The Lost Revolution: the Intercontinental

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The story told in The Lost Revolution is often grim, but at points there’s a surprising amount of gritty humour, much of it showing through in the interviews. There’s one anecdote from near the start of the Troubles which, though it could have turned out very seriously at the time, had me almost falling off my chair in laughter. The context of this was that, after the split in the republican movement, both factions suspected that the other had left sleepers behind – which was almost certainly true – and in the febrile atmosphere of Belfast, where personal and family connections ran so deep, this led to a lot of paranoia. Apparently, at one stage the Official leadership in Belfast suspected Mary McMahon of being a closet Provo. Given what we subsequently know about Mary Mac’s years of stalwart service to the Workers Party, this seems so incongruous as to be almost surreal. But then, that’s with the benefit of hindsight.

Actually, there is a parallel to this in that for years it was rumoured around the Provisionals that Jim Gibney was a Stick. And I don’t mean in the pejorative sense that some militarists might have called Adams a Stick, because they thought him too political – it was actually alleged that Gibney was a Stick. I never believed that, and the only evidence anyone seemed to have for it was that he lived in Twinbrook, but it’s easy to see how these things get started and then develop legs of their own. And it demonstrates how the lines were not as clear-cut as perhaps partisans of either side would have liked to think.

If these posts have had a theme, it’s been on the unpredictability of historical events – events that are both overdetermined, to the point where they seem inevitable in hindsight, but also contingent. The 1969/70 split in republicanism is a classic example. There was of course the basic force of the different constituencies within republicanism all pulling in different directions; there were also multiple political issues, which changed quite rapidly in both their form and their weight. Here I want to pick out four interlinked aspects of the debates leading up to the split.

The National Liberation Front
In a sense, nobody but the most hardened military elitist denied the need to forge links with other radical tendencies – to the extent that those tendencies existed, for there could be nothing analogous to the alliance between the IRA and Fianna Fáil in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Indeed, the very idea of republicans leading a popular mass movement presupposed that others would be involved. One recalls the short-lived Dáil Chonnacht movement as something that, while initiated by the Provisionals, was far from being a Provos-and-fellow-travellers affair – it included intellectuals, Labour Party members, possibly a discreet communist or two, radical Catholics, advocates of Gaeltacht self-government and so on. There are even later echoes in Costello’s big idea of the Anti-Imperialist Broad Front.

But the core of the NLF strategy, as formulated in the 1960s, revolved around the question of republicanism’s relationship with Irish communism. There were factors on the communist side of the argument, too – remember that Irish communism, as personified by Seán Murray and Mick O’Riordan, had significant roots in republicanism, and had recognised republicanism as the native form of political radicalism. (Of course the Comintern’s formulation of the United Front was first devised for alliances with anti-colonial movements and only later extended to social democracy. Probably more immediately relevant was the Kremlin’s contemporary interest in anti-colonial movements internationally.) What was more, the CPNI by then had shed its extreme pro-British colouring of the 1940s, come firmly under the influence of Desmond Greaves Thought and was moving towards reunification with the southern party.

There is little doubt that what Johnston was pushing for was a formal and permanent alliance between the republican movement and the two communist parties, in a schema that would see the communists provide a theoretical sophistication the republicans lacked, while the republicans had a popular base and organisational clout that the small and isolated communist parties did not have. The CPs’ trade union links were also an attractive factor, in particular the possibility of the CPNI providing a link to the Protestant working class. It must be emphasised, though, that Johnston didn’t have some sort of mystical power over the leadership, most of whom were willing to go along with Johnston’s brainchild because it seemed like a good idea to them. Goulding in particular didn’t seem like the kind of man to allow a Trinity intellectual to lead him by the nose.

It was also, of course, the specific alliance with the communists that caused dissension from traditionalists – from North Kerry, from Cumann na mBan, and with Mac Stíofáin fighting a rearguard action within the leadership. Mind you, the social background of the time was an Ireland where Masses still regularly included a prayer for the conversion of Russia.

The civil rights strategy
In a way, the civil rights strategy in the north, notwithstanding the theoretical framework Greaves had given it, was just a regional counterpart to Economic Resistance for the rural western base, and the growing housing agitation in Dublin. The big difference was that civil rights became a big enough movement to take on a logic and momentum all its own. In areas like Derry, Dungannon and Newry there quickly developed a situation pitching entire communities against the Orange state. The marching tactic, brilliant in its simplicity, proved ideal for building up a mass movement, which reached the parts Operation Harvest hadn’t.

Belfast, as ever, was different, and NICRA did not employ the marching tactic in Belfast – though Peoples Democracy did, occasionally and on a relatively small scale. This related in part to the internal politics of Belfast republicanism. On the one hand, the McMillen-Sullivan leadership, although it was interested in social agitation of the Dublin variety, was keenly aware of the sectarian dynamics of Belfast, and therefore reluctant to resort to what could be literally incendiary marches. On the other, there was a cabal of veterans in Belfast who were openly scornful of civil rights as a reformist strategy, who had been sidelined or expelled by the leadership in the preceding few years, and who would go on to form the core of the Provisionals in Belfast. We’re talking here about Jimmy Steele, Jimmy and Máire Drumm, Billy McKee, Leo Martin and probably John Kelly – later, in the aftermath of the August 1969 pogrom, they would summon Séamus Twomey and Joe Cahill from the vasty deep, and make a bid for support on an essentially Defenderist programme. In the meantime, the leadership was understandably cautious about staging anything that might look like a provocation.

There is a further footnote to this in terms of the relationship between the republican movement, the CPNI and Peoples Democracy within NICRA, and the 1978 official history of NICRA, for what I believe are factional reasons, obscures this issue. Bernie Devlin’s quip that the Communist Party was as conservative as the Unionist Party was a bit of hyperbole, but there’s no mistaking that, as civil rights got some momentum behind it, Betty Sinclair and her allies in the NICRA leadership did come to be the conservative wing, especially when PD changed the rules of the game with the Long March. There is still an unanswered question about the 1969 NICRA AGM, when PD carried out an effective coup against the communists, for which they must have had republican votes. The question mark is posed by the communists’ firm belief that they had a pledge of support from Goulding. The possible explanations are that Goulding was not quite as supportive as he let the CPNI think; that republican organisation was shambolic enough for Goulding’s position not to be conveyed to the northern members; or that the northern members were aware of the leadership’s wishes and disobeyed them. Any one is plausible.

In any case, the lines in 1969 were a lot more blurry than later accounts, informed by the rapid souring of relations between the Officials and PD, would indicate. Certainly, there was a lot of instinctive sympathy amongst northern republicans for the young militants of PD, and this had been indicated early on as the Long March went through South Derry. Sinn Féin had been cautiously positive about the PD campaign in the Stormont general election of 1969, with the reservation that PD at that time was very resistant indeed to raising the issue of partition. And contemporary statements from both Goulding and Garland go well beyond what was the stance of the communists in NICRA.

The organisational issue
In any factional dispute, there is always an organisational issue, and this takes on a slightly baroque aspect in Irish republicanism, which is simultaneously a political party and an armed conspiracy. Basically, we are talking about what might be termed dual subordination, where the armed wing was subordinated to political rather than military ends in its activity, while the party was organisationally subordinated to the armed wing. This didn’t prevent oppositionists like Mac Stíofáin acting independently, but it certainly complicated things, not least in the version of democratic centralism that would have the IRA making a decision internally, then voting en bloc within Sinn Féin to secure a majority for whatever the IRA had decided.

It’s tempting to read into this a precursor of how the WP came to operate democratic centralism, and chronologically that’s the case. But a more apt parallel would probably be with how dissenting Provisionals have characterised the Adams approach – Tony McIntyre will tell you that Sinn Féin has been running the Army Council for years, while recalcitrants in the political wing would complain about military discipline operating in the party, and they would both be right. In any case, this sort of management is bound to produce more grievances than strictly necessary.

Abstentionism
There’s no doubt, this was the line in the sand for the traditionalists. And when we call republicans traditionalists, we are talking about quite serious traditionalism. One of the leaders of the walkout at the 1970 Ard Fheis, quite aptly, was the 1916 veteran Joe Clarke. Joe must have been almost ninety at the time, and needed crutches to get about, but he was still sharp enough and fiercely attached to republican fundamentals. By this point, he had made it his personal mission to outlive the traitor de Valera, and that tells you all you need to know about the character of Joe Clarke. He, or Jimmy Steele, or Seán Keenan, may not have been great men for political theory, but they knew what traditional republicanism was, and they had an instinctive aversion to anything that smacked of reformist backsliding. (Not, I believe, that the Official leadership were reformists, but we’ll get onto that. We are talking here specifically about the trad-republican view that de jure recognition of the state was reformism.)

And yet, in the north this was less of an issue than you might suppose, at least as far as Leinster House abstention was concerned. Back in 1965, Seán Caughey of Belfast had resigned as Sinn Féin vice-president out of impatience at the failure to drop abstentionism and politicise fast enough. He later joined the Provisionals. At the beginning of 1969 six Tyrone republicans resigned from the movement in protest at Sinn Féin’s refusal to put forward an attendance candidate in the Mid-Ulster by-election. One of the six was a certain Kevin Mallon of Coalisland, which name might ring a few bells.

In fact, projecting backwards, although a split was probably inevitable at some point, it was far from predictable who would be on what side, unless you’d managed to predict in advance the exact combination of circumstances and relative weight of issues. Garibaldy was saying elsewhere that Brian Keenan couldn’t have been a member of the Workers Party. I think a more precise way of putting it would be that Brian Keenan, in terms of the man he became and the things we know he was involved in, could not have been a member of the WP as it subsequently developed.

Maybe Keenan is too incendiary a character to mention in a game of What If. I’ll say here, then, that in my opinion the best politician the Provisionals had was Dáithí Ó Conaill. He was arguably the sharpest thinker, certainly the most articulate speaker in a movement not overburdened by such, and had been an early advocate of a political turn in the Curragh debates during Harvest. Had he not been an ironclad abstentionist, it’s quite easy to imagine him having made a rather effective Workers Party TD. And we can reverse that, as Joe Sherlock always had more of the aspect of a traditional Sinn Féin politician than a Marxist-Leninist. (Perhaps this is why I could never quite buy Joe as a Labour politician in later years. He always seemed to look a little bereft, as if wondering where old Tom Gill had got to.)

For many participants, which side they chose in the split will have been determined by where they lived, by what their background was, who their friends were, who they were related to (especially important in Belfast, where the republican movement mostly consisted of six or seven extended families) and by which figures in the leadership they looked up to and/or had most contact with. Even if you rationalised it on political grounds, much was still contingent on the precise balance of pressures. Had there been a split on abstention without a crisis in the north, the Provos could have been as marginal as RSF today. Had it been the other way around…

The canonic figure for the confused nature of this process was Costello, who was both the most aggressive exponent of politicisation, the left turn and ditching traditionalist theology, as well as being a thoroughgoing militarist with a strong physical force line on the north. That the 1969/70 split didn’t finally resolve the issues at dispute was proved by the subsequent splits in 1974/75 and 1986. No, this was not a simple division between the politicos and the militarists. It was much more involved than that, and the logic behind the different factions’ evolution would take years to work out yet.

23 Comments

  1. October 22, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    btw. … played the experience of Saor Uladh/Fianna Uladh any role in the discussions around 1969?

  2. Phil said,

    October 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I got about half of that, but it’s fascinating stuff. This in particular:

    the armed wing was subordinated to political rather than military ends in its activity, while the party was organisationally subordinated to the armed wing

    ARound 20 years ago it was very much the party line – or rather, the well-meaning radical Guardian-reader line – to maintain that formulations like “Sinn Fein/IRA” were a vile slander, and that SF was a legitimate political party & the representative of significant currents of opinion, etc. Behind closed doors, of course, we assumed they were more or less the same thing, and that the IRA would jump when Gerry said jump – & most of us turned a blind eye to what that implied, since after all the British Army was worse.

    Against that background, I remember a particularly keen SF partisan telling me once – quite late in the evening and in hushed tones – that she’d talked to someone in SF, and he’d told her that the IRA was actually a completely separate organisation, and SF didn’t control it at all! The implication was that I should keep this under my hat – I think just on general principle, rather than because people would be upset by the revelation that the line they’d been upholding in public was in fact true.

    Anyway, from that day to this I’d never really straightened all of that out in my head, but I think that model of ‘dual subordination’ works rather well.

  3. Garibaldy said,

    October 22, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Very interesting stuff, SS. Too much in there to take in all at once, so a bitesize response. Basically, I agree with you that there were very many people who went in unpredictable ways, and had the split happened the year before as it might have, things would have – initially at least – have been different. I still think something akin to the Provos would have emerged, but not perhaps with the same rapidity after August 1969. There was also some transference between the two groups that continued into the 1970s, and not just Officials disillusioned with the ceasefire or whatever going to the Provos. I do think personal and family relationships etc played the part you suggest as well. But at the same time, I wouldn’t underestimate the number of people who made a very conscious decision.

    On the Keenan thing. When I made that comment I was thinking of the early Troubles – basically the amount of sectarian murders that took place in say 1972 and more particularly 1974-5. My point was that unlike the Provisionals the IRA rejected these things at the time (although as the development of the INLA shows some elements who had attached themselves to the Republican Movement shared aggressive sectarian attitudes, one of the reasons for disbanding the military structure so quickly). People involved with the Provisionals were happy to be part of an organisation that did these sort of things, even if they saw the main aim as being getting the Brits out, something that was impossible for those who believed in the Goulding project. Then there is the separate issue of the extent of left wing politics – there is a huge gap here I think.

    On NICRA. I think you are absolutely right to say that for republicans the NICRA strategy was part of a broader strategy for agitation on rights as part of an all-Ireland campaign aimed at building popular support and modernising and democratising both states. This is nearly always missed in the books on the Troubles, and the mistaken rush to attribute everthing the Movement was doing to Johnston and Coughlan.

  4. Garibaldy said,

    October 22, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Regarding Phil’s comment, I also think in the 1960s that SF was more right wing than the IRA, and that a lot of venerable SF activists resented what they saw as IRA attempts to take over, especially when this involved the newer and less traditionalist recruits. Some of this must go back to the fact that the IRA and SF had fallen out with each other several decades before, and there would have been people who remembered it.

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    There was also the way the Three Macs tried to decouple SF from the IRA in 1962. But SF for reasons of age as much as anything has always had a lot of basically retired veterans; and yes, you can go back to the 1930s and Tom Maguire speaking at SF rallies being openly critical of the IRA. So yes, the party always had that concentration of traditionalists.

    I absolutely get where you’re coming from about the Keenan thing, and it’s a matter of how Defenderism can quite easily devolve into sectarianism under the logic of defence and retaliation. That’s how you could get the INLA seeing itself as a non-sectarian Marxist organisation and at the same time carrying out some quite appalling sectarian murders. The WP of course totally turned its back on that whole politic, and much good did it do the movement in what should have been its core communities.

  6. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 22, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    On the Saor Uladh thing, that’s very much a Tyrone phenomenon, and Liam Kelly basically functioned as a warlord chieftain around Pomeroy. Going back to 1956, his exploits were probably responsible for bouncing the movement into launching Harvest two or three years before it wanted to. East Tyrone republicanism has always had a very strong independent streak but.

  7. Garibaldy said,

    October 22, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Well yes, turning its back on that whole thing did a whole load of damage. But it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t that people didn’t know that it was going to result in a loss of support, just that they could not negate their principles by doing it.

    This is where I think its important to remember the all-island context. Would The WP have been able to gain the support it did in Waterford, Cork, Dublin etc if it had been carrying out sectarian killings in the north? I don’t think anyone could dispute that that would have been impossible.

  8. Garibaldy said,

    October 22, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Damage in terms of support that first line should read.

  9. Turner's Cross said,

    October 22, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    (although as the development of the INLA shows some elements who had attached themselves to the Republican Movement shared aggressive sectarian attitudes, one of the reasons for disbanding the military structure so quickly).

    Handley said in Cork that the structure was never disbanded and that people were simply told that it was; privately the loyal members were in the know. And that the WP did not tell the truth in the end to their own voters and members and this helped destroy them.

  10. Ramzi Nohra said,

    October 22, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Given the context in 72 and 74-75 ie basically an onslaught on the “catholic” civilian population by Loyalists, I would have thought it pretty impossible for any sort of organisation positioning itself as defending the nationalist community could have avoided sectarian killings of some sort.

    (Dont get me wrong, I’m not saying only the Loyalists were to blame for violence at that stage)

    In fact, how did OIRA avoid getting dragged into that? Were people from OIRA-associated areas not being killed, or were they just a lot more disciplined?

    RE WP expansion into Waterford… you are of course right Garibaldy. Although you guys were doing lots of on the ground work, I understand, and were in any case the most articulate left-wing party in the state. I think that even if you had been allied to some kind of “armed struggle” in the North you would have had some success.

    Interesting post as usual Mr Sunrise

  11. Garibaldy said,

    October 22, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Turner’s Cross,

    I don’t think that in light of what was known at the time about people like Rabbitte negotiating to join the Labour Party and what has happened since that the DL split can be viewed but as being motivated overwhelmingly by opportunism, added to confusion and despair caused by the fall of the eastern bloc. Throw in the fact that quite a few people were exhausted and wanted to end their political involvement and that this gave them the chance, and I think you have what lay at the core of what happened. The other stuff was in my opinion a smokescreen.

    Ramzi,

    The Republican Clubs were active across what we could call anti-unionist areas of the north. An area was seen as being a Provo area or whatever if that group had the most members and support in it compared to other groups. Every area basically had more than one organisation in it. So in that sense, yes, people were being killed where the Republican Clubs and the IRA had a base, including members and family members. But they stayed out of it for ideological reasons, added to the fact that the splits of 69 and 74 cleared out those who would have seen tit for tat killings of civilians as a good thing. That’s not to say that the OIRA wasn’t active in trying to prevent sectarian killings. Areas like Bawnmore and Newry saw vigilante activity to ward off sectarian killings. One volunteer was killed in Bawnmore doing exactly this by loyalists.

    In terms of defending the Catholic community, I meant to bring this up earlier. The OIRA in 1972 issued an extremely strongly-worded statement saying that it was not a Catholic defence, and telling anyone who thought it was that they should not expect it to behave like such because it wouldn’t. I appreciate your point that if you are the Provisionals, then you are going to get involved in this sort of thing. But that is why I believe they do not have a valid claim to be following in the footsteps of Tone and the principles of republicanism.

    As for the south. We were doing lots of work on the ground (and still work hard with our reduced numbers). And part of the reason for us being able to do that work on the ground is that there was no sustained armed campaign after 1972, and an armed campaign inevitably has a negative impact on political work even if only in terms of organisational focus etc. So I think you’re probably right that there would have been a bit of success, but nothing approaching what was had. Again, I think the socialist message would have been drowned out to a large extent. I don’t like drawing this comparison usually because the dynamics for the ceasefires and the politics were different, but it is I think relevant to look at the Provos. Virtually no impact electorally in the south until after the ceasefires. They themselves realised that.

  12. harry monro said,

    October 23, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Firstly thanks s/s for keeping this discussion going, it’s got too many different angles to be contained in overview so it’s great you are going through it point by point. In that spirit I’ll save my remarks about Costello and the irps for later when I’m sure you’ll deal with that split in detail.
    I’m amazed both by everyone’s openness in all the discussions on various blogs and the fraternal tone everyone is keeping to (considering what has occurred in the past), I’ll try not to let everyone down.
    For the Official/provo split I agree with all the stuff about families and localities being important but I want to emphasize one thing that makes splits in the Republican movement different from splits in the European left in the 60s-80s – guns.
    My emphasis is not just on the way feuds played out, or how factions could achieve leverage by just having lots of them. Now at the time I firmly adhered to the line that not just the FF government but the CIA played a role in offering arms to split the traditionalists away. I note that TLR does not go down this road and considering its research I guess I’d have to rethink that. However I do think the ability of FF’s initial intervention is important and it says something of the men who wanted to be considered die hard opponents of the Free Staters in allowing them to dictate the Republican agenda. Of course I know the response, the sticks talked to the same people as the provos, people were desperate for guns and thought they could just take them with no pay back etc. However the split and its aftermath was the payback and if the anti-communism of the traditionalists was their main motive I’ve yet to see a good rationalization for Adams. Of course in the years that followed most of Irish America played a regressive role in the struggle, boosting the provos in all sorts of ways (just look at the political career of Rep Peter King to see what many of these folk believe in). Now as Marxists we had to expect all of this but it made clarifying the politics so much more difficult with the constant refrain of raising funds, getting overseas sources, constructing an underground world were weapons and operators could be hidden for periods. You’ll guess I now not only consider the armed struggle in this situation wrong but a mistake for any Marxist organization. But no I have no idea how a Marxist organization born out of Republicanism resolves this contradiction easily. I’d emphasize your point about the split was not being between politicos and militarists, everyone was political and believed in the armed struggle.
    Oh and one area of tension in the split period seems to be being ignored, though in retrospect maybe people don’t think it was an issue at all, that is women volunteers in the Army.
    harry

  13. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 23, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Oh yes, women volunteers. The big resistance to that coming from Cumann na mBan, who were always reliably on the traditionalist side of any argument. The Provos of course would go down that road themselves after not too many years.

  14. Scott Millar said,

    October 23, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Harry,
    I can ensure you myself and Brian’s research for the book was exhaustive, and exhausting. However what part other elements may have played at certain points can not be ruled out just on what we have managed to confirm. Issues such as the 1969 split should be further researched in an academic manner – what our findings re southern government involvement only confirms the level of interest there was in the leftward shift of the republican movement. As we reference in the book we do have communiques that indicate a level of US state department interest as well. I would be very circumspect about seeing direct involvement by the US at this stage, but certainly the role of outside elements in Irish domestic politics and the possible impact of this certainly is an area I would like to see further proper research of. Remember until the LTR came out it was accepted historic wisdom that the walls of West Belfast were bedecked with I Ran Away graffiti – there has not been a peep from the propagators of this claim since the book’s publication.
    S/S – I’m very much enjoying your series of insightful blog posts.

  15. Garibaldy said,

    October 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Yeah that’s an interesting point Harry raises about the women. As I understand it, they had already been integrated in Belfast before 1969. I remember being amused at Margaret Ward’s remark in her book that the majority of Cumman na mBan went with the Officials because they thought they were more socialist than the Provos. Grudging doesn’t begin to cover it, and writing that clearly must have hurt. Its the insinuation though that they might have been mistaken in that belief that I found really funny.

    Harry says everyone still believed in armed struggle. I still think there’s an issue here in that there is one document in particular that Sean Swan cites coming from the leadership where it’s clear that the aim is for the IRA to become a trained cadre ready to lead the revolution when the time comes. Now that envisages a role for the IRA, and you can say that it shows that they continued to believe in the necessity for an IRA but it’s such a different version of what the IRA was for and how it would operate that I think it does need to be remembered.

  16. Ciarán said,

    October 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    You could probably include the eventual split between the Workers’ Party and the OIRA in 1997 up there with ’69-70, ’74-75 and ’86.

  17. Sighle Humphries said,

    October 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    ‘I remember being amused at Margaret Ward’s remark in her book that the majority of Cumman na mBan went with the Officials because they thought they were more socialist than the Provos.’

    Cumann na mBan was stood down in late 1968 after they objected to the inclusion of communists at Bodenstown. They marched in uniform at a number of local commemorations against leadership instructions during 1969 and declared for the Provisional Army Council in December 1969. You would have to do a headcount to see how many women went either way in the split; there were a lot of women among those in north Kerry for example.

  18. David Renton said,

    October 23, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Just a quick post Splinty to thank you (as others have) for running this series of blogs. Am now about halfway through TLR, and enjoying it enormously. I wouldn’t have bought it but for your discussion. Please keep this up. Just for info – is there anything of remoptely comparable quality as to what happened to People’s Democracy after 1970? – or indeed how any of this relates to the history of the Trotskyist left in Ireland?

  19. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 23, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Well, thanks. There isn’t that much accessible on PD – Paul Arthur’s book if you can find it, but it was written in about 1974 and is very badly dated. John McAnulty did a pamphlet back in the 1990s, and keeps threatening to write his autobiography. Beyond that, you’d be into the PhD theses. Possibly that’s a project for the future.

    Actually, TLR for me, apart from being an excellent book, is just the ideal opportunity to ramble on about some interesting themes. If readers are getting something from this, and being encouraged to dig a bit deeper, that’s all you can hope for.

  20. Harry Monro said,

    October 24, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Thanks Scott for your rounded reply about the US, and let me second what others have said, TLR allows others now to use it as a base for more specfic/area studies; and I’m sure we all hope both you Brian will using some of your unpublished research to do some of that. I hope the books success, albiet in a niche market, tells publishes these stories can be told. Though after all the years on this I guess we’d all understand if you needed a fresh project just to clear the head.
    I can’t say I spoke to too many provos in the 70s, but the only ones I ever I did know that I admired as genuine socialists were either women volenteers or members of Cumman na mBan. However they were young, post 69 members who didn’t come from traditional Republican families.
    In the very early 70s I went to a couple of PD meetings both at Queens, very studenty in their chaos, I though at the time. I also met the IMG in Belfast but their uncritical support for both IRAs seemed daft to me, pick one and join it I felt like telling them, sometimes they’d hint at associations with a left wing armed group then being formed/reformed. I also met the the WRP youth wing, Young Socialists I think, who thought sectarianism could be ignored. Lost track of the Trots after that in Belfast, though buying their papers in the City Centre also afforded an oppertunity to by John McKeague’s paper which was sold about 10 feet away. I’m drifting sorry.

  21. johng said,

    October 26, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I’d like to second David Renton’s point here. Many thanks to Splintered and to Garibaldi and others. And actually like Splintered I think the book raises much more general issues as well as providing a fascinating account of matters of which previously most of us only had a vague snapshot.

  22. Brian Hanley said,

    October 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I’m coming late to this particular discussion (and thanks again for facilitating it Splintered) but I think there are a few contradictions in analysis being put forward by some contributors. There was various bits cut for reasons of length from the text of the book, and one of the more amusing (in some ways) was the story of an Official SF councillor in Co. Monaghan, who at the first council meeting after Bloody Sunday produced a revolver, placed it on the table in front of him and announced that the only language the British understood was from the barrel of a gun. (He got fairly unanimous approval as it happens). Now that man has stayed with the WP to the present day but I think it’s fair to say what he believed in 1972 might not have been what he thought in 1982.
    Similarly during the aftermath of internment the Irish Times reported an OIRA officer from Belfast (and that paper had good contacts) claiming that his organisation and the Provos were cooperating:
    ‘what we have and what they have is being pooled to fight the British Army and defend Catholic areas and there has been co-operation in organisation, planning and fighting in local areas’.
    In terms of defence, and it needs further examination no doubt, OIRA members did engage in fairly widspread conflict with loyalists in many areas, and in places like Bawnmore there was also cooperation with the local Provos until quite a late stage. There’s another Banwmore story of how a now deceased local Official drove into Rathcoole one night and machine-gunned the UDA’s HQ there. (The United Irishman would occasionally refer to stuff like this in coded language). As for loyalists targeting Officials, aside from the fact that they were killing Catholics as much as they could anyway, pubs frequented by the Officials were bombed or shot up on numerous occasions, several Officials were killed by the UVF or UDA and I know of at least two cases where young women who were engaged to members of the Officials were killed in loyalist attacks.
    Now the difficulty for the Officials, and this we will probably come back to, is how to square that with talking to the UVF on various occasions and also with the variety of ways the Protestant working class were seen as crucial to political progress. I don’t think it can be explained in any neat slogans about non-sectarianism.

  23. January 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    […] Histories, and a few words on conspiratology The Lost Revolution: a sketch on republican geography The Lost Revolution: the Intercontinental Reggie and his malcontents The fall of the House of Paisley Fixed and consequent That would be […]


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