United Irishman, Vol. 33, No. 8
Organisation: Sinn Féin [Official]
Publication: The United Irishman
Issue:Volume 33, Number 8
Lúnasa (August) 1975
Collection:1975: Official Sinn Féin/IRSP Split and Republican Feuds
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

24th August 2015

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.

This edition of the United Irishman from Official Sinn Féin is one of a series of United Irishman and Starry Ploughs that date from the feud between the INLA and the OIRA in Spring/Summer 1975.

The cover article – Energy Programme needed not A-Bombs – references proposals to have a nuclear reactor in Wexford operational in 1980. The tone is deeply antagonistic to the proposal arguing that ‘the plan threatens the livers of our people of this and future generations’. By way of contrast a piece on the back page examines, quite favourably, proposals for an oil refinery sister in Dublin Bay. It argues that:

There is only one way in which Ireland can solve the joint problems of unemployment and emigration. this is by developing her international trade. Over 99 per cent of this trade by volume is carried by sea and more than 60 percent of the general cargo, the most valuable constituent, passes through the Port of Dublin.

Other notable aspects of this edition are a number of stories about activities and statements from various sections of the OIRA, including one on how “D” Company of Belfast Command prevented the kidnapping of a former internee and discovered a haul of undercover British Army weapons. The editorial suggests that ‘Recent killings, claims and counter claims are evince that he enemies of the working class are preparing for their kind of ‘solution’.

There’s a piece on Mother Jones, another on Portugal and a two page spread on the need for ‘Human rights must be fully guaranteed’ along with a four point outline of what OSF demands in that regard.

There is only oblique mention of the OIRA/IRSP(PLA) conflict of earlier in the Summer. This is most notable in the Sinn Féin Platform column which carries the text of a speech by Tomas Mac Giolla addressing a conference on Sectarianism in Derry. This includes the statement that:

We know that a purely military campaign would destroy the unity which the Civil Rights struggle was developing, that it would strengthen bigotry and sectarianism and eventually solidify once again the Orange Unionist structure. Our purpose was to eliminate sectarianism completely.

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  • By: Political tourist Mon, 24 Aug 2015 04:15:47

    Looking from 40 years at the history of the Northern part of the Officials just borders on bizarre.
    Unite the Workers/Class Unity just didn’t ring true in a society that had the 12th of July as a holiday.
    Probably the only way class unity or more reasonably a class divide would have truly shown up is if there had been little or no catholic population in the six counties.
    Would unionist/loyalists have said “stuff this, up the workers”.
    Would Stormont have been a one party state for 50 years.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 24 Aug 2015 08:37:55

    In reply to Political tourist.

    I’d tend to agree that there was something utopian about such an approach, but… it’s also important to recall that there wasn’t a fixed Officials position during this period. That it changed across time. 1970, clearly different to 1972/3. 1975 and the feuds, particularly the second one later in the year in regard to the Provisionals being a crucial influence. The latter part of the 70s likewise and then on into the 1980s and the hunger strikes and so on. I’m sure to many who were say at a WP Ard Fheis like myself in the 1980s the party was unrecognisable in many aspects of its line to people who were there in the early to mid 70s or even a bit later. Also important, as the much missed splintered sunrise used to say – that a party programme doesn’t necessarily reflect fully the nature of a formation. The Lost Revolution, and indeed my own experience of talking to people on the left in various parts who went through or were antagonistic to OSF/WP, indicates that there’d be those inside it who took quite different lines from the ‘official’ one and late in the day too.

    The other thoughts I’d have are that one has to keep in mind they were at the outset the Republican Movement. The Provisionals were for quite a while the smaller formation in certain respects. That impacts on the psychology. Add to that a sense that the Civil Rights campaign – their baby so to speak – was actually working in the 60s, that it had led to a complete rearrangement in the political structures in the North, well, squint hard on a good day, ignore some of the difficult stuff, and working class unity across the communities might have seemed realisable.

    Then factor in that cool headed analyses of the situation in the North were thin on the ground, to put it mildly. Unionism (bar a marginal fringe) wouldn’t countenance powersharing, or any serious diminution of their power despite already losing it and not being trusted to have it given back. Loyalism was flirting with all manner of bizarre things just ‘cos, and worse again thought terrorising the Nationalist population was a serious strategy to pre-empt support for Republicanism. The Provisionals sincerely believed in a sort of ‘one last push’ approach despite all the evidence. The Alliance just wanted everyone to be nice to one another (I’m being a bit unfair there but still). The IRSP thought working class unity in one community was all it took and essentially ignored the reality of hundreds of thousands of loyalists/unionists as a fact on the ground. The Irish governments wanted it all to go away, the British probably likewise even if having a lowish level conflict on its territory had its advantages. In some ways and I’m no fan of them, the SDLP were probably most realistic in their analysis for all the good it did them.

    And there is a further issue. What does one do? Precisely the same issue faces people today. Accepting the reality that class unity was a chimera in the short to medium term then and now, what does one do in the meantime? The limits of prolonged armed struggle are fairly clear. Political movement around unity is limited too. Does one focus on the class within a community and hope that others are doing so in the other community (I use the term community loosely)? Or hope that time washes it all away in some way. Or that the political aspects subside in importance?

    That’s a really interesting point too you raise there re a six counties without nationalists/republicans in any great number. But then I think, what of the South where the left remains even today marginal.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:23:03

    The problem was that over 40 % of the population at that time were never going to be part of what would be called the”industrialized working class”.Long after 69 and certainlyinto the 80’s all public jobs ie water ,electricity ,telecom were closed shops to catholics.The engineering industry was overwhelmingly protestant and apart from 3 or 4 councils ,local government was a bastion of discrimination.Virtually all manufacturing was located in loyalist areas and the only exception to this was the Derry shirt factory women.(Phil Coulter got it spot on “while the men on the dole played a mother’s role ,fed the children and then walked the dog”.I experienced the rawest sectarianism of my life when I was sent on a “placement” to a manufacturing plant in Ballymena.Still in my teens and keeping my family background a secret,I was subjected to religious taunts,poppys were thrust in my face and flags were everywhere.I remember one colleague approaching me one day with a religious medal and insisting I must have dropped it.I said ,no it was’nt mine but he still thrust it into my hand and turned and looked at 2 members of management giggling from a nearby balcony.The shop steward was promoted to foreman during my short time there.The catholic working class had the building trade and feck all else and had an unemployment rate 3 times that of the unionist community.Class politics in the classic sense was never going to have a chance in such a shit hole.

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