Century of Endeavour

The Arms Trial

Justin O'Brien (Gill & Macmillan 2000)

(c) Roy Johnston 1999

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

This is not so much a review as an attempt to identify contact-points between my own record and the record as established by JO'B. The book gives a credible and reasonably well-researched analysis of how Fianna Fail money and influence was used to help get the Provisionals started, and to marginalise the democratic left-oriented political process within the movement which had helped initiate the Civil Rights demands in the North. The research however is somewhat flawed where he attempts to analyse the processes at work within the pre-Provisional republican movement, and I attempt here to throw some light on to these gaps.

The motivation for the marginalisation of left-republican activism was the exposure, via the Housing Action Committees, of the 'Taca' process, i.e. how Fianna Fail was increasingly dependent on corrupt urban land deals of a type currently being exposed in various Tribunals. Fianna Fail felt genuinely threatened by an emergent political left.

The historical background to the political scene in the North, as invoked by JO'B referencing Bew and others (p4), notes the existence of some unease among the Presbyterians regarding the naked sectarianism of the Carsonite movement, but overlooks the genuine support which existed for Home Rule among Liberal Protestants, as evidenced in the Ballymoney rally of November 1913, in support of which my father's October 1913 Civil War in Ulster was targeted.

The first mention of the present writer (p17) is misleading in several respects. Peadar O'Donnell and George Gilmore were indeed role-models from the 1934 politicisation attempt, but they never became part of a Goulding 'coterie'. Anthony Coughlan and the present writer are described as 'two academics... active members of the Connolly Association in London..' who '..gave the discussions a modern gloss, replete with the arcane language of Marxism-Leninism.'

I had never been an 'academic'; I had in the 1950s a non-teaching physics research fellowship in the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, then in the early 1960s I had worked with Guinness in London on industrial applied-science development, primarily on instrumentation and control systems. I came back to Ireland in September 1963 to a job in Aer Lingus, in support of their development programme with IBM, and this got me into work with computers, primarily in techno-economic analysis. So in my case 'academic' is an inappropriate label.

As regards Anthony Coughlan, he had returned to Ireland in August 1961, to take up a job as a lecturer in the Social Studies Department in TCD, for which his London postgraduate work in social administration policy was relevant. This was his own decision. His main interest, evolved quite independently of the present writer, was how to develop the Civil Rights approach to the NI question, continuing the momentum of his Connolly Association experience; he had been full-time Secretary of that body, a predecessor of Sean Redmond, and was very much influenced by Desmond Greaves.

As regards 'arcane Marxist-Leninist language', both of us avoided this like the plague, regarding it as counter-productive, as indeed it was held to be within the Connolly Association practice. One can search in vain for it in the pages of the Irish Democrat. Our Marxism, as far as it went, was firmly rooted in the native-Irish Connolly stream of that philosophy.

The 'Goulding coterie' perhaps could be said to have existed, though in a somewhat fluid form; I perhaps could be said to have formed part of it for a time from about 1964, when I joined the Wolfe Tone Society, and helped to reconstitute it as a left-republican politicisation think-tank. Goulding recruited me from there to help him try to reconstruct the 'army' (correctly said to be non-existent by a source quoted as from Bowyer Bell on p19, who I think probably was Mick Ryan) into a political movement of the left, getting rid of the military aspect, seen as counter-productive. Coughlan joined the WTS later, and became Secretary, concentrating his efforts on the NICRA initiative from the WTS as platform.

I tended to devote time to politicising local 'army' activist groups all over Ireland; Coughlan single-mindedly cultivated the NICRA concept via the WTS. We were far from being a team; nor were we consciously part of a 'Goulding coterie'. I was conscious of the wide culture-gap and of the need to reconstruct the military mind-set, and in retrospect I admit I seriously underestimated the difficulty. Coughlan was only aware of it as filtered through the relatively mature experience of the WTS members, and had no feel for the current mind-set problems at local level. He pressed ahead with the NICRA plan, on the basis of his Connolly Association democratic lobbying experience, on the assumption that the politicising was going on at a rate sufficient to accommodate it.

On p19 there is a quote from Sean Mac Stiofain to the effect that Goulding had talked about contacting Moscow when in jail with him in 1953. Goulding was then said to have contacted the Soviet Embassy when Chief of Staff, possibly in early 1963, and was told that they did not support revolutionary movements, only governments. A couple of months after this the present writer and Coughlan were said by Mac Stiofain to have '...returned to Ireland, and the connection was obvious'. Mac Stiofain it seems believed this, or propagated it, implausible though it was (could Moscow have fixed up a job for me in Aer Lingus, and one for Coughlan in TCD? !! ), and subsequently based his quasi-politics on it.

I can counter with an alternative hypothesis, which originated with Greaves: the 'Ireland desk' in the Home Office has, as its long-term strategy going back to the time of Pitt, the need to keep Ireland divided, and has a pathological fear of the emergence of political republicanism fit to unite the Irish people, and latterly to expose the Stormont regime, enabling the working people to unite across the religious boundaries, leading in modern times to a progressive all-Ireland government.

The existence of such a malign influence within the Civil Service is supported by the way that the Larne gun-running was handled in April 1914, with the view of the Liberal government switched overnight from one of 'treasonable conspiracy' to one of concern about the customs implications. I treat this in my introduction to the 1999 edition of Civil War in Ulster. Someone somewhere was also ensuring that the Imperial Defence Committee, at the time of the Larne gun-running, was concerned primarily with the perceived threat from the projected 'Channel Tunnel'.

I am suggesting that this British Establishment 'dirty tricks department' got wind of a 'political republicanism threat' in the context of the Wolfe Tone bicentenary, so they decided to re-invent the IRA in its traditional divisive non-political mode, over Goulding's dead body, and they 'used' one John Stevenson to do the job. He certainly lent himself to being used by them, though perhaps without being aware of his role. He was 'genuine', but narrow, bigoted and cunning. The British used him by knowing how to 'press the right buttons'. They helped to 'pump him up', with a series of high-profile releases of remains of the post-Casement martyred dead, knowing the role of such funerals in fuelling traditional sterile republican 'politics'.

I considered the possibility that he was consciously an agent, acting for the British to give them the military situation they wanted. I discussed this with Sean Garland (June 1 2001), suggesting that it was standard practice to get credibility for agents by jailing them with their targets. Garland was of the opinion that he was in jail for too long for this to be credible. He agreed however that he was effectively a British agent, giving them what they wanted, but he was an unconscious one, not being perceptive enough to realise it.

I have since encountered a pair of obituaries in the Guardian of May 21 2001, one of Sean Mac Stiofain, juxtaposed with another one of Nicos Sampson the EOKA terrorist, and subsequent supporter of the junta of the colonels in Greece. I am indebted to Sam MacDonald of Taynuilt, Argyll, for drawing this to my attention; his brother Angus was assassinated by Sampson when working in Cyprus as a journalist. Sampson's attitude to the Turkish Cypriot minority was comparable to Mac Stiofain's attitude to the Ulster Protestants. The hypothesis that Sampson and Mac Stiofain interacted needs to be explored, and one wonders whether their juxtaposition, if it took place, might have been a deliberate 'dirty tricks' strategy?

Mac Stiofain's role in the genesis of the Provisionals, and in activating Fianna Fail money behind the process, was crucial. This comes out convincingly in JO'B's book.

Later on p19 there is a reference to the present writer being 'appointed to the Army Council'. This vastly over-simplifies a much more complex procedure, which respected the internal democracy of the 'army' (inherited, it should be said, via Peadar O'Donnell from the United Irishmen, and earlier from the English republicans of the 1640s, though this provenance is conveniently forgotten). I was recruited to the 'HQ staff unit' where I helped to organise a few meetings to convey the Goulding politicisation message: build up the sales of the United Irishman and activate the Sinn Fein cumainn.

JO'B is right in identifying my 'total lack of military training' as a point of dispute on the part of Mac Stiofain and his network. This implied no compromise on my part with the 'traditionalist' view; the deal with Goulding involved developing a practical educational programme to convert motivated activists from a moribund 'army' mind-set into into an effective political role dedicated to getting peoples' democratic control over the capital investment process, in other words, socialism as envisioned by Connolly.

This was in accordance with the policy defined at a March 1965 'conference of republicans' (ie presumably a Convention), in a document which I have, authored I think by Goulding and Costello, into which I had no input. This document was put to a Special Ard Fheis later in 1965. Documents relating to this Special Ard Fheis have come to hand. The agenda for it was the work of the politicising front-runners in the 'army'. The proposal to set up this 'conference' had been 'announced' at the 1964 Ard Fheis; it does not appear on the agenda, so presumably it had been embedded in the traditional Army Council statement at the Ard Fheis. I had not been present for this. The output of this conference was a radical politicising document, which I give elsewhere in full. It was however substantially emasculated by right-wing influences in the Ard Fheis, so at this time Sinn Fein and the 'army' were out of kilter. My role was to try to bring Sinn Fein into line with the 'army' politicisers.

I did not get to the 1965 Special Ard Fheis, nor to the later annual one, not yet having any Sinn Fein standing. I did get to the 1966 one, representing the Pearse Cumann (initiated by Goulding in the Rathmines area), and was elected to the Ard Comhairle, in one jump. This suggests behind the scenes work, which indeed there was. There had been a Convention earlier in 1966, in a hotel in south Dublin, and I had been there, as a delegate of the HQ Staff Unit. This supported the politicisation process, with the 'army' units projected by degrees to be subsumed into Sinn Fein cumainn, with political activity around local and national issues as their agenda, including the development of the United Irishman circulation. At this Convention I was elected to the Army Executive, and subsequently helped to elect the Army Council, though I was never a member of that body.

There was however enough residual militarist influence to maintain Ruairi O Bradaigh and Mac Stiofain on the Council. Both appeared to go along with the politicisation process, uneasily, presumably with their own agendas. There must however have been enough support for what I was promoting to ensure my election to the Ard Comhairle in 1966, by the vote of the politicising 'army' activists. The voting for the AC in the 1967 Ard Fheis is on record. Goulding topped the poll at 95, Sean O Bradaigh came next at 71, and then the present writer, at 70, followed by Costello at 67, Eamonn Mac Tomais at 64, Tom Mitchell at 51, Frank McGlade 44, Mick Ryan 41 and so on. Mac Stiofain was nowhere, nor was Ruairi O Bradaigh, but I suspect that by this time both had dropped out of the running and were actively recruiting the other dropouts for the nascent 'provisional' process.

There is a reference also on p17 to a document 'The IRA in the 70s' said to have been issued in January 1970. I question the authenticity of this document; it talks about 'infiltration' when the concept had long been recognised as counter-productive. One joins organisations representing one's interests to achieve their objectives; there is no need to 'infiltrate' them as though surreptitiously. The date of publication is improbable with that title. I need to see it and analyse it further. On the other hand, Garland attributes this document to Mac Giolla (June 1 2001). I don't know if we are talking about the same document. If we are, then it is evident that by producing such a document at that time, the politicisers were in a contradictory situation: they had to try to keep the younger activists onside, and out of the clutches of the militarist Provisionals, while the political process developed in such a way as to change their role.

On p20 we have a reference to Mac Stiofain and the Midleton episode. Mac Stiofain's preferred tactic of shooting landlords was clearly a provocation; no way would this have led to any dent in the armour of British property legislation as adopted by the Free State; it would simply have led to our efforts being nipped in the bud with repression. Far more effective against landed-property racketeering was the exposure of Taca in Dublin, and the Housing Action agitation.

On p21 we have a reference to the Rosary. Republican commemorations are political events and should not carry religious labels. I have always made this clear. Mac Stiofain arranged an encounter with Gearoid Mac Carthaigh in which the latter took me to task on this issue; it was a sort of verbal ambush for which I was not prepared. What he thought he could achieve by this I don't know, but I certainly got the measure of Mac Carthaigh (who was then I believe still on the old-style SF Ard Comhairle) and the type of movement we were trying to develop would certainly be better off without the likes of him. Mac Stiofain first appears on the SF record proposed by Mac Carthaigh.

On p22 we have a conflation of two meetings which took place successively in Kevin Agnew's house. The first was between representatives of the Dublin and Belfast Wolfe Tone Societies, the latter being represented by Michael Dolley of Queens and Jack Bennett of the Belfast Telegraph; there may have been others. Dublin was represented by Goulding and myself; perhaps there were others, but not Eoin Harris. We decided to call a public meeting in the War Memorial Hall to promote the Civil Rights concept, from which it was hoped to set up a broad-based committee. Speakers included Ciaran Mac an Aili, a Dublin lawyer, and Kader Asmal (now a Minister in the South African Government). There were Belfast trade union speakers, possibly Betty Sinclair and/or Noel Harris, and a prominent Chairman, John D Stewart, if I remember correctly.

A good working group was set up from this meeting, which subsequently met, and launched the NICRA on a broad-based moderate constitution. The second Maghera meeting was aimed at attempting to convey to the Republican Club people how to relate to this initiative, stressing the need to keep republican politics in the background, concentrating on the need first to gain Civil Rights to enable republican objectives to be discussed legally and without the stigma of subversion. This was in a paper prepared by Coughlan, not by me, as JO'B asserts. It was read by Harris, as a stand-in, as Coughlan could not attend, perhaps for family reasons. I would not have read it, as I always avoided 'reading a paper' due to my stammer. Harris had no real standing in the matter, apart from being, marginally, in the WTS at the time. Unfortunately I have no exact recollection of who else was there, but it most likely was a small group of leading people from several of the Republican Clubs.

At this point let me revisit the 'coterie' concept: to whom was Goulding listening? There was a sequence: first the present writer, then increasingly Coughlan, with me dropping into the background; the emphasis in 1970 and up to internment was on the Civil Rights and its Bill of Rights campaign. Then (after domination of the scene by the Provisionals had become total, thanks to internment and Bloody Sunday) increasingly Eoin Harris emerged as the main influence, along with Eoin O Murchu and Eamonn Smullen. While claiming, in his own perception, to have 'inherited my mantle', he was responsible for the pathological mid-70s trend into ultra-leftist workerism, in an attempt to distance the movement from the Provisionals and woo the (by then totally alienated) Protestant working-class. This phase, over which I had no influence, is treated critically in Derry Kelleher's Irish Republicanism - the Authentic Perspective.

On p23 the author puts his finger on the problem: we had indeed underestimated the speed with which things would develop, and we had no control over the ultra-leftist radicalising forces like the Peoples Democracy who thought the socialist revolution was round the corner, and who from their Queens hothouse had absorbed no feel for the sectarian barriers to be overcome at the grass-roots.

On p26 there is a reference to a Convention in December 1968, from which is said to have emerged a proposal for an enlarged Army Council; there is also a reference to a Commission to hold meeting throughout the country. According to Garland there was no such Convention. There was however an Ard Fheis, which elected a broader Ard Comhairle, under a revised Constitution. The 'army' and indeed the Army Council was mostly behind the spirit of the 1965 plan; the problem was to ensure that the 'army' was expanded into the Sinn Fein shell, and all constitutional obstacles to political action were removed. There was however enough influence from Mac Stiofain and co, pressing the various traditionalist prejudice buttons, to ensure that the body of the Ard Fheis was just short of the 2/3 majority required to bring Sinn Fein and the 'army' politicisers into synergy.

JO'B gives great detail, gleaned from Mac Stiofain and O Bradaigh, about the alleged December 1968 Convention which presumably, if it had occurred, would have preceded the Ard Fheis. He suggests that it was Goulding's strategy to revise the Army constitution, with the Army Council having a regional component, 'elected by groups of local OCs', this being regarded as a Goulding 'rigging' exercise. This show up the simplistic thinking of Mac Stiofain's military mind. The role of Goulding's politicising OCs was that of leading activists within an expanding Sinn Fein framework. They had the task of organising regional Sinn Fein conventions to activate the regional aspect of the revised Sinn Fein constitution. The expansion of the 'army' activists, increasingly politically aware, into the Sinn Fein structure, with a view to forming an integrated political movement, was progressing, but not sufficiently rapidly to expose and isolate Mac Stiofain's malign influence.

The regional input to the Ard Comhairle at the Ard Fheis certainly helped load its membership in the Goulding direction. The Army Council itself occupied much of the SF Ard Comhairle shell, furthering the process of integration of the movement into purely political mode.

This 'Convention' as proposed by JO'B came as a surprise to the present writer; for him the Garland Commission proposal came primarily as a tactical move at the Ard Fheis. According to Garland (June 1 2001) there had been prior discussion of the possibilities at an Army Council meeting, acting as a caucus within the Sinn Fein shell. The Commission proposal was a fall-back tactic.

The regionalisation proposal was part of the SF constitutional reform, having been discussed openly in advance via the ordinary democratic process.

We can safely conclude that there was in fact no such Convention, and the Ard Fheis was perhaps deliberately confused with it in the recollections of Mac Stiofain and O Bradaigh, who it seems were JO'B's primary sources. They would have put their 'spin' on it, with a view to justifying their own position and rubbishing Goulding's.

Anyway, in the context of the Ard Fheis Garland came up with the 'Commission' proposal, as a fudge for avoiding a split. This occupied the energy of key people during the following months, and drew leadership attention away from the developing Northern situation; it was in fact a tragic blunder.

If the split had in fact occurred in 1968, the proto-Provisional process would have lacked the momentum of the August 1969 stimulus. It would have been feasible for the integrated and reconstituted Sinn Fein political movement to contest and win the mid-Ulster by-election, avoiding the build-up of ultra-left influence via Bernadette Devlin. It would have been feasible to swing the Republican Club activists discreetly behind a regionalised NICRA on an educated political basis.

The loyalist counter-attacks with weapons
could have been either pre-empted, or where they occurred, exposed and countered politically within a UK/UN framework, supported by US pressure, getting rid of the B-Specials. This was the Greaves/Coughlan plan, and the Northern political activists, like Malachi McGurran, Billy McMillan, Oliver McCaul, Denis Cassin, Francie Donnelly, Frank McGlade and others would have known how to support it, and been in a position to expand their influence.

One has to ask, did Mac Stiofain consciously hold his hand, knowing that August 1969 was in prospect, and engineer the split for December 1969 / January 1970 for maximum damage, and maximum uptake of Fianna Fail support? The Garland Commission certainly was counter-productive, in that the Dublin leadership had its attention misdirected. Coughlan was aware of this, and told me at the time, but I found myself imprisoned in the process and could do nothing except help them draft the Commission papers, which I did (a copy is available elsewhere).

I have heard echoes, I think via Mick Ryan, of a meeting involving Goulding, Mac Stiofain and O Bradaigh at which the latter two had advance notice of the August Belfast pogroms being planned, and they allegedly attempted to get Goulding to prepare an armed defence. Goulding discounted it, having committed to the political path. This is confirmed by JO'B quoting Mac Stiofain (p29). This however would square with my hypothesis that the British dirty tricks department was at work, providing Mac Stiofain with the environment he needed to regenerate the traditional divisive IRA, and get rid of what they perceived as all this inclusive political republicanism nonsense, keeping the Irish malcontents active in a 'live training-ground' mode that they, the British, could handle.

Fianna Fail was also determined to destroy the credibility of the politicising republican movement, which was exposing their dependence on shady land deals in Dublin, and local government corruption. The interests of Fianna Fail and the British coincided. Fianna Fail supplied the arms and pumped up the Provisionals to give the British the military situation in the North they clearly wanted, deepening the divisions within the working people and copper-fastening Partition. We have two old-established bourgeois-nationalisms working in Balkan-type ethnic mode, undermining the attempts of the republican left to regenerate the inclusive geographical economic-based national and social consciousness derived from Wolfe Tone and the Enlightenment, and developed by Connolly. The 'Cuban socialism' smear was a Fianna Fail canard; they had earlier used it against the Labour Party.

The timing of the Barnes McCormack funeral was of course totally under the control of the British, and they used it to give Mac Stiofain and co the organising focus for the Provisional project. He was already collecting arms and bringing them North (p31). I listened to Jimmy Steele with foreboding, likewise all those decades of the Rosary. Jim Regan also spoke, in an attempt to represent the republican left, but his message was weak and unconvincing, and has been forgotten. The attendance was largely of people who had stood aside from the political process, and had come out of the woodwork for the occasion.

On p37 there is reference to the role of Sean Keenan, who had emerged as a leading supporter of the Mac Stiofain process, having remained in the background while the NICRA was building up support on a broad basis earlier for the restricted and achievable CR objectives. Keenan came into prominence when Blaney and the Fianna Fail influence moved to convert the struggle into a nationalist irredentist mode, thus confining it to the Catholic ghettos.

JO'B repeats here what would seem to be a self-serving 'Mac Stiofain version of history': he is said to have claimed that his arguments at the (non-existent) 1968 Convention were vindicated. He is said to have wanted a 'movement under republican control but with representatives from disparate organisations allowed to join, giving the impression of wider support', a typical Fascist pseudo-popular type of structure. This view would indeed have been rejected by the 1968 Ard Fheis, and by the majority of the Ard Comhairle which it elected. Mac Stiofain was doing his best to undermine this process and militarise the situation.

The policy of the Movement was to build the Republican Clubs, develop the political understanding of their members, and ensure that the NICRA with its moderate reformist objectives and its still-significant cross-community support, remained in the lead, keeping the 'all-Ireland Republic' issue on the back burner. The target was the Bill of Rights. When they had their Bill of Rights they could then work legally politically for the Republic, without the stigma of being 'subversives'.

Malachy McGurran understood this, and was in the lead of the Republican Clubs. He however was the first to get arrested when the trouble started in August 1969. Mac Stiofain, Keenan and co were left at large. Why did they go for McGurran? Because he represented political republicanism supporting Civil Rights in moderate non-violent mode. They preferred to leave at large those who wanted to militarise the situation. They wanted the IRA in its traditional military mode, because they knew they could contain it in the Catholic ghettos, and have business as usual.

The attitude of JO'B to the processes at work in the lead-up to the 1969 Convention are, to my mind, unduly dismissive of Goulding's politics. While JO'B brings out the role of Fianna Fail in encouraging Mac Stiofain and O Bradaigh to give priority to an 'arm the Catholics' policy, Goulding's efforts to get progressive Irish-American support from Heron and others are dismissed as 'radical chic' support for 'ideologues'. This appears on p88-89, along with reportage of Keenan and Kelly attacks on Goulding and the present writer, in the formers' approach to the AOH and Clann na Gael. The issues had been earlier confused by Bernadette Devlin's ultra-leftist message, which was quite out of tune with the US realities. Goulding was consistently trying to avoid ultra-leftism, to keep the politics at the Civil Rights level, and to avoid a military situation, seen quite clearly as un-winnable, a conclusion to which the Provisionals have in the end, after 25 years of mayhem, come round.

There is a reference 19 on p102 to Eunan O'Halpin's book Defending Ireland; this is expanded on p246 into an argument against 'arming the Catholics', the alternative being to work politically for the disbanding of the B-Specials and the reform of the RUC. This was what Goulding and the present writer were promoting in 1969, with the NICRA as the main vehicle. It is difficult to see how Fianna Fail could have perceived this as a threat, to the extent of financing the Provisional split and creating conditions for civil war. It can only be understood in terms of long-standing ignorance and neglect, on the part of Fianna Fail, of the developing situation in the North, and total misunderstanding of the realities of the Civil Rights situation, and the nature of the democratic forces supporting the Civil Rights movement.

The treatment of the 1969 Ard Fheis (postponed to January 1970) by JO'B is clearly dominated by Provisional and Fianna Fail sources, with his references to the 'totalitarianism of the left' and 'fear of communism'. The movement's policies on Civil Rights had avoided left-wing sloganising, as it had republican flag-waving and militarism. This very moderation had been proved effective. The 'red scare' had been generated by the actions of the PD, and the threat of militarism had been generated by Fianna Fail and the proto-provisional process. Those like Malachy McGurran and Madge Davidson who were in the lead of the non-violent republican-NICRA symbiosis, and who heroically tried to hold off the developing Fianna-Fail-fuelled civil war situation, have been forgotten, and written out of history. This oblivion needs to be rectified.

I don't want to get into a detailed commentary on all aspects of this book, but I feel I must reference p159, where JO'B states, in the context of the attack on St Matthews church, that '..the very tactical skill of the British response led to an escalation of provocation at a stroke, turning the civil rights grievances of the Catholics into a nationalist fight. The keen tactics of the British thus encouraged the IRA to move from a defensive to an offensive campaign... Goulding was furious at the turn of events... condemned those responsible for introducing guns into the equation, whatever the provocation..'.

We thus get a picture of virtual connivance between Mac Stiofain's IRA and the British to generate a civil war situation. This would be viewed by the British as their 'live training-ground', with later they were able to claim that 'the war in the Falklands was won on the streets of Belfast', while being viewed by Mac Stiofain, with his limited political understanding and blinkered Catholic bigotry, as the beginning of a 'war of liberation'.

Finally I feel I have to take issue
with JO'B's dismissive attitude to the campaign to open Merrion Square to the public (p169). Granted the situation was escalating in the North, and the influence of left-republicans attempting to assert the Connolly tradition was being shattered by Provisional and British militarism to produce a predictably un-winnable war for subsequent decades.

The significance of the Merrion Square occupation was that the Archbishop had many years earlier bought the Square as a site for a new cathedral, which would have been facing Leinster House, overshadowing it, symbolising Rome Rule in the Catholic Free State, copper-fastening Partition. McQuaid for one reason or another had never managed to realise this vision, but as long as he owned the square, it lurked on the agenda. There had been for some time a broad-based campaign to open it to the Dublin public as a park, like St Stephen's Green, under Corporation management. This has been realised, a modest victory for Enlightenment politics. This act by 'official' Sinn Fein, disparaged by JO'B, can be seen in retrospect as a heroic rearguard action in a rapidly deteriorating situation. It should not be rubbished.

Finally, the reference to Goulding and myself on p217 is in this case valid and recognises, partially and somewhat grudgingly, what we tried to do. Haughey was vulnerable to left-wing criticism, and his road to power was via Taca which linked Fianna Fail to property developers and corrupt enhancement of land-values by purchase of local government politicians and officials, a process now at last beginning to be exposed by the Tribunals. We as the politicising left-republicans of the 1960s were beginning to expose this. If Haughey was to succeed, effective democratic left-wing criticism had to be stifled. He did not, it seems, regard the wrecking of the Civil Rights movement in the North, the generation of a civil war situation, and the active initiation of decades of Provisional mayhem, as too high a price to pay.


Elsewhere I have traced how during 1970 the political movement went from strength to strength, supporting a much expanded Ard Fheis at the end of the year, in the main auditorium in Liberty Hall, with the political campaign for the Bill of Rights gaining momentum. I remember Madge Davidson, Secretary of the NICRA, speaking to the Ard Fheis convincingly and in confident terms. What put an end to this campaign (which if let develop could have delivered in the 1970s something like what we have now as the Good Friday Agreement) was the beginning of the Provisional campaign, the introduction of internment, and Bloody Sunday. The British wanted their military situation, and Mac Stiofain and co gave it to them.

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