Liam McMillen: Separatist, Socialist, Republican
Organisation: Sinn Féin [Official]
Series:Repsol Pamphlets, Number 21
Contributor: Info
Cathal Goulding
View: View Document
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Subjects: Billy McMillen

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

19th December 2011

This document [donated by PW for which many thanks], published as Repsol Pamphlet No. 21 in 1975, offers an overview of the life of Liam (Billy) McMillen.

McMillen was a pivotal figure in the Belfast IRA from the 1940s onwards with a career that spanned the Border Campaign, the politicisation of SF following the end of the campaign, and through to Civil Rights (he was a member of the first executive of NICRA) and the outbreak of armed conflict in 1969. He was also instrumental in the history of the IRA both pre and post split. As Officer Commanding in Belfast his centrality to this history is self-evident.

McMillen was murdered in 1975 by the INLA during the feud between them and the OIRA subsequent to the split in the latter.

This document contains an Appreciation by Des O Hagan, a lecture by McMillen on the ‘Role of the I.R.A. 1962 − 1967’, a speech of his at Bodenstown in 1973, an oration by Cathal Goulding at his graveside and a short poem by Dominic Behan.

What is most strongly notable is the emphasis on Republicanism throughout from Des O’Hagan’s appreciation to Goulding’s oration. It’s also notable for the explicit recognition of the Irish Republican Army, as again exemplified in Goulding’s oration. That the language and tone are particularly harsh is perhaps explicable on the events surrounding his death.

What’s of particular interest are McMillen’s own words. His speech from Bodenstown in 1973 points to a number of perhaps contradictory strands.

For while there have been changes in the elements that go to make up the historic republican movement, so too have there been changes in the face and operation of capitalism and imperialism. If once the imperialist sought control of trading post and territory, today his trading post is at every street corner and his territory is measured in square feet in the gutted centres of our cities and towns.

And he continues:

The Six Counties at peace, if that could be achieved by a combination of war-weariness, subjugation, repression and political trickery, would be more valuable to the imperialist than the Six Counties risen in resistance against him. We may even ask if the 32 counties, united as one market place but free of resistance by any group, would not serve his purpose even better? For the lesson which has been underlined by fifty years of the Free State’s existence has been that a mockery of independence without the reality of control by and for the people is a petty and useless thing. And a government of Irishmen who would betray its working people, to the British Army, the RUC or the sectarian UDR finds it no great contradiction to betray its people to the international capitalists whom it pays to come and control its industry, its mines and its people.

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  • By: Ghandi Mon, 19 Dec 2011 10:05:13

    “And a government of Irishmen who would betray its working people, …………. finds it no great contradiction to betray its people to the international capitalists whom it pays to come and control its industry, its mines and its people”.

    He could have written that today.

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  • By: Paul Wilson Tue, 20 Dec 2011 12:40:30

    WBS I believe this pamphlet is still available from WP head office.

    Given the later trajectory of Steenson and Co and the implosion of INLA/IPLO as detailed in the book ‘ Deadly Divisions’ the criticisms were certainly correct.

    I was interested in the account of the events surrounding the June 1963 parade. I have read other accounts about this. The Republican Clubs Pamphlet ‘ Pogrom’ talks of the ‘ Black Hatred’ of a leading Provisional. How far were the events of 1975 effected by what happened in June 1963?

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