Eamonn McCann: “People sometimes say these traditions have gone on forever. No they have not!”

I wish I had the time to transcribe this input from Eamonn McCann and taped by our own Mr Ulster… The import is that political identity is immutable and gives the politics of 1960’s Derry in which Labour candidate took as much as 40% of the vote…

  • GavBelfast

    Eamonn McCann great value there – as he most often is.

    I would have been delighted if had been able to get elected to Stormont last time around, when sadly he fell several hundred votes short. Supporting a mixed economy, we would not probably not share any similar opinions on policy, but I would definitely have given him a high preference if I’d lived in Foyle.

    Maybe, given the stench from Stormont without truly discordant voices, not withstanding Jim Allister’s sometimes noble if too tribal efforts, he’ll have another go next time round – and voters will respond accordingly?

  • SDLP supporter

    The bould Eamonn is being a wee bit economical with the verite in saying that the cause of the 2006 postal strike, if this is the one he is referring to, was due to security concerns.

    As I recollect, it was about postal workers resisting management practices which would have facilitated privatisation of the postal service.

    There is, of course, some truth in what he says. I remember when NILP got over 150,000 votes: it didn’t mean that a lot of the people who voted them necessarily endorsed a pro-union gas-and-water municipal socialist party and all that it stood for.

    Also, some people like Eamonn in the seventies saw the Provos as some kind of cutting edge vanguard of the imminent Trotskyite revolution and had no difficulty speaking on their platforms, rather than the band of sectarian killers that they were.

  • SDLP supporter

    Oh, and I swear to God I will eschew my life-long commitment to non-violence if some fool attempts to portray Eamonn as some kind of Ulster ‘National Treasure’, the North’s Tony Benn or some such nonsense.

    Even Eamonn doesn’t deserve that!

  • What I hear McCann saying is that only class solidarity aka class sectarianism can overcome ethno-religious sectarianism. He may be right, but I don’t know that the latter is an improvement on the former–it might even be worse.

    From what I can see outside of the province is that McCann pops up now and again but in 25 years hasn’t really made any contribution to the politics of the province. It seems that he was tailor-made for the old NILP and that his misfortune is that he has had to spend his life during the period when that party was first in eclipse and then no longer in existence.

  • weidm7

    SDLP supporter, or anyone else who knows, could you point me to evidence online or off, that the IRA were a “band of sectarian killers”. I ask in good faith, for the purpose of furthering my knowledge, I’m not wishing to stoke any shouting matches.

  • Reader

    weidm7: …evidence online or off, that the IRA were a “band of sectarian killers”. I ask in good faith, for the purpose of furthering my knowledge, I’m not wishing to stoke any shouting matches.
    Well, the ability to gather a dozen of them to carry out Kingsmill, and then have the rest of the Provisional movement in south Armagh protect them to this very day – that’s a bit of a giveaway.

  • Canny See It Sur

    It is my recollection that Eamonn McCann wouldn’t have shared a platform with the provos in the way that the SDLP supporter above suggests.

    He is one of the few people that saw from the start that the Provisional movement had no intention of living up to the socialist movement it split from.

    Eamonn was more closely aligned to the officials (stickies) and went on to speak in the Socialist Workers Party.

  • Eamonn is a good man for the slogan and the sound-bite:

    “Tories out, North and South [on a placard] … I say that the alternative to sectarian division is class solidarity.”

    Back in ’69 in the New Left Review:

    “It is perfectly obvious that people do still see themselves as Catholics and Protestants, and the cry “Get the Protestants” is still very much on the lips of the Catholic working class. Everyone applauds when one says in a speech that we are not sectarian, we are fighting for the rights of all Irish workers, but really that’s because they see this as the new way of getting at the Protestants” .. source

    Dublin may have done a runner way back then but ordinary people weren’t heeding the bold Eamonn and they’re not heeding him now.

  • weidm7

    “Well, the ability to gather a dozen of them to carry out Kingsmill, and then have the rest of the Provisional movement in south Armagh protect them to this very day – that’s a bit of a giveaway.”

    It’s hotly contested whether or not Kingsmill was an IRA operation, but even if we assume it was, it would only be one operation amongst many thousands which nearly always if not indeed always targeted members of security forces, not Protestants. Should the entire movement be judged by one operation? (serious question)

  • Starviking

    it would only be one operation amongst many thousands which nearly always if not indeed always targeted members of security forces, not Protestants.

    Enniskillen Bombing, Kingsmill, Tullyvallen, Darkley, and the targetting of countless Protestant families just because of their religion in the Border Campaign.

  • New Yorker


    (serious question) – Are you serious?

  • Blue Hammer


    Here’s a few “highlights” of the PIRA 1968-present campaign of sectarian murder:

    Birmingham, Warrington, Bishopsgate, Guildford, etc – “let’s beat it up the English – fuck them if we kill a few civilians, kids or minimum wage cleaners”.

    Bloody Friday, Claudy, Enniskillen, La Mon, Omagh, Abercorn, Shankill – “let’s kill a few Brits/Prods – fuck them if they are just shoppers/restaurant customers about their normal business”.

    Newtownards, Bangor, Magherafelt, Banbridge etc etc – “lets blow the shit out of a predominantly Unionist town – fuck them if anyone gets hurt or killed – sure they’re just West-Brits anyway”

    Need I go on? Band of murderers drunk on sectarian bloodlust merrily trying to dress that up as some noble cause.

  • aquifer

    No lack of sectarianism can be inferred from the IRA’s public positions. Their stated position was a tactical necessity given that to admit of a sectarian motive would have resulted in their rapid and exemplary suppression on both sides of the border. Stirring up sectarian tension was useful to their recruitment and in creating homogeneous areas they could operate from.

    In that respect Ian Paisley complemented them rather than opposed them.

  • aquifer

    Sorry back to the topic. Has Eamonn McCann got anything to do with any possible Labour Party?

  • weidm7

    I will deal with each of the above mentioned attacks here. Forgive the annotated form, I began in short form meaning to go back over them, but it’s preety late now, I hope it’s intelligible.

    Enniskillen – targeted the British Army
    Tullyvallen – Perpetrated by SARAF, not the IRA
    Darkley – Perpretrated by members of the INLA, not sanctioned by them.
    Border Campaign – Only targeted RUC members and barracks

    Birmingham – didn’t target Northern protestants, doesn’t seem to have gone through the normal IRA command structure, if the IRA were involved.
    Warrington – didn’t target northern protestants, was attacking Britain and the British economy.
    Bishopsgate – didn’t target protestants, targeted the British economy
    Guildford – targeted the British army, not protestants

    Bloody Friday – Targeted the economy, apart from one bomb I noticed which was planted on Agnes Rd, this could definitely be regarded as a sectarian attack
    Claudy – Killed five catholics and four protestants, in a catholic majority town, not a sectarian attack. Seemed to be targeting the economy
    La Mon – Targeted the economy, was a foolish attack considering the likelihood of it being seen as sectarian

    Omagh – I was focusing on the PIRA and possibly its predecessors, however this attack too wasn’t sectarian, seeing as it attacked a Catholic majority town.
    Abercorn – Appeared to target the British Army who used the upstairs in the restaurant. It killed two Catholics and attacked a restaurant mainly frequented by Catholics so couldn’t be considered sectarian.
    Shankill – Targeted the UDA leadership, but the meeting had been rescheduled
    Balmoral Furniture Company – wasn’t claimed by the IRA, though widely believed to be by them, an unjustifiable sectarian attack
    Bayardo Bar – Targeted UVF members

    Newtonards – No fatalaties. Since it was a 700kg bomb, I must assume that this was intentional and that it was therefore an economic target, not a sectarian one
    Bangor – Can’t find info about casualties, the 1993 attack which might be the one you’re talking about doesn’t seem to have caused any casualties and again, being large bombs, I would assume that the target was economic then, not sectarian. Please correct me if I’m wrong about the casualties.
    Magherafelt – Intentionally no casualties and a mixed religion town, therefore again, not a good sectarian target, likely an economic one.
    Banbridge – RIRA, No serious injuries, appears to have been economic again, not sectarian.

    Very few of the above seem to come close to being attributable to sectarian motives, this idea that the IRA were sectarian killers doesn’t get challenged enough, despite the very shakey ground it stands on.

    I look forward to hearing rebuttals to my above claims, please everyone try and remain calm and respectful.

  • weidm7

    New Yorker, can you please elaborate in what way you think I wouldn’t be serious? If you think the answer is an obvious one, please let me know what you think it is, I am eager to learn from those of different opinions to mine.

  • New Yorker


    When someone attempts to disprove what 99.99% of people believe to be the case, ie, the Provos were sectarian one suspects they are not serious. It is like trying to prove the sun does not rise in the east, we are mistaken because it really rises in the west.

    Above you state Bloody Friday was against an economic target (a fish shop is a mighty economic target!) but it was also clearly sectarian. I’m not going over each of your above statements because they are in the category of schoolboy foolish. If you truly want to learn then read some real history not propaganda.

  • Reader

    weidm7 – wouldn’t it have been much safer and easier to blow up and burn down ‘economic targets’ in nationalist areas rather than travel to Newtownards and Bangor to do those things? That sort of thing does create a bad impression.
    By the way, I just flicked down your list, and you seem to have missed the fact that SARAF was merely the PIRA at play; and that the Enniskillen bomb was targeted at civilians. The IRA may have thought of them as ‘enemy’ civilians, but civilians nontheless.

  • Blue Hammer


    You seem to use a very narrowly defined idea of sectarianism.

    In my view sectarianism means bigotry, discrimination, or hatred based on differences of religion, class, nationality or political opinion.

    Since the vast majority of “protestants” in NI have no religious belief whatsoever, it is my view that sectarianism here, just like the root of the entire conflict, is not religiously based at all, but based on political ideology and national identity.

    I have no religion, and no interest in anyone else’s so by your strict definition i am not sectarian. However, I despise SF and everything to do with it due to its postion on the question of national identity and its support for violence to change the status of NI. I care not one iota about what church, mosque, temple or other that SF members attend – i believe in no supernatural beings. My contempt for SF would not be lessened if they joined the Free Presbyterian Church en bloc.

    Returning to your list of defence of the non-sectarian nature of PIRA actions, just change “Protestant” to “British” and see how the picture changes. PIRA attacked British people, property, businesses, economy, remembrance services, shoppers, drinkers, Collie Clubs, etc etc in a clearly and demonstrably sectarian assault on democracy.

    And they lost. We British are still here and not going away.