Seamus Costello Co-founder Of The Irish Republican Socialist Movement
Each October, IRSP members, Republicans,, Socialists, Trades Unionists, relatives and friends remember the late, Seamus Costello, in his home town of Bray, County Wicklow. Many of Seamus Costello’s old comrades, co-founders and younger members of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, gather in Bray annually, to remember with pride their slain comrade. Seamus Costello was the co-founder of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).
Seamus Costello was the INLA’s first Chief of Staff. Tragically, he was murdered in the prime of his political life, by an Official IRA gunman on the 5th of October 1977, in the North Strand, Dublin. Seamus Costello left behind a grieving wife, Maeliosa and his four children, Caoilfionn, Fionan, Aoibbin and Ronan, were traumatically deprived of a loving father. The Irish Republican Socialist Movement was devastatingly robbed of it’s first leader and co-founder.
Much has been written about Seamus Costello, his political dynamism and personal charisma. As a guerrilla fighter during the IRA’s ‘Border Campaign’ of the 1950’s known officially as Operation Harvest, Seamus Costello earned the nickname, ‘The Boy General’. He operated in the South Derry area, was wounded and subsequently interned. His highly respected antecedents, were partly responsible for South Derry eventually becoming a strong IRSP area, over a decade later, when the Official IRA’s most revolutionary activists rejected Goulding’s reformist politics to join the Republican Socialist Movement.
Seamus Costello was first and foremost a Republican Socialist, a revolutionary who broke with and rejected the reformist political chicanery and Stalinist stageist ideology of the Official Republican Movement. Born into an agricultural family background, he was well placed to advocate on behalf of small farmers and he was as well versed on issues effecting the rural working-class, as he was on urban proletarian issues. Prior to Seamus Costello’s murder in 1977, he was appointed, or elected to
- Wicklow County Council
- County Wicklow Committee of Agriculture
- General Council of Committees of Agriculture
- Eastern Regional Development Organisation
- National Museum Development Committee
- Bray Urban District Council
- Bray Branch of the ITGWU
- Pesident Bray and District Trade Unions Council
- Cualann Historical Society
- Chairperson of the IRSP/Chief of Staff INLA
Seamus Costello’s politics in his own words can be gauged by the following quotations
On a New Ireland:
“We want to build a society where our children can live in peace and prosperity, a society where they will control the wealth of this country.” (Crossbarry, Cork, in March 1976)
“Against robber-rights I will fight to their destruction or my own.” (Seamus Costello)
On Imperialism and Partition:
“Our attitude, on the other hand, is that the British presence in Ireland is the basic cause of the divisions between the Protestant and Catholic working class in the North.” (Seamus Costello)
On the Official Republican Movement’s Reformist Trajectory:
“They ignored the presence of 15,000 troops on the streets. They ignored the torture and terror perpetrated by the British Army on the Nationalist population and they acted as though there was no change in the situation since 1969.” (Seamus Costello)
On the Provisionals:
“The principal difference we would have with them as I see it, is that the Provisionals are not as an organization, dedicated to the establishment of a Socialist Republic….We are not in business to criticize the Provisionals. We have our own policy to pursue and we have our own objectives. To the extent that the Provisional policy runs parallel to ours, we are prepared to co-operate with them.” (Seamus Costello)
On Loyalists and issues effecting Northern working-class Protestants:
“We should certainly co-operate with anybody on any aspect of our policy. But we think that any approach to the Loyalist and Protestant working class in the North, must be on the basis of a principled political approach….We feel that the approach to the Loyalists must be an honest one and that we must explain to them what all aspects of our policy are.” (Seamus Costello)
On the IRSP and the role of the INLA in defending it’s members:
“Any revolutionary movement that cannot defend its own membership, and cannot demonstrate its capability of defending its own membership, goes out of business anyway. We are in business as a serious revolutionary organisation and we are not going to be put out of business by anybody. The IRSP is organised and it is here to stay.” (Seamus Costello, March 1975.)
On Revolutionary politics, elections and parliaments:
“I favour guerrilla tactics in parliament the same as I do in other respects.I favour them in local elections and local government bodies,they’ve proved successful there. And I see no reason, why, with a few TDs or MPs, of the right calibre, pursuing the right policies, why they cannot destroy the confidence of the people within these institutions and bring them tumbling down in ruins” (Seamus Costello)
What People said about Seamus Costello
Noel Browne, on hearing Seamus Costello speak at a conference in Boston, USA, stated:
“Seamus Costello spoke for the IRSP and gave a scintillating display of good humour, history, politics and facts…. I’ve never heard his brand of Republicanism before… Is it not a triumph for our radio, TV and newspapers and of the venomous Dublin political denigration machine that none of us has ever read, heard of or seen this man’s remarkable dialectical skill and political ability.”
Noel Browne concluded, by prophetically stating:
“They will have to shoot him, or to jail him, or get out of his way, but they certainly won’t stop him. Costello the revolutionary Marxist Socialist whose ambition is a secular, pluralist united Socialist Republic, won’t go away until he gets it!”
Nora Connolly-O’Brien, the daughter of Irish Marxist philosopher and Easter Rising leader, James Connolly, said of Seamus Costello:
“Of all the politicians and political people with whom I have had conversations, and who called themselves followers of Connolly, he was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people.”
Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, a founding member of the IRSP and lifelong Republican Socialist, said of Seamus Costello:
“My personal acquaintance and friendship with Seamus Costello began in 1973. Before then I knew him only, as most people in Ireland, by reputation……….On hearing of his death, I could find no words of my own to express the deep sense of loss I felt, both personally and as a revolutionary socialist committed to the struggle for Irish freedom. I took therefore the words of a fellow revolutionary on the death of Malcolm X, the black revolutionary champion of black liberation and socialism in the U.S.A.: ‘Without him, we feel suddenly vulnerable, small and weak, somewhat frightened, not by the prospect of death, but of life and struggle without his contribution, his strength and inspiration’.”
Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, finished off her appreciation of Seamus Costello, by saying:
” His single greatest attribute was, however, his ability to relate to the mass of the people. His potential as a leader of mass struggle is not easily replaced. He could inspire not only the dream but the confidence of its achievement, and the commitment to work towards that end…..From the ranks of mass struggle, others will come. From the experience of struggle, the political programme, organisation and method of struggle will come. But another Seamus Costello may never come again. When our freedom has been won, let us guard it well,remembering it was paid for in the blood and the lives of those now dead, but whose memory lives forever in the hearts of us who loved them for all that they were and all they might have been, had they been allowed to live.”
Thomas ‘Ta’ Power, INLA Guerrilla and Revolutionary theorist wrote:
“the sheer stature of the revolutionary Seamus Costello is too great for what can be expressed in feeble words, yet words are the only (way) to express and convey this stature albeit in a feeble way”
Follow In Seamus Costello’s tradition!
The politics of Seamus Costello are perpetuated in the Irish Republican Socialist Party. October 2013 will be the 36th Anniversary of the tragic murder of Seamus Costello. However, the IRSP, the revolutionary political vanguard of the movement Costello co-founded, is as relevant in contemporary Ireland as it was in 1974. Irish Republican Socialism is in the unique position today, as it was in Costello’s lifetime, of being the only Irish party to adequately address the crisis of Capitalism and the undemocratic partition of Ireland. In conclusion, there is no doubt that Seamus Costello would be proud to know that the Republican Socialist Movement, despite almost insurmountable obstacles in the past, still fights for, and owes it’s allegiance to the Irish working-class!
Alex McGuigan, Belfast
This entry was posted on July 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm and is filed under INLA, Ireland, Irish Republican Socialism, IRSM, IRSP, Seamus Costello, The founding of the IRSM. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.