Workers' Weekly, Vol. 2, No. 32
Date:18th January 1975
Organisation: The Workers' Association
Publication: Workers' Weekly
Issue:Volume 2, Number 32
Type:Publication Issue
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Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

2nd November 2009

Here’s a curiosity. An edition of Workers Weekly written soon after the announcement by the Provisional IRA that they were ending their then recent 25 day long ceasefire in 1974/75. WW is convinced that:

…for a few weeks the Catholic community in West Belfast have enjoyed a taste of normal life, largely free from the attentions of the British Army (and entirely free from the attentions of the Protestant assassination squads). All that is likely to change now and the Provos are not going to get any thanks for it.

The elision of Nationalist/Republican and Catholic is intriguing.

Then the reader is treated to a ‘Glimpse of Provo “Politics”….

The Irish Times of Jan 15th provided an interesting glimpse of Provo ‘Politics’ when it reproduced an interview given… ([in the] organ of the British Trotskyist International Marxist Group)… INTERVIEWER: What kind of withdrawal are you talking about? LOUGHRAN: Withdrawal of the British way of life from this island. This is Ireland. The British way of life has no place on this island. All things British we are talking about - not just the withdrawal of the British Army which is a necessary first step. That, for what it’s worth is the political programme of the Provo’s (and you thought the flat-earthers were mad?). What would be left if we lost the British way of life? The black taxis and french letters would have to go for a start, and presumably we would not be able to communicate in English anymore. The Provos would be a joke if they weren’t prepared to fight. With politics like these, had the Provos any alternative but to call off the ceasefire.

Even in the context of the paucity of political analysis offered by PIRA at this point in time - it’s hard to know whether taking one statement in one interview as being representative of PIRA or PSF thinking on this matter is entirely credible, and whether what the writer imagines is synonymous with the ‘British way of life’ is indeed what the spokesman had in mind.

Likewise with a piece that argues that Catholic Ireland is but 200 years old. The point is correct, but is such a dynamic markedly different from other societies during the same period where supposedly ancient and immutable structures validating societal outlooks were put in place.

There’s a short piece which lauds Romania along the lines of ‘the fastest growing economy in Eastern Europe’.

And the Officials also get a lash. According to the WA…

Surely they [the Officials] couldn’t mean the struggle against the British Army. They blame the Provos for the rise of sectarianism, and reprisal killings etc, conveniently forgetting that it was their so-called Civil Rights campaign which cause the violence initially. The OIRA, as they admitted themselves were the driving force and guiding light of the Civil Rights Association. They provoked the violence and the Protestant backlash in 1969 and capitalised on it afterards. They underestimated the determination of the old guard of die-hards who would never have let an opportunity like August 1969 slip by. Both Provos and Officials became quite strong military organisations but seeing the Provos were basicallymore honest adn didn’t have to keep on kidding themselves they were non sectarian they proved more durable, now they too are nearing their end.

To blame the Officials (or indeed the IRA, as was at the time) for the spasm of violence in 1969 was an unusual perspective even in 1975. Nor is it clear what they mean by the ‘so-called CR campaign’.

I’ll leave the last word, literally to the WA. At the foot of the final page we read…

It looks as if the milk is not the only think turning soar [sic] this weather.

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  • By: Tim Tue, 03 Nov 2009 18:37:42

    In reply to Corkonian.

    -the first one!

    I often wondered what Craig meant by a ‘Protestant Parliament and a Protestant state’.
    It’s clear that it was in response to a statement by deValera that Ireland was a “Catholic nation”. It’s also clear that he was not unaware of the demographics, and I assume he meant that the prevailing ideology was Protestant. It also reflects something I said on another post, that the Unionist understanding was that those who weren’t happy with that could just leave.
    Didn’t De Valera say something to that effect about Irish people who considered themselves British?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Tue, 03 Nov 2009 18:40:16

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    My own father was in SF in the 1950s. And then later involved with the CP in the UK. My mothers cousin was a LP candidate in Birmingham during the 1970s and the dial in the family was well to the left. But I think a major aspect of this is that other people joined at the same time and would have taken a different route. The key to me was that the party organised on the ground in communities. It wasn’t locked away, at least at the level of the ordinary member, in ideological debates (in fact reading TLR I’m amazed at how pragmatic it was in the 1980s in terms of the relationship to power). Not that ideology wasn’t important, but activism was more important. And lest that sound like I was some sort of uber activist, no way. I liked canvassing and ‘annual collections’ but hated paper sales.

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  • By: Ramzi Nohra Tue, 03 Nov 2009 20:38:00

    In reply to Corkonian.

    I’m afraid that the most obvious rationale is probably the right one here – catholics were of no account and had no status.
    He could have easily said unionist if he wanted to.

    He came out with similar form of words a number of times eg “protestant government for a protestant people”

    Re: devalera, i know the quote you refer to but cant find a source ie when it was actually said – do you know when/where? No worries if not, I will dig it up. Although I have no time for that arch buffoon Dev.

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  • By: Ramzi Nohra Tue, 03 Nov 2009 20:48:43

    In reply to Corkonian.

    sorry for this stream of emails…
    however it seems that Craig made (at least one) of his protestant parliament etc comments in 1934, whereas the “catholic nation” speech by ass-clown dev didnt happen until st patricks day 1935.

    A pre-emptive strike perhaps?

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  • By: Ramzi Nohra Tue, 03 Nov 2009 20:52:12

    Check this out for some earlier evidence of reformable stormont:

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  • By: Tim Tue, 03 Nov 2009 21:12:11

    In reply to Corkonian.

    You might be right, there, as I can’t find any refs for it.

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  • By: NollaigO Tue, 03 Nov 2009 22:27:02

    The Garland post:

    Reading the August 09 Irish Political Review: the editorial on the Orange marches in Ardonye/Crumlin Rd said that Martin óg Meehan is a leader of Republican Sínn Feín in north Belfast. This is not true: he is in fact an activist with in the Republican Network for Unity. Both groups have different ideas and goals. Sean Garland, Belfast .

    Again, an online sub is a cheap deal:

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  • By: Garibaldy Tue, 03 Nov 2009 23:23:18

    Thanks for that Nollaig O. I wasn’t sure if that was about the Dublin Seán Garland or the other one.

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  • By: Ramzi Nohra Tue, 03 Nov 2009 23:28:40

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    by “annual collections” I presume you’re not confessing to some yearly group-B style special activities 🙂

    Seriously though I did get the idea of pragmatism from TLR. Very well organised and very well thought out tactics – I suppose that goes from recognition of Leinster house onwards- even if one didnt agree with where they ended up.

    I just finished TLR this evening actually (I started it late and got distracted). Great piece of work, as many here have said. Will go down as one of the best pieces of literature connected with recent Irish political history.

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  • By: yourcousin Wed, 04 Nov 2009 02:32:57

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    At the time I joined in the early 1980s SF wasn’t a political force

    Which raises the interesting “what if” of WBS the shinner 😉

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 04 Nov 2009 09:35:31

    “The impression you would get from most writing is that the moratorium on marches was something that produced relief generally, that people were ready to wait ”
    This could be true. But it could also be that the “leadership” wanted to wait. A bit like the ICTU/SIPTU who restrained the anger of the union membership and defused it into talks.
    My opinion is that the Nationalist masses esp.the youth were fed up of waiting. Burntollet set the flame, the dynamite was there.
    See how similar the Orange mob was to the Redneck racists in the American South.
    The tragedy for the Officials was their lack of flexibility and paralysis in the face of events. The Provos had a plan, a fairly simple and direct one. It was war. Blaming PD is in my opinion a nonsense. One thing or another would have caused things to happen. I think groups cannot will things to happen. At most they can steer them. eg look at the contuinual calls morning, noon and night by certain groups for say a general strike. For something to happen the objective circumstances have to exist.
    Yes, Bew should have stayed in bed. I remember one Irish Times writer saying I think that he got up late.

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  • By: NollaigO Wed, 04 Nov 2009 15:19:02

    I remember one Irish Times writer saying I think that he got up late.
    A few hours late or a few days late, Jim?

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  • By: Joe Wed, 04 Nov 2009 15:35:24

    I think I remember that article. Was it Eugene McEldowney? He wrote some very funny reminiscence-type articles before he retired. This one described how he didn’t go on the Burntollet march cos he got up too late or whatever. But there was fierce excitement in the pub later when word came through about the attack at Burntollet. So much so that the Special Branch man who regularly occupied a seat at the bar, rolled up his newspaper and slipped out quietly for his own safety.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 04 Nov 2009 15:36:38

    Both of us should get an award for obscure facts

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  • By: Joe Wed, 04 Nov 2009 16:50:44

    Sign of a good I.O. Jim!

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  • By: Remi Moses Thu, 05 Nov 2009 23:13:24

    Pat Walsh is on Vincent Browne now, confusing an already confusing discussion. He sounds like he is from Yorkshire, not that I mind that. He is trying to give the Connolly pro-German line from the way Aubane now support it, whereas in the 70s it was a sign, BICO claimed that Connolly was completely wrong. Don’t know who the rest of the wankers on the panel are, one being a Poppy head of some description.

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  • By: Starkadder Thu, 05 Nov 2009 23:19:28

    One oddity: I remember glancing at a B&ICO magazine a
    few years ago (Comment it was called, late 70s) and there was a piece by a “Paddy O’Gorman”.

    I wonder is this the same gentleman who did “Queuing for a

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 06 Nov 2009 07:11:19

    In reply to Remi Moses.

    There’s no end of fun to be had – and a fair amount of head-wrecking – in trying to work out how certain positions and their polar opposites can be reconciled over the years within the continuum that is our friends organisations…

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Fri, 06 Nov 2009 10:27:14

    […] * British and Irish Communist Organisation: Workers Weekly, 18. Januar 1975 […]

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  • By: nineteensixtyseven Wed, 11 Nov 2009 02:53:18

    It’s a dysfunctional state and society where the act of marching meets with such violent reaction. For a state to resort to its means of violence is an admission that those who challenge it undermine its authority and legitimacy, and that the state rests ultimately on coercion not consensus. In this case, the simple act of asking for democratic rights was an anathema to the Northern Ireland state and it acted accordingly. That is not a state anyone who thinks of themselves as progressive should be defending.

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