The Starry Plough, No. 6
Organisation: Irish Republican Socialist Party
Publication: The Starry Plough [IRSP]
Issue:Number 6
Contributors: Info
Francis Glenn, Robert Lake, Dermot McBride, Seamus Morgan, Jon O'Hanlon
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

19th September 2007

A further addition to the Left Archive from Ciarán  of Crá Croí Cois Cuain who scanned in this newspaper issued by the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) - readers of a nervous disposition be warned!

As Ciarán writes:

I happened across this copy of the Starry Plough from 1989, and a few other from the period, while I was going through the attic of Costello House in Belfast with an Irp friend a few years ago.

I suppose the first thing that really struck me about the paper was the quality of it; it was produced just two years after one of their “internecine feuds” and while they generally seem to have been considered dormant until the 1996 feud, I was surprised that they were active in a sense because the paper does come across as fairly vibrant.

You’ve got articles on the state of the education system in the twenty-six counties and cutbacks in the health service in the six counties alongside an article entitled “Brits Out Now!” and an article on the fight for socialism in China. There are debates in the letter pages on how to address loyalist workers and on the Time to Go campaign in Britain. A piece on the history of the Starry Plough flag alongside pieces on the RUC and UDR running amok. And through it all you’ve got attacks on the CPI, SWP, WP and the Provisionals any and every time the chance arises.

This arises in the centre-page spread on the Marxist approach to violence. The piece is interesting in itself as an analysis of how Marx and Marxists in the past dealt with the question, but they also defend themselves against the misuse of Lenin or Trotsky’s writings (especially when it comes to individual terrorism) by their left-wing critics.

Again, if it’s accepted that the Irps and the INLA were not particularly active in this period, I think this paper from the time gives an interesting insight into the views of a party that then referred to itself as Marxist-Leninist in a time of great change for socialism internationally.

(The Left Archive is intended to be an archive of printed material from the public domain relating to parties and political formations on the Irish Left. All materials are intended to be freely available for download in PDF format. All donations of printed material to the Left Archive gratefully accepted and will of course be noted publicly and can be accompanied by discursive pieces on the provenance of the material)

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  • By: Mbari Wed, 19 Sep 2007 15:57:35

    Interesting to see that Red Action, “The Leninist,” and the Revolutionary Communist Group get a shout-out from Seamus Morgan in his piece on Marxism and violence.

    Also, it looks like the IRSP took a big step away from Maoism at this point, as evidenced by the article on democracy in China. I guess their left orientation sort of varies from Plough to Plough though.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 19 Sep 2007 17:06:53

    It sure does. Still, the bitterness of previous splits pervades it doesn’t it? And the rationales for armed struggle. Which oddly makes their approach to PSF rather hands off. Again perhaps understandable in light of previous history. I can’t help feeling reading it that this was a very very angry organisation.

    Incidentally, wasn’t that the UK Red Action, not our own one…

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  • By: Mbari Wed, 19 Sep 2007 20:48:03

    For sure, although I’m not entirely clear on how the two organizations differed back then. I thought that Red Action UK largely gave up on the INLA after the ’87 violence; I remember seeing a piece online entitled “From Connolly to Corleone” more or less agreeing with PSF’s move to treat the Irps as civilans or even common criminals. But then again, I see Gary O’Halloran presenting his organization’s anti-Leninist viewpoint in the letters section of the ’89 Plough. So who knows (probably Splintered Sunrise, actually, but still…).

    I see what you mean about the anger. Reading the Plough over, it gives off the impression that it was written by somebody who had lost everything due to conspiracy and betrayal, which, to be fair, is probably how I’d feel if I was an Irp then, or now for that matter.

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  • By: Mbari Wed, 19 Sep 2007 20:50:03

    (Speaking of the IRSP, has anybody read Walter Ellis’s memoir on his younger years? Apparently a lot of it deals with his relationship to his cousin Ronnie Bunting.)

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 19 Sep 2007 22:17:04

    Nah, got a link or title of book?

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  • By: Mbari Wed, 19 Sep 2007 23:28:16

    Here’s a review from those lovable oddballs at The Irish Democrat:

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Thu, 20 Sep 2007 07:04:59

    Much appreciated. Incidentally, does anyone have an Irish People from the same period? I have an Irish Socialist which I’ll post up next week from almost exactly the same time which covers much the same ground, albeit in a different way.

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  • By: John O'Neill Thu, 20 Sep 2007 10:50:26

    I have the following (have not been in the attic yet!)
    United Irishman – August 1978 (SFWP)
    Ireland Her Own – Programme of the Irish Workers Party 1963 (CPI)
    Nation or Province? – Ireland – The Common Market (Sinn Fein) 1963
    The Economics of Partition 1969 (ICO)
    Forward 1972? (CYM)
    Problems of the Irish Revolution _ Gerry Foley 1972 (US-SWP)
    Ireland in Rebellion -Gerry Foley 1971 (US-SWP)
    If anyone is interested I will attempt to scan the above but I could do with some basic instructions as I am not used to scanning and all my efforts to date have scanned into word documents!

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  • By: John O'Neill Thu, 20 Sep 2007 11:17:35

    I finished reading the Starry Plough article “The Workers’ Party embrace Capitalism” and I can’t say I disagree with its line although I would have never admitted that at the time. The DeRossa speech at the Ard Fheis was truely awful and astonishing. An overnight transformation from Socialism to opportunist, right social democracy with all the hallmarks of E. Harris’s pen. I recall vividly being gobsmacked listening to DeRossa I really couldn’t believe that I was hearing. In hindsight, I would trace the start of the end of the WP directly to this address.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Thu, 20 Sep 2007 16:56:30

    I completely agree John. That speech was almost abysmal – remarkably curious considering that many other parties had made similar breaks in the past and done so at least with some dignity and honour intact.

    Incidentally can’t help rubbing hands together in anticipation regarding that list of yours. On the other hand I don’t want this to be a painful and time consuming process. The idea at the mo is to have one new piece up every week or so. I still have quite a few bits and pieces around the place so any scanning done can be at whatever rate people want to do it.

    When you scan into word does that mean you’re in word and then go to a scanner option or is that you’re in some special scanner software and then save as a word doc? If it’s the first then I think it will work although we might see the borders of the word doc. IIRC that’s how Redking scanned his material in. If the second just set the option to JPG or PDF. Don’t worry about collating the individual files together. I can do that if you send me the file at

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  • By: Seamus Reader Sun, 19 Jul 2009 20:44:30

    I have an almost complete collection of back issues of the Starry Plough and numerous other IRSP publications. I too raided the archive in Costello House about 20 years ago when I was a dedicated Irp. However, I had thrown in the towel by the time of the feud involving the Q Ball faction and felt that loyalty to the Party could only be stretched so far. The membership of the IRSP was very much a mixed bag. I met numerous genuine people who saw it as a vehicle to advance the socialist republican project, but it also had its fair share of “fools, rogues and adventurers”, to quote Lenin. In some ways I am amazed it still exists, although it seems all but defunct in the 26 Counties.

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  • By: Worldbystorm Sun, 19 Jul 2009 21:31:23

    Seamus, that’s quite a political journey you were through. I think it’s still sort of extant here and there. My knowledge of the IRSP is limited. Tony Gregory who I knew reasonably well was certainly still I think enormously loyal to Costello but to the organisation? Well version one I think so, at his funeral the blue starry plough flag was prominently displayed. Subsequent versions not so much. Perhaps for much the same reasons as yourself.

    I don’t suppose there is ever a chance you might let me borrow a couple for the Archive? That’s a fantastic resource you got there. My email is in the column on the right.

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  • By: John Maclean Mon, 15 Nov 2010 23:20:57

    In reply to Seamus Reader.

    It would be good if your resource of IRPS material was made available on-line.
    I just read a piece about the escape from cage 5 in Long Kesh of 9 IRPS prisoners and wondered if there was a Starry Plough or anything else from them on this issue, that could be uploaded?

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