    I have absolutely no doubt [if you are old enough] you would have said ten years ago that it was pie in the sky to ever imagine that Paisley and McG would be holding hands whilst administering a British administration.

    .

  • DC

    Yes entitled to change, but change for the better? What do you have in mind Mark that would make a large enough cohort vote for change in favour of ‘socialism’ or something that is supposed to be that?

  • Mark McGregor

    Me personally? Next to nothing. I’ll continue to do as my conscience dictates and support every project I believe has a chance of contributing to radical change and creating a focus on people over capital. It may seem like ‘pie in the sky’ to you, that certainly won’t deter me and many others from pursuing our ideals and when a radical left, former communist, party can build mass support and become the people’s choice in, an admittedly small, European country I retain hopes for similar here.

  • picador

    I agree with you such discussions need to take place but if Republicans are seeing the aim of a 32 County Socialist Republic as questionable they need to be examining a lot more than just opinions on armed struggle.

    You do not have to be a socialist to be a republican. Did you never hear of Billy McKee?

  • Malcolm, the socialist role was relatively small but it was significant in the sense that it put nationalists and unionists at each others throats ie they helped unleash the mobs.

    They also moved the Irish government into nimby mode. Goulding and friends had to go but what was left behind was much worse, the embryonic PRM.

  • cut the bull

    Until éirígí takes a decision to field candidates in elections especially local council elections.

    It will be an irritant to those who érígí believe either oppose socialism or politicains who have failed to live up to their perceieved socialist credentials, rather than being a realistic socialist alternative throughout Ireland .

  • Mark McGregor

    Picador,

    You could have mentioned Gerry McGeough also. For me and many others Catholicism is of little interest and was never part of any stated Republican aims and I certainly wouldn’t question McKee or McGeough’s commitment to a united Ireland. If you are suggesting Socialism was a tactic not a principle I’d be interested in knowing to whom or what you are referring because it was/is certainly a stated objective of pretty much every Republican group.

  • CSP, should some of that anger not also be directed at those in the pan-nationalist family, including the Irish Catholic hierarchy, who promoted a form of self-imposed apartheid, a ‘society within a society’?

    “NICRA may have been the creation of the republicans but it was there because of a real need.”

    I’d have emphasised the socialist as distinct from the ‘Catholic Ireland’ side of the republican family. Liam O Comain points out that Hume was reluctant to get too close to NICRA and the Catholic Church turned to Hume to protect its own interests.

    I’ve put forward my own thoughts on compromise but I don’t see any unionists or nationalists prepared to give it a go. They both appear to have an all or nothing streak deeply ingrained.

  • picador

    Mark

    Do you have to be a socialist to be a republican?
    Do you have to be non-sectarian to be a republican?

  • Mark McGregor

    Picador,

    I’m not going to define anyone else. To me all three are important and interlinked. If you are trying to present a case for them being unconnected, as you’ve done earlier, that’s up to you.

  • picador

    Mark,

    You’re a hard man to pin down.

    I believe that non-sectarianism is more integral to republicanism than socialism ever will be (modern socialism hadn’t been invented in the days of Wolfe Tone). Of course non-sectarianism has received little more than lip service amongst certain sections of republicanism in not so distant times thus “retarding the development of the republican project”. Will eírígí be any different in this regard?

  • Mark McGregor

    Picador,

    I’m not trying to resist being pinned down. For me, the three and inextricably linked – Republicanism, Socialism and anti-sectarianism – personally I feel Republicanism should automatically mean the other two values. That’s me though and I’m certainly not going to say McKee or McGeough or FF or the SDLP or anyone else that wants to declare themselves Republican isn’t. What it should mean is that those people/groups examine what Republicanism means to them and others then decide if their actions and beliefs are really compatible.

    Now you’ve asked a good question, is it essential to be a socialist to be a Republican. To me both the Irish and international definition of Republicanism make the equality thing an absolute must. If others think equality can be guaranteed for all without socialism or equality isn’t a principle of Republicanism I’d be interested to hear the logic.

  • picador

    Socalist republics tend not to have had a very good reputation – the phrase ‘some are more equal than others spring to mind’. I’m thinking of the USSR, the DDR, Romania, China, North Korea, Cuba.

    Democracy to me would be another cardinal principal of republicanism. Many modern countries have a republican system which while not perfect do not imprison the opposition in gulags. I’m thinking of France, the United States, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Mexico, etc. Most, if not all, of these countries have had socialist governments at one time ot another but the key is that they have a high-degree of democracy where an unpopular régime can be turned out of office. While I’m sure it’s realtively easy to find flaws in each of the countries I have mentioned as far as I’m aware none have denied their citizens the right to a free vote, the right to travel, etc.

    So, yes of course you can be a socialist and a republican but no, you don’t have to be a socialist to be a republican.

    I am also convinced that any attempt to resume “armed struggle” in Ireland will unleash the genie of sectarianism and for that reason alone “armed struggle” should be rejected out of hand. The Irish people have voted overwhlemingly for the institutions that are now in place (however imperfect they may be) and only elitist, anti-democratic forces would seek to overturn this arrangement. Republicans/nationalists should seek a majority in the six-county parliament before seeking constitutional change. They must do this by attempting to build consensus with their historic opponents, no matter how difficult that may seem. It is the hard way (harder perhaps than recourse to arms) but it is the only way.

  • Mark McGregor

    Picador,

    Scarey bogey man stuff. Countries are doing pretty well with socialism of varying hues – Brazil, Venezuela and Cyprus – especially now America’s eye is shifted from destroying them to wars for oil and they don’t need to bastardise themselves due to a threat of destruction.

    On the the GFA you have two of the governing parties that have as a declared principle bringing a united Ireland about.

    If those on the inside see it as a temporary structure, surely those on the outside are entitled to openly work for its downfall?

    As for the ‘armed struggle’ stuff that’s just baby-eater demonisation on a power with the ‘dissident’ tag.

    Declaring there is only one way, one path, one option is more oppressive than anything being suggested by republican socialists.

  • picador

    Mark,

    All the countries I metioned were / are self-proclaimed socialist (or “people’s democratic republics”). As you say scarey bogey-man stuff.

    Lula da Silva of Brazil is democratically elected. Chavez of Venezuela (who fancies himself as the new Castro) was recently rebuffed by the elctorate when he tried to push through constitutional amendments strenghtening his already firm grip on power. And Cyprus’s new president only took office last week, in part because he has adopted a more concilitory approach to the north (ironic).

    As for the ‘armed struggle’ stuff that’s just baby-eater demonisation on a power with the ‘dissident’ tag.

    So why was the guy from eírígí talking about it? Are they thinking of starting a military wing!?

    Declaring there is only one way, one path, one option is more oppressive than anything being suggested by republican socialists.

    Stand for elections and win then. Hint – you won’t get far with talk about “military struggle” and “revolution”. Just don’t take up the gun if you lose, thank you very much!

  • Venezuala

    “Chavez of Venezuela (who fancies himself as the new Castro) was recently rebuffed by the elctorate when he tried to push through constitutional amendments strenghtening his already firm grip on power.”

    But the BIG difference is that Chavez accepted and stood by the result of the referendum when the US and their allies called him a dictator. A dictator would have ignored the referendum results, would s/he have not.

    Chavez, as a democrat, accepted the result.

    Would George Bush???? Or the EU on the new treaty???

  • Charles in Texas

    Venezuala,

    Chavez accepted b/c the people pushed back. He’s a dictator, just not yet a good one.

    Yes, Bush would accept the result.

    I’m afraid I’ve got to agree on the EU treaty!

  • Venezuala

    What was that about Bush contesting all the “chads” to ensure he won? Florida? where he wasn’t expected to win?

    Glad you accept the point about the EU treaty, though.

  • cynic

    Brendan Mac Cionnaith …. David Highland ….Dominic mc glinchey ….Alec Mc Crory ….Rab Jackson …. Geraldine Dougan …. Bernard Fox and Bernadette Mc Aliskey

    Mark

    Forgive me but wow, what an inspirational collection of names, often from 70’s and 80’s and some of whom have been in more republican movements than you could shake a stick at and now you think their time has come (again).

    Why am i so reminded of the lines from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

    Brian: Messiah? I am NOT the Messiah!

    Arthur: I say you are Lord, and I should know. I’ve followed a few.

    Onward to the future!

  • Cynic, Devlin’s from the 60s.

    Liam Baxter, Bernadette Devlin, Michael Farrell, Eamonn McCann and Cyril Toman

    Whatever happened to their colleague, Mary Leneghan? 😉

  • McKelvey

    (Charles) Chavez accepted b/c the people pushed back. He’s a dictator, just not yet a good one.

    Yes, Bush would accept the result.

    I’m afraid I’ve got to agree on the EU treaty!

    ——-

    Like most intelligent politicians Chavez blinked when the people pushed back, but, I think that the jury is still out on whether or not he is a dictator.
    Moreover, Bush ignored the results of a referendum of sorts in 2000, which he lost by 500,000 votes, doesn’t make him a dictator – but it does prove that he doesn’t a damn about the “will of the people” and thus not a democrat.

  • CS Parnell

    Nevin,

    I am not going to defend the rotten edifice that is the Catholic church – I am only a “Catholic” in the sense that is the only way I can simply articulate the place I had in the society of the North.

    However, the church was not in power. It didn’t control the police, the parliament or the government. So its guilt – like that of the idiots who ran the Nationalist Party – is minor.

    As for compromise – Nationalists offered compromise at every stage from 68 onwards. Most (though obviously not all) Unionists weren’t even prepared to have them at the table until the 1980s.

    OK, I know saying we’re heroes and them uns are the villains is always too easy in the context of the North, but I’ve never met one, just one, Catholic who regrets the destruction of Stormont.

    I’ve met plenty who were (pragmatically) pro-Union, others who have left the North and never intend to go back. But never one who says they would prefer to have lived under another 30 years of Unionist hegemony if it meant the troubles never happened.

  • Cynic

    CS Parnell

    “But never one who says they would prefer to have lived under another 30 years of Unionist hegemony if it meant the troubles never happened”

    So then, the entire Catholic population believes that over 3000 dead was worth it because it got rid of the hated Stormont?

    Dear Lord, what planet are you on? And, even if that nonsense were true, what planet would they have been on as they failed to notice that Stormont was gone by 1972 but the murders (on both sides) continued for another 25 years.

    Oh well, I suppose that, if you supported it all, you may need to find some way to rationalise it and help you sleep at night.

    PS you forgot to mention that it was all themmuns fault

  • Charles in Texas

    It seems that the only armed struggle that is called for these day is that of the PSNI and thugs.

  • CSP, nationalists found themselves in a dilemma. On the one hand they boycotted the state and on the other they were victimised because of that boycott.

    Some nationalists and unionists were prepared to compromise but they were soon outflanked by the extremists. Perhaps if Lemass had remained in power for a bit longer he would have reined in the nationalist extremists rather that do what his successor did, protect the institutions, state and Catholic Church, at the expense of the institutions here. Perhaps if O’Neill and Lemass had done more groundwork in advance of their meetings there might have been a different outcome.

    Isn’t it strange that though Unionist and Nationalists were guilty of discrimination in the allocation of public housing very little was said about places such as Newry where there allegedly was a ‘cross- community’ gentleman’s agreement?

    If events surrounding 1966 acted as a significant factor in the outbreak of the Troubles should we not be making contingency plans in advance of 2016? As you might say, “It’s the constitution, stupid”.

  • DK

    “éirígí”… they might as well have just called themselves “prods out”. Yet another attempt to unite catholic, protestant and dissenter by a bunch of catholic-background men (and they will be men) with an irish-language named group. And their first actions… protest aginst British royalty, try to free some dissident republicans, and refuse to recognise the psni. Hard-core nationalism for those who miss it since the world moved on.

  • Unimpressed

    they were victimised because of that boycott.

    Ah right, that’s what it was. Glad you explained it, because, if you hadn’t, I could have gone on living under the false impression the taigs hadn’t asked for it.

  • Unimpressed, did you also expect Unionist and Nationalist councillors to be impartial in their allocation of houses and jobs? Would you be surprised if the allocation of houses in some communities is now (indirectly) in the gift of the paramilitary godfathers, a great leap forward?

  • Ciarán

    Fair play to éirígí for the work and campaigning they’ve done so far, refusing to see republicanism marginalised to the ranks of the gun fetishists and for keeping the spirit of Connolly alive and well when the establishment, north and south, would live nothing more than to see it buried.

  • “keeping the spirit of Connolly alive and well when the establishment, north and south, would live nothing more than to see it buried.”

    Much as they did in the 1960s, Ciarn

  • CS Parnell

    Cynic, I didn’t say they were supporters. But I will acknowledge a moral ambivalence – read the full length version of What ever you say, say nothing.

    Actually, at any given time the majority of nationalists would have and did vote to end the violence. But that isn’t a negation of what I said either. I was simply recounting the mind game – go back to 1968 or live in today.

    Nevin – I am sure nationalists were victimised because they boycotted the state. But that doesn’t explain the crooked franchise or the boundary gerrymandering, or the fact that the M1 ends at Dungannon or that a new University was opened in the only major town west of the Bann with a unionist majority, or the fact that the Bel Tel has never splashed a sports story that is about a Gaelic game, or that the only new town in the North was named after a man most nationalists despised, or that the countless myriad of big and small blockages and humiliations that were heaped on what every unionist politician loved to call “the minority”.

    I am not asking anyone to declare their personal guilt. I am asking for a bit of honesty about why we ended up here.

  • CS Parnell @ 01:45 PM:

    Enough of such mealy-mouthed harrumphing. Nobody was “victimised” because he/she was a “nationalist” or because he/she “boycotted the state”. If you want “a bit of honesty about why we ended up here”, take it from the horse’s mouth — or, if you can’t find a loquacious equine, try a lookalike, that “verray parfit gentle” baronet, Basil Brooke (reported by the Fermanagh Times, speaking at Newtownbutler, 12th July,1933):

    There were a great number of Protestants and Orangemen who employed Roman Catholics. He felt he could speak freely on this subject as he had not a Roman Catholic about his place … He would point out that the Roman Catholics were endeavouring to get in everywhere and were out with all their force and might to destroy the power and constitution of Ulster. There was a definite plot to overpower the vote of Unioists in the north. He would appeal to Loyalists, therefore, wherever possible to employ Protestant lads and lassies.

  • CS Parnell

    Malcolm,

    I was (of course) aware of Brooke’s statement. but I also think the idiocy of the McAteer led nationalist party was a sight to behold.

    They didn’t fight the unionists, they just gave up.

    I was struck recently by Gregory Campbell’s remarks that he had joined the mob beseiging the bogside in August 69 because the civil rights marchers wanted rights he hadn’t got either.

    How on earth did the North of Ireland end up in such a way that (almost certainly uniquely on the planet) people threw rocks (or whatever Greg and his pals did) to demand they didn’t get the right to vote?

    It ended up like that because nobody bothered to fight it. Until, probably, the election of Gerry Fitt in 1966 most UK politicians were probably even unaware of the politicial slum they were nominally responsible for.

    So, yes, the boycott was a big mistake.

  • CS Parnell @ 05:07 PM:

    Poor old Eddie: the clueless leading the hopeless.

    If Greg-of-the-Wife’s-Office-rental was lobbing rocks, he was doing so in the general direction of that lovely old comrade, Betty Sinclair. Eddie was only at the 5 Oct 1968 shenanigans because Betty and Fred Heatley went to his door and baited him to do so: even then he was complaining about the rough types with whom he would have to associate.

    You are, sadly, correct in your assumption that most British politicos kept well away from all things Stormont, on the good belief that “he that toucheth pitch …”.

    I suspect an exception could, just about, be made for Harold Wilson: he’d never had much time for the whole Stormont regime. That dated back to 1940, when, as a Ministry of Supply factotum, he came visiting to see the dismal shambles the Craig/Andrews lot had made of ARP and other preparations, despite London’s substantial back-roll. Thenhen Harold, Chairing the Labour Conference (?1960), had the Starry Plough paraded through the final session, jut before the ritual singing of the Red Flag. Unfortunately, the 1964 and 1966 Labour Governments were so far up to the oxters in economic alligators, they were too late to wade into the NI cesspit. Anyway, it was probably well past the last chance anyway.

  • Wee Joe Devlin

    The state of Northern Irleand was a fascist sectarian state with no legitimacy. Those Protestants who collaborated with it in any way were like Hitler’s Nazis or the white riff raff of South Africa.
    This Orange state was founded and maintained on the bomb and the bullet. Cod yourself if you like but don’t try to cod the rest of us.

    The nationalists were left holding the baby. Wee Joe Devlin was beaten up in the House of Commons by MPs as others cheered. Sectarianism was a one way gun. The Brits used the Provos to deflect criticism and cause confusion by discrediting Catholicism and republicanism and allowing the mealy mouthed Huns and Brits to paper over the human rights abuses.

    Huns by name and Huns by nature.

  • CS Parnell

    Betty would have been too pished to have wound up anybody

  • CSP. check out A T Q Stewarts, “The Narrow Ground” where you’ll find that ‘sermons in stones’ or ‘inter-communal clodding’ long predate the formation of the NI state.

    I’d put up an alternative explanation for the gerrymandering: the decision by over twenty nationalist councils to ‘affiliate’ to the Daíl in early 1922.

  • “the fact that the M1 ends at Dungannon”

    There’s probably something of the Belfast/Dublin factor involved there, CSP. Major routes radiate slowly from major centres of population. The M2 didn’t even make it to Ballymena.

    Nationalists weren’t the only minority to suffer; socialists were looked upon with great disfavour too.

    I read somewhere that Coleraine was recommended by the Lockwood Committee(?) but that group would have been selected by the Government. Unionists and Nationalists in Derry were equally cheesed off IIRC.

  • “were out with all their force and might to destroy the power and constitution of Ulster.”

    That looks more like a reference back to the early 1920s, Malcolm, when some folks came up from Cork to lead the assault on the new state. And there was also the Battle of Belleek.

  • Nevin @ 09:09 PM:

    The Lockwood Committee’s 1964 Report hacked off a large number of interests.

    The most inexplicable was poking a stick at the existing and successful Magee University College. I can give personal testimony that, in the 1960s, Magee passed on to TCD a succession of students noted for pneumatic pulchritude.

    Oh, my fair Miss Ulster Bacon long ago!

  • Nevin @ 09:26 PM:

    Ah yes, the Battle of Belleek.

    Joe Sweeney, who was pro-Treaty like most Donegal men, had reinforced his position at Pettigo. The A-Specials arrived by boat and took over Magherameenagh Castle. Having pushed their luck a step or two beyond the county boundary, the Specials were ambushed, and evacuated by pleasure-boat, losing their Lancia car. The Newsletter went ape, proclaiming an invasion of Polish magnitude:

    INVASION OF ULSTER
    Northern territory was invaded by huge forces of IRA men on Sunday.

    Now, I reckon in 1922, as now, it’d be pretty difficult to invade Ulster from Donegal.

    However, Craig did has usual posturing, demanding full-scale retaliation. Churchill (as — note well — Colonial Secretary), never one to minimise a situation, sent in half a regiment, going against all military advice that the “invasion” was “a farce and exaggerated”.

    Three IRA men and an “own-goal” A-Special were howitzered to death in the British invasion of Donegal. Lloyd George then got his kicks taunting WSC with:

    Scots wha’ hae wi’ Winston bled.

  • Malcolm, do you mean pendulous protuberances? I had a blast from the past on the NALIL blog not so long from one such dark haired damsel who’d taken the Magee-TCD route – oh so many years ago!!

  • Nevin @ 10:28 PM:

    “Pendulous”? Perish the thought.

    Gravity-defying, more like it.

    Hair colour’s right, though.

  • Passions were running very high in the late spring of 1922, Malcolm, and both pro- and anti-treaty forces were active in Ulster; the blood was up and flowing freely; the whole place was in a state of near anarchy.

    “Scots wha’ hae” is a strange song for a Welshman to regale an Englishman with.

  • I was thinking of the archaic definition, Malcolm: ‘poised without visible support’. It was the era of the swinging sixties and the flaming brazier.

  • Nevin @ 10:53 PM:

    Despite the Sage-Librarian of Hull University, the Sixties took some time to swing in McQuaid’s Dublin.

    So, I’ve just had two personally catastrophic moments this evening:

    1. The recollection this exchange has quiveringly forced upon me; and

    2. Hearing that Monty Panesar has got a “Michelle”. This had me at a loss until I worked out the pun in “Five for 78”. [If all else fails, think “Catwoman” and “Batman Returns”].