Archive for the ‘Republic of Ireland’ Category

SIPTU Protest September 30th

August 9, 2009

Picked this up off Cedar Lounge Revolution

Dear Member,

Please find attached the first national SIPTU Community Sector newsletter. This will be a quarterly publication to keep you informed of the organising campaign to build your union.

As part of the campaign a major protest is being organised against the critical underfunding in the sector and the savage cuts proposed by Colm McCarthy’s “Bord Snip Nua” report. We are encouraging all workers, activists and communities to make every effort to show you support on:

Wednesday 30th September
Parnell Square, Dublin 1

We will be marching to the Dáil to deliver our message directly to Government. Please circulate the newsletter and protests details to your colleagues.

Further protests outside Dublin will be announced in the coming weeks.

If you have any queries, please contact your local branch or the Community Campaign at 1890 747 881.


SIPTU Community Campaign
Darragh O’Connor
Community Sector Lead Organiser
Liberty Hall
Dublin 1

T: 01 – 858 6365
F: 01 – 8749115


Republicanism: Political Philosophy or Perverted Theology?

May 4, 2009
Liberty Leading the People

Liberty Leading the People

I’m a republican. But then so is George Bush. And so, they claim, are the organisations presided over by Gerry Adams and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh. So what sort of republican am I? I’m a Wolfe Tone republican; a James Connolly republican. But so, they would say, are Adams and Ó Brádaigh. So that doesn’t get us very far. How else can I define my republicanism? I’m a republican in the French tradition. I believe in the guillotine.

Having stolen that joke from a comrade, I should point out that there is much more to the French Republican tradition than the guillotine. Yes the first French Republic preserved itself through the combination of a controlled economy, popular mobilisation, military power, and ruthless repression known to history as the Terror. But we need to bear in mind what the purpose of those extreme measures were – the defence of a democratic political system that sought to place the control of their own destiny in the hands of the French people. The constitution written by the Jacobins in 1793, although suspended before it came into operation, was the most progressive the world had ever seen, guaranteeing not only the right to vote to all males over the age of 21 but the right to subsistence as well. But the French Revolution and French Republicanism (along with the American Revolution) have made another fundamental contribution to republicanism as a political philosophy – what the French call laïcité and what we know as secularism. The idea not only that church and state should be separate, but that religion should have no part to play in politics.

This democratic, egalitarian, secular ethos, encapsulated in the revolutionary battle cry of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’, also lay at the heart of the programme of the Society of United Irishmen, the first representatives of the modern international revolutionary tradition in Ireland. The United Irishmen sought the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter not only to break the connection with England but also to draw a line under the sectarianism that poisoned Irish society. The people of Ireland would no longer be divided by religion, but would instead be united by a common citizenship in an independent, democratic, secular republic. Theobald Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen recognised, as James Connolly did later, that such a republic could only be founded upon the “men of no property”, and would have to be run in their interests. The modern international revolutionary republican tradition that has its roots in the French Revolution is therefore built on a number of basic principles: democracy, secularism, and social justice. Any individual or organisation that fails any one of these tests cannot claim to be a part of that revolutionary republican tradition. Hence I discount the claims of Adams and Ó Brádaigh to be part of that tradition – despite the rhetoric, the reality of seeking to act as the representatives of one section of the Irish people, variously defined as Catholics or more recently as nationalists and republicans, though as often as not used interchangeably. This is at its least a damaging communalist approach. At its worst, it has found its expression in Kingsmill and other vicious sectarian attacks.

Republicanism as I have defined it above is a living and developing political philosophy, that has culminated in revolutionary socialism. However, in Ireland, republicanism has in the popular imagination become reified into a simple adherence to Irish independence, to be achieved by the use of violence if necessary. This seems to me to be an adequate description of Adams’ organisation’s view of republicanism, going by its actions over the last several decades. For Ó Brádaigh’s organisation, on the other hand, it is a set of political strategies that evolved in the era of the First World War. Primary among these is abstention from any political assembly that has not been elected by an all-Ireland process. For Ó Brádaigh’s movement and the other main dissident nationalist paramilitaries in the Real IRA, the use of arms in asserting the right to an independent state regardless of whether it has popular support or not has become a principle.
These are the issues that Paddy Murphy has been addressing in his latest column in the Irish News (the link should work until Saturday May 9th, after which it becomes subscription only. For another discussion of this article, see this thread on Sluggerotoole.).

Murphy approaches these questions with his usual acerbic and penetrating analysis.

In most countries republicanism is a political philosophy. In Ireland it has evolved into a religion. It is in that context that we can most usefully appreciate the argument between Sinn Fein and their former colleagues in dissident republican groups.
On the surface the argument is about the legitimacy of the use of violence. But since they both appear to agree that violence, at the ‘right’ time, is justified, the debate is more about timing and who has the authority to determine that timing.
Sinn Fein argues that Provisional IRA violence was justified by circumstances. Dissidents claim that the circumstances have not changed and that the time is still right. To resolve that stalemate, both sides seek authority in the religious dogma of republicanism.

As Murphy points out, the Provisionals themselves started life as a dissident breakaway from the-then Republican Movement, claiming legitimacy on what must seem to us after the last few decades as absurd grounds.

When Provisional Sinn Fein broke away from mainstream Sinn Fein in January 1970, those walking out of the Ard Fheis claimed authority because they had with them Joe Clarke who had fought in 1916. Legitimacy was derived from a republican relic.
Following their formation, the PIRA was granted an imprimatur by Commandant-General Thomas Maguire (1892-1993) who, as the last surviving member of the Second Dáil (1921), somehow claimed possession of the true republic. He decreed that the Provos were its legitimate inheritors. In 1986 he revoked his blessing on the PIRA and imparted it instead to the Continuity IRA. Maguire giveth and Maguire taketh away. (His claimed possession of the one true republic raises the question as to how a republic should be kept in the house. Should an Irish republic be stored in a specially-built tabernacle behind velvet curtains with subdued lighting and piped organ music, or would it be acceptable to just keep it in a box on the mantelpiece?)
Satirical as that sounds, the concept forms a thread of reasoning in the present argument. Flann O’Brien built a successful literary career on notions less fanciful than that of a man in possession of a republic.

Here Murphy identifies what is bad about militarism, and what led to the rethink initiated by the Republican leadership in the 1960s after the disastrous Border Campaign. The Republic is to be achieved not by the mass action of the Irish people, but by an elitist group regarding itself as the keeper of the national flame. It would decide when violence was to be switched on and off even when the people were opposed to it. The consequences of such ideological and political poverty was isolation and futility. We can see the bankruptcy of this position in the most recent murders of the two soldiers and policeman.

Even though the Provisionals may have abandoned violence and abstentionism, Murphy argues, they remain trapped by the failings of politics-as-theology (with the leader as Pope).

Previous converts to the paganism of politics, such as Michael Collins (1922) and de Valera (1932), simply left the IRA to its military manoeuvres. But the PIRA leadership claimed victory (remember the parade of black taxis) which meant that they did not have to leave the IRA. They took it (and thus the true republic) with them, thereby retaining their claim of republican infallibility.
It was on that basis that they claimed legitimacy for their entry into Stormont. (By now they had downgraded Maguire’s status as a saint, claiming instead a direct link to Pearse. This presumably explains their penchant for dressing up in historical costume at Easter parades.)
The success of this remarkably clever strategy depended on one of two achievements – a united Ireland or radical social and economic policies in the north. Apart from Caitriona Ruane’s education policies, Sinn Fein has avoided the latter and focussed on vague promises to deliver the former.

While they remain fixated on ensuring their status as the legitimate legitimists, the real issues that affect the daily lives of working people are ignored

Meanwhile in the real world, 400,000 people are unemployed in the south. Where, in the inter-republican argument, is the case for a nationalised banking system? Where is the policy for state investment in the manufacturing industry? Whatever happened to the concept of cooperatives and mutual help in rural society?
Instead we have competing claims on the quality and legitimacy of one organisation’s historical pedigree over another’s. It may not be best religious practice but it is time for Sinn Fein to concede the argument and walk away. Otherwise the row will drift into a republican civil war with Britain on the side of Sinn Fein. Britain has never lost a war in Ireland. It will not lose this one. Dissidents will be imprisoned and probably killed, giving gainful employment to a new generation of ballad-writers and graveside orators. That will present Sinn Fein with a won war and a lost argument.

A party of government ought to be focusing, Murphy says, on more pressing matters.

There are more demanding political responsibilities, such as addressing the crisis in capitalism.
Like all religions, these two sects of republicanism offer little in terms of material benefit in this life.
True happiness can be achieved only in the heaven of a united Ireland. In the meantime, we continue to suffer in their six-county purgatory where, for many, a significant part of that suffering is listening to inane arguments while the real world passes us by.

Once again, Murphy cuts to the quick. His criticism here could be applied to our entire political elite. While the governing parties argue about symbols, about kids in GAA tops packing bags at Tescos, about which party will better represent “their side” in the European Parliament, the ordinary working people of Northern Ireland and their children face crisis – economic, educational, and social. The problems they face are not entirely the responsibility of the governing parties in Northern Ireland, but they are doing little to improve things, and in some cases – especially the transfer of pupils from primary to post-primary education – are making matters worse.

So for those of us who view republicanism as a political philosophy, what can we do? We must revivify the efforts made since the turn to the left in the 1960s to make it relevant to the lives of ordinary people, while at the same time fighting sectarianism. Only a socialist alternative can change the course of Irish history, and build a better society. That is a long-term project, but it starts with the everyday problems of all our people.

Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland: Update

March 30, 2009

See here at Cedar Lounge Revolution for an update on the formation of a National Committee to Stop the Extradition of Seán Garland. The post details some progress made on the campaign at home and abroad, and contains links to the Campaign’s petition, which I urge people to sign. I also urge people to involve themselves in the Campaign in whatever ways possible.

The Irish Right at War

February 27, 2009

I’ve just put this up over on Cedar Lounge, but I’m sticking it up here too. Because I can.

There has already been some mention here of the remarkable ten minute televisual feast that was Junior Finance Minister Martin Mansergh and Margaret Ward of the Irish Times debating the southern economy on Hearts and Minds last night. Available to us all thanks to Pete Baker at Sluggerotoole. Without him some of us may have been denied the opportunity to see Mansergh demonstrating that he is not cut out for the cut and thrust of frontline politics by nearly losing it. Noel Thompson’s introduction pulled no punches, describing the Celtic Tiger as “toothless tabby” and the south set to be the worst performing developed economy in the EU, as well as raising the issue of a European bailout. Margaret Ward has offered her account of the debate, and I want to pick up on some of what she said, and how it relates to the emerging discourse of crisis we discussed here.

So what was Ward saying? She accused the government of fiddling while Rome burned, arguing that its inaction was itself a form of action. Here is her own paraphrase of what she said

Paraphrasing it I basically said this was an emergency and that we were at war for our economic survial. It was
time for unity. The time for party politics is over. We all need to come together, start talking to the social partners and make cuts
across the board. Why isn’t the Financial Regulator organisation in the dustbin? All senior bank management still not gone?
People are frightened – they’re losing their jobs, emigrating, huge numbers of small businesses are failing with banks refusing to
make loans…They need some hope.” I asked him loads of questions and asked him what they were doing about it. Why weren’t
they asking for help from the extraordinarily intelligent experts we have in this country? Why weren’t they communicating a plan to
the people?

As with Eoghan Harris, John Gormley and others, Margaret Ward is convinced that there is something rotten in the state of the Irish economy, and that we are now fighting for our very life. Engaged in a war no less. I’ll come back to the implications of this argument at the end. However, unlike them she believes that the corruption scandals have hurt the Irish economy in the eyes of the world.

If you are not extremely angry about what is going on then you should be. Ireland will be bankrupt in about 12 months. We are burning through about €1 billion or so a week. Internationally, Ireland Inc. is viewed as corrupt country where cronyism is rife and that’s accurate. Are you happy with that reputation? I’m not. It’s embarrassing. We ALL have to inform ourselves about the FACTS and then take action – quickly.

She was more explicit on Sluggerotoole

No one wants to lend to us because we are seen as corrupt fraudsters. As a result, we pay more to borrow money than other countries.

The other half of her argument was that the government was not ensuring that enough money was getting to private enterprise from the banks, and that a new bank should be created by the state to loan to small business. No arguments from me about the need for a new bank, about the need to ensure that businesses do not go to the wall where possible, but of course we also need to expand this to individuals, and especially to their mortgages.

It’s fair to say that Mansergh was not best pleased with her attitude and arguments. It’s also fair to say that I find myself in the unpleasant and unexpected position of being on his side of the argument. Mansergh made the point that the government was not going to clobber the people all at once. Ward’s response was an outraged and repeated “Why not?” The implications of her question are remarkable. While trying to appear as the voice of the man on the street, alone, abandoned and ignored by government, the actual consequences of her policies being adopted are simple. She said the government needed to talk to the people, to communicate with it. That is all well and good. But what does it seem she thinks the government should actually be saying? We are cutting your wages, your benefits, your public services, your schools, your hospitals, and our commitments to you and to social welfare. Instead we are going to concentrate on ensuring that we give money to business so that if you are lucky some of this will trickle down to you (because there was no mention of helping individuals out, just businesses). This is her version of offering the people hope. Spare us.

As I’ve noted already, this argument is being made by a range of government and media figures in the language of war. Ward in fact argued that there was a danger of being “economically colonised” by Europe. Yet it never seems to dawn on any of them to ask what governments do during times of war. Do they cut public spending? Do they reduce their activity? Do they downsize their role in the economy and in the lives of the citizens? Of course not. In order to win a war, the government takes into its own hands the direction of the entire economy. It creates new factories and new jobs. It suspends political ideology in favour of the efficiency offered by the collective energies of the people harnessed by the state. Perhaps when they meditate a little more on that, Ward and co might rethink their use of the terminology, or even the supposed solutions they are offering to the crisis.

Unity Government in the south?

February 26, 2009

John Gormley has been talking about the possibility of a unity government in the south. I’ve posted about it at Cedar Lounge Revolution.

Garland Gets Bail

February 13, 2009

Good news from Dublin, where Seán Garland has been granted bail, albeit under very onerous conditions. Justice and humanity dictated that someone in his condition should not be in gaol while the extradition proceedings are sorted out. No to the extradition of Seán Garland!

Irish Labour in the North: The Future is…?

February 13, 2009

A while back, in this post I discussed a post by Jenny of South Belfast Diary on the rejection by Eamon Gilmore of the Irish Labour Party standing in elections in the North. Jenny now has a brief account of her last meeting as a member. It’s an interesting read.

Gilmore says no to the north. Again.

November 19, 2008

A very interesting post at South Belfast Diary, where (an angry) Jenny has mounted the leaked section from the Irish Labour Party’s now delayed 21st Century Commission dealing with Northern Ireland. The short version is that the Irish Labour Party has ruled out standing in elections in NI while the SDLP still exists, and Eamon Gilmore has written to NI members confirming that this is the case. Should the SDLP merge with Fianna Fáil, which is now no longer a serious possibility, the Irish Labour Party would hope to use the Party of European Socialists to avoid having to organise in NI.

If the SDLP, in whole or in part, chooses at some future stage to merge or create formal links with Fianna Fáil then it would automatically lose its membership of the PES. In all likelihood, in those circumstances a potion of SDLP members would decline to follow the party into such a merger or alliance. It would then be important that we, along with the British Labour Party, ensure that the social democratic and labour movement is adequately represented in Northern Ireland politics. Under the Statutes of the PES it would be possible for the new party to allow for dual membership for Northern Ireland members. Accordingly, an activist could be a member of the new party and the Irish or British Labour Party. Such a provision could accommodate the dual community identity (“British or Irish or both”) that remains at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement.

Instead, the Commission recommends increased coordination with the SDLP, in pursuit of what I can only describe as a bizarre interpretation of the 1916 Proclamation’s line about cherish all the children of the nation equally:

Such a covenant would entail:
· A community where no child is ever left behind because of disability, or left out because of colour
· A Nation where to be a child of Ireland does not have to mean a child of Irish parents
· A society where parents of an autistic child do not have to research, lobby and petition various service providers as though they are the first
· A culture where young women are safer on our streets and young men are safer on our roads
· An island where children and their families will be protected against persecution and prejudice as well as poverty
· An economy that invests in the skills and values the talents of all young people including those with learning disabilities
· A country whose services and systems, laws and budgets truly proclaim “Every Child is our Child”.

As I pointed out in the comments at South Belfast Diary, this should come as no surprise. One of the main motivations behind the decision of Gilmore and the other five TDs who split from The Workers’ Party in 1992 in pursuit of a move to the right and government positions, was to cut their ties with the north so they could concentrate on the south. Although the Democratic Left did organise in NI during its brief existence, and even stand in elections, it never gave much attention to the north. When DL was wound up, its northern members were told to join the SDLP, despite the fact that for several decades they had been arguing that it was as much a part of sectarian politics in NI as any other party. It seemed when the Irish Labour Party agreed to accept members in the north, that they had been offered another chance, but this has now been revealed for the purely cosmetic exercise it always was.

So where does that leave the people who are in the Labour Party in the north? They can try and get permission from the British Labour Party to stand in elections, but this looks like being a long way off, given that they were only allowed to join after a court case. I also suspect that many of the NI members see themselves as more left wing than New Labour, and would not be entirely comfortable with it. Many of these people are genuine about wanting strong socialist politics in Northern Ireland, and about fighting sectarianism. I think that they will have to look elsewhere. Even if an organisation like The Workers’ Party would be too far to the left for many, the ongoing discussions about an agreed left candidate in Europe or some such coalition in the future may provide them with a home that allows them to be active on all fronts.

Why Civil War Politics are here to stay

November 17, 2008

I have just put up this discussion at Cedar Lounge Revolution of why predictions of the demise of civil war politics in the south are sadly mistaken.

Remember the Somme (but forget the GPO): Myers and Memory

November 15, 2008

As I was saying, the whole obsession with the poppy and the uncritical celebration of imperialist war around Remembrance Day drives me up the wall. Imagine then how delighted I was to see Kevin Myers demand we all remember those from Ireland who died serving in the British Army during the two world wars (though he ignores the fact the money from the poppy goes to the veterans of other, often nakedly colonial, conflicts). Myers cleverly picks people who died during World War II, and tells their stories. No-one in their right mind can deny the Second World War was a just one, so anyone who rejects his argument can be easily smeared. Utterly, utterly cynical. I’ll skip the extended rant this deserves, instead I will just say that I’ve never noticed Myers extend the same courtesy to those during the period 1916-23 who died in pursuit of recognition of the democratically-expressed wish of the Irish people for greater independence from Britain. I do wonder about some people some times.