The Starry Plough
Organisation: Sinn Féin [Official]
Publication: The Starry Plough [Derry]
Collection:Music in the Irish Left Archive
Type:Publication Issue
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

15th March 2010

The Starry Plough was the newspaper of Official Sinn Féin in Derry ‘Derry’s own Republican newspaper’ as the subheading had it. This edition is of particular importance since it dates from just after the OIRA ceasefire of 1972. The front page is entitled Army Council Sees Growing Danger of Civil War: Why Officials Called A Halt.

The leading article argues that “The decision by the Official IRA to suspend offensive military activity was taken after weeks of consultation with the Executive of the Republican Clubs. It was not influenced in any way by the hypocrites of the ‘peace at any price’ bandwagon. It was clear to us that the violence in the North, if it continued as it had been doing, could lead only to a sectarian war, a war between Catholics and Protestants which would be of no benefit whatever to the working class. That was the single most important reason for the decision”.

Despite the ceasefire the paper takes a combative tone throughout, from a photograph on the front cover alleging that a soldier is ‘Soldier F’ from the Widgery Report on Bloody Sunday to the general approach of articles.

The editorial argues that ‘we will fight repression whether it is in the north or the south’, but it is clear that this will be on political grounds.

The problems of pursuing such a purely political approach are highlighted by a small piece on the back page: The Derry Official Republican Movement regrets the deaths of Vol. John Starrs and young Manus Deery, murdered by the forces of British repression. We tender our sincerest sympathy to their family and friends. Perhaps of particular interest is the centre spread, with an accompanying photograph of Cathal Goulding in Free Derry, which has an article on ‘Communism, the Church and the IRA’ and seeks to counter charges from some clergy that the Official IRA ‘are not really the IRA at all. They are just communists putting themselves forward as the IRA…’ And the article continues later ‘We have no intention of running away from these allegations. There are Marxists in the Official Republican Movement. We DO want to overthrow capitalism. If, because of that people want to call us ‘Reds’ then so be it. As an Irish Socialist put it some years ago ‘I’d rather be called a Red by a rat, than a rat by a Red’. Connolly was a Marxist. He said so’.

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  • By: Liam Ó Comáin Mon, 21 Feb 2011 20:41:22

    The Provos

    Some thought they were republican
    But in reality they were not
    They are but Brit’ auxiliaries
    And a part of the unionist lot.

    Of course there were sincere ones
    Alas, sacrificed from the top
    By some power seeking egos
    And Brit’ agents from the start.

    Oh to those who formed the Provos
    Look at the mess our country’s in
    The foreign grip has been reinforced
    By Gerry and Martin…

    But the cause itself is unbreakable
    And in time we shall overcome
    To see our beloved people
    Sharing the vision of Wolfe Tone.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: EamonnCork Mon, 21 Feb 2011 22:33:24

    This really rocks if you sing it to the tune of Can You Feel The Love Tonight by Elton John.

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  • By: liam Ó Comáin Fri, 11 Mar 2011 13:47:52

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    It would be better to be naieve than a British agent ie like some in the Provo leadership.

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  • By: Mick Ahern Fri, 11 Mar 2011 14:46:21

    This was the original Starry Plough as produced by the Official Republican Movement in Derry.
    When we in the Irish Republican Socialist Party launched our publication in 1975, we had a discussion on the paper. The decision to call it The Starry Plough was taken unanimously.
    This had absolutely nothing to do with the presence of Derry Socialist-Republicans like the late Johnny White, Terry Robson, Tommy McCourt, Kitty O’Kane, Seamus O’Kane and the late Red Micky Doherty among us on the Ard Comhairle.
    When it came to the colour of the flag Seamus Costello mischievously proposed green to the horror of most. Someone then proposed red before all agreed on the original blue.
    Nice to see the Derry paper. Hello to Liam O’Comain.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Fri, 11 Mar 2011 18:35:26

    In reply to liam Ó Comáin.

    I accept people take divergent views on all these issues, but couldn’t we keep that sort of stuff off the site? It’s not going to change peoples preconceived notions one way or another and there are better things for us all to be doing.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Fri, 11 Mar 2011 18:41:05

    In reply to Mick Ahern.

    A friend of mine is writing a history of the IRSP. I wonder if you would be willing to talk to him.
    Jim Monaghan
    We had a few discussions during the H-Block period

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  • By: Mick Ahern Fri, 11 Mar 2011 18:53:58


    I remember you well and your commitment to socialism and socialist history.
    I’ll be in touch shortly!
    Le dea ghui,

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: liam Ó Comáin Tue, 19 Apr 2011 17:25:26

    In reply to Mick Ahern.

    Hello Mick.
    Your a part of my past-a good part.I wish you the best and if ever in Derry please call

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  • By: liam Ó Comáin Tue, 21 Jun 2011 17:26:34

    The Man With the Planter Name

    Liam O Comain

    The person whom I have in mind is Mr. Gerry Adams of Belfast (the birthplace of Irish Republicanism) who is the President of Provisional Sinn Fein. Now I am of half planter stock and many of that ethnic reality like myself became Irish Revolutionary Republicans so there is nothing wrong with having a planter name. Even our subject may at one time have been a revolutionary republican. But if he was to be asked if he once was would he acknowledge it or deny it just as he denies ever being a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

    Whatever we may think of him however Mr Adams has wrought a place in Irish history. A place to be proud of as some declare especially his Bogside ally Mr. Martin McGuinness who is there at Mr. Adams beck and call. History of course will confirm whether Gerry Adams warrants to be spoken of in the same vein as Michael Collins or Cathal Brugha. The latter of course are miles apart for Brugha died bravely in defence of the Republic established in the early years of the last century and Collins helped to drive that Republic underground. Not alone a crime against the will of Irish Democracy but a bloody crime against Irish National Self- Determination! For as I have expressed in past writings the fruit of national self- determination is authentic democracy. The tree of national self- determination was blowing at the beginning of the last century in the wind that also shakes the barley and in the turbulence democracy came forth but unfortunately defeat came because some leaders sought a step forward rather than the final step which they had made. Of course there were the usual shrieks from Britain’s leaders and war lords at the time of threats of terrible bloodshed and perhaps national genocide but that should not of warranted surrender via a republican split. The people had spoken- they had delivered the Republic proclaimed in 1916 and it should have been defended. For no group of representatives however powerful had the right to declare the will of the Irish people as expressed in the 1918 all Ireland election null and void. Alas this was done by the Irish representatives during the then Anglo- Irish Treaty negotiations.

    Interestingly history has since revealed that Michael Collins was apparently in touch with the British invader and occupier some time before the coming republican split materialized. So is, what has happened in recent years, a case of history repeating itself. Bobby Sands defending the Republic and Gerry Adams declaring perhaps the greatest struggle in our history for Irish freedom null and void. For as modern history also reveals Mr. Adams via John Hume was in consultation in the early years of the 1980s with the present day representatives of our invader and occupier.

    Now although I have some knowledge of the science of psychology I would not be adept enough to even try and understand the mentality of Mr. Adams. An opening of the door so to speak into the reason for the greatest act of surrender in the history of Irish republicanism. Perhaps revealing the existence of 2 or many more Mr. Adams for inspite of the verification of those in the same guerilla cell as himself our subject denies ever being a para- military. Yes, that could be the answer but if so it would be interesting to discover for historical reasons what Gerry Adams met the Brits prior to surrender, a surrender confirmed by weapon decommissioning.

    However it is interesting to be aware when one considers the mentality of Mr. Adams that mystery still surrounds the mentality of Michael Collins. Yes, there are historians of that period of our history who finds the general’s behaviour mystifying. Now admittedly as human beings we are all a bit of a mystery, a complexity of forces, a complex of reasoning and unreasoning. In fact that’s what makes us so interesting and is the basis of Freud’s system of psychoanalysis. For what a mystery is man! For example, at the 2006 Casement Park Hunger Strike Memorial gathering our man with the planter surname sincerely expressed the opinion that we would experience a united Ireland in our lifetime. Now I’m in my mid 60s and I don’t see any sign of it. Partly because Gerry’s Provos have become part of the Brit Machine and reinforced partition. But then our subject maybe a Methuselah type and he is talking in terms of his life span not ours. The Bible character is said to have lived to 969 years.

    Of course on that occasion the faithful accepted everything Mr. Adams expressed- lock, stock and barrel. Which leads me to see the mentalities of the Provo movement’s membership and their supporters as a more intriguing mystery than the mentality of their leader or that of Michael Collins. But I’ll not go down that road, better leave it to Ed Moloney to try and psyche them out. For after all Mr. Moloney, although not a psychologist, did a pretty good job on the West Belfast member of the British Parliament in his book on the Provisional IRA. Of course I do not believe psychoanalysis to be an exact science but like all aspects of the mystery of life there exists insights into that which we label the truth. And there is a contemporary truth which I subscribe to and that is the need for all sincere republicans to come together into a revolutionary movement. We owe that at least to Bobby Sands and his brave comrades. But still since the Provo betrayal we have this group and that group instead of unity for the purpose of achieving national unity. Which, to conclude, perhaps implies that there is some of the man with the planter name in each of us… Oh for a Cathal Brugha or a Mickey, or a Patsy!

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  • By: liam ó comáin Thu, 15 Sep 2011 17:32:30

    A Deep, Deep Silence…

    (For those who seek justice
    For the victims of Bloody
    Sunday, in Derry, who were
    Deliberately murdered
    By the so called forces
    Of law and order in order
    To destroy the non-violent
    Civil Rights movement…)

    As they opposed draconian law
    The pulse of justice ceased to exist,
    For in the wake of orders
    A baker’s dozen were murdered.
    Another death occurred later.
    And many more were scarred for life
    But not one perpetrator has faced
    The courts of human justice.

    Yes, there is a deep, deep silence…

    No one suggesting or proposing
    That the murderers within the Paras
    Hands themselves in to face prosecution.
    Yes, we must condemn the atrocity
    At Omagh and elsewhere
    But the perpetrators,
    Allegedly, were not upholders
    Of so called law and order
    In contrast with the occupying army
    Of the British Crown.

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  • By: liam ó comáin Thu, 15 Sep 2011 17:34:37

    A Deep, Deep Silence…

    (For those who seek justice
    For the victims of Bloody
    Sunday, in Derry, who were
    Deliberately murdered
    By the so called forces
    Of law and order in order
    To destroy the non-violent
    Civil Rights movement…)

    As they opposed draconian law
    The pulse of justice ceased to exist,
    For in the wake of orders
    A brave dozen were murdered.
    Another death occurred later.
    And many more were scarred for life
    But not one perpetrator has faced
    The courts of human justice.

    Yes, there is a deep, deep silence…

    No one suggesting or proposing
    That the murderers within the Paras
    Hands themselves in to face prosecution.
    Yes, we must condemn the atrocity
    At Omagh and elsewhere
    But the perpetrators,
    Allegedly, were not upholders
    Of so called law and order
    In contrast with the occupying army
    Of the British Crown.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: liam ó comáin Thu, 15 Sep 2011 17:39:21


    I salute the republican dead
    Of another generation…

    Your sacrifice and your courage
    Against those who would bury
    Freedom in a cloud of tear- gas,
    Who would beat justice with
    Rubber bullets, who would dangle
    Ireland from an provo noose,
    Who would incarcerate in prison
    The poetry of youth…

    Your sacrifice becomes a scream
    Entering my conscience, calling me
    From apathy, calling me into action…

    “The fools, the fools, the fools,
    They have left us our patriot dead”
    And while Ireland treasures their graves
    Ireland un-free will fight for her freedom.

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  • By: Liam Ó Comáin Thu, 24 Nov 2011 21:20:12

    An Irish Revolutionary- Joe McCann

    In the city of Belfast Joe was born
    And his surname was McCann
    But because of fighting qualities
    He became known as ‘the bakery man’

    And unlike Adams and McGuinness
    His name will linger on
    Down through Ireland’s story
    An engaging victim of the crown

    Yes,young Joe took up arms
    To free his native land
    Like many of his country folk
    Since the British first came in

    And like many other patriots
    He made the ultimate sacrifice
    So that the Irish people could
    Self-determine their nation’s life

    In time Joe became a legend
    For his fearless leadership
    Epitomising ‘Fight on-
    For freedom is a right’

    So lets remember ‘the bakery man’
    From working class Belfast
    And bravely follow in the steps
    Of brave young Joe McCann.

    Liam Ó Comáin,Doire,Eire.

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  • By: liam ó comáin Wed, 01 Feb 2012 21:11:46

    In The Footsteps Of Tone

    It once was said that from the dead there would spring living people and from the dead of ages past came children of true mettle…

    I shared their enthusiasm from the age of twelve, their dream was my dream, their methods were my methods; rationally and affectively I was convinced that I was in the right- not in an ideological sense but one sanctioned by our heritage.

    In pursuit of the cause all means were considered legitimate which helped to realize our objective; a course destined to brutalise the most sensitive and cultured; death was but a dream and we laughed at imprisonment.By reading the works of Pearse and ’The Wolfe Tone Annual’ we refuelled our motivation, thinking not of ourselves but that great other- ’the people’ ; yet, we treaded the minefield of possible elitism, and there were those who aspired to such an egotistical steeple.

    In the 1950s we witnessed another ’glorious failure’: the odds were insurmountable, the courage and sacrifices were great; yet the failure of the campaign led to a new departure- the movement was destined for a ‘left-wing’ fate.Connolly and Marx were quoted, if not digested, at meetings; in content ’The United Irishman’ was radically transformed;even Bodenstown re-echoed to the quotes of Mao and Lenin;the bastille of imperialism was soon to be stormed.

    Civil rights agitation was an aspect of the new strategy,non- violence was nurturing the revolutionary seed.But the ghosts of tradition were close in attendance to sway those who rejected the ’socialist mead’.Once more the movement for freedom and separatism shared the tradition of a political split; the ’stickies’ and ’pinheads’ were new connotations each contending that the other was not legitimate.

    Both pursued their objectives with different strategies,engendering a hatred which drove them further apart.Even to the extent of mutual assassinations, a continual breaking of the republican heart.Within both strategies there were apparent weaknesses.In implementation certain aspects were premature.An under-presumption of the sectarian problem,and the attempt at populace education was poor.The phenomenon of non-violence and then of violence twisted the face of northern politics; extending beyond the confines of ’the border’ and fuelling the conviction that ’Ireland was in a fix’.In the aftermath of such historical changes: the faceless ones bade welcome to the confusion and despair; the innocent suffered at the hands of loyalist, Brit’, and republican; a community broken and perhaps beyond repair.And even some who advocated the road of the ’ballot’ neglected to serve the war-weary community; by pursuing selfish, petty, and sectarian objectives, their actions reeking of blatant dishonesty. Their behaviour similar to the hypocrisy of the southern political powers that be.

    Thus within the shadow of ’Britain’s Vietnam’ I sometimes wonder are we on the path of Tone? Does our dream of dreams justify ’Teebane’ so we Irish can rule ourselves alone? No, no, no, no,…! And does the life of one brave ’hunger-striker’, weigh less than the idea of The Republic we proclaim? Can the bullet co-exist with the ballot or in our society are they equally the same?

    Within a poem a poet wrote:- ’A Terrible beauty is born’, but alas that beauty is all maimed.

    Is there no rose without a thorn?

    Liam Ó Comáin

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  • By: Liam Ó Comáin Thu, 09 Aug 2012 15:27:17

    In reply to liam Ó Comáin.

    The Following letter was received by many Irish newspapers but was not published.The letter was sent to McG at Stormont and his home address in Derry.But no replies.
    An Open Letter To Martin McGuinness From Derry Veteran Republican, Liam O’Comain

    Dear Martin,
    Please consider my letter as a reply to your recent outbursts against the so called ‘dissidents’. To be called a ‘traitor’ by you because of my opposition alongside others to the Belfast Agreement is my reason for seeking the democratic right of reply to your allegations. Your statements came to my notice via the media and I seek via the media to respond.

    I was a full-time organiser for the Republican Movement when you joined the IRA and I am aware that you remained with the so called ‘Officials’ (as I did) for well over three months after the Fianna Fail orchestrated split of the Movement.

    Indeed as you will recall the postponement of a proposed military operation under the auspices of the Derry City IRA Brigade was the reason for your departure to the then fledgling Provo Movement.

    Since then you projected the image of yourself as a ‘militarist A1’; and in due course contending that the Provo military wing fought the British Army to a standstill. But now contending that the best replacement for physical force as a means of uniting Ireland is (in spite of the guaranteed continuation of partition) the Belfast Agreement. What a paradox , Martin, when one recalls other paradoxical aspects of your behaviour. To mention one other that is the interview that Anthony McIntyre, a former Provo prisoner, had with Sean MacStiofain, the first Provo Chief of Staff. Sean Mac’ said that you personally had lobbied for a ceasefire as early as 1972. Why, Martin? Surely at this stage the Provos had not fought the ‘occupiers to a standstill‘!

    Is it feasible that a person could proclaim that the fight (primarily physical force) for national self determination will ‘go on until the end’, that is, until the goal of Irish national freedom is achieved, and then within a matter of years do a complete turn and enthusiastically play one’s part in preventing the freedom of our country by becoming a minister in an anti-democratic system, an assembly established as the bulwark against the realisation of a successful ‘end’?

    Thus, is it possible that the anti-insurgency ideas of the British military strategist, namely Kitson, were successfully realised via the Provos, especially that of nurturing a number of volunteers with the potential to become leaders, in other words infiltrating paid informers into leadership roles of an alleged revolutionary movement for the intention of steering that movement into an entirely different direction or defeat?

    The revelations that Denis Donaldson, Provo Sinn Fein head of administration at Stormont, and Freddie Scappaticci, the Provo IRA’s deputy head of security, were both in the pay of the British have left many prepared to believe the worst of the Provo leadership including yourself.

    Obviously you are aware of the newspaper claims by Martin Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, that you were controlled by MI6 for at least two decades. In fact via the media Ingram challenged yourself to a public debate about his allegations. That, if it had taken place, would have offered you a golden opportunity to refute such damaging allegations but apparently you refused to engage publicly with the M16 agent. Which is puzzling behaviour in response to the allegation that you like our fellow citizen Raymond Gilmore was a super- grass. Also a retired RUC special branch officer was reported via the media to believe that you were an MI5 agent code-named “Fisherman”, though others maintain that this agent may have been a person close to you.

    And there is other media reports, Martin, that puzzles many about aspects of matters relating to you in the light of such serious allegations. In November 1994 a police investigation, Operation Taurus, found three witnesses to implicate you in ‘directing terrorism‘. It was halted with the appearance of a letter asking prosecutors to bear in mind that you would shortly be in talks with the British government about the future of the occupied 6 counties.

    I recall the statements by another British agent, Robert Quigley, implicating you in organising Provo activity, but you were never charged. Yes, you appear to have had a “charmed existence”, Martin, and arising from it answers are required. And with such un-answered questions relating to you (and I have more) what right have you to call opponents of the Belfast Agreement ‘traitors’.

    Awaiting your reply.
    Liam O’Comain,

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  • By: midulsterirsp Mon, 24 Sep 2012 23:37:58

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Hi Jim, is this history still being written?

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  • By: Liam Ó Comáin Wed, 10 Oct 2012 14:04:22

    A Dissident

    I am a dissident-
    Well that’s what
    I have been labelled.

    Of course the reason
    Behind the labelling
    Is because I support
    The idea that all nations
    Should self-determine
    Their own futures.

    Which implies none
    Interference from any
    Other country…

    Alas,that lack of justice
    In Ireland has generated
    Over and over dissent
    And,alas,the non-existence
    Of ‘peace’….

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  • By: canice doherty Sat, 29 Jun 2013 14:24:02

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    A Review By Canice Doherty

    In Pursuit Of Peace In Ireland.

    The Memoirs and Thoughts
    Of An Irish Revolutionary Republican.

    By Liam Ó Comáin
    This review relates to a recent publication by a person who when we met was more reserved than other’s I have encountered who have experienced involvement in what has been termed ‘the troubles’ in the north of our island. The author is the Limavady poet, Liam Ó Comáin, who now resides in Derry City with his wife and family. Now, only recently meeting the author although aware of his existence this book is a valuable contribution to the history of the period and to the author’s central role in it.

    The author, was one of the leaders of the movement for what he alleges was revolutionary change in Ireland in the last 50 years of the 20th century leading into the early years of the present millennium. An ex-full time organiser for the Irish Republican Movement he as organiser was one of the founders of the Civil Rights Association and in later years the Irish National Chairperson of the Irish Republican Socialist Party. In the latter-The Irish Republican Socialist Movement- he also held the position of organiser.

    As a person of principle he strongly opposed the formation of the so-called ‘Provisional Republican Movement’. Being a strict adherent of allegiance to the all-Ireland Republic proclaimed in 1916 and declared in 1918. At present he is not associated with any political grouping.

    An ex-graduate of the University of Ulster he has published articles and books on mysticism, politics, pigeon racing, and poetry in-spite of health problems as he traverses his aging seventies.

    As for this book’s contents I discovered much re those decades, although my ear was close to the ground during them, that I was not aware of. In fact some aspects of this book’s contents are required to ensure that history as it happened will have to be corrected by some authors of the period written about. Now, although I am a nationalist and not a republican, having come through the period which the contents refer too I must emphasise the point that the author apparently provides the truth which others have twisted and neglected for one reason or another. Of course there are aspects that I question but I assume for legal reasons the author could not confirm further.

    In fact there are some startling revelations about the period and about some of the participants. There is no hold back in criticism re others of the political establishment in Ireland, north and south, including references to the Stormont Establishment and even America and the EU.

    As a believer in the contention that the basis of peace is justice the author strongly argues
    on behalf of the latter and is opposed to the concept that peace at any price is the way forward.

    An interesting contribution to the modern history of Ireland and the author concludes by offering the non- Catholic minority a blueprint of a possible way forward – a future which he believes
    is required for our peoples welfare and which could lay the basis for a more peaceful world.

    The book also includes a selection of poetry relating to the subject of republicanism.


    In Pursuit Of Peace In Ireland

    (Priced: £13-30 Sterling and E16-90)

    is published by united P.C.publisher
    c/o Hamilton House,
    Mabledon Place,
    London, WC 1H 9BB,

    It can also be obtained from the publishers international internet site and other internet sites including ‘Amazon’ as well as book distributors and bookshops.

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  • By: canice doherty Tue, 16 Jul 2013 20:57:16

    In reply to canice doherty.

    Thank you Canice for the review.Many are interested!!!Going well.

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  • By: Liam Ó Comáin Tue, 30 Dec 2014 15:10:15

    Prior to death James Connolly received the Blessed Eucharist.

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