I think the Daily Mirror was the catalyst for how I ended up with a political interest. Sounds like a mad statement to make but hear me out.
I think I must have always had some interest in politics as I remember the 1977 elections, when I was 8. We lived facing my primary school which was a polling station so we’d get a day, so we’d hang around at a time when electioneering was a big thing on polling day outside polling stations. I didn’t come from what seemed like a political household but there must have been some influence from my Dad. He didn’t explicitly support anybody but I must have gathered who he didn’t like.
The only politics I can remember looking back was my Dad’s grandmother who was staunchly Republican and must have been Anti-Treaty. Fianna Fail I’m guessing was supported by my Dad’s family but not obviously enough for me to see looking back. In the 77 election I can’t remember who my parents would have supported but I remember only helping the Labour workers give out election day leaflets so I’m guessing that’s who they supported. I can’t say that I developed a great interest in politics from that. Where I did become politically interested was through the Daily Mirror it must have been before Maxwell and after Thatcher came to power. It wasn’t the Mirror that there is now. Even though my Dad would later say that he bought the Mirror for the crossword and the racing section I think he probably bought it for the politics. He loved reading Paul Foot. Back I’m guessing in the early 80’s the Mirror did sporadic specials where the paper was practically given over to focusing on one particular political issue. The one that drove my political awakening was a special on nuclear arms. with a strong CND bias. For any younger CLRers the bomb, well for me as a pre teen was a big scary thing. Did others of certain age here ever feel that? So for a long time my main political interest was following CND. At an early age I was listening to Bob Dylan, Carole King, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Janis Ian so I was obviously into a bit of hippy thinking.
After that obviously the hunger strike was a big thing but as a 12 year old I remember totally supporting a United Ireland, thinking the hunger strikers were right to protest against Thatcher and that they were political prisoners but somehow at the same time remember not supporting the methods of the IRA and Sinn Fein at that time. I knew nothing of SFWP or the OIRA at that time. I would have been totally oblivious to their existence.
Another memory I have of the early 80s is being quite frightened over one Christmas as to what was happening to miners in Poland. I can’t remember having any aversion to Communism or the Soviet bloc as a kid. But there was something in me that must have thought miners don’t go on strike for nothing which led to an interest in Solidarity. Looking back Eastern Bloc leaders just looked like scary teachers in old looking suits. They certainly didn’t go out of their way to appeal to the youth.
The next big thing of course would have been the Miners strike and I may have this wrong but I seem to remember the Mirror starting off being strongly supportive of the strike but then changing. By the end of that strike I was aware of the then WP and was very impressed by the politics of one PDR. I got involved in the WP when I was 17 enveloping election literature for the 87 election but only joined in 89. When I joined I knew nothing of the feuds with the Provo’s, nothing of Harris, Bew or Paterson or their cancerous influence, nothing of why it was wrong to support lunatic regimes like North Korea. All I had was this was a party for this young lad from Finglas South to support. A party that believed that it didn’t matter where you came from, that you had a right to question and take on those that thought it was their god given right to decide how a nation progresses.
Speaking of early influences also got me to think. My Dad who died just over a year ago wasn’t overly political but one thing I found out before he died was that he protested outside the US embassy on the overthrow of Allende in Chile. I didn’t know this at all the protests that I was on outside that embassy. I wish I had.