Irish history

Rendezvous in Northern Ireland?

Martin McGuinness shaking the Queen's hand offended socialists because of our contempt for the institution of monarchy but his motive at least was progressive, and also republican in the sense defined by the founder of modern Irish republicanism Wolfe Tone — “to replace the name Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the common name Irishman”.

In a hugely symbolic moment on 27 June, during a royal visit to Northern Ireland to mark her jubilee, the former commander of the IRA shook hands with the Queen.

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An Irish Trotskyist Programme for Irish Unity (1948)

This leaflet was produced by the Irish Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1948. A section of the Cannon-Pablo-Mandel Fourth International, the RSP had adopted the politics of the Workers Party USA, the Shachtman organisation. The “coalition” referred to is the Dublin government formed after the the February 1948 election in the 26 Counties by Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and the National Labour Party. It replaced De Valera's Fianna Fail, which had been in office since 1932.


Fine Gael takes hostages

This leaflet was produced by the Irish Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1948. A section of the Cannon-Pablo-Mandel Fourth International, the RSP had adopted the politics of the Workers Party USA, the Shachtman organisation.

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Martin McGuinness

Author: 

Gerry Bates

Martin McGuinness became a revolutionary, by his own lights, as a teenager, and ended his life as a bourgeois minister in a political system he had vowed to shun. He died on 21 March, only a couple of months after resigning as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

The underpinnings of Irish national-communal division, the poisonous Partition structures which Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66, set out to fight remain entrenched.

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Irish Republicans part 6: Republicanism and the left

By Thomas Carolan

In our survey of the history of Irish Republicanism we have reached the point beyond which the story is that of the emergence of the Provisional IRA/Sinn Fein in the last month of the 1960s and the first month of the 1970s — of the Catholic revolt in Northern Ireland which preceded that emergence and gave the Provisional IRA a mass base of support and sustenance for a war that would last 23 years (1971-94) and end with something like a deferred victory for the Provisional IRA.

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Irish republicans part 2: The gunmen in power

Thomas Carolan continues his series about the history of Irish republicanism

"Ireland occupies a position among the nations of the earth unique… in the possession of what is known as a physical force party - a party, that is to say, whose members are united upon no one point, and agreed upon no single principle, except the use of physical force as the sole means of settling the dispute between the people of this country and the governing power of Great Britain…

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The past, present and future of Irish republicanism

By Thomas Carolan

"Ireland occupies a position among the nations of the earth unique... in the possession of what is known as a physical force party - a party, that is to say, whose members are united upon no one point, and agreed upon no single principle, except the use of physical force as the sole means of settling the dispute between the people of this country and the governing power of Great Britain...
"The latter-day high-falutin hillside man exalts into a principle that which the revolutionists of other countries have looked upon as a weapon, and in his gatherings prohibits all discussion of those principles which formed the main strength of his prototypes elsewhere and made the successful use of that weapon possible.
"…Every revolutionary movement in Ireland has drawn the bulk of its adherents from the ranks of disappointed followers of defeated constitutional movements…
"Their conception of what constitutes freedom was in no sense changed or revolutionised: they still believed in the political form of freedom which had been their ideal in their constitutional days…"

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James Connolly: An Spailpin Fanach

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

An Spailpin Fanach

(Phrases in italics are James Connolly's)

Young nightsoil man who shovels human shit
Left in the streets for such as you to lift,

James Connolly 1868-1916

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The Emmet Conspiracy

By Jack Cleary

The romantic 19th century song lamenting "old Robert Emmet, the darling of Erin", is still widely known and sung today - two hundred years after the public executioner hanged the 25-year old Emmet, cut him down alive, disembowelled him, and then chopped him up before a gawping crowd in Thomas Street, Dublin.

It was the last terrible act in the drama of the first Irish republicans, the United Irishmen.

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The left and the revival of Irish Republican militarism: Why Eamonn McCann is wrong

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

Parables for Socialists 17

P was a member of the Army Council of the IRA, its supreme authority, and would soon be a founder member of the breakaway “Provisional” IRA. He had been regaling us with an account of the ridiculous stories which the then leaders of the IRA, Republican Stalinists, had given to the Army Council as explanations for their inability to organise the defence of Northern Ireland’s Catholics during recent (August 1969) pogroms, which it had taken the deployment of British troops on the streets of Belfast and Derry to stop.

The revival of Irish Republicanism brings the issues discussed in this article, originally called "Eamonn McCann, Trotskyism and Irish Republican militarism". From militarists to Marxists? Can Trotskyist politics help Irish Republican militarists achieve their goal of a united Ireland?

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