The ANC, the IRA and the rise of influence of the left within Sinn Fein…

World by Storm has a nice piece up on the IRA’s role in helping MK, the armed wing of the ANC, in the 1980s. In particular he sees a strange alchemy at work there:

…if one can think of a clearly legitimate contemporary struggle it was that against apartheid and it is to the credit of all involved in this latest revelation that Irish people and the IRA played a small part in its overthrow. Furthermore I tend to believe that it was precisely by the establishment of and through such links that the conflict came to a conclusion to be replaced by exclusively political means.

He’s pointing to a contagion from the peace process in South Africa to what was to follow in Northern Ireland, and here’s the critical point, transmitted through strong bonds of trust established established in a period when an internationalist tendency was replacing the more fundamentalist nationalism of the founders of the Provisional movement.

It’s an aspect of the Northern Irish peace process that’s probably been under acknowledged in academic literature, and goes some way to explain the sustained interest of the ANC in the small affairs of a far country (or part country).

In his study of Sinn Fein’s peace process strategy, Martyn Frampton ascribes the progressive rhetoric of advancement to the co-option of the South African story into the mainstream Sinn Fein narrative in the early years of the peace process. According to Frampton, the big idea here was ‘transition’:

The obvious attraction  of the ANC model for Republicans was the fact that the South African organisation had entered a peace deal, which had paved the way towards its eventual triumph, with achievement of black majority rule.  It thus corresponded entirely with the interpretation of the Agreemnt being suggested by the Adams-McGuinness leadership.

What interests World by Storm more than historical matters shaping the peace process in Northern Ireland is the liminal influences in making Sinn Fein such an attractive vehicle for many who came in from the left from the early 80s and after:

…given the coincidence of interests across many metrics, with reference to antagonism to partition, or a shared sense of the failure of capitalism and the manifestations of the state on this island as well as a natural identification with the men and women of no property, small wonder that Republicans and communists and others on the left would find a fair bit of common ground, even while admitting differences. And small wonder too that in terms of the dynamic aspect of Republicanism in the latter quarter of the last century across a range of formations that elements on the left would be attracted to it either in alliance or by joining.

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  • Margit

    Lovely piece. But why not concentrate on the UVF/UDA links with the Vortrekker movement and other racist groups in South Africa in the 80s?

  • glasgow

    or even the provos links to Gadaffi and his regime who yesterday burnt 52 men woman and children alive in a warehouse

  • Rory Carr

    Possibly, Margit because the revelations by the late Kamar Asmal of the IRA’s involvement in aiding the ANC have only been brought to light in recent days. The buzz-word is “current”.

  • Rory Carr

    …and let us not forget those Irishmen who fought at Waterloo on “the wrong side”. Now, can we get back to the topic in hand, please?

  • Harry Flashman

    The struggle against apartheid was indeed legitimate but the idea that it was one of the few “clearly legitimate contemporary struggles” is nonsense. There were many other struggles every bit as legitimate including the fight for freedom from Communist tyranny with which it was contemporaneous.

    It is only because of the race aspect that it somehow achieved the status of some form of higher, benevolent struggle. Life for blacks in South Africa was actually no worse than for many other oppressed people throughout the world at that time.

    Judging by the huge amount of immigration to apartheid South Africa from other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, life was perhaps even better than in other “liberated” African countries.

  • michael-mcivor

    I am sure that the I.R.A would help any people around the world who wanted peace as the end product- to help them out of war and on-to their peace process-

  • Flashman said, “Judging by the huge amount of immigration to apartheid South Africa from other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, life was perhaps even better than in other “liberated” African countries.”

    Well, I was in Mozambique near the end of the apartheid years in South Africa. People didn’t emigrate to South Africa, they went to work on contracts down the mines. Those who survived came back. The first time back they bought a hoe blade and a wife. The second time a cow. If they survived 3 trips, they could then buy a tractor. It is all laid out in detail in Ruth First (ed.) “Black Gold”, Harvester Press. There was a simple trade, money for a shorter life. Workers lived longer in Mozambique than in South Africa, but were much poorer.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Zimbabwe,anyone ??

  • Neil

    or even the provos links to Gadaffi and his regime who yesterday burnt 52 men woman and children alive in a warehouse

    At least we can be thankful for NATO’s use of cuddly hug bombs on their 20,000 bombing raids, not one of which has incinerated a civilian, school or hospital.

    Oooops, scratch that. Just consulted google and it would appear that that entire statement was false.

    Don’t allow your hatred of Gaddafi for arming the enemies of the British state to cloud your vision, after all your government is returning the favour now.

    And try to understand, all news in war is propoganda. This is a war, and judging by our news one would think every Libyan in the country was weeping for joy at NATO’s incredibly precise and safe air strikes. That simply is not true.

    By all means though keep posting your support for this (and the disastrous and illegal wars claiming hundreds of thousands of civilian lives elsewhere), you’ll have nowhere to hide once the tribes start their infighting and another part-British sponsored sectarian civil war is sparked and we can all settle back to watch the death count tick up and up.

  • Mike the First

    Always found it interesting given the NI perpective that during the early 1990s peace talks the ANC rejected power-sharing, which was wanted as part of a settlement by the then South African Government side in the talks, insisting on majority rule as the more truly democratic solution.

  • Cynic2

    ” I am sure that the I.R.A would help any people around the world”

    …… except fellow Irishmen who they concentrated on murdering of course. But they were the ‘wrong sort’of people.

  • Dec


    To be fair to the ANC, no-one had ever tried Majority rule in SA. Northern ireland, on the other hand had 50 years of it. Remind us how that worked out.

  • Jimmy Sands

    “But why not concentrate on the UVF/UDA links with the Vortrekker movement and other racist groups in South Africa in the 80s?”

    Odd that they should switch sides in his context on the issue of majority rule. Perhaps it’s one of those southern hemisphere phenomena, like bathwater spiralling out the other way.

  • Mr Freeman

    Interesting how Sinn Fein and the ANC have swung to the right since their days in opposition. Heard a Sinn Fein rep on radio Ulster this morning complaining about Corporations having to pay a higher rate of tax than companies in ROI. This is the same party who run around painting images of Larkin, ConnolIy and Che Guevara on walls. I wonder what those men would have to say about citizens having to pay a higher tax rate to support private industry? As for the ANC, is introducing a shoot to kill policy to deal with crime really an act of a left wing party? I would have thought a party of the left would try to address the social issues, poverty and deprivation that causes crime. I have my doubts that Sinn Fein or the ANC ever were parties of the left but have used the left cause for their own political capital. I’m sure the Workers party and Communist party of South Africa wouldn’t view them as “left”

  • Neither the ANC or the Provisional Republican Movement were ever leftist party’s, nor did they claim to be. They were broad coalitions which contained leftists, who at times came to the for and at other times did not.(the more so within the ANC)

    As to Libya, the situation looks extremely unstable, as in Baghdad 2003, there is little sign of the people coming out on the streets en mass to welcome the ‘victors.’

    Whether the chaos is part of NATOs strategy so they can put army boots on the streets I do not know, but given what happened in Iraq I hope not. The timidity of the National Transitional Council leadership in not operating from Tripoli is startling.

  • Mr Freeman,

    It’s definitely fair to say that ANC policies in government have put a massive strain on their alliance with the SACP. I’d be more inclined to have viewed the ANC has genuinely left-wing at one stage than the Provos (the ANC was in a formal alliance with the SACP while the Provos were born out an explicit rejection of the idea that republicanism should be revolutionary socialist) but the ANC has long since embraced capitalism fully. Mandela and the others betrayed the people of the shantytowns without a doubt.

    Some people regard the perceived provo move to the left in the late 1970s as a genuine thing. And I’d say to Mick Hall that the Provos certainly did claim to be left-wing – PSF even made the occasional claim to be Marxist (depending of course on whether they were talking to Irish-Americans or not). I think the left rhetoric from Adams et al was about two things mainly. The first to access weapons, training etc from abroad, and the second to help distinguish him and his supporters from Ó Brádaigh before ousting him (using also the idea that Éire Nua was a sop to unionists).

  • Harry Flashman


    Appalling though the apartheid regime was, and I loathed it at the time as much as I do now, I reckon if I was a black African I’d have preferred it to the rule of Bokassa, Idi Amin, Mengistu, Charles Taylor, Kabila … need I go on?

  • Mr Freeman


    “Neither the ANC or the Provisional Republican Movement were ever leftist party’s, nor did they claim to be”

    Then why on numerous Sinn Fein cummann websites is it stated that the party goal is to establish a 32 county “Socialist Republic” the most recent one being the Fermanagh & South Tyrone site on the 15th of this month. As I suggested before just meaningless words for political traction. I believe your point in relation to the ANC may have been applicable in the past but being a current member of the Socialist International is a defiant claim to being a party of the left.

  • PaulT

    Well here we go again Mick.

    Firstly, I was wondering when Slugger would catch up with everyone else on this story, it has finally, but again, I’m disappointed.

    Screwback is a hero to many people around the world, an outstanding human being and deserving of more acknowledgement for his devotion to humanity.

    As with other stories, I read the one about Gerry Adams providing muscle to the ANC and was immediately struck by it not reading right.

    Lets not forget that Screwball considered the IRA’s war in NI as class struggle as opposed to a war of independence, and was therefore more in the stickie camp than the provo one. Indeed, although its not known for sure if he did actually try to procure arms from the USSR, the story generally ends with him asking for the guns to go to the stickies, which begs the question why would he approach Adams.

    The weird thing is why would Kadar Asmal tell this story if it wasn’t true?

    Here’s your comment that I’d like you to expand on.

    “making Sinn Fein such an attractive vehicle for many who came in from the left from the early 80s and after”

    I think you are failing to grasp the detail here (sound familiar)

    The Provo war was attractive to many on the left in the 80’s who tried to hitch their wagons to it.

    Indeed, I had a fascinating time with Ricky Tomlinson some years ago when he discussed his time in prison and how he and other imprisoned union activists bonded with IRA ‘PoWs’ and supported their various hungerstrikes.

    Now, problem is, although these people were keen to be seen to be associated with volunteers fighting Thatcher and Co. what you omit to say is that the IRA batted them away as they viewed them to be promoting their own agenda’s on the back of volunteers sacrifices and indeed victories.

    Because what you miss is the communist/left mantra of ‘March seperately, Strike together’ which explains the relationships not as bedfellows but fellow travellers

    Sadly Mick, you’ve blogged a spin on a blog which is a spin on a story, had you googled a bit more you would have found a lenghty fascinating exchange of letters from a senior well known republican PoW and someone from the hard left which happened in the 80’s where all of this was discussed at first hand.

    Instead you pulled a boring blog from the first page of a google search.

    So fair enough, this time round you haven’t actually made too much up, instead you’ve just been lazy. I’d strongly suggest you find those letters, they would explain all.

  • PaulT

    “Sinn Fein such an attractive vehicle for many who came in from the left from the early 80s ”

    Which to add Mick, care you tell me how how this attraction manifested itself in the wake of the Enniskillen bomb?

    Did these lefties stand by SF and the IRA in the aftermath or having tried to share the limelight of the hungerstrikes a few years earliers did they crawl away and leave the IRA to face that one on their own.

    Was Morrisey (of the Smiths fame) as vocal than as he was after the Brighton bomb

  • Charminator

    I think we can go back a long, long way further than the past quarter century in chronicling the influence of the Left on Irish Republicanism. I say this, not to move the goalposts from the current debate about the apparent ascendancy of left-thinking in SF (a premise I’m not sure is actually even accurate), but rather because from the Proclamation (and before), we can see the imprint of a ‘left’ – or, perhaps better, communitarian – philosophy on Republicanism. To what extent this communitarian ethos, which remains evident in Ireland today, can be linked with “left” in the political scientist’s understanding is a very big question. It seems to me far more akin to “social democratic” (in the Continental sense, no relation to political parties), than socialist.

    Sure, I have little doubt that SF, the length and breadth of the country, probably have cumainn with “Socialist Republican” aficionados, but we don’t exactly see the hallmarks of an emerging “Socialist Republic” featuring prominently in their manifesto. Like dumping “Éire Nua”, I think the modus operandi of SF today is not at all unlike FF in the 1930s: a sharp sense of pragmatism in pursuing their vision and if that means jettisoning some Marxist fruitcake notions, then I suspect the leadership will do it, but as McArdle might have put it, “without fanfares”. On a related point, FF remember, were initially portrayed as Communists too by Cumann na nGaedhael (some fantastic “No Reds Here” posters).

    More generally, when we think of Republicanism in a truly Irish sense (ie not purely through the prism of the North alone), then there is even less appetite – from the composition of the Oireachtas anyway – for a “Socialist Republican” future.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Actually the pattern of the left in the physical force nationalist tradition, from Republican Congress to the stickies and beyond, is that they leave.

  • Rory Carr

    OooKaayy. (draws deep breath, sighs, flexes fingers,snaps braces…begins):

    First let me address Harry Flashman’s contributions:

    I would be grateful if, given my failing memory, Harry would refresh us with precisely which of the “many other struggles every bit as legitimate [as the struggle against apartheid” he was thinking of and if he knows if any representatives of these “legitimate struggles” approached the IRA for assistance and were rebuffed on ideological or indeed any other grounds.

    Then as to the matter of rule under apartheid being preferable to rule under Bokassa, Amin, Taylor et al, I would remind him that South Africans did not have the luxury of choice in the matter. They were faced, as were the citizens of other African states, with dealing with their own tyrants which seems like a sensible idea to me. Best to sort one’s own problems out first really.

    Surely he is not suggesting that they were not justified in that struggle merely because things might have been worse elsewhere. Wouldn’t be a great philosophy for running a business, or a family, or a football team or one’s life now, would it? Always a good idea to fix the tiles on one’s own roof I say. Basking in the knowledge that you are so much better off than your neighbour whose roof has fallen in completely won’t keep you dry come the rainy season.

    It would, I trust, be unworthy of me to harbour any suspicion that Harry was thinking along the lines that Verwoerd, Botha etc, were preferable to Amin, Bokassa etc. because of racial considerations. I do not believe that Harry subscribes to such racist ideas but, even discounting that, and applying some coldly objective empirical evidence it might be something that has to be considered before dismissing, however distasteful. The trouble with such consideration is that, in the new South Africa, it is perfectly possible to elect a white leader unlike in the old South Africa where it was not possible to elect a black leader.

    As to the fading socialist credentials of both the ANC and Sinn Féin – I have to admit, sadly, that Garibaldy has it about right. The success of each entailed a massive compromise – in Mandela’s case he traded the intent to address inequality of wealth and all the many social problems that flowed from that for the support of the big gun nations of corporate captalism in ending apartheid. He has kept his word to his backers alright and so had his protegé, Tabo Mbeke.

    Of course it was all going to be different under everbody’s bogeyman ( bete noir?), Jacob Zuma who was going to give the unions everything they wanted and probably eat white babies into the bargain. And now that Zuma is head of state we have the president of the Youth League, Julius Malema, kicking up an almighty militant leftist row. What if he becomes president after Zuma as many fear?

    So what about Malema as a future president of South Africa?

    Nothing can be excluded, of course. Remember the trepidation around Jacob Zuma when he stood trial while his supporters sang “Umshini wami” outside the court? Well, he did get to become president of South Africa and the sky didn’t fall in. Zuma swapped his leopard skins for a three-piece suit, while the ANC technocrats kept the neo-liberal ship on even keel. It is worth reading what Leonard Gentle of The South African Civil Society Information Service has to say on the matter:

    And what about the Youth League’s call for the nationalisation of mines – is the ANC about to bow down to a snotlap like Malema just because he makes a lot of noise?

    Leonard doesn’t think so. He declares quite adamantly:

    This ANC is not going to nationalise the mines

    and he goes on to tell us why in some compelling detail. It is well worth reading – here:

    Sinn Féin’s failure to provide any implementation of leftist policies in Stormont is more understandable, even if unforgivable by some erstwhile supporters. They simply have not the authority or the economic control that would be required to see through even the most minimal of reforms. We only have to look at the failure to see through a progressive education policy that has long been the accepted norm in the rest of the UK. But in any case their argument has always been that it is only when the Republic is established and the Irish people have unfettered control over all the wealth of the island and its waters that any meaningful policies to address inequality nationwide can be implemented. Their calls in Dáil Éireann for reform can be seen as transitional demands, popular with the masses but incapable of being met by the ruling elite which advance SF’s own electoral advantage and help pave the way to power nationwide.

    The trouble is that not all the fetters today are made of Sheffield steel and Sinn Féin’s supporters could get tired of waiting. On the other hand they have the advantage of inept and increasingly unpopular opposition from all sections of the island besides whom they might well continue to look the more attractive option.

  • Garibaldy,

    I think your wrong about what lay behind the left ‘rhetoric’ from Adam and others, the things you mentioned may have played a role, but the main motivating factor for the provo movements left turn, was the rise and success of national liberation movements elsewhere, and I have little doubt these movements inspired and influenced Adams like they did many other republicans. Connolly being working class and having lived and worked in Belfast was also an enormous influence on these Cadres.

    Almost all of these Liberation movements had formed some sort of fraternal alliance with the USSR, this was especially true of the ANC, Vietnamese, Cubans and Palestinians. Thus militants from these organisations were sent to the soviet block to study and for military training.

    Thus, and this was especially true in the prisons, once they had the free time to study and debate, PIRA volunteers drew inspiration from these struggles.

    Not really sure who Mick means when he mentions ‘the attraction of SF for the left.’ Over in England most of the Left was hostile to SF throughout the 1970-80, I can think of only one tiny group who uncritically supported PRM and certain individuals.

    This was as true of the CPGB as it was of the Trots, or Left Labour members. Livingstone was pretty solid, but he still had a firewall in place. The leadership and most of their members of all these organisations poked the Provos insurrection with a very, very long stick.

    In the 1970s Left Labour and the CPGB/Connolly Association followed the CP line, stickies OK, Provos green fascist. (As an article in Tribune once described them.)

    After the ceasefire took hold this changed and the CA became all pally with Adams, They became frightened of offending him and refused a certain individual access to their newspaper because he had critiqued Adams from the left in the past.

    The Provo insurgency was always going to be difficult for the English left, given they were letting bombs of on our streets, which made it an impossibility to build a solidarity movement worthy of the name. By taking the war to England in the way they did the Provos shot themselves in the foot, as despite this folly public support for reunification was high throughout the troubles. But as there was no solidarity movement like the AAM to pressurise the English politicians, they were able to contain the Provos until they ran out of steam, which resulted in unnecessary carnage and loss of life on all sides.

    To sum up, this was not the English lefts finest hour, and in many ways this explains its love in with Gerry Adams after he signed the GFA and surrendered IRA arms to be decommissioned by their enemy.

  • Limerick

    “We only have to look at the failure to see through a progressive education policy that has long been the accepted norm in the rest of the UK.”

    Rory Carr,

    A ‘progressive’ education policy which has seen the NI system progressively out perform schools in the rest of the UK. Despite the very best efforts of the Sinners.

    Interesting that this story has come out just as the Provos’ dealings with Gaddafi are being brought back under the spotlight. Of all the assorted bandwagons that they jumped on during their ‘Struggle’ I suppose that opposing apartheid is the only one that they can feel happy to boast about in the 21st century.

  • Mick Fealty


    Got a link? Or is this some kind of quiz?

  • John Ó Néill


    “…the Provos were born out an explicit rejection of the idea that republicanism should be revolutionary socialist…”

    Have you have been delving into the SWM pamphlet archive? Perhaps in the narrow perspective of those promoting an OSF/SFtWP/WP/DL/Labour* historical narrative that makes sense but it doesn’t stand up to any serious scrutiny. The IRA leadership expelled members who questioned their promotion of Marxism in the mid to late 1960s, at that time the IRA was a small core of individuals, some of considerable age, who were mainly clinging to claims of historical legitimacy (i.e. the point when you know you are a lost cause). The main point of dispute was a perceived capacity of the IRA to mount a ‘military’ campaign (in the mid to late 1960s) rather than an explicit rejection of ‘revolutionary socialism’. Many subsequently defended their stance based on the inability of the IRA to provide a defence against the violence that was delivered against ‘Catholic’ areas on the foot of NICRA campaigns and other incidents. Indeed, it is impossible to claim that various the wings of the IRA that emerged in the early 1970s bore any resemblance to the organisation that existed a mere five or six years beforehand.

    In terms of a broader move to the left, the civil rights radicalised many people in the late 1960s and early 1970s predisposing many to left-wing politics. The gradual displacement of many older republicans in the leadership roles among IRA prisoners as the 1970s progressed led to an increasing promotion of left wing politics as part of internal republican education programmes. This may only have become apparent after the hunger strikes as SF figures entered the political stage.

    *delete as applicable

  • Mick,

    These are letters between Brian Keenan and someone from a group that was then within the old CPGB that published a paper called the Leninist. Now the crowd responsible for the Weekly Worker. The funny thing about them is to see Keenan asking for guidance etc.


    You’ve read the document from the original provos in which they explain their reasons for leaving the Movement I take it? It includes “extreme socialism” as one of the points. If you read Jimmy Steele’s attack on the leadership at the funeral of Barnes and McCormach you can see just how important opposition to revolutionary socialism was at a time before August 1969.

    As it happens, the IRA in the late 1960s was actually growing, and the leadership were mostly people in their 30s and 40s, with some older and some in their 20s. The whole point was that the IRA was moving beyond clinging to historical legitimacy, and getting involved in social and economic agitation, civil rights agitation, and political agitation.

    I suggest you take a look at the copies of the United Irishman and the issues of An t-Óglach that are available at the Cedar Lounge Revolution if you think what emerged from the 1970s bore no resemblance to the 1960s. Yes, there was a massive expansion, which brought with it more disparate tendencies, but the ideas were in place before 1969.

    As for the provos being disposed to left-wing politics. The question that the likes of McKearney and McIntyre never answer is why, if they were so socialist, did they join the Provos in the first place? The answer, I suspect, is that they weren’t actually socialist or politically-engaged beyond nationalism before they were gaoled, and had nothing better to do. The other problem of course is that the Provos founded the Northern Resistance Movement as a rival to NICRA, and were much more interested in military actions than agitation. Just look at Brendan Hughes’ account of his activities in the early 1970s for a representative example.

    I’m not saying there were no people with leftist politics in the provos. I am saying that the organisation as a whole was never socialist, particularly the military operators, many of whom used it as an excuse to cover other agendas.

  • Cynic2

    Silly me. I thought it was all about killing Brits and Prods… the product of pure race hate and a myth of a pure Celtic Ireland stolen by the invaders.

  • aquifer

    “…the Provos were born out an explicit rejection of the idea that republicanism should be revolutionary socialist…”

    And their faction were fostered and initially sponsored by anti-left factions in the Irish State.

    The IRA were a sectarian gun gang intent on hijacking a state. The socialism was mostly a wee story for the footsoldiers, optional for the unitary state.

    And what do people mean by left? Left in charge of the same small gang?

    Workers paid for the Provos self-indulgent campaign.

  • Mick,

    Extracts from the letters here

    They used to be online in a fuller format.

  • John Ó Néill

    Garibaldy – Jimmy Steele was my great-uncle. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about that period at first-hand and many of them simply weren’t ideological in the sense that we tend to use it now (we also forget that vast majority of people aren’t fervently ideological either). Most were talking at their ease as well – not contriving to historicise about the period (Steele was a prolific writer and would have been very conscious of what he said as a historical document). That generation didn’t believe that any political *ideology* should get in the way of what they regarded as the sole credible political project (a united Ireland). I’d guess many still don’t engage with political ideology – I only knew any of them when they were already pretty old – and, while still committed, none had suddenly become socialists just because SF were promoting it. That generation that had also witnessed the 1920s had a completely different perception of the function of the IRA than the generation behind them (at that time in the 1960s). Also, to them, Irish republicanism was never a homogenous political entity (just look at the mix of hard left, political pragmatists, romantic nationalists and conservative Catholics in 1916).
    I don’t get your circular argument, though, that McKearney and McIntyre mustn’t have been socialists because they joined the republican movement (the logical conclusion, instead, is that it included a variety of political opinions included left wing ones).

  • John,

    I’d agree with a lot of what you’re saying but I don’t think my argument about McKearny and McIntyre is circular for the simple reason that the Republican Movement was dedicated clearly to socialism and forging cross-religious solidarity, while the Provisionals clearly weren’t – being not committed to class politics, nor to anti-sectarianism (especially given the explicit pose as defenders of the catholic community and the all our volunteers go to mass type stuff). Why join the provisional movement when there was an alternative that was committed to the type of politics they now claim they were committed to? I don’t buy it (especially given the sectarian murders being carried out by the provisional movement).

  • John Ó Néill

    But are you not assuming that the propaganda being put out by the Officials can be taken at face value? A lot of commenters here will claim that to them all sheep look the same and any group with a republican/IRA label is de facto sectarian anyway.
    It’s easy to compress all the events in the late 1960s and 1970s into a seamless period now (which deprives events like the McGurks Bar bombing the shock of their real context), but my understanding is that, particularly in the very early 1970s, most republican structures were very much locally focussed – for instance, the New Lodge IRA was probably equally to go up and help the IRA in Ardoyne as it was to engage in class politics. Again, we may be trying to take a contemporary idea of how people are ideological and put it back in time (and out of context).
    Or maybe we’ve all read Homage to Catalonia etc too many time.

  • John Ó Néill

    That should read “equally unlikely to go up and help the IRA in Ardoyne..”

  • John,

    I think there is more than enough evidence from the time that there were divergent views, so I don’t think it’s a case of retrospectively applying standards. Again, to take an example from Brendan Hughes. He talks about being part of a sectarian mob that wanted to burn a protestant street that were stopped by IRA members who pulled guns on them in the autumn of 1969. He describes himself as a reluctant participant, but some of the people on the other side gave a different account in a pamphlet published recently on the Falls Curfew. Then there’s the statements from the time on the provisional bombing campaign etc. The differences aren’t later inventions, they were very much present at the time. I haven’t myself gotten the impression that things were so localised but perhaps they were at some points.

  • Interesting to see Adrian Guelke, interviewed on our local news today.
    In the context of ALLEGED IRA activity in Apartheid South Africa…… would have nice if some context were presented.
    Dr Guelke survived a murder bid by the UDA on the instruction of South African Government (circa early Nineties).
    He was a high profile critic of Apartheid.

    So what we have is alleged IRA activity in South Africa.
    And confirmed South African/UDA activity in Norn Ireland.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    The British left let themselves and their values down badly in their approach to Northern Ireland. The hard left have long got more attention than they deserve, mainly because they interest academics.

    No surprise they were attracted to Irish Republicanism in the 70s and 80s, which shared their penchant for half-baked theorising, their contempt for vast swathes of the population (too stupid / ill-educated / corrupt / duped to be worth listening to) and their adolescent desire to escape from the complexities of real life.

    Republicans had the additional glamour to the bed-wetters in the British “hard” left of not just talking in pubs about violence but actually having guns and using them on the bourgeois oppressors. The only thing was, Republicans’ victims were more working class than many who peopled the British hard left. And they kind of missed that Republicans were people of one nationality killing people of another nationality. Which is kind of the elephant in the room with all this Stickies versus Provos, how left are you stuff. Angels on pinheads. It was sectarian and the rest is window dressing. Hence the interest in being associated with the ANC.

  • Harry Flashman


    “Surely he is not suggesting that they were not justified in that struggle merely because things might have been worse elsewhere.”

    Unusually for you Rory you seem not have read what was written, let me repeat again what I wrote;

    “The struggle against apartheid was indeed legitimate”

    “Appalling though the apartheid regime was … I loathed it at the time as much as I do now”

    Not sure where you got the idea that I didn’t think the struggle against apartheid was illegitimate. My point was that it was simply one of very many struggles for freedom and justice against oppression in the world.

    In South Africa, one ethnic group held power illegitimately against the wishes of other ethnic groups. This was an extremely common scenario throughout Africa and indeed still is (Ghadaffi and Mugabe come to mind).

    Apartheid rule was illegitimate and it was justifiable for anyone oppressed by it to struggle against it, I hope I make myself clear.

    However compared to the sheer, stark raving bonkers, genocidal systems of government that existed throughout Africa at that time South Africa’s oppressive rule seems in retrospect to be rather mild.

    Nelson Mandela was tried in an open court, in a trial in which he was defended, he was found guilty of the offences for which he was charged and kept in prison. His prison conditions, though harsh, compared favourably with prison conditions elsewhere in the continent. He was released, after serving a lengthy sentence, and went on to win an election in a peaceful transition of power.

    He was not chopped up and eaten by the nation’s president as happened in other parts of Africa. A significant difference I think you will agree.

  • Rory Carr


    I see that you are falling back upon the crudest of old Sticky propaganda what with the Officials “forging cross-religious solidarity, while the Provisionals clearly weren’t.” So effective indeed was this cross-religious solidraity forging that Bombay Street, St Matthew’s and Ardoyne were so overwhelmed by the rush of visitors from Unionist Belfast that many of them fled unable to cope with such an outpouring of class fellow-feeling. Unfortunately the Republican Movement, as then was, were not really around to see it and it was left to the likes of Liam Hannaway to dig out an old Webley revolver held together with a bent nail which had to be replaced and the weapon reassembled after each shot was fired to make some effort to dissuade this enthusiastic mob from murdering everyone with their show of solidarity across the great divide.

    It was from this that the Provisionals were born above all else and because of this failure of the IRA as had been (“has beens” all right) that they became defenders of the Catholic community. If left to the Sticks they would have preferred that the Unionist pogroms had been more successful and relied upon appeals to Westminster, to international pressure and to class solidarity to halt the slaughter. Such was the class conciousness of Johnson and Garland and O’Hagan (D.) that they were willing to sacrifice the Catholic working class of the Belfast ghettos rather than admit they were wrong, damned wrong and wrong again. Pathetic! It would be bloody pathetic were it not so abysmally awful.

    And to repeat that hoary old piece of smart-arse Dublin4 pseudo-intellectual guff that “all our volunteers go to mass type stuff” which had not a grain of truth but served a purpose to blacken the Provos and dissuade young militant, anti-clericals from their ranks. Well that worked a treat- it worked to dissuade those armchair dilletantes who would never have joined in the first place once they realised the possibility of sacrifice, penury and danger involved. But for those who were clear and stout and true such hardships were no deterrent. Many left the Officials to join the Provos – not much traffic the other way. And that is no wonder if like me you had witnessed Official ASU’s coming cap-in-hand to JB O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon in Monaghan begging for ammo and ‘stuff’ denied to them by their own leadership so they could have a crack at the Brits. The irony is that they later justified these illicit actions to that leadership as necessary to “defend the Catholic community”. But then I hardly think that the likes of Willie Reilly was going to be deterred from action merely to keep on the good side of Roy Johnson’s ideological whims.

    As for the idea that left leaning potential recruits were dissuaded from joining the Provisionals because there was an alternative – this is plainly nonsense. Those who ever considered joining the PIRA did so because they were in the vanguard of the military struggle to topple the existing regime. The Officials offered no alternative whatever to that, they had abandoned millitary struggle.

    The reality is that those deterred from the Provos were deterred because of the potential hardship and danger while in the Officials they could stay nice and safe in their clubs and bars, safe even from fear of arrest from the Army and RUC and there was always the opportunity of a nice weekend in Dublin mixing with the lads from Montrose reassuring each other that they were in the vanguard of the class struggle.

  • michael-mcivor

    Harry Flashman-

    Steve Biko was killed by that friendly apartheid state you talk about whilst he was in their police custody- but why should facts get in the way of your good story-

  • Rory,

    The stuff about there being no-one active in Belfast in August 1969 except a few old-timers has been pretty comprehensively knocked on the head recently by historical research (see for example Brian Hanley’s article in History Ireland in 2009). But never let the facts stand in the way of a good myth.

    As for reactionary unionists and their violent sectarian response. What’s your point? That it was wrong to try and build the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter? That it was wrong to campaign for civil rights? No-one could have predicted what happened in August 1969. You’ll note there’s no myth in Derry about the IRA running away, even though the OC there told Eamonn McCann they had 3 guns. The reason of course being that the geography of the flats meant that the attacks there were unsuccessful. Republicanism is not about being a communal defence force. Hibernianism is but.

    As for the all our volunteers go to mass stuff. You do know that was said to Eamon McCann by the OC of the Provos in Derry, and that’s where the quote comes from don’t you? But, again, never let the facts stand in the way of a good story if you makes you feel better to think someone from Dublin 4 made that up. Because, of course, Garland and Goulding and the rest were in no way ordinary working class Dubliners who grew up amidst appalling poverty in slums.

    You’ve misinterpreted what I said. I said that people who claim to have always been militantly socialist and interested in building anti-sectarianism have to justify why it was they went to the Provisionals, who at the time these people were active were engaged in many sectarian killings, rather than the clearly more socialist alternative if that was the case. And that I simply didn’t believe they were what they claimed to be.

    As for offering no alternative. It was the civil rights campaign and the response to it in Duke Street that destroyed the bases for the unionist regime by ensuring that gerrymandering and systematic discrimination in jobs and housing could no longer be used to prop up the regime. It was the rent and rates strike and the withdrawal of non-unionists from public life, added to the bad publicity from the likes of internment and Bloody Sunday that brought Stormont down, not the bombs in the streets. Do you really think Stormont would have been suspended had it continued to function as normal?

    The alternative to the bombings was the civil rights struggle, the struggle for equality, and then the struggle to build unity among the people. I know it must hurt for people who supported the violence to realise that it was a gigantic waste of time and life, and only had the reactionary outcome of further dividing the people of Ireland, and delaying the achievement of a better system of government in Northern Ireland. But sometimes the truth hurts. No point blaming others for your own faults. But maybe clinging to your myths helps you get to sleep at night.

  • Rory Carr


    Despite your assertion of acceptance of the legitimacy of the ANC struggle you still continue to imply with your ‘compare and contrast’ examples that, just perhaps, things were really not all that bad and that maybe the ANC were like those ungrateful French Maquis who were really over reacting to the conditions in German Occupied France when you consider what a cushy time they were having compared to Poland or Roumania.

    Remember above all that all the violence of the struggle against apartheid is not as a result of MK militancy but rather a result of the regime’s opposition to change. There could have been a peaceful transition much, much earlier and all that bloodshed could have been avoided. All that was required was that the National Party government do the right thing.

    It was that failure on the part of the upholders of apartheid however that created the opportunity for the IRA to be approached by the ANC. And ,when asked to do the right thing, in that time and that place, the IRA stepped up to the plate .

  • Harry Flashman

    Michael when did I refer to the “oppressive” and “loathed” apartheid regime as “friendly”?

    If you have difficulty reading plain English perhaps you shouldn’t be posting.

  • Harry Flashman

    Rory you too seem to be reading things I haven’t written.

    I simply said that whilst the South African regime was oppressive, compared to others operating in Africa at the time it was actually one of the least bad.

    Being the least bad oppressive African regime may not be setting a very high standard, but I still reckon life for a black African in Johannesburg or Cape Town in the 1970’s was a damned sight better than for the poor blokes in Kampala when Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada, VC, was feeling a bit peckish.

  • Rory Carr

    But you are still at it, Harry.

    “I still reckon life for a black African in Johannesburg or Cape Town in the 1970′s was a damned sight better than for the poor blokes in Kampala when Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada, VC, was feeling a bit peckish” is all very well and good but the problem is that the “black African in Johannesburg or Cape Town ” was not living under Idi Amin’s regime. Idi Amin was doing him no harm at all. As far as he was concerned Idi Amin might have been as benevolent as Santa Claus except that he did not exist for him. It was Verwoerd and Botha that he had to contend with and there is no point whatsoever in bringing Idi Amin or anyone else into it. Why not Caligula ? He never did him any harm either although by all accounts he was a nasty little shit.

    In fact the only point to bringing other regimes into the mix can but be to undermine by spurious comparison, the legitimacy of the ANC struggle which you yet insist was justified.

    You do don’t you? When you say it was legitimate you do concede that it was justified?

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh ferfexake, of course it was justified.

    My point, the original point which you challenged me on, was the absurd assertion by the poster that apartheid South Africa was one of the very few clearly legitimate struggles for freedom.

    Apartheid South Africa was a prison state, and the people of South Africa were right to fight for their freedom, however compared to dozens of other prison states throughout Africa and indeed the rest of the world, it was one of the least bad.

    Botha was a hateful man, but if I had to be ruled by by a hateful oppressor I would pick him above Bokassa, Amin, Stalin, Mau, Mengistu, Mobutu, Pol Pot, or countless other ghastly and horrific regimes which coexisted at the time of apartheid.

    Apartheid South Africa was just one of many oppressive states and it was far from the worst. Let’s not lose the run of ourselves shall we?

  • Harry Flashman

    I think I see your confusion Rory, whilst I challenged the words

    “if one can think of a clearly legitimate contemporary struggle it was that against apartheid”

    I was taking issue not with the legitimacy of the struggle, but that it was only one of a very few “clearly legitimate” struggles.

    I would suggest that freedom fighters against the racist monster Idi Amin, for example, who received no support from western progressives as far as I’m aware might wonder why their struggle was not so “clearly legitimate”.

  • USA

    Some of the best stuff I have read on Slugger in at least a year. Compelling and informative discussion and links.

  • Mike the First
  • Mike the First


    One could however say that perhaps given their international contacts, the ANC may have heard of the experience of Northern Ireland.

    It’s still interesting, I think, that their experience of minority rule and being completely denied the franchise led the ANC to demand (and win) majority rule rather than what might be seen as the more “conciliatory” power sharing.

    The example directly to their north was Zimbabwe: a much smaller white population (around 5%) had operated a minority rule in a fairly less strict counterpart to apartheid. Power-sharing wasn’t part of the settlement there, but 20% of seats in parliament were reserved (for a period) for whites. The South African example, as well as having the fortune not to have been perverted by a despot like Mugabe, is probably better off for having separated race and the franchise completely (I think the one concession was a temporary Deputy President from an opposition party). Though of course there are other mechanisms (a la NI) to ensure power sharing, difficult though that is with a party at over 60% of the vote as the ANC was.

  • PaulT

    Its not a quiz Mick, its because you only seem to emerge from the Slugger compound to mildly insult me and not engage in debate,

    So while I’m reluctant to aid the Slugger regime here is the full exchange of letters to give you a better grasp of the detail!

  • Mike the First

    “We believe majority rule . . . leads to domination and even to the oppression of minorities. Majority rule offers a solution only to whomever might form the majority but holds great dangers for minority rights and values. We are convinced that power sharing based on full participation by everyone, as well as protection against domination, is the only workable answer.”

    Who said the above, and in what context?

  • Mick Fealty

    Look lad, I don’t own the debates here on Slugger, but it is me who has to answer for them in the first place.

    If you want to challenge me or anyone else on Slugger then do it firmly civilly, and with references if needed.

    Otherwise, sling your hook!

  • PaulT

    OK Mick, I challenge you on your assertion that Sinn Fein are against the World Police and Fire Games being held in NI in 2013

    Here’s an even longer outstanding challenge I made

    Perhaps if you had had been civil to me a week and a bit ago when I challenged you then I might be a bit nicer to you, its a two way street Mick.


    My names not ‘lad’ either

    Not sure how many references you want, but I provided plenty for both. However, in return you have not provided references to back up your arguements.


    Any chance that you’ll include the ‘sling your hook’ form of communication as part of the training you offer local government in return for my tax dollars

  • Rory Carr


    I take what you say about other legitimate struggles in Africa but I do not recall any particular struggle against the UK Foreign Office’s placeman, Idi Amin in Uganda. There were however significant anti-imperialist struggles in Angola, Mozambique,Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde* in which Cuban soldiers played a significant part in countering the South African military who attemted to suppress the revolutionary forces. Mercenaries recruited by the usual British dealers in blood for money also attempted to play a part and came unstuck in an even more ignominious fashion than O’Duffy’s Blueshirts in Spain. You may recall the infamous “Colonel” Callan whose own Greek-Cypriot compatriots, luggage handlers at Heathrow Airpost, kicked and spat at his coffin as it was being unloaded so outraged were they by the shame he had brought upon their community.Wilfre Burchett and Derek Roebuck give a good account of the role of the mercenaries in their 1977 book The Whores of War which is worth picking up if you can find a cheap copy.

    But there were no significant struggles against indigieneous African tyrants that I can recall which so touched the public imagination that support was called upon from Western leftists. For the most part in any case these buggers were all placemen and toadies of the former imperial power (Bokassa – France; Amin – Britain) who might have been embarrassed into making ‘harumph-harumph’ noises about their excesses every now and then bur so long as their own intersts were being protected against any attempt by Native African leaders in these former colonies to nationalise their own natural resources (which is why RSM Amin was pushed by the FO into his coup against Milton Obote – “Amin might have been a murderin’ son of a bitch but he was our murderin’ son-of-a-bitch” the Brits might rightly have claimed).

    Besides which I have no evidence whatsoever of any resistance movements in these former colonies calling upon any Western leftist allies for support and certainly none who called upon the IRA. Have you?

    on a footnote – I happened to introduce to each other, Joe Cahill and Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the PAIGC (the revolutionary independence movement in Guinea Bissau – Cape Verde in Dublin in 1972 (I think it was). The twee pseudo-left were mighty miffed as I recall as they had wanted to keep Cabral all to themselves to boost their status as true drawing room revolutionries and home-grown examples of the real thing like Cahill rather upset them.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think you’ll find it is not an entirely two way street. Now, behave!

  • PaulT

    Easy Mick, or we might ask NATO to help.

    TBH, I’ve not got a huge issue with anything apart from the Rugby blog, which I know you didn’t write, it is however just a nasty bigoted piece of pure cack and you should remove it or justify it.

    Political parties and politicans should expect this rough and tumble but to lie about an Irish rugby player stamping on someone in that manner is going too far

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I once met a militant ANC guy in a bar in Harare during apartheid and he told me of his support for the IRA. Unsurprisingly, a short conversation with him revealed he had never even heard of the existence of a British population in Northern Ireland or that we were the majority.

  • michael-mcivor

    Mainland ulsterman-

    Glad you followed your heart and met and talked to a militant A.N.C guy- unlike the british goverment who said at that time when the A.N.C was miltant – that they do not talk with terrorist’s-

  • Neil

    Did he renege on his support once you expalined that the Loyalists were receiving weapons from South Afrika?

  • Limerick

    For anyone who is interested here is a link to the birth of the Civil Rights movement and specifically how the IRA was heavily involved in its inception.

    Kadar Asmal gets a mention on page one.

  • Rory Carr

    Very good, Limerick.

    I hope that puts paid to all those johnny-come-lately opportunists who continually push (not least on this site) the notion that it was the SDLP who were in the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement. The only real role that the SDLP had was in putting the brakes on NICRA’s momentum as they hurriedly scrabbled to gain political advantage out of the struggle and sacrifice of those who were being clubbed on the streets or being gaoled for wilfully flaunting the statute that mandated prison terms for participation in sit-down protests.

    Even in the few marches where leading SDLP careerists did participate for the sake of appearance, they were always at pains beforehand behind the scenes to ensure that there would be a body of strong hefty Republicans willing to place their bodies between them and RUC batons or Loyalist brickbats.

    Don’t get me started…

  • Limerick


    Ah, but you miss the point. The Northern Ireland Government and the RUC at the time, and unionists since, have pointed out that NICRA was a republican front set up to destabilise the province and create enough disruption to enable them to get another terror campaign going. That article confirms that they were quite correct about that.

    Especially quotes like this:

    “The clandestine nature of the original Derry meetings as well as others taking place throughout the north was based upon the need for republicans to keep a low profile. This was done precisely so that the Civil Rights movement would attract diverse political tendencies. Not all republicans of the time agreed with the ‘new venture’ for sadly the movement split in due course. Which raises the question of whether those who supported the venture were seeking the mere democratisation of the northern state. There were those who apparently inclined in that direction but to state categorically that was not the objective of republican participation in the civil rights movement.
    Otherwise Seamus Costello and myself among many others including people like Joe McCann of
    Belfast would not have remained with the so-called Officials.

    In fact, in an oration at a special Wolfe Tone commemoration at Bodenstown, Co Kildare, I
    emphasised the point that republican participation in the civil rightsmovement was for one reason
    only: a means for “nurturing a revolutionary consciousness in the Irish people and gaining their
    This oration was delivered during the re-dedication of a new memorial by the National Graves
    Association, after loyalists (allegedly) bombed Tone’s grave some months previously.

    As a member of the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Fein at the time, I recall writing the oration in the home of the then president, Tomas MacGiolla, who agreed with the contents and endorsed it on behalf of the leadership. “

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Richard English’s book “Armed Struggle” is good on this. Most Unionist politicians got it wrong of course: it was not a Republican front as such. But the old received truth that the Republicans piggy-backed on the NICRA campaign is also wrong. English shows how NICRA grew out of Republican seeds, through the Wolfe Tone societies. His take seems to be that it was not a creature of Republicanism, but that they helped get it started, modestly helped it along and thought it could unwittingly help their (sectarian) ends. They were happy to stand back and see where it led. Many unionists I think saw a less subtle relationship between the two, in which too much blame was attributed to NICRA.

    But unionists were, it seems, right to suspect there was more going on with the rise of NICRA than just NICRA. Many of the leading unionists of the time were utter absurdities and their politics were appalling. But I do feel the ordinary unionist in the street at that time is wrongly maligned when characterised as unreasonably fearful. They saw genuine civil rights grievances being used to further nationalist agendas that had nothing to do with civil rights and unfortunately that is what happened. It is a great shame because I honestly believe if there were no nationalistic issues attached, the civil rights agenda could have been embraced and shared by all fairly painlessly.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Oh and Michael, re ANC guy, I don’t think he was one of the organisation’s finest, just some angry bloke in a bar. We’ve all met them …

  • michael-mcivor

    Mainland ulsterman-

    ‘ some angry bloke in a bar, we’ve all met them ‘

    no problem- it could even be said about me- after a few…

  • Harry Flashman

    That there was involvement by the IRA in the early civil rights movement has never been denied.

    What is rejected is the idea that the leaders of what were to become the Provos had any real role in the civil rights struggle. Gerry Adams and others continually push the line that the Provos’ armed struggle was a last desperate stand after Irish Republicans had tried peaceful protest and reform and were batoned off the streets.

    Adams and his cohorts had no hand act or part in the original civil rights movement no matter what he might subsequently claim. The Provos sprang from die-hard, traditional, physical force, Republican families who despised the idea of reforming Northern Ireland as the Civil Righters sought, they wanted to destroy Northern Ireland. The Provos blamed the weak, reform minded IRA leadership for leaving the Catholics, and rest assured they meant Catholics, of Belfast undefended.

    To deny the huge input of SDLP founding members into pushing the NICRA agenda to the point where in late 1968 they had actually achieved most of their aims is historically absurd.

    Maybe some old IRA geezers in smoke filled rooms were involved in the initial stages but they weren’t the ones who got NICRA noticed.

    It was Austin Currie, Ivan Cooper, John Hume, Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin who made front page news, who were on the streets and who dragged Northern Ireland into the glare of world publicity. Ask anyone in Northern Ireland who were the faces of NICRA and 95% will mention the names above, the Boys of the Old Brigade don’t feature on anyone’s radar because essentially they didn’t achieve anything.

    And which party did most of the NICRA men go on to join?

    Hint: it wasn’t Provisional Sinn Fein.

  • Rory Carr

    Well Harry, apart from where you say that “It was Austin Currie, Ivan Cooper, John Hume, Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin who made front page news,” that contribution above is just plain wrong.

    And anyone who had been a active member of the Civil Rights Assocation, as I was, who participated in its marches and sit downs and housing squats as I did, who risked police batons and Loyalist assaults and arrest and imprisonment as I and so many others, who only ever had their names on the inside pages in the court reports, did would have known just how wrong it was.

    The reason that those geezers made front page news was in order to assist their efforts to outflank the Civil Rights activists, to dampen down the protests and to push the SDLP forward as the reasonable, moderate leaders for us all to follow.

    Eddie McGrady in Downpatrick was a good case in point. Seeing how the CRA had captured the imagination he organised a meeting in Downpatrick’s main street sharing a platform with Conor Cruise O’Brien and some red-haired woman from Newry named Rogers as though they were the leaders of a movement in any of whose actions they had never participated and indeed to which they did not even hold membership. Shortly afterwards McGrady was approached to support a sit-down in front of the RUC barracks to protest the recent rushed-through law which made sit-down protests subject to mandatory prison sentence. McGrady did not attend. The local CRA squatted a 3 bedroom council house in Ardglass which had been allocated to the single teenage secretary of a local Unionist councilor and placed therein a family of three who had been living in a rat-infested hovel whose walls ran with water and which had no sanitary toliet facilities. McGrady was invited, not to participate in the squat, but merely to turn up, to show support. He did not. Such lack of participation or more often, downright hostility by SDLP leaders and functionaries and even rank and file, to CRA actions was commonplace throughout the campaign.

    Given that the CRA had thrown off the influence of the old moribund National Party and it was necessary for the Catholic bourgeoisie to reinvent themselves in a new formation that somehow could take the credit for any reforms that street action might accomplish while at the same time doing its damnedest to ensure that it did not develop into too radical a movement over which they would lose all influence and control.

    In meeting after meeting the likes of Aidan Corrigan, Kevin Agnew, Frank Gogarty, Frank McManus M.P., and even Gerry Fitt’s one-time protege, Paddy Kennedy M.P. railed against the attempts to derail the movement by the very ones you claim were the leaders.

    In the end internment found them out and they tried to recover ground with the call for a rent and rates strike, little realising that people would take them up on it and that they themselves would then be required to participate. Of course as soon as legal measures began to be employed to thwart the strike, our brave heroes decided that it was now a good idea to abandon the it. However the people did not share their careful concern for their own skins, so the SDLP did what they had always done – they abandoned the people.

    Well now the people have abandoned them.

  • Limerick

    “republican participation in the civil rightsmovement was for one reason
    only: a means for “nurturing a revolutionary consciousness in the Irish people and gaining their

    The above was the key reason for republican involvement in the civil rights movement. All the rest of them were simply “useful idiots”.

  • Harry Flashman

    Like I say Rory, you and your chums in the smoke filled rooms might feel you were the guys who did everything even though no-one’s ever heard of most of you such was the minuscule impact you achieved.

    The rest of us remember who we saw on our TV screens and on the streets and it was the men I name above. Furthermore when the troglodytes of the Republican Movement decided that engaging in three decades of sectarian slaughter was more to their liking than peaceful reform, it was the SDLP who steadfastly refused to engage in murdering their neighbours.

    Seamus Mallon (must be a bad’un, he was a Stoop after all) called the Good Friday Agreement “Suningdale for slow learners” for a very good reason. You could have had exactly that forty years ago without all the bloodshed but no, time for another heave, to get the pike out of the thatch and to hell with reform and peaceful protest.

    “Yerragh me boys fer freedom tis the rising of the sun! Where’s me oul’ Thompson?

    I never voted SDLP in my life but it is clear now that they were the rare voice of reason and sanity in the Golgotha created by the trench coat and armalite brigade.

    You can stick to your brave revolutionaries, I prefer to salute men of principle and courage who fought a much harder, more constructive campaign.

  • Harry Flashman

    Oops, “moon” of course, damn where’s the edit function?

  • Harry

    Beware of believing those who appear on our TV screen are the real leaders of mass protests. Iraq and Libya are the best examples of this, I have yet to see a Libyan ‘rebel’ leader talking about wanting sharia law, yet according to newsnight it is likely to be in the new constitution drawn up, no matter what the suits in the TNC might say on TV.

    I bet you cannot even remember the names of those whom TV news proclaimed as the new leaders of Iraq post 2003.

    The people who lead from the front are often very different folk and a lot less vainglorious I might add.

    I remember back in the very earlier 1980s working out of Congress House, helping to organise ‘The peoples March for Jobs’ and receiving phone calls from MPs and others offering their support. To a man/woman when I said great; “I will book you down to march the Liverpool- Manchester leg,” or some such, the phone went silent and the more blatant would reply “I’m fully booked that day, but I was hoping to be able to give a speech to the marchers as they entered the main town in my constituency.”

  • Harry Flashman

    “I bet you cannot even remember the names of those whom TV news proclaimed as the new leaders of Iraq post 2003.”

    Which somewhat confirms my point, Rory and his mates might feel that they were there at the start and that all those johnny-come-latelys came along and stole all their glory but that is beside the point. Rory’s gang achieved diddly-squat, no one was listening to them, it was Fitt, Hume, Cooper et al who got the job done.