Century of Endeavour

Constitution of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society

(c)Roy Johnston / Anthony Coughlan 2002

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

As adopted at the inaugural meeting on July 25 1964, in 20 Marlborough Road, the following being present: Uinsean mac Eoin, Sean Mac Domhnaill, Ethna Mac Manus, Sean Cronin, Deasun Breathnach, Richard Roche, Cathal Goulding, with Roy Johnston in the Chair.

A. Ireland Today

1. The Irish people, north and south, are one nation sharing common history on a common territory. The nation includes peoples of different religions and ethnic origins.

The Irish people share similar economic and political problems, as well as an identity of interest in advancing the well being of the whole country. This identity of interest can be advanced effectively only on a national basis, by means of a national government with sovereign powers over the whole national territory.

No real conflict of interest exists between any section of the common people, either between different sections of the people of the north, or between north and south. Propaganda which depicts imaginary causes for division, which fosters artificial conflicts, or which exaggerates regional differences in character in order to justify the political division of the country, is false propaganda and is treacherous to the true interests of the people.

Any religious, philosophical or political differences between sections of the Irish people are the business of the Irish people alone and none is of such a nature as to require the direction of Irish affairs, or the interference in Irish affairs in any part of Ireland, by another state.

Britain is an independent state with its own political history, traditions and problems. In these Irish national politics need occupy no place. Irish politics, north or south, in fact is foreign politics to the British people.

No part of the Irish nation can properly be considered to be part of the British state, The British people must be called upon to press their government to withdraw from Irish territory, where their presence is not required.

2. The partition of Ireland. being imposed and maintained by the continuing authority of an act of parliament of another state (the Government of Ireland Act, 1920), constitutes a denial of Irish sovereignty and an interference in Irish affairs.

The Stormont administration, set up to manage local affairs by another state's parliament, and existing solely by grace of that parliament, is an administration bereft of all normal governmental powers except those concerning administration of local services. It is an administrative convenience through which another state exercises control over Irish territory. This control is detrimental to the whole Irish people, particularly to those in the partitioned area.

The Stormont assembly. denied normal legislative powers, is incapable under its constitution of any positive measures for the solution of the problems of the area.

The Partition of Ireland is inimical to the interests of all the Irish people; is the cause of all the exceptional political and economic problems from which Ireland has suffered for the past 40 years and to-day is the main barrier to the solution of those problems. Politically, Partition has frustrated the normal development of democracy in Ireland, particularly in the British-controlled area.

Economically, by the denial of the power to use the full economic resources of the nation in accordance with its needs, Partition is responsible for Ireland's exceptional problems of unemployment and emigration. Culturally, Partition and its economic consequences have induced a mood of pessimism, apathy and cynicism among many people# and a large section of the Irish people has been alienated from its rightful cultural heritage. The basis of Partition in the Six Counties is an artificially fostered sectarianism, an anti-Catholic prejudice and bigotry which has become identified with the State system in the Partitioned area, without which the system could not survive and without which there would be no reason for its existence. Anti-Catholic prejudice, the ideology of the old British ascendancy class, was fostered among a section of the Irish people to trick them into supporting British imperial interests against their own interests and the interests of their own country.

Owing to the sedulously fostered myth that the Irish themselves are responsible for Partition, to the continued apparent desire for British rule by a majority in the Six Counties and to the apparent freedom from British Pule enjoyed by the 26 Counties, direct opposition to Partition has not met with the degree of support from the Irish people necessary to end it. An illusion of freedom for some, patronage for others, has dulled the edge of national resistance and spread confusion as to national strategy and national identity. Instead of forming a movement for full freedom, Irish popular discontent is grouped sectionally, each group trying to remedy its own grievances within the present framework.

Thus, farmers seek better prices and markets that are not rigged against then; Catholics in the north-east seek to fight discrimination; trade unionists seek higher wages and fight redundancies; small farmers struggle co-operatively for the right to exist; scientists, engineers, teachers and other specialist groups seek status and recognition for their special abilities; all seek to avoid emigration.

All the above-mentioned grievances are partially remediable, each at the expense of the other, within the present framework. Disunity, therefore, is perpetuated.


It is resolved to set up a body which shall be known an Muintir Wolfe Tone (or the Wolfe Tone Society), the objectives of which shall be as herein defined.


1. To further the establishment of a united, independent, democratic, Irish Republic, in accordance with the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dail. (See Appendix).

2. To show how our divided nation is kept wholly subject to British imperialism, though apparently free in part, by means of meetings, lectures, conferences, publications and any other means deemed suitable.

3. To win the support of the Irish people for the establishment of Ireland of the '70s as a united, independent nation, with control over its financial policy, ability to plan its own investment without recourse to bribery of foreigners, employing to the full the considerable skill and ability of its people irrespective of religion, trading in a diversified manner with many nations to mutual advantage, and playing its proper part among the nations, especially those at present emerging from the grip of imperialism.

4. To develop means of uniting the scattered, struggling sectional groupings so that their aims shall be aligned with the objective of a united Irish Republic.

The Society shall not put up candidates for election.


1. Anyone who has distinguished himself or herself by active support of any democratic organisation, or any publications the objectives of which do not conflict with the above. or by individual writings or other actions similarly qualified, shall be entitled to become a member, subject to approval by a majority vote of a lawfully convened meeting of the Society.

Thus. the membership shall consist of active people with roots in the language, trade union, cooperative republican and other organisations so that Objective Four may be achieved effectively.

Membership may be terminated by resignation or by majority vote of a lawfully convened meeting.

2. The Society shall elect a chairman, vice-chairman, secretary and treasurer and may elect a committee if necessary. Meetings shall be conducted according to the rules of democratic procedure. Minutes shall be kept. Subscription shall be 2/6d per member per meeting, whether the member attend or not. The Society. by majority decision, may decide to waive arrears under special circumstances. All activities as far as possible should be self-financing. Accounts will be audited in time for a report to an annual meeting.

3. Ós buncloch an náisiúin an Ghaeilge, aithnionn Muintir Wolfe Tone gurb i an Ghaeilge teanga an náisiúin. Moltar craobhacha lán-Ghaelacha a bhunú. Fáilteofar roimh labhairt na Gaeilge ag gach cruinniú. Moltar do na baill siúd atá ar bheagán Gaeilge an teanga a fhoghlaim agus iad a iomlánú mar Eireannaigh dá réir.

APPENDIX: The Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.

"We declare in the words of the Irish Republican proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first President, Padraic Pearse, we declare that the nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the nation, but to all its Material possessions; the nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation and with him we affirm that all rights to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare.

"We declare that we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of Liberty, Equality and Justice for all, which alone can secure permanence of government in the willing adhesion of the people.

"We affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the commonwealth, and declare it is the duty of the nation to assure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her strength and faculties in the service of the people. In return for willing service we, in the name of the Republic, declare the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation's labour.

"It shall be the first duty of the government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food or clothing or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as citizens of a free and Gaelic Ireland.

"The Irish Republic fully realises the necessity of abolishing the present odious, degrading, and foreign poor~law system, substituting therefor a sympathetic native scheme for the care of the nation's aged and infirm, who shall no longer be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the nation's gratitude and consideration. Likewise, it shall be the duty of the Republic to take measures that will safeguard the health of the people and ensure the physical as well as the moral well-being of the nation.

"It shall be our duty to promote the development of the nation's resources to increase the productivity Of the soil, to exploit its mineral deposits, peat bogs and fisheries, its waterways and harbours, in the interest and for the benefit of the Irish people.

"It shall be the duty of the Republic to adopt all measures necessary for the re-creation and invigoration of our industries and to ensure their being developed on the most beneficial and progressive cooperative industrial lines. With the adoption of an extensive Irish consular service, trade with foreign nations shall be revived on terms of mutual advantage and goodwill, while undertaking the organisation of the nation's trade, import and export, it shall be the duty of the Republic to prevent the shipment from Ireland of food and other necessaries until the wants or the Irish people are fully satisfied and the future provided for.

"It shall devolve upon the national government to seek the co-operation of the governments of other countries in determining a standard of social and industrial legislation with a view to general and lasting improvements in the conditions under which the working classes live and labour."

The September 1966 Reorganisation

Letter to Members / 22 Belgrave Road, Dublin 6. / 7th September, 1966

(The December letter sent out when convening the January 1967 AGM was an update of this, not differing significantly; I will add it if I can scan it.)

A meeting of the Planning Committee was held on August 30th and some recommendations follow.

The present membership of the society is 33 and there are 7 candidate members, bringing the total up to 40. Obviously it will no longer be possible for the Society to act efficiently at aggregate meetings unless clear and concise reports are available from specialist areas, based on proper preparatory work. With this in mind we examined the fields of active interest of the members and we found 12 distinct groupings where it could be said that work of national importance was being done, as well as five distinct 'technical back-up' or 'service' areas necessary for the functioning of the Society.

We therefore decided to recommend that each grouping be allocated to a CONVENER and the Planning Committee intends to propose tentatively, subject to the agreement of the general meeting, a panel of conveners of the groups.

The areas of interest are as follows:

Cultural Group:

1. Language: Micheal O Loingsigh;
2. Literature & Drama: Noel Kavanagh;
3. Folksong and Music; Folk Dance and Ballet: Mary Cannon;
4. Education and Student Groups: Daithi O Bruadair;

Socio-Economic Group

5. Urbanism - Housing - Local. government: Frank Ross;
6. Science and technology: Derry Kelleher;
7. Health and social services: Tony Coughlan (?);
8. National Economics: Ethna Viney;
9. Co-operative Movement: Seamus Mac Gabhainn;
10. Trade Union movement: Terry Conneally;
11. Historical research, commemorations: Cathal Mac Liam;
12. Civil Rights: Tony Coughlan.

The technical service areas are: Record keeping, secretariat; editing and producing Tuairisc; Fund raising; Corresponding secretaries for other societies; Publicity.

The basic mode of operation of the group should be for the convener to call a meeting and after due discussion to nominate someone to prepare a short outline of the situation as it is, with proposals for change of such a character as to bring about maximum unity of the interested members of the general public, and the maximum undermining of the basis of support of 'the enemy'. It should always be specified clearly who or what 'the main enemy' is, so that the tactical arguments will be clear. This should be fully discussed in the group, then presented to a general meeting of the society for further discussion, and ultimately published either as a pamphlet or as an article in the press. Once the policy proposals have been made public, members of the group must be prepared to travel and speak at local meetings, regional conferences and various gatherings of all bodies from which support can be won for the tactical objective proposed as a result of the study.

It will also be the function of the group to call public meetings with a selectively invited audience, with the objective of activating ever widening circles on the issue of the moment. Should this activity assume organisational form, it will be up to the group to guide it in its early stages away from the pitfalls of specific political involvement, and towards a policy of obtaining mass support for the objective from the uncommitted general public.

The Society has set itself the task of rebuilding the mind of the nation irrespective of all artificial boundaries imposed on it from without; exposing and discrediting the slave-minds of those alleged leaders of public opinion who would have us accept a fringe position in European suburbia. We will only do this by hard work, and by involving many more people, and by helping to raise the level of understanding among all sections of the people who suffer in spirit and/or in pocket from the effects of British Imperialism.

We will make efforts to contact nominee conveners between now and the next meeting, which will be on Tuesday, Sept. 13th at 20 Marlboro Rd. at 8.00 pm sharp. Failure by us to do so does not imply that you are free from danger of nomination, so if you wish to avoid taking on responsibility, stay away.

Another function of conveners will be to contact candidate members and to verify that they accept the constitution in its present provisional form. They may then act as members of the group; full membership of the Society however still entails a vote of an aggregate meeting.

The Planning committee will continue to function; it will hold at least one meeting between aggregate monthly meetings of the Society. This meeting will be notified to all conveners who will come along if and only if their group has something to propose, such as a publication, a full-scale report to an aggregate meeting of the society or some public function requiring support from the society as a whole.

The object of this re-organisation is to provide a framework in which members can work more effectively and with some overall co-ordination towards the national objectives. it is quite frankly experimental; we do not know if it will work or not, but we feel it is likely to be more fruitful than the aggregate meeting with a long and diverse agenda.

(signed by Roy H W Johnston on behalf of the Planning Committee)


National Economics: Drafting of ideas for the long-term alternative to the EEC. Examination of the immediate consequences of the Free Trade Agreement. Support of all projects initiated by the Defence of the Nation League.

Co-Operative Movement: Elaboration of a long-term project for co-ordination and integration of existing fund-raising bodies. Expediting the publication of a Co-operative Organiser Handbook.

Tailors Hall: Organisation of further fund-raising functions in aid of this project.

Education: Organisation of a symposium of radical thinking on the Universities merger. Development of a policy on the democratisation of education, including an attitude to the denominational question.

Science and Technology: Publication of a pamphlet related to Ireland and the EEC. Organisation of a public symposium on science in Ireland in order to express a radical policy on the proposed National Science Council.

Language: To carry out survey of existing bodies and their methods of work; determination of the most effective method or methods for the revival of the language; elaboration of a policy for the generalisation of these methods, on a national scale.

Drama: Organisation of a symposium on the National Theatre to coincide with the coming festival. Development of a national policy for the financing of the theatre out of state funds. Examination of the film industry along similar lines. Publication of a pamphlet aimed at helping to crystallise the demands of those active both in the theatre and film worlds.

History: Elaboration of a rationale for the publication of historical pamphlets (it being felt that the choice of subject to date has perhaps not been of the best). Examination of certain key historical periods: eg the social element in the Civil War: the land seizures, the Limerick General Strike etc.

Retrospective Comment

The foregoing indicates that I was attempting to show a broad-based awareness of a range of problems obstructing the development of a viable unified Irish national identity, but shows also that in many cases there was a substantial gap between the superficial recognition of the problem, and the extent of the resources needed to make an impact. I was perhaps somewhat naive and over-ambitious. It is also noteworthy that on this draft listing, I had left out the key one, Civil Rights in the North, which problem was added to the list by Tony Coughlan at the meeting where the proposal was discussed. This perhaps shows the power of the partitioned environment to impose 26-county thinking on someone as all-Ireland minded as the present writer.

Of the groups as listed, the 'national economics' group spawned eventually the Common Market Study Group and eventually some degree of organised support for a 'no' vote in the 1972 Common Market referendum, which later evolved into the Irish Sovereignty Movement. Anthony Coughlan later became the prime mover in this process. Nothing significant came of our attempts to re-develop the co-operative movement; the Co-operative Development Trust associated with Ethna Viney was still attempting unsuccessfully to raise funds, and Peadar O'Donnell's Dochas was trying to do likewise, Dan Donnelly being the activist, cultivating the Trade Unions via Sceim na gCeardcumann. The Tailors Hall project managed to attract public support. In the education area Joy Rudd and others were active in the Association for Democracy in Education, which attempted unsuccessfully to campaign for the then projected 'comprehensive schools' to be under lay democratic management, rather than under the control of the religious denominations. The Dublin Universities merger issue evaporated when UCD went out to Belfield; there was however a short period during which a unified centre-city campus area seemed feasible.

Derry Kelleher and the present writer were active in the Council for Science and Technology in Ireland, which lobbied for the projected National Science Council to have representation by nomination from below from the various voluntary specialist organisations. In this we were unsuccessful, and when it was founded, in 1969, with Government appointees, the present writer managed to establish himself as a 'science critic' with the Irish Times column, which continued until 1976. In the area of drama and film were perhaps influenced by the emergence of people like Jim Fitzgerald and Meryl Farrington, and in film Colm O'Leary and Louis Marcus, but we lacked any real influence on the situation. The problem was identified as being primarily the method of State subsidy. Our aspirations to develop a critical approach to history were limited by the lack of an active convener, though we had identified people like Oliver Soddy and John DE Courcy Ireland as supportive workers.

On the whole this attempted reorganisation of the WTS must be regarded as an over-ambitious failure, except as regards the Civil Rights area, which Tony Coughlan prioritised single-mindedly leading to the formation of the NICRA, and the science and technology area, where the present writer can claim to have made some impact in the 1970s.

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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999