Dr. Browne and H-Block [Letter]
Publication: Irish Press
Author:Vincent Doherty
Collection:The Hunger Strikes
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

8th August 2016

A letter from Vincent Doherty, in response to a letter from Noël Browne in the Irish Press from 1981, added as part of our Hunger Strikes collection.

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  • By: Phil Mon, 08 Aug 2016 16:31:22

    Somebody fill me in on CnaP. Did they generally go for the frothing anti-Provo line, or was that just Browne? And if he was talking like that, what was he doing in the SLP (alongside PD, at least to begin with)?

    Irish politics is hellish confusing sometimes.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 08 Aug 2016 16:55:42

    In reply to Phil.

    CnaP had gone by then, but Browne seems to have had a curious relationship to republicanism and it’s a very good point re the seeming contradiction with elements within the SLP.

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  • By: sonofstan Mon, 08 Aug 2016 16:55:58

    In reply to Phil.

    I’ll leave the exegesis to someone better versed, but CnaP dissolved itself in 1965, so well before there even were Provos to take a line about. But they were a republican party and Browne may have been an outlier to that line even in the ’50s. His whole career was confusing, and perhaps the prototype of the Irish left ‘saint’, the guy everyone admired for his ‘integrity’ and to whom the establishment was also silently grateful for his inability, or disinclination, to stick with an organisation long enough to make a difference.

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  • By: Pasionario Mon, 08 Aug 2016 17:30:43

    In reply to sonofstan.

    In John Horgan’s biography of Browne, he emphasizes that he became more anti-republican as time went on. But CnaP was already a very mixed bag (one reason why it collapsed) and Browne was more interested then in social issues than the national question.

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  • By: fergal Mon, 08 Aug 2016 17:32:36

    In reply to Phil.

    Phil- Browne even joined fianna fail at one stage!!

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  • By: botheredbarney Mon, 08 Aug 2016 19:34:12

    Noel Browne was a pacifist. He opposed war and the death penalty. He campaigned against corporal punishment in Irish schools. He did not agree with the physical force tradition in Irish nationalism. Conor Cruise O’Brien (hisses and snarls) in his States of Ireland refers to Browne without naming him when he asked Browne which he would choose if he had to choose between Mother Ireland and Mother Church. Browne’s unhesitating answer was Mother Church.

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  • By: sonofstan Mon, 08 Aug 2016 19:41:48

    In reply to fergal.

    Sat as a TD for five different parties, and as an independent. Has to be a record?

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  • By: roddy Mon, 08 Aug 2016 21:20:28

    Never could understand why Matt Merrigan took anything to do with Browne who by all accounts was not adverse to snobbery either.

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  • By: Daniel Rayner O'Connor Lysaght Mon, 08 Aug 2016 21:25:07

    In 1960, there was a symposium in TCD consisting of Browne, MacBride, Corish (LP) and Donal Nevin (ITUC),Browne stood out from the others by his denunciation of the physical force tradition. At the same time, he never accepted the two nation myth.

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  • By: shea Mon, 08 Aug 2016 22:32:21

    brownes rhetoric is fascinating. Honest in that it is a reflection of what happened, that the provo’s were denied oxygen, his criticism of hume is that he broke a line around the provo’s. Same line would be taken again.

    Over the top with the benefit of hide sight in that he fore saw it leading to a clean sweep for the provo’s across ireland, the arrogance and contempt some have for the electorate, that they have to be denied the opportunity to make a ‘wrong’ decision. What value his representative democracy if he believed there was such a large body of opinion going unrepresented?

    He doesn’t explain how his analysis would lead to peace in ireland, it is supposed to be self evident.

    And of course the constant elephant in the constitutional nationalist room, the shadow of the british gun man gets no mention at all.

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  • By: Alibaba Tue, 09 Aug 2016 16:59:24

    In reply to sonofstan.

    In 1977 Matt Merrigan and Noel Browne were “deselected” by a Labour regime bent on Coalition, but even so Browne was elected as a TD. Merrigan’s Labour’s ‘Liaison of the Left’ faction floated the idea of a new party. It became the Socialist Labour Party comprised of people of varying political hues.

    My memory suggests that neither Merrigan nor Browne upheld the mandating of TDs. Some members figured that elected Browne had to be made to toe the line; some didn’t. No matter. Browne went his own way always on principle where real political differences arose. He didn’t do democratic accountability in a conventional sense. He chopped and changed as he saw fit.

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