Century of Endeavour
RJ and Political Work in the Early 60s
(c)Copyright Roy Johnston 2003, apart from the excerpts from the Desmond Greaves Journals and the Minutes of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society, for which the copyright resides with Anthony Coughlan, with whom right of access and permission to publish any extracts must currently be negotiated, prior to their eventual deposition in the National Library of Ireland. Copyright relating to these abstracts belongs also to Roy Johnston, any extracts from which must be cleared by both parties.
What follows is basically an integrated chronological account culled mostly from the Wolfe Tone Society archive, the Sinn Fein minutes and the Greaves Diaries during the period, with some linking material as necessary. I have provided occasional hotlinks to the underlying material. I have subsequently added some notes and references, under the stimulus of the Robert White biography of Ruairi O Bradaigh.
Enquiries or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This epoch, which lasted from 1964 to 1972, I have filled in primarily from my own papers, supported by Wolfe Tone Society records where available, the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle records, and their internal newsletter Nuacht Naisiunta which commenced in September 1969 and ran for several years; also my own published works (mostly articles in the United Irishman). I have produced an integrated chronological set of abstracts from all of the foregoing, as a referencable source, in what follows. I have also gained some insights from the Greaves journals, from which I have made some abstracts on matters primarily relating to the foundation of the NICRA. There is the possibility of some insights from the IRA angle, based on personal reminiscences from various people (for example Mick Ryan). Immediately after the 1969/70 Ard Fheis there was published a Freedom Manifesto which was an attempt to define the type of political vision considered under the temporary label 'national liberation front'. The present writer can claim authorship of this; I have added some retrospective comments.]
RJ and the Connolly AssociationI hope to be able to fill in additional background support material for this London period in from my own papers, the Greaves journals and the Irish Democrat. What follows is basically my own recollections, with some added insights from the Greaves diaries.
There was a somewhat edgy relationship between the Connolly Association and the British Communist Party; the CA competed with the CPGB for the attention of political-minded Irish emigrants, and also with Clann na hEireann for the attention of emigrants whose formation was primarily in the republican tradition. In summary, it could be said that the CP thought in terms of the 'British working-class' and was hostile to what it regarded as nationalist diversions; C na hE thought in terms of money and support for the movement in Ireland; the CA tried to mobilise Irish workers in support of Irish interests via a process of lobbying Parliament and influencing opinion-leaders in the Labour Party and trade unions. During this period the embryo of the 'Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland' concept emerged.
We lived in Hammersmith and then in Acton, so the basic unit for political activity was the West London Branch of the Connolly Association, which met weekly in a pub in Shepherd's Bush. We did our best to have a talk at each meeting by someone who was knowledgeable on a current topic, or on some aspect of Irish history or culture. We sold the Irish Democrat in the Irish pubs on the weekend; this task, while apparently menial, in fact was a fruitful source of insights into the way the emigrant Irish were thinking, from the numerous friendly conversations which ensued.
There was also a local branch of the Communist Party, of which I became nominally a member, attending an occasional meeting. It was rare however to find any useful ideas in that environment; I recollect one meeting at which some development in the Soviet legal system, the nature of which I forget, was 'explained' at length by a leading member. One could not help thinking in terms of a millenarian religious cult with a remote Utopian vision.
I also became a member of the West London Branch of the Association of Scientific Workers (AScW), the union founded by JD Bernal FRS. The membership was mostly technician-grade people, with a handful of socially-conscious scientists who believed in defending the rights and conditions of their technical support people as well as their own. In this capacity I got to represent them on the Acton Trades Council. In the aftermaths of the meetings of this body, people went for a drink to two different pubs; the significance of this I soon learned was that the Communists drank in one and the Labour people in the other; it was an 'us and them' scene of the worst description. My priority being the Irish movement, I used to drink alternately with both, and kept my distance from the in-fighting of the London left. I further developed some insights from this experience which were relevant to Irish politics; it would have been quite easy for me, had I been motivated to get into London politics, to get nominated from the Action Trades Council to the local Hospital Board. The accessibility of local government structures to democratic nomination from below is an extremely important feature, in which Irish local government is deficient. Here was an item for the home political agenda.
Keeping the Connolly Association branch going required a significant amount of marginal-time effort; activities included identifying and getting hold of appropriate speakers, lobbying the local MP, outreach work with local trade union branch meetings explaining the nature of the Irish situation to them, all this as well as keeping up the circulation of the Irish Democrat. The key issue at the time was the Special Powers in Northern Ireland, and the internment without trial of the people who had been involved in the 1950s IRA campaign. Supportive of this was the campaign for an enquiry into the working of the Government of Ireland Act, ie the Northern Ireland 'Constitution' as set up by the British. There was therefore little time for more strategic longer-term considerations, of the type being pioneered by Desmond Greaves.
It is apparent from the Greaves Diaries that while the Connolly Association activists were trying to make the Irish issues known locally and in the trade union and labour movements, CDG was actively engaging with development in Northern Ireland. Thus on December 11 1962 he records that there was in prospect a public debate on the recently published Barritt-Carter book on the Northern Ireland economic situation; Carter had refuses to debate in person, and put up one Norman Gibson instead. CDG: 'I said I had no desire to debate with Mr Gibson whom I had never heard of... Carter has left Barritt to face the music in Belfast... and he is getting a rough time, climbing down and apologising for all his mis-statements..'.
I happened to know at the time that Gibson was then a rising young Queens economist who was putting feelers out in the direction of the Republic; I had encountered him at a Tuairim conference in Greystones, in or about 1959 or 1960, which was considering the implications of the Whittaker Programme and the then innovatory orientation of industry in the Republic towards exports. CDG, in dismissing this opportunity, was not in possession of any background knowledge of Gibson, which I could have given him. Any interest shown by economists in the North in the economics of Ireland as a whole should have been welcomed. The missing of this opportunity for raising the intellectual profile of the Connolly Association in the context of the ongoing debate on the future of the Irish economy, introducing the necessary all-Ireland dimension, was to be regretted.
I made some attempts to interest London Tuairim, which was a forum for emigre intellectuals, in the politics of the Connolly Association. This is summarised in a paper I wrote for a 1961 Tuairim London publication.
The foregoing prompts a comment on the culture of left-wing activism in general, not just in the Connolly Association: worthy goals attracts intellectuals who have a vision of a better world, and want to work for it, but often in this context the full potential of their intellectual resources is not taken up, being diverted by ideology-driven activism, so that they tend to leave and find fulfilment elsewhere.
In the background to our West London activism, CDG was working away in Belfast: he recorded on Feb 28 1963 a meeting with Sean Caughey the Sinn Fein organiser who had come to London via Manchester, where he has seen Joe Deighan, then the CA Chairman. There was talk of his starting a paper with Jack Bennett; CDG doubted the wisdom of this: '...he is still set on abstentionism, and envisages the prisoners committees evolving into "Wolfe Tone Clubs" which could help political action but support Sinn Fein abstentionist candidates. Unfortunately JB here shows the romantic streak in his temperament and instead of opposing this inconsistency tolerates it...'. News of this trickled down to us via CA events, and a picture of the potential for republican politicisation began to take shape.
The Connolly Association was affiliated with the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and had been consistently raising the issue there of the Special Powers. The 1963 NCCL conference took place on May 26, and the CA motion was successful. Behind the scenes CDG was working quietly to get the nationalists and republicans to talk with the Belfast Trades Council on topics relating to the NCCL objectives. This is the embryo of the broad-based Civil Rights movement.
Greaves had also been working on a booklet in the life and times of Wolfe Tone, this being the bicentenary of his birth. On June 20 1963 CDG gave a Wolfe Tone Memorial Lecture, at which his booklet was launched; later 80 copies were sold on Trafalgar Square. Then on June 26 he recorded a discussion with Joe Deighan regarding a Wolfe Tone demonstration planned for Manchester; there were questions relating to the role of the London Corresponding Society, and the nature of the Republic.
Some time before this I had taken over the treasurership of the CA, and I had to do the regular chore of deducting the tax from the wages of Sean Redmond the executive secretary, a task which I detested. I was to my great relief able to resign from this in June 1963, as soon as my job with Aer Lingus was confirmed. I became then all set for an enthusiastic return to Ireland, with the political momentum of the consciousness aroused by the Wolfe Tone bicentenary, and the glimmerings of political consciousness emerging in the North among the released prisoners. The idea was taking shape of seeking to develop a broad-based politicised republican movement that would be Marxist enough to subsume effectively the vision of the nascent Irish left, as embodied in the Irish Workers League, while also effectively capturing the attention of the Irish people. Such a movement to succeed would need to remain at a distance from the 'international movement' of the Communist left, dominated as it was by residual Stalinism, despite the attempts of some to shed this negative historical baggage.
In this context I had a farewell drink with CDG, hoping to bounce around a few ideas along these lines. In his August 1 1963, relating to the present writer, CDG recorded: 'Roy goes back to Ireland on Tuesday to take up his post with Aer Lingus. He wants to talk to everybody about his "role" there. But he is incapable of pursuing single-mindedly a political course of action, let alone originating one. So I made no suggestions. And in any conflict between his duty and his interests or convenience, his interests or convenience are bound to win. Still he is not the worst.'
On the previous day he had recorded something of the problem we had getting back into our own house, currently occupied by Jim Fitzgerald and family upstairs and Tony Coughlan down below. Certain rearrangements would obviously be necessary, and money was involved. In this context he interpreted my concern with the financial side of things as being 'miserly'.
The foregoing says something about CDG's judgment of people, and his confidence in their ability to grasp his strategies. The Civil Rights approach within the NI situation was in gestation, and he had already set up the contacts. Yet he chose not to tell me anything about it, in a farewell briefing, which I had asked for. If he had briefed me, it is quite possible that the Wolfe Tone Society in Dublin would have been able to help this process along, with its Belfast contacts, which included Jack Bennett, and, later, people like Alec Foster, Michael Dolley and John D Stewart, and Kader Asmal in Dublin. But he seemed to be dismissive of the potential of all-Ireland democratic intellectual networking, preferring to remain in the undergrowth of the CPNI and the IWL. He expected all intellectuals to go the road taken by Cal O'Herlihy and Justin Keating, and he automatically wrote them off.
I recollect how he turned our conversation towards the potential for exotic vacations which presented themselves for airline employees with concession travel, suggesting the flora and fauna of the Amazon as being accessible should I so desire. This was, of course, a leg-pull, but it indicated that CDG was far from 'sending me back to Ireland on a mission', as Mac Stiofain has alleged; he was clearly indicating to me that I was on my own, and as far as he was concerned, I had established myself in his mind as being somewhat of a political dilettante. It also suggested that he had absorbed the lessons of his premature intervention on the occasion of the founding meeting of the Irish Workers League, and wanted any political developments in Ireland to be genuinely indigenous, from the bottom up.
I remember the occasion of my return; I drove our Morris Minor to Fishguard, saw it winched on to the Rosslare boat, with all our chattels in it, and then on the way over I retired to what must have been the old 'commercial room', a sort of saloon where one could sit down and write, a relic of old-time commercial travelling. I wrote some notes on how I saw the movement for Irish national unity and liberation of the Irish working people might be developed. I recollect that I was influenced by the Castro model, but not in its 'armed struggle' aspect; the key to its political aspect was how a broad-based movement of politicised working people, rural as well as urban, in the country as a whole, had absorbed, subsumed, upstaged (to this day I can't find a good verb!) a narrow doctrinaire urban 'workerist' party based on the orthodoxy of the Communist international movement. I had picked up the Cuban story from the special issue of the Huberman-Sweezy 'Monthly Review' which had appeared earlier. If I find these notes I will reference them and embed them here.
Sinn Fein and Wolfe ToneI am indebted to Matt Treacy, who currently (2001) is researching this period for a PhD in Trinity College, for a copy of a paper from the National Archives from the then Minister for Justice to the Cabinet on April 2 1962. It evaluates the pros and cons for a general release of republican prisoners, and on the 'pro' side indicates that they have no funds, no backing from public opinion, and many will probably drop out. This picture is not contradicted by the evidence from the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle minutes at around this time.
According to the Ard Comhairle minutes, 23/02/63, a Wolfe Tone Committee had been set up; the meeting on Feb 3 had submitted Sean Cronin and Brian O'Higgins as names for it. It is not clear who was on it, or by whom it was set up. Presumably it can be inferred that the 'other branch' set it up. TMacG considers that this probably was Cathal Goulding at work. Sean Cronin was a member of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society in 1964, when I became a member. Brian O'Higgins died shortly after this. The recommendation of Cronin would have been the influence of the IRA people on the Ard Comhairle. He had been Chief of Staff at the beginning of the 1950s campaign, had been interned, being replaced by Ruairi O Bradaigh(1), and as usual in the Curragh had become political-minded. Mick Ryan however questions this; we will have to try to contact him.
Cronin subsequently had a respected career in journalism, becoming the Irish Times Washington Correspondent. There had been a suggestion from Dublin Comhairle Ceanntar (Regional Council) to hold a meeting on Cave Hill, near Belfast, in memory of the Wolfe Tone / Russell (1793?) 'oath' occasion which took place there, and it was agreed that this be passed to the WT Committee.
Did this Cave Hill meeting take place? I have a feeling it did, and it was part of the pre-history of the process of foundation of the Belfast WTS.
There was a Convention of Wolfe Tone Directories in May 1963 which took place in Dublin and included the following:
How was this group identified, selected, assembled? It was probably as a result of personal contact by Cathal Goulding. It had nothing to do with Sinn Fein; the Sinn Fein minutes at this time show only 'fuzzy' knowledge of it. It represents the measure of Goulding's perception of political reform potential within the IRA, as it remained in vestigial existence in 1963. A Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle meeting took place this same weekend, from which the following has been abstracted, as well a some items from subsequent meetings:
AC 24/08/63: there was a letter from TP Connealy seeking a speaker for a housing protest. JJMcG proposes issuing a statement.
The culture-gap with Sinn Fein must have been recognised by Goulding, because Eamonn Mac Thomais appears in the Wolfe Tone Directory records for the first time on June 4; Goulding must have invited him.
The Convention outlined an ambitious programme of events, pageantry, music, in various locations. The Cork events were to be associated with Thomas Russell's birthplace, Belfast events with the graves of Hope, Orr and Russell; there was a definite aspiration to reach out to the Protestant republican tradition: '...to use the Tone Bicentenary as a launching point from which the doctrine of Republicanism could be taught anew so that Tone's aim of a free, united Ireland, in which Catholic and Dissenter would work together in harmony and liberty, would be soon achieved..'.
Ard Comhairle 10/03/63: Bristol Left Club got T Brosnan as speaker, provided the CA was excluded. Thus at this stage anti-communism was dominant, and the CA was labelled.
A concept of a Republican Co-operative Bank was referred to Moss Twomey, a leading 1930s IRA man, who by then, as an established businessman, was regarded as someone who would know about banks. According to TMacG this could have been a harking back to the earlier episode of the Land Bank in the 20s.
The concept of a Credit Union within SF itself was dismissed, correctly, as not feasible; the common bond must be local. There appears here to be a concept of assuming popular democratic forms of economic organisation, but keeping them 'in-house', or within the 'tribe', rather than as a mode of outreach to the mass of the people. TMacG agrees with this assessment.
Thus the Wolfe Tone Directories were clearly set on the road to broad-based politicisation, taking on board the Protestant interests via Hubert Butler, before I had become involved.
Martin Shannon at this time was the Editor of the United Irishman. TMacG was standing in for CG representing the Army Council, which clearly regarded the Directory as its property. The concept of the 'think tank' to supply the UI and the movement generally with ideas was emerging. I was unaware of this meeting, though I remember meeting with TMacG around this time, and picking up indications that changes were in prospect; I had attended the mansion House lectures, and been somewhat enthused by them.
On January 14 1964 the first WTD meeting post-Dundalk took place; it included UMacE, Lorcan Leonard, Harry White, Richard Roche and for the first time the present writer RJ. There were reports on local meetings, and a draft plan by UMacE was approved for discussion at an extended meeting on Sunday January 26. This took place, with the above and Deasun Breathnach, E Mac Thomais, Sean Bermingham, Sean Cronin, Liam Burke, Jack Bennett and Terry Conneally also present. The meeting was inconclusive, except in that it was decided that the Cave Hill commemoration should continue.
The experience of the Connolly Association and the work of Eamonn McLoughlin in structuring political mini-dramas based on ballads with interconnected scripting seemed to me to be relevant; ballad nights were all the rage, and Mairin was well established in the genre. The Ballymena co-op suggests the beginnings of an understanding of the need to build bridges into Protestant culture, though this was never followed up.
The Plough contact was an attempt to cultivate the 'Labour Left' community, with which RJ had been in contact in the late 1950s. There also turned up in RJ's file a letter dated 13/03/64 from Francis Carty the Editor of the Sunday Press; it seems we had complimented him on Claude Gordon's column (Jack Bennett's) but were critical of how it was often suppressed in favour of news items in some editions in the South.
On April 22 1964 Greaves attended an anti-apartheid meeting in the Mansion House, where he was impressed by the contribution of Barry Desmond (whom he noted as Tony Coughlan's friend). He commented '...the Labour Party would never dream of holding a meeting to protest against apartheid in Northern Ireland...'. Others present included Micheal O'Riordan, Justin and Loretta Keating and Justin's mother May, Johnny Nolan, Frank Edwards and Michael O'Leary. Tony Coughlan (AC) must have been there because he noted that '..AC told me an interesting thing told him in Dublin, namely that Martin Ennals came back from the six counties two years ago with material completely condemning the six-county government.... but was prevented from publishing it on the intervention of Transport House as embarrassing to the Labour Party..'.
During this time I was in the US on Aer Lingus business, but I was aware of the role of the Anti-Apartheid movement led by Kader Asmal, and had recognised the relevance of its campaign in the Northern situation.
WTD April 28 1964: UMacE, HW, PON, RJ, DB, CG, TC, RR; Lorcan Leonard's letter of resignation considered; UMacE and RR to go and see him. It seems I proposed and then withdrew that his resignation be accepted. He had promised a draft manifesto and had not delivered. I suspect however that we were in the presence of hostility to the left as perceived by small business. RJ proposed and UMacE seconded that a drafting committee be set up for a constitution of a 'republican ginger group'; RJ, DB and UMacE. In the notes for the minutes the 'Tuairim' label was used. Seosamh Mac Domhnaill and Sean O Bradaigh(3) were invited to join the 'Directory'.
May 12: Plans for debate with the City Group of Fine Gael in Powers Hotel on May 26: RJ and Ciaran Mac an Aili to speak. A symposium in the Mansion House was planned for the occasion of the meeting of the Ministers for Justice of Europe; speakers projected were Con Lehane, Seamus Sorahan, Sean Caughey and Sean Dunne TD; alternatively Michael Lennon or Prionnsias Mac Aonghusa. Wolfe Tone Week: symposium in Irish. The draft constitution was discussed and amended.
On May 25 CDG noted a meeting on CPGB ground, in the Daily Worker office, involving Betty Matthews, Idris Cox, CDG, O'Riordan and Kay Beauchamp. The issue appeared to be the relative policies and attitudes of the CPGB, the IWL in Dublin, the CPNI and the Connolly Association to the organisation of the Irish in Britain. KB was embarrassed when CDG named the May 23 company. But further meetings were planned involving MO'R.
These issues remained unresolved, being muddied by the theoretical confusion of the international movement, with Trotskyite and Chinese factors emerging to undermine the high church of post-Stalinist CP orthodoxy. The Greaves policy with the Connolly Association (seeking to get support for civil rights in Northern Ireland from the British Labour Movement) was being promoted largely in spite of the CPGB and the IWL.
The 'Directory' concept can be here seen to be evolving towards a 'club' concept, with membership by invitation. The adoption of the Constitution implies declaring autonomy from the Movement.
June 29 1964: UMacE, RJ, RR, PON, EMacM, DB, CG; co-option of Sean Cooney and Micheal O Laoire postponed until Constitution agreed. Conference projected for October to explore the 'economic resistance' concept. Constitution adoption meeting fixed for July 25.
On July 3 Mairin and I went up to Finglas to MacLiam's and we spend the evening with CDG; we confirmed his negative assessment of the Sceim, and contributed an assessment of AC, who had it seems been writing speeches for O'Leary and Desmond, who were predicted to be making their way into the Dail. Tony on the other hand had got his TCD job and was taking on the role of 'onlooking don... simultaneously most capable at politics and too honest for them..'.
The Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle minutes of 04/07/64 contain a reference to RJ's 'economic resistance' paper for the Wolfe Tone Society: it was agreed to pass it for discussion at cumann level. This was the present writer's first appearance on the SF record. The paper was published in the October 1964 United Irishman; I have taken a copy of the microfilm, but the quality is poor, and it is not feasible to scan it in. The key points however were as follows:
1. There was an introductory section which showed how imperialist economic forces worked within a unified financial system, with the partitioned State incapable of effectively controlling them in the people's interests. The result was depopulation of the west, concentration of industry into islands of precarious prosperity on the east coast, buying up of Irish firms by foreign monopolies, closure of smaller firms, purchase of land by foreigners. The Lemass economic programme would strengthen these negative trends.
2. The task of the movement had up to now been seen as simply the ending of Partition, and in this we had not been successful. If we persist in this narrow view, national decline would continue, transferring our rural population into the industrial towns of the oppressor. It would therefore be necessary to give a lead to the spontaneous movement of economic resistance which was beginning to emerge in the West, in the form of co-operative organisation of small farmers, for the purpose of their achieving some managed control over their inputs and outputs, and small-scale local industrial initiatives, based on locally produced raw materials.
3. Workers and management in the State sector of industry were identified as being part of the 'economic resistance', which also included primary producers, workers and traders co-operatives, locally based transport systems, with gombeen parasitic capitalism being replaced by community enterprise. The problem was to develop an economic environment to favour this process, and this was the role of the State. The Ralahine model, as outlined by Connolly, was mentioned. Links between producers and urban consumers would require the development of a consumer co-op movement in the cities.
4. The Credit Union movement was identified a means of organising a financial system supportive of local co-operative enterprise. It was further suggested that the Algerian experience, as outlined by Fanon, was relevant, and that the resistance to imperial domination was more likely to be rural-based than urban-based, given that the urban elite tended to prosper with crumbs from the imperial table.
The foregoing apparently is the origin of Desmond Greaves's later 'labelling and dismissing' of the present writer's thinking as 'Fanonist' and 'petit-bourgeois'. It is actually closer to the thinking of JJ, Horace Plunkett and George Russell, viewed in retrospect. Fanon happened to be to hand, as the philosopher of a revolution which looked at the time to have had some success against the French. There certainly was an emphasis against the simplistic two-class model of traditional Marxism, and a desire to involve 'working owner-managers and self-employed' along with 'workers' among the progressive forces; also a feeling of the need to transform 'workers' into 'worker-owners' of their co-operatively owned workplaces. Industrial, commercial and social democracy would need a favourable environment within a framework of political democracy. On the whole I think it was theoretically a positive document, but perhaps the people who were influenced by it were too steeped in militaristic and elitist culture to interpret it validly.
Thus for about a year after my return I was searching around for opportunities to broaden the movement, while staying in touch with the IWL. Then some time around June or July 1964 I decided to drop out from the Irish Workers League and throw in my lot with the politicising republicans, on the assurance from Cathal Goulding that he wanted help in converting the IRA from an illegal army into a democratically disciplined political movement reflecting the interests of the working people as a whole, broadly based on the socialist ideas of Marx, as adapted by Connolly to the Irish situation.
At the September 1 WTS meeting there was mention of a projected debate with Clann na Poblachta in Powers Hotel. Justin Keating was present and was co-opted as a member. An earlier effort had been made to recruit Michael O'Leary, but so far without success. Padraig O Nuallain agreed to act as Chairman, and Uinsean Mac Eoin as treasurer. The concept of the 'economic resistance movement' emerged, and Ethna MacManus reported that she had heard from Fr McDyer (Glencolumcille) and there was a meeting projected with him and Peadar O'Donnell, which RJ also was to attend. It was decided to send copies of the Constitution to Tony Coughlan, Micheal O Laoire, Brian Murphy and Antoin O Midheach (Tony Meade). It was agreed to publicise the need for Donegal-Derry linkages.
We were making an attempt to build a group fit to involve people who subsequently became leading Labour party intellectuals. Our re-think of the 'national question' in the Wolfe Tone tradition had aroused a flicker of interest. Tony Coughlan at this time was supportive of his old UCC colleague Michael O'Leary. I subsequently managed to introduce a Donegal-Derry linkage concept (ie a cross-border development agency) at the June 1965 meeting in Derry of the Irish Association; this must have been the origin of the idea.
On September 29 1964 the Dublin WTS noted that a meeting with United Societies of Castleblayney was projected for December; it seems RJ was controversing with Ernest Blythe; he was to go with Sean Cronin. There was talk of worker-farmer interaction in the context of the 'economic resistance' concept; the McDyer enterprise in Donegal was in touch with small farmers clubs in Mayo; a possible role for Sceim na gCeardcumann emerged; RJ was to speak to them. I have found my notes for this event, which took place on 24/10/64, and have included them in the WTS folder. The key concept was the need to find means of linking urban workers with the projected rural co-operative movement revival. There were also notes towards the development of a 'co-operative congress' concept, with urban, industrial and consumer dimensions as well as primary producers. Target recruits identified for the Society were Anthony Coughlan, Sean Cronin and Michael McInerney.
CDG on October 13 1964, arising from encounters in Belfast in the context of the election, recorded his meeting with Jack Bennett, with whom he viewed the aftermath of the Divis St riots; he then met with Sean Caughey, Art McMillan and then with Cahir Healy in Stormont. Caughey's vision was between 1964 in the North and 1966 in the South to get the makings of an all-Ireland Dail which would legislate for the whole of Ireland. CDG later agreed with JB that Caughey is 'bonkers'. This could be an important entry for detailed study of the early stages of Sinn Fein politicisation, but currently the handwriting defeats me. RJ August 2001.
This was Anthony Coughlan's first meeting; nothing came of the 'freedom train' concept, alas. RJ's Peadar O'Donnell meeting was in the context of the 'economic resistance' concept, which had been promoted in the October 1964 United Irishman. In retrospect, this promotion was a mistake, in that it associated the concept with an explicit Republican ideology, this arousing suspicion in the mind of Peadar O'Donnell, whose experience of the movement was based on its form in the past, rather than the form to which we aspired.
The Peadar O'Donnell meeting subsequently yielded notice of a conference in the Gresham with Sceim na gCeardcumann, County Associations etc, with an invited audience, including WTS representatives.
Members of the WTS had participated in support of Sinn Fein candidates in the Northern elections, and it was agreed to draft a report on the experience.
Uinsean Mac Eoin later proposed and Padraig O Nuallain seconded a motion calling on the Government to purchase the assets of the Northern railways should Stormont decide to close them down, and keep them going.
Ethna at the time was one of my 'contacts' among whom were beginning to take shape strategies for the development of political left-republicanism; she had been associated with co-operative developments in Killala, and had standing with the republicans, having provided a 'safe house' during the 1950s. She was however far from being an ally of Peadar O'Donnell, whose work with Father McDyer in the 'defence of the west' she regarded as paternalistic and 'top-down'. She had been attempting to work 'bottom up', organising from the grass-roots, in association with politicising republicans, and had had modest success.
WTS November 10 1964: PON in the chair; RJ, UMacE, CG, HW, AC, SC and RR present. The Peadar O'Donnell meeting had yielded notice of a conference in the Gresham with Sceim na gCeardcumann, County Associations etc, with an invited audience, including WTS representatives. Uinsean Mac Eoin proposed and Padraig O Nuallain seconded a motion calling on the Government to purchase the assets of the Northern railways should Stormont decide to close them down, and keep them going. Steps were taken to publicise this.
WTS November 19: Galway event (Cronin, Breathnach); Hubert Butler letter; Tailors Hall; 'dinner' idea shelved. December 8: Tomas Mac Gabhainn to be approached; Dungannon meeting; co-op conference in January...
Tomas MacGabhainn had pioneer standing in the co-operative development domain.
It is appropriate here to outline the November 1964 notes relating to the Powers Hotel meeting with the Clann, and the paper to the Sceim na gCeardcumann, as developments of the 'economic resistance' concept. It merits a separate file outlining my 1964 theoretical position.
The foregoing perhaps suggests that the October United Irishman article on 'economic resistance' had been read and was being taken seriously. We have summarised it above.
I have treated the Bricklayers Hall Ard Fheis above but I have no recollection of this episode. It could well be true, as Tadhg Egan was a reliable witness. CDG was beginning to take the emergence of political republicanism of the left seriously.
CDG December 7 1964 recorded that Cathal MacLiam and he went to a Wolfe Tone Society meeting, where Ethna MacManus read a paper on Irish trade. '..Interesting things were said, and the representative of the big bourgeoisie present left the Sinn Feiners and IWL people without a stitch of policy. RHWJ brought in Partition effectively enough, and proposed a resolution for opening trade and diplomatic relations with all countries..... there is as much chance of Ireland abandoning Fianna Fail (or Fine Gael) in the near future as there is of water flowing uphill...'.
The next day CDG had lunch with the present writer; the penultimate paragraph in the December 7 entry is worth quoting in full: '...(RHWJ) said Cathal Goulding has gone to London to investigate the dispute over the demonstration which happened during the election, and that having heard I was in Dublin expressed a desire to see me. He is Cathal (MacLiam)'s first cousin so I suggested to Cathal we might invite him up. Taking all in all, things are progressing here 'as well as can be expected'. The younger people with the Connolly Association experience are becoming personally acceptable to the Republicans, and after Monday's meeting RHWJ and Sean Cronin went off to AC's flat where the young Labour hero Michael O'Leary is sharing, and so all heads clarify each other by mutual interaction..'.
CDG December 10 1964: Cathal Goulding arrived at MacLiam's, and CDG has the pleasure of introducing him to the cousin he has never met. CG had been supportive of Fitzmaurice and the joint Clann-CA demonstration (see above); there was talk of 'pulling a fast one' on one O'Sullivan (who presumably was in the Clann leadership); CDG warned that such 'fast ones' usually slowed down genuine political development. He wanted to keep the door to co-operation open. '...He said he and his colleagues were thinking in broader political terms than in the past. He struck me as a shrewd experienced revolutionary, but without much basic political knowledge... without a grasp of the laws of social evolution. The interesting thing is that he is prepared to support political action on matters of common concern. But like O'Riordan he appears to believe developments in Britain can be directed from Dublin...'.
Goulding is here trying, somewhat clumsily, to come to terms with the existence of the CA in London, and smooth the relationship with Clann na h-Eireann, in accordance with his policy of convergence with the Left.
CDG December 12: he recorded an encounter between CDG, Peadar O'Donnell, Ethna MacManus and the present writer '..Roy pushing ahead quicker than things can go, and Peadar obstructing and driving Roy wild. I kept out of it..'. Peadar it seems wanted Sceim na gCeardcumann to push his Defence of the West ideas in Dublin, but found it somewhat of an amorphous body... 'they don't know what their aims are... there's a fellow for Trinity College at the top of it, and he's rather academic..', referring to Anthony Coughlan. Peadar later got his way with the Sceim through Donal Donnelly.
The Year 1965The January 1965 United Irishman had a report of Tomas Mac Giolla's speech at the Ard Fheis; it contained a reference to Father McDyer's formation in Glencolumcille of a 'meitheal' or commune of 10 farms, to be managed as a unit, in fulfilment of Connolly's vision. There was a critical article on the Lemass-O'Neill talks; these were interpreted as a move in the direction of total economic integration with Britain, and constituted a basis for defining common objectives between the republican and trade union movements.
There was an article by RJ on p9, as from the vice-chair of the Wolfe Tone Society, in which I make the case for tapping into Irish graduate knowhow, and identify Partition as a constraint on the ability to control the movement of capital. This was in the context of my 'vote of thanks' for the paper by Ethna MacManus on December 7. The speakers to the paper were Rickard Deasy President of the National Farmers Association, Ruairi Roberts of the ICTU, and G Wheeler President of the Irish Exporters Association.
The social composition of this group is perhaps worthy of analysis. Respectively we had an insurance company executive, a scientist, an architect, a college lecturer in social administration, a journalist, an academic vet, a motor-car salesman, two more journalists and a co-operative movement activist. It was not 'working-class' in the sense required by the orthodoxy of the Marxist 'high church', but did consist of intellectuals, working management, working owner-managers and self-employed, so that did consist of people with leadership potential for a broad-based movement of democratic reform, fit to absorb the key Marxist objective of gaining democratic control over the capital investment process.
RJ reported on a meeting that had taken place in Swinford addressed by Peadar O'Donnell and Fr McDyer. The basis for future co-operative development organisation was becoming unclear. There was input from JK on the NFA and small farmers. This was the occasion when POD drove the wedge between McDyer and the Charlestown Committee people; he blocked the recruitment of the leading Western co-operative activists to the Defence of the West Campaign because he smelled Republican 'infiltration' in the old mode with which he was familiar.
McElroy was a Presbyterian minister who had been asked by Rev GBG McConnell to attend the Armour lecture; there is a letter to this effect in the archive.
Not minuted in the WTS records, but emerging from Wolfe Tone events in RJ's records, is a Feb-March correspondence with Raymond Crotty attempting to set up a meeting or conference on all-Ireland economic planning; contact with Geoffry Copcutt is also projected; the latter was a town planner had gone public in opposition to the Craigavon project. Nothing came of this, but it deserves to be on record as a valid attempt. Donal Nevin and Garrett Fitzgerald were also projected, for a 'balanced platform'.
There is a paper in the WTS archive by the present writer which expands on the above; the plan was to run a seminar to follow up on the implications of the Lemass-O'Neill meeting, and to initiate examination of possibilities for genuine N-S co-operation in the national interest. The objective was to expose the fact that O'Neill did not have the power; we would have to go to Wilson. It was to be followed by a seminar on urban planning, invoking Copcutt, and addressing the issue of over-development of Dublin and decline of rural areas. Also by a seminar on the agricultural subsidies, with leading farming co-operators north and south, and invoking Joe Johnston and Justin Keating. Finally there was to be a seminar on the University for Derry as a national demand. The foregoing was a valid plan adapted to the time, and it is a pity it was not implemented.
Secondary effects of Partition generate problems that need to be addressed, and by organising to do this, we come in contact with a wide variety of people, with whom we can build an organised approach to the achievement of desirable tactical objectives. In this process we have the opportunity of playing a leading role, but we will have to earn it. Father McDyer's 'co-operative of 10 subsistence farmers' had showed development potential for local leadership. Could this be replicated elsewhere, and also in an urban working environment? If so, there was the possibility of developing a 32-county Co-operative Congress, to which people would look for ideas, rather than to the two partitioned administrations.
I went on to generalise this to the existing 32-county Trade Union movement, within which organised approaches to local issues were feasible, ranging from worker co-operative takeovers of local mills to lobbying the Dublin government to help keep the Shorts factory open in Belfast, and in general in support of the transformation of the Northern engineering industry away from imperial and towards national objectives. Why should the Sugar Company have to go to Germany to get its equipment? etc.
I was promoting a concept of an active politically conscious trade union and co-operative movement which understood the importance of an all-Ireland approach to employment, market development, welfare etc, as a stage in laying the basis for a possibly future 1918-type election; this was of course as an alternative to militarism. I went on to suggest that the Army, if it were to take seriously its claim to be the 'legitimate government of the country', should go out and 'survey the battlefield'; in other words, get a feel for the local political, economic and social issues which have, however indirectly, an all-Ireland dimension.
During the next few months I met with various army units, such as they were, throughout the country, and conveyed a message along these lines, with local variations. Those who took it up, and many did, remained with the movement in the 1970s and were not taken in by the 'Provisional' nonsense. Some became co-operative and trade union activists, anecdotally, but I am unable to quantify it.
There was a WTS meeting on March 9, to which Cathal Goulding came. A meeting in Belfast was projected around Easter. An Asmal memo was noted; RJ had seen Edgar Deale and noted that Irish Association for Civil Liberty (IACL) did not take initiatives on OAS Act. Names were targeted for circulation of Asmal memo.
We have here a clear indication of the beginnings of the Civil Rights approach, supported by Kader Asmal, who was then leader of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement. A copy of a letter from RJ to Jack Bennett has turned up relating to this meeting in Belfast; it was projected that the meeting should be supportive of the New University of Ulster being located in Derry, and urged that there be a Donegal dimension, and a proposal for it to be associated with a scheme for the integrated development of the North-West, a jointly-funded cross-border body. It was also suggested that a ballad concert should have an orange and green theme, with interspersed narrative. There was also a cryptic reference to Shorts, indicating an aspiration to achieve left-wing trade-union contact in the context.
The overall result was positive and a significant step in the direction of achieving a cross-community civil rights movement in NI, and of breaking down the barriers between the 'catholic nationalist' tradition and that of Marxist-democracy.
There was also a reference to a local IRA statement relating to the Midleton ground rents issue. This was Mac Stiofain at work. There is also a long letter from Eamonn Mac Thomais attacking an earlier editorial by Denis Foley calling for reform of electoral policy ('live horse and get grass, etc').
Note that the situation here is conceived in 26-county terms; there is no visible NI dimension at this point of time, apart from what has been developing via the NCCL, as outlined above. Note also that there is no awareness of this at the level of the SF Ard Comhairle, but that at this time the 'conference of republicans' is in process of preparing a document for the June 1965 Special Ard Fheis, which will begin to put issues like this on the SF agenda.
There was here an inter-generational link; Edgar Deale's name has already occurred among the supporters of JJ's early co-operative campaigning, and JJ supported the current initiative. The fact that JJ had signed the document would have encouraged ED to do business with the current generation of Civil Liberties activists.
CDG subsequently held that this should have been the seed-bed for further developments, and that the NICRA as it emerged from the War Memorial Hall meeting in 1966 was doomed to disaster due to its failure to develop organic links with the labour movement.
The initiative to set up the NICRA came subsequently via the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society, basically from Anthony Coughlan. It did not follow organically from the above May 6 1965 meeting. Had there been a follow-up from this meeting, the War Memorial Hall initiative, which came from AC via the WTS in Dublin, would have not seemed necessary. The NICRA or its equivalent would perhaps have emerged with a stronger trade union basis. The politicising republicans would have supported this, without being able to project a sense of 'ownership', as subsequently happened with the NICRA, to the detriment of the latter. CDG at the time unfortunately was preoccupied with the terminal illness of his sister Phyllis, and it is tempting to conjecture how things might have developed had the civil rights movement emerged organically from the trade union movement, as CDG had hoped would happen, and as he might have been in a position to encourage, perhaps via the NCCL, had he been fully active.
CDG May 9 1965: ...Caughey had 'felt there was something wrong' with the social and economic policy document (which RJ had drafted), suggesting '...it should be sent to the Catholic Church for approval. Ruane indicated that he disagreed with this (on the grounds that)..RHWJ... as a Protestant might object. But he showed evident satisfaction at the fact that after being studied for three solid weeks by an eminent North of Ireland Catholic philosopher, it was pronounced unobjectionable to the clergy, and politically "revolutionary". So Caughey was satisfied. There was much dissatisfaction with Caughey... who else had they in the North? When they went up for the election campaign they found a political desert. So they had to give Caughey a free hand..'.
This shows the depths of the catholic-nationalist mind-set of the Northern republicans, and the extent of the political vacuum that we would need to fill.
On May 16 1965 CDG was in Dublin, primarily on the Mellows trail but also actively engaged in meeting with and assessing the rising generation of politicising left-republicans. He noted in his diary an encounter with Cathal Goulding (CG) who thought highly of Denis Foley the then United Irishman editor, and also of Tadhg Egan. The next day he encountered Tony Meade, who 'plunged into the difficulties facing republicans... at first he had been very opposed to the CA and communism until our campaign to release the prisoners...', then, later '...even going into Leinster House, let alone disbanding the IRA.. would strain the old faithfuls beyond breaking point...'. He was however thinking in terms of '..how much money could the CA send the IRA..'. CDG of course replied that they would not want to. They discussed 'political training abroad'; CDG didn't think much of this. TM felt he and his colleagues were prisoners of history, and the historic door has not yet opened to let them out.
in full in the hypertext, and summarise here its main thrust.
This was a serious attempt to initiate the transformation of Sinn Fein into a radical political force, taking full part in the activities of civil society in both parts of Ireland. It was the fruit of the politicisation process of the previous internment, and probably was drafted by Goulding and Costello. I did not have any significant hand in it. It was an attempt to impose the 'advanced thinking' of the key Army people on the relatively reluctant Sinn Fein 'sea-green incorruptibles', at a rate somewhat faster than the latter were prepared to go. However some of the proposals did get past the Special Ard Fheis and the resulting atmosphere in Sinn Fein became more open to climatic change.
According to Mick Ryan, militarism was still strong at the time; MR and Malachi McGurran were distrustful of Costello. The basis of this distrust was probably Costello's vision of combining the ending of abstention with what amounted to a Stalinist or quasi-militaristic political model.
The key 'civil society enabling proposals' were in Section :
(b) That the whole question of attitude to be adopted by Republicans in prison be reconsidered with a view to revision of same.
(c) That there be no obstacle placed in the way of Republicans writing to government departments in the 6 Counties, 26 Counties or in Britain seeking information or requesting that something be done, etc.
(d) That Republicans acting as members of local organisations and not simply as Republicans be permitted and encouraged to take part in delegations to Ministers of any of the three governments administrating in Ireland.
This opening up however was marred by an over-riding philosophy of aspiration to 'own' broader organisations, and steer them into 'national question' issues. This comes over in Section :
 (a)That the essential work of the republican movement at present is the development of political and agitational activities and the infiltration and direction of other organisations.
Note the use of the word 'infiltration': this reflects traditional elitist Army thinking and I remember noting the need to campaign against the concept via the educational opportunities presented by the following sections. People should be active in organisations which genuinely reflect their broader interests as citizens or specialists of one kind or another, a process basically different from 'infiltration' as then perceived by the activists.
(b) That educational and training programmes in both organisations should be directed to this end. That one educational centre for all recruits to the Republican Movement be set up, details of organisation to be worked out by the executives of both branches.
(c) That closer integration of the executives of both organisations is essential. That this should be achieved by having the same people on both executives.
(d) That the structure and constitution of each organisation should be streamlined to provide for close co-operation between both at local level.
This was accepted by the Ard Comhairle, but at the Special Ard Fheis only (b) and (d) were carried; (c) was lost, and (a) was amended as follows:
"That the essential work of the Republican Movement at present is the development of political and agitational activities and the giving of leadership, internally and externally, and the involvement of other organisations in struggles for limited objectives as a preparation for an ultimate confrontation with the British Government on the national issue. This amendment does not accept Recommendation No. 9 as a logical extension of these recommendations."
This amendment was inconsistent with the role envisioned for the NICRA by those who were at this time promoting it. It is closer to the Blaneyite approach which subsequently emerged post 1969, driving the Civil Rights campaign into the Catholic ghettos.
Meanwhile in the WTS on June 8 1965 Maire Comerford joined the group, in the Tailors' Hall context. An 'Armour of Ballymoney' lecture was projected by Ken Armour, his son, a teacher in Campbell College. Then on June 21 the question arose of the Irish Association meeting in Derry which had been planned to celebrate the projected upgrading of Magee College to the status of the New University of Ulster. This however had subsequently been located by Stormont on a green-field site near Coleraine, a snub for Derry. The IA conference therefore assumed a political role, and many subsequently associated with the Civil Rights movement attended, including John Hume and the present writer. What follows is the WTS reaction to this event. Letters were to be sent to the Trustees of Magee College and to Ken Armour, drafted by RJ; he was also to brief Micheal O Laoire for a Dail question. There was projected a Queens lecture by Michael Dolley, and a letter to Corporation re Tailors Hall. There was a resolution re housing, in the Arran Quay demolitions context. A newsletter 'Tuairisc' projected, with WTS logo.
WTS June 29 1965: there is in the archive a flier for a meeting in the Father Matthew Hall addressed by Unisean Mac Eoin, Michael O'Leary TD and Paul Rowan (Caper St Traders) on 'Dublin - Live City or Dead'. This was directed at the Corporation's plans for the Arran Quay area, and at the land speculation issue.
On July 7 it is on record with the WTS that AC wrote to RR proposing a list of target people for circulation of Tuairisc, emphasising the need to identify people in the labour and trade union movement as well as republican politicals; also people concerned with the defence of the West and the emergent co-operative movement, the latter being liable to Fianna Fail take-over.
WTS July 27 1965: more on Tailors Hall; resolution to the Corporation in support of the preservation of the Gaiety Theatre.
WTS August 1965: the second issue of Tuairisc came out; it led with an 'Economic Resistance' note; this contained a call for the rejuvenation of the co-operative movement. There were also some notes on the Castlecomer mine, and a call to save the Gaiety Theatre, then under threat.
On August 3 1965 in London CDG noted that Sean Redmond had returned from Ireland: '..he was with RHWJ at Murlough on Sunday, where they made the "oration". Roy thinks that he is leading and educating the republicans while in reality they are availing of his willing services. Still both are pleased.'
I count the foregoing as a perceptive remark. I probably overestimated the extent to which my attempt to develop a rational political approach was reaching the grass roots of the movement. The undoubtedly was a considerable amount of militarist thinking in the Fenian tradition, among people who were prepared to lie low and allow me to be their 'respectable front'. I was prepared to gamble on the process of political education eventually being effective.
On August 12 1965 Greaves noted a Standing Committee meeting of the CA, with SR, JD and others, Sean Redmond reporting back from his Dublin visit: '...the present editor of the UI, Foley, called him into his office when he was on the premises with CG and RHWJ, and showed him a letter written under the name of Madden, urging co-operation with the CA. He disclosed that there was no such person as Madden, and that he had written it himself. He then said that the republican rank and file did not know much about the CA and believed false things about it. He suggested that SR should write a letter to the UI based on Madden's thing, explaining what the CA was. There was much discussion on this. Joe Deighan immediately inspirited by the prospect of unity... leaped up enthusiastically. I was for a more cautious approach. Once more the back door is being tried, an initiative which can be totally disowned. And to make matters worse this young lad Foley, who proposed that the republicans should enter Leinster House, has made himself so controversial a figure, that despite his success in increasing the circulation of the UI by 5000 or more, he is to be replaced as editor by Tony Meade. I am anxious not to move to a limited unity in which the CA takes the place of the British branches of Sinn Fein, and think that this present talk means the failure of C na hE has been realised.'
We see here the politics of stunt and intrigue, the like of which increasingly soured the relationship between the politicising republicans and the Left.
I have on record an exchange of correspondence with Dessie O'Malley the then Minister on the question of the housing of the people who were taking refuge in Griffith Barracks. My one-page letter calling for the declaration of a housing emergency, and setting up a Temporary Accommodation Authority, elicited a lengthy and defensive response, accompanied by a 7-page memorandum. We were proving that we could engage meaningfully with Government.
The first AGM of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society took place on Sept 21 1965: present were RJ, UMacE, HW, PK, RR, MC, NK, SB, GH, DB. Harry White became Chair, RJ remained vice-chair, Sec RR, assist sec AC, Treasurer UMacE. Secretary's report covered events of the previous year, a summary of which was drafted as a letter to people being invited to join. Sean Cronin was to write a booklet for the coming 1966 jubilee year. The Armour event was re-scheduled. Maire Comerford was to supply Jack Bennett in Belfast with critical material on the projected 'Scotch-Irish' conference. The Belfast meeting projected for October 9, with lecture by Ciaran mac an Aili 'Civil Rights North and South'.
The minutes of the October 12 1965 WTS meeting record some important seminal events. Present were RJ, UMacE, NK, AC, CG, PK, PON, TC; the group was also joined by John Tozer and Daithi O Bruadair. RJ had seen Sean Cronin in New York and latter had agreed to produce the booklet about 1916. Armour was postponed to January 19. RJ was to approach Bill Meek to join. The Dungannon WT Association had no connection with WTS.
Then on the Belfast Meeting: '..It was reported that a successful launching meeting had been held in Belfast between Dublin delegates R Johnston, Peter Kerr, Tony Coughlan and Uinsean Mac Eoin, and Belfast delegates Liam Barbour, Michael Dolley, Alec Foster, Jack Bennett and Liam Burke. It was agreed that for the moment the new group should concentrate its attentions on the civil rights issue, particularly the question of plural voting. Contact was made with Republicans working on the same issue and it was learned that a Committee for Democratic Elections had been set up. Fred Heatley was asked and agreed to become Secretary of the new Belfast group. It was also made known that Ciaran Mac an Aili was prepared to read a paper which he had done for the UN on 'Civil Liberties North and South', to a meeting organised by the WTS in Belfast. It was agreed that invitations be sent to the UN Association in Belfast and that Prof J McCartney be invited to speak to the paper. It was suggested that the Committee for Democratic Elections should get in touch with the Campaign for Social Justice in Dungannon and, with an official link already in existence with the republican movement, to form a broad common platform on this issue with all similarly-minded organisations in the North..'.
It was urged that the Dublin MWT/WTS Constitution be adapted to serve the new group as the Belfast WTS. A symposium on the Dublin housing question was planned, and there was to be a social in RJ's house to enable introduction of new members. A Free Trade consultative conference was projected for November 14.
A bizarre event occurred at this social; some people arrived whom no-one knew, and Cathal Goulding threw them out, thinking they were Special Branch. A letter subsequently arrived from Joe Kennedy complaining about the treatment of some business friends of his from the US; an unfortunate case of mistaken identity, and an indication of the prevalent paranoia which inhibited the development of an open political movement. I have added this letter to the WTS record.
October 1965: the 3rd issue of Tuairisc came out; it had a feature of the Free Trade Agreement; there was an analysis of the Dublin housing problem, triggered by the homeless people in Griffith Barracks, which called for setting up a flat-dwellers association; there was also a critique to the 'Scotch-Irish' tendency in Northern mythology.
This, while well-intentioned, never worked. It was not clear who was taking initiatives.
On 4/12/65 the Ard Comhairle discussed those AF resolutions which were not reached, due to time. As usual they are numbered, and the reference document is available, though incomplete at the time of writing. The AC considered motions from 32 onwards (with two exceptions), implying that at the AF motions 1 to 31 were considered.
Motion 1 sought to define whether SF was a political party or not. Motions 2 and 3 called for instant expulsion of anyone proposing or advocating entry into Leinster House, Stormont or Westminster. Motion 6 required a pledge from AC members not to use their position to advocate entry into partition assemblies....
Motions 30 and 31 considered what to do under abstentionism in the case of the coming Westminster elections. Motion 32 called for intensification or preparations for the coming 26 county local elections...
I think it is probable that the extremist motions 2, 3 and 6 were defeated, but that abstentionism was maintained. I have recollections of a Moran's Hotel AF, but these were the following year, 1966. I was not yet actually a member of Sinn Fein at this time. Subsequently the Pearse Cumann was set up, which met in our house; Cathal Goulding was a member of it, and began to participate within the SF organisation.
Where the motions were referred to the AC however I have mostly got the record of their fate. The first one, 32 on local elections, was to be put on the agenda of a sub-committee consisting of Proinnsias de Rossa, Tomás Mac Giolla, Eamonn Mac Tomáis, Wally Lynch and Tony Ruane. For motions 33 to 42 I have the decisions but not the motions; I have decisions and motions from 43 onwards, with the exception of 46. I pick out the ones which are significant.
Motion 43: 'eradication of un-Irish organisations' eg picketing the annual dance of the RAF Association; this was accepted.
Motion 44 to study local government systems in Europe with a view to reforming the present system away from the 'anglo-american pattern'; this was referred to the sub-committee listed above.
Motion 45 called for an approach to the Irish National Teachers Organisation INTO on the question of the oath in the 6 counties. This was accepted, and it was agreed to take steps to get the issue discussed at the INTO national executive.
Motion 46 condemned Communism, opposed collaboration with Communist organisations, and called for expulsion of any member having known connections with communism. The AC record simply skips this, going on from 45 to 47. The number 46 appears in the minutes but is overwritten by 47. It is therefore not clear whether or how this was considered.
I suspect that this motion was aimed at getting rid of the present writer, and was prompted by the valid perception that Stalinist communism as practiced in the USSR was to be discouraged. The present writer had clearly dissociated himself, in his writings, from this position, promoting instead the Connolly tradition: economic democracy, with the Ralahine chapter in Labour in Irish History as model. Goulding accepted this, and was prepared to defend me from attacks from the right-wing traditionalist quarter. Perhaps the motion had been dealt with at the Ard Fheis, by dint of re-ordering the sequence from the chair. Or perhaps Goulding just told the AC to ignore it.
Motions 47 and 48 were pious and were accepted. Motion 49 is the other one missing from the sequence. It calls on the movement not to be sidetracked from '..building up forces which will eventually force the evacuation of British troops from Ireland.' This could have been considered at the AF; I don't know what happened to it; if it was passed it would indicate that the thinking was pure militarist, so I suspect it was rejected. There is more work to be done on the archive.
Motions 50 to 56 were all accepted; they were mostly aspirational, in a general socio-economic direction. Motions 57 to 59 were referred to the National Commemoration Committee.
Motions 60 to 66 related to the United Irishman and I don't have the record of what was done with them. They reflect unease on the part of the traditionalists about the UI content, and call for tighter SF editorial control.
In fact the UI was regarded as Army property, and Goulding defended its role as a key agent of political change. Some light is thrown on the background Army Council thinking on these matters by some documents from the Department of Justice archive which have been released; these were in the possession of Sean Garland on an occasion when he was returning from a meeting at the end of January 1966. They consist of a political plan which had some degree of credibility, a military plan of highly questionable credibility (put in presumably as lip service to the tradition, to keep hardliners like Mac Stiofain and Ruairi O Bradigh onside for the present), a document analysing critically the feedback from the 1965 Extraordinary Ard Fheis, and handwritten notes on the recent Army Council meeting. I comment on these documents elsewhere in depth, and summarise them below.
In Dublin on November 25 1965 CDG recorded a meeting with RHWJ over lunch; I was said to be in a state of enthusiasm '..over his co-operative pool and other activities, all of which will do some good... I was quite pleased, even if I do not have his expectations. Ethna MacManus and Viney, whom she married, are busy on Comhar Linn. The Minister for Agriculture is for it, the Minister for Finance is against it.... McDyer is somewhat ostracised. But for all that co-operative ideas are taking on. At the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis a motion referring to penetration by mysterious left-wingers was withdrawn...'.
I did not attend the Ard Fheis, which took place in Moran's Hotel. I had been working primarily with Cathal Goulding, in the 'other branch'. To establish my right to be involved with Sinn Fein required that various deadwood obstacles be removed, and this now took place.
CDG was prepared to be supportive of my interest in this direction, regarding it as perhaps a good counter to the traditional republican 'stunt' culture, and a step in the direction of learning about the organisation of civil society. In hindsight, my perception at the time was indeed over-optimistic, and developments in this direction were rapidly overwhelmed by the developing Northern situation, as we shall see.
On December 2 CDG encountered Tony Meade who enthused about Brian Farrington's essay on Yeats, which the United Irishman was reviewing. On December 4 there was a phone contact with Mairin to the effect that RHWJ was in the west on the co-operative trail. The substantive news which on a subsequent occasion I passed on to CDG was that Peadar O'Donnell's Mayo meeting had '..only 40 present.. bishops, priests and the Catholic quality (with General Costello prominent)... the ordinary people have grown quite cynical over these schemes... Viney who tried to work with him was asked to forward a list of republicans and the impression was given that Peadar would try to secure their election to the "Defence of the West" committees. Instead, Peadar blackballed them..'.
I remember this episode well; in retrospect Peadar could perhaps be forgiven for being suspicious of republican credentials, given their elitist and stunt-oriented political culture, but the Mayo people concerned had actually successfully made the transition into good democratic procedures via the experience of the co-operative movement, and he was blackballing people who might actually have given Defence of the West an edge, and made it work. The generation gap between Peadar and the post-50s republican politicisers was alas too wide.
On December 10 CDG recorded that '...Roy and Cathal were waiting for me... we drove up to Finglas. Mairin did not come and we had the feeling something had displeased her. She is perhaps a little touchy after Kader Asmal's mad party... Roy says that there is no truth in the six-county rumour that a further disturbance is to be expected. He says "if the IRA didn't exist, the six-county government would have to invent it".'
These rumours originated with the RUC; they apparently were taken seriously by the British Government, according to Peter Rose, whose book How the Troubles Came to Ireland (Palgrave, Contemporary History in Context series, 2001) exposes the British attitude to Northern Ireland as being one of total incomprehension, blindness, not wanting to know, and when forced into a need to know, dependence on faulty sources. He points out that in 1966 the British government thought they were facing a threat of a new IRA insurrection, related to the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Their source was the RUC; there were alleged to be 3000 IRA volunteers involved. This was of course a complete fabrication; the IRA at this time was actively engaged in becoming political within the previously empty shell of Sinn Fein. The British had no separate intelligence that was in a position to tell them this; they decided not to set one up, but to continue to depend on the RUC for their intelligence. The motivation of the RUC and the Unionist establishment for promoting this deception was of course to keep in existence the excuse for their repressive regime, supporting the privileged position of the Unionist elite.
On December 14 the WTS met, with usual group, but no Cathal Goulding; Hubert Butler looked in and was made welcome. A Free Trade conference had taken place and had attracted some publicity.
CDG went with Cathal MacLiam to an IWP party in Pembroke Lane on December 18 1965 at which Micheal O'Riordan said he regarded RHWJ's involvement with the republicans as 'a form of escapism' to get out of the IWP. It seems I had been scheduled to address a weekend school on the question of the free trade pact, but the republicans were said to have blocked me from doing so. This caused bad feeling.
1966 as the 1916 Commemoration YearIn the January 1966 UI we had an exposure of the phony 'IRA campaign' invented by the RUC for their own purposes, ie hoodwinking the British government. Gilmore wrote on Connolly. Tony Meade was interviewed by Tomas Mac Giolla. This was part of a build-up process; he was being groomed for editor. Alternatives to Free Trade were suggested. There was a Wolfe Tone Society Report, based on its Tuairisc newsletter (edited by Anthony Coughlan)..
A letter dated January 1 1966 went out which was signed by Noel Kavanagh and Claire Gill, joint secretaries of the Economic Independence Committee (a Wolfe Tone Society spin-off), as from the present writer's address 22 Belgrave Road; it was to be sent to various people asking them to lobby the Dail on Tuesday January 14, meeting in Buswell's Hotel for this purpose. Briefing material on the Free Trade Agreement was enclosed. Politically this served to educate Sinn Fein activists, who had hitherto disdained having anything to do with the Dail, into the art of lobbying the de facto decision-making body. Politically it also can be regarded as a rearguard action in support of the remaining shreds of the de Valera protectionist policy, on the basis of which some industrial development had taken place. I recollect Joe Clarke participating.
A briefing paper prepared by the present writer for this Free Trade lobbying event is on record in the WTS archive; it covers the ground historically, with some quantitative economic indicators of the health of firms of different types. Some quotes are relevant:
"..Alternative policies would have been possible to a determined government in 1957, as world conditions were not so adverse as they were in 1933.... The problem of high-cost small industries (behind tariffs) would have been tackled by... favouring cost-cutting technical innovations, by investing in technological research and development work... Free Trade is being thrust upon us by Britain in the hour of imperial decline..."
The paper went on to expand on diversification of trade, strengthening the home market, protection of industry (with various focused measures, like 'expand the scope and terms of reference of the State scientific and technological services..'), control of capital movement (using taxation devices), in summary '..to prevent a drift back to the Act of Union... radical independent thinking.. change substantially our trade patterns..'.
The Jan-Feb issue of Tuairisc, no 5 (no 4 is missing from the archive) was totally dedicated to the free trade issue; it included an analysis of the Jan 14 lobbying event, when nearly all Dublin and some rural TDs were each seen by one or more of their constituents, and were briefed for the debate.
There is in the WTS archive a TCD undergraduate publication entitled 1916-1966, to which AC and the present writer contributed, along with others. I have scanned my article into the general 1960s political module, which includes the JJ and TCD material.
The Garland 'Captured Document'The quality of the document, which was found in the possession of Sean Garland early in January 1966 when he was stopped on his way beck from an Army Council meeting, is such that it is not feasible to scan it in; I can however convey the essentials, and anyone who wants to look into it further can access it. There are in fact four distinct documents: the Goulding political plan, the 'military plan' (probably by Mac Stiofain), a report on the Extraordinary Ard Fheis and handwritten notes on the meeting. What follows is condensed from the hypertext version.
The Goulding Political PlanThere was a declaration of intent to 'assume an organisational form that will attract back people or national outlook in the trade union movement so that their efforts can be co-ordinated'. Actions in this mode hitherto had been on the basis of 'ad-hoc committees' and these needed to be formalised and brought in 'under the direction of the Army department'; housing, free trade, co-operativism etc are mentioned. Sinn Fein has failed to do anything like this, and the role of the Army people in this context is seen as to initiate the education and rejuvenation of Sinn Fein. This will involve reform of the structure of the Movement.
There was however strong residual attachment to the idea of supportive military-type action in guerrilla mode, given the existence of politically-initiated actions involving large numbers of people.
It is possible to see the positive role envisaged for the present writer, but also the pathological persistence of the perceived role for military intervention, with which Goulding presumably wished to keep Mac Stiofain and O Bradaigh(4) onside, while playing down its significance in order to keep the present writer also onside, a basically unstable and contradictory position.
In a major section headed 'Organisational Principles' it is proclaimed that the basic movement should be '..a political national and social-revolutionary organisation with an open membership and a legal existence... recruitment to be to this alone..'. The basic unit is the local or factory Cumann. Within each Cumann would be specialist groups looking to influence broader peoples' organisations, '...a training ground for revolutionary government; the transition from the gun to politics in the past has omitted this training procedure and has therefore resulted in the Fianna Fail and Clann na Poblachta processes setting in.' Specialist groups should have the right to involve non-members in their activity.
The following two key paragraphs enshrine what the present writer was prepared to accept as the beginnings of Goulding transition programme for getting rid of the Army as such and going totally political. Mac Stiofain and O Bradaigh would undoubtedly have been opposed to this, and I interpret the latter half of the second paragraph as a sop to them.
"H. The Army has its own organisational structure and (is) to function within the revolutionary organisation as backbone. Army recruits to be chosen from the best and most conscious members of the organisation. Under no circumstances should the Army recruit from outside on the basis of the emotional appeal of arms. The Army to give leadership within the organisation by the fact of its being composed of the most advanced elements within it, rather than by weight of numbers.
"I. The Army Convention to continue as a policy-making body, but this role to be played down in proportion as the basic policy decisions are seen to be made correctly, openly and in unity by the National Conference. The current position that the Ard Fheis is a rubber-stamp for the Convention is an imposition on the many good people in SF. The role of the Army Convention should evolve towards that of a specialist conference of certain people in the Movement for examining technical problems connected with the military aspect of the revolution. The Army Council will continually review this position."
The document went on to suggest that the Movement in its new mode should encourage affiliations of friendly organisations having objectives that did not conflict, the germ of the 'national liberation movement' idea.
The foregoing leap of imagination is somewhat visionary, with its implied repeat of the 1919 model, and with echoes of the Bolsheviks in 1917. They clearly regarded the taking of seats in existing Partition institutions as anathema, and had not envisioned any creative national role for 'cross-border bodies' as have emerged in the Good Friday Agreement. It could be argued that the Provisionals with their current policies have gone much further than Goulding was prepared to go in this document. The present writer at the time, working in political mode, was however alive to the potential of 'cross-border bodies', as expressed in the motion introduced at the 1965 Irish Association conference in Derry.
The 'Military Plan'I put this in quotes because its purpose in this context was presumably to keep the militarists busy while not doing too much harm, while the politicisers got on with the job. It is totally unrelated to the political plan as outlined above, in which the present writer had a role. It is however close to a blueprint for the way the Provisionals developed in the North under Mac Stiofain's leadership. There is explicit reference to Cyprus and to the conscious use of terror tactics and assassination. It is not unreasonable to attribute this document to Mac Stiofain as an early draft of the Provisional plan for a northern campaign.
The Report on the Extraordinary Ard FheisThis is perhaps the most significant and information-rich of the four documents. It represented an assessment of the extent to which the basic ideas of the Goulding politicisation plan had to date been taken up by the Movement.
It began by noting the existence of islands of opposition to the 'new thinking', noted marginally as being Tralee, Cork and Limerick. It went on to name (with bogus names) who is who in the HQ Staff. The AG ('Clancy'/Costello) is said to be functioning efficiently. The identity of the other bogus names is open to question, but according to Garland (June 2001) they included himself, Mick Ryan and Malachi McGurran. He says credibly that 'Quirke' as Director of Publicity was Tony Meade, he then being the Editor of the United Irishman. 'Jones' (the present writer) was said to continue a 'Director of Education'. 'Nolan' (Garland) was said to be Training Officer and Operations Director, and was in a full-time capacity.
Education was sort of related to the concept of 'agitation' and there were said to be associated with this area the Joint Republican Education Centre, the Wolfe Tone Society, the Economic Independence Committee, the Housing Action Committee and Comhar Linn.
The Joint Republican Education Centre never existed as a 'Centre' but it did exist marginally in the form of a loose interaction between Sean O Bradaigh in the then SF context, the present writer acting for the 'Goulding Plan' and Tony Coughlan acting for the Wolfe Tone Society. It never assumed a cohesive existence however. The use of the word 'Joint' in the title was Goulding's attempt to invoke his political plan in the SF context. The then SF mostly traditionalist leadership, being basically crypto- or quasi-Fianna Fail, was suspicious of it, fearing leftward political development.
The Wolfe Tone Society had evolved out of the 'Directorate' set up to run the bicentenary events; it developed its own Constitution in 1964 on the initiative of the present writer; it asserted its autonomy and had ceased to be seen as 'Army Council property' by this time. I hope to treat this elsewhere, if and when I can access the records, which are mostly with Coughlan. It had by this time not yet initiated the processes that led to the setting up of the NICRA.
The Economic Independence Committee had emerged out of the WTS and was led by Tony Coughlan; the issue was the Free Trade Agreement. The Housing Action Committee had evolved out of the work 'in the field' of some Dublin activists; there was some marginal WTS involvement.
'Comhar Linn' was an attempt to finance an aspect of the politicisation process by analogy with how Gael Linn had done it for the language. Tony Meade, who worked with Gael Linn, sold the idea to Goulding, based on the availability of one Doherty who had been a successful GL operator but had for some reason dropped out. Doherty was related the Cathal Brugha, perhaps a nephew, and during his period with Comhar Linn completed and published a biography of Brugha. The idea behind Comhar Linn was to finance the development of co-operative education via a lottery. It was a total disaster and lost money. The present writer, to his eternal regret, wasted a lot of time tying to get it going, pulling in support on the personal network. I owe heartfelt apologies to the people concerned. It should have been obvious that the 'lottery' concept (basically individualist) and the 'co-operative' concept simply did not mix. Peadar O'Donnell, to his credit, said so, and tried to warn us, but by that time we were sold on the idea by Doherty and were committed to making it work. Various increasingly dubious rearguard actions were tried to make it work, but to no avail. It was on the whole a learning experience about what not to do.
The document goes on to talk about agitation: Midleton, Griffith Barracks, the Dundalk Engineering Works and the Castlecomer mines were mentioned. I have touched on the Midleton episode in my notes on Justin O'Brien's Arms Trial, in the context of an encounter with Mac Stofain. The Griffith Barracks events had been the trigger for the initiation of the Dublin housing crisis work. I don't recollect the Dundalk events, but the indications are that the strike committee invoked some 'direct action' support from the local unit. At Castlecomer I recollect meeting, in the company of Costello, with Nick Boran who was leading the strike. Boran had, I believe, been associated with the Republican Congress in the 1930s and had evolved into a leading TU position since. The objective was to attempt to develop political resistance to the closure of the mines, and it was successful in the short term.
It was noted that all the above had been on the initiative of Army activists, and that Sinn Fein had stood aside or not wanted to know. This was the measure of the extent of the political education problem if an effective integrated movement were to be developed along the lines suggested by the Goulding Plan.
Note that insofar as there is a 'model' it is that of people in trouble seeking support from the shadowy 'republic' perceived as a sort of Robin Hood State, not good for developing the autonomy of the peoples' own organisations. I was aware of this at the time, and conscious of the need to change the perceptions via the educational programme.
The document, after a digression into the emigrant organisations, concludes with notes on the United Irishman, the new editor (Meade) having been appointed the previous September; the need for it to be run as a business was noted. The 'Ulsterman' version had fallen down for lack of actual Ulster content. Publication of an Ulster-based paper the Spark was projected for the following Easter.
There is no record of this in the Linen Hall; did it get off the ground? If so, maybe we can track it down and ensure that it gets into the Linen Hall collection.
Notes on the MeetingThis adds some insights to the third document, but covers much the same ground. Goulding was somewhat defensive about Comhar Linn. There was some concern about the need to cultivate US contacts, in the context of the 'jubilee year', but nothing decided, except to sent a telegram to the Union and to the relatives of Mick Quill.
There is recorded an interesting remark by Goulding: '...intelligence report on NATO Free State Army officers briefing (which) revealed Americans worried about republican influence on TU movement, reckoned 500 dissidents in Ireland easily dealt with..'.
This suggests US paranoia about a repeat in Ireland of the Cuban model; it also indicates, what we always suspected, covert relations between the Free State Army and NATO. We were of course a very long way from a Cuban model, but the US paranoia appears to have spread to the Fianna Fail leadership, and to have influenced how they gave priority in 1969 to the undermining of political republicanism in the Civil Rights context, rather than to exposing the British Government and focusing international pressure on the need to disarm the B-Specials. Also Goulding must have had a 'mole' in the Free State Army officer-elite.
The fact that Anthony Coughlan is officially on record here implies his acceptance as being virtually a 'member of the movement' via the Dublin WTS, on Goulding's say-so. Goulding was here taking a risk, because AC had in fact no real membership status.
There is also a reference to the Barnes McCormack Committee. We need to find out who was on this. It is necessary to pin it down as a focus for the 'provisional' process, which it certainly later turned out to be.
According to Mick Ryan, the names of Mrs Dempsey, Mrs Moynihan in Mullingar (a sister of Sean O Maolbhride) and Harry White came to mind.
A copy of Kenneth Armour's paper is on record in the WTS archive; I hope it will some time get edited and published. It was read on the occasion by Peter Kerr, Kenneth Armour being sick; he had however worked on the paper and send down a copy. It was reported in the Irish Times of February 12 1966. Rev JB Armour fought for Queens University Belfast to be made friendly to Catholics (having spent time in Queens College Cork), was active in two North Tyrone election campaigns where Liberal Home Rule candidates were elected, organised the Ballymoney rally against Carson in November 1913, and blamed the Tories in Westminster for organising the opposition to Home Rule in their own selfish interests. He predicted that the Larne gun-running would result in similar events in the South. He died in 1928.
In the March United Irishman there was a 'Free Trade Catechism' which was basically a WTS critique of the Free Trade Agreement. There was an IRA statement attacking Stormont for manufacturing phony incidents. The April 1966 was special; it is the 'golden jubilee' of 1916; the GPO was on the front page; it contained a page and a half by the present writer entitled '1916 and its Aftermath'. In this I outlined neo-colonialism, and mentioned Conor Cruise O'Brien in the Congo. I called for intellectual support for the development of the 'half-baked ideas which constitute this article'. Why were we not like Norway? Partition was the obstacle; emigration of all the best brains. This may be worth quoting in full, if it is feasible; it is reflective and critical. Gilmore also wrote on the Labour Movement and the Rising.
There is on record a printed card with the Wolfe Tone Society 1916 Lecture series in Jury's Hotel: May 9 Brian Farrington on the Literary Revival and the 1916 Rising; May 10 Cian O h-Eigeartaigh an Teanga agus 1916; May 11 Kader Asmal 1916 and 20th century freedom movements; May 12 Jack Bennett Connolly, Ulster and 1916; May 13 George Gilmore Labour and 1916. Of these the first and last were subsequently published as pamphlets.
Before going back to Liverpool on May 18 Greaves encountered my then wife Mairin who filled him in on the failure of the Comhar Linn episode, at which he was not surprised; she went on to be critical of the Labour Party, which she had joined, but found full of self-seeking individuals. He then encountered Tony Meade, who called up to Cathal; TM left CDG down to the North Wall, '...discoursing on 1916 and saying that the insurgents made a mess of it and didn't know what they were doing... an example of an attempt at revolution when no revolutionary situation existed, so was his own little effort in 1956, for which he did five years. He said he was sick and tired of commemorations...'.
WTS May 24 1966: letter from Fred Heatley re sales of Cronin's booklet in Belfast; May 25: there is in the archive a copy of TCD the undergraduate weekly which has an unsigned promotional article about the WTS.
WTS June 1966: completed application form from Paul Gillespie. The form suggested applicants should specify areas of interest or special skills.
WTS June 1966: issue #6 of Tuairisc appears, with an apology for the gap in the production. It contains a questionnaire for supporters, and an outline of activities to date; also contact-points for Belfast and Cork, and a declaration of intent to do the same for Galway and Waterford. It contained also a critical appraisal of Eamonn Andrews, RTE, the language movement and the Boyle Fleadh Ceol by one Eoghan O Broin.
During the period March to June there was a hiatus in the Wolfe Tone Society's records; this can perhaps be filled in from Tuairisc. The notes up to March are in Dick Roche's writing; those from June 21 are in the writing of John Tozer. I may be to blame for this; I think I took over being secretary, found the going a bit heavy due to other pressures, and then handed over the minutes to John Tozer as assistant secretary.
There must have been a WTS meeting on June 8 1966 because there is in the archive a letter from AC to RJ apologising for his absence (due to his father's illness in Cork). The letter is marked read on that date by me.
There is a minute in my handwriting dated June 8, no year, but it must have been 1966. It minuted a somewhat ad-hoc 'planning committee' meeting, attended as well as RJ by Eoin Harris, Seamus Costello, Micheal O Loingsigh, John Tozer, Rita Ni Dubhshlaine and (perhaps anomalously) by Mary Maher. I proposed Derry Kelleher for membership in order to increase our representation from the science and technology community. We noted the decline of record-keeping owing to the temporary absence of Dick Roche, and the fact the the assistant secretary Anthony Coughlan had family difficulties arising from the death of his father. There had been a gap in the production of Tuairisc. I undertook to draft some re-organisation proposals for the next meeting. Costello wanted local government research material, and I undertook to draft some for the next Tuairisc. Mary Maher it seems had undertaken to act as the convener of a panel of professional journalists, to include, as well as Dick Roche and Deasun Breathnach who were already members, Micheal Foy and Michael Viney, to act as advisers to the United Irishman, and to help raise its technical and journalistic level. This proposal it seems came from Michael Foy, who also wanted to become a member.
It is not clear from the record what became of the foregoing proposals. Michael Foy never showed; he was at that time doing PR for the Sugar Company. Nor did Michael Viney.
WTS June 21 1966: this is the first of the John Tozer minutes; RJ to get out next Tuairisc; sub-committee structure to await responses to circular; Anne O'Sullivan (later Harris) reported on meeting in Cork considering setting up Cork WTS; AO'S to liaise; UMacE to contact Belfast group to plan Maghera conference; Tailors Hall meeting in Hibernian.
WTS June 27 1966: letter to RJ from Alec Foster, of the Belfast WTS, who was Conor Cruise O'Brien's then father-in-law, indicating inability to get a response from Conor. This indicates that at the time we were trying to contact him to explore political options, given that the aura of his progressive role in the Congo still hung about him.
List of names and addresses of members of the Dublin WTS; this is undated but it occurred with 1966 material in RJ's record; it is therefor probably part of the handover to John Tozer. It is noteworthy that Eoin Harris and Aine ni Shuilleabhain are named on it, but the names have been struck out. I recollect that Eoin at that time said he wished not to associate closely with the WTS. Seamus Costello and Derry Kelleher's names appear, also Cathal Mac Liam. Some prospective people to be approached also are listed on a separate sheet; they include Jim Fitzgerald, Seoirse Dearle and Risteard O Glaisne.
This enterprise did eventually bear fruit, but it took time.
'...I understand from Cathal (MacLiam) that Cathal Goulding is no longer the Chief of Staff. Apparently the position does not automatically revert when its owner returns. This explains why the IRA turned out in force to defend the "blue flag" at Bodenstown. They had so much greater strength than the police that to ban it would have involved the use of troops. The IRA thus acted a a kind of Citizen Army on this occasion. Every man had a baton concealed in his trousers. This was not Cathal Goulding's idea but his successors, and he doubted its success. The fear is now that it becomes a matter of principle...'.
The change of CoS also explains the discussion with MO'R. I must say I don't recollect this episode, but it was an indicator of the fragility of CG's influence in the Army Council, and the persistence of the culture which subsequently led to the emergence of the Provisionals. CDG would have picked up from it an impression along these lines, and it would have influenced his subsequent attitude to the present writer.
Nor indeed will there be, as long as they feel they have to dress up political commemorations in religious garb. This is a 'chicken and egg' problem. Protestants must be made feel welcome in a united Ireland. I am quite unrepentant about this, and regard Greaves's remark as pussyfooting.
On July 23 Greaves recorded in his diary some pub talk with Des Logan, Tadhg Egan and Tony Meade, joined later by Tony Ruane. The latter's Sinn Fein vision currently is to 'go in when they have an overall majority' to which CDG replied 'you ask the public to buy a pig in a poke, and they won't.' Tony Meade it seems had been promoting the idea of the Wolfe Tone Society replacing Sinn Fein as the 'political wing'. CMacL it seems has achieved some sort of level of approval or recognition by the republicans, though a member of the Irish Workers Party. CDG wondered how this would stand up if the WTS became a political party in its own right.
Then on July 24 1966 Greaves picked up from Des Logan the latest news of the 'G.. episode', which involved a threat by one G.. that Richard Behal intended to put a hand-grenade through RJ's front window. This incensed my then wife Mairin, who put her brothers on to complain to Cathal Goulding; the latter established with Behal that this threat was without foundation. CG then went to Micheal O'Riordan and demanded that G.. be disciplined (it seems he was a 'member' of the IWP). Mairin's brothers also, it seems, took suitable action themselves.
This G.. it seems was doing his best to sow confusion and dissention among those concerned with the republican politicisation process. He was almost certainly acting for the Special Branch, of which the policy, like that of their colleagues in Britain, was to keep the left weak and divided, and the republicans engaged in military futilities, to the advantage of the ruling establishment. Any trend towards a broad-based republican left, with realisable political objectives, had to be nipped in the bud.
Origins of NICRAAt the July 26 1966 Wolfe Tone meeting 13 were present; the Tailors Hall conference was reported by UMacE and a supportive resolution was passed. It was agreed that Alec Foster should chair the meeting in Kevin Agnew's house in Maghera; the main topic would be 'civil rights and discrimination' and 'trade unions and unity'; Tuairisc had been sent out. Ethna Viney (MacManus) raised the question of Nitrigin Eireann: the refusal of a seat on the Board to an NFA representative, and threatened US take-over; EV was to work with Derry Kelleher on this. A Symposium on PR projected for September; the suggestion came from Michael Dore who had been Ethna's employer and who felt strongly about the issue, as a citizen.
There is in the WTS archive a letter from AC to RJ summarising this meeting, RJ being away on vacation. In it he notes the existence of a Cork republican dissident group, promoting a split, and publishing a newsletter critical of the left-republican political process, from a traditionalist physical force position. He urged that Tuairisc should take on the issues raised, promoting the political potential for action within the Free State, and analysing the differences between the latter and the Stormont regime.
WTS Thursday August 11: AC came to Dublin from Cork with Tuairisc material, a manifesto-type article on priorities for republican policy; this was discussed with RJ on Friday August 19.
A letter from Noel Kavanagh dated 11/08/66 indicates that he had picked up addresses of Irish organisations abroad; this was noted at the meeting, for extending the circulation of Tuairisc.
WTS August 17 1966: there is in the archive a copy of a letter to the Irish Times signed by RJ on the question of the Arklow fertiliser plant of Nitrigin Eireann, questioning the nature of the deal with the US company Shaheen Natural Resource Inc, and alerting the public to the process of sell-out of the State-owned sector of the economy. It also questioned the rationale for siting the ammonia plant at Arklow when it would have made more synergetic sense to have located it at Whitegate, in association with the refinery. It called for a single integrated nationalised chemical industry employing Irish technologists. The main input to this submission came from Derry Kelleher, who was a chemical engineer and had direct experience of the fertiliser industry.
At the August 23 WTS meeting 11 were present; there was contact with Paul Gillespie (student Labour group); Eoin Harris resigned; a Dore letter re PR was considered; RJ was to contact Dusty Miller (a progressive-minded engineer who had been a joint author with Patrick Lynch of the 1964 OECD Report 'Science and Irish Economic Development') re Nitrigin; RJ proposed the formal setting up of a 'planning committee' to project future activities more systematically. RJ and SMacGabhainn reported on the Maghera meeting, at which a Civil Rights Convention was projected to which various Northern organisations should be invited. This was the seminal meeting at which the War Memorial Hall event was planned. Daithi O Bruadair reported that some 300 people had been at Murlough commemorating Roger Casement. This was the meeting at which I spoke, and was introduced by the Pope O'Mahony as my father's son, the latter having been the author of 'Civil War in Ulster'; he knew this, I had not briefed him; at the time I had forgotten this aspect of my father's background. Conor Cruise O'Brien also spoke; at this time he was seriously considered in the context of Mid-Ulster, as a possible candidate.
August 31 1966: issue #7 of Tuairisc contained a serious theoretical position paper Our Ideas, which deserves reproduction in full. There was also a review by RJ of JJ's 'Economic Headaches', which is worth reproducing alongside RJ's current evaluation of that publication. There was also a 'Letter from Belfast' by 'Kanenas' who according to AC was Jack Bennett, and an article by Clara Ni Giolla on 'Co-operation'.
There are critical letters about the foregoing from John Goodwillie and Commandant Brennan-Whitmore in the archive, written from differing perspectives. There is also a congratulatory letter to Dick Roche from Sean Cronin in New York dated Sept 5 1966. Responding to the plan for the August Maghera conference on the call for the Civil Right charter, he proposed the need for a commission on the implications in an all-Ireland context of religious and political rights in a country dominated by Catholics. He claimed that the 1916-21 people did not understand the issue. He proposed an all-Ireland Commission to draw up a Charter of Rights, the equivalent in the Irish context of the UN Human Rights declaration. His list of possible members of such a Commission included Roger McHugh, George Gilmore, Joe Johnston, David Greene, Mairtin O Cadhain, Con Lehane, Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Harry Kernoff etc. He concluded by mentioning that all the bright spots in news from Ireland could be traced to the WTS.
The September 13 1966 WTS meeting had 17 present, including Cathal Goulding and Seamus Costello; also present were Maire Comerford, Derry Kelleher, Anthony Coughlan, Aine Ni Shuilleabhain, Ethna Viney. Frank Ross was proposed for membership; Desmond Fennell was to be seen by a sub-committee. The Planning Committee report was discussed; people were allocated as conveners of sub-committees to come up with ideas for events targeting special areas.
A copy of this report is on record; it noted that the membership of the Society was approaching 40, and that the possibility existed of setting up working groups with conveners. The following groups and conveners were suggested:
Language: Micheal O Loingsigh; Literature and Drama: Noel Kavanagh; Music, dancing etc: Mary Cannon; Education and student groups: Daithi O Bruadair. The foregoing constituted a 'cultural' group of groups. A 'socio-economic' group of groups was also projected: urbanism, housing, local government: Frank Ross; science and technology: Derry Kelleher; health and social services: Tony Coughlan (this however was queried); national economics: Ethna Viney; Co-operative movement: Seamus MacGabhainn; Trade Union Movement: Terry Conneally; historical research: Cathal MacLiam. This completes the list as on the 'planning committee' report, but there is added in pen: civil rights - Tony Coughlan.
Some comment is appropriate: this reflects how the present writer, although aware of the Maghera meetings and their significance, had not identified it as the key issue, leading to the weakest points of the Unionist establishment. Tony Coughlan, to give him credit, did this, and insisted on the twelfth topic, undertaking to develop it. My own vision was to try to develop a rich mixture of intellectual fuel for a broad-based national movement, which I had hoped the politicised republican movement would become. In this grandiose concept however, in the 'planning committee' report, I had missed out on the key issue which AC saw. The projected mode of operation of the 'planning committee' was to meet between aggregate meetings, with all conveners invited, but urged not to come unless they had a concrete proposal. AC has a marginal comment: 'too many groups? strength dissipated?' I think he could well have been right, though in retrospect I think this approach was in principle worth trying out; it would have selected those who were prepared to work creatively.
On September 27 1966 some of the conveners reported, Micheal O Loingsigh on language mentioned the 'Language Freedom Movement' meeting in the Mansion House; a 'silent protest' was projected. The indications were that few had yet convened. Anthony Coughlan came up with a proposal for an alternative to Edgar Deale's Irish Association for Civil Liberty group. AC was to go to Belfast to evaluate progress towards the projected Civil Rights meeting planned at Maghera.
There was also planned a 'Democracy in Ireland Week' for November, with Enid Lakeman. The PR referendum was on the agenda. EV to write a paper on 'economic democracy' oriented towards the economy of the West. Gilmore's 'Labour and 1916' pamphlet to be published. Proposed to involve Tom Mitchell with the Housing Group. General meeting to elect the Planning Committee thereby giving it some status; up to now it had been ad-hoc.
The full meeting on October 11 echoed the foregoing plan; money still owing on the Cronin booklet about 1916; agreed to go ahead with the Gilmore; projected to expand the history group and try to bring in de Courcy Ireland. It was agreed no need to elect a 'planning committee' as such; it was the officers plus any active conveners.
This is also useful in that it enables the 1966 Army Convention to be dated exactly. The November United Irishman perhaps contains echoes of it. I remember feeling at the time that this was no way to be making serious political decisions, in an all-night session, without documentation. I was elected to the Executive, where there was a clear majority of politicisers. I declined to go forward for the Council, which consisted of Goulding, Garland, Costello, O Bradaigh(5), Mac Stiofain, and 2 others, who could have been Mitchell, Meade, or perhaps Mac Giolla, I am not certain of this. The sending of AC to Belfast was of course a Dublin WTS decision; Greaves notes it ambiguously. In the same entry CDG goes on to note the funeral of Walter Dwyer, at which Seamus O Mongain and Micheal O'Riordan had spoken, as well as the local priest. All the foregoing would suggest that Greaves accepted the existence of a 'left-republican convergence' process, and regarded it positively.
At the October 18 1966 WTS planning committee it was noted that some money had come in for an article in Business and Finance on Nitrigin Eireann (this was a joint effort from Derry Kelleher and RJ). Maire Comerford reported that funds were coming in for the Tailors Hall. The projected Dublin meeting with Mrs McCluskey on 'Democracy in Ulster' was planned in the context of a series including Enid Lakeman (the British Electoral Reform Society leader) in support of PR in the Republic; also 'Language and Democracy in Ireland'. Tony Coughlan reported on the Belfast WTS meeting; all was in order for the War Memorial Hall meeting on November 28 or Dec 1; Ciaran Mac an Aile and Kader Asmal were to speak.
Present at the above meeting were RJ, AC, MC, DK, MOL, Tony Meade, JT. There was minuted that 'WTS people entitled to attend Regional Conferences of republican movement'. This could not have been a WTS decision; could it perhaps have been an 'Army' decision conveyed by Meade? The latter according to Greaves was at about this time promoting that the WTS network should expand politically to supersede Sinn Fein as the Republican 'political wing', unencumbered by SF baggage. There was also a proposal to set up a WTS in Tralee, which would have been an echo of the 'Meade plan'.
Around this time I received a letter from one John Mitchell of Perry's Ale, Rathdowney, outlining the basis for the closure thereof; I remember looking in around then, as my uncle Jack Young used to buy the barley. Staff were transferred to Kilkenny. A local committee was set up. This was the last of the old 'real ales', and unfortunately it died before the new-wave 'real ale' movement caught on. I would have made contact in the 'economic resistance' context.
In the November issue of the UI the farmers' protest continued. Doherty, the Comhar Linn manager, sought republican collectors. This was the end-game for that ill-starred enterprise, a deed of desperation. More from Brendan Halligan in the WTS series. Goulding was reported at the Sean Tracy commemoration at Feakle. There was a Tuairisc reprint on Unionism and Paisley. Tony Meade responded to the 'discovery' of the IRA by Hibernia. There were references to Wesley Boyd and Michael Viney. Meade however claimed not to be relinquishing the use of force.
The present writer's interpretation of the above at this time was that it was a sop to the traditionalists, to keep them on side during the politicisation process.
WTS November 1 1966: Positive feedback on Tuairisc from abroad. Support speaker for Lakeman meeting (McCluskeys unavailable) O Glaisne? Sorahan? Agricultural problems meeting: Rickard Deasy perhaps? Ethna Viney and Cathal Quinn? (Mayo co-operative movement). Dungannon republican conference the following Sunday.
One gets the impression from JT's minutes that there was much hopeful talk recorded aspirationally, but little firm action, though some key events do manage to get organised.
WTS Sunday November 6 1966: AC noted that he had met at Alec Foster's place in Ravenhill Road; DATA people (TU) came along and offered to help. Picked up by RJ and driven to Dublin along with Denis Foley.
WTS November 11: a symposium in Jury's Hotel on 'why townspeople should support the farmers' under WTS auspices took place; there is no record of speakers or attendance, but a resolution was passed, calling for a Meat Marketing Board, and a plan to raise the incomes of small farmers. At this time the NFA was marching and being led aggressively by Rickard Deasy.
WTS November 14: AC noted that RJ passed him some work on the historical section of a political handbook for republicans.
War Memorial Hall MeetingOn November 14 1966 Greaves recorded an invitation from Micheal O'Riordan to address an educational conference in Dublin the following February. There is some uncertainty about the date. He then went on: '...last Thursday SR was at the Civil Liberties and who should arrive but McCartney. He was expressing fears that some villains from Dublin were starting a Civil Liberties which was not a branch of the British one, and SR was speculating as to who it was. I told him that I had tried to put the Dublin republicans up to setting up an independent one and had tackled CG about it. Tonight I rang JB to get Fitt's address: "...we've a key Civil Liberties meeting coming off. Of course a certain view wants it to be a branch of London, and we have to be careful about the link with Dublin if we want the Trade Unions. So we'll have a separate six-county one." So that was good...'.
This is a reference to the seminal War Memorial Hall meeting from which the NICRA arose. It had come about on the initiative of the Dublin WTS, via the Belfast WTS, and prior work had been done on the republican network at the two Maghera meetings in Kevin Agnew's house; the first was to plan the meeting with the aid of the Belfast WTS, and the second was to persuade the republican grassroots to support it, while keeping their heads down. The second of these meetings was the one referred to by Tim Pat Coogan as having involved Eoin Harris. The role of the latter, who at the time was a somewhat uncommitted fringe member of the Dublin WTS, was simply to read the Coughlan script, Coughlan being committed elsewhere on the day, and the present writer, who should have read it being the Dublin WTS representative, being inhibited by a stammer.
Speakers at the War Memorial Hall meeting from Dublin included Kader Asmal, the leader of the Irish anti-apartheid movement, and Ciaran Mac an Aili, who was explicitly a supporter of non-violence, and had played an earlier Civil Rights role in the republican interest. So it seems CDG was aware of the War Memorial Hall meeting and was supportive of the initiative, which must be credited to Anthony Coughlan, who produced the seminal Tuairisc paper from the Dublin WTS.
On November 15 a general WTS meeting was addressed by Fr Colman O h-Uallaghain on language learning techniques; John Tozer's minutes summarise what he said. From this emerged a campaign for text-book in Irish for schools, a neglected area. There was a vote of sympathy with the widow of founding member Lorcan Leonard. A Meeting in Ballina on Sunday to discuss small-farmer co-ops was announced.
On November 18 the WTS public symposium on 'Bunreacht na h-Eireann and Irish Democracy' took place in Jury's Hotel; a resolution was passed supporting the retention of PR. It urged revision on the Constitution in matters relating to birth control and divorce, recognising these issues as being obstacles to national unity. It urged that the European Convention on Human Rights be embodied in law. The text of the resolution is on record.
The 1966 Ard Fheis (Moran's Hotel 2)I certainly remember this one in Moran's; but there were two in successive years, with the present writer not attending the first one in 1965, though I had looked in on the Bricklayers Hall one in 1964. Goulding would have discouraged me from going before a credible support network had been built up in SF among the Army politicisers.
At the AC on 5/11/66 there were preparations for the Ard Fheis in Moran's Hotel; Bowyer Bell was given permission to see records.
The question of BB's terms of reference, and to what did he get access, remain on the agenda. I have seen him, and he said he was not encouraged to see me. Whom did he see? Mick Ryan finds this intriguing and feels it should be explored further.
The 1966 AF records are relatively complete. There is a Secretaries Report, signed by Mairin de Burca and Ualteir O Loingsigh (Wally Lynch) which states that the AC had met 17 times; Sean O Bradaigh was in charge of publicity; Richard Behal had been dismissed for unauthorised actions over Easter. It had been decided to context five seats in the Westminster elections. The candidates were Tom Mitchell in Mid-Ulster, Rory Brady in Fermanagh / South Tyrone, Neill Gillespie in Derry, George Mussen in South Down and Charlie McGlennan in Armagh. It had been difficult to rally the support of the movement behind the campaign. The results showed drops compared to 1964 in Derry, South Down and Fermanagh / South Tyrone, and increases in Armagh and mid-Ulster; in the latter they nearly won the seat.
I recollect that the feedback from the Republican Clubs was that if abstention had been abandoned they would have won easily, and the poor turn out was due to abstentionism being in discredit. This 'near miss' came back to haunt them subsequently when Bernadette Devlin won the seat.
The secretaries' report went on to record the poor attendance at a meeting of existing SF local government representatives, and to express dissatisfaction at the level of coverage of SF affairs by the United Irishman. It was noted that the 'joint educational centre' had been set up, but that it had fallen through for lack of support.
During this period the writer was being introduced by Cathal Goulding to various OCs throughout the country, and some sort of network was established for political education, with encouragement to actually join and participate in SF activity. The United Irishman and its circulation became the key factor in this process. Local seminars were organised, but the 'joint educational centre' concept had never been high on the agenda, its practical value being questionable.
Mick Ryan recollects that at this time he was appointed O/C of Dublin, with the objective of activating the IRA politically via Sinn Fein, and installing a more politically aware and effective leadership in Dublin SF.
The Report noted the continuing harassment of the head office by the Special Branch, and interference with the post. It also recorded that they had protested against Irish people being recruited to the US army to fight in Vietnam. They had attempted to get the Hierarchy to support this position. The US ambassador replied to the effect that the Irish in the US were treated like everyone else. The Hierarchy had not acknowledged their letter.
A drive to bring back the remains of Dunne and O'Sullivan, Barnes and McCormack, and Daly had been initiated, and a committee set up for this purpose.
The first two were the assassins of Sir Henry Wilson in 1922 on the orders of Collins. The second two were executed for bombing in Britain in 1939. The 'return of the remains' process had commenced with Roger Casement in 1966, on government initiative. The writer has always had the gut feeling that the timing of the release of these remains was selected by the British to undermine the politicisation process (of which with the NICRA they were beginning to feel the effects) and enhance the process of diversion of the republican movement back into military mode. The Dunne and O'Sullivan funeral took place at Deans Grange and gave a high-profile public platform to Sean Mac Stiofain. The Barnes McCormack funeral took place at Mullingar at a time when the NICRA was in the ascendant; the Barnes McCormack Committees were the skeleton of the post-split Provisional Sinn Fein.
The Secretaries' Report has a complete list of all people who attended the 1966 Ard Fheis, typed out, with cumann name and location. The present writer's name is added on in pen, as representing Cumann Piarsaigh.
This indicates that by the end of 1966 the present writer was just about beginning to be accepted in the SF context, somewhat grudgingly. Despite this, the incoming Ard Comhairle included the present writer. This is an indication of the role of the Army vote in the SF Ard Fheis. One would not normally expect to get elected to the national executive at one's first National Convention. There had been an Army Convention shortly before this, the effect of which would have been to reinforce the process of integration of the movement, and this certainly showed after AF66.
Motions passed included a call for an updated reprint of the Constitution, ratification of more of the 1965 Special Ard Fheis 'civil society' procedures such as to encourage open activity, a call for the AC to shadow the Cabinet, and a detailed one from the Pearse Cumann, in which the present writer's hand can be detected. I give it in full, as it indicates the strength of the 'civil society' aspiration of the Army 'left-modernisers'.
"That this Ard Fheis notes with concern (1) the continued deterioration of the housing conditions in Ireland; (2) the apparent ease with which demolition of sound property can be carried out for rebuilding in their own time by foreign speculators (3) the continued failure of the Corporation of Dublin to use its power to direct rebuilding to vacant central sites in depressed areas of the city; (4) the high rents paid by tenants of furnished rooms, their lack of security of tenure and the increasing dependence of working-class families on this type of accommodation. An Ard Fheis therefore calls upon the Corporation of Dublin to require that the demolitions be subject to planning permission and that vacant central sites be used for all types of development (housing, shops, offices, factories) immediately, using if necessary compulsory purchase. It calls on the Government in Dublin to legislate to give security of tenure to tenants of furnished rooms, with families subject to appeal to a tribunal. It calls on all Dublin Cumainn to agitate and organise the people to support demands along these lines.
Pearse Cumann, Dublin."
Motions were passed urging an organised approach to the coming local elections, with a raising of the public profile in selected provincial centres as well as in Dublin. There were many motions critical of the United Irishman from a 'sea-green incorruptible' traditionalist position. These would mostly have been referred to the incoming Ard Comhairle. There was a report by Sean O Bradaigh as Director of Publicity, and he also had negative things to say about the UI, which had been critical of SF. He had issued 21 press statements during the year, on topic which included the Rhodesian crisis, the Free Trade Agreement, Ireland and Europe, the Royal visit to Belfast, labour legislation and the so-called 'Language Freedom Movement'. He had hoped to have the Social and Economic Programme ready, but this had got bogged down in statistics, and they had felt the need for expert advice.
Mick Ryan in his capacity as O/C of Dublin, by arrangement with Mairtin O Cadhain, had organised the disruption of the Language Freedom Movement meeting in the Mansion House. This was an ephemeral anti-Irish Language lobby
WTS November 25: AC noted that RJ had been elected to the SF Ard Comhairle.
The SF AC met on 26/11/66: as a result of the Morans Hotel AF, as well as the present writer Goulding was now on the AC, along with Costello.
WTS Wednesday November 30: AC noted WTS meeting in Jury's Hotel; Language and Democracy in Ireland; AC did all arrangements; there is a flier for this meeting in the archive. On Dec 1 drafted an EEC statement for SF and passed to RJ, to be issued on Dec 17. On Saturday Dec 3 spoke to Cork WTS inaugural meeting, paper on 'Towards a New Ireland'. RJ and Jim Regan present. A copy of AC's script is in the WTS archive.
The United Irishman of December 1966 contained Mac Giolla's oration to the Ard Fheis, confirming non-participation in Leinster House. Cathal MacLiam defended the anti-apartheid movement. Sean Gault in Kildare wanted agitation not a lottery. This is a valid criticism of the way Comhar Linn has evolved. Noel Kavanagh wrote on cultural participation. This is a further WTS initiative. Haughey was getting stronger. Meade wrote about Sean South, whom he knew personally. Another nod to keep the traditionalists on-side. Tony Coughlan who has attended the Social Studies Congress in Limerick wrote on 'the Christian and the Social Services'.
The next day SR reported on the NCCL meeting the previous night: '...there was a letter from McCartney reporting on the Belfast meeting which complained that "too many republicans" were there, and what was as bad JB seemed to be running things. Some of them had objected to taking up civil liberties other than political ones. Tony Smythe disclosed that when the meeting was announced the NILP had rung NCCL to ask if they were running it. They replied in the negative. Now they want Tony Smythe to go over as quickly as he can. SR was against this. He too was hesitant. Ennals looked on with a sardonic smile. One of McCartney's complaints was that "too many people from Dublin" were at the meeting - they were indeed McAnally who defended Smythe after he had been bitten by the police dog that took a snap at Dr Browne, and Kader Asmal whose father-in-law is on the same EC. But SR had the response that there had been fierce battles on the Irish question for a long time past. We decided to urge JB to meet Smythe, and thus to spike McCartney's guns...'.
At the SF AC on 11/12/66 the idea of a Coiste Seasta (CS) emerged, also the need for a revision of the Constitution.
At the AC on 19/12/66 a meeting took place with the Central Council of Tenants Associations. Representing SF was TMacG, SC, RJ, Prionnsias de Rossa and Tommy O'Neill. Representing the Tenants was Charles Keenan, Ed Smith, John Murphy and Matt Larkin. Support was sought for their national campaign against the increase of rents in local authority houses.
In subsequent records this CS seems to have been a somewhat fluid body, augmenting itself according to the needs of the occasion. In fact it became increasingly indistinguishable from CG's 'HQ Staff'. We take up the sequence of events in the next module.
Nores and References1. Robert White's biography of Ruairi O Bradaigh (Indiana 2006) is an important source for the detail of internal IRA politics; according to him (p89-90) at the 1959 Convention the Magan/McLogan leadership was replaced by Sean Cronin with the support of Ruairi O Bradaigh; the 1959 Bodenstown commemoration was organised by Cathal Goulding and Ruairi O Bradaigh gave the keyonote address. My contact with Sean Cronin had I think been prior to this, when he had not yet assumed the lead.
2. According to Robert White (p119), during 1965 I was said to be working with his brother Sean O Bradaigh on headings for a social and economic programme, and these were adopted by the 1964 Ard Fheis. This I think is correct, and the basic ideas for Eire Nua were taking shape at this time.
3. There is no record of this contact in Robert White, nor in subsequent Wolfe Tone Directory of Society records. It is not clear if the earlier SB reference is to Sean Brady; name references at that time were inconsistent. One way or another, it looks like CG was attempting to make the bridge between the internal SF economic policy thinking, and new thinking injected via the WTD, shortly to become the WTS.
4. The record of what went on in the IRA in 1965, as seen by White, complements my experience; Goulding at the time was doing his best to introduce me to people and get me accepted, while trying to keep me insulated from episodes like that involving Richard Behal and the British Navy (cf p130), of which I exuded disapproval after it happened. SF at the time was dominated by right-wing abstentionists, which situation Goulding planned eventually to overcome via politicised IRA members joining SF, where they became dominant in 1966. So my contact with Sean O Bradaigh in 1965 was minimal.
5. According to White (p133) the other two were Mac Giolla and Paddy Mulcahy. The Executive would have included Mitchell, Meade as well as the present writer and 2 others.
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