The Starry Plough, Vol. 1, No. 2
Date:1975
Organisation:Irish Republican Socialist Party
Publication:The Starry Plough [IRSP]
Issue:Volume 1, Number 2
Bealtaine 1975
Collection:1975: Official Sinn Féin/IRSP Split and Republican Feuds
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

8th June 2015

Many thanks to the long term contributor who forwarded this to the Archive. This is the second edition of the IRSP newspaper, the Starry Plough – the first one was posted last month, produced in the aftermath of the split from Official Sinn Féin which precipitated the foundation of that organisation.

The front cover has the headline ‘Break The Connection: Fight for a national liberation and a Socialist Republic!’.

Inside the Eagarfhocal asks ‘Feud or Fascism’ when it outlines a series of murders of IRSP members in Belfast. It argues that:

Previously IRSP members were, in the main, members of an organisation which often won the admiration of the Irish people by exposing and opposing such issues as the corruption of the northern state, the robbery of our mineral wealth, the shocking housing problem in our cities; and so forth. These members were acceptable then, to the Officials’ leadership, and indeed, many were to the forefront in the struggle of the working class.

If the leadership had decided to allow open and free discussion within the Republican Movement, to solve the policy differences that arose from 1970 onwards, probably there would be no IRSP today. But, instead, over period of two years, the leadership carried out a successful with hunt of the opposition to such an extent that only 15 votes were cast against the leadership at its last ardfheis. There was no option for the remaining dissenters but to form a new party.

Still the Officials came after IRSP members and associates to jackboot them into submission and final disbandment. While their typewriters clicked out angry words against British imperialism and its terror troops, their fists and boots tortured IRSP members while their guns gored, crippled and maimed them.

The Officials will not talk to the IRSP although the IRSP has accepted nine different intermediaries, have stood down members in Belfast, demanded a temporary ceasefire of its recent protectors and even offered one national executive member a s hostage to show their goodwill. They will not allow the IRSP the right to form a separate party and let the working class an history judge who is correct.

It concludes:

Even now we would be quite prepared to work with the Officials on any issue which would help to make national liberation and socialism a fact for the Irish working class, rather than hopeful but long term dream.

Articles inside include a piece on Internment which notes that ‘[PIRA] ceasefire or no ceasefire, Internment is here to stay and will continue despite the fact that batches of the internees are being released in dribs and drabs’. There is a report from the ‘First IRSP Ard Fheis which notes that 1000 delegates attended and that ‘visitors, some of them representing other revolutionary groups from at home and abroad, were also present’. It reports that on a discussion on Internal Democracy and Democratic Centralism ‘an amended resolution was overwhelmingly accepted by conference… which permits full freedom for discussion and debate within the party and for maximum unity in action outside the party’. It did however reject factions in the party. It also noted that delegates accepted that the struggle against foreign imperialism and native capitalism is one struggle. Also mentioned was the centrality of equal rights for women.

A long excerpt from Seamus Costello’s chairman’s speech is given. Interestingly it includes the following:

In doing this we recognise quite clearly that the struggle for National Liberation must reach a successful conclusion before we can establish a Socialist Republic.

There is also a piece entitled ‘Who Shot McMillan?’ which suggests that the murder of Liam [Billy] McMillan ‘a member of the Ard Comhairle of Sinn Féin was the work of an ‘agent provocateur’ said Seamus Costello, chairman of the I.R.S.P.’ and that ‘the shooting is particularly sinister in view of the fact that the dispute between the IRSP and the Officials is almost at an end.’

It continues:

Mr. Jim McCorry, a member of the National Executive of the IRSP said his organisation was in no way involved in the kiling. He had checked with all branches in the city.

Other pieces include an overview of ‘A Victory that shook the World’ that being the offensive by the Khmer Rouge and an account of how the ‘party zooms ahead in south Derry’.

More from The Starry Plough [IRSP]

The Starry Plough [IRSP] in the archive


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  • By: Phil Mon, 08 Jun 2015 07:52:11

    To be fair, the ‘victory that shook the world’ was primarily that of the NLF in Vietnam – there are only a couple of lines about Cambodia, to the effect that Western imperialism had been pushed back there as well. I’d imagine that the article was already written when the news came through that Phnom Penh had fallen (April 1975) & that it was updated to reflect it.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:47:23

    That’s a fair point.

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  • By: Gearóid Mon, 08 Jun 2015 23:18:16

    I’ve often seen it claimed that the IRSP was the first party in Ireland to endorse gay rights, at the 1975 Ard Fheis. The document above alludes to a lengthy motion on women’s rights which mentioned sexual rights, maybe that was it? Would be interesting to see it.

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  • By: deadmanonleave Fri, 12 Jun 2015 21:30:00

    I’m trying to think of the best way to put it, but between the Sticks avoiding the situation in the North and imperialism, and the Provos doing nothing but that…..the Irps could, should, maybe would have been the future back then, They seemed ahead of their time, on the political level certainly.

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  • By: roddy Fri, 12 Jun 2015 22:05:21

    As someone who would have had a lot of time for them in their early days ( their later incarnations bore no resemblance to what their founders intended),I have to say that a lot of the claims of party strength were grossly overstated.The party never “zoomed ahead” in South Derry and most of the areas alleged to be “zooming” never had any IRSP members at all.As far as republicanism was concerned South Derry was a “Provo” stronghold from 74 on and to this day is politically SF to an overwhelming extent. When South Derry had its own district council up to this year,SF had an overall majority and even now hold 18 seats out of 40 on the new much enlarged mid ulster super council.

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  • By: deadmanonleave Sat, 13 Jun 2015 07:49:06

    I think that all political papers were given to that kind of hyperbole such as the ‘zooming ahead’ that you mention Roddy. It’s kind of hard to think of a pre-internet age where you could get away with such exagerration as to the wider public it often wouldn’t be verifiable. For all it’s downsides, I think that we’re in a more honest place now, warts and all!

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sat, 13 Jun 2015 09:11:57

    It’s interesting what you say re IRSP. I had it put to me that on paper they were great, just in practice… not so much and things went wrong very very quickly. I think though that they were always constrained by the context in which they developed. Not just the fact they were a splinter from a larger organisation which is always logistically and in other ways problematic (as has been seen with those who hived off from PSF) but also that they appeared at a very particular phase of the conflict where there was a very high level of sectarian murder, where their orientation was towards that rather than broader strategic issues. I talked to Tony Gregory about this a couple of times and as far as I could tell he thought the pattern could have been armed struggle in the north, strong, perhaps almost revolutionary, social agitation in the south, but I tend to the view that one or other will predominate, that despite partition it’s not so easy to focus on both. The histories of PSF and the WP suggests likewise. And then there was the North/South aspect in terms of control and command where the INLA was clearly distinct and very autonomous from the political structures (and I’ve a lot of sympathy for McAliskey et al in relation to that and the situation they found themselves in). I’m not sure how it could have been otherwise given the nature of the split and where support was and wasn’t.

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  • By: roddy Sat, 13 Jun 2015 13:32:22

    I would have been very supportive of Costello,Bernadette et al but when SF went political in the early 80s ,I came to view them as the only show in town .I can honestly say that even in the mid 70s I had no time for O’Bradaigh or O’Connell and only became 100% SF when Adams took over.Adams and his colleagues constructed a party with the numbers and organisational strength to make all other groupings irrelevant.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Sat, 13 Jun 2015 13:38:04

    I think O’Bradaigh was very sincere, his bio is a very good read. But I think a huge part of the problem was (and this was replicated by the IRSP) a Dublin leadership trying to oversee Belfast and the North and that just couldn’t and didn’t fly.

    I think – at least in respect of the North – you’re right re the construction of SF. IRSP was just way too small to materially affect the situation overall. OSF was heading for different pastures entirely (and tellingly became very significant in the South as the WP – though to their credit unlike DL and the LP never forgot that this is an island and organised properly as such).

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