Political Reviews, post 2000:

There are many earlier reviews, but these are embedded in the hypertext support of Century of Endeavour, where they relate to its content. For access, please contact the author.

(c) Roy Johnston 2008

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

The 'Irish Democrat' book review service has survived in the web-site, despite the apparent demise of the print publication, which has had continuity since 1938. The service is likely to expand and thrive in the electronic medium, where it can support, perhaps more effectively, the political education of the Irish diaspora. Some, but not all, of these reviews were in the Irish Democrat.


  • Irish Literary Supplement, Boston College, autumn 2010; 'Politics, Violence and the Fenian Tradition': reviews of: Decoding the IRA; Tom Mahon & James J Gillogly; Mercier, 2008; ISBN 978-1-85635-604-6; also The Lost Revolution; Brian Hanley & Scott Millar; (the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party); Penguin Ireland 2009; ISBN 978-1-844-88120-8; pb, pp 658, €22.
  • Elizabeth Bowen; Walshe (ed); Irish Democrat, December 2009
  • Irish Land and Irish People: Bell & Watson, Russell, Books Ireland, November 2009
  • Dealing with the Fenian Legacy: Stephens, Jenkins, O Broin, Books Ireland. June 2009
  • The Quest for Modern Ireland: the Battle of Ideas 1912-1986; Bryan Fanning, Irish Democrat, December 2008
  • Evolution of the Troubles 1970-72; Thomas Hennessey, Irish Democrat, December 2008
  • Ireland since 1939: the Persistence of Conflict; Henry Patterson, Irish Democrat, December 2008
  • Rethinking Ireland's Sustainable Development and Environmental Performance; Brendan Flynn, ID August 2008
  • Intervening in Northern Ireland; Critical Re-thinking...; John Barry & Marysia Zalewski (eds), ID July 2008
  • Gerry Fitt: a Political Chameleon; Michael A Murphy, Fortnight (Belfast), July/Aug 2008
  • Nationalist and Internationalist Politics of Sean MacBride; Elizabeth Keane, Irish Democrat November 2006
  • That Day's Struggle: a Memoir 1904 - 1951 by Sean MacBride; ed Caitriona Lalor, Irish Democrat May? 2006
  • Northern Ireland: the Origin of the Troubles, Thomas Hennessey, Books Ireland, circa February 2006
  • The Irish Ordnance Survey: history, culture and memory, Gillian M Doherty, Irish Democrat, circa March 2005
  • The Land for the People: the land question in independent Ireland, Terence Dooley, Irish Democrat circa February 2005
  • From Political Violence to Negotiated Settlement; Bric, Maurice J and Coakley, John; Irish Democrat circa January 2005
  • Dissecting Irish Politics: Essays in Honour of Brian Farrell, Tom Garvin, Maurice Manning, Richard Sinnott (eds), Irish Democrat circa October 2004
  • Ulster and Scotland 1600-2000: history, language and identity, William Kelly and John R Young (eds), Irish Democrat circa December 2004
  • Parnell and his Island, George Moore introduced and edited by Carla King, Irish Democrat 2004? when?
  • From the United Irishmen to Twentieth Century Unionism. ATQ Stewart festschrift, ed Sabine Wichert, Books Ireland circa Oct 04
  • De Valera and the 'Black Fifties': De Valera's Ireland, ed Gabriel Doherty and Dermot Keogh; Ireland in the 1950s, ed Dermot Keogh, Finbar O'Shea and Carmel Quinlan; Irish Democrat, circa July 2004
  • Ireland and Post-Colonial Theory, (Ed) Clare Carroll and Patricia King; Irish Democrat October 2003
  • Standish O'Grady and Socialism: To the Leaders of Our Working People, Standish O'Grady; ed EA Hagan

Politics, Violence and the Fenian Tradition

The books which I was asked to review are 'Decoding the IRA' and 'The Lost Revolution'. These both relate, in different ways, to my own book Century of Endeavour(1) which however has received practically no notice in the American Irish Studies community, as a result of its unfortunate publishing history.

I propose therefore to do the above two reviews in sequence, with some reference footnotes to where additional material relating them to my Century book can be found.

Decoding the IRA; Tom Mahon & James J Gillogly; Mercier, 2008; ISBN 978-1-85635-604-6.

This book is a consequence of some UCD archive research done by Tom Mahon in 2001, during which he came across some IRA coded documents from the 1920s. He put them aside, but then found more, arousing his curiosity, to the extent that he was motivated to seek out James Gillogly who is a cryptologist. The resulting collaboration has thrown some new light on the evolution of the IRA during the period when many of its leading members made the transition to Fianna Fail.

The initial chapter by Gillogly deals with the technicalities of breaking the cyphers, and is primarily of specialist interest; this is followed by a chapter on the IRA communications system, with its safe houses and cover addresses. The subsequent chapters, based on the decrypted material, contain the useful historic material, confirming many nuggets which had previous existences at the level of reminiscence and lore.

Chapter 1 is based on the 1925 Army Convention which marked the rejection of Frank Aiken's bid for leadership, the election of Andy Cooney, and the Peadar O'Donnell resolution severing the connection with the 2nd Dail and asserting the right to declare war in the name of the Republic. Cooney soon handed over to Moss Twomey, remaining in the leading triumvirate which also included Sean Russell; O'Donnell was attempting to introduce Marxist politics via Twomey. His 2nd Dail resolution in this context was counter-productive, effectively giving the lead to the militarists. His Marxist influence overall was slight; he tended to be dismissed by his colleagues as a guy who came up with a new wild idea every week.

Along with Sean MacBride, O'Donnell put a lot of effort into various continental networks supportive of the USSR; the authors note that MacBride suppressed his many Soviet contacts during this period in his memoirs. There are many references to the women activists whom the Army excluded: Charlotte Despard, Maud Gonne and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington; these tended to gravitate towards left-wing organisations which welcomed their membership. The IRA in this period was active in the destruction of 'imperialist newspapers', in effect joining with the Catholic Church in the campaign against 'imported filth' which led later to the censorship laws. While many Fianna Fail cumainn evolved out of IRA units, and the IRA as such survived, remaining on friendly terms with the emerging Fianna Fail leadership, Sinn Fein in effect lost contact and went into decline. The abstention issue was totally corrosive.

The foregoing gives some idea of the lengthy third chapter which identifies the problems associated with the emergence of Fianna Fail. In this period also the Soviet influence emerges as being mostly related to deals with individual IRA activists, in return for intelligence about Britain, seen by the USSR as the main enemy.

Chapter 4 deals with what some of the local units were up to; there is no evidence of any coherent strategy; the Kevin O'Higgins assassination apparently was local initiative. The level of political understanding is illustrated by the fact that the major Ardnacrusha electricity generation project was seen merely as a potential source of explosives, rather than an important techno-economic pioneering project.

Chapter 5 on 'Intelligence' covers matters relating to the Special Branch and to prisoners (escape plans etc). There is much reference to Mick Price who was subsequently involved with Peadar O'Donnell and George Gilmore in the Republican Congress episode.

There is however no reference to the Comintern influence in this context, which took place in 1934; this was mentioned by Ruan O'Donnell (UL) in a paper(2) delivered to the Desmond Greaves summer school, in or about 2007.

Chapter 6 on 'The IRA in Britain' gives the background to Sean Russell's view that it was 'not worth the energy expended and labout involved in maintaining it'. The Left in Scotland was supportive of Irish issues, and John MacLean gets a mention. Chapter 7 on 'The IRA in America' has a much stonger background in the historical record, back to Fenian times, and up to the emergence of Clann na Gael, in which British intelligence comes in for some anecdotal mention. There was much arms smuggling, with the aid of crew members of the transatlantic liners.

In the final chapter on the Soviet Union and China there is a record of a meeting of an IRA delegation with Stalin in 1925, as well as the various episodes involving James Larkin, Frank Ryan and Peadar O'Donnell. The authors regard the Soviet link as having ended in 1927, though links with individuals persisted during the 1930s. There was material in an Phoblacht on China indicating that they connected the revolutionary war in China with British imperial inteference. The China link seems to have occupied the IRA significantly during 1927, but it never came to anything significant, and was a victim of British intelligence 'sting' events.

There is a short concluding chapter and an epilogue, but little or no analysis of the foregoing material, which, to this reviewer at least, shows up the futility and irrelevance of all aspects of the 'armed struggle' subsequent to the establishment of the Free State as a compromise, regarded correctly by Collins as a 'stepping stone' to the Republic. Subsequent attempts to wean those reared in the Fenian tradition, in the 1930s via the Republican Congress, and then later in the 1960s via the Civil Rights movement, towards effective political campaigning for an all-Ireland secular Republic which would be decoupled from the 'Rome Rule' incubus, all failed, thanks largely to the persistence of the 'armed struggle' mythology.

***

The Lost Revolution; Brian Hanley & Scott Millar; (the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party); Penguin Ireland 2009; ISBN 978-1-844-88120-8; pb, pp 658, €22.

This book fills an important gap in the record of the Northern troubles and their background, which have tended to have been dominated by analyses of the Provisionals. It develops further the pioneering work of Sean Swan(3).

For some obscure reason it had an extended 2-page pre-publication blurb in the Sunday Times on 30/08/09 which concentrated on the influence during the 1970s of the Eoghan Harris group on RTE programmes such as 'Today Tonight'. The feature was headed 'A Sticky Situation'.

There was also a 'review' in the form of an unsigned news feature in the Irish Examiner on 31/08/09, with pictures of various official IRA events. This also has selective extracts from the texts, beginning with the August 1967 IRA meeting in Pallas Co Tipperary, where socio-economic issues and tactics were discussed, in the context of Haughey's Taca mafia which generated Fianna Fail funding from developer-led land rezoning. (I understand the minutes of this meeting exist and will eventually emerge in a memoir by a participant.) The persistence of the Fenian tradition of ultimate dependence on arms was highlighted. The extracts go on to consider the Fianna Fail response to the 1969 Northern crisis, and the move to fund and arm the IRA, in a process that led eventually to the emergence of the Provisionals.

Neither of these 'reviews' makes any attempt to go critically into the politics behind this process, largely I think because the book itself fails to do this; it simply records a series of events and incidents, based on contemporary reports and where possible interviews with some of the people concerned.

The book is therefore to be seen as a source book for future critical historians, rather than an actual history. One of the authors, Scott Millar, is an Irish Examiner journalist, and in this context he also contributed a short feature, on the same date, under the heading 'Former IRA member reveals minister's role in armed plot'.

All three of these promotional reviews may help to sell the book, but it will be some time until the full significance of the contents of the book sinks in. The first apparently 'real' review I have seen is by one John-Paul McCarthy, who is a historian in Exeter College Oxford. He assesses the book in the Sunday Independent on 08/11/2009, as '..a blizzard of innuendo, pub-talk and cul-chaint...hours of taped monologues with old-timers..'. He then apparently discovers the index, which is fairly extensive (though perhaps it could be improved in a future edition), and uses it selectively to scratch the surface of some of the underlying issues emerging in the post-split politics in the context of the civil war threat, seen as a 'Balkan-scale catastrophe'.

On the whole, we must look forward to a full series of analytical reviews and commentaries, many perhaps from concerned activists (as indeed was the present writer), to get a full critical picture, from which, perhaps eventually, some lessons may be learned.

In what follows, I try to develop some of the analysis hinted at in the above, and in my previous review in the December 2009 'Books Ireland'.

In my own attempt to cover some of the ground in my Century of Endeavour (Academica 2003, Lilliput 2006) I gave an overview of the 1960s political processes with which we attempted to develop a non-violent political alternative to the classic Fenian tradition. We ran into problems with the latter, and these are documented in the book under review with reasonable accuracy.

The book under review fills in the picture for me, coinciding with my own experience where it overlaps. So my feeling is that it can be taken as a reasonably reliable record of the processes as they evolved, interacting with the politics of the Republic, and also interacting with the complex processes on the Continent which were undergone by the Marxist Left in the latter's attempts to deal with the disastrous legacy of Stalin.

The book, in 17 chapters, with preface and epilogue, falls naturally into 4 sections. The first section, chapters 1 to 4, deals with the consequences of the '1950s aftermath' decision in 1963 to try to build broad-based support around the Wolfe Tone bicentenary(4). This led to the setting up of the Wolfe Tone 'Directories', basically Army Council creations. Subsequently, after the bicentenary events had taken place, some of those concerned set up the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society (WTS), with its own independent constitution, taking on board the present writer and others.

My own personal motivation was to attempt to decouple Marxist analysis from the Lenin/Stalin overlay and develop it on the home ground, on a basis wider than the 'proletariat', invoking the Connolly legacy. There was also considerable influence from Anthony Coughlan, who joined the WTS under the new constitution and later became its secretary; in this context he was influential in building retpublican support for the development of the Civil Rights movement in the North, with a view to providing an environment where republican democratic political objectives might be pursued legally, via a movement emerging from underground via the Republican Clubs. During this period however the IRA remained in existence, with its own historical Fenian legacy, and this led to events taking place, documented by Hanley & Millar, which to my mind at the time were counterproductive in our politicisation attempt. It is impossible to miss the parallel with what happened in the 1920s during the process that led to the emergence of Fianna Fail.

This book, despite its lack of analytical structure, presents a serious challenge to those concerned with reconstructing politics in Ireland to deal with the current economic crisis.

There are a few minor errors in the text which I feel I should note. On p32 there is a reference to the present writer, said to be living in Ranelagh; it should have been Rathmines. In a reference to the IRA internal newsletter an t-Oglach on pp57,64,94 and in the index the aspiration for some reason gets dropped: an t-Oglac. There probably are quite a few minor errors given the multiplicity of oral sources. Also the publishers Penguin note that on p574 line 22 there is an incorrect reference to New Consensus receiving British funding. In fact it was the Peace Train that got the funding.

Notes and References:

1. Reviews of the actual Century book are accessible via the author's web-site at http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/blurb.htm, and an expanded version of the above reviews, from which the foregoing has been edited down, can be seen at http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/library/ILS2010.htm

2. I have however been unable to track down an actual reference; Ruan remembers the event, but spoke from notes. Proceedings of events such as this deserve accessible archiving.

3. For Sean Swan's book 'Official Irish Republicanism 1962 to 1972' see also the supplementary hypertext associated with my Century book, at http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/century130703/addons/swan6272.htm

4. This involved a week of prestigeous public lectures in the Dublin Mansion House, including one by Hubert Butler entitled 'Wolfe Tone and the Common Name of Irishman' which is on record in Neal Acherson's edited volume of Butler's essays 'The Land of Nod' (Lilliput, 1996). Roger McHugh of UCD had a hand in organising the series.



Elizabeth Bowen; Eibhear Walshe (ed); 'Irish Writers in their Time' series; Irish Academic Press 2009; ISBN 978 0 7165 2916/7, npg.

I was stimulated to want review this book by reading comments from Jack Lane, who is associated with the Irish Political Review and the Aubane Historical Society, and who dismissed her as essentially English and irrelevant to Irish literature. Did she not send intelligence reports to the British during the war, etc? I felt I needed to find out more, and satisfy myself where she stood in the context of the culture of the colonial ruling class, a group which has contributed to Irish culture via authors such as Swift, Wilde, Shaw and others. I had been aware of her work, but had not read any of it, so I went to the RDS library, and found her work was there currently accessible, and widely read. So I explored that part which had a visible Irish dimension. Much of her work was aimed at the English modernist literary market in the 1930s and subsequently, and I did not get dug into this, but according to most authors in the Walshe collection, this retains a flavour related to its 'big-house' origins in the Irish ascendancy context.

Nine of the thirteen authors are based in Irish universities, three are in Britain and one is in Boston. The Irish authors are mostly from Cork. Neil Corcoran (U Liverpool), in a foreword placing Bowen in a critical context, calls for a new scholarly edition of her total work. The editor Eibhear Walshe (UCC) in a short introduction overviews the chapters, acknowledges the source material, and give a chronology of Bowen's life, interspersing the key events of her life with her 16 published books.

Let me begin with some commentsd on each of the authors' contributions, and then add some comments of my own, from the angle of the need for an integrated national culture embracing all peoples living there, whatever their origins.

It is perhaps appropriate to begin with Chapter 9, by Claire Wills (QMC, U London), who has attracted a critical review by Julianne Herlihy in the December 2009 issue of Irish Political Review, based on a seminar in November in UCC. She was introduced by editor Eibhear Walshe, in what was presumably a 'launch' of the book. I am not going to try to assess this review, except that it was in the critical spirit initiated earlier by Jack Lane. To my mind however she exposes, not the un-Irishness of Bowen, but the failure of the UCC people to take the lead in Bowen's critical assessment. To expect English scholars to give a lead in assessing the significance of a writer such as Bowen in the Irish context suggests a persistence of servile 'west-Brit' culture in Irish academic circles.

Let me however comment positively on Claire Wills' chapter; it is dedicated mainly to Bowen's 'A World of Love', where she evokes the atmosphere in a run-down 'big-house' in the 1950s, in which the residents are 'haunted by the ghost' of a cousin who died in the first world war, the medium being letters discovered in the attic. A moribund society dominated by pre-1914 nostalgia is depicted, declining into subsistence farming in delapidating buildings; cultural atrophy due to lack of contact. Many critical issues are evoked: the economic factors governing the 1950s decline, the isolation of the rural Protestant community imposed by the religious domination of the local education system, the dead hand imposed by the residues of the ascendancy culture. Bowen describes it accurately, but without escape routes except via emigration. Wills does go into the analysis of the background, using Mary Daly on population, and John O'Brien's 'Vanishing Irish' collection published in 1954, generating a bleak picture.

In Ch 1 Noreen Doody (DCU Drumcondra) introduced Bowen with a biographical outline. Bowen's Court was between Mitchelstown and Mallow and had been in the family since the Cromwell settlement. Born in 1899, she spent her youth there in the summers, and the winters in Georgian Dublin, as an only child, without formal education. Then from age 7 her mother took her to Kent; her father having become mentally ill. She had a complicated life in England, shunted between aunts and cousins on the Anglo-Irish network, but then during the 1914-18 war she was back at Bowen Court with her father, then recovered; her mother had died in England. Her father re-married in 1918; Bowen remained with them, but commuted to art-school in London; she had a chance to observe the war of independence process, neighbours houses being burned etc.

In 1923 she married Alan Cameron, and commenced her period as a writer, in a circle which included Edith Sitwell, Aldous Huxley, Walter de la Mare and others. She lived in Oxford and later in London, but spent her summers with her father and step-mother in Bowen's Court. She was the sole heir, and inherited in 1930; she set up house there, and the house became the centre of a literary circle, which included Sean O Faolain, Iris Murdoch, Cyrli Connolly, Hubert Butler, Maurice Craig, Virginia Woolf and others, some who whom ended up as raw material for characters in her books. In this context she had several amorous liaisons. During the war she worked adventurously in London from time to time, while keeping Bowen's Court going; in this context she was a source of intelligence for the British about Irish public opinion, giving Jack Lane the ammunition for labelling her a 'spy'. Her husband Alan died in 1952, and she lived on in the 'big house' on her own, under increasing economic strain. She sold up in 1959 to a neighbour, who wanted the land; the house was demolished. She went back to Kent and died there in 1973.

Successive chapters assess various aspects of her literary output. Vera Kreilkamp (Boston College) labels Bowen an 'ascendancy modernist', in a tradition going back to Maria Edgeworth, and including Charles Lever, Sheridan le Fanu, George Moore, Somerville and Ross. She sees Jennifer Johnston and Molly Keane as successors. Andrew Bennett (U Bristol) deals with the early novels, dominated by the predicaments of the first world war generation of men-deprived women. Sexual ambiguity dominates UCC Patricia Coughlan's treatment of 'The Dancing Mistress' in Ch 4. Derek Hand (DCU Drumcondra) picks up on the ghostly big-house environment, and the influence of the first world war. Sinead Mooney, the Beckett biographer, continues with the ghostly theme, leaning heavily on 'Bowen's Court' her family history, which she wrote in 1942. I went to the trouble of reading this, and found her references to the events of Irish history, over the 3 centuries involved, comprehensive and objective as background to the family evolution.

In Chapter 7 the editor Eabhear Walshe makes her own contribution on the period when she was lionised and accepted on the English market; 'The Death of the Heart' published in 1938 was a Book Club choice which 'ironically expos(ed) the inauthenticity of the English Middle Class'. Her Irish war of independence novel, 'The Last September', had been published in 1929. Her 1949 novel 'The Heat of the Day' is based on her World War 2 experiences. Mary Breen (UCC) in Ch 8 treats 'Bowen's Court' at some length, noting that she aims it at the English market, where she is known. She also treats the childhood memoir 'Seven Winters', which gives interesting insights into the Dublin of the Ulysses epoch seen through junior ascendancy eyes. Eabhear Walshe in Ch 10 (I treated Ch 9 at the start) and Tina O'Toole (UL) deal with 'Eva Trout' (1969) her last novel which is deep, complex and has many autobiographical features, rooted in her background as an only child with minimal education in a complex and changing environment. Finally Julie Anne Stevens (DCU Drumcondra) and Heather Laird (UCC) place her in the critical and political environment; Laird addresses the problem posed by Jack Lane, and leans on Declan Kiberd's analysis, which to my mind suggests an agenda for the analysis of the range of aspects of adaptation by the elite settler ascendancy to the emergent Irish nation.

In conclusion, may I say I have no problem in accepting Bowen as a serious writer to be reckoned with in the Irish context, and a challenge to the academic community: is there a future for the 'big house' in the Irish socio-economic and political context? To my mind, there is, but it is rooted in the work of Horace Plunkett, George Russell, Standish O'Grady, Richards Orpen and my father Joe Johnston, who identified the big-house, with its associated extensive farm, as a potential centre for the local co-operative management of a productive multi-product agricultural system, with added-value output contracted to supply urban (also, one hopes, co-operative) retail outlets with top quality food, as well as the export market. Connolly in his 'Reconquest of Ireland' has a chapter on the Owenite commune at Ralahine, Co Clare, which pioneered this concept in the 1840s. The late RM Burke attempted the same concept, with his estate near Tuam in the 1930s, but this failed in the then socio-political environment. The current energy and climate change problem environment will perhaps force a re-think in this direction: back to the labour-employing, multi-product estate, with livestock, tillage and horticulture, centred on the 'big house', but this time owned by the farmers in its neighbourhood (whose ancestors were the tenants) and managed as an integrated highly productive unit, employing its owners and perhaps others having prospective ownership rights.


Irish Land and Irish People; Books Ireland. November 2009

Lurking in the background of both these books is the need for some serious re-assessment of how we as a people relate to the land as our main source of food, in the context of the increasingly recognised emergency, of which access to energy, and climate change arising from our profligate use of fossil fuels in the past two centuries, are the key factors.

A History of Irish Farming 1750-1950; Jonathan Bell & Mervyn Watson; Four Courts Press 2008; ISBN 978-1-84682-096-0.

The Bell-Watson treatise, at 344 pages of which the last 40 are notes, bibliography and index, is essential background reading for anyone seeking to understand how agriculture in Ireland has evolved into where it is today.

An analysis in comparable depth of the evolution over the past half-century, covering the accession to the EEC and the impact of the CAP, remains as a challenging task; this needs to be done as an essential prelude to the policy changes required now to enable us to adapt to the coming century. In this context, the Bell-Watson analysis will turn out to be highly relevant, the problem being how to decouple ourselves from the recent epoch dominated by dirt-cheap oil.

The initial chapter deals briefly with rural society and its relationship to farming methods, reminding us of the tenuous connections between the land-owners and the actual agricultural processes, on which landlordism in its British-imposed mode was mostly parasitic. Tenants came in all shapes and sizes; most land was sub-let from 'middlemen'; some large tenants however employed many labourers, and these 'strong farmers' were the backbone of the commercial food production process.

The present complex pattern of land ownership emerged via the Land Acts to give a system showing traces of earlier land-use procedures, with scattered holdings reflecting earlier socially-agreed temporary allocations under the rundale system. Many questions remain on the agenda regarding how this worked, in differing regions and landlord regimes, some examples of which are treated in the book.

The main content of the book covers the details of the basic elements of the production process, as accumulated, in 30 years of experience, in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Farm houses and yards, ridges and drains, manures and fertilisers, the roles of lime and seaweed are treated; then we get into the tools of the trade: spades, ploughs, harrows, rollers, procedures for sowing the seed. The 'spade to plough' transition, which took place from the 1840s (the Famine being a serious factor), was actually prolonged, and quite controversial, spade culture being associated with higher yields.

We then have a series on the crops: potatoes, hay, flax, grain, threshing and winnowing; adaptation to regional environments and to technological innovations are explored, showing much ingenuity, and generating technical jargons: hummelling, awning etc. The transition from the flail to the threshing machine was complex and also prolonged; early machines were seen as extravagant and inefficient users of horse-power. The bodhran, of music fame, was a by-product of the winnowing process, in the flail-threshing culture.

This is followed by a chapter each for horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, with background on how the breeds evolved in response to market pressures. Of particular interest is the bacon process and how it related to the evolving export markets. The role of poultry as being 'womens' work' is analysed, in which context there were attempts to develop co-operative marketing with quality control, though with only marginal success. The egg money going to the man of the house along with the creamery cheque was resisted by the women. Aspirant contemporary co-operative enthusiasts need to analyse closely the negative factors at work in early co-operative history; this is another trail for someone else to follow, arising from this important book.

There is a final chapter on 'the theory and practice of improvement' which explores the role of the tractor, especially the Ferguson; also the RDS, the Albert College, competitive ploughing events etc. This also suggests trails to follow in the projected sequel mentioned above, addressing the energy and climate change emergency.

The Russell book is an edited transcript of interviews with 12 women farmers in Kerry, telling their stories in their own words. It constitutes a window into the nature of the contemporary problems, mostly in the social environment, as experienced by farmers living in rural isolation, identified as being more acute when viewed by women on their own.

Living Off the Land: Women Farmers of Today; ed Josephine Russell; Curragh Press 2008; ISBN 978-1-85607-973-0.

It is interesting that the 'middleman', seen as the personification of the system connecting farmers to their market, remains identified as a problem, as it was in Arthur Young's time (1790s); it seems we owe to him the invention of that word for the concept. The drink-driving laws have killed the social life of the pub. Will they bring back a realisation of the need actually to live in a village community, in walking distance of the pub, retail outlets, schools? For this to happen the meithil will need to be re-invented in modern mode, and production organised, managed and marketed in large-scale units, based on voluntary co-operative clustering of farms in the village hinterland.

This message does not come out of the book, but out of the head of the reviewer, as a response to the various situations described. The first of the farmers interviewed, Kate Carmody, is a dynamo of innovation, a leading organic grower, producing cheese; she is into the 'slow food movement' along with Darina Allen; she is awash with innovative ideas for fertiliser from slurry, with methane production for energy. She is however dependent on organic feed imported from the continent, at high cost. The organic co-operative cluster concept would take care of this, if the cluster were to be managed to produce locally all the organic fodder crops required, as well as supplying fertiliser to its organic horticulture unit, and marketing all the produce of the cluster on contract direct to urban retail outlets, on a scale sufficient to enable the 'middleman' to be dispensed with.

The problems described by the others include antibiotics in milk, slurry management, work overload in the highly seasonal milk production cycle, fox predation on poultry etc, but the attitude of all is positive; they enjoy the work, despite the relative isolation; they all have different ways of dealing with their social networks. Some of the older ones look back with nostalgia on 'comharing' with the neighbours, suggesting that the 'managed cluster' concept hinted at above might gain acceptance, offering as it does the option of rostered milking.

I see both these books as quarries of ideas for the future necessary declaration of independence of agriculture from its current fossil fuel addiction. The lead for this is going to have to come from the organic movement, and I will be watching with interest how it develops under the leadership of people like Kate Carmody.

Roy Johnston 01/07/2009


Dealing with the Fenian Legacy

Review of 3 related books for Books Ireland, June 2009

The three books under review deal with the origins of the Fenian movement with James Stephens' visit to the USA in 1859, with the consequences of the Fenian movement as seen from the angle of the British Govenment in the period up to 1874, and with the current project, embraced by Sinn Fein in the context of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements, to decouple itself finally from the Fenian armed conspiratorial tradition.

The Birth of the Fenian Movement: American Diary, Brooklyn 1859; James Stephens, ed Marta Ramon; UCD Press 2009; pb €20, £stg17;
ISBN 978-1-904558-91-0.

The editor introduces Stephens, placing him in the context of the 1848 Young Ireland aftermath and the origins of the IRB in the American Civil War aftermath. His 1858 diary offers insights into the thinking of the Irish-American emigrants, with their concept of having a role in a military liberation project. Key figures in the 1848 aftermath were John Mitchell and Michael Doheny, and the Irish Republican Union (IRU) was the organisational link, along with the Emmett Monument Association (EMA) associated with Doheny and John O'Mahony.

We pick up in the Stephens diary some feel for the problems of knowing who is who, what their motivations are, whether they can be relied upon, are they good for money or military participation etc. The IRB was beginning to take shape as a military response to the British imperial system, at the time showing its true colours in the context of the 'Indian mutiny', with little evidence for the emergence of 'liberal democracy'. The author gives appendices with biographical notes on some key figures. This book is a source for research scholarship, rather than for the general reader.

The Fenian Problem: Insurgency and Terrorism in a Liberal State; Brian Jenkins, Liverpool UP 2008; pp456, hb; £65;
ISBN 978-184631-175-8

This book, by a Canadian historian, draws on the experience of the British State in deal with Fenianism, comparing it with the IRA experience from the 1970s, and drawing lessons perhaps relevant in the context of dealing with the contemporary so-called 'Islamic terrorism'. It deserves a serious in-depth review paper in a learned journal, but I am not going to attempt this here. He begins with the impact of the post-Famine Irish emigrants in Britain, the USA and Canada, and the influences of Chartism and Auguste Blanqui. He then goes into how the State in Ireland responds to the threat of a US invasion linked with a Fenian insurrection, seen as threatening in 1865, and nipped in the bud by the arrests of the leaders (including Stephens, who however spectacularly escaped), and by the banning of the Irish People. We see the origins of the 'special branch' in Ireland as a repressive tool, and the emergence of a progressive demand within Britain for reform, with Charles Bradlaugh and the Reform League calling for a federated republian constitution.

The re-emergence of the Fenian threat took the form of armed actions and bombings in Britain, the most spectacular being the Clerkenwell event, a botched job, causing many civilian casualties. Tory agitation turned the British working-class violently against the Irish. The execution of the 'Manchester martyrs' attracted a campaign for commutation, with the republican Reform League and Marx's International Workingmens's Association in support. Cardinal Cullen commented acidly on the contrast between British support for Garobaldi and the Italian Republic and the Fenian project; Allen, Larkin and O'Brien were '..not half as bad as the Garibaldians..'.

The remainder of the book is dedicated to the analysis of how the justice system coped, and how the ongoing reform process, under Gladstone's leadership, was beginning the render the need for armed conspiracy anachronistic, with the emergence of the land reforms and the Parnellite Home Rule movement. This book also is primarily a source for scholars seeking to understand the complexities of the process of emergence of national independence movements on the fringes of empires, and of the usually negative roles of conspiracies in the political reform process.

The earlier Stephens material is a component of the Jenkins raw material. Both form an important background to the following work by Eoin O Broin which deserves a wide readership as an analysis of the processes underlying the current accession of Sinn Fein to the company of those promoting political reform within democratic constitutional constraints.

Sinn Fein and the Politics of Left Republicanism; Eoin O Broin; Pluto Press 2009; pb £18.99;
ISBN 978-0-7453-2462-3.

The author was an SF activist in the North, and is now active in Dun Laoire where he is in local government. He had been publishing a journal in Belfast suppotive of left-republican politics; this however closed down just after Lilliput the publisher of my own book Century of Endeavour had sent him a review copy, so that he did not get a chance to deal with it, nor it seems to read it, as in his assessment of the 1960s politicisation process initiated by Goulding he manages to avoid referencing it, though he does mention my name as an ideas source, and credits myself and Anthony Coughlan as sources of support for the process leading to setting up the Civil Rights Movement.

O Broin distinguishes the 'left' attribute from the 'social' and 'socialist' attributes used by others analysing political republicanism; he includes in it the Fianna Fail populist leftism of the 1930s, and the empty opportunist leftism of Sean MacBride in the 1940s. George Gilmore, whom O Broin regards as an icon, assessed MacBride as having been a candidate for a Quisling role, had the Germans 'liberated' Ireland in the 1940s. Having defined the meaning of 'left' somewhat fuzzily, avoiding the Marxist criterion of the need for democratic control over the capital investment process, he sets himself the task of understanding why 'left-republicanism' failed to lead the broad national movement.

O Broin sets Irish republicanism in the European mainstream, distinguishing it from the English 1688 compromise, leaning on Tom Paine's Rights of Man. He quotes approvingly Marxist authors like Priscilla Mettscher and Eric Hobsbawm. He picks up the feminist angle via Mary Anne McCracken, Bridget Dolan and Mary Shackleton Leadbeater. He notes the Chartist influence; William Morris gets a mention; the socialist influences however within Ireland tended to be confined to intellectual coteries, and the social land policies of Henry George, although supported by Michael Davitt, in Ireland were political suicide due to role of the Land Acts in generating mass mini-landlordism.

He goes on to identify the importance of the Tory social-imperialism that led to the Ulster working-class armed opposition to Home Rule, and he assesses Connolly's unsuccessful attempt to counter it, and the role it had in neutralising the emerging Trade Union movement in the national political context. Connolly's link with the Second International, along with Austin Morgan, he assesses as having little relevance to Ireland. The republicanism of Leslie, which influenced Connolly, was rooted in Lalor and Davitt, rather than what O Broin calls the 'Fenian mainstream' (does the republican mainstream have to be Blanquist? is this at the root of the current republican ideological problem?). He re-states the classic Connolly-Walker debate, and sees it as unresolved, calling for '...a re-articulation of those elements that form the core of the socialist-republican enterprise.'

In the period 1916-26 he notes the marginalisation of radical voices like Liam Mellows, Peadar O'Donnell and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington; he regards Mellows' socialism as unconvincing, preferring Patterson's assessment to that of Greaves. In the early Fianna Fail epoch he correctly identifies the key left-republican voice as being an Phoblacht, and the source focus being in the IRA, the process that led to the Republican Congress of 1934 via the Saor Eire episode; its subsequent split and decline however deserves deeper analysis than O Broin gives it: was the evolution of the IRA in the direction of the disastrous bombing campaign in Britain inevitable? Could the left-republican aspect of the Fianna Fail process have been strengthened? Ruan O'Donnell's paper on the role of the Comintern deserves a mention; at this time the Comintern was in a divisive and left-sectarian mode. Much of the fallout from the Republican Congress ended up in relative isolation in Sean Murray's Communist Party.

In the aftermath of the 1950s campaign, he notes the Goulding-led politicisation process, and identifies correctly the influence of the Connolly Association, leading to the support of the Republican Clubs for the NICRA. His analysis of the Marxist influence however is flawed, in that he seems to have missed totally the role of my own attempt to decouple the process from the residual European Stalinist legacy (as outlined in my Century of Endeavour book). If he had picked up on it, he should have seen it was aimed exactly at the worthy objective he is currently trying to achieve now, in the context of the Gerry Adams Sinn Fein environment. He would also have seen the influence of the Stalin-type process on the post-split 'Officials', initially via Costello and others. The case I am trying to make is that the Fenian-type conspiracy process naturally evolves into a Stalin-type model, and it is most important to purge it from the political system. Eoin O Broin's book, despite its omissions, in a positive contribution to this process.

***

Reviewed in December 2008 for the Irish Democrat:

The Quest for Modern Ireland: the Battle of Ideas 1912-1986; Bryan Fanning; Irish Academic Press 2008;
ISBN 978 0 7165 2902 6 hb; ...2903 3 pb.

The idea behind this book is excellent; it is to analyse the cultural aspect of national identity, as reflected in heavyweight periodicals of calibre such as to end up for reference, vertical on the bookshelf, rather than briefly horizontal prior to recycling. The author, who lectures in social science in UCD, in his introduction deplores the level of dependence on intellectual imports, and reminds us of the importance of the cultural politics of nation-building, as developed by Gellner and Anderson. He introduces his selection with the Bell and the Crane Bag, seen as 'justly celebrated in... Irish Studies' and includes also Studies, Christus Rex and Administration which he sees as being more obscure, lurking in the background of the Establishment.

He could perhaps have usefully included Saothar the annual Labour History production; this perhaps is closest to the niche the Irish Democrat intellectual support system might have occupied, had they managed to establish a journal of record, fit to go vertically on the bookshelf. Various ephemeral attempts were made by progressive intellectual groups in Ireland in this direction (Atlantis for example), but in Fanning's study one is made conscious of their lack of success.

The only publication with overall continuity is Studies, published by the Jesuits. Fanning devotes three chapters to it, broadly linked with editorial and policy changes: 'Unfinished Revolution 1912-39', 'Liberal Agendas: Catholic and Liberal Alliances, 1940-68' and 'Faithful Departures: Culture and Conflict 1951-86'. Note the overlapping dates.

The ordering of his chapters is curious; he starts with 'Taking the Fifth: The Crane Bag 1977-84'. where the 'fifth' metaphor is introduced by its editor Richard Kearney as being the mythical 'fifth province' additional to the historic four. Fanning hails the Crane Bag as the '..archetype of the intellectual journal..' and gives some idea of its origins and scope over its lifetime, though he leaves the question of its demise and lack of succession unanswered. Nor does he pick up on the fact that its cultural scope was broad enough to include the sciences(1).

Then we get 'Out of the Mist: the Bell 1940-45', named by Sean O Faolain after the early Russian radical Herzen's Kolokol. Fanning notes the relative lack of academic input, and identifies Corkery's 1925 'Hidden Ireland' as a target for O Faolain's critique. We are however left in the dark about the Bell after O Faolain; did it not continue constructively after 1945 under Peadar O'Donnell? (see below, Patrick Lynch in 1946 on Thompson.)

Only then in the 3rd chapter to we get the first of the Studies sequence. Would it not have made more sense to have begun with this, as setting up the background to which the Bell was a reaction? Should there not have been a place for George Russell's 'Irish Statesman' in the 1920s? There is much space given to Tom Kettle's critiques of socialism in the early days. Later we get George O'Brian and Alfred O'Rahilly; the former is credited with introducing Keynes to Ireland. There is some discussion of vocational-ism and fascism. Tierney, who headed UCD, harked back to pre-Enlightenment culture. Despite this Studies was open to Russell and O Faolain; controversy developed on the role of the Enlightenment. There was awareness of Nazi persecution of Catholics, but also some explicit anti-semitism. There was attention to constitutional reform in the late 30s, with interest in the Swiss model. This long chapter, 47 pages, seems to have been the author's initial project, done in some detail; did this perhaps suggest adding the other chapters to balance it?

Next we get 'Disenchanted Land: Christus Rex and Irish Sociology 1947-70'. Here we have the thinking of the Catholic intellectual Establishment, edited by Maynooth Professors Peter McKevitt and Cornelius Lucey; the chair of the former was endowed by the Knights of Columbanus. Writers included Michael J Browne, Bishop of Galway; there was paternal advice to emigrants, dire warnings from Desmond Fennell about emancipation of women, based on his Swedish experience, concern about socialist ideas in trade unions from Charles McCarthy, voluntary co-operative activism being advocated by General MJ Costello. There were however alternative views on Catholic sociology expressed at the same time in Studies, with more open discussion, from Garrett Fitzgerald, David Thornley and others, with names such as Marcuse being mentioned. Studies had evolved towards being a 'Catholic Left'.

Fanning continues with Studies for the next two chapters, with discussion opening up seriously to the Left under the Burke-Savage editorial period in the 1960s. Censorship. the North, McQuaid; northern poets; the 'big house' authors; Cruise O'Brien; Sean MacBride; historical revisionism and 1916; Protestant Ulster; IRA theology; Church and State issues in the New Ireland Forum. These topics resonated in the environment where the Crane Bag also existed; we had the makings of a vibrant intellectual life for a time; we have Crotty, Whitaker and others arguing the economics, with Sister Stanislaus in the background.

Up to now we have the makings of a good background to the current scene, demanding a sequel. Perhaps one is in gestation, bringing it up to date?

We have instead a chapter 'Fables of the Reconstruction: "Administration" and Development 1853-86'. This treats in relative isolation what was, and is, a most important publication enshrining the thinking of the emergent technocracy, initiated in the undergrowth of the civil service by Patrick Lynch, TK Whitaker and Tom Barrington, which emerged eventually as 'Leargas' the journal of the Institute of Public Administration(2). Patrick Lynch had earlier in the (post-1945) Bell written about socialist ideas in Ireland, on William Thompson in Cork, who developed a 'labour theory of value' before Marx, contrasting him with Robert Owen. Lynch's critiques of Irish capitalism in the 1950s were taken on board by the Tuairim group and published as a pamphlet. Barrington in Administration developed serious constructive critiques of local government, promoting a serious regionalist approach. There was subsequent critical papers by Crotty and Joe Lee. Lynch had an important paper on 'Whither Science Policy?'.

Both Lynch and Whitaker were the subjects of festschrifts, which Fanning overviews, suggesting further unfinished business. Did the Crane Bag show the makings of a bridge between the cultures of technocracy (as in Administration) and the humanities? Fanning in his final chapter queries the dominance of the catholic aspect in of Irish national culture, suggesting many interesting critical trails to follow. This book deserves serious consideration by the global Irish Studies community, where it will undoubtedly suggest further research of political and social relevance.

Notes

1. Richard Kearney encouraged be to develop my overview of the historic development of the 'culture of technological competence' using the successive snapshots provided by the meetings in Ireland of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. See this at http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/scihist/cranebag.htm

2. The present writer was asked in 1970 by the editor to write an outline of a seminar based on some techno-economic and socio-technical aspects of his Aer Lingus computing experience; see http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/century130703/1960s/tececon6.htm#leargas

Roy H W Johnston 06/12/2008, for Irish Democrat website.

***


The Evolution of the Troubles 1970-72; Thomas Hennessey; Irish Academic Press 2007; ISBN 978 0 7165 2885 2 pb; ... 2884 5 hb.

This is a sequel to an earlier book by the same author, which I reviewed in Books Ireland somewhat critically; I felt he had depended too much on the British establishment records, and on the Unionist media. This sequel comes over as somewhat more balanced and objective.

It begins with a detailed account of the beginnings of the Provisional campaign, up to the end of July 1970. His main source as previously is the British archive, and in the context Sir Burke Trend emerges as an interesting possible successor to his predecessor as Cabinet Secretary Tom Jones, who served Lloyd George. Other sources include Peter Taylor, Raymond Quinn and Sean Mac Stiofain. He also makes use of the Bew-Gillespie chronology.

The second chapter August 1970 to March 1971 covers some of the details of the official-provisional feud which developed; it ends with the resignation of Chichester-Clarke, whose phone conversation with Heath is included. His sources apart from the British archive are mostly the Irish News and the Irish Times. The third chapter, March to August 1971, gives a blow by blow account of the Faulkner regime in the period leading up to internment. The emergence of Hume and the SDLP is treated, as are the interactions with the Dublin government. The attempt made by the Officials to revive the political path is noted, despite the threat of losing their membership to the Provisionals at the grass-roots. Sources, apart from the British archive, Irish Times, Irish News and Belfast Newsletter include Henry Kelly 'How Stormont Fell'.

The next chapter deals with the details of the internment process and its immediate consequences; we get the phone conversation between Heath and Lynch, and an indication of the obsolescence of the internment hit-list, resulting in substantial Provisional recruitment and considerable violence, along with total alienation of the Catholic population and the setting up an alternative assembly, with the withdrawal of nationalist and labour politicians from Stormont and local government. This is followed by a chapter on 'deep' interrogation, as described in the Compton Report, generating European condemnation; it seems Heath at the time was unrepentant.

Then in Chapters 6 and 7, August 1971 to January 1972, British disillusionment is treated, as well as the details of the war on the ground. Internment is seen as having been a military disaster. The politics of accession to the EEC emerges as a factor; we get a detailed treatment of the Heath-Lynch summit. Concepts like 'repartition', 'federation' and 'commonwealth' enter the scene. In a further chapter covering nearly the same period in Derry July 1971 to January 1972 we get an analysis of the background to Bloody Sunday. The latter is based on an analysis of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, as is the following chapter on Bloody Sunday itself. We get a detailed blow by blow account, illuminating the military thinking, as well as that of the Derry RUC (more moderate) and the Provisionals (refusing to be drawn).

The following Chapter 10 reverts to the British archive for the end of Stormont. In this Hennessey mentions in passing (p313) a '...concept of the Irish nation in terms of a union of the Catholics of the South with the Catholics of the North...' which asserts the long-standing underlying British theory of nationality which many Irish republican and labour thinkers and activists have attempted to discredit, in successive generations since Wolfe Tone.

The secular and economic-based theory of nationality in modern times, territory-based and inclusive of all religions, refuses to lie down, with, in the recent century, Bulmer Hobson, Ernest Blythe, George Gilmore, Tom Johnson, Bob Briscoe, Ivan Cooper and others as well as the present writer doing our best to develop a social alternative to an exclusive Catholic nationalism. The Catholic nationalist exclusive model indeed showed signs of being embodied in the Provisional philosophy, and one cannot help wondering if British Tory and Unionist strategy was actually to encourage this, to keep the working people divided and to prevent the emergence of the real Irish nation as an all-Ireland entity.

Hennessey's short concluding chapter is unsatisfactory, but predictably so, given the short span of time covered by the book. In this period however he has produced a good blow by blow account, with masses of detail, of a situation where as a result of total misunderstanding of the situation, a ham-fisted imperial military establishment, supported by an exclusivist sectarian colonial regime, laid the basis for decades of increasingly sectarian violence. If we had been able to develop all-Ireland politics with a labour dimension within the O'Neill reforms, a power-sharing Stormont with an Irish dimension could have emerged in the 1970s. The Good Friday Agreement as 'Sunningdale for slow learners' is not a bad approximation.

There have been a series of events in 2008 commemorative of the 1968 peaking of civil rights activity, and these are attracting scholarly analysis. This channel presents an alternative to the military-dominated perspective which Hennessey appears to prefer. To his credit, he appears to be picking up some feel for the complexities of the post-colonial nation-building process; this book certainly is an improvement on his earlier one. Your reviewer was given the opportunity to develop some pointers in this direction, at a recent conference in Birkbeck in the 1968 commemoration cycle. I hope that these events will help to fuel the development of post-imperial scholarship in Britain.

Roy H W Johnston 15/12/2007, for Irish Democrat website.

***


Ireland since 1939: the Persistence of Conflict; Henry Patterson; Penguin 2006-7; ISBN 978-1-844-88104-8

This book was written when the property bubble in the republic was at its peak, to the extent that in his introduction the author fears the re-emergence of a traditional nationalist narrative, suggesting that neither violence not 'economic determinism' is a recipe for national unity. The book goes on to analyse various aspects of the background to the recent troubles, aimed primarily at students from abroad in the expanding 'Irish Studies' community, but also at the younger generation of the Irish.

He begins with a chapter on 'The Legacy of Partition' in which he outlines the history prior to 1939, including the pogroms and sectarian rule in the North and the role of de Valera in the Free State, with the emergence of Fianna Fail. He continues with a chapter on the war and the emergence of the 'welfare state' and how this related to the Catholics in the North, and the influx of labour from the south, seen as a problem; this is followed by analysis of the neutrality of Eire under de Valera.

He continues with two chapters on the period 1940 and 50s, first on the 1945-59 stagnation in the south, and then in the north the period 1945 to 1963 which he characterises as 'modernisation and reconstruction. He notes the anti-partition campaign, the mother-and-child scheme, the negative effects of protectionism, then finally the Whitaker re-think of national economic policy that leads to the subsequent revival. In the chapter on the North he analyses the developing contradictions between the politics of the British welfare state and unionist sectarianism, as well as British agricultural policy and the attitudes of rural nationalists to the economics of national unity. He also treats the 1956 IRA campaign, which avoided Belfast, and the beginnings of the switch to Labour or the Protestant working-class.

Continuing with chapter-pairs alternating between north and south, Patterson surveys the 1960s mini-boom under the heading 'Expansion: Ireland 1959-1973'. (Why 'Ireland'? we are dealing with the 'Republic'!) He notes Lemass's opening up the free trade area to Northern manufactures, and his need to defend this positive all-Ireland policy from the local manufacturing lobby. We have the meeting with O'Neill, but we also have evidence of bowing to McQuaid pressure, on issues relating to Trinity College. Later, Lynch's handling of the 1969 arms crisis is treated in some detail. Many sources are referenced; this section suggests a few research trails to follow, impossible however to treat adequately in a review.

The corresponding northern chapter is entitled 'Terence O'Neill and the Crisis of the Unionist State'. Patterson identifies the Lockwood rebuff to Derry on the site of the new university as a key trigger for the subsequent events; he correctly links it with the resignation of Copcutt the English urban planner who had been brought in for the Craigavon project; the latter concluded that Derry was the appropriate development focus, not 'Port-Lurg'. (I recollect encountering Copcutt with the Wolfe Tone Society; we appreciated the significance of the events at the time, and tried to use them in support of our republican politicisation process.) Patterson covers most of the factors leading to the emergence of the civil rights movement, including the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster in the British Labour Party, though he manages to miss the role of Greaves and the Connolly Association, which had a a key role in the formation of the CDU. He recognises the complexities of the origin and role of the NICRA, with its republican and communist links, and treats critically the adventurist policies of the student ultra-left that led to the Burntollet events, subsequent to which in effect Civil Rights became confined to the Catholic ghettos. In this chapter we have a reasonably complete and concise overview of the complexities of the developing situation before August 1969.

The remainder of the book is in 3 chapters: ch 8 Northern Ireland from the Insurrection to the Anglo-Irish Agreement; ch 9 From Crisis to Boom: the Republic 1973-2005; ending with ch 10 Between War and Peace: Northern Ireland 1985-2005. The decision to invade the Falls with the B-Specials is blamed on Callaghan and the Home Office, on the basis that the had to exhaust local resources before calling in the troops. Thus originated the trigger for the subsequent decades of 'armed struggle'. There is scope here for more investigation: was the RUC 'intelligence' perhaps motivated by a perceived need actively to re-invent the IRA, and consciously to mislead the Home Office? The internment hit-list in 1971 was totally out of date and was an additional recruiter for the Provisionals, while crippling further the impact of the left-republican politicisers.

It is useful to have this account of the ensuing destructive decades, and it is done with creditable political insight. It is far too complex to summarise in a review. The politics of the SDLP and the evolution of Fitt; the emergence of Hume, Sunningdale, the discrediting of Mac Stiofain and the emergence of Adams, the eventual politicisation of the Provisionals... In the Republic we have the emergence of Conor Cruise O'Brien, Garrett Fitzgerald, Michael O'Leary, the re-emergence and eventual discrediting of Haughey, the interactions with Thatcher, Reynolds and the Downing St Declaration, the Democratic Left and its merger with Labour, the Nice referenda, and the economic expansion bubble, the flawed roots of which however Patterson fails to identify. Finally we get the peace process and the Good Friday agreement...

It is useful to have this summarised overview of all-Ireland history and politics, although it ends with a sense of unfinished business. One wonders at what point in the future it might be appropriate to produce an update, or a sequel, and who should be the target market. My own feeling is that there is a need to repeat this comparatively with various situations where somewhat similar tensions exist in the Balkans, perhaps using a collaborative partnership. The analysis of the many complex 'national questions' in, and around the fringe of, the EU seems to me to be high on the agenda, with a view to enriching the historical-materialist canon. I have however yet to identify a focus for such a process. Dare I hope that it might emerge from the analysis of the evolving situation in this small multi-cultural post-colonial proto-nation on the fringe of the EU?

Roy H W Johnston 03/12/2008, for Irish Democrat website.


Environmental Issues in Irish Politics

The Blame Game: Rethinking Ireland's Sustainable Development and Environmental Performance; Brendan Flynn; Irish Academic Press; 0 7165 3351 0 pb €27.50/£19.50; 0 7165 2839 8 hb €60/£37.50.

This important books sets the agenda for the current Government's Green component, in that it surveys in some depth the prior scene. Michael D Higgins TD in a foreword welcomes it as '...a model that is both possible and perhaps practical'.

In the author's introductory chapter stating the problem he gives many instances of how it is treated reactively and in confrontational mode: the persistent isolated rural housing pattern, with its total dependence on vehicular access to remote services; persistent predictable pollution issues; waste 'management' by landfill; institutional failure to adapt to the need to implement EU regulations. He shows how the emerging 'environmental policy software' does not run well on the Irish 'institutional hardware'. The pace of policy change is not matched by the rate of institutional reform. He argues for the need to replace confrontation by the analogue of the 'social partnership' model.

The author next does a comparative study between Ireland and a 'peer group' consisting of Denmark, Greece and Portugal. He charts greenhouse gas emissions per person, exposing the high Irish level and rate of increase, the latter being related to transport, dominated by the journey to work and lack of housing policy. He exposes the appalling waste record, with its incineration and landfill wars and recycling for export. Container re-use is derisory, compared to the EU averages in the region of 40 to 60%. In renewable energy uptake Denmark and Portugal are up in the 14% region, while Ireland remains at a derisory 2%.

In a chapter on the history of Irish environmental policy we encounter the foundation of an Taisce in the late 1940s by Robert Lloyd Praeger, followed by the Georgian Society in the late 1950s, concentrating on the architectural heritage. Conservation legislation in the 1960s was modelled on the British, under the influence of these bodies, which however got the reputation of being 'posh', and much of their conservationist attempts were nullified by political power vested in councillors to rezone in defiance of planning regulations, in a process accompanied by serious political corruption, currently the subject of tribunal enquiry, He goes on to cover the Carnsore Point anti-nuclear campaign, Lough Sheelin, Wood Quay, Moneypoint and Chernobyl, water charges, waste charges, fast-tracking and various other issues as they arose, most still being unresolved.

Analysing the flaws in the institutional 'hardware' Flynn homes in on the basic weakness of local government, and the regulatory ambiguity of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Reform of the EPA is said to be on the Green party agenda; we need to 'watch this space'. Implementation of EU directives is identified as a rapidly growing problem area, with a rapidly rising tally of European Court cases. many in the hazardous waste area. Taxpayers will be saddled with an increasing government need to buy carbon emission credits, due to the failure actually to achieve emission reduction in accordance with the Kyoto Agreement. The incinerator agenda has been in existence since 1998, but the Health Research Board only began to look into it in 2003. Separation of clean biomass combustibles in the waste stream at source, an obvious fuel resource for energy production, has never managed to emerge as a friendly alternative to mass waste incineration.

In his final chapter Flynn develops an outline reform agenda; this includes a proposal for an 'Environmental Partnership', modelled on the 'Social Partnership' approach, in which the environmental NGOs would be dealt with by negotiation rather than by confrontation. In this context the lobbying NGOs would develop away from simply resisting threats and towards arguing for benefits. There is also need for serious local government reform, especially as regards the corrupting effects of the rezoning process.

He falls short however of arguing for the implementation of the classic Kenny Report suggestions, of which he seems to be unaware: do a compulsory purchase order on land at the agricultural price, then rezone, and lease the land to urban users at rates such as to cover municipal services. This would capture the rezoning added-value for the community, instead of allowing it to be a windfall capital gain to landowners, with which to bribe councillors to get the rezoning decision, the current corrupt practice as symbolised by the infamous 'brown envelope'.

Despite these shortcomings, he does come up with a wide range of useful and valid policies, ranging from the revised planning of the electricity grid to the role of public transport, though in his support for biofuel development he fails to pick up the need for critical analysis of the actual sustainability of the various types of biofuel, and how they interface with agriculture.

On the whole, this is a useful source book for people interested in political reforms supportive of renewable energy, sustainable economics and avoidance of the catastrophic climate change effects with which we are threatened if global economics continues to develop in 'business as usual' mode.

Roy H W Johnston 29/08/2008, for Irish Democrat website.


NI Conflict Interventions

Intervening in Northern Ireland; Critically Re-thinking Representations of the Conflict; John Barry & Marysia Zalewski (eds); Routledge 2008; ISBN:978-0-415-37314-2 (hbk).

This book is the result of a workshop held in Queens University Institute of Governance which attempted to look critically at how the academic research community has been attempting to analyse the conflict problem.

There are 10 chapters, in two sections, the first attempting to address critically how the problem is structured, the second 'engaging the conventional specifics'. There is a preface by Elizabeth Meehan, who has a background in the Queens School of Politics and later the Institute of Governance, in which she stresses the need for innovative interdisciplinary thinking.

Marysia Zalewski (Queens; currently at Gender Studies, Aberdeen) is an ex-Catholic from Poland family background with an English accent; she was required at the start of her period in Queens to declare her background Catholic or Protestant: we are immediately plunged into the over-simplification implied by the 'two communities' concept. Her analysis of the NI Women's Coalition illustrates aspects of the gender issue lurking in the undergrowth.

Jenny Edkins (International Politics, Aberystwyth) attempts an analysis of the role of the intellectual in a period of change, with nods in the direction of Gramsci, Foucault and others; we have 'organic intellectuals' who try to make things happen, and 'traditional' ones whose job it is to stop them. Her illustration, in terms of 'cause and solution', of 'famines' in a global context, however I found unhelpful in the NI context.

Nick Vaughan-Williams (PhD student, Aberystwyth) is attempting to analyse 'borders' in a global context. He brings in a useful outsider's critical view, referencing Habermas, Foucault and Derrida; the European integration process is seen as relevant, and the 'two communities' model is questioned. He is critical of the 'unintelligibility factor' in academic analytical theory. He reminds us, with Derrida, of the role of the Border in setting the stage for the Troubles.

Fiona Sampson edits Poetry Review and has published in Macedonia and in Romania; she brings an interesting Balkan perspective into the discussion, which includes the role of the understanding of the meanings of words in a problematic political context, and the role of myth.

Alan Finlayson (Politics and International Relations, Swansea) has contributed to the analysis of 'New Labour' in Britain. He is critical of how academics define their 'problems' in the NI context, and how they claim to 'solve' them. He recognises the need for class analysis within the mutually hostile communities; poverty results from the need of 'capital' for a 'reserve army of cheap labour'; one senses a lurking Marxism, deserving more airing than it gets.

Ciaran O'Kelly (Law, Queens) explores the implications of the general lack of civic institutions within which an overlapping consensus might have been attained; basically the problem as identified at the time the NICRA was set up. He is however optimistic about the process of building civic consensus within the current power-sharing system.

Fidelma Ashe (Politics, U Ulster) attempts to develop the feminist angle, going into more NI-specific detail than Zalewski, exploring the obstacles to cross-community organisation for feminist objectives; agitation against withdrawal of free school milk after all need not be 'a Catholic anti-State protest'. The issues taken up by the Women's Coalition tended to be similarly constrained.

Kathryn Conrad (English, U Kansas) who has been secretary of the American Conference on Irish Studies since 1999, launches an important attack on the simplistic 'two communities' model, homing in on the 'queer' (gay and lesbian) community as generator of a 'counter-public' alternative to the 'zero-sum game'.

(The present writer can instance others, which the research community perhaps needs to explore, in particular the various specialist scientific communities, all of which to my knowledge are not only 'cross-community' but all-Ireland; likewise the Labour movement and the political Left, which still exists, though somewhat marginalised by the Troubles; the Greens are emerging also in this context, perhaps in the context of a left-green convergence; we shall see.)

Dominic Bryan (Irish Studies, Queens) does a deconstruction job on the 'community' concept, challenging the idea that they are necessarily a good thing, even if bottom-up; he takes the 'parading community' as an example. 'Culture', 'Identity' and 'Community' can all be positive but 'are clearly mechanisms of control'. He ends on a warning note: '...we are providing legal justification for social practices that inscribe the conflict and exclude people..'.

Margaret O'Callaghan (Politics and International Studies, Queens) alone of the contributors goes in some depth into the historical background, taking the academic community to task for their avoidance of 'deconstruction of partition lest it be seen... to substantiate the nationalist/republican argument...'. She homes in on the key episodes of modern history where Partition, basically engineered by the British imperial system, has left is with ongoing problems, simmering or at the boil: Ireland, Palestine, India.

This book should start a few critical hares; it is not for the faint-hearted; it deserves a serious place in the global Irish Studies libraries, and I hope the participants from Britain and the US will ensure it gets there. We need more analysis of the actors in the all-Ireland 'imagined community', the real Irish nation, which does not exist yet. It may yet emerge via the all-Ireland Green movement, allied with an emergent all-Ireland Labour movement; it would be unlikely to emerge via an all-Ireland Fianna Fail, or all-Ireland Unionism.

Roy Johnston, July 29 2008, for Irish Democrat website.


Gerry Fitt

Published in the July/August 2008 issue of the Belfast critical review 'Fortnight'.

Gerry Fitt: a Political Chameleon. by Michael A Murphy; Mercier Press, Cork 2007; ISBN 978 1 85635 531 5.

There is a foreword by Tim Pat Coogan, and I get a mention in the acknowledgments, for having made available the hypertext support system of my book 'Century of Endeavour'. RJ 16/04/2008.

This is an important book for anyone wishing to look for alternatives to tribalism in the history of the period from the 1950s to the 1990s. The author takes a hard critical look at the key events before, during and after the 'Troubles', and attempts to fit the evolution of Gerry Fitt into the context, in such a way as to explain the inconsistencies for which he earned the 'chameleon' label. A by-product is a critical look at socialism, nationalism and class politics.

The background history references the Larne gun-running (the Orange guns always come in first!); Cronin's 1956 IRA strategy of avoiding Belfast for fear of pogroms; the emergence during 1951-65 of National Unity, the New Nation and the National Democratic Party with the new wave of post 1947 Catholic university graduates; Conn McCluskey and the Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ); the setting up of the NUU in Coleraine rather than Derry; the funding, outside Belfast, of Catholic electoral registration by the RC Church.

Fitt. on entry into Labour politics, resorted to tricks to split the Unionist vote, cultivating Protestant working-class support. His electoral success in Stormont and in Westminster did not prevent him from supporting the 1916-66 celebrations in Belfast where he marched with the ITGWU. He addressed in 1967 an Irish Democrat conference in London which was aimed at the Labour movement, cementing his relationship with Desmond Greaves and the Connolly Association, whose Trafalgar Square rally he addressed.

On Connolly Association, Murphy's understanding shows signs of evolution; we first encounter the CA as a 'front organisation for the CPGB' (p98), which it had been decades previously, but by then it had evolved under Greaves leadership into a serious democratic lobby-group on behalf of Irish interests, and Murphy credits the CA with originating the 'civil rights' approach to the NI situation. Similarly on p114 we get the NICRA formation attributed to 'the amalgamation of the CSJ and the Northern Wolfe Tone Society (the Irish version of the British-based Connolly Association)'. Yet later on he picks up many insights from Anthony Coughlan and from my own work, which clearly identify the WTS as being of Dublin origin and at the root of the 1960s republican politicisation process, for which support for civil rights in the North was a central issue.

In 1988 Fitt retrospectively identified the January 1969 Burntollet march as being unnecessary and provocative, but at the time he had responded by calling in Derry for organised citizens' defence. The NICRA opposed the march, with a view to giving the O'Neill reforms a chance. Fitt increase his vote in the subsequent Stormont election. Later in Westminster, interaction with the newly-elected Bernadette Devlin was problematic, dominated by London-based ultra-left, leading to alienation of long-term supporters of Irish issues in the Labour Party. Fitt's account of what happened in August 1969 is accurate; he got through to Callaghan, who undertook to disarm the B-Specials, who had initiated the pogrom. Murphy gives a subsequent quote claiming that 20 IRA members were involved in the defence of the Falls; this however was from the Belfast Telegraph, a dubious source, given the Unionist interest in re-inventing the IRA as external enemy.

Fitt was however in contact with Dublin Government military intelligence in a bid to get arms for citizens defence, an acute short-term requirement perceived by all who felt under threat from the B-Specials. In this sense, he participated in the process that led to the rise of the Provisionals. Yet he had the measure of the Belfast IRA, and had little use for them. He broke from the Greaves policy of reforming Stormont, and supported the call for its abolition. He was thus somewhat at sea politically. Thus in August 1970 along with Paddy Devlin he went to the funeral of Jimmy Steele (who gave the keynote speech in Mullingar at the Barnes-McCormack funeral, a proto-Provisional rally. RJ). When the SDLP emerged shortly after this, Fitt became the leader, a position he felt was is due, as the Westminster MP, upstaging John Hume. He was however uneasy in the company with what he tended to regard as a Catholic bourgeois party, with roots in the earlier NDP. He did try to claim it as a socialist party (wishful thinking on his part). After Bloody Sunday in Westminster he supported Bernadette Devlin in calling for Stormont to be suspended, and the withdrawal of the British Army.

In the subsequent moves leading to Sunningdale Fitt was cautiously supportive, but felt the need not to press the 'Council of Ireland' issue: develop a power-sharing system first, postpone the Irish dimension. The Provisionals regarded him and the SDLP as 'collaborators'. In the 1974 Westminster election Fitt retained his West Belfast seat with a reduced majority, despite 'dirty tricks' by the Provisionals. Fitt was supportive of Labour, and counted on them to intervene against the loyalist 'strike', which he correctly identified as 'a fascist takeover and re-assertion of Protestant ascendancy'. He was critical of SDLP support for the Council of Ireland, which he regarded as 'likely to drive the Protestants mad'. This line of thinking led eventually to Fitt's break with the SDLP, and to his increasing dependence on the RUC for protection.

By mid-70s Fitt was still nominally SDLP in the Commons and had faith in the Callaghan government to restore a power-sharing government in Stormont; he warned of the Thatcher threat. His uncompromising attacks on Provisional violence gave rise to physical attacks on his house. Continued direct rule led to increasing alienation; Fitt fell out with Mason the NI Secretary; when Callaghan had increased the Westminster NI representation (thus enhancing the Tory vote) he became depended on Fitt for his vote; Fitt abstained, and the Government fell, bringing in the dreaded Thatcher. Fitt did however retain his seat in 1979, he managed to defend the use of PR in the European election, enabling Hume to get in.

Fitt's final break with the SDLP came at the end of 1979: the Atkins initiative for all-Party talks, which he had welcomed guardedly, were rejected by the SDLP on grounds of lack of all-Ireland dimension. Fitt now regarded the SDLP as having yielded to republican influence. From now on he was on his own, becoming the darling of the British gutter press; he lost his seat in 1983 and accepted a place on the Lords, courtesy of Thatcher. In this context in 1998 he welcomed the Good Friday Agreement. Austin Currie in 1999 in the Dail however suggested that Sunningdale had been a better deal, and had it worked as Fitt tried to make it work, many lives would have been saved.

***

I have tried to pick out the key points of the book; it needs placing in a European global context. Two factors are the European Left, with its Marxist dimension, and European nationalism, with its ethnic dimension. Fitt's career was perhaps a victim of the dichotomy between these two cultures. European Marxism has never come to terms with the national question, despite the efforts of Luxembourg, Gramsci, Carillo, Munck and others. Greaves made the effort in the Irish context, and his attempt to introduce civil rights into NI politics, as an opener for class politics, was via a conference initiated by the Belfast Trades Council in 1965. This had no sequel, and the foundation of the NICRA arose out of a Wolfe Tone Society initiative in December 1966, which had no organic link with the Labour movement.

The 'left-republicans' did their best to pull in some left-'Protestant' support via contact with the CPNI, and Betty Sinclair responded, but was left out on her own by Andy Barr and the Party leadership, constrained by their leading trade union situations. Marxist working-class solidarity existed in embryo, but the tribal barriers were such as totally to neutralise it. Later, when the situation was becoming more acute, the so-called 'international movement', in the form of Russian tanks, intervened in Czechoslovakia, and the Marxist left in Ireland, and in Europe generally, was stripped of whatever influence it had in the direction of 'worker solidarity'. I write 'Russian' rather than 'Soviet' because Stalin, emulating Bonaparte, had subverted the Soviet democratic revolutionary model into a Russian imperial system. Greaves, with his Connolly Association lobby for democratic reform in NI, tried to distance himself from this, and those of us in Dublin who tried to politicise republicanism via the Wolfe Tone Societies, tried to pull the aspirant Irish Left with us. We failed, and Fitt was one of many victims of this.

It is necessary to put the Irish situation in context, and compare it with Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and many other small fringe emergent nations on the fringe of the European system. There remains much to be analysed and much to be done.

Roy Johnston, 18/04/2008


Sean MacBride's Global Role

(submitted to the Irish Democrat, 31/10/2006)

An Irish Statesman and Revolutionary: the Nationalist and Internationalist Politics of Sean MacBride; Elizabeth Keane, Tauris Academic Studies (London & New York), 2006; ISBN 1 84511 125 7; £47.50HB.

Sean MacBride was a complex and elusive character, a biographer's challenge. Anthony Jordan's 1993 biography concentrated on his early IRA period and subsequent evolution into the Irish political scene, giving some coverage of his subsequent international career as an afterthought.

Catriona Lawlor's 2005 edited memoir, while being a useful source, is somewhat selective. The current book does justice to his later period, and makes a creditable attempt to analyse the factors governing his earlier political failure in Ireland, and how they influenced his transition to the international scene, where his achievements were significant and deserve to be celebrated. It is a pity the Lawlor publication did not arrive in time to get into the Keane sources, as she might have gained some additional insights from it.

Keane begins in the 1940s with the development of Clann na Poblachta, of which she suggests the policies were rooted in those of the European Christian Democrats, without MacBride admitting it. His first foray into foreign policy was the organisation of church-gate collections in 1948 to prevent a Communist landslide in Italy. MacBride's first acts on being elected to the Dail, and later when in Government, was to pay his respects to the Archbishop and place himself at his disposal. These letters are in the McQuaid archive and on Roebuck House rather than official notepaper.

Once in Government from 1948 MacBride in Foreign Affairs became somewhat decoupled from Clann policies, and he did not display effective Clann leadership, alienating many of his leading supporters. Keane argues that his attempts to internationalise the partition issue were mostly counter-productive, especially in the context of the External Relations Act repeal, and subsequent Ireland Act. India shortly afterwards became a Republic within the Commonwealth.

Referring to the partition of India, Keane suggests it was inevitable, glossing over the role of the British in actively supporting Jinnah and the Muslim League, and the arming both sides for the ensuing civil war. On the partition of Ireland she tends to defer to Cruise O'Brien and the 'two nation' concept, playing down the deliberate Tory-Orange armed conspiracy background. She does however criticise MacBride for projecting a somewhat catholic-nationalist irridentist image for the anti-partition movement, building up the 'Rome Rule' threat, though he did take up the plight of the Northern Catholics from a human rights angle, anticipating the 1960s developments.

She is also critical of MacBride's role in the US, and linking NATO with the anti-partition issue. Using CIA records she concludes that MacBride had grossly overestimated the importance of NATO, a global construct, in the context of the Partition issue, seen globally as minor and local. MacBride later came around to unconditional opposition to NATO, based on his subsequent experience.

The European dimension initially took the form of the Council of Europe, to which MacBride as Minister for Foreign Affairs send a delegation in 1948 (Senator James Douglas, Michael Tierney of UCD and Senator Eleanor Butler) which reported back to him positively. Irish participation followed, as did the European Court of Human Rights, which MacBride championed. There emerged also the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, which evolved later into the EEC. Much of this early international experience however remained dominated unproductively by the Partition issue.

The latter part of MacBride's spell in government was dominated by Noel Browne and the 'Mother and Child Scheme' issue. Keane covers this in a chapter of some complexity, which exposes the mutual relationships between MacBride, Taoiseach Costello and Noel Browne in such a way as to give little credit to anyone. MacBride had lost touch with his Party, Browne underestimated the importance of key cabinet meetings, while the Taoiseach cultivated the Archbishop. Keane gives tentative support to Peadar Cowan's suggestion that MacBride 'set up' Browne because he felt he was being overtaken in popularity. The net result was a triumph for McQuaid and a disaster in the partition context, as it confirmed the 'Rome Rule' image.

MacBride's period in Foreign Affairs however gave him the standing and the contacts which he cultivated in his subsequent career. The Makarios case in the European Court was a good start, and he went on to found Amnesty International. He later served as Secretary of the International Committee of Jurists, and then as UN Commissioner for Namibia; he chaired the International Peace Bureau which was dedicated to non-violent conflict resolution, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, and the in 1977 the Lenin Peace Prize for his Namibia work. The MacBride Principles were influential in the establishment of non-discrimination in employment by US firms investing in Northern Ireland. Controversial to the end, his enemies accused him of 'slippery political manoeuvrings', and working to please ghosts, including that of his formidable mother Maud Gonne.

Not a book for the general reader, at that price, but essential to any collection relating to the UN, Irish foreign affairs, the world peace movement and related matters.

Roy Johnston 31/10/2006.


Sean MacBride's Memoirs

The passages enclosed in [square brackets] were dropped from the version which was published in the Irish Democrat (circa May 2006), due to space constraints.

That Day's Struggle: a Memoir 1904 - 1951, by Sean MacBride; ed Caitriona Lalor,
Curragh Press, ISBN 1-85607-929-5, 24.99 euro; e-mail brian@currach.ie

We owe a debt of gratitude to Caitriona Lalor, who is Sean MacBride's literary executor, after having been from 1977 his secretary up to his death in 1988. I look forward to seeing the next volume, which will no doubt deal with his developing international role subsequent to 1951, in which context I came to know him directly. [In the period covered I had encountered him, viewed from below, during the flowering of the Clann in the context of the Inter-Party Government. I had been aware of some aspects of his earlier roles, through contact with George Gilmore, who was convinced that he was in line for the job of 'Quisling' Taoiseach had the Germans landed in 1941, as they might have done, given his leading role in the pre-war German-oriented IRA.]

According to his Memoir, he became 'caretaker' Chief of Staff in 1936, on the arrest of Moss Twomey. He presided over a movement in which a militarist element under Sean Russell was planning a war on England, and on the fringe of which a political left-republican element led by Peadar O'Donnell and George Gilmore were attempting to take up social issues. In this context the latter had been supportive of the 1934 'Outdoor Relief' agitations in Belfast, building bridges into Protestant working-class culture. They had succeeded in bringing a contingent from the Shankill Road to commemorate Wolfe Tone at Bodenstown. Fintan O'Toole on 28/02/06 in his Irish Times column mentions this episode, suggesting however that the Shankill contingent was the victim of Catholic-sectarian attacks from the IRA at Bodenstown, and that this was under MacBride's leadership.

[I had been aware of the 'Shankill at Bodenstown' episode in the context of the folk-memory of the Republican Congress, to which we in the student Left of the late 1940s looked for inspiration, but was not aware of any sectarian attack. Had this really happened, and been conveniently forgotten? If it did happen for real, and was not a case of 'creative reporting' by a hostile press, was MacBride Chief of Staff at the time? The dates require some stretching for Fintan O'Toole's version to be valid, and I hope this can eventually be cleared up by historians; there is alas nothing about it in the MacBride memoir, which suggests that in his 1936 leading role he was aspiring to take up the opportunities to 'go political' presented by the 1937 Constitution of de Valera.]

On the positive side, we get some insights into the details of what went on during the Treaty negotiations, with the delegation split between two locations, also on the role of Collins during the truce, when arms deals were attempted. He is critical of the Church for being in effect a British agent. He finds de Valera's non-participation in the Treaty talks incomprehensible, but does not hold him responsible for the Civil War. MacBride was in jail for the Civil War; he describes with relish an abortive escape attempt, involving a tunnel from Mountjoy. The aftermath of this involved prisoners being moved, and in this context he escaped, and spent some time on the run, during which he again became active in the IRA, at the level of arranging false passports for de Valera to visit Rome in 1924-5 and lobby the Vatican, along with Archbishop Mannix from Australia. During this episode de Valera developed his approach to founding Fianna Fail in 1926.

The death on hunger-strike of Sean McCaughey in May 1946 was the trigger for the founding of Clann na Poblachta, along with Con Lehane, Noel Hartnett and others. The steps leading to the 1948 Inter-Party Government are given; the hurdle of association with Fine Gael was dealt with by the selection of Costello as leader rather than the dreaded Mulcahy. MacBride stood over Browne for Health, and got his way; he felt however that Browne let him down by failing to attend Cabinet meetings. The issue of his relationship with Browne, and the role of Browne, gets a treatment which is somewhat subjective; there is no mention of any role for the Archbishop; he blames Browne for threatening to bring down the Government. It would be of interest to compare the Browne memoirs and the MacBride memoirs, and relate them to the contemporary records, and to the memoirs of others who observed the events.

This book is worth a read for the insights it gives into the complexities of the process of superposing a constructive political culture on people steeped in IRA militarism. It is however a long way from being a balanced historical analysis; one should not expect this of a memoir. I do look forward to the sequel, which I hope will do justice to the MacBride I knew via his UN work.

Roy Johnston 08/03/06


The Trouble with Origins

Books Ireland, circa February 2006

Northern Ireland: the Origin of the Troubles, Thomas Hennessey, Gill Macmillan, ISBN 0-7171-3382-6, £24.99/euro29.99

This book fails to address constructively the problem of what constitutes a nation. The author Thomas Hennessey takes as given the ethnic-nation model which is embedded in the British imperial culture, and is dismissive of the civic/economic model which tried to emerge in the 1790s under Enlightenment influence. The United Irishmen had a vision in which Protestant industry combined with Catholic commercial acumen would have been able to develop a modern economy, with food production in a land-reformed environment without parasitic aristocrats, in a Europe dominated by democratic republics. This the imperial-minded British saw as a threat, and they took steps to 'divide and rule', the Protestant Ascendancy principle being enhanced with the foundation of the Orange Order, and the Catholics emerging as a perceived threat to democracy thanks to the London-financed foundation of Maynooth College with the aid of emigre priests from France. Both these events took place in 1793.

This I would see as the 'origin of the troubles': the nipping in the bud of the inclusive Enlightenment democratic republican model. The decades after the Union provided an environment in which this cultural division thrived. Despite this, successive attempts to develop national movements of one kind or another all had conscious participation by progressive-minded Protestants.

Hennessey however dates his 'origin of the troubles' from O'Neill's attempts at reform. Partition he takes as a given. He has however done us a service by giving an account of the British and Northern Ireland Establishment's view of the developing situation; his sources are almost exclusively the State records and the mainstream media, mostly the Belfast Telegraph. Once a reader accepts this as the perspective, it is a useful book. There are also insights from the Dublin State papers, showing how the Republic reacted to the developing situation, for which they were quite unprepared. What is lacking however is any worms-eye view, from those who were attempting to influence the situation from below, though there is a nod in this direction towards the end, with some post-1969 comments from Goulding, O Bradaigh and others.

Hennessey sets the scene in terms of Protestant fundamentalism and the perceived Catholic threat, in which context the Lemass-O'Neill meeting was seen as Lundyism, triggering the rise of Paisley. O'Neill's softening of the line fueled the development of secret hard-line militant groups under Paisley influence. The 1966 Easter Rising commemorations were seen as an external threat. Attacks on British-related locations in the Republic were seen in the North as evidence of this threat; in fact they were the work of agents-provocateurs or of head-cases under their influence.

Hennessey treats the second-class citizenship of Northern Catholics as subjective, basing his researches almost totally on the Belfast Telegraph. He links this with a section on the IRA, based on Special Branch data from the Irish national archive: the September 1966 Army Council documentation found on Sean Garland. This, while indicating the extent to which the IRA was attempting to politicise itself under the influence of Goulding supported by the present writer, included also however a draft 'military plan' which had originated with Mac Stiofain. This bore no relation to the political plan; it contained evidence of Mac Stiofain's EOKA-influenced background and it certainly was not the policy of the IRA leadership as it was then, while approximating to what emerged later under the Provisionals. This juxtaposition however helped fuel the illusion of military threat during 1966, which the Special Branch in the North was then promoting.

The inclusion of this section on the 1966 IRA as a sub-section of a chapter on the Catholics in the North is irrelevant and misleading. A serious chapter on the attempted 1960s IRA politicisation process would have made more sense, and the present writer has contributed source material for such a chapter in his book Century of Endeavour (Academica/Maunsel 2003, Tyndall/Lilliput 2006). I could have helped Hennessey had he asked.

When we first meet the Republican Clubs and the NICRA, both however are dismissed as 'IRA fronts'. No credit is given for our then attempt to introduce republican activists to the procedures of civil politics, nor to the attempt to link the civil rights campaign with the interests of democratic organisations of Protestant working people; this is dismissed as fantasy. There is a coy reference on p111 to the 1914 civil war threat as a factor influencing politicians in Britain against taking any interest in Ireland; he could have explored this further and given us a run-down on the forces behind the 1914 Larne gun-running, as my father tried to do in his 1913 book 'Civil War in Ulster' (re-published by UCD Press, 1999). This is a more credible recent candidate for the 'origin of the troubles', if 1793 is seen as too deep.

He shows how the Wilson government attempted to persuade Stormont to implement local government reform, and how Stormont resisted, how the role of the B-Specials contributed to worsening the situation, and how the invented threat of IRA intervention was used by Stormont to feed British contingency plans for military intervention. The granting of police protection to the Peoples Democracy march that led to Burntollet was a trap which pushed the civil rights movement into the Catholic ghettos; the march succeeded in polarising all the communities it passed through.

Shortly before August 1969 the Young Unionists called for full use of the B-Specials as an alternative to 'weak and indecisive government'. The Silent Valley explosion, which left Belfast without water; was done by the UVF and blamed on the IRA, the objective being to overthrow O'Neill, who was replaced by his cousin Chichester-Clarke. B-Specials were used to 'protect' Catholic houses in Protestant areas, and to 'dilute' of the RUC; there was much concern as to how military intervention might be handled. I must say that from this chapter I gain a distinct impression that somewhere in the undergrowth there did indeed exist a 'committee' planning the August 69 pogrom, with a view to provoking re-invention of the IRA, being the enemy they needed to cement Protestant unity under the Unionist banner.

The August 69 events are covered as usual from official records and mainstream press, mainly the Telegraph. The sequence of events is correct; the NICRA in Belfast did attempt, under Gogarty's leadership, to organise a demonstration in support of McCann and the Derry activists, and this fuelled a Protestant backlash. This however was primarily PD and ultra-left influence; the republican clubs get no mention; there are however references to a 'concerted IRA insurrection' in the Falls area, which is subsequently exposed for the nonsense it was by the people's complaints that there was no IRA to defend them. Yet the RUC was so convinced by its false intelligence that they deployed armoured vehicles along the border. Hennessey however interprets the events as a fortuitous accumulation of acts based on false community perceptions.

The subsequent Cameron Report had impact on the development of hard-core Protestant opposition; the analogy with the role of the 'poor whites' in the US post-Confederate States is noted. Hennessey then goes in some depth into how the early Provisionals received active encouragement, including finance, from the Irish Government, key actors being Colonel Hefferon and Captain Kelly from the Army, and Haughey, Blaney and Boland in Government. The Fianna Fail government felt so threatened by the emergence of a political republican Left in the Dublin context that they were prepared to wreck it by funding the Provisionals.

Hennessey's analysis implicitly supports the idea that influential elements in both British and Irish Establishments, for different strategic reasons, collude systematically in acting to keep the traditional IRA in existence, as a means of preventing the emergence of an effective political Left, fit to unite working people irrespective of religion. Hennessey, from his ethnic-nation perspective, dismisses this as fantasy, but the evidence he presents suggests some trails to follow which lead in this direction. The full story has yet to be told.

Hennessey concludes with what he calls an 'ideological black hole': the question of the existence of an Irish nation. I would tend to agree with this. There are two aborted pseudo-nations: a 'Catholic' one and a 'Protestant' one. The key act in the abortion process was Partition, which was fuelled in 1914 by Tory gun-runners, in the context of what amounted to an anti-Liberal coup-d'Etat. British policy, pursued relentlessly since the 1790s, has been to prevent a unified inclusive Irish nation from emerging. It has been largely successful, reinforced in the context of the 'troubles' by disastrous decisions of people without political experience, like the PD's march in January provoking unnecessarily a Protestant backlash, and by the decision of the Provisional Army Council in 1970 to go to war against the British State, which under left-Labour pressure was in the process of encouraging the Stormont Government to introduce a range of reforms which would have begun to make an inclusive republican political campaign feasible.

Overall, this is an important book, which manages to come to some positive conclusions, despite its flawed philosophical perspective and almost total dependence on Establishment and mainstream media sources. It will be an important source-book for future critical analysis.


The Irish Ordnance Survey

Irish Democrat, circa March 2005

The Irish Ordnance Survey: history, culture and memory by Gillian M Doherty, Four Courts Press 2004; ISBN 1-85182-861-3, £40, 45 euros hbk.

MANY OF us have been aware of the importance of the Ordnance Survey (initiated 1824) as a pioneering scientific enterprise, and training ground for many who subsequently became famous in the sciences (Tyndall being perhaps typical in this context). Few however are aware of the role of the Survey in social and historical scholarship, though hints of this emerge in works such as Brian Friel's Translations.

The Survey engineers were accompanied by a group of roving scholars: historians, topographers, linguists, genealogists, who recorded what came to be known as the Memoirs. Only one of these sets of local memoirs, the one relating to the parish of Templemore in Derry, was ever published . This was widely welcomed, and created something of a political stir, to the extent that while the collection of the memoirs continued, their subsequent publication was suppressed. They remain however in the National Archive, and this book is an overview of the material, the tip of the iceberg.

Colonel Thomas Colby, the overall Director of the British Ordnance Survey, appointed Captain Thomas Larcom the Director of the Survey in Ireland, with a view to providing "...a foundation for statistical, antiquarian and geological surveys..." .

Larcom produced enlightened and comprehensive guidelines, his Heads of Inquiry being basically a manual for field workers. Among the latter were people with knowledge of Irish who were able to contribute to the understanding of the place names, one being John O'Donovan. George Petrie later became associated, producing papers for the Royal Irish Academy based on the memoirs which were emerging.

The topographical and genealogical work had to be defended against allegations of 'Popery and Monkery' from the Orange lobby, and Irish MPs were lobbied, with the aid of 'improving landlords' such as Adare and the TCD librarian Henthorn Todd, both of whom were associated with the movement to educate the landed gentry in the Irish language, the better to understand their tenants.

Thus the Survey project was seen by the emergent liberal intelligentsia as part of the Enlightenment movement, a step in the direction of the future good government of Ireland, based on an objective assessment of the nation's physical, human and cultural resources. It was however seen by the many of the ascendancy as a threat, whence he suppression of the publication of the Memoirs, many of which tended to focus on the local perceptions of the dis-possessions of the 1640s and 1690s. Most of the book expands on this aspect.

The topographical work was centred in George Petrie's house in Dublin ('Teepetrie'), where he used to meet with John O'Donovan and an extended group which included James Clarence Mangan the poet as well as Eugene O'Curry, Patrick O'Keefe, Thomas O'Conor and others. They grappled as best they could with variations in place-name pronunciations from native and settler sources. They perceived themselves as gatherers of the raw material for 'scientific history' in the Enlightenment tradition, as pioneered by Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886), and taken on board by Larcom and Petrie.

In this context many manuscript records were discovered, in the possession of descendants of dispossessed aristocracy; these have usually ended up in the Academy, forming the core of its collection: "...O'Donovan told Larcom how ancient manuscripts that once belonged to Ireland's literate elite were now damaged by damp and dust and rotted in the sooty cabins of their wretched descendants...".

Folklore was collected and recorded; archaeological relics were discovered, laying the foundation for modern archaeology; myths were demolished (like for example Vallencey and his association of round towers with fire-worship and oriental influences). The boundaries of ancient tuatha were established, from local lore. The high civilised status of early medieval Ireland, prior to the Viking invasions, was firmly established. Echoes of this were taken up in the Nation by Thomas Davis.

Much evidence emerges about the dynamics of language shift and its motivations in pre-famine times, as expressed in family and place names, in various socio-economic contexts. I quote:

"..Memoir research on Irish language, literature and folklore was part of a large scholarly effort to recreate Irish-language culture in English, to make it available to English speakers, Anglo-Irish gentry in particular, and to promote it as the basis of a unified, non-sectarian, non-political Irish identity..'. Petrie, supported by other prominent Protestant intellectuals, '..sought to foster a national identity that was Irish, Protestant and Unionist...'.

Lurking in the background however are the 'underground gentry' as documented by Kevin Whelan in his study of the dispossessed Catholic aristocracy, whose leading role remains embedded in local popular memory. The final chapter explores this in some depth, giving some insights into the bitterness of the current northern situation, where focused on land ownership.

Altogether this is an important pioneering work, which will be a trigger for much more research into the complex historical roots of Irish nationality.


The Land for the People

Irish Democrat circa February 2005

The Land for the People: the land question in independent Ireland, by Terence Dooley, UCD Press, ISBN 1-904558-15-1, 25 euros, £18.95 pbk

THIS BOOK is important in the context of the need to understand the current land question in Ireland, and its relationship with the historical roots of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail parties.

Basically it traces the work of the Land Commission from its foundation in 1881 up to the foundation of the State in 1923, and then follows its subsequent transformation into a tool for the consolidation of local political mafias, in a complex and convoluted process.

It begins to address the question of who the 'people' were who got the land, and how they relate to the wider concept of the 'Nation', taking a hard critical look at the classic Fianna Fail policy of attempting to maximise the number of viable 'family farms', in the light of both contemporary and retrospective experience.

It is difficult to do justice to the complexity of the issues in a short review; the best I can do is highlight a few focal points in the argument, like the perceived feeling in the Dail that they were actually reversing Cromwell's policy by relieving 'congestion' in the west by giving people the chance to move to land in the east taken from the despised 'graziers'.

Some movement from the west did take place, and many people got land, as a consequence of the division of the landed estates. But each episode was bedevilled by conflicting interests between locals and migrants, and the resulting patchwork of subsistence holdings was a long way from being a network of viable communities. The people who got the land were in fact a relatively small minority group within the nation, and mostly did not have the capital or the know-how to work it effectively.

It would have made much more sense if the land of Ireland had in fact been vested in the people of Ireland via the state, as Michael Davitt advocated, and then leased out to those who knew how to work it, preferably in co-operative groups in a position to take advantage of the synergies possible in large-scale operations.

Economic analysis done in the 1930s, by my father Joe Johnston and others, demonstrated that large-scale labour-employing commercial estates were about twice as productive per man and per acre than were the typical sub-divided Land Commission holdings. The analogy in industrial terms is to carry out an industrial reform in which every worker gets his own mini-workshop. No-one in his right mind would advocate this. Production is essentially a social process. Yet it was seriously thought by the early agrarian reformers that the alternative to the landlord-owned estate was subsistence peasant farming, with the consequence that during the war we were on the verge of starvation.

Dooley analyses how the Land Commission related to successive governments, and how the local Fianna Fail and Fine Gael mafias influenced land division policies, in such a way as to copper-fasten their local political support. Land in fact was used to feed a process of political corruption, and the people who got to own the land as a result are now in a position to perpetuate the process of political corruption, as a result of the current practice of allowing the added value on re-zoning to accrue to the land-owner, instead of to the local authority representing the community. Whence the universality of the culture of the 'brown envelope' in local politics.

The differing attitudes of FF and FG to 'undoing Cromwell's work' is illustrated by the fact that during the first decade, large farms in the west were moved east, and their land given to locals, while after 1932 local smallholders were moved in colonies.

The role of the Land Commission in fact came to an end after 1972, with the entry to the EEC; the price of land rocketed, and it became politically impossible for the State to buy it at the market price for a perceived social resettlement process, of which the economic value was increasingly being seen as questionable.

There is only one passing reference to Horace Plunkett and likewise one, unrelated, to the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society; in neither context is there any reference to the existence of the co-operative movement. The way the land reform went has resulted in the vision shared by Plunkett and George Russell, and also by James Connolly in his Reconquest (see the Ralahine chapter), being totally forgotten, to the extent that an important book like this can, in effect, write the alternative co-operative vision out of Irish history.

Historians of the co-operative movement (Bolger and others) have done their stuff, but the problem of how to integrate an individual family farm culture willingly into a synergistic bottom-up reconstruction of a productive large-scale commercial managed estate remains with us. The 'land ownership' culture imposed by the Land Acts remains with us, to blight our food production system.

This book however will help us to understand how the rural political mafias work, and in that context it is welcome and should be read.


Violence and Negotiation

Irish Democrat circa January 2005

Bric, Maurice J and Coakley, John; From Political Violence to Negotiated Settlement; UCD Press, 2004; ISBN 1-900621-84-3; 25 euro, stg£18.85.

This book has contributions mostly from academics in TCD, UCD, UCC, QUB and UU; it also has a paper from John de Chastelain, an active participant in the process. It has a foreword by the Taoiseach, in which he compliments UCD and its Institute of British-Irish Studies for running the conference on which the book is based. The introduction by the co-authors/editors gives an overview of the historical background, touching on the issue of the nature of the British 'constitution' and its built-in Protestant hegemony. This opens up the issue of what is the nature of a 'constitutional' party, as seen from the European democratic republican perspective. They usefully remind us of the origins of 20th century militarism in Ireland: the 1912-14 period of Tory-led armed conspiracy.

Maurice Bric (UCD) continues with a historical overview of public protest movements from 1760 to 1900, homing in on Parnell, Davitt and the IRB and their relationship with Protestant opinion, the latter tending to be associated with the national cultural revival movement. In his conclusion he draws attention the weakness of British historiography, in the extent to which it marginalises the role of Ulster in their paradigm. This aspect is developed by Ronan Fanning (UCD) who treats the 1912-14 Home Rule crisis, reminding us firmly in his introduction that it was the Tories who introduced the gun to Irish politics in the 20th century. The sectarian nature of the British State was revealed in the attitude of the king and cabinet to the 1908 Eucharistic Congress, held in London, a ritual procession of cardinals being, in effect, banned. The way the emergent partition concept was handled indicated the existence in ruling circles of a anti-catholic mind-set rooted in the origins of the English nation centuries previously. It seems that there was even an undercurrent of welcome for the 1914 European war as a means of avoiding the spectre of 'civil war in Ulster'. He fails however to pick up any feel for the Protestant liberal support for all-Ireland Home Rule, which did exist, and was exemplified by my father Joe Johnston's 1913 book (re-published by UCD Press in1999), which exposing that very threat. This suggests the continued existence of catholic-nationalist blinkers among some UCD historians.

The period 1913-1923 is covered by Michael Laffan (UCD), under the title 'triumph and containment of militarism'. We are reminded of the extent of the broad-based support for Home Rule, underlining the failure of British constitutional democracy under the Union to accommodate Irish interests: in 1913-15 eleven out of twelve candidates in Irish by-elections were returned unopposed. The emergence of a military dimension however was inevitable, with the combination of the Larne and Howth gun-runnings, and the differential attitudes of the British authorities to these events. Some problems underlying the treaty and the civil war are stated; these were rooted in aspects of militarist elitism, but remain unresolved.

Paul Bew (QUB) in his chapter on 'Moderate Nationalism, 1918-23' suggests starting-points for several further inquiries into the respective roles of Stephen Gwynn (Redmondite MP for Galway 1906-18), Father Michael O'Flanagan, Sergeant Sullivan, Sir John Anderson and the 'Anderson group' in the Castle, and Erskine Childers. The latter, it seems, when on the run in 1921, was on occasion sheltered by Anderson. The implications of this are staggering and need to be teased out. Was moderate nationalism un-partitioned seen by the British as a greater threat than militant nationalism undermined by partition and civil war? Why was Childers, who was acting for Lloyd George in 1917 at the time of the Convention, in 1921 supportive of de Valera and the processes leading to the civil war? I can see echoes of this in the origins of the current 'troubles': why did they leave Sean Mac Stiofain at large in 1969, to undermine the politicisation of the republican clubs in the civil rights context, and arrest Malachi McGurran the leading republican politiciser? These are difficult questions, but in the end historians must face them. Pardon my digression, but Bew is to be thanked for uncovering an interesting Childers-related nugget.

Eunan O'Halpin (TCD) teases out the interactions between the republican movement in its various phases with the geo-political scene as it evolved after world war 1, and later in WW2 and the subsequent cold war. We have links with Bolshevism and Nazism successively, but neither of these global forces had much feel for Irish political realities, and post WW2 evolution was internal and without significant influence by outside forces. British intelligence-gathering was so obsessed with the cold war that they ignored the trouble brewing in their own back yard.

Alvin Jackson (QUB) traces the development among the Unionist establishment of a cult of the period 1912-14 as a 'foundation myth', with Paisley playing Carson to Molyneaux's Craig. He omits to remind us that the April 1914 Larne guns came from Germany, though he does characterise the episode correctly as a 'coup'. While Carson later helped his biographers to generate his own mythology, it was Craig who master-minded the political genealogy going back to William III and the earlier Scottish Covenanters. He mentions in passing the Howth gun-running, suggesting it was 'contemporaneous'; it was of course subsequent; this error is in conflict with a key objective of this book, which is to highlight the role of the Tory-Orange coup as the trigger for militarism in the 20th century. He usefully reminds us of the wealth of resources deployed in support of the coup: cutting-edge Edwardian technology like motor transport and film, indicating access to serious upper-crust imperial resources.

Joseph Ruane (UCC) develops a somewhat blinkered catholic-nationalist view of evolving republican strategy. His view of 1798 totally ignores the role of Protestant leadership and its Enlightenment roots. He goes on to interpret the 1960s uniquely in terms of Catholic mobilisation, and August 1969 as basically communal in nature, despite the evidence if its being initiated by the forces of the State. The chapter is somewhat redeemed by his analysis of the process of recognition of the process as a 'war' rather than 'terrorism', and the development of the peace process.

Paul Dixon (UU Jordanstown) contributes an interesting analysis the the tactics of contemporary Unionism in support of the retention of their hegemony. He reminds us that Northern Ireland is not accepted in Britain as part of an emergent 'British nation' as are Scotland and Wales, and that an all-Ireland national identity is widely accepted within Ireland. He analyses critically Unionist insecurity and loyalist backlash processes. I feel I should add as a comment that I have encountered Unionists who were republican in the British context, who traced their ancestry to 1798 and the then objective of a federation of republics in Britain and Ireland. This is indeed a political domain to be explored, in the context of the increasing irrelevance of the English monarchy.

John de Chastelain is the only non-academic contributor to the publication, providing a welcome insight into the realities of the current situation. One can wryly remark that the slowness of the peace process, as seen from his perspective, has given him plenty of time to chronicle its progress. His report is clear and objective; he reminds us that his key role is in the avoidance of the perception of defeat or surrender in the minds of the protagonists, and issue with which Ian Paisley at the time of writing has difficulty in coming to terms. This is a useful chronology of the events up to the time of writing, July 2003.

John Coakley (UCD) in a final chapter overviews the book as a whole, in an assessment of the legacy of political violence, in which he adumbrates a comparative approach, both in European and in post-colonial contexts. In Ireland he stresses the relatively non-violent nature of the 19th century as compared to the 20th, giving a context for Pearse's eccentric approbation of the Orangeman with the rifle. The overall mortality 1969-2002 was 3471, 2055 being due to republicans, 1028 to loyalists and 368 to security forces. In the European context the comparable figures for the Basques and for Cyprus are respectively 500 and some figure in the range 1600-6000. The figure from Bosnia is 200,000 and Chechnia 72,000. The figure for Iraq (among the Kurds) is 180,000 - 200,000, with a further 5,000 -9,000 in Turkey. Numbers in Africa and Asia are much greater. He attempts to map a path away from the culture of violence, but I found this disappointing, as nowhere does he advance the idea of people uniting and working together in the common interest irrespective of religious or ethnic background, this being the classical founding concept of Irish republicanism, rooted in the Enlightenment. This approach we tried to re-develop in the 1960s, via the civil rights movement, which picked up significant Protestant support via the trade union movement, especially on the issue of the property franchise.

Introducing the gun served to keep the people divided on ethnic and religious lines, and to prevent the development of genuine common-interest politics, based on realisable objectives. This aspect needs more research attention than it is getting from the current academic community, who seem largely to have accepted as given the 'divide and rule' categories imposed by imperial interests. At both ends of the century, the gun was introduced from the Orange side, in order to retain a religious/ethnic hegemony. Those who responded with the gun, in the perceived interests of Irish nationhood, did exactly what the imperial strategists wanted, and helped to prevent the emergence of a united Irish nation with a positive role for those of Protestant culture. There are many more issues here to be teased out, and hopefully this book, when read critically, will be a stimulus.


Essays in honour of Brian Farrell

Irish Democrat circa October 2004

Dissecting Irish Politics: Essays in Honour of Brian Farrell, Tom Garvin, Maurice Manning, Richard Sinnott (eds), UCD Press, ISBN 1-904559-12-7, 272pp, 40 euro, £30, hbk

THIS BOOK starts with an assessment of Brian Farrell as a political scientist, teacher and broadcaster by Maurice Manning, who identifies his 1971 Chairman or Chief book analysing the role of the taoiseach as his most important work.

Tom Garvin analyses the roots of Irish politics in the Civil War. Garrett Fitzgerald gives a critical assessment of Chairman or Chief. Michael Mills assesses his role as the first Ombudsman.

Eleven other authors have contributions on the Boundary Commission, De Valera and democracy, civil-military relations, taxation, European governance, the prehistory of the Irish party system, referendum funding, electioneering practice, parliamentary lobbies, the print media and broadcasting.

This is a useful source-book for political activists, with competent indexing.

We are reminded in the Manning's introduction of Farrell's status as the Richard Dimbleby of Irish TV, and interviewer who was '..terrier-like, especially when faced with prevarication, evasion or spin.'. His academic work included a biography of Lemass and The Creation of the Dail, the latter being based on a series of Thomas Davis lectures. Tom Garvin (politics, UCD) in his background to the Civil War goes into the historical roots of the Irish political elite in the Fenians and the IRB. He reminds us that the Ulster loyalists, who introduced the gun to Irish politics early in the last century, were aided in 1914 by the imperial German government. He suggests that Collins' support for the Treaty was influence by his understanding of, and linking for, the English leadership with whom he was negotiating, an experience which de Valera did not share.

He notes aspects of the Civil War, such as the intransigence of the women, the family divisions, the destruction of the prior solidarity, the consequential descent into parish- pump politics married to the post-British state apparatus, and the inability of the successor generation to have any insight into the north when it erupted.

Ronan Keane, currently 26-county chief justice, gives some insight into how Tim Healy as governor-general was influential in getting the Free State to accept the status quo after the collapse of the Boundary Commission. He mentions marginally some interesting nuggets, like a plot detected by Countess Markievicz to marry off Collins to the King's daughter Princess Mary, and install him as Viceroy. He evaluates this as a 'flight of fancy', presumably in a scene dominated by rumour.

Peter Mair (comparative politics, Leiden, Netherlands) does an interesting 'posthumous rehabilitation' job on de Valera, of which Desmond Greaves would perhaps have approved: a uniquely long career by European statesman standards, extending from the Great War to the Vietnam War, including the 1932 peaceful transition of government, his positive role in the League of Nations, and his 1937 Constitution which could easily have become a licence for dictatorship.

We are reminded of the slim chance of emergent States between the wars surviving as democracies, in a traumatised Europe. Mair enumerates the positive features of the 1937 Constitution, which far outweigh its Catholic majoritarian flavour, particularly the role of the President and the Supreme Court. We need more comparative European studies, and indeed comparative post-colonial studies, as an antidote to Irish insularity.

Theo Farrell (Essex, international relations), analysing the culture of the Irish army, comes up with a model which is internally inconsistent, with traditional military and guerrilla traditions in conflict, a situation which he describes as suicidal.

Garrett Fitzgerald (currently chancellor of NUI) emerges as chairman rather than chief; the latter role is more that of Haughey. He has positive things to say about ministerial advisers from outside the civil service, and is critical of the patronage process, especially as regards membership of state boards.

Niamh Hardiman (UCD, politics) has critical things to say about how taxation adapts to changing economic environments, homing in on the 'interior' problem and on the evasion schemes which thrived under the Haughey regime.

Michael Mills (first Ombudsman; previously Irish Press) successfully defended his office against savage staff cuts in 1987, and went on to set up a viable and significant service with regional contact-points, which the civil service has had to respect, initial resistance having been overcome.

Brigid Laffan (UCD, European politics) gives some insight into the complexities of European politics: '...nested games within each member-state and connected games in Brussels..'. All member-states need 'Brusssels insiders'. The growing importance of the European parliament remains unperceived within the Irish system. She expands at length into the Nice referendum re-run and the reversal of the outcome, and its significance.

John Coakley (politics, UCD) goes back to the 19th century for the roots of Irish party political culture, seen as pioneering in European terms.

He goes in detail into the religious dimension. The Catholic-Liberal link was stronger than the Protestant-Tory one; in the undergrowth of the Protestant community lurked the embryonic Protestant support for Home Rule which my father Joe Johnston attempted to mobilise with his 1913 Civil War in Ulster, which was produced in time for the Ballymoney Liberal Protestant Home Rule rally in November.

The introduction of the gun by the Tories at Larne in April 1914 strangled this process, reinforced the sectarian divisions, and prevented the emergence of Labour and socialism as a mainstream political force, as it had done on the Continent. The divergence of Ireland from the European norm is of course related to the colonial to post-colonial transition process, and Coakley manages to avoid this issue.

Richard Sinnott (UCD, politics) explores the implications of the McKenna Judgment regarding funding of referendum campaigns, expanding on the anomalies presented when there is virtual unanimity on the need for change at Dáil level, and an organisational vacuum as regards 'no' funding. He promotes an equitable system involving Dáil proportionality.

David M Farrell (Manchester, European politics; editor of Party Politics) gives a historical survey of the evolution of party practice, as between constituency and national levels, uptake of market research results, activism on the doorstep etc.

Stephen Collins (political editor, Sunday Tribune) credits John Healy in the Irish Times and 7 Days in RTE with transforming the role of the media in politics, and goes on to credit Frank Dunlop in 1982 with telling the assembled correspondents that he could no longer guarantee the truth of the information he gave them. The concept of the 'prebuttal' emerges (getting your retaliation in first). He notes the decline in significance of Dáil coverage and the rise of 'spin'.

Jean Blondel (Essex, government) attempts an analysis of the relationship between raw 'facts' and the implications of their background, their relative importance, the need for interpretation. This is a philosophical, abstracted contribution, at the European level.

Finally Peter Feeney (RTE public affairs) gives a historical overview of broadcasting, the political interference problem, and the impact of the Northern Ireland crisis, especially the role of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. He goes into the rise of local radio stations and their political impact, which was significant; they were used by politicians though initially they were illegal.

Overall we have what amounts to an interesting an important festschrift, in honour of a significant contributor to Irish public affairs.


Ulster and Scotland

Irish Democrat circa December 2004

Ulster and Scotland 1600-2000: history, language and identity, William Kelly and John R Young (eds), Four Courts Press, 55 euro hbk, ISBN 1-85182-808-7.

THIS BOOK will be of interest to people wishing to enhance their understanding of the Ulster Protestant cultural background, especially as regards the actual and perceived linkages with Scotland.

It treats the historical background as regards movements of peoples in both directions across the North Channel, links between Derry and Glasgow, Scottish links of Ulster Unionists. It goes in some depth into the emigration patterns, covering the emigrations to America, New Zealand and Scandinavia, the latter being of importance during the 30-years war period. The New Zealand experience is interesting, in that unlike the Scottish, who tended to preserve their identity, the Ulster emigrants abandoned the Ulster identity and developed a British imperial one, but with a democratic, anti-aristocratic ethos, presaging an emergent New Zealand national flavour.

The final section on language and literature treats the relative roles of Irish, Gaelic, Scots and English as they evolved over the centuries. James VI/I consciously tried to integrate Scots with English, but the former survived in the undergrowth, reaching its peak with Burns, but scarcely survived the subsequent Burns cult dominated by the anglicising bourgeoisie, until perhaps rescued by Mac Diarmuid, though its current status is open to question. Scots and English are as close as Danish and Norwegian, or Spanish and Portuguese, so that Scots is perhaps validly on the Scottish political agenda, in a role supplementary to Gaelic.

John R Young (University of Strathclyde) goes in some depth into the 17th century background and the perceived identity of the first wave of planters, who were mostly Scots-speaking radical Presbyterians, in dispute with the established Church, falling foul of Charles I and Wentworth in 1639 with the Covenanters, in opposition to the 'Black Oath'.

Young is silent on the question of how Scottish and Ulster politics related to those of the emergent English republic; there remains work to be done here. There were problems in Scotland post Restoration: "...for the ...Stuart administrations, a London-Edinburgh- Dublin axis... attempted to monitor the activities of rebels and dissenters..".

In his treatment of the Williamite war we get some feel for the European scope of that episode, but perhaps not enough. Post-war migration from Scotland to Ireland was motivated by famine in Scotland. He goes in depth into the extreme variability of the perceived identity of the Ulster Scots, in contemporary documentation: "distressed Irishes..Scots-Irish... British in Ireland... British Protestants... French Huguenots and Irish Protestants... the Scottish Nation in the north of Ireland...".

Graham Walker (Queens) gives some insight into the Scottish dimension of unionism, which was primarily motivated by a perceived need to disrupt the unitary vision of emergent Irish nationality. They countered the first Home Rule Bill by resurrecting the Scottish link in numerous publications, which fuelled the subsequent anti-Home Rule Covenant.

There is however no mention of the Larne gun-running, which introduced the gun into Irish politics and subverted the constitutional Liberal Home Rule process, in what, in effect, constituted a Tory-instigated coup d'etat.

Unionist historians tend conveniently to forget this; I took this up with R B McDowell recently, in the context of my comments on his book on the 1917 Convention, in the background to which he mentions the subsequent Howth gun-running but conveniently passes over the Larne. He chuckled and said that the guns from Larne went to the right people.

In other words, Unionist historiography is dominated by conscious acceptance of the role of the Larne gun-running as a valid Tory imperial blow against Home Rule, seen as the first step in the dismantling of the Empire.

Mairtin O Cathain (University of Ulster Inst. of Scots Studies), in his treatment of the Derry-Glasgow link, picks up some Protestant republican and labour threads, and support for Home Rule and the Land League. Glasgow gang sectarianism existed as an a-political undercurrent. John Hume's grandfather was a Presbyterian stone-mason. On the whole an episodic and inconclusive contribution.

Jock Philips, a New Zealand historian and encyclopedia editor, contributes a comparative study of the Scottish and Irish immigrants to New Zealand; they make up an important part of the population. He finds that the Scottish more conservative of their identity, being united by a common Presbyterianism, while the Irish identity was split between the three main religions.

The Catholic group preserved its identity and became influential in the Labour movement, but the others were split between the Protestant denominations, and tended to blend off into an English-oriented background culture, in which however they tended to identify with an emergent New Zealand identity, better than Britain because "... more democratic, less elitist and free from the pretensions of upper-class toffs..".

Patrick Fitzgerald (Irish Migration Studies, Queen's University Belfast) treats the 1690s migration from Scotland to Ireland and to America; this turns out to have been primarily famine-driven.

Steve Murdoch (University of St Andrews) goes into the influence of the 30 years war and the consequent development of Scottish colonies in Scandinavia and the Baltic.

There was much Scottish participation in the Protestant armies of northern Europe against the Hapsburgs. The Baltic colonies were trade-driven in part, but contained also an element of Calvinist utopianism. There were marriage links, between Scottish colonial families of the diaspora, connecting Ireland with Scandinavia. Later interactions seem to have been divided between Williamite and Jacobite loyalties.

Kerby A Miller explores the 'Scotch-Irish' tradition in New England. While, initially, the motivation was harassment by the established Church in Ireland (rather than by the Catholic dispossessed); subsequently the French Catholics in Quebec were seen as the threat.

Towards the end of the 18th century they tended to accept an Irish identity, in response to the inclusive Enlightenment republican politics of the time, a key philosopher being Francis Hutchinson, the 'father of Scottish Enlightenment'. The differentiation into 'Scotch-Irish' identity came later as they bourgeoisified and needed to distinguish themselves from the 1840s Famine immigration wave.

Michael Montgomery (University of South Carolina) traces the historical evolution of the Scots language, which replaced Latin as the language of government in the 15th century but had lapsed from the written record by about 1700, though it persisted as the vernacular, in which context it staged a revival with Burns and the 'Rhyming Weavers' in the period 1780 to 1860.

A prose revival in the local press began from the 1850s, and is currently showing signs of expansion at the literary level. He gives a European perspective via the 'lesser-used languages' network, where it has recognised status, but is prepared to concede its image problem and dubious status.

Richard Findlay (University of Strathclyde) goes into the question of Scots in greater depth in the inter-war period, analysing the role of MacDiarmuid, who led the revival after switching his support from Gaelic. There was an awareness of the role of language in Norway, whose language differs from Danish by about as much as Scots does from English. He is very critical of the Burns cult, supporting MacDiarmuid; "sham bards for a sham nation... the occasion for a sermon or an excuse for a dram..".

The issues remain unresolved, with the 'nationalism vs socialism' dichotomy lurking in the wings, a phenomenon not unknown in Ireland.

David Horsburgh (Arts and Humanities Research Board Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies) explores the political identity of the Scots- speaking community in Scotland and Ulster from 1545 to 1760. He suggests many further areas of research, particularly in the area of how Scots managed to maintain its differentiation from English in spite of the factors generating conformity. The Scots-speakers were undoubtedly a distinct entity in a struggle usually seen as anglo-saxon vs celt.

Finally Alan Titley (St Patrick's College Drumcondra) compares and contrasts the rural autobiographical narratives available in Irish and Gaelic He concludes that the Scottish Kirk was much more destructive of the native culture than was the Catholic Church in Ireland. Popular culture in Ireland accepted as positive the national project, while in Scotland it tended to support the British imperial project uncritically.

We are left with a sense of unfinished business, and a sense that Titley needs a rejoinder from Scotland, and some critical voices from Ireland, perhaps to look into the role of English-speaking priests in the Gaeltacht.

It is good that the cultural dimension of Ulster Protestantism is receiving some scholarly attention. It deserves more than to be identified with the Orange Order, triumphalist marching and related fascist-like pursuits.


Expanding our understanding of Irish landlordism

Irish Democrat 04? when?

Parnell and his Island by George Moore, introduced and edited by Carla King, UCD Press (Classics of Irish History series), ISBN: 1-904558-16-X €17.00 £13.20

THIS SERIES of edited reprints includes PS O'Hegarty's Victory of Sinn Fein (1924), my father Joe Johnston's Civil War in Ulster(1913), Arthur Griffith's Resurrection of Hungary (1918), and Ed Hagan's recent evocation of Standish O'Grady's To the Leaders of our Working People, published originally by James Larkin in 1914.

I had encountered echoes of George Moore in Mayo in the 1960s, when walking over the remains of his Moore Hall estate (the house was burned in the civil war) in the company of politicising republican colleagues, and picked up a positive local folk-memory.

I had read one or two of his novels, and picked up the feel for Zola naturalism which according to Carla King he consciously pursued, but had not seen him as a contributor to the understanding of Irish political and social history. This book fills that gap in my understanding. It is indeed a serious contribution to the understanding of the Land League period; it has been neglected hitherto because, like Horace Plunkett's ill-fated 1904 Ireland in the New Century, it did not comfortably conform to the nation-building mythology.

Moore was living in Paris in the 1870s on the rent from his estate, collected by his uncle acting as his agent; he was an aspirant artist and poet, cultivating the company of Verlaine, Manet and others. In 1879 he was advised to come home and deal with his own affairs, as his uncle found the serving of eviction orders uncongenial, and was concerned to preserve his life.

This book is a fictionalised version of Moore's ensuing cultural shock; it served to re-orient his career towards writing, at which he subsequently earned an honest living, in the Zola tradition. This book, and another, A Drama in Muslin are serious contributions to our understanding of Irish landlordism, the Land League movement, and, indirectly, some of the social and political pathologies of the Irish national movement as it subsequently emerged.

The totally parasitic nature of Irish landlordism comes over as the main message. It gave no service to the tenants in return for the rental. The tenant farmers for their part, were also exploited by the small-town gombeen-men, who sold them provisions retail, and bought their raw intermediate output products wholesale to sell on. Home Rule politics was dominated by small-town gombeenism, and Moore depicts insightfully the characters concerned.

In the environment as described by Moore there is no way in which surplus value generated by local agriculture could be transformed into capital for investment into local industry based on adding value to local food production, as happened in Denmark thanks to the co-operative movement. This movement, initially promoted by a tiny handful of more enlightened landlords, like Plunkett and O'Grady, who saw this as the way forward, was widely rejected because of gombeen political influence and perceived landlord leadership.

Moore does not allude to this, because the Mayo picture he saw was totally parasitic; this no doubt influenced Davitt in his rejection of Plunkett. But in order to understand the intrinsic weakness of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (IAOS) and Davitt's rejection of it, and the failure of Irish development economics to follow the Danish path, it is useful to have read Moore.

Carla King has done us a service in helping UCD Press to resurrect this book, which incidentally was originally published in French, and then subsequently translated into English, in a bowdlerised version, which was rejected by Irish critics. His description of the clergy and the local Land League leadership is earthy and worthy of Zola, while his treatment of the landlords and agents is scathing. He saw no good in the scene, and chose to distance himself from it, being now remembered mostly by his authorship of books such as 'Esther Waters' (1894). George Russell in his obituary (1933) of George Moore hailed him as "...one of the most talented and unfilial of Ireland's children...".


ATQ Stewart

Books Ireland circa Oct 04

From the United Irishmen to Twentieth Century Unionism. ed Sabine Wichert, Four Courts Press 2004, ISBN 1-85182-811-7 (255p, price 55 euro).

This book is a 'festschrift' in honour of the 75th birthday of historian ATQ Stewart, author of numerous scholarly studies ranging from The Ulster Crisis (1967) through his 1981 Carson biography, his 1993 analysis of the origins of the United Irishmen The Deeper Silence to his recent Shape of Irish History.

It could in a sense be said to be a celebration of basically Unionist scholarship, representative of a reflective and intelligent Unionism, which however has not yet come to terms with the 'greater Unionism' of the rest of Irish scholarship, which now tends to look to the European Union, thereby differentiating itself from the micro-Unionism of post-colonial Britain.

Stewart's Unionism however is full of interesting paradoxes. There is a lurking suggestion that the Presbyterian republicanism of the 1790s was at heart Unionist, in that it was part of republican movements in England, Scotland and Wales, which if they had succeeded would have led to a federal republic of these islands. Wolfe Tone would have been familiar with this aspiration. Stewart himself, however, according to Arthur Aughey (UU, Jordanstown), rejected the label 'Unionist', dismissing ideological labelling as over-simplification, never being concerned whether what he writes might please Hume or Paisley. He argues that 'there is no misunderstanding between Protestant and Catholic... they know each other only too well, having lived alongside each other for four centuries... it is not a clash of cultures, it is a culture in itself..'. Stewart's profound skepticism about the applicability of rational Enlightenment culture under Irish conditions presents a challenge needing to be taken up creatively by those trying against the odds to build Irish democracy.

We have some interesting insights into the relationship between the radical Belfast merchants of the 1780s and 90s and the slave trade, from Nini Ridgers (Queens). Mary O'Dowd (Queens) concludes that elite women in Ireland in the 18thC had more access to the mechanics of political influence that their counterparts in England or colonial America.

From Marianne Elliott (Liverpool) we have an analysis of the Kent 'treason trials' of 1798 which enables some evaluation of the potential of 'federal union' republicanism, and throws light on the complexities of the French connection, in which context Wolfe Tone was far from being the sole operator. Allan Blackstock (UU) gives an insight into the relative roles of the conservative Anglican clergy and the radical Belfast Presbyterian businessmen, using a comparative biographical treatment of two examples, respectively William Richardson, who claimed to be in on the foundation of the yeomanry with Orange collusion, and William Tennent, an active United Irishman who was imprisoned at Fort George in Scotland. He follows their subsequent careers; the former became a crank agricultural innovator, the latter a stalwart of the Chamber of Commerce and the Linen Hall Library. These contrasting careers represent '..a paradigm for the divisions within Protestantism: rural Anglicanism is set against urban New Light Presbyterianism..'.

We have an analysis by Peter Jupp (Queens) of the life and times of Patrick Duigenan, an ultra-Protestant ex-Catholic MP, who was a source of many parliamentary arguments against Catholic emancipation, on various grounds related to intrinsic disloyalty, '...mostly specious or wrong..'. One can see here the roots of Protestant insecurity based on the perceived need to defend a basically indefensible ascendancy situation. From George Boyce (Swansea) we have the life and times of AV Dicey, a 'moral force' Unionist with a sense of European-style nation-building, who found himself ill-at-ease with the processes that led to the Larne gun-running.

Diane Urquhart (Liverpool) gives us the life and times of Theresa Lady Londonderry, who with her London salons was a significant channel of influence between Carson and the Tory Establishment, in the lead up to Larne gun-running time. This leads on to a somewhat rambling discourse by Owen Dudley Edwards (I can almost hear his voice when reading it!) on Carson, Marjoribanks (his authorised biographer) and Oscar Wilde. The connection is of course Carson's role in the first of the Wilde court-cases, and conflicts between Marjoribanks' hagiography and the work of subsequent more critical biographers. This chapter deserves close study, again for the embedded paradoxes in the Protestant relationship to the emergent Irish nation. There is a 'what if' hint: might Carson have emerged as a Parnell successor but for the role of the Bishops? Carson had a good relationship with Redmond. Marjoribanks, who was gay, committed suicide in 1932. Here is much food for thought, and trails to be followed by scholarship.

Paul Bew (Queens) revisits some ideology issues related to the 1912-14 Ulster crisis. He devotes much space to the perceived problem of Catholic hegemony, on the basis of local government experience; there is also a perceived Irish language dimension. This chapter is broadly based on Steward's Narrow Ground 1977 publication. Alvin Jackson (Queens) analyses the history of militant loyalism subsequent to Partition, including the problems faced by O'Neill in the liberal reforming context. Carson got his State funeral in 1935, having attended the unveiling of his statue at Stormont in 1933; the hawks of 1914 were celebrated as the founders of the State. Yet the 50th anniversary in 1964 was celebrated separately by O'Neill and Paisley. According to Jackson, '...Paisley's commitment to the militants of 1914 was more than rhetorical..' and he goes on to suggest a shadowy link between him and the current generation of loyalist militants. He goes on the treat the Vanguard, the UDA, the response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and then finally the current Belfast Agreement of 1998 (by which the Good Friday Agreement is known in Unionist circles, such being the need for differential perceptions and associated labelling!).

Marc Mulholland (Oxford) attempts to answer the question 'why did Unionists discriminate?', under headings Triumphalism, Anti-Catholicism, Social Prejudice, Populism, Cabals, Security, Sectarian Electoral Geography. This chapter confirms all we were aware of when we attempted to develop the non-violent Civil Rights approach in the 1960s. His Cabals section records episodes which I personally witnessed and interacted with: the diversion of the University of Ulster from Derry, and the resignation of the distinguished town planner Geoffrey Copcutt over the imposition of sectarian political geography on Craigavon. The 1965 Irish Association Whitsun meeting was planned for Derry on the theme 'Planning a New University', and I was present. The Coleraine university location came as a bombshell; the conference was planned as a welcome for the development of Magee College. Many people subsequently associated with political developments were present, including John Hume and Ivan Cooper. Later, on the Craigavon issue, I remember encountering Copcutt at an event organised by the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society.

There is no question that the Unionist discrimination was the basic fuel for the 1960s attempt by the republican movement to 'go political'. Missing from the analysis however is the main factor which nipped this process in the bud: the August 1969 armed pogrom by the B-Specials. Was this a 'cabal' job? Who organised it? Was its primary motivation to stimulate the re-invention of the IRA in military mode? Was there a relationship with the group which organised the 1964 Silent Valley job, with similar intent? August 1969 succeeded brilliantly, and triggered decades of mayhem. I look forward to future insights into who comprised this cabal, or these cabals. Were they, perhaps, the fire behind the smoke that obscured Sean McPhilemy's ill-fated Committee (Roberts Rinehart 1998)?

A final chapter by Richard English (Queens) attempts to set an agenda for Unionist intellectuals in Northern Ireland, developing a secular and inclusive unionism, transcending ethnic and religious boundaries. This attempt, to my mind, founders on the rock of the problem of what is meant by Britishness. He fails totally to project any sort of vision appealing to Protestants living in Ireland. An obvious one is on offer, and I can commend it to him: to develop the Irish dimensions of Protestant culture, in the context of the European Union, and forget about the type of imperial intellectual garbage embedded in the British label.

Roy Johnston, rjtechne@iol.ie, Sept 23 2004


De Valera and the 'Black Fifties'

Irish Democrat, circa July 2004.

De Valera's Ireland, ed Gabriel Doherty and Dermot Keogh (Mercier Press) and Ireland in the 1950s, ed Dermot Keogh, Finbar O'Shea and Carmel Quinlan (Cork University Press). Both titles 15.95 euro pbk.

DERMOT KEOGH is the Modern History Professor in University College Cork. Both books are the products of a project funded by the Higher Education Authority which is aimed at increasing public understanding of the post-independence period, under the general title 'Culture Contact: Nation and State'. Both involve contributions by many authors, some of whom lived through the periods described. De Valera's Ireland lacks any notes describing who the authors are; though many are well-known to contemporary readers, some are not. This deficiency is made good in the second title, Ireland in the 1950s.

Owen Dudley Edwards gives many useful insights into the US background and contacts of de Valera, some of which help to explain the many paradoxes and contradictory aspects of his character. He takes the Kennedy 1963 address to the Dail as his starting-point, using it to develop arguments about the League of Nations, neutrality in the war and partition. He goes into Woodrow Wilson as role model, the origins of the Irish Press, and the relationship with the Hierarchy. He credits Dev as the "...saviour of Ireland from fascism..." and "...containing political Catholicism which elsewhere in Europe facilitated a slide or a capitulation to totalitarianism...", keeping at bay "...the sinister threat ...posed by Professor Michael Tierney, seeking an Irish version of Mussolini's doctrine integrated with the papal encyclicals...". As he says in his last line: "...it demands much further study".

Sean Farragher gives a somewhat bland account of Dev's relationship with Blackrock College. More substantive is the next essay, by Dermot Keogh, who tries to assess Dev's role in the civil war, between the hagiographers and the demolitionists. Demolitionists appear to dominate currently, if the Michael Collins film is a good indicator, but Keogh suggests that Dev's militarist rhetoric, identified by some demolitionists as a trigger, was in fact due to misreporting. The conduct of the war was largely outside Dev's influence, though he did manage to have a hand in bringing it to an end, after Liam Lynch's death, in the context of his replacement by Aiken. As elsewhere, there remain unanswered questions.

Tom Garvin deals with the civil war aftermath. He addresses the question of the status of the Treaty: was it an ignoble defeat or a workable compromise? He pulls no punches in describing the sources of the bitterness arising from the civil war; these dug deeper than those of the Parnell split. The cost of the war was of the order of a quarter of the GNP, equivalent to about 9B euro today. It contributed to the strengthening of Partition, and the further alienation of the northern nationalists, while confirming the unionists in their hegemony. Finland had a ferocious civil war in 1918, in which 25,000 were killed, yet protagonists were sharing government by 1937. Garvin concludes that "...a crippling of Irish public political culture occurred (with) an exaggerated reliance on Church and central State structures..." which faded only in the 1960s "...as a general social pluralism began to melt the sociological glaciers generated by the 'great freeze' of the post Civil War period."

Ged Martin in his chapter 'de Valera Imagined and Observed' has a few gems; after some time with Lloyd George, Smuts, Midleton and others, for example John Gunther who noted that de Valera was not a citizen of the country he ruled, picked on Hitler and Stalin as parallel examples. Keynes on the other hand in 1933, in a UCD lecture critical of 'laissez-faire' economics, expressed sympathy with Fianna Fail self-sufficiency, though he regarded the wheat policy as "insane". Gunther however had come to Dublin primed with negative experience from Europe aflame with petty nationalisms and their leaders, found de Valera "alert, interested and courteous...". Martin concludes with an insightful comment: "...the civil rights movement of the mid-1960s suggested that Northern Ireland could be destabilised far more effectively by Catholics trying to get into (it)...than ... to get out of it...".

Catriona Clear surveys the scene from the angle of the women's movement. There was more overt feminism in the epoch than is currently given credit for, with the writings of Maura Laverty and Dorothy Macardle to be reckoned with, and the work of formidable trade unionists like Louie Bennett, who addressed the 'servant problem' by a proposal to develop a vocation with good hours and pay, as a respected social service.

Brian Kennedy has some critical things to say about the Arts Council, which was set up under Dev in 1951 and initially concentrated its support on drama and music, the visual arts being seen as 'big house' stuff and not part of the national tradition. In 1956 its director PJ Little was replaced by Sean O Faolain, under Costello, despite opposition by JC McQuaid. O Faolain however initially took a somewhat narrower view, and helped focus opposition to the introduction of television. He did subsequently attempt to mobilise opposition to the destruction of Georgian Dublin in the late 50s.

John McGahern's recollections of the 1950s in Dev's Ireland are mostly positive, despite the banning of his books. He recollects the "freemasonry of the intellect, with a vigorous underground life of its own that paid scant regard to Church or State". Brian Walker contrasts commemorations and identities, north and south. The Armistice Day commemoration in the early1920s was initially a shared memory, but Easter Rising commemorations subsequently emerged and invoked a ban. Dev in the 1930s used St Patrick's Day to emphasise the 'Catholic nation' concept. Walker, writing from a Protestant perspective, succeeds in stating the problem of how commemorations relate to perceptions of national identity. Gearoid O Crualaoich invokes cultural nationalism, via Herder, Hyde, Yeats and others, taking Dev's speech inaugurating RTE as point of departure.

There is more meat in Gearoid O Tuathaigh's 'cultural visions' chapter, linking the early vision of the Gaelic League with the more modern Gramscian Marxist radicalism of Mairtin O Cadhain. The book concludes with a paper from Garrett Fitzgerald in which he attempts to lay to rest the concept of 'civil war politics', while emphasising the divisive nature of Dev's politics regarding the North.

On the whole, I found this an unsatisfactory book from the angle of providing an overall assessment of the role of Dev, though it can be mined for various critical glimpses of aspects of the solution to the problem of national identity in our divided country. The political division has in fact largely, thought not totally, prevented the emergence of a genuine inclusive national identity, and it can be said that partition has been a nearly-complete success, from the standpoint of its Tory architects. It remains to be seen if there remains enough momentum to enable a unified national identity to be regenerated from the resultant wreckage.

Turning to Ireland in the 1950s, we have here 17 papers, basically the proceedings of a conference held in February 2001 in Cork. Dermot Keogh's introductory overview defines the Censorship Board (at which they used to laugh in the 1960s, regarding them as 'small-minded ignoramuses') in fact as being 'reactionary ideologues, who knew exactly what they were doing. The country had to be protected from outside influences and liberal tendencies, and from liberal tendencies within our own borders. Free thought is dangerous...'.

Irish Times literary editor and art critic Brian Fallon's view of the 1950s, while personal and anecdotal, gives quite a positive impression of much going on, despite the censorship, in a lively literary and critical underground. Dermot Keogh (UCC) gives a detailed scholarly analysis of the processes that led to the abandonment of the Blaskets. Gerry O'Hanlon (CSO), Enda Delaney (QUB) and Tracey Connolly (UCC) cover different aspects of the emigration process which dominated the decade. There was a strong 'establishment' view that it was a necessary 'safety valve' without which society would be under threat.

John Bradley (ESRI) analyses the role of 1930s protectionism which persisted throughout the 1940s and laid the basis for the disastrous 1950s economic performance, with insights from Keynes' 1933 Findlay Lecture in UCD. The latter gave apparent support to Dev's policies, but added many qualifications in the small print which turned out to be dominant. The Whittaker policy revision in the late 1950s opened up the republic to globalising capital, with Ireland well placed to take advantage of the US-originating investment boom, as analysed in European terms by Servan-Schreiber. This in the Irish case had the consequent of decoupling Irish trade from its total dependence on Britain, and our subsequent accession to the EEC. Alternative policies, as contemplated by the Irish Left at the time, would have resulted in Cuban-style isolation, and were a long way from being politically credible.

Andrew McCarthy (UCC history) goes into the history of the health services, particularly the issue of the problem of how emigrants fell victim to TB, and whose fault it was; the British blamed the Irish and vice versa. People living in Britain in crowded conditions, who had not had a primary infection in Ireland generating immunity, were particularly at risk. Catriona Clear (UCG) contributes a feminist angle on the conditions of domestic servants. Sandra McAvoy (UCC) analyses the abortion question, touching on James Ashe, the Bishops, the TCD Medical School, Nurse Cadden and the back-street service industry, as well as the emigration trail.

Irene Furlong has established something of a reputation as a historian of Irish tourism, in Maynooth. She has positive things to say about the environment which encouraged the emergence of the B&B as the mainstay of the industry, and critical things to say about the environment which impeded the early initiatives like an Tostal, such as the opposition of the Archbishop to things like Joyce's Ulysses, O'Casey's Father Ned and Tennessee Williams' Rose Tattoo. The stop-go attitude to civil aviation on the Atlantic was also a negative factor. Maurice Fitzgerald, a UCC graduate now in Loughborough, analyses diplomatic relations between Ireland and the US in the 1950s; these became strained towards the end of the decade with Aiken's attempt to get China discussed in the UN. US diplomats in Ireland tended to be of rather poor quality. The Kennedy visit to Ireland in 1963 was in return for the O'Kelly visit to the US in 1959. Linda Dowling Almeida (NYU) contributes a paper on the culture of Irish immigrants in New York. She remarks on the domination of the 50s immigrants by the county associations, and on the lack of mutual recognition between the 50s and 80s immigrants.

James Ryan and Liam Harte attempt to cover the experience of emigrants to Britain, both commenting adversely on the lack of literary attention, despite the best efforts of a handful which included Donall Mac Amhlaigh. There is an implied attempt, perhaps unconsciously, of the Irish literary establishment to write the emigrant experience out of Irish literary history, though the authors, by digging, do find some. Finally, there is an analysis by Dermot Keogh of the emigration and attitudes of the Jewish community in Ireland to the state of Israel. The problem of recognition of Israel came up in Sean MacBride's time, and it is interesting that the main concern was the issue of access to Jerusalem and the holy places, rather than the problems posed by the violent dispossession of the Palestinians.

These books are part of a process which some have condemned as 'revisionism', but increasingly this negative 'labeling and dismissing' is being seen as irrelevant, as useful additional insights emerge from which we can learn.

De Valera on the whole comes out more positively than might have been expected by some. He does not fit into the standard historical pattern which generated Cromwell, Napoleon and Stalin in post-revolutionary situations. We still have to get a serious in-depth critical biography. He managed to keep 'Eire' out of the war, and he managed to contain the influence of McQuaid within bounds which gave Protestants room to survive and contribute to politics, as indeed did my father Joe Johnston. The latter was a Carson critic in the 1910s, a Free State supporter in the 1920s and a severe Dev critic in the 1930s and 40s, in the Seanad and elsewhere, and yet served his final term in the Seanad up to 1954 as a de Valera nominee*.

Some insights into the life, times and political evolution of the reviewer's father can be found in his book Century of Endeavour, published by Academica/Maunsel in the US, and distributed by Lavis in Oxford. Some overview notes on it can be found on the reviewer's website at http://www.iol.ie/~rjtechne/ where it heads the political group in the table of contents.


Ireland and Post-Colonial Theory

(Ed) Clare Carroll and Patricia King
The foregoing is the complete version of a review submitted to the Irish Democrat for its October 2003 issue; the print version may have got edited down, but the practice is to publish in full on the web-site. RJ August 2003.

This book, published in 2003 by Cork University Press, is a collection of essays on the theme, with an afterword by Edward Said, the Palestinian guru of the domain who is based in Columbia University, NY. It is ground-breaking, in that it provides a serious academic source for comparative study of the Irish colonial to post-colonial transition in the global context, as an alternative to the European. In the latter context some historians have tended to overlook the colonial aspect of the Irish experience.

Clare Carroll (New York City University) in her introduction invokes Declan Kiberd, who in his Inventing Ireland was influenced by Said and by Franz Fanon, whose damning analysis of the Algerian situation was published in 1961. Joe Cleary (NUI Maynooth) attacks the cultural dominance of the 'modernisation' concept, which he identifies with European imperialism, contrasting the post-colonial approach which suggests that '...Irish nationalism can only be understood contextually as the complex outcome of local interactions with an aggressively expanding imperialist world economy..'.

David Lloyd (whose location the editors regrettably omit) comes up with a pungent definition of colonialism, in the aftermath of which he identifies Ireland as '...a bourgeois post-colony... a conduit of neo-colonial capital..'. He offers some comparisons between Ireland, India, Ghana and Algeria, and some insights into the development of the industrial proletariat in the North-East predicated on the colonial social relations. Clare Carroll in her specialist essay goes deeply into the medieval background, starting with Gerald of Wales, and offering comparison with native American history. Luke Gibbons (Notre Dame) offers a critique of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment, contrasting the emergent inclusive philosophy of the United Irishmen, as exemplified in the practice of Lord Edward Fitzgerald in his dealings with the Iroquois at Detroit in 1789.

Kevin Whelan, who directs the Notre Dame outstation in Dublin, offers an analysis of 'Modernism' in literary terms, distinguishing a 'right' modernism associated with Eliot, Pound, Lewis, and a 'left' modernism with Beckett. Joyce, Brecht. He delves with some subtlety into the influence of the Famine. Seamus Deane, also now at Notre Dame, analyses the post-Famine language switch, including the posthumous influence of O'Connell, referencing Friel's Translations, and with some Algerian comparisons. We also get direct Indian input from Amitav Ghosh (expatriate in CUNY), relating to the 1857 'Mutiny' and the second world war, when the Indian National Army sided with the Japanese.

A paper by Joseph Lennon (Manhattan College) on Irish Orientalism brings out the complexities, ranging from the fantasies of Vallencey in the early RIA, through Mahaffey and his Primitive Civilizations to the Yeats-Tagore connection. Gauri Viswanathan (also Columbia) rediscovers the poet James Cousins, whose work at Irish literary revival-time is in many anthologies, but vanished from the scene after 1915, when he went to India under the influence of Annie Besant. There he stayed, becoming an educational reformer, promoting the scientific study of geography, after falling out with Besant over his support of 1916.

Edward Said in his afterword decidedly gives the Irish post-colonial project his blessing, invoking Friel, Fanon, the post-Yugoslavia crisis, Palestine-Israel and South Africa. His inclusive model for post-Israel politics welcomes the emergent Israeli critical historical scholarship.

This compilation is indeed a positive input, from mostly US-based scholarship, to the historical understanding of the evolution of Irish culture, resulting from the work of active Irish Studies centres. The missing element, if I may repeat in print what I suggested to Kevin Whelan when the Notre Dame outstation was set up, is the culture of technical competence: science and technology. There was a tiny nod in that direction in the mention of geography in the Cousins context; this is of course the queen of the systems sciences. There is also an echo in Friel's Translations, which is rooted in the Ordnance Survey. There is a mine of 'colonial to post-colonial transition' stuff waiting to be worked over, in the Proceedings of the RDS and the RIA. Post-colonial discourse is its natural home. May it prosper.


Standish O'Grady and Socialism

Review: To the Leaders of Our Working People, Standish O'Grady, ed EA Hagan, UCD Press 2002, pb ISBN 1 900621 41 X stg£12.65 17 Euro.
Irish Democrat, possibly October 2002

Ed Hagan, who is Professor of English at Western Connecticut State University, and a stalwart of the Irish Studies community in the US, has done us a service by resurrecting a series of articles written by Standish O'Grady during 1912-13 in Jim Larkin's Irish Worker. He has rescued O'Grady from the image imposed on him by Yeats and others, that of a romantic quasi-feudal visionary, and placed him firmly in the progressive anarchist tradition of Kropotkin, and also that of Owenite Utopian socialism, as exemplified in the Ralahine commune described by Connolly in Labour in Irish History.

Mainstream Marxist thinking, which is now beginning to address the problem of the genesis of the repressive role of the State under Stalin, ignores these traditions at its peril. It could be argued that a socialist economy, if it were to exist, would consist of a free market inhabited by an ensemble of producer-owned communes, run by elected boards of managements, and using advanced productive technologies. In such a situation the State would not be a player but a referee, imposing rules governing quality and environmental control, long-term sustainability, spatial strategy, co-operative credit, contracts and so on. O'Grady foreshadows this with his vision of giving the Dublin unemployed and their families the option of re-locating to centres of 'rural civilisation' in a decentralised economy under co-operative ownership and management.

His classical background informs his tendency to regard the Greek city-states as models for his communes, and to regard the emergent Irish nation as a 'commune of communes', rather than a centralist State on the British model, dominated by capitalist principles. He was opposed to violence, and regarded the worker-owned commune as 'the form of human organisation most likely to escape capitalist hegemony' (Ed Hagan). He looked to the trade union movement as a means of organising to provide the means of co-operative investment in productive resources. The key political act would be the Trek of overcrowded Dubliners re-colonising the underutilised surrounding land. He supported the expansion of technical education, and learning by doing.

There is unfinished business in relating O'Grady's ideas to Connolly's; my guess is that they are closer than Hagan gives O'Grady credit for. Connolly did not 'seek violent confrontation', as Hagan suggests, he was forced into the situation where he felt there was no alternative, and the key agent was the World war. Nor, to my mind, is it fair to O'Grady to use the term 'feudalism' to describe his decentralised vision, as Hagan does, though to be fair to Hagan, O'Grady used the term himself on occasion, with a connotation implying 'small-scale local community throwing up its own accepted leadership' rather than warlords. He had the Greek city-state in mind, and this after all was the cradle of democracy, where it managed to avoid the war-lord mode.

The notes include references to contemporary activists who have been forgotten, like JW Petravel (1870-?) who promoted co-operative communes using Christian sources, and WR MacDermott (1838-1918) who wrote about south Tyrone in 1902 in The Green Republic. My father Joe Johnston was also a co-operative activist from about 1913 and I now recognise O'Grady influences in his writings, which I am currently editing, from this period and later. For this I must thank Ed Hagan.



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