The United Irishman, Vol. 23, No. 6
Organisation: Sinn Féin [Pre 1970]
Publication: The United Irishman
Issue:Volume 23, Number 6
Meitheamh (June) 1969
Collection:Remembering 1969
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

8th June 2009

Another document that gives a useful insight into the mindset of Republicanism, at least at a rhetorical level, during 1969. This copy of the United Irishman from June 1969 still gives little indication of the rupture that would occur within Republicanism towards the end of that year. Indeed the front cover seems oddly tame, with a piece on how a ban on the sale of the United Irishman in the Six Counties is being defied by Sinn Féin, mention of a dispute amongst electricians with an English firm and an increase in Dublin Corporation Rents. The emphasis on the latter issues perhaps speaks of the more campaigning side of Sinn Féin during this period. And it’s followed by article on Fisheries protests and an odd piece on how Derry Unionists established an Housing Action Committee. A long piece on the Dublin Housing Action emphasises this campaigning bent.

There’s also mention of how the IRA in Galway were claiming responsibility for property on a large estate in the county.

Add to that a piece on Palestine and one might well draw a certain picture.

On the other hand the situation in the North is not ignored. Northern Letter on page 4 details the changes in the Stormont Government and the impact of the attacks on Civil Rights marchers at Burntollet. And it there is a strong concentration on the issue of Civil Rights as a tactic.

Meanwhile one will also read about ‘Republicanism, Marxism and Christianity’, perhaps an attempt to ensure there was some cover for the left tilt amongst more traditional members.

All that said it is fascinating to read the editorial on the last page which is exercised almost entirely by the prospect of an election and with only a glancing comment on the North.

More copies of the United Irishman from this year to come…next month we see the July issue.

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  • By: Starkadder Tue, 09 Jun 2009 14:35:32

    That’s interesting Bob. I didn’t know that there was such a fear of
    a “Loyalist takeover” in mid-70s NI. So much of PD ended up on
    the left wing of the Republican movement then.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Eamonn Cork Tue, 09 Jun 2009 14:46:24

    Re the LFM, my mother, who’s from Connemara and was working in Dublin at the time, remembers going along to their meetings with other people from the Gaeltacht and shouting, “traitors,” at them. The atmosphere was apparently very hostile. And, before you dismiss such opposition as reactionary, quite a few of the people who were there with would become involved in Ceartai Shibhialta Na Gaeltachta, a civil rights movement which achieved a great deal for Connemara and which was on one famous occasion treated with great brutality by the Gardai when they did a sit down outside the GPO. There were also republicans and people who would later make a name for themselves in the Pro-Life movement. Donal O Morain and Tomas O Fiaich were with the Antis, John B. Keane and Joe Lynch are the names which come to mind for the LFM. I think people like my mother were very sensitive because of the parlous state of the Gaeltacht at the time, unlike now they would have had a feeling of being regarded as second class citizens so anything to do with the language was a big issue for them.
    Incidentally former Ceartai Shibhialta man Seosamh O Cuaig retained his independent seat in the Connemara area of Galway County Council this week.
    Interesting to see Jim Monaghan mention Rhodesia. I was struck, when reading papers from 1975, to see how seriously that idea of a Unionist breakway state was taken. They even used the Rhodesian name for the concept, UDI.

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  • By: Mark P Tue, 09 Jun 2009 14:59:44

    Pardon my ignorance, but what was the LFM?

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  • By: Eamonn Cork Tue, 09 Jun 2009 15:04:13

    They were opposed to the Compulsory Irish policy by which if you failed Irish in the Leaving Cert you failed the whole exam. Their heyday was the mid to late sixties, I think.

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  • By: Joe Tue, 09 Jun 2009 15:54:58

    LFM = Language Freedom Movement. They were opposed to what they saw as the favouritism shown to people who could speak Irish/people who had passed exams in Irish e.g. in getting into University, getting state employment. Things like students getting a percentage extra for sitting exams through Irish.
    I think people like Gay Byrne would have been sympathetic. They would have seen what they would have thought of as an Irish language mafia in control for a period in RTÉ and been opposed.
    Some of their thinking would be against a Gaelic Ireland, anti-all things foreign (e.g.jazz music or whatever) element in the Irish language movement.
    Well worth a good discussion. Establishment Gaeilgeoirí (mostly not native speakers unlike Eamonn’s mam above) would have been first generation up from the country middle class. Irish was a handy tool in helping to keep white collar state jobs out of the hands of the working class.
    I was somewhat taken aback when I scanned a Gene Kerrigan article in the SINDO recently. In the context of the Ryan Report on child abuse in the institutions, he referred to the elites that couldn’t be challenged in those times and included “the Irish speakers” or somesuch in the list. But he has a point, up to a point.
    My mam and dad were first/second generation up from the country middle-class Gaeilgeoirí (not native speakers). My mam to this day would have a sharp intake of breath and mutter something like “oh, terrible people” if the LFM are mentioned. Go maire sí an céad.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 10 Jun 2009 07:55:26

    On a Loyalist takeover and the fear of it.
    Remember that there was links between Loyalis=t killer gangs and the British forces in the North.
    Paisley had no problem with associating with loyalist groups. Look at his attitude when catholic children wer murdered.
    The UDA were a powerful force tolerated at least by Britain.
    There was a tangible fear.
    The term cheerleaders is a cheap jibe. PD did what it could and was an independent force. What do you do if a large organisation become more political and takes some ideas that are close to you. become more sectarian to maintain a distance.
    In a period of unrest in the country why even Gilmore would start acting left.
    The problem is that SF having left the monastery of absentionism just kept going, bypassing and leaving revolutionary politics.
    In any united fornt you do hang out with other forces both large and small.
    The prblem at the moment is that the far left twins SWP and SP are too concerned with keeping their brands uncontaminated when they should take the risk of creating a real pole of attraction even if it goes up in flames. Politics is about taking risks for real growth.
    Ther H_Block struggel and its responsibilities left the PD cadre exhausted. It was impossible to really recruit form it. SF had the momentum. We were squeezed into being advisors admittably punching way above our weight. The decision by many that by joining SF they could assist the momentum left was an honest one. Alas, they just became part of the drift in SF.
    Th eline of PD was to push for mass action as opposed to militarism. SF saw mass action in the end as jus electioneering. This lead them to what is left clientism where they become part of the parliamentary game.
    Raking over the past useful to a degree but we must come back to what is to be done.
    We need the SP in pole position with Higgings to take the lead in Left unity.
    They PBP and Seamus Healy have the bones of a national alternative. Independents have to push them out of the isolation and monastic purity hideaways into giving a home to those who want a national fightback.

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  • By: Fergal Wed, 10 Jun 2009 09:40:38

    Jim,post 15,
    One of the problems with elements of SP and the SWP is the name-calling and a near Messianic obsession with ideological purity.Always have been suspicious of those who are fixated with knowing what the working class needs.Saying this from a libertarian-left “position”.There is no doubt that the non-Labour left should set up some sort of Popular Front,leave their egos at the door and keep it simple.This is a particularly nasty govt.(and FG) obsessed with keeping the rich and powerful onside while leaving the weak/poor to their own fate.All forms of opposition are a boost!

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  • By: Seán Ó Tuama Wed, 10 Jun 2009 10:31:31

    Sad to see all the old myths and clichés about “middle class” Irish speakers being spread here.

    A requirement to speak Irish or an advantage because one speaks in a particular position would apply in any case mainly to jobs which would be considered broadly “middle class” or “white-collar”. At most one could claim that there was discrimination in favour of the Irish-speaking middle-class over the non-Irish-speaking middle class. It is nonsense to claim that this could represent an advantage to the middle class Irish speakers over the working class. To the extent that Irish was a requirement for working class jobs, it would give an advantage to working class Irish speakers over working class non-Irish speakers. In this case also, there would be no class discrimination.

    Irish speakers have a democratic right to conduct their business with public agencies through Irish. To safeguard this right requires some mechanism to ensure that there are enough staff available able to conduct business through Irish. One can argue about what mechanism to use but some mechanism is neccessary.

    In any case, irish speaking is not a “middle class”preserve. There have always been a considerable number of Irish-speaking working class families. My father was an Irish speaking Dublin working class trade unionist and there many like him. We went to Irish speaking schools in which there were quite a few other children from working class areas. There was, in fact, in Irish speaking schools probably much more of a class spread than in other schools. The greatest recent growths Irish speaking schools has been in areas such as Inchicore, Ballymun or Tallaght.

    To the extent that we are “middle-class”, it is because we are more concentrated in public-sector jobs, the types of jobs the left is generally happy to characterise as working class.

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  • By: Eamonn Cork Wed, 10 Jun 2009 11:04:02

    Apologies if I seemed to imply that my mother was somehow typical of the people who protested against the LFM, it was just a personal anecdote I was retailing. There was a wide spread of people there.
    I might be wrong but I’d be inclined to agree with Sean O Tuama. I would have thought that even the most extreme forms of Irish language zealotry were based on cultural chauvinism rather than a desire to do down the working class. My father came from a working class background in Kilkenny and fell in love with the Irish language due to his involvement in the folk scene in Dublin. He wouldn’t have had a right wing bone in his body.
    Yet I have over the years seen people practically suggest that speaking Irish is per se a right wing activity. I find this odd. And surely we’d all agree that the more languages a person speaks the more rounded their picture of the world.
    However, I can see where that criticism comes from to some extent. My father would often rail against the fact that the most lunatic right wing letters in the newspapers were generally signed in Irish. But in a way it’s analogous to the whole traditional music world in Dublin at the time. Everyone knows the fainne wearing Irish Ireland obscurantist cliche, the people who thought Irish music was great because it was Irish. Yet, as anyone who’s attended any kind of left wing benefit gig in this country knows, many traditional musicians would be on the left, Carnsore was almost exclusively a traditional gig for example. You could perhaps classify these as people who thought Irish music was great because it was, to use the old Topic Records slogan, “The Voice of the People.”
    A couple of other observations. My father would always sign his name in Irish but in the checkpoint filled fun days of the mid seventies he gave this up when meeting the Gardai. Giving his name in Irish, or showing a driving licence with his name in Irish, generally drew one of two responses, “Are you trying to be smart with me,” or, “What are you? A f***ing Provo?” Which was an odd response to the state’s first official language.
    My own daughter goes to a Gaelscoil, largely because there is a real independence and enthusiasm in the movement (Our local school is the only one in the locality without a priest or Protestant clergyman on the board). And the movement does seem to have put down strong roots in working class Dublin areas.
    Yet I know that mentioning the Irish language to people often draws the response, “I hate it. It was beaten into us at school.” Yet, without being glib, it strikes me that people from that generation, my father’s, had everything beaten into them at school. Why Irish draws special oppobrium is something I don’t know.

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  • By: Seán Ó Tuama Wed, 10 Jun 2009 11:45:23

    No problem, Éamonn, it was more Joe’s posting I was reacting against. He seems to feel the need, because his parents were Irish speaking, to peddle the usual clichés in order to show how cosmipolitan he his.

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  • By: Seán Ó Tuama Wed, 10 Jun 2009 11:57:50

    Éanonn, on another theme I like your reference to the Carnsore Point demonstration. I am increasingly worried by way, in which, under the cover of the anti-global warming issue, the pro-nuclear power lobby, not peviously noted for its concern for the environment, are pushing their line.

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  • By: Joe Thu, 11 Jun 2009 09:39:00

    A Sheáin a chara. Is Gaeilgeoir mise chomh maith. Is maith liom í a labhairt is í a scríobh. Tá mé an-bhródúil as mo thuistí agus as an nGaeilge a labhraidís agus an cion don teanga a thugadar dom. Is álainn an teanga í an Ghaeilge – rud álainn é gach aon teanga ar domhan, dár ndóigh.

    Ach is scéal an-chasta ar fad é scéal na Gaeilge agus an Stáit agus scéal dearcadh muintir na hÉireann i leith na Gaeilge (nó dearcanna is dócha).

    Iarraim ort athléamh a dhéanamh ar phost 14 uaim thuas.
    “Some of their thinking would be against a Gaelic Ireland, anti-all things foreign (e.g.jazz music or whatever) element in the Irish language movement.” Féach an focal “element”.
    “He has a point, up to a point.” Féach “up to a point”.

    Ní dóigh liom gur clichés a bhí a spabhtáil agam ach tuairimí agus dearcadh roinnt mhaith daoine. Daoine gur sibhialtaigh den Stáit iad agus a chuaigh ar scoil agus a d’fhás suas in Éirinn in éineacht liomsa agus leatsa. Dúirt Éamonn: “Why Irish draws special oppobrium is something I don’t know.” Ceist iontach suimiúil é sin – go bhfuil an special opprobrium sin ag daoine áirithe agus ag aicmí áirithe don Ghaeilge. Ag iarraidh é sin a phlé a bhíos. Brón orm má chuireas isteach ort.
    N’fheadar an masla é an cosmopolitinneas sin a luaigh tú liom. Uaireanta agus mé ag plé ceisteanna polaitíochta Éireannacha deirim nach náisiúnaí mé ach idirnáisiúnaí.
    Beir bua is beannacht.

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  • By: Seán Ó Tuama Thu, 11 Jun 2009 10:35:38

    Joe, a chara,

    Dúirt tú “Irish was a handy tool in helping to keep white collar state jobs out of the hands of the working class”

    Is dóigh liom gur masla é agus nach bhfuil sé fíor. Mhínigh mé cén fáth. Ní dóigh liom ach an oiread go bhfuil lucht na Gaeilge chomh méanaicmeach agus a deireann tú. Bhí mé ag smaoineamh ar m’athair agus mé ag scríobh agus seans go raibh mé ró- ghéar leat. Ma bhí, brón orm.

    Tá difríocht idir cosmopolitan agus idirnáisiúnaí ach sin díospóireacht eile.

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  • By: Gypsy Thu, 11 Jun 2009 11:14:58

    Is there a babelfish for gaelige?

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  • By: Ciarán Thu, 11 Jun 2009 12:32:20

    Ná déanaimis dearmad faoi staid na Gaeilge sna Sé Chondae chomh maith. Níl aon ‘mheánaimce Ghaeilge’ sa státseirbhís le caint fúthú anseo – tá daoine anseo fós brodúil gur as pobail lucht oibre gan pingin rua acu a d’fhás leithéidí Ghaeltacht Bhóthar Seoighe, na nGaelscoileanna, srl.

    Let’s not forget the state of the Irish language in the North-East as well. There’s no ‘Irish-speaking middle class’ in the civil service to speak of here – people here are still proud that it was from working class communities with eff all money that the likes of the Shaw’s Road Gaeltacht, the Gaelscoileanna, etc. grew out of.

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  • By: Joe Thu, 11 Jun 2009 14:52:12

    Is there a babelfish for gaelige?

    I honestly don’t know Gypsy. But there’s lots of good Gaeilge classes out there if you are interested!

    There are many theses to be written on the various attitudes to the Irish language to be found among Irish people. I think Eamonn’s question on why Irish seems to draw a special opprobrium from some people is a fascinating topic. Fascinating, but for other days.

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  • By: Bartholomew Thu, 11 Jun 2009 20:25:53

    Réabhlóid Theach Tabhairne an Chéadair.

    Don eite chlé cantalach!

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  • By: Gypsy Thu, 11 Jun 2009 20:34:25

    I asked about babelfish because I was interested in what you and Sean were saying to each other.
    Did attempt to sort myself out about ten years ago and managed to find what I only can call a bad Gaelige class. And it was in C na G. Put me off it for a while longer. Maybe I’m a lost cause.
    Speaking of stories about parents my own mother used to be the tea lady in a national school in Finglas South. She’d be in the staff room making tea and the VP when he didn’t want her to know what he was talking about to another teacher used to slip into the gaelige. It was the only time when she really wished that she had a cupla focal. He’s since gone on to be the Chief Whip.
    Gaelige is on my list of classes to do whenever I find some time – right up there with swimming lessons, driving lessons and time organisation classes.

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  • By: Seán Ó Tuama Thu, 11 Jun 2009 21:36:35


    Tá cantalach b’fhéidir ró-dhiúltach mar aistriúchán ar “stubborn” (an bhfuil WBS cantalach?) ach in ainneoin sin is maith liom do leagan Gaeilge.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen Linken « Entdinglichung Fri, 12 Jun 2009 09:32:55

    […] * Sinn Féin: The United Irishman, Juni 1969 […]

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