Century of Endeavour

Nuacht Naisiunta in 1970

(c) Roy Johnston 1999

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

In this we follow the aftermath of the January 1970 Ard Fheis, from which the Provisionals walked out, as seen by the Head Office newsletter to the Cumainn. We also follow it as seen by the United Irishman.

Issue #16 of Nuacht Naisiunta on January 19 1970 contained a bare-bones account of the Ard Fheis, slightly defensively regarding its location in Jury's Hotel, Liberty Hall being booked up for a bingo session. It was noted that the broad-based 'national liberation front' motion had been supported, but the electoral policy one had been defeated, not getting the required 2/3 majority. Both these motions had come out of the work of the 'Garland Commission'.

Members of the Ard Comhairle elected at the Ard Fheis were Cathal Goulding, Seamus Costello, Tomas Misteil, Malachy McGurran, Roy Johnston, Micheal O Riain, Sean O Cionnaith, Liam O Comain, Sean O Duinn, Paddy Kilcullen, Oliver McCaul and Eamonn Mac Tomais. Subsequently co-opted were Derry Kelleher, Mairin de Burca and Seamus Rattigan. There was no reference to the walk-out.

Other topics included the EEC (Coughlan's 'Case Against the Common Market' being promoted), the United Irishman (current sales were at 45,000 but there were problems in getting the money in from the Cumainn), the Springboks tour and the proposed Trade Union and Industrial Relations Bills. The issue of all-Ireland sporting organisation in the cycling context was treated, a matter dear to the heart of Seamus O Tuathail the Editor of the United Irishman.

Issue #17 on January 26 1970 contained an overview of what happened as regards the walk-out. They all stayed together until after the elections to the Ard Comhairle. While the votes were being counted, a delegate got up to propose the continuation of support for and co-operation with the IRA. At this point 'an altercation then arose' and a number of delegates and visitors walked out. The event had been pre-planned; they went off to the Kevin Barry Hall. Some of those who had opposed the electoral policy resolution remained behind.

The remaining body of Sinn Fein was thus in a constitutionally anomalous situation, lumbered with the electoral debris of those who had walked out.

The remainder included notes on the Fianna and on the Waters Restoration League. There was an adverse comment on the Vatican's refusal to accept a female German diplomat.

Issue #18 dated February 2 1970 attempts to survey nationally the effect of the walk-out. Support for the leadership in the Six Counties is seen as solid, this comprising the republican club activists who had been supporting the Civil Rights approach. Others who subsequently emerged via the Provisional process would simply not have been on record with Head Office. Support for the 'breakaway group' was seen as emanating from Cavan and Monaghan. In Dublin six out of ten Cumainn, representing 80% of the membership, were seen as 'loyal'. The picture elsewhere however was confused, due to the conflation of two totally distinct issues: electoral tactics and support for trying to keep the Northern issue on a political road.

The unifying philosophy was seen as the need to develop a broad-based popular anti-imperialist movement for the re-conquest of Ireland, the 'national liberation front' concept.

[We need to try to pin this down, what it was perceived to mean. The outline given in the Nuacht Naisiunta is unconvincing.]

A protest outside the British Embassy about the banning of the Republican Clubs and the sale of the United Irishman was reported as having taken place on February 2; there was music and songs. There was also reported a meeting representative of all Republican Clubs in the Brackareilly Hall, Maghera on February 1; it was addressed by Billy McMillan from Belfast and Tony Coughlan from Dublin, with the latter stressing the need for the avoidance of sectarian clashes and the development of the role of the NICRA. Malachy McGurran presided, and Tomas Mac Giolla also spoke.

[For the rest of 1970 in the first round I will just give the headers, and then maybe expand on some aspects where it is possible, from the contents, to get a feel for how political republicanism was reacting to the challenge of the militarists. I mark what at first sight might be key issues with an *, with a view to adding comments. I leave the in-depth development of this to whoever gets round to researching the period in the Workers Party archive, where the Kelleher Nuacht Naisiunta file will reside when I am finished with it. RJ June 2001.]

19. Tir Conaill / Powellism / Bulletin / Drogheda / Educational Conference / Protest / Golf in Uachtarard / Clann / Waste Not / Ulster / Flight to US / Wexford.

20. Housing / Newry / Cork / Kildare / Prisoners / Cymru / Raffle / Workcamps / Armagh / Tralee / Redundancy.

* 21. Conference / Nitrigin Eireann / Conservation / Appeal / WRL / Derry / Buchanan.

February 23 1970: The Liberty Hall conference was opened by Cathal Goulding and addressed by Kader Asmal (imperialism), Oliver Snoddy and Eoin O Murchu (the Cultural Revolution), Tom Kilroy and Seamus O Tuathail (farming and land issues), and Brian Heron gave the progressive US angle. Tomas Mac Giolla declared the intent of running similar conferences regionally.

22. Prisoners / Fascists / Unemployed / Lilies / Bombay St / Conradh / NWRL / Conference / Supermarkets / Teach Furbo.

23. Prisoners / Kinvara / Tir Conaill / Drogheda / Strabane / Tenants / The Small Farmer / Saoires o Deontaisi / Enniscorthy / Mar Sin De.

24. Sharpeville / Boland and DHAC / Unemployment / Cement Strike / Ballads / Caisc / UI / Monaghan / NUU / Tionol Oiliuna (Tourmakeady).

25. Vietnam visitors / Housing Rally / Hibernia / NWRL conference / Raffle / Galway commemoration / EI / Port Lairge / Lough Neagh / Clann.

* 26. Easter commemorations / NWRL injunction / Airgead / NWRL Conference / Armagh / Sligo / Limerick.

March 31 1970: Tomas Mac Giolla in the Derry Easter Commemoration responded to the presence of British troops; they were there to defend the RUC. He attempted to promote the vision of common interest between working people whether Protestant or Catholic, calling on the former to reject their propertied Unionist Establishment leadership.

[End of first quarter of 1970; it would make sense to trace progress with a statistical analysis of issues perceived as important, organised by topic, quarterly. I may get around to doing this, or I may leave it to the historians analysing this archive. It will be necessary to include the last quarter of 1969, to get the pre-Ard Fheis flavour for comparison. Also to go behind the header labels to get a feel for the actual topics; the headers are often misleading. RJ June 2001.]

*27. Violence / Prisoners / Cat and Maoist / The Non-War / Funds / Glasnevin (Goulding) / NWRL Conference.

April 7 1970: Goulding speaking at Glasnevin began by taking up a basically Connolly position, but then in the latter part of his speech lapsed into a contradictory position in which he promoted the ('official') IRA as an essential factor in the revolution, while advocating the recognition of 'all forms of struggle and not confining ourselves to the form of struggle inherited..'. He was struggling with the transformation problem in the presence of pressure from the traditional 'physical force' cultural mind-set. He felt the need to raise the profile of the 'official IRA' enough to keep the waverers on the agreed political track.

* 28. The North / EEC / Commemoration (Celbridge) / Small Farmers / Fianna / Cement Strike.

April 14 1970: an article on the North condemned sectarian attacks on Orange marches which had led to confrontations with British troops. Attention was drawn to the prospect of talks between Dublin, Stormont and London regarding possible new constitutional arrangements, with London seeking more control over Dublin (the germ of the 'federalism' concept). Support was urged for the NICRA Bill of Rights Campaign.

* 29. Nationalist party / Coalisland / Imperialism and the Nation.

April 20 1970: The Coiste Seasta issued a statement which analysed the role of the Nationalist Party, Blaney and Fianna Fail in the engineering of an approach to local leaderships offering aid on condition that they break with Republican leadership in Dublin, perceived as a political threat from the left. A 'red scare' tactic was used. People were urged to forget about political issues and concentrate on military defence against organised pogroms. Military intelligence officers from the Free State were involved: Kelly, Drohan and Duggan. A 'Civil Rights Information Office' financed by the Dublin Government was set up in Monaghan, with Seamus Brady in it, producing the 'Voice of the North', defined as 'a Fianna Fail paper masquerading as Civil Rights'. Most if not all of the foregoing, recognised at the time by the Movement, has been substantially confirmed by the analysis of Justin O'Brien in The Arms Trial.

This issue contains a continuation of a paper on 'Imperialism and the Irish Nation'; I have located what I think is the earlier part below in Issue 31. It is clearly by Anthony Coughlan and represents the classical Connolly Association position, emphasising the need to develop support from the labour movement in Britain. It is also visibly a dry run for Coughlan's later contributions to the anti-EEC campaign.

* 30. Cymru / Rathfarnham / Cork / Cement / Posters / Mitchell Comann / Education.

April 27 1970: there is a report of the sentencing in Mold of people, one a British Army sergeant, for causing explosions in Wales between 1966 and 69. The report appears to indicate sympathy with them, without analysing the possible role of establishment agents provocateurs in attempting to discredit Plaid Cymru. This ill-advised report I suspect could have initiated the line of thought that led to the subsequent canard about the 'official IRA' having given away its guns to the 'Free Wales Army', which, insofar as it existed, was most likely an invention of the British 'dirty tricks department'.

The Education section contains a short paper 'Socialism - a Definition' which I recognise has having been my own production. This represents a good summary of my thinking at the time, and it is worth reproducing in full:

The formulation "Democratic Socialist Republic in accordance with the 1916 Proclamation" is derived from an amendment to a 1967 resolution of the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis and is not the last word in precision. The 1916 Proclamation contains a reference to "cherishing all the children equally" and in this sense it can be taken as socialist by implication, but the principles are not spelled out. Where inherited wealth in the form of ownership of factories, farms and banks, can be passed on from father to son, the principle "cherishing all the children equally" is soon made nonsense of, as privately owned large property tends to concentrate into fewer and fewer hands, passing ultimately to absentees of foreigners.

Socialism can best be understood in terms of Connolly's formulation: "the application to the ownership of the means of production of the democratic principle of the Republican ideal". This short article expands on this idea.

The use of the term 'Democratic Socialism' for example by the British Labour Party is a phony facade which attempts to buy some radical respectability for a party that is as Conservative as could be. "Democratic Consultation" with them means consulting with the industrial tycoon monopolists and doing the will of the latter against the Trade Unions. Let no one be deceived into thinking that the "Socialism" of the Irish or British Labour Party has anything in common with the ideals of Connolly. Possibly some Irish Labour Party members may have this illusion: they should study the attitudes of their leadership to the EEC and to the various State bodies such as the NIEC if they want to see the true colours of the party they are supporting.

We must make out our own definitions. To do this it is necessary to look at the productive process which may be regarded as having four elements: supply, production proper, distribution, management. The latter is essential to the process as a whole and is interwoven with the first three elements.

There is a fifth element which is on a different footing: that of ownership. Under Capitalism the rights of ownership are such as to over-ride the rights of the people connected with all other elements of the productive process. The owner hires management and dictates policy; the basic principle of policy is to pump out as much money as possible. To do this it is necessary to set management a goal and make the retention of its job conditional on the achievement of that goal. The only method whereby the objective of the owners can be achieved is to pay the workers as little as possible and work them as hard as possible. If the amount of money per unit of capital invested falls below what is available by investing elsewhere, the capitalist will quite cheerfully close down, sell up and do so. The social investment in "his" workers, their homes and schools, their skills, do not enter his balance sheet.

Socialism rejects private ownership of the factories -- it holds that production is a social process and should be owned socially. The exact form of this social ownership is a matter for experiment. Some industries, national in their scope, are best owned as national assets. Other industries, more local, are best owned municipally or by local authorities. Others again are best owned locally as co-operatives by the workers and management who work in them. In agriculture, where the basic unit is the family farm, only certain elements of the production process, such as purchasing, marketing ind the provision (for example) of repair and maintenance services, come under co-operative ownership. In retail trade, where (similar to agriculture) the basic unit is often the family firm, wholesale supply would be under co-operative ownership of the retailers.

Thus in all branches of economic life the key idea is that those who are affected by decisions should have the means of participation in them.

Some small firms, like farms, have ownership and management concentrated in the one person. This is a situation which can give rise to rapid expansion and innovation by an energetic owner-manager. Yet the whole thing could go to pieces if he should fall ill; it is therefore unstable and the social investment is not secure. The socialist objective would be to build up towards co-operative ownership; thus when the firm has reached the stage where it would under capitalism go to the money market for more capital (thus separating the functions of owner and manager, and introducing an alien element interested only in profit) the State would provide the necessary capital out of the nation's reserves and would insist that the firm be converted from private ownership to co-operative.

Whatever the form of economic activity, the event which would determine the policy would be the general meeting of those concerned: all the farmers involved in the co-op, or all the workers and the management in the firm. This would elect a Management Committee which would have the job of renewing the appointments of managers as and when necessary. The basic business decisions, to pay bonus or plough back, whether to expand seeking more capital from the State; these would have to be made by the management committee and implemented by the management. Large firms would function by means of delegate conferences.

This is in principle what is meant by the application of democracy to economic affairs. Nowhere, however, had it achieved perfection. Ir must, however, be adopted in principle and the details of its functioning worked out in the light of practical experience.

Note that there would no longer be a conflict of interest between 'worker' and 'management'; both are essentially "workers" when it comes to their interest in the economic health of the factory. There is no alien ownership principle to drive a wedge between them.

* 31. Cambodia / Clann / Kilkenny / Limerick / Education.

May 5 1970: This Education section contains the introductory section of the 'Imperialism and the Irish Nation' paper, of which what appeared to be a continuation was published in issue 29. It outlines the classical Marxist analysis of what Imperialism is, in terms of the European imperialist States and their empires in Africa and Asia. It links into Irish history via the setting up of the Free State as a pioneering 'neo-colonialist' venture, with the handing over of power in the ex-colony to a government favourable to the continuation of imperial economic domination. I do not recognise this as being mine; the style is more like that of Coughlan.

32. was missed out, and apologised for in 33.

*33. Membership / Agitation / Cumann Nua / Timire Nua / Uachtar Ard / Conradh Ard Fheis / National Collection / Cumann Nua / Lismore / Imperialism and the Nation (contd) / The North.

May 26 1970: The British Embassy had been peacefully occupied by members of the movement during the previous week. The politics of the occupation were related to what was going on in the North, but the precise nature of the demands were not made clear. Those concerned were arrested and remanded in custody; Janice, who later became my legal wife after a lengthy period as 'common-law' wife, spent a week in Mountjoy over this episode, earning the credit of having 'gone to jail for Ireland', this being considered a political asset in some quarters. This episode contributed to the growing unease of the Government regarding the role of the post-split IRA in the 26 Counties; this 'space is to be watched' in the coming months.

There was also a lengthy continuation of the 'Imperialism' paper, which sets the stage for later arguments about the Common Market, confirming the authorship of Coughlan. It raises the following issues:

(a) Exploitation of Irish agriculture by the artificial rigging of the British market, favouring the store cattle trade and 'dog and stick' farming. The arguments presented here closely follow those of JJ in the 30s and 40s.

(b) Increasing domination of imperial capital over Irish capital in the Irish economy.

(c) Outflow of Irish capital abroad, mainly via banks and insurance companies but also privately.

(d) Political subservience to British imperialism in the field of foreign policy.

(e) Cultural domination by Britain.

Republican Clubs in the North (Newry and Coalisland) were reported as selling openly the United Irishman, and were campaigning for the release of Republican prisoners in Britain. Presumably what they were imprisoned for actions related to the August 1969 events, and it is assumed everyone knows what these were, as we are not told. (But see below).

There is a hint of ambiguity here; the politicisation process of the 'official' movement, from which the Provisionals had split, was far from complete.

34. Shannon BEA Protest / EEC / Kinvara / Wolfe Tone Week / Bodenstown / Monaghan / Local Democracy / Clann / Fianna / EEC Booklet.

35. Coolock eviction / Mayo land / Athlone / Kilkenny / Bodenstown / Hume St / Rhodesia.

* 36. Special SF conference / Radio Eireann / UI / NWRL / Prisoners.

June 15 1970: Tomas Mac Giolla's speech at a special conference on Jun 14 was reported at some length; this represented the movement's analysis of the significance of the increasingly visible split in Fianna Fail between the hawks who were encouraging the Provisionals and organising to arm the Catholics, and the 'doves' who were accused of doing a regressive deal with Britain. Boland's '...definition of a republican was one who could make speeches advocating the use of force in the North..'. Lynch, on the other hand, '...never was a republican, he is a puppet of Britain and his recent actions have been taken as a direct result of pressure from Westminster. The new constitutional arrangement which the British Government now has in mind for Ireland is a federal arrangement, which would end partition as such, but would keep all of Ireland firmly under the political and economic control of Westminster. Lynch has agreed to this arrangement as also have McAteer and John Hume... surrender by Ireland of her economic sovereignty to the Brussels Bureaucrats...'.

I am inclined to detect the influence of Coughlan in this, with the perceived threat of the EEC beginning to dominate, and the North seen as a lever used by Britain to bring Ireland as a whole into it, with Britain in the lead. The Bill of Rights campaign in the North had apparently been allowed to sink without trace. The Provisionals were not yet perceived as a threat to the process, which came for a time to be labelled disparagingly as the 'federal arrangement'.

There was a report of a resolution from the Whitehall-Santry branch of the Irish Labour Party in support of the release of the prisoners in Britain, suggesting that this campaign was broadening, as the reasons for the arrest were beginning to be understood.

Janice, who herself was jailed in Dublin over the issue, recollects that it arose because some Irish activists, mostly of the political left, some with republican backgrounds (Eamonn Smullen being one), had been arrested in London and imprisoned on what was visibly a trumped-up conspiracy charge. This I must say I tend to interpret as another indication of the workings of the British 'dirty tricks' department: the intent was clearly to isolate political republicanism, encourage the movement to revert, both 'officially' and 'provisionally', to its traditional militarist mode, and draw attention away from the Civil Rights issue in the North.

37. Bunbeg / Clann / WT Lecture (Kemmy) / Publicity guidelines.

[End of second quarter. From here on the sequence numbering is erratic and one has to go mostly by date.]

* 01/07/70. IRA statement on the North / EEC / Montpelier school / emigrants / publicity guidelines / Armagh.

July 1 1970: Here we have a confirmation of the process hinted at in my comment on Issue 33: the 'official' IRA comes out of the closet and issues a statement, attempting openly to play a political role, taking away from the leading status of the NICRA in the northern situation.

This I must say, with hindsight, counts as an appalling blunder. I personally had no role in it.

The statement condemns the sectarian fighting, and attributes it to British manipulation. Orange parades were forced through republican areas with the support of the British Army. Bernadette Devlin had been arrested. Northern units were encouraged to co-operate with defence committees, 'giving military aid.. for the adequate defence of peoples lives and homes..'. While doing this they were urged to 'contain sectarian strife'.

There was a final paragraph based on the perceived threat of the 'federal solution' based on the foregoing analysis of Lynch's dealings with the British. The thinking behind this must have seemed obscure to the activists in the North, some of whom still saw the NICRA and the Bill of Rights as the key issues.

This statement must have emanated from Goulding who was feeling the strength of the politicisation process wavering, with half-baked recruits wondering which way to turn; should they go 'provisional'? The political alternatives were looking increasingly obscure. He felt he had to issue what amounted to an 'official' call to arms, to keep them onside. But at the same time the 'call to arms' was fudged, with somewhat fuzzy politics, enough however to fuel Government paranoia about a threat from the left.

The political influence, such as it was, I an inclined to think was primarily from Coughlan. The present writer was increasingly taking a back seat, having taken on an innovative self-employed role, which included the Irish Times science and technology column, to which I was giving some priority.

* 39. IRA on sectarianism / Saoirse / publicity etc / NICRA / EEC.

July 6 1970: Malachi McBirney's Bodenstown speech was reported as being a statement from the IRA which attempted to discourage violent attacks on provocative Orange marches, leading to sectarian strife between protestant and catholic workers. It was becoming evident that the British Army was actively encouraging Orange marchers to go through republican areas, seeking to provoke an armed response. The emphasis in the references however is to Citizens Defence Committees and the Civil Rights agenda has been dropped.

40. Merrion Square / Gaeltarra / Sligo / Citizens for Civil Liberties / publicity / anti-squatting bill / prisoners.

I treat the Merrion Square episode in my notes on Justin O'Brien's Arms Trial book.

41. Belfast / Toomebridge / Waterford / local elections / Galway / EEC / prisoners / publicity.

42. EEC / Ban on marches / fisheries struggle / Killarney / Dublin local government / Leixlip / UI / statement re use of Special Powers.

04/08/70 (single sheet only) TU resolution re squatters / collection / Russell commemoration / NWRL / prisoners.

44. fish-ins / EEC / prisoners / UI / unity in the north / Armagh / Inver / farm report.

45. ground rent / EEC Galway / new members meeting / Mallow / felon-setting.

46. Emigrants Rally / EEC / SDLP / NWRL.

47. Cork trade dispute / Sovereignty and the EEC / Dublin EEC demonstration / NWRL / Tim McCarthy case.

48 is missing.

49. Nore fish-in / Waterford Cumann / Fianna / Ground Rents / Tralee / O'Briens Bridge school / Crotty book review / Housing in Galway / NWRL.

* 50. Nixon visit / NWRL / Republican Clubs statement / financial scam / EEC / New cumainn.

September 22 1970: the Nixon statement placed the movement firmly among the international consensus of opposition to the Vietnam war, and urged local republicans to associate themselves with various demonstrations against it.

The NI Republican Clubs statement was issued from the Regional Executive, with Malachi McGurran in the lead. It attacked the Public Order Act and the Criminal Justice (Temporary provisions) Act as being in effect the re-introduction of Special Powers. They trying to resurrect the Civil Rights agenda, in the face of increasingly militarist oppression by the British Army.

51. Ground Rent / Electoral registration / South Down / Dublin meetings / Nixon visit.

[This is the end of the 3rd quarter.]

* 52. Nixon visit / EEC meeting in Rathmines / T MacG in Galway / Fianna / Ground Rents / seizure of UI by UDR.

October 7 1970: the Nixon visit had been duly demonstrated against, and a large Dublin SF contingent had marched behind the Vietnam war protest banner (led incidentally by Peadar O'Donnell, with George Jeffares doing most of the organising). This had prompted Provisional elements to accuse them of 'being more interested in Vietnam than Derry', but the newsletter defended stoutly the internationalist tradition of small-nation solidarity.

There was an advance notice of a meeting to be held in Rathmines organised by the local Pearse Cumann, which it seems I chaired. An attempt was made to have it broad-based, and the target was the EEC. I have no recollection of this meeting; perhaps it happened, but it probably was a damp squib. This again must have been Coughlan influence; he seems to have been attempting to find something for the Dublin movement to do, which would point in a good strategic direction, recognising that there was little they could do in Dublin to affect the deteriorating situation in the North. He had recently published his pamphlet 'Why Ireland Should Not Join', and Nuacht Naisiunta 52 promoted it with a review.

Meanwhile in the Falls Road the UDR had seized 7000 copies of the United Irishman and burned them in Ross St. The seizure was under Regulation 8 of the Special Powers Act. The UI was avowedly non-sectarian, while sectarian papers like Paisley's Protestant Telegraph and Seamus Brady's Voice of the North were free to circulate. In the UI statement the key quote was "..both the Unionist Party and the British authorities fear the acceptance by even some section of the protestant community of the non-sectarian philosophy of Republicanism..'. A reprint was promised, in greater numbers, to profit from the publicity generated by the seizure.

* 53. ideology / Derry Cumann / Fianna / UI circulation 55K / McDyer and Tom Kilroy in Sligo on the EEC / disclaimer about Crotty and Coughlan / IRA lottery.

October 13 1970: There is here a disclaimer to the effect that 'neither Crotty nor Coughlan are members of the Movement and opinions expressed by them are their own only'.

This would appear to be a backtracking from the trend, noted earlier, to substitute the EEC for the North as the main strategic target. There must have been feedback from the activists. Coughlan was always a one-issue person, and he was inclined to switch from the EEC to the North and back, unpredictably. When on one issue he would think of nothing else, and attack it single-mindedly.

* 54. McSwiney commemoration / Edentubber (Goulding McMillan) / Prisoners / Fianna / Arms to South Africa / Drimnagh consumer co-op / Local democracy in Dublin.

October 26 1970: A meeting was held in O'Connell St organised by Dublin SF to call for the release of the prisoners in Britain; this for the first time goes into who they were and what they are in for. They had, it seems, in the emotional atmosphere of August 1969, attempted to get hold of arms for the people of Belfast. In some cases maybe only talked about it. This episode had provided focus for the British militarising (trend? campaign? conspiracy? how does one label a situation where the British establishment reacts instinctively to Irish events?)

The episode had generated a number of occupations, stunts etc to draw attention to the prisoners, but had been mostly unsuccessful in doing so. In contrast, '...we have now witnessed the spectacle of mass hysteria and hero worship of Mr Haughey and three others who have been found not guilty of failing to import a comparatively useless consignment of pistols... sheer incompetence... comparatively simple task... did they really want to import the arms, or only want to appear to... are they to be regarded as national heroes while six young men are ...forgotten in British prisons?'

It is remarkable how destructive the presence of the gun is to the development of sensible politics. The degeneration of the political situation must be attributed to the key mistake of allowing the August 1969 pogroms to trigger the militarisation process. It should have led politically to the disbandment of the Specials, and to sweeping reforms to Stormont, had the political path been followed.

There was a call to develop a campaign for the restoration of local democracy in Dublin, with setting up a Citizens Committee, supported by representatives of tenants and residents associations, to monitor the decisions of the Commissioner and publicise them, particularly in relation to speculators and landlords.

* 55. Edentubber oration / Mansholt / Trade Union Group / Derry (Swartragh) and the prisoners.

November 3 1970: Cathal Goulding's oration at Edentubber is given in full. In it he attacked the 'five points of difference' promulgated by the 'loose association of individuals and splinter-groups which give its allegiance to what is generally styled the "provisional army council"', turning it round, to ask what were their points of difference with the 6 and 26 county establishments? He took his stand robustly on the left, 'placing the common people... as masters of their own destiny... making and maintaining contact with the disunited masses of the discontented... weak because they are disunited..'. He did however speak on behalf of the IRA, and predicted that before the 70s were out the British right to rule Ireland would again be challenged in arms.

He clearly felt that having adopted an IRA position he had to compete with the Provisionals in military mode, or at least to threaten to do so, verbally, to try to hold his own supporters, an inconsistent political position.

* 56. Seamus O Tuathail in QUB / Wicklow / Sheeling seminar (Asmal) / Ard Fheis / Mac Giolla in Oxford / Cork / Swatragh (Bernadette Devlin).

November 16 1970: Seamus O Tuathail, editor of the United Irishman, reminded the Queens students of the origins of 1790s republican philosophy in the continental Enlightenment, and went on to attribute the religious mania at partition-time to the industrialists of the North defending their access to the markets of the Empire. Carson sent 100,000 men to defend the Empire and Redmond sent 170,000. He went on to draw a parallel with Chichester Clark and Jack Lynch, with Ireland being led back into the Empire via the Common Market. In passing he mentioned the 1932 'outdoor relief' riots when Catholic and Protestant workers united.

No clear currently relevant political message emerged from this, or from the Goulding oration at Edentubber. The militarisation of the situation had allowed the Bill of Rights and the NICRA objectives to sink without trace in the movement's perceptions. They clung to historical analogies, worthy but impractical.

Mac Giolla in Oxford had a better-constructed, though still historical and ideological, message, where he attempted to counter Jack Lynch's statement that the Northern trouble was an Irish problem: Britain saving Ireland from the Irish, like America saving Vietnam from the Vietnamese, and Russia saving Czechoslovakia from the Czechs. He went on to attack the sectarian barriers erected by the British ruling class. The barriers would crumble when the British rule was destroyed. Republicanism he defined as separatist, socialist and non-sectarian. The mantle of de Valera over which Lynch and Haughey were fighting was not, and never had been, a republican mantle. Socialism, in the Irish republican context, he claimed as the native growth through Connolly, repudiating current factions looking to Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Mao.

The Swatragh meeting was called by the Connolly Republican Club and included Kevin McCorry (NICRA organiser), Oliver Frawley (Belfast), Mairin de Burca, Kevin Agnew (NICRA Chair at this time) and Sean O Cionnaigh as speakers as well as Bernadette Devlin.

The focus however had been displaced towards the issue of the republican prisoners in Britain (see above) and away from the potential for local community development offered by the existence of the Swatragh co-op.

* 57. Freedom Manifesto / Miss World / Waterford / Ard Fheis / Christmas sale of work / Prisoners.

The 'Freedom Manifesto' had been published in the February 1970 issue of the United Irishman, and had been reprinted as a broadsheet for wide circulation, representing a reasonably definitive statement of the post-split 'official' republican position, developing somewhat the 'national liberation movement' concept, with separate demands relevant to the existing 6 and 26 county situations.

"...At no other period in history has the Irish freedom movement survived a defeat with its organisations intact, continuity of experience , a leadership that has learned the lessons of defeat, and a public image of some integrity on which it is possible to build.

"The British Government are banking on their experiences, which go back many centuries; these tell them that the Irish can easily be drawn into premature action without adequate organised revolutionary base... acting emotionally... without organic national unity developing from below through a genuine web of contacts between the working people and their organisations.

"Fortunately the only people who are helping the British by giving them what they want are some tiny groups who have separated themselves from the mainstream and who are losing such political support as they may initially have had by every terroristic act that they perpetrate. They are not even acting according to any kind of either classical or guerrilla military principle, the most cursory reading of which will persuade anyone... that if the enemy wants a battle you do not give it to them.

"The enemy, the British ruling class, wants an Ireland so sectarian-divided that its nationality will never develop. Sectarian war in the North, resulting in a new revised Treaty, with displacement of populations, a 29-county Free State, and a 3-county Protestant ghetto, would kill the Irish nation forever and give final victory to de Valera's Catholic gombeen republic, so that the Fianna Fail hoteliers can turn the place into a Coney Island. In such a settlement who would speak for the Irish? Lynch. The enemy wants this. Therefore we do not want the re-opening of the Treaty talks.

"We want concessions sufficient to enable us to build an effective all-Ireland organisation. IN the present situation, survival is victory, development of sectarian war is a defeat....".

* 58. Freedom Manifesto (2) / club activity in the North / the EEC.

November 30 1970: continuing with the Manifesto, treated as a discussion document to help develop movement policy, the Marxist classification into 'working people' and 'exploiters' was identified as a simplification appropriate to some core-industrial situations, but in Ireland the structure was much more complex, due to our peripheral and developing situation, overlaid by the caste system prevalent in the North. As many as 10 loose groupings of people having distinct features were identified, including working owner-managers and self-employed, whose interests the liberation movement needed to represent additionally to the traditional working class organised in trade unions. The politics of national liberation needed a broad base, rather than being narrowly 'workerist'.

We have located this document and it deserves reproduction in full elsewhere. I am inclined to think that I had a hand in writing it; it is therefore a key piece of raw material.

Tomas Mac Giolla was reported as speaking in Clontarf at a Dublin North-East Anti-Common-Market Committee, along with Dalton Kelly of the TCD Republican Club. There was much Northern Republican Club activity reported, including the first anti-EEC meeting in the North.

This emphasis on the EEC at this time, and the attempt to develop the wider European view of the national question, undoubtedly was the influence of Anthony Coughlan. Any analysis of the development of the the thinking of the left in Ireland during this period would be incomplete without input from the Irish Democrat.

* 59. University Republican Clubs statement / Internment agitation / Udaras / Internment / Freedom Manifesto (3).

December 8 1970: this issue is dominated by a perception that internment was on the agenda in the 26 counties. A series of anti-internment meetings were projected. The Ard Fheis was projected for Liberty Hall on January 16-17. The Manifesto set the agenda for the regions: get to understand the specific needs of working owner-managers, self-employed and unorganised workers which were not catered for by the current Fianna Fail hegemony.

It is far from clear what was the trigger for the perception that internment was on the agenda in the 26 counties. It could have been that Lynch, having put Haughey, Blaney & Boland (HB&B) in their places, was expected to turn on the Provisionals, and in doing so take up the 'officials' for good measure, as the Special Branch records would have difficulty in distinguishing. At national level 'repartition', the 'federal solution', and 're-opening the Treaty negotiations' seem to have been in the air. In this context the emphasis on the EEC seems to have been a diversion. The full analysis of the early post-split days must remain on the agenda.

End of 4th quarter, end of year, end of decade. I will continue with the analysis of this file in 1971 picking out only the highlights; the statistical analysis of the content, classified by topic, remains on the agenda as a means of tracing the evolution, development and retrogression of 'official' thinking, organisation and action during the period of build-up of the British and Provisional militarisation of the situation.

The United Irishman

The January 1970 UI has a reference on the front page to an IRA statement, signed by 'JJ McGarrity'; it takes up a full page internally, on p8. The main thrust is against the Irish Press group and its attempt to split the movement. Picket on a Blaney junket in Letterkenny. Ground rent p3; on p4 there is 'Civil Rights or More Special Powers; p5 'Facts about the EEC.

There is also a review by RJ of Michael Farrell's 'Struggles in the North, along with George Gilmore's 'Republican Congress': Gilmore finds the basic politics of FF and the IRA in the 1930s identical. In the Congress the premature support for the 'workers' republic' vision led to leakage of support to FF. Farrell's chronology is accurate but the analysis faulty; he has a 'moderates' group with Hume et al wanting Catholic concessions within the UK, a 'militants' group with Blaney et al wanting a 32 county FF republic, and socialists attacking capitalism so as to win Protestant workers for a workers republic. There is no mention of the Republican Clubs and their mobilising support for the NICRA. I went on to suggest that the Congress error was being repeated: attacking capitalism before getting rid of the imperialist-imposed partitioned structure.

Then on p7 there is an article 'Civil War in 1970?' which reads like Coughlan (very few articles are signed): we have the Anglo-Irish Federation threat, NICRA must stay political, defence of Catholic communities but no attacks on Protestants as such, no civil war, legislate from Westminster, impose Civil Rights under Article 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. Callaghan is looking to Ireland as a whole.

On p8 we get 'the IRA in the 70s' which is a post-Convention position paper, intended to influence the Ard Fheis. Economic and cultural resistance, housing action, credit unions, trade union activity, land leagues, ground rent, fishing rights; remove all restrictions on electoral policy; take seats without recognising legitimacy; military action seen as being 'in reserve', for use if necessary against military-type repression. The on p9 we have an exposure of the Voice of the North, with its links with the Catholic Herald and Catholic Standard.

The February 1970 issue leads with 'Hold Firm - No Civil War'; the British were standing aside and encouraging it, all-Ireland federation with Britain being the perceived prize. On p3 there is a 'Freedom Manifesto' which I recognise as being mine; I reproduce it in full elsewhere. This was my then attempt to put some flesh on the bones of the 'national liberation front' concept which had crept into the discussions; this choice of labelling was elsewhere criticised as being derivative and misleading; it certainly gave rise to great confusion in the Ard Fheis debate. There is a comment on the Ard Fheis by the Editor Seamus O Tuathail, notes on the planned fishing rights campaign, comments on the then current repressive legislation in the Dail, and a report of Mac Giolla's speech at the Ard Fheis, in which he accused Jack Lynch or promoting a new Act of Euro-Union.

The March 1970 issue continues on the 'No Civil War' theme, this being perceived as what Britain wants, with all-Ireland Federation with the UK as the strategic vision. The 'Abolish Stormont' demand is countered by 'only when the alternative is the Republic'. There is an NICRA group to go to the US: Denis Cassin, Malachi McGurran and Brigid Bond. The fisheries campaign continues. There is however an extended report on the 3rd AGM of the NICRA, which took place on February 14-15 in Belfast, attended by 500 people. The secretary Peter Morris reported the formation of 8 regional groups. Ivan Cooper promoted continuing extra-parliamentary action, around a demand for a Civil Rights Charter. Gerrymandering required re-drawing of boundaries. The report was proposed for acceptance by Daltun O Ceallaigh and passed unanimously.

The UI report of the AGM then goes on to report on some emerging divisions: Con McCluskey it seems objected to the NAIJ in the USA being the contact-point; there was said to be a Black Panther connection, which Michael Farrell supported, leaving McCluskey isolated. Farrell went on to propose the development of a CR movement in the 26 Counties. There were attacks by PD people on 'Catholic bigots'. The Farrell motion was referred to the incoming executive, and it was recommended that the Citizens for Civil Liberties should be the contact-point, also the Article 44 campaign. The PD element in the conferences seems to have been a source of ultra-leftist disruption.

I feel I need to comment with hindsight on the emerging situation: I find it remarkable that the movement was dedicating so much energy to peripheral issues like ground rents and fisheries, relics of evanescent landlordism, at a time when the situation was so explosive. The explanation perhaps is that this was intended as a means of keeping activists in the 26 counties doing something of local interest, so as to divert them from madly rushing North and fuelling what was verging on a civil war situation. If this had not been going on, perhaps more people would have joined the Provisionals.

The IRA statements also perhaps were intended to serve the same purpose. The movement was imprisoned by its historical structures; the process of transforming it into a broad-based political movement of the democratic left was far from complete, so that in the end the Provisionals were clearly were the winners in the competition to pick up the loyalties of the activists. Enough people remained with the 'officials' eventually to achieve some Dail representation, which however later split away from the Workers Party rump, forming the Democratic Left party, which eventually merged with Labour. The basis of the DL split was the perception of the residual existence of an 'inner group' having continuity of experience with the 'official IRA'. The Fenian-IRB tradition dies hard; it has been a powerful influence on the political culture.

I am not going to pursue the analysis of the transition of Official Sinn Fein to its eventual Workers Party status; this is perhaps partially illuminated by Kelleher in his memoirs. During 1970 I increasingly distanced myself from the process, under pressure of work. I did however contribute an article to the September 1970 United Irishman, on 'the Future of the Agricultural Subsidies', in which I reviewed a Government report. I made the case that subsidies should be social and not volume-dependent on commodities, and that co-operative groupings of farms could become large-scale commercial units.

[Nuacht Naisiunta in 1971+] [1960s Overview]
[To 'Century' Contents Page]

Some navigational notes:

A highlighted number brings up a footnote or a reference. A highlighted word hotlinks to another document (chapter, appendix, table of contents, whatever). In general, if you click on the 'Back' button it will bring to to the point of departure in the document from which you came.

Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999