Outline policy on Church and State
Date:1981
Organisation: Democratic Socialist Party
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Divorce Contraception Religion, Church and State

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

7th March 2011

This is the first document from the Democratic Socialist Party that has been added to the Archive, a notable omission. The DSP is most famously the organisation founded by Jim Kemmy in the very early 1970s following his departure from the Labour Party.

It was notable for its social liberalism on a range of issues, including the areas covered in this document, as well as being strongly anti-Republican. In that respect there was some crossover of activities with both BICO and the Socialist Party of Ireland (1970s). Kemmy was elected to the Dáíl in 1982 where he remained until well after the merger of the DSP with the Labour Party in 1990. The wiki page above suggests that some members of the DSP later joined Democratic Left. As has been noted here , a number of contemporary Labour Tds can trace their political lineage back to the DSP.

The document itself is, as it notes, an ‘outline’ policy on Church and State. As it states in the introductory paragraphs:

The DSP stands for the separation of church from state in the Republic of Ireland. We are not opposed to religion: rather, we view it as a private matter between the individuals and his/her church, if he/she has one. We recognise the rights of individuals, churches and religious associations to hold and proclaim their various views; we oppose the enshrining of religious beliefs in law. In particular we believe that religious organisations would not control public institutions. Democratic control of such institutions and public accountability for public funds: these are the keystones of our policy in this area.

And overview of past Church State relations is provided and this engages with a range of areas, including Education, Divorce, Contraception, Health and ‘Other areas in need of reform’.

There is a veiled reference to abortion under Health, and the Education area is dealt with in some detail. All told it makes for striking reading some thirty years later.

**IEL adds I’m lucky enough to have a few Election leaflets from the DSP that may add to the article. John De Courcy Ireland from November 1982  and the 1984 European Elections  as well as a 1984 ‘Special Election Edition’ of The Free Press.  

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  • By: irishelectionliterature Mon, 07 Mar 2011 09:38:21

    Kemmy was elected in February 1982 and lost his seat in the November 1982 Election. From what I recall he was denounced from the pulpit for his socially liberal views and other candidates would have spread the word that he wasn’t ‘pro life’. Literally everything in the above document would have provided opportunity for opponents to accuse Kemmy and the party of being anti church.

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  • By: Earl Williams Mon, 07 Mar 2011 09:59:37

    What’s the current situation with regard to the Church and the hospital system? Does it still control over half of all beds with little or no proper budgetary oversight?

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  • By: Earl Williams Mon, 07 Mar 2011 10:00:18

    In reply to irishelectionliterature.

    I remember an interview with Kemmy where he said that small children (educated by nuns, presumably) would point at him in the street and say ‘Mammy, is that the man who kills babies?’

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  • By: Joe Mon, 07 Mar 2011 10:18:43

    In reply to Earl Williams.

    It still has a major say in the big voluntary hospitals in Dublin – Mater, Vincents, Tallaght, Crumlin. But as to who really controls I’d say the Medical Consultants would have more control than the church in many ways. And there is certainly serious budgetary oversight on behalf of the State through the HSE.
    PS: In Tallaght’s case, the church influence would be Protestant, I presume CofI but not clear on that.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 07 Mar 2011 11:12:44

    In reply to irishelectionliterature.

    And some of these were Labour people, lest we forget.
    The small peoples Democracy group in Limerick were pro-choice and got stick too.

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  • By: . Mon, 07 Mar 2011 11:45:18

    In reply to Joe.

    One of the reasons I was attracted to the DSP (as a voter, though not as a member) was that it was Protestant-friendly, something that mattered more in the eighties. Policies were socially liberal – which also mattered more then. There were individuals of courage and stature, like Kemmy and Dr Ireland.Sectarianism was eschewed. All in all, it seemed a congenial party for a southern Protestant of leftish views.
    The preservation of a protestant ethos in Tallaght Hospital, at the time of the Adelaide’s closure, was questioned by many at the time. Events such as the activities of Dr Neary showed why the minority communities thought it a necessity.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 07 Mar 2011 12:42:36

    The cover design is very much better than the vast majority of items in the archive.

    I’m a bit curious as to the exact relationship between the SPI, the BICO and the DSP. Am I correct in thinking that the SPI actually dissolved into the DSP, while the BICO had a more ambiguous relationship with it?

    Also, I asked this in the electoral legacy of the Workers party discussion and I don’t think anyone answered: Are any of the three ex-DSP Labour TDs also ex SPI or ex BICO?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:06:33

    In reply to Mark P.

    The SPI did indeed dissolve in, though some went back to the WP. That joint leaflet in the Archive is a fascinating one, isn’t it? They seem to have hovered around each other.

    That’s a great question re people being ex SPI or ex BICO. I doubt it, but…

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:11:19

    In reply to Mark P.

    It’s odd how the SPI seemed to anticipate the Worker’s Party every move a few years earlier – hardline Stalinists before the WP got there, then dissolution into a small left Social Democratic party before the WP parliamentarians got there.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:11:55

    Mark P-I’m fairly sure none of the ex-DSP Labours
    TDs were ever in the B&ICO, though I couldn’t say whether they were in the SPI (or the B&ICO offshoots the Workers’ Association and Socialists
    Against Nationalism, both of which Kemmy worked
    with).

    To add to irishelectionliterature’s comment: I can
    also remember Kemmy being criticised by his stance on Northern Ireland, and I remember a letter in the Irish Times portraying the DSP as the enemy of everything traditional FF-ers held dear.

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  • By: John O'Neill Mon, 07 Mar 2011 13:27:20

    Mark P
    There is one of your comrades from Finglas that could find out by asking his Dad.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 07 Mar 2011 14:05:28

    In reply to John O’Neill.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

    There’s no shortage of people in the Socialist Party whose parents were in other left formations at some point, most often the Workers Party but also other groups.

    I’m curious because according to (the not always reliable) Wikipedia, all three of the ex-DSP Labour TDs joined the DSP in 1982… as did the Socialist Party of Ireland. Maloney and Conaghan are also Dublin based, and as I understand it, much of the Dublin component of the DSP was ex-SPI.

    It’s also the sort of thing that a Labour Party politician probably wouldn’t be as keen to draw attention to as former sympathies with the DSP.

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  • By: John O'Neill Mon, 07 Mar 2011 15:30:12

    The person I’m referring to his Mother ran for the DSP in Finglas and Da would have been close to B&ICO

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 07 Mar 2011 18:43:20

    Speaking of matters archival, I’ve just seen a fascinating document by Bob Purdie in which he gives an account of his dealings with the Officials down through the years. It’s on the Red Mole Rising blog, which is attempting to scan the publications of the now defunct International Marxist Group in Britain.

    Click to access remembering-the-officials.pdf

    I’m not sure if this document has already been discussed here.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 07 Mar 2011 19:36:19

    In reply to Mark P.

    I think it has, but I’m not certain. Good to see it either way.

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  • By: NollaigO Mon, 07 Mar 2011 19:58:58

    In reply to WorldbyStorm.

    I have read the document but didn’t know that it was in the public domain. You should have a copy WbS!
    It was written by request for TLR and many passages are quoted in TLR.
    It would be a useful document for the Archive.

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  • By: Brian Hanley Mon, 07 Mar 2011 22:08:13

    Yes, Bob Purdie was kind enough to write this and give to us in 2006. Many who have read and were around during the events he mentions find it very evocative.
    On the DSP. I think the party was founded in 1982. In 1972 Kemmy and a number of others had left the Labour Party in Limerick and started the Limerick Socialist Organisation (after lots of conflict with Stevie Coughlan and co). That group published it’s own paper, the Limerick Socialist, which covered local news plus published a lot of Workers Association/BICO material.
    The WA had taken part in a debate with the Labour Party on the national question in Limerick during 1971. Until then Kemmy had held fairly conventional socialist republican views on the North. Kemmy was at various stages, secretary of the Building Trades group in Limerick and the Bricklayers union. There was a lot of good local coverage in the LSO paper and various historical stuff (the first criticism of Sean South for example). Kemmy was elected to the council in 1974, representing the area that included Garryowen, his home turf. He was very critical of Labour, and promised to represent working class interests on the council. He was also openly ‘two-nationist’ and publicly argued for the deletion of articles 2 & 3 etc. He was widely recognised as a very hard worker and slowly built up a base in the city, eventually winning a seat in 1981, losing it in 1982 and winning it back in 1987.
    Elements of the local Labour party certainly colluded in the attacks on Kemmy over abortion in 1982.

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  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Wed, 09 Mar 2011 09:54:47

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  • By: Left Archive: Outline Policy on Full Employment – Democratic Socialist Party c. 1981 | The Cedar Lounge Revolution Mon, 28 Oct 2013 02:31:29

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