[I]n the Workers’ Party I settled fairly easily into meetings of the party locally which were held on a regular (sometimes weekly) basis (I seem to recall a string and nails image in the house where most meetings were held made by Official prisoners in the North). After the initial period where membership was assessed the branch was welcoming, and endless quantities of biscuits and tea seemed to ease one into the life of the party.
There was a lot to do, though I remember as the years went on being surprised at how little it seemed to be about politics as distinct from political activity. Sales of the Irish People around the local area on a Sunday morning were a given. This involved going into pubs and trying to sell them to whoever was there, often the father’s of friends. There was the Annual Collection […] Then there were meetings of one sort or another. I had no interest in any party position so I tended to avoid most of them, other than the odd trip to political and/or community meetings.
Canvassing on collections meant door knocking. In the first year I was sent to the door of a local high-profile H-Block and union activist and a couple of other republican activists who were not amused at the arrival of a WP member at their door and made that clear in no uncertain terms – to the general hilarity of other members who watched on. That was a sort of test because after the first year I don’t recall it happening again.
One meeting I remember vividly and this would have been very early on was a Community Centre in Finglas (if I recall correctly) where a younger Richard Bruton was willing to fight his corner in front of the a very hostile crowd. Bodenstown was another event that rolled around regularly but I suspect I only went a handful of times over the years. There was certainly a sense of two different political cultures combining in the WP commemoration there with colour parties and so on.
I was in third level at this stage but there was a notable emphasis on working in the community and very little concern over my being active in the institution I attended – that would come later. However there was also a vague pressure to get involved in WP Youth which seemed to exist somewhere but have little or no connection to events at constituency level where I was, bar one weekend where a bunch of members from the North, or more accurately offspring of members from the North, arrived in Kilbarrack. There was a meeting one afternoon, which consisted of perhaps eight of us, most of them two or three years younger than myself, sitting in a sitting room in a house drinking tea, but given that this functioned as no more than a meet and greet, there was no way to determine what particular purpose this served.
Party headquarters I doubt I was in more than a few times over the first few years, though I wound up a number of times drinking in the party ‘club’ which was both interesting and educational because one learned more of general attitudes than you would at a meeting – so for instance I first heard there of the SPI and met people who had been involved in that organisation before joining OSF. Also there I remember hearing huge criticism of Tony Gregory – and perhaps a sense that he was one who got away.
Having read accounts of other formations and parties my sense is that there was much less serious pressure to get involved in a way that would monopolise one’s time fully. I’m not sure if that was true of all members or part of that was the fact I was in third level and beginning to be a bit more active there in student politics (and so playing one off the other to some extent) or whether that was typical of the party at the time. One could certainly centre one’s life around the party, and many people I knew did, but there was also a fair smattering of people who seemed to have variable involvement in activities. But all that said within a very short time membership of the party became a thread running through life – in terms of meetings and so on that occupied a fair bit of time. Without question the first number of years were much more clearly focused on the constituency actitivities. But that would change later.