The INLA stands down


There’s no mistaking what today’s big news is. Here’s the IRSP statement read out in Bray:


The INLA and IRSP were formed in 1974 in order to create a 32 County Socialist Republic. In those 35 years military volunteers and political activists have fought with courage and honour and have struck at the heart of the British military and political machine in Ireland and in Britain. The INLA is a key constituency within the Republican Socialist Movement (RSM). The INLA recognised that its struggle was based upon two distinct phases:

(1) Armed Resistance
(2) Political Organisation

In 1994 the INLA put in place a no first strike policy and in 1998 called a complete cease-fire. Both of these decisions were based on its political analysis and monitoring of the changing military and political environment. The recent progress on loyalist decommissioning can be traced back to the INLA’s “no first strike policy” of 1994 and the INLA acknowledges this progressive step by loyalism.

The RSM has been informed by the INLA that following a process of serious debate, consultation and analysis, it has concluded that the armed struggle is over and the objective of a 32 County Socialist Republic will be best achieved through exclusively peaceful political struggle.

The RSM agree with this analysis and are fully supportive of the move to build a left wing party that has a clear objective of a 32 County Socialist Republic based on the principles of equality, justice, inclusion, human rights and dignity.

It is within the above objective that the RSM opposed the Good Friday Agreement and continues to do so. We as a movement believe that the Six County State is not a viable political entity, which cannot be reformed and fitted into a flawed two State solution.

The RSM has always aspired to the principle of the primacy of politics as espoused by Ta Power.

The future struggles are political. We urge all comrades, members, volunteers and supporters to join the political struggle ahead with the same vigour, commitment and courage that was evident in our armed struggle against the British State.

To para-phrase James Connolly ‘let us arise’, build a left political alternative in Ireland and support the struggle against global capitalism.

Ultimately our allegiance is to the working class, onwards to victory.

This has been some time coming, and has been foreshadowed by discussions at IRSP ardfheiseanna in recent years. It hasn’t so much been a question, though, of whether the INLA would be formally stood down – it’s been largely inactive for a long time – but the modalities of it. As readers will know, republican organisations have always, well at least since the initial breach between the IRA and Sinn Féin circa 1925, had to negotiate the inbuilt tension between the party and the armed wing, or Group A and Group B if you prefer. In this case we should probably add Group C, the ex-prisoners’ group which has come to wield significant influence.

Informally, IRSP members have been clear for a long time – and this has been heard in the meetings they’ve been holding in Derry, Strabane and elsewhere – that the armed wing was essentially redundant, and there was no basis for a return to armed activity. There remained, however, the small matter of persuading the armed wing of this, which was complicated by some of the essentially criminal elements who had got in over the years. Added to that, although the peace process provides incentives for armed groups seeking to politicise, a small group like the INLA has limited bargaining power. The two governments say no deal has been done, but I expect there has been some kind of understanding, even if only a negative one based on the need to dump weapons before the IICD’s mandate, and associated legal exemptions, run out next year.

Nonetheless, the current IRSP leadership have been very insistent that they were burying militarism and seeking a political role. Occasionally they’ve got quite irate when people have been understandably sceptical of that. It remains to be seen, though, what exactly they view as a political way forward. There’s been speculation that they might forge an alliance with People Before Profit – the SWP have loudly and undiplomatically let it be known that they wouldn’t work with an IRSP that still retained an armed wing, which is a bit of a turnaround from the SWM line in 1975, although it may be politic for KA to gloss over that. And quite how People Before Profit fits into Costello’s concept of the anti-imperialist front beats me.

In related news, the Irish News is reporting that The Group That Doesn’t Exist is in discussions with the IICD. If so, this is a little surprising, as, while it’s true the Sticks never disarmed, there has been absolutely no political pressure on them so to do, and Group B hasn’t even been mentioned in IMC reports. On the other hand, the rationale for the Officials retaining some weapons – and I don’t at all dismiss this – was for self-protection, and specifically in case the Provos fancied repeating the 1975 pogrom. That rationale is now gone. And it sort of ties in to the worries expressed in IMC reports about IRSP members being involved in stirring up trouble in North Belfast. If the kids up there aren’t scared of Gerry Kelly and Bobby Storey any more, we know the atmosphere has changed.


  1. WorldbyStorm said,

    October 11, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Presumably though everyone has retained some weapons either on a wink and a nod or actually registered, wouldn’t you think? There’s an awful lot of scores that could be settled were the will there.

    It’s still amazing stuff. In the 1990s I was talking to an artist fairly close to the WP, and when I visited him he was doing a painting of Costello rising, as it were, from his grave (I got the impression, perhaps mistaken, that he had some time for Costello, whatever about afterwards), and he was saying that he thought with the peace process an awful lot of the past would come back… well, true, but perhaps thirteen or fourteen years too early given the events of the last couple of years.

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 11, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    I would be amazed if the Provos didn’t still have some shorts around, if only to protect the leadership. They don’t have any offensive capacity though, and as long as that’s true the governments won’t press the matter.

    I remember a story from, I suppose it would be the early years of the peace process, when a Provo quartermaster died of natural causes. It was thought that he’d been critical of the leadership, and there was a lot of frantic running around the countryside looking for a dump that nobody else knew the location of. No, nothing ever really goes away.

  3. WorldbyStorm said,

    October 11, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    I guess that’s it. So many loose ends yet to be tied up, or more likely, never tied up. Who’d have thunk it, that the other side of the split would most likely have a greater number of weapons to hand?

    That tale says it all. The secrecy endemic to paramilitarism allows for just such events to occur. And God knows, what’s the odds on that dump being found if it ever existed?

  4. Madam Miaow said,

    October 11, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Who’s the cute guy in the photo?

    Good luck to everyone focusing on the political struggle.

  5. Mark P said,

    October 12, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Wait, what?

    People Before Profit?


    I’m sorry, but I find that pretty difficult to believe. What would the SWP get out of it? I’m not the biggest fan of the SWP leadership, but I think that they have more sense than that.

  6. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 12, 2009 at 7:10 am

    I would tend to ask what the IRSP would get out of it. I would have thought populist agitprop of the eirigi variety would be more their style. As far as PBPA goes, an alignment with McKenna would seem more logical.

    The guy in the photo is Seamus Costello, at whose graveside the announcement was made.

    • Mark P said,

      October 12, 2009 at 9:06 am

      On éirigí being more logical partners, well yes given that their politics appear to be identical to those of the IRSP. But one of the more noticeable things about éirigí is that they set up a new organisation rather than join the IRSP, and since then they have shown little interest in standing too close to the IRSM.

  7. October 12, 2009 at 8:24 am

    “exclusively peaceful political struggle” and “Six County State is not a viable political entity, which cannot be reformed” … do I see there a contradiction in the INLA’s statement?

  8. Neil said,

    October 12, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Weren’t the IRSP flirting with the International Marxist Tendency for a while?
    Is that still on or have they fallen out?
    Their website used to carry regular articles by IRSP members until about 6-8 months ago and now they seem to have stopped.

  9. Liam said,

    October 12, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Neil is right and there were some jointly organised meetings on Venezuela. It was hard to work out what the mutual attraction was.

  10. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 12, 2009 at 11:47 am

    In re electoral ambitions, the thing to watch will be next year’s council elections in the north, in particular for the new Derry-Strabane council. When the SWP set up the SEA there as an electoral vehicle for McCann, the local IRSP showed some interest, but the SWP were very ostentatious about not letting them in. IIRC the word “psychopaths” was used by one SWP leader.

    I don’t know whether the IRSP are as keen now as they were then. The substantial vote for Mrs O’Hara in the Assembly election, which was essentially an IRSP campaign even if backed by other republican groups, might encourage them to run under their own steam. They have their own base of sorts in Derry and Strabane, which is very distinct from the McCann demographic. It’s a lot more working class, for one thing.

    The council elections should be interesting anyway. eirigi are considering running some candidates of course, and there’s likely to be quite an array of independent republicans. RSF can’t stand candidates for legal reasons, but I know they aren’t averse to quietly supporting independents. And then you have the TUV on the other side of the fence…

  11. ColmBryce said,

    October 12, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Just a correction to Splintered’s last post. The IRSP (to the best of my knowledge) only ever turned up at one meeting of the SEA in Derry, called to discuss running Eamonn as a candidate in the European elections. Gerry Ruddy proceeded to loudly condemn the whole enterprise, referring to the Connolly/Walker debate on ‘gas and water’ socialism, and to lecture all concerned on the centrality of the national question. It seemed a performance aimed at the handful of younger IRSP members with him. The idea that they were interested is stretching it a bit. As far as a leading SWP member denouncing the IRSP as ‘psychopaths’ – this didn’t happen. What was said is that there would be an obvious contradiction between the SEA’s opposition to punishment shootings/beatings and the general moral panic about ‘anti-social behaviour’, and the INLA shooting teenagers in the legs in North Belfast (this was just after the rash of suicides of young men partly connected to a series of punishment shootings). The question wasn’t answered, and the IRSP didn’t pursue the debate afterwards. But I think it still stands. Btw, the SEA in Derry recently voted to join the People Before Profit Alliance and intends to stand under that name in future elections.

  12. Mark P said,

    October 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    The IRSP have nothing of any note in the South, but I suppose that you are right that they have a small base in parts of the North.

    Still, an alliance with the IRSP would represent a major swing in the SWP’s whole approach to politics there – back towards left republicanism. I just can’t see them doing it – it wouldn’t do Richard Boyd Barrett any favours in Dun Laoghaire for example and that matters to the SWP a whole lot more than getting a view extra votes in a Derry Council election.

    My strong suspicion is that the “No armed wings allowed” issue will prove to be just the first of an endless series of barriers the SWP will erect if the IRSP seriously approach them looking for an alliance. It’s hard to put “we think you are a bunch of fruitcakes and a political liability” into properly diplomatic language, but I will be absolultely amazed if that’s not their underlying attitude. On the evidence so far it seems to be eirigí’s attitude too.

  13. skidmarx said,

    October 12, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    If there are looking for advice on how to erect an endless series of barriers to avoid an alliance I don’t know where they could turn for tips.

    Are the IRSP maybe in mourning for Stephen Gately?

    • Mark P said,

      October 12, 2009 at 2:41 pm

      Yeah, persuading a bunch of fruitcakes and political liabilities to go away can be hard work.

  14. October 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    ISRP + SWP/PBP = never-failing recipe for disaster?

  15. Long Memory said,

    October 12, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    The utterly pedantic and obsessive among you (myself included) will probably read something into the fact that Henry McDonald’s Guardian article on this states that Costello was killed by the ‘IRA’ (no explanation of which one) and never tells the Guardian’s readership from whence the IRSP had split in 1974. In the London Independent David McKittirck is also pretty vague about where the IRSP came from.

  16. Long Memory said,

    October 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    MInd you the Irish Times report doesn’t even tell you who shot Costello…

    • Ciarán said,

      October 13, 2009 at 5:20 pm

      I could be wrong but I don’t think even The Lost Revolution goes too much into that one either. (My copy is sitting two hundred miles away from me at the moment so I’m in no position to check.)

  17. BK said,

    October 12, 2009 at 4:50 pm


    as far as i know you are the only person (entity?) who has ever speculated on the possible alliance b/w swp and irsp. and the link that you provide which is meant to back up the rumor doesn’t say anything of the sort. i know you were treated harshly somewhere back in your past, and kieran allen seems to have especially managed to get under your skin, but ffs can you get over it? i class this with your now-distant speculation on rbb’s wanting to make a go of it as an independent councillor, enamored as he was with the glitter of electoralism. you write some worthwhile stuff out here occasionally, and i mean that, but your obsession really does get in the way sometimes. give it up.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      October 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm

      The speculation was in the Times article. I thought I’d indicated that I reckoned it an unlikely alliance. Evidently one needs to spell things out more clearly.

  18. Garibaldy said,

    October 12, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Suzanne Breen doesn’t mention who shot Costello either. Liam Clarke did. What ought we pedants make of that?

  19. Summer Finn said,

    October 12, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    That Suzanne Breen isn’t a very good journalist and that Liam Clarke has some sense?

  20. D_D said,

    October 12, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Splinteredsunrise said: “the SWP have loudly and undiplomatically let it be known that they wouldn’t work with an IRSP that still retained an armed wing, which is a bit of a turnaround from the SWM line in 1975…”

    The SWM considered the possibilities of unity with the IRSP at a point when it had large support and far less emphasis on militarism. This was consideration and the actual line, decided by majority at an SWM Conference, was to reject a proposal, from within the SWM, of fusion with the IRSP.

    [Nice to hear that piece of news from Derry about the PBPA – in a blog!!]

  21. Ramzi Nohra said,

    October 12, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Well, Breen doesnt even indicate Costello was shot at all in the article I read.

    I think it was sloppy journalism of McDonald as most people would think Provos when they read “IRA”. Given McDonald’s past LM’s point is not an irrelevant point to make.

    Whether this is down to an agenda or just editing etc I dont know of course.

  22. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 12, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Yes, should have mentioned above that I am grateful to Colm for the news from Derry, and for his first-hand account of that meeting.

    Before everyone gets too excited about hypothetical alliances, here’s what I know. Gerry Ruddy and various other IRSP figures say they want to build links with other left groups. I see no reason to doubt that, because they’ve been saying it for a long time and it’s consistent with their perspective. It is my instinct that most other groups on the Irish left would be very wary indeed of getting close to the IRSP, given their history. (It’s also the case that most areas where the IRSP has a presence, the far left does not.) The Times article mentioned that the IRSP might be seeking to ally with left groups such as PBPA. I have no knowledge of any discussions along those lines, and thought it worth mentioning because it struck me as so incongruous. Sin e.

    They also, by the way, turn up at those republican regroupment conferences that take place occasionally in the north. There have been quite a few of those and they haven’t yet looked like leading anywhere, so it’s not only the far left that can’t get its act together. Albeit that the republicans fall out on different grounds.

  23. Doloras said,

    October 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I heard that the SWM leadership was split evenly on the issue in 1975, and that Eamonn McCann was the deciding vote not to go with the Irps. True/false? If so, that would add extra piquancy to the Irps’ dealings with SEA.

    • Mark P said,

      October 12, 2009 at 9:11 pm

      The SEA has voted to join the PBPA? That brings me back to the happy announcement some years ago that Militant and the Labour and Trade Union Group had decided to merge…

      Didn’t the PBPA website list the SEA as its Derry branch anyway, back when it used to list branches rather than local representatives? Just as it used to list the now presumably defunct Davitt League as its branch out West.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        October 12, 2009 at 9:28 pm

        Don’t forget the Young Socialists and Youth Against Sectarianism! That was a heroic confluence of forces indeed…

  24. Phil said,

    October 12, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Far be it from me to deny that journalists have agendas, but I’m afraid you won’t see many references on British news pages to the fact that there was an Official IRA later than 1969 (or 1922, for that matter). It’s the kind of historical detail that gets rediscovered in occasional in-depth features, and buried the rest of the time – in the context of an ordinary news story it would take too long to explain (or so I picture the sub-editor reasoning).

  25. D_D said,

    October 12, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    It’s documented somewhere, I expect. Maybe in my shed. There’s a new interest in the history of the far left which is leading to the exhumation of old publications and documents.

    My memory is that the SWM leadership was split fairly evenly on the fusion proposition. It was a Conference vote, so not only the leadership voted. I don’t remember Eamonn MCann’s vote, or any one vote, being decisive. What does stand out is that on the day, unexpectedly to me, the worker members, or some of the worker members, including the leading member Ken Quinn, met at lunch time (for lunch) in the nearby Four Seasons pub. They were all strongly against fusion with the IRSP. Perhaps I had just sat with that table. I think I might have been invited. Their opposition swung it for me (my old socialist Dad had previously advised stongly against). The vote against was larger than a margin of one, if memory served me right.

    • Mark P said,

      October 12, 2009 at 11:52 pm


      • Mark P said,

        October 12, 2009 at 11:56 pm

        In my urge to denounce you at a thirty five year remove, I forgot to ask you to go rummage in your shed the next time you are feeling bored. That sort of material would be fascinating to have up on the web.

        Speaking of which, does anyone have a copy of the special issue of the IWG (Mark 2) “Class Struggle” on the history of the SWM? I used to have one but can’t find it. If you have one, send it to WbS so he can stick it in the archive.

  26. moofaeTAE said,

    October 13, 2009 at 7:19 am

    The IRSP is focusing mostly on a republican broad front that goes by the name of Irish Republican Forum for Unity. Also members of that front are the 32csm, Republican Network for Unity and various independent republicans.

    There’s some interest in joining forces with the left, but no serious efforts to. And the person most pushing for that is no longer a member of the IRSP.

    It wasn’t long ago that the IRSP’s youth wing, the RSYM joined the Connolly Youth broad front commemorating 1916, called Rising Youth. They at first used the same excuse about not letting a group with an armed wing join, but relented after a face to face.

    You were correct that there is intention on following up on the respectable protest vote that went O’Hara’s way.

  27. Brian Hanley said,

    October 13, 2009 at 8:26 am

    At the risk of being completly out, as far as I know Eamonn McCann was not a member of the SWM in 1975; he joined in 1983. As for the IRSP he was very close to them when they were formed (he attended Hugh Ferguson’s funeral for instance) and would have been more likely to support joining them I would have thought. But Eamonn is still around so why not ask him?
    I had heard the story of the SWM’s industrial members swinging the vote against joining before, D-D and it seems to be the case.

  28. D_D said,

    October 13, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    But of course, Eamonn was, much to our frustration, never a member of the SWM in the 70s. Then he exasperated some of us even more by joining, and giving the kiss of life to, the SWM in 1983 just after we had departed in1982. (But we’re all together again now, it seems).

    A very interesting epilogue to this is the emergence of the Independent Socialist Party, mainly from the IRSP. This group, led by Johnny White and Bernadette McAliskey (and Tommy McCourt?), among others, was perhaps the branching off from Republicanism that came the nearest ever to the socialism of the revolutionary marxist left. More recent parallels might be Tommy McKearney or Eirigí.

    The SWM were without any division (except maybe from the IWG faction) for fusion with the Independent Socialist Party, and prolonged talks, joint seminars (at least one) and joint Internal Bulletins (at least one) were engaged in. These came to nought. Much to my own disappointment, unlike with the outcome of the IRSP fusion episode. At least one active member of the SWM went into the ISP (Hiya, Brendan. Hope all well). The later history of the ISP is an area I know little about. There is obviously a lot to be recalled about the small left groups two and three and four decades ago.

  29. Ciarán said,

    October 13, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    The Irps were interested in an alliance with the SEA in early 2004, and attended meetings organised by the latter around February of that year on the subject of building a “Convention of the Left”. As I recall being told, a leading SWP member opposed working with the IRSP because they were republican (granted it was an Irp who told me this back then, so you can take that whichever way you like).

    • Ciarán said,

      October 13, 2009 at 5:23 pm

      The IRSP version of events at that Derry meeting can be read in their old newsletter, The Plough #27.

  30. November 5, 2009 at 4:06 am

    There’s been speculation that they might forge an alliance with People Before Profit – the SWP have loudly and undiplomatically let it be known that they wouldn’t work with an IRSP that still retained an armed wing, which is a bit of a turnaround from the SWM line in 1975, although it may be politic for KA to gloss over that.

    Who is KA?

  31. moofaeTAE said,

    November 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Kieran Allen, a chara. Leading theoretician for the SWP in the six counties.

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