Century of Endeavour
RJ and Politics in 1970
(c)Copyright Roy Johnston 2002, apart from the excerpts from the Desmond Greaves Journals and the Minutes of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society, on both of which copyright has been waived by their owner, Anthony Coughlan, on condition that acknowledgement is made to him in any published use of this material. Enquiries or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional sources are the Minutes of the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle and Coiste Seasta, the United Irishman, Nuacht Naisiunta, interviews with Mick Ryan and Ruarai O Bradaigh, and my own papers.
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.
On January 12 1970 Greaves noted the result of the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis; the present writer had after all gone on the new Ard Comhairle, with CG and TMacG; Ruane, who had been a CDG contact, had gone with the breakaway group. He indicated that he is 'glad RHJ has stuck it out. After all he got them into the mess as I told him he would, and to pull out would be impossible..'.
In Dublin on January 17 in discussion with CMacL CDG opined that the split arose from the outmanoeuvring of the civil rights movement in the north, and the consequent discredit of the republican policy of political action. He attributed the failure in part to what he calls my 'Fanonist nonsense, socialism without the working class', but also to '..failure to tackle the Northern thing on sensible lines..'.
SF AC 17/01/70: TMacG, Malachi McGurran, Sean O Cionnaith, Cathal Goulding, Lian O Comain, Oliver Frawley, MJ Dunfy, Ivan Barr, Tom Mitchell, Frank Wogan, Frank Patterson, Oliver McCaul, Sean Dunne, Seamus Costello, Mick Ryan, Mairin de Bruca. Apologies from RJ, Paddy Kilcullen, Tom Kilroy, Sylvester Doolan. Eamonn Mac Tomais had been elected but had walked out. Regional representatives who had walked out were Peter Duffy, JJ McGirl, Ruairi O Bradaigh, Des Long, Ned Bailey. The position of George O'Mahony of Cork was not known.
The present writer continued as Director of Education. MdeB and Sean O Cionnaith were secretaries. Seamus Rhatigan and Derry Kelleher were treasurers. The CS was to include as well as the officers MR, CG, TM and SD.
I did not want go forward, having just then left Aer Lingus and being faced with survival in self-employed mode; I definitely felt I had to get more into a back-room situation, and out of the front line. But I was stuck with the education job and felt that somehow I had to continue with it. This meant that I continued on the CS.
It seems that one Jerry O'Keefe, who was a visitor representing the NAIJ, had assaulted Sean Mac Stiofain, so they agreed to complain to the NAIJ. The issue was raised by Tom Mitchell.
Why should a visitor take such an action? Could this be part of a prior arrangement to generate 'news'? The media would assume it was a delegate, and help to promulgate an aura of 'injured innocence' around Mac Stiofain.
Publication of the social and economic programme was to be prioritised. This appeared in the February United Irishman, under the title 'Freedom Manifesto'. Insofar as there is a focus for the 'National Liberation Front' concept, this is it.
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.
In London on January 21 1970 CDG noted that London Clann were pro Stephenson and Birmingham pro-Goulding. He urges the CA people to do nothing to make things worse in SF, and remarks that '..the influence of republicanism will be minimal for a number of years..'. The next day CDG noted that '..RHWJ's follies had contributed to the position..' and that he will continue to receive both papers, but will support neither faction. The Huddersfield episode, it seems, was 'official' and Goulding was standing by Smullen and co. The Dagenham arms raid was 'unofficial'.
In other words despite the best politicising efforts of the present writer and others, the movement on both sides of the split was reverting to traditional mode, under the pressure of the Northern events. Also it seems that Goulding had been keeping the present writer in the dark regarding the Smullen episode.
On January 24 1970 CDG had a reflective entry on his '..next moves after RHJ's nonsense has probably put republicanism out of operation for some years if not permanently. He has infected AC who has been showing a new and typical blind arrogance in policy matters, though it was left to RHJ to find out the reason. I wrote to Barry Desmond and dropped the hint that if Labour now made a strong national stand, they might become the leading opposition party now that Fianna Fail... is treating Labour as the enemy - as a rival for the fleshpots of course, now that go-getters Justin Keating and Conor Cruise O'Brien are in it..'.
SF CS 26/01/70: TMacG, Derry Kelleher, CG, RJ, TM, Sean Dunne, Sylvester Doolan; also Seamus O Tuathail editor of the United Irishman. The Labour Party invited TMacG to their Annual Conference. Sean Dunne to go. The Connemara Cearta Sibhialta movement had written supporting the 'national liberation front' concept. No reply to the statement issued by the 'breakaway group' but errors of fact were to be corrected with the UI and NN. The Westminster election was discussed, and the coming NICRA AGM. Tom Mitchell to meet with Bernadette. Malachi McGurran as NICRA Chair was considered but no decision taken.
NN: 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.
Back in Dublin on January 29 1970, initially on the historical trail, CDG picked up from CMacL that Tony Meade had called, was happy abut the split, glad that Stephenson had gone; Brady had denounced CG and RHJ. The next day he talked to Sean Nolan, who agreed the split was madness, taking place in a situation of extreme weakness; there would be much bitterness; the breakaways would look for martyrs; there would be many disillusioned people. RHJ and AC should be in the IWP.
Then on January 31 1970 he called on the present writer, who seemed '..perfectly sanguine.. there was no-one of any ability among the breakaways..'. I conveyed the impression that the 'official' politicising structures were holding, and that the Northern Executive of the Republican Clubs had replaced the 'Northern Command' structure. CDG however picked up the impression that I was not told everything; I was not aware, for example, that Costello had been in London. I was it seems unable to give a satisfactory account of Belfast, and was under the impression that Jimmy Steele had no influence. Kevin McCorry was taking over the NICRA as a full-time operation. CDG sums up the situation as one of '...complacent sectishness..'.
He was of course quite right. We had totally underestimated the extent to which Mac Stiofain had been actively building the Northern Command structure, outside of the political process. CDG then went back to Liverpool via Belfast, where he picked up some angles on the scene from an Orange taxi-driver.
UI: 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 probably being mine; I (hope to) reproduce it in full. 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.
SF CS 2/02/70: TMacG, DK, RJ, CG, SOC, MdeB, TM, MR, SylD. TMacG to speak in UCC on March 6. RJ to go with him, and to run an educational conference on that weekend. Some exchange of correspondence with 'caretaker executive'; the issue is arising as to who owns the name SF. The ESRI people thanked SF for talking to them; TMacG and RJ had met them; they were talking to all parties. Young Socialists had requested a speaker; Derry Kelleher and Sean O Cionnaith would go. TMacG reported on Rep Clubs meeting in Brackareilly; 90 had come; Tony Coughlan had spoken on Civil Rights and future activities. There was a poor response at question time. The mid-Ulster election question was not raised.
NN 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.
SF CS 9/02/1970: TMacG, CG, SR, DK, MR, SD, TM, RJ, MdeB. RJ, TMacG and Sean O Cionnaith to form a sub-committee to plan for a week-end educational conference. Arising from the Enoch Powell speech it was agreed to ask Clann na h-Eireann to survey the emigrants regarding their voting patterns. Votes at 18 to be referred to college republican clubs and Connolly Youth. TMacG reported on a Wexford meeting which called for 'unity', without clarity. A meeting was planned to discuss the NICRA agenda and the position of republican delegates to the elections to the executive. The booklet 'ways and means' was looked at critically; it had never been sanctioned.
The CS minutes as above were signed by TMacG on 16/02/70 but there is a gap in the minute-book record until May 11. It could be that under pressure of events record-keeping suffered. Nuacht Naisiunta acts as a partial record between these dates.
SF AC Febuary 28 1970: TMacG, LC, M Dunphy, MR, OF, CG, SR, IB, TM, SOC, PK, RJ, Tom Kilroy, DK, DMacR, OMacC, SC.
This was the makings of an effective post-split national leadership, of what was the makings of an effective all-Ireland political republican movement. What went wrong? Were there avoidable blunders committed? Or was the initiative marginalised by external 'force majeure'? We hope to tease this out. RJ July 2001.
Sean Keenan in Derry 'does not want an enquiry into his dismissal' ie he is registering his opting out in favour of the Provisionals. Local Derry activists threaten to withdraw support from NICRA street protests, seeing 'education in ideology of revolution' as an alternative. They are instructed to persist with public support for NICRA events. Church gate collections called for Bombay St Housing Association.
On my various visits to Derry to interact with the activists, I had marginally encountered Sean Keenan, in a house where we met; he tended to be passively in the background, watching TV, while we tried to develop some degree of political understanding.
AF Resolutions referred to incoming AC:
the following were passed: 11, 58, 59, 65, 67, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 61.
rejected: 3, 7, 8, 40, 42, 57, 60, 62.
these ones could only be considered at AF: 12, 29, 30, 31, 32, 39.
referred to CS for implementation: 46, 47, 48, 50, 61; 50 to be discussed at next AC meeting.
Motion 52 led Tom Kilroy to propose initiating a Small Farmers Defence Association 'to be led by republicans' and this was agreed.
The full Clįr is probably available somewhere in the Workers Party archive so we need infill here.
There was a discussion on whether a membership fee should be made a condition of membership; it was left that the CC had the power to waive it. The prisoners release campaign was to be intensified. Frank Patterson was agreed as a unity candidate for S Down. Unity candidates to be discussed by the Clubs Executive. Tom Mitchell to go to Belfast to discuss current policy.
UI: 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 foregoing: I find it remarkable that they were 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.
In Belfast again on March 15 1970 CDG attended the conference which marked the unification of the CPNI and the IWP into the CPI. He was on the IWP invitation list but not on that of the CPNI. There were over 100 people there; the proceedings was opened by Andy Barr, who reminded people that there never was an actual decision to divide the two parties, it was 'brought about by objective and circumstances'. It took place during the war, on the entry of the USSR. Jimmy Stewart and Micheal O Riordain spoke, followed by Edwina (nee Menzies) Stewart who called for a 'Civil Rights Charter' to be added to the Constitution of NI by the Westminster Government. There were greetings from some 20 CPs in various countries. When it was over Sean Nolan asked him if he had any misgivings. He said he had: '..but it is done. The problems you haven't solved before reunification you will have to solve after it..'. Sean Nolan put this in his final speech, and also another thing CDG told him, that they would have to make the working class republican.
Then he went down to Dublin, in the company of AC, who it seems had been present as an observer, presumably in his capacity as the Dublin correspondent of the Irish Democrat. The next day March 16 1970 he spent some time with Cathal Goulding, who called in to MacLiam's house. '..Some of the bounce had gone out of him. He was more inclined to be self-critical... too busy in his business to get around to see people..'. The Belfast events did them terrible harm, specifically '..having no guns..'. CG tended to blame the lack of guns on the Belfast people themselves: '...the test of a man when the movement is broke is how deep he'll dig into his own pocket..'.
i>Note the apparent assumption that lack of Falls Road guns was the problem, rather than the existence of the armed Protestant B-Specials as a component of the Crown forces. Thus the pogrom succeeded in its objective, of making everyone thing in terms of guns for 'defence'.
CDG went on to remark that the difference between the UI and the Poblacht did not warrant a major split. Goulding responded: '..Stephenson wanted the abstention issue discussed so as to kill it quickly. When we proposed delay as there was no election in sight, Costello challenged him "are you afraid to fight it out?" So it was discussed, and the result was the split..'.
The indications are however that Goulding wanted Belfast to be undefended, and to use the ensuing situation politically to get the B-Specials disarmed. This however gave the Provisionals the role of 'defenders of the people'.
CG went on to discuss Costello, the North, British policy, Federation etc. There was a mention of RHJ in this context. CDG concluded '..one gets the impression of a very imperfectly centralised organisation..'. CG had been invited as a 'fraternal delegate to the CPNI conference. He asked CDG had he misgivings about this CP reunification; he said he had, but asked CG for his: '..I saw the CPNI as a door to the Protestant workers, if they become (sectarian?) they may close it..'. CDG replied that he thought that in that case they would have to make the trade union movement the door.
Then, on the question of the 'Irish Republic Now Virtually Established' CG was dismissive: '..revolutionaries must work from things as they are. For my part I cannot see any broad basis of politics being evolved from anybody but dedicated Marxists. They will show the way to the future...'. CDG goes on: '..it struck me that CG is now in a transitional phase. Joe O'Connor in London expressed the opinion that the Goulding IRA will go CPI and the other become the recognised IRA. It would be a pity in ways. But I think this might be true of Goulding. That he has enormously matured is certain...'.
Later: '..I saw RHJ again for a few minutes. It struck me that he was conscious of having lost influence. CG goes to MOR now not to him. As I left the house he said "I want to talk with you - about philosophy". It was because I had accused him of following Fanon...'. The next day he recorded that I had pointed him in the direction of Ned Byrne, Kevin O'Byrne's father, who knew Mellows. Then he went back to London to work on the paper.
NN 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.
There is a lengthy entry in the CDG diaries on April 12 1970 which goes into the question of 'abolition of Stormont', the London NICRA, and 'Stephenson's IRA' which '..has come out for it..'. There is a move on foot to get 'direct rule' into the MCF. '..The "provisional IRA" of course think (in terms of) a direct line-up of Ireland versus England. They cannot see the projected sequel of a federal union, or indeed how they would pursue the struggle from the south..'. This entry calls for further elucidation.
There is a reference to the Connolly Association conference on April 18 1970; some people nominated for the EC did not show up; CDG had to draft the main resolution himself. AC was there. Volume 21 of the Journal continues up to the end of May, with long entries, but little or nothing which is germane to developments in Ireland. Volume 22 takes up immediately:
NN 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.
SF AC April 17 1970: TMacG, MdeB, DK, Padraig Maloney, DMacR, SC, MR, LOC, OF, MD, TM. A O hAnnrachain, Frank Wogan, SR, SOC, CG. Belfast affiliation fees handed in. Bombay St collections unsatisfactory. Educational conferences had taken place in Limerick and Cork and were planned for Tyrone and Waterford. Prisoners protest meeting in TCD (SOC). Eoin O Murchu appointed Organiser for the Gaeltacht. Draft statement agreed on the North. Meeting fixed for Maghera on May 10 to organise a new 6-co executive. Bill of Rights campaign support was to be urged on Clann na hEireann at their Birmingham AGM.
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.
NN 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:
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.
NN 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.
SF CS May 11 1970: TMacG, DK, SD, CG, TM, SR, MdeB. There is reference to previous minutes being signed; there must therefore be a missing temporary minute book. Perhaps it can be found in the WP archive. Meetings on the Westminster elections had taken place. CG reported on Belfast; 5 points were agreed: 1. FF agents to be opposed wherever identified.
2. 'Well-known people such as Gerry Fitt' should not be opposed, but movement should put forward its own policies.
3. Contest one trial seat on the abstentionist policy.
4. Circulate a questionnaire seeking views on abstentionism or attendance.
5. Attend 'unity conventions' in strength, get republican policies accepted, and our candidates where possible accepted as unity candidates.
South Tyrone urged getting CRA policies agreed by the unity candidate.
SR reported from Armagh; badly organised meeting, small attendance, no unified decision taken. There was said to have been a 'successful educational conference' on the Sunday.
In Derry they did not want a republican candidate, nor to attend any unity convention. They wanted to march on the American base protesting about Cambodia. Thee had been a complaint about picketing in connection with squatting families, without informing the action committee.
Here we again have evidence of the pincer movement on the exposed position of the movement: ultra-leftism in Derry, and probably Provisional recruiting in Armagh. Electoral strategy crippled by the residual abstentionism left by the January Ard Fheis.
TMacG reported from Mid-Ulster; they did not want an abstentionist candidate. They could select a republican abstentionist candidate and use this as a lever to get a preferred unity candidate.
NN 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.
There is a hint of ambiguity here; the politicisation process of the 'official' movement, from which the Provisionals had split, was far from complete.
Greaves: there came a letter from AC on June 2 1970 enclosing a cutting from Hibernia which told '...the story of Fianna Fail's negotiations with the IRA, and the subsequent decision to split it. The article says that they insisted on the (retirement?) of CG, RHJ and Costello and one other "not generally known to be in the IRA" who I suspect may well be AC himself. I have long suspected it. And AC says the article is substantially accurate. He speaks of great political confusion in Ireland. He goes on to assign responsibility to the unprincipled intrigues the republicans themselves resorted to. It looks as if they are repeating 1948, a la Clann na Poblachta. The entire direction is to discredit Fianna Fail..'. Later on June 6: '..I think the split in the movement (product of Roy's nonsense) has deeply demoralised the Irish left..'.
The next day June 6 1970 he has the following to say: '..they never succeed in anything. They belong to a class that cannot win. And yet the glamour surrounds them. For all the talk of "socialism" they are clearly opposed to it. They make blunder after blunder... talking about a "National Liberation Front". That is RHJ's invention. I am inclined to think the IWP are foolish to change their name to CPI and have this non-organic amalgamation, or shall we say, incompletely organic. Clearly the masses are miles away from them. And though CG also doubted its wisdom, it is to co-operate with the republicans (I suspect) that he did it..'.
The 'NLF' canard has assumed, to my mind, an undue importance in people's minds. It was never intended as a slogan or a name of a confederating body, or a real movement involving any formal amalgamation. It was used by Mac Stiofain and others to imply the existence of a 'communist threat'. Insofar as I ever used it, it was to connote a process of expansion of the movement to soak up a broader range of progressive forces than Sinn Fein itself, and the embedded politicising IRA who were activating Sinn Fein. The 'Freedom Manifesto' as published in the February 1970 United Irishman is an outline of what we then had in mind for a broader movement.
We were never very specific about this process, but the feeling I had was that the IWP-CPNI amalgamating into the CPI was politically a non-starter, and would be moribund due to the dead hand of Stalinism. People disillusioned with this might be able to think their way into joining an expanded, integrated and politicised republican movement which, as well as the primary objective of national unity through democratic reform in the North, had the core democratic Marxist objective of attaining democratic control over the capital investment process, and creating a friendly environment to co-operative enterprise. The 'NLF' was, for a time, a convenient in-house label for this concept, which we used during internal discussions. We never managed to think of a good name for the concept, although viewed retrospectively it was perfectly valid, taking on board as it did a recognition of the developing crisis in post-Stalinist Marxist orthodoxy, which came to a head subsequently in 1989.
I checked this out with McDowell; he remembered the meeting; he had blamed both sides equally for the split, and had urged them to get back together. This was a widespread public perception at the time; few outside the movement were aware of the extent of the the Fianna Fail / Provisional conspiracy, or the depth of the philosophical gulf between the militarists and the politicisers. At the next meeting of the NICRA Billy McMillan took him aside and told him about the ban.
There was a 'camp-in' at Lismore, in the castle grounds. MdeB objected to it from the feminist angle; it was a 'boys only' event, but this was a locally-imposed constraint.
The present writer made the case for a Special Ard Fheis in case there was an autumn election linked with an EEC referendum, but was over-ruled. The abstention incubus remained with us, and people were afraid of its aura, despite the walk-out. There remained a residuum of people who were 'loyal to the movement' and had not gone with the breakaway group, but who remained abstentionist, being at heart crypto-FF, and uneasy about the developing democratic socialist flavour of the movement. There was fear that these would go, if the movement became fully political.
NN 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.
NN 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.
CS July 5 1970: TMacG, DK, SD, SR, SOC, RJ, TM, MdeB. NICRA collection discussed; flags but no wrappers or posters. Armagh unemployed wanted a speaker. Emigrants rally August 22. Meeting with Belfast people July 11, they agreed not to 'issue a statement'. Housing Action and Forcible Entry: need to discuss HAC wok at least once monthly. RJ produced a draft new members pamphlet and TMacG was to read it.
NN 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.
It is not clear how this resignation was related to any act of Coughlan. It could be Sweeney reacting against the emphasis given to the EEC campaign. The content of the letter illustrates the perceptions underlying the leakage of support to the Provisionals, with SC, CG and TMacG being apparently led astray by the likes of the present writer and Coughlan.
RJ to act re Waterford flat-dwellers, and ACEC closure; latter issue to be treated in Nuacht Naisiunta. This seems to have got lost.
On Belfast TMacG reported back; there were 6 active clubs; the Falls Citizen Defence Committee was unelected; they wanted to broaden its base and give it a local government function. 5000 copies of the UI had been seized; CG wanted to have it bought up at Westminster.
Michael O'Riordain (CP) had tried to set up a unity meeting in Dublin and had asked the Provos to send a speaker, but they had refused, even for Eamonn Mac Tomais in his personal capacity. There was considered to be no point in TMacG going.
This echoes the Vincent McDowell episode noted earlier. The hard-left, in well-meaning ignorance, wanted some sort of abstract 'unity' with people who even at that moment, it turned out later, were planning a campaign of divisive terror.
Back in the NICRA offices Jimmy Stewart arrived and took CDG up to the '...Defence Committee rooms. There were moves on foot to transform it into a Catholic Defence Committee. The priests were coming in, and NICRA is being denounced as "communist". I felt uneasy about the whole position...'. There was discussion about the Ardoyne proposal to re-route Orange processions; CDG's demand would have been to ban them.
The Mac Eoin paper (1.5 pages) is in the WTS archive: control is now with the Army and Westminster; federal settlement with pretence of national unity were seen as a possibility; in this context Fianna Fail would move in on Nationalist ground; radicals like Bernadette would be isolated. NICRA now outdated; a moderate nationalist umbrella group was required, to express minimum requirements for a federated republic, avoiding radical rhetoric such as to drive moderates into the arms of Fianna Fail. He calls for a new role for a Northern WTS, the old Belfast WTS being defunct, with the objective of trying to win the middle ground.
There is in the WTS archive a copy of an interview by Jack Dowling of Cathal Goulding, done for This Week on July 31 1970. This was when he was trying to hold the movement together after the split, and build up the 'officials', which later became the Workers Party. He outlined the then thinking of the leadership of the movement regarding how to achieve a socialist republic, and how the movement had attempted to go political, with parliamentary participation, to the extent that they were not in a position to supply 'defence' in August 1969, though they had put up armed resistance to the July 3 1970 re-occupation of the Falls by the British. He gave his views on the basis for the split. He defended the organisation from the charge of being anti-clerical and 'red'. He claimed to have persuaded US supporters that parliamentary participation would be useful if guided by revolutionary principle.
This would suggest that I was backtracking a bit as regards public role, and that the movement accepted this.
Emigrants' rally to be addressed by TMacG, LC, Seamus Rodgers, EOM. There was to be a ceili afterwards. Various suggestions for Mid-Ulster emerged; there was a need for a campaign to get Bernadette Devlin released; repeat the Coalisland to Dungannon march?
A drafting committee was set up consisting of TMacG, SR, RJ, CG, MR, OF and OMcC; this was to meet local and middle leadership N and S, and to report back to an AC meeting on the 22nd.
This initiative seems to have sunk without trace; the next AC meeting is on November 7, and I can find no mention in Nuacht Naisiunta.
There seems to have been a long hiatus, and the August 22 event remains unrecorded.
It seems also we were supportive of the City Quay housing protest, which we attempted to link politically with the 'Battle of Hume St'; this also was unsuccessful, because the City Quay people, whose community was being demolished, could not identify with the Hume St issue, which was basically architecture and urban planning in the abstract, related to office environments.
Skeffington had had a heart attack; I had been to see him, and there was some rapprochement; I might even have had his 'blessing', which would have picked up a few votes. I must have been seriously considering it. But I did not in the end take it up; I was too concerned with the problem of how to make a living as an applied-scientific consultant, and this would have been a diversion. The seat went to Mary Robinson.
In Dublin on August 26 1970 CDG took up with O Riordain the question of ID fund-raising; the latter was apologetic. The background to this was the IWL in the late 50s who used to collect for the Dublin movement masquerading as the CA, in 'Connolly socials' in London. It was an ongoing bone of contention. The next day after visiting the National Library he phoned Dr Roy Geary in the Statistics Office, seeking data on prices in Ireland during the Union; he found that no-one had researched this; it was assumed they were at the English level. What about transport and industrial costs? According to Geary he was proposing an entirely new major research, so he decided to '...make a holiday of it..'. This must have been in the context of CDG's attempts to evaluate the EEC impact.
The same evening there was a 'gathering of the clans': Tony Coughlan, Des Logan, the present writer ('..as confident and incorrigible as ever, no more talk of senates..'.), Micheal O Loingsigh, later Noel Harris, who explained that Sam Nolan was the driving force against Cathal's ID fund-raising party. It emerges from NH that the CPI was '..carried away by the Republican (palaver??), and that people who were as good as Orangemen three years ago are now bright sea-green Republican incorruptibles. I think that they have had so little to do with the Republicans that they cannot criticise them, only follow blindly..'.
WTS September 17: there is a copy of a letter which went out to selected people as from the Newry WTS, signed by Geraldine McGuigan, inviting them to '..a small conference sponsored by us, and supported by a countrywide group of concerned citizens who have been directly or indirectly involved in events... October 24.. Derryhale Hotel, Dundalk. She went on to list an initial group of invitees: Margo Collins, Madge Davison, Bernadette Devlin, James Donnelly, Jack Dowling, Sam Dowling, Mike Farrell, Frank Gogarty, Brendan Harken, Fred Heatley, Ciaran Mac an Aili, Oliver MacCaul, Terence McCaughey, Kevin Boyle, Eamonn McCann, Kevin McCorry, Uinsean Mac Eoin, Malachi McGurran, EK McGrady, Frank MacManus, Eamonn Mealagh, Terry O'Brien, Emmet O'Connell, Roy Johnston, Edwina Stewart.
There appears to be nothing on record to confirm that this actually happened; it is a group spanning officials, provisionals, communists, PDs, Trotskyists and various WTS contacts from the middle ground, from which an agreed position would be somewhat unlikely to be forthcoming. It looks like the Society was grasping at straws, in a rapidly worsening situation.
NN 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 were trying to resurrect the Civil Rights agenda, in the face of increasingly militarist oppression by the British Army.
CS Sept 28 1970: TMacG, CG, SD, DK, RJ, MdeB. Rattigan and been 'teaching' in Montpelier, and Terry Murphy would take over next week. TMacG to speak on Tyne-Tees TV on October 16. DK and TMacG to speak on EEC at Dundalk on November 26. A meeting to exchange ideas about anti-EEC actions was planned among representatives of 'radical groups'; this should not initiate actions 'as itself' but maybe a joint group could come late. A pamphlet on the EEC and Neutrality was in preparation, by Kader Asmal.
The 'radical groups' label is a euphemism for interaction with the Communist Party in the context of the emerging 'national liberation movement' concept. The barrier posed by the existence of the Stalin incubus was however palpable. While the movement valued and respected the ideas and actions of local CP activists, we were acutely aware of the Stalinist label as a political liability. Whence the perceived need for keeping such meetings discreet.
The next AC meeting was planned for October 24 at this stage, but it got postponed.
This entry goes on at some length; maybe it is significant, but I have absolutely no recollection of this situation; maybe other papers will emerge to clarify it. It could in fact be an echo of the October WTS conference of 'radical groups' in Newry. My impression was that we were consistently against abolition of Stormont and for imposed reforms under Article 75 of the GIA, which was basically the Greaves position.
The question of a Cumann commission on collections for the NICRA arose; it had been reported to the NICRA in Belfast by Eddie Glacken the CYM Secretary. This was a cause of friction, representing as it did a basic difference in approach to money as between SF and CP activists, illustrating, perhaps, the 'petite-bourgeois' status of the former in the eyes of the latter.
TCD had been approached to get the Exam Hall for the Ad Fheis.
There are some notes by the present writer in the WTS archive, also dated October 6 1970. They are worth reproducing:
Role of WTS in foundation of NICRA; breadth of original spectrum; Dungannon, Derry, mass-movement phase; rise of ultra-leftism; Newry, Derry march, Burntollet, Protestant backlash, August 69.
All of the foregoing I had ticked off, implying that they had been covered by Anthony Coughlan who was the first speaker.
After August 1969 the Belfast Trades Council basically adopted the CR programme. The unions had a positive role in preventing the pogrom from extending to the shipyards. Dublin Trades Council had set up a fund, but there were problems in administering it. Politicisation of the movement was proceeding, with wide sales of the UI; a 'citizens press' was emerging. There were embryonic local government structures emerging behind the barricades. Repression was beginning again, Stormont was moving to the right. Opposition to the existence of Stormont was futile when the alternative was direct rule. Political position of 'wanting direct rule' was untenable; would satisfy unionists and moderate Catholics, and lead to period of stability and reaction. Basic mistake of Belfast WTS was to disappear; the basis existed for reviving it.
The foregoing represents an overview of the present writer's perception at the end of 1970. I had added cryptically 'Newry meeting' and 'Foster's letter' but alas I have no record of these.
There was an advance notice of a meeting to be held in Rathmines organised by the Pearse Cumann in Rathmines, 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.
CS October 12 1970: TMacG, SOC, CG, SD, DK, RJ, SR, TM, MdeB. Donation of £5 agreed for Irish Voice on Vietnam.
This again was an aspect of the 'NLF' concept. George Jeffares was the prime mover in the Vietnam context, fronted by Peadar O'Donnell. GJ was also the prime mover in the Labour Party Dublin Regional Council, which he tied to develop as a left-political think-tank and ideas-forum. He had dropped out from the CP over the question of Czechoslovakia in 1968, along with Sam Nolan, Joe Deasy and others who subsequently contributed to the 'Labour Left' tendency. It was natural for an emerging 'democratic left' tendency, wishing to escape from the dead hand of Moscow domination, to move closer to the politicising republicans. At the same time, it was natural for those among the politicising republicans who had residual military mindsets as baggage, to want to move closer to the 'official CP', Moscow domination notwithstanding. There is an empathy between Stalinism and top-down military-type organisation. These were two contradictory aspects of the republican politicisation process, which ultimately destabilised it.
The Ard Fheis was fixed provisionally for January 16-17 in Liberty Hall, scheduled round their Saturday night bingo. A weekend of events in Tralee was planned for the Mansholt visit. Maire Mac an tSaoi was to be asked, by the CMSG, to write a pamphlet on the EEC and Irish culture. Exception was taken to items in Crotty's pamphlet, and a disclaimer was to be published in Nuacht Naisiunta.
Written report from MMcG: there was to be an NICRA march against repressive legislation in November; the Movement in NI had not had spokesmen on RTE 7 Days; RTE to be lobbied on this. SR reported on a meeting in Hilltown Co Down. Des O'Hagan had attended an Irish Solidaity Campaign in Birmingham.
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.
CS October 26 1970: TMacG, SD, MR, RJ, SR, SOC, MdeB. Speaker requested for a citizens committee meeting in Paris; no decision. Ard Fheis finalised; apology to cumainn for the delay. Anti-Manshold week of lectures was being organised by an ad-hoc committee of CYM, CP and Labour Left. The Hilltown Co Down meeting on November 15, mentioned earlier by Rattigan, was to be focused on the EEC.
The underlying strategic thinking behind all this I attribute to the influence of Coughlan, who was promoting the 'Federation' model: ie the British using the leverage of the Northern situation to influence the Irish government to come into the EEC along with them as some sort of federated close-knit unit. This concept surfaced repeatedly. The result was that the politics of Northern reform was half-hearted, leaving open a political vacuum later to be filled by the Provisionals militarily.
Tuairim requested a speaker on a motion 'that Ireland can no longer afford the luxury of a private banking system'. TMacG was to reply offering M Durkin as speaker.
The NICRA march in Enniskillen was discussed, but no evaluation or decision is on record.
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 consistently 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.
Greaves diaries: after a trip to Belfast on October 29, where he picked up an impression of NICRA disarray from Betty Sinclair and Kevin McCorry, CDG went on the Dublin where he encountered talk of the Common Market Study Group in CMacL's place, which was '..doing great work..' including the publication of AC's pamphlet. There was talk of anti-Manshold demonstrations in Tralee. The CMSG meets in Cathal's on November 2; there was a poor attendance, and unless they get TU support it is as good as lost. The present writer was said to be there '..as ever putting forward speculative nonsense..'. There was talk of an attempt on Cathal Goulding's life in Dundalk, and Micheal O Loingsigh warns AC and RJ that they need to be careful, being the '..two most hated men..'. Later on November 3 it emerged that AC had given up being secretary of the Wolfe Tone Society, and it seems there was an attack on RJ by 'provisionals' (within the society) which I was said to be '..too flustered to repel properly..'. After some disparaging comments on Justin Keating ('..reverting to type..') and on the European Union as a Fascist concept, CDG went back to Liverpool on November 5.
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.
WTS November 3 1970: the AGM took place; there is in the archive no record of this directly, but there exist what looks like notes for an annual report by RJ of 1971 activities, which commences with a note as follows:
AGM 3/11/70: Chairman Cathal Mac Liam, Vice-Chairman Micheal O Loingsigh, Joint Secretaries Derry Kelleher and Dick Roche, committee Dermot O Doherty, Seamus Mac Gabhainn, RJ and Joy Rudd.
There was said to be a Peoples Democracy meeting that same night at the GPO, but no meeting took place. Cyril Toman had phoned the UI office seeking information about an SF/LP meeting, but had been told that the PD were organising it, as far as we knew. CG proposed a motion against 'blanket co-operation' with PD, but local level OK in the 6-cos. PD co-operation decisions in the 26-cos to be left to the CS. Liam McMillan proposed and RJ seconded a motion that there be no co-operation with the PDs, but this was defeated.
Costello was to speak in Belfast. The Cavan (Sheelin Shamrock) educational conference was to be limited to 50 people; CS to prepare speakers. A 'Freedom Manifesto' was to be prepared for the Ard Fheis (RJ's motion); regional meetings to take place beforehand. Topics for Sheelin were to include '19th century revolutions', 'significance of the TU movement', 'history of class struggles', 'decline of socialist movement after 1921', 'the Movement in the 40s and 50s', 'small farmers and the CR movement'. Speakers would, it was hoped, include de Courcy Ireland, Kader Asmal, Noel Harris, George Gilmore, Tom Kilroy, Dalton Kelly and various AC members.
The Sheelin conference took place, and was memorable as a relatively high point in the political development of the post-split left-republicans. It was however subject to stress from the military tradition, in that the selection of personnel to attend it was actually an Army function. Janice, who was there, shared a room with 2 other women, one of whom had a gun in her possession, and the other of whom was subsequently convicted of a serious offence involving firearms. Despite Goulding's declared policy of avoiding recruiting people on the basis of the 'romantic appeal of the gun', this was apparently continuing to happen, and of course the August 1969 events reinforced the process, strengthening the mind-set of the middle leadership who would have been doing the recruiting. Those of us who were concerned with trying to fuel the political process at the top in fact had little control over what went on in the undergrowth. Much recent Army recruitment had inevitably been in response to August 1969.
Excessive publicity given to the Provisionals was noted, especially in the Irish Press. TMacG and SOC were delegated to go and see Tim Pat Coogan.
There were doubts about the wisdom of the proposed NICRA march in Fermanagh. The NICRA Executive was to decide on Friday 13th. TMacG reported on a somewhat unproductive meeting with Bernadette Devlin, but she had expressed support for the anti-EEC campaign. The Paris convention was to be supported if after enquiries the organisers were seen to be bona fide.
No candidates were to be put up in the coming Donegal and Dublin by-elections; a campaign for vote-spoiling was to be implemented if all candidates were pro-EEC. We were of course still constrained by the abstention policy. No-one however believed in fielding abstention candidates.
Seamus Rodgers in Donegal was supporting the by-election campaign as agreed. SOC and MdeB had visited Belfast but meeting had been cancelled; a meeting in Swatragh had been addressed by BD. SR reported on the Hilltown meeting on the EEC which had been poorly attended. TMacG reported on an offer of a 1/4 page of the Irish Press from TPC. TMacG to draft, discuss at CS, including whether to take this up. EEC campaign to address issues relating to small shopkeepers and supermarkets, and factory employment.
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 Vietnemese, 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.
NN at about this time was promoting the 'Freedom Manifesto', published in the February 1970 issue of the United Irishman, and subsequently reprinted as a broadsheet for wide circulation. It represented 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.
WTS November 17 committee meeting: researched pamphlet on Fine Gael? Freedom of Conscience. Labour's alternatives to Coalition. Democratic Reform in Education.
This emphasis on the EEC at this time, and the attempt to develop the wider European view of the national question, undoubtedly was the continuing 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, of which AC was the Dublin correspondent.
WTS December 1 1970: general meeting; Freedom of Conscience - Antonia Healy gave a Humanist view (the full m/s text is in the archive). There was another attempt to re-activate Belfast.
SF AC December 5 1970: TMacG, DK, MMacB, LMacM, MR, SD, RJ, IB, PK, SR, SOC. LOC, TM, MMcG, M Montgomery, OMcC, DMacR, CG, FW, SC, MdeB.
Irish Press / TPC 1/4 page not to be taken up. Barry Doyle now teaching in Montpelier. SC had attended Paris convention. Sheelin school had been held, 50 had attended.
MMcG reported that CRA march in Enniskillen had gone off without incident, but they were expecting summonses. Regional meeting fixed for Dec 13 to discuss future march policy. Ard Fheis resolutions on electoral policy were agreed. Anti-internment meeting fixed for Dec 12, with broad platform including civil rights organisations, tenants, trade unions.
MMcG proposed 4 regional groupings of the 24 Clubs, for election of regional delegates to new AC. There was also proposed a 6-cumainn regional grouping in North Leinster. All were agreed.
It was agreed that all speakers at educational conferences should be first approved by AC or CS. It is not clear if this was just precautionary, or if some specific speaker was being objected to. I don't recollect any tension on this issue; there was general agreement on the need to promote the intellectual unity of the broad left.
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 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.
On December 11 1970 Greaves got a letter from one Roland Kennedy, addressing him as 'Dear Sir', and announcing the planning of a massive demonstration for July 11 1971. He went on '..I was angry and decided not to take it lying down. These people are parasites. They call themselves NICRA, though NICRA Belfast has no branches and its constitution does not provide for it. This enables them to parade in NICRA's cloak..'.
An anti-internment march by Northern Club was planned. Derry Kelleher was to speak in Dublin at a Barney Casey commemoration, organised by left-wing groups. Barney Casey had been shot in 1940 when in internment, and the inquest had been adjourned sine die; Kelleher had witnessed the event. MdeB urged that the re-opening of the inquest be made an issue.
There is an extensive minute of this issue in Derry Kelleher's handwriting. The issue must have been raised at this time because internment was felt to be on the agenda, this being the way in which the Northern government was reacting to the NICRA campaign; they were trying to provoke an armed response to the 1969 pogroms and their aftermath; the Provisionals were in process of organising to oblige; the left-politicisers would of course also be interned; many of the latter were also beginning to react by reverting to a military mind-set.
This concludes the year 1970; there were no more meetings until after the Ard Fheis. We take up the thread in 1971 in the 1970s context, the year 1970 being taken as being the last one of the 60s decade.
WTS December 15 committee meeting: statement of aims for new members; EEC alternatives; parents and education, sub-committee to be convened by Joy Rudd.
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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999