Archive for October, 2013

The Belfast Relief Strike – Class Unity In A Divided City by Alex McGuigan

Posted in Belfast Relief Strike, Class Solidarity, Proletariat on October 26, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

The 1932 Belfast Relief Strike is a significant chapter in the history of class struggle in Ireland, as for a short time the sectarian divisions in the north of Ireland’s largest city were overtaken by working-class solidarity against the state. The partitioned state-let of ‘Northern Ireland’ was based on a sectarian headcount which guaranteed the Unionist party ruled the six counties as a de facto one party government. With the help of organisations like the Orange Order, the ruling-class managed to regularly, if not seasonally, foment sectarian strife as a bulwark against cross-denominational proletarian unity.

Welfare Benefits Attacked!

Unlike Britain and indeed the southern Free State, the northern Unionist state-let retained the draconian Victorian Poor Laws, which similar to today’s regimes in the north east and south of Ireland, effectively punished the jobless. By the early 1930’s following the global depression, primarily caused by the Wall Street Crash, a large section of the proletariat were dependent on the extremely meagre welfare benefits of the day called Outdoor Relief, where in effect the unemployed had to work for mere subsistence benefits, even more draconian than today’s ‘Workfare’ trend. In the south, jobless workers had formed the Irish Unemployed Workers Movement. Elsewhere in Europe including Britain, unemployed workers were organising themselves against  crippling austerity measures.

Outdoor Relief Workers Committee

In response to the crippling austerity measures the Outdoor Relief Workers Committee was formed in Belfast in 1932 by the most class conscious of the jobless workers. Their basic demands were:

  • The end of task work.
  • A rise in relief payments to males to l5 shillings 3d per week and an increase for wives to 8 shillings and 2 Shillings per child
  • An end to “payments in kind”. All ODR payments to be in cash.
  • Trade union rates to be paid for street improvement schemes and other ODR schemes
  • All single unemployed men and women who are not in receipt of unemployment benefit to be paid adequate welfare benefits

The Outdoor Relief Class Struggle

In October 1932, 7,000 jobless workers marched on the Lisburn Road Work House headquarters of the Poor Law Guardians (where part of Belfast City Hospital is situated  now.) Heavily armed RUC men were by now attempting to repress the Outdoor Relief Workers Committee but the marchers managed to disrupt the Workhouse’s draconian regime. Rioting against the RUC and the Unionist establishment spread throughout the city in early October. A rent strike was called as organised jobless workers grew in confidence. Accordingly the RUC and British army were deployed on the class strife torn streets of Belfast, attempting to repress the Outdoor Relief Workers Committee’s actions.

After the RUC and British army broke up a mass jobless workers’ demonstration, rioting became even more intense with both the proletariat of the Catholic Falls Road and the Protestant Shankill Road uniting to fight the armed uniformed shock-troops of the ruling Unionist establishment! True to form the RUC murdered 2 demonstrators, including Protestants who had travelled to the Falls to man the barricades and attempted to prevent emergency relief food parcels sent by the trades unions. Over 50 strikers were seriously injured by the RUC, including many Protestant workers, although it must be said that the RUC were at their most vicious when attempting to put down the strike in Catholic areas.

Partial Victory and Ruling Class Foment Sectarian Divisions

The striking workers won an increase in welfare benefits for married couples and achieved a partial victory. Unfortunately benefits for single persons was not achieved and the leaders of the strike came in for heavy criticism for settling for much less than their full demands. Belfast Trades Council had half-heartedly threatened a General Strike but this did not reach fruition. The Unionist ruling-class, as was their modus operandi, attempted to play their habitual ‘Orange Card’ attempting to divide the militant proletariat along sectarian lines and were partially successful.

Proletarian Unity Proved Sectarianism Was Not Monolithic

The Belfast Relief Strikes, although short lived, prove that class solidarity can transcend sectarian divisions in the north of Ireland given the correct circumstances. A lesson for contemporary Irish Republican Socialists, the ‘Left’, anti-imperialists and progressives is that forced austerity measures and especially cuts in welfare benefits proved to be the catalyst during the cross-denominational class solidarity of 1932. Likewise, organised jobless workers became the most militant element during the events of 1932 and fought hand to hand against the armed wing of the state.

Although brief, the Belfast Relief Strikes of 1932 are an example of sectarianism being cast aside in the necessity of class struggle and it can happen again. With the current Westminster, Stormont, Leinster House  and indeed global offensive against ordinary working-class people, workers of all lands will indeed unite, as there will, inevitably, be literally nothing to lose but our chains…


Socialists from the Shankill Road attend the annual Bodenstown commemoration during the era of the Left wing Republican Congress in 1934

Alex McGuigan,

The Mullacreevie Park Massacre of INLA Volunteers Roddie Carroll & Seamus Grew

Posted in Fallen Comrades, Roddie Carroll, Seamus Grew, The Mullacreevie Park Massacre on October 24, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

What has become known as ‘The Mullacreevie Park Massacre‘ tragically occurred on the 12th December 1982 when two unarmed INLA volunteers Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll were shot dead by the RUC in Mullacreevie Park, Armagh city. Despite both men being totally unarmed, Roddy Carroll was shot from a distance of six feet while Seamus Grew was shot dead from a distance of two feet by the same RUC Constable, John Robinson, who claimed he had expected to find Dominic McGlinchey in the car that the two men were travelling in. Robinson, despite admitting to lying, fabricating evidence and altering notes was acquitted at the Crown court by judge MacDermott.

Seamus Grew

Although a relatively young man, Seamus Grew was an experienced INLA volunteer and no stranger to assassination attempts by Unionists bigots, both in and out of uniform.  As the Irish Republican Socialist Movement’s Fallen Comrades webpages states:

Grew had been in shot in the throat and captured in 1979 and sentenced to four years for INLA activities. He was released after serving two years and survived an assassination attempt by Protestant gunmen two months before he was killed.”

Roddie Carroll

Roddie Carroll was only 21 but due to the intense nature of the INLA’s armed campaign against British imperialism in the occupied six counties, young men became experienced INLA volunteers.  The Irish Republican Socialist Movement’s Fallen Comrades’ webpage states:

Roddy Carroll, aged 21 and a member of the INLA (and claimed by security forces as the INLA’s top gunman in Armagh), was killed along with Seamus Grew when their car was fired on by two members of the RUC.

E4a, Shoot To Kill and Stalker

It is now beyond dispute that a heavily armed, SAS-trained RUC unit known as E4a, who were operational most prominently in mid-Ulster during the early 1980s were engaged in what became known as a ‘Shoot to kill’ policy that claimed the lives of Irish Republicans and civilians alike. On 11th November 1982 Provisional IRA Volunteers Gervase McKerr, Sean Burns and Eugene Toman were shot dead in Lurgan, county Armagh. In April 1984 three members of the RUC E4a unit in mid-Ulster, 26-year-old Constable Frederick Robinson, 35-year-old Constable David Brannigan and 28-year-old Sergeant William Montgomery stood trial for Toman’s murder in front of Judge Gibson. All three E4a members were predictably acquitted with Gibson grotesquely commending Robinson for sending the unarmed IRA men to the ‘final court of justice‘ (a ‘court’ Gibson presumably became intimately acquainted with on the 27th of April, 1987, when a massive Provisional Irish Republican Army landmine exploded under his car, killing him and his wife ‘Lady’ Cecily Gibson.)

Later that month on the 24th November 1982, two young men, Michael Tighe and Martin McCauley, were shot at a hayshed which had been kept under surveillance by E4 RUC surveillance units on the Ballynerry Road North, Derrymacash, county Armagh. Tighe was shot dead and McCauley eventually recovered from his injuries, neither man was involved in the Irish Republican insurgency of the period.

Eventually the Greater Manchester Deputy Chief Constable, John Stalker, was instructed to carry out an inquiry into the three incidents involving the RUC E4a unit’s killing of six young men within the space of a month. By all accounts Stalker’s relatively equitable inquiry enraged the RUC and the north of Ireland’s counter-insurgency community who successfully conspired to have him replaced on the basis of fabricated evidence. Stalker had condemned the actions of the RUC as ‘out of control‘ and ‘more akin a central American banana republic!

Irish Republican Socialist Martyrs Roddie Carroll and Seamus Grew

The Manchester Guardian Weekly described the RUC E4a killers responsible for the deaths of INLA volunteers Roddie Carroll and Seamus Grew as no different from the death-squads operating in South America. Even though it is approaching 31 years since  INLA Volunteers Roddie Caroll and Seamus Grew were murdered, they are forever honoured and remembered by their comrades in the Irish Republican Socialist Movement.

“Revolutionaries are dead men on leave” – Thomas Ta Power


The Ta Power Document Examined by Alex McGuigan

Posted in Polarisation of the classes, Primacy of politics, Ta Power, Ta Power Document on October 19, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

Thomas ‘Ta’ Power

This article is a brief analysis of the Introduction section and Part One of Ta Power’s dissertation on the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, which is now widely known as the Ta Power Document. It is hoped that this article will be of help when discussing Ta Power’s critique of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM.)

What Is The Ta Power Document?

We hear a lot about the Ta Power Document but what exactly does it contain? Certainly, one could probably read Ta Power’s critique in an afternoon, but arguably the best way to appreciate fully what is contained in his critique, is to take the time to read it as one would approach a serious study. This is because there is so much data compounded into those pages, that a quick reading will not do justice to Ta Power’s project, which was so comprehensively written under the most difficult of conditions, partly in a cramped prison cell.

It is also helpful to acquaint oneself with the life of Thomas Ta Power as the INLA guerrilla and the Revolutionary Socialist theorist. Ta Power’s life was very closely associated with the earlier years of the nascent Irish Republican Socialist Movement. Contained within the pages of the Ta Power Document is the genuine, early history of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, written by an INLA Guerrilla who knew only too well, that as a committed revolutionary, he was simply, as he fearlessly stated, a dead man on leave!

James Connolly, Ireland’s first Marxist Revolutionary, wrote 89 years before Ta Power’s assassination that:

“Apostles of Freedom are ever idolised when dead, but crucified when alive.”

They were prophetic words both for Connolly, Ta Power and all those who have sought to bring revolutionary change to Ireland, defy Imperialism and fight for a Socialist Republic.

Who Was Ta Power?

Thomas ‘Ta’ Power was an INLA guerrilla fighter and an Irish Republican Socialist Party activist from the Market area of Belfast, whose revolutionary military actions were backed up with an insightful analysis of the age old struggle for National Liberation and Socialism in Ireland. The Republic that Ta Power believed was worth fighting for was one that guaranteed economic liberty for the Irish working-class, not just an exchange of one ruling class for the homegrown Gombeen variety, which successive one-dimensional Nationalists have repeatedly eventually settled for throughout Irish history. Ta Power believed in the Workers Republic of Marxist revolutionary James Connolly, who rejected traditional Nationalism espoused by the likes of Sinn Fein, just as vehemently as he opposed British Imperialism.

Ta Power’s Legacy To Contemporary IRSM members

Ta Power’s legacy to contemporary Republican Socialism was his insightful analysis of how the Irish Republican Socialist Movement needs to be structured along democratic centralist lines, to become the effective vanguard for a Socialist Republic. The Ta Power Essay could arguably be described as being as important to Irish Republican Socialism, as VI Lenin’s ‘What is to be Done’ was to the Bolsheviks at the beginning of the 20th century.

Contemporary comrades of Ta Power will have their own personal and revolutionary memories of one of Irelands most outstanding Republican Socialists, who by all accounts was very much cut from the same cloth as the late Seamus Costello. It is glaringly apparent that British imperialism and their lackeys in the Gombeen Free State feared Ta Power’s Republican Socialist ideology and that they viewed him personally as a dangerous revolutionary foe. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) held him in de facto internment without trial in prison for nearly 5 years, on the word of 5 separate bribed ‘supergrass’ paid perjurers!  When Ta Power was assassinated in January, 1987, along with his comrade, John O’Reilly, at the Rosnaree Hotel, by members of the counter-revolutionary IPLO, we can be sure that Imperialism uttered a sigh of relief.

Before his tragic assassination at the young age of 33, Ta Power spent part of his lengthy time in prison, held without trial, conducting a root and branch analysis of the revolutionary forces involved in the struggle for National Liberation and Socialism in Ireland and the IRSM in particular. Ta Power recognised the leading role of Republican Socialism’s most outstanding advocate, Seamus Costello and the nearly ‘incalculable loss‘ the movement faced by his assassination at the hands of an Official IRA gangster. Power pulls no punches in his critique of the IRSM’s varied fortunes but his analysis points out that at the heart of any excesses and contradictions in the movement were structural defects, which made those mistakes not only possible but inevitable..

Ta Power’s historical analysis of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement

Power begins by plotting the course of the Republican Movement pre-1969 split and again pre-1974:

“the Republican Movement at that time, as indeed throughout its history was a monolithic movement, ideologically united and disciplined in its strategy and tactics.”

He rightfully asserts that even at that time, within the monolithic pre-1969 Republican Movement, a distinct reformist tendency was gaining in strength, in tandem with the more traditionalist Republican strand and an overtly more Socialistic strand. A smaller, more radical trend, centred round Seamus Costello, sought to marry the need for both National Liberation and Socialism, correctly treating them as intrinsically linked. The Official IRA leadership was at variance with the more militant grassroots and Ta Power cites the friction between the militant Belfast OIRA leader, Joe McCann and the reformist Official IRA leadership. Costello was of the same militant ilk as McCann and similarly was victimised by the Official’s leadership, culminating in his eventual expulsion at the 1974 Official Sinn fein Ard Fheis. Ta Power correctly states that:

“the dismissal of Costello formalised what was already a fact…’the parting of the ways’ of a revolutionary & reformist strategy on the National question!”

The Birth of the IRSM

In the gaols and all over Ireland, the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) grew out of the militant grassroots, disaffected membership of the Official Republican Movement. In Belfast the Officials’ leadership ordered immediate armed pogroms against the fledgling IRSP, which initially left 3 dead and many more wounded. When counter-revolutionary attacks on the fledgling IRSP, ordered by the Official IRA leadership were concerned, Ta Power points out ironically that:

“the arms the officials had starved and denied their own membership to confront Imperialism had been delivered in plenty!”

Power was just as scathing of the Provisionals, as he was of the Officials’ leadership in his critique. While he viewed the reformism of the Stickies, as ignoring the proverbial elephant in the living-room of partition, he viewed the Provisionals as being hopelessly elitist. Ta Power correctly saw the Irish Republican Socialist Movement as the only vehicle to:

“stand for the unity of the anti-imperialist struggle & the class struggle.” (4)

The IRSP and the Broad Front?

He saw that a movement which placed genuine equal emphasis on the struggle for both Socialism and National Liberation, was ultimately capable of leading an anti-Imperialist Broad Front, while the IRSP retained the clear understanding that there could be no reformist ‘parliamentary road to socialism‘. However, their political agitation was not to be restricted by any elitist, traditional republican principle of ‘abstentionism’ (although in some circumstances that would be acceptable as a tactic.) The anti-Imperialist Broad Front would adhere to core progressive Republican Socialist principles.

Ta Power rounds off his recounting of the complicated birth of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, by recalling that by mid-1975, the worst of the Official IRA attacks had ended and by later in the year the IRSP had a politically healthy membership of 800 activists in Ireland. The party had a quarterly internal theoretical bulletin, plus the monthly newspaper The Starry Plough.

Basically by this stage, Ta Power states that, the IRSM had survived the counter-revolutionary Official IRA attempts to strangle it at birth and Republican Socialism was on the road to party political stability, progress and growth.

The IRSM and concerted state repression

Ta Power continues with his historical analysis of the IRSM by stating that after a brief period on the road to party political stability, following the early attacks on the fledgling movement, the party had a healthy active membership. The southern Free State government then set out to systematically smash the Republican Socialist Movement. By April 1976, after the Sallins Train Robbery, the Gardai’s Heavy Gang conducted systematic repression and brutality on IRSP members, culminating in the framing of 6 party members, including Nicky Kelly, for the mail train robbery. Amnesty International were partly responsible for exposing the brutality of the Garda Heavy Gangs habitual tactics of torture and perverting the course of justice, to frame those they perceived to be ‘Enemies of the State’.

In the north of Ireland, the IRSM were involved in all facets of the anti-Imperialist struggle which included armed guerrilla actions against the British occupational forces. The IRSM also took a leading role in the nascent agitation on the streets against the criminalisation of Republican POW’s both inside and outside the gaols, which included the earlier INLA successful mass escape from Cage 5 in Long Kesh concentration camp on the 5th May, 1976.

The impact of Costello’s assassination

Ta Power stressed the massive blow to the Republican Socialist Movement caused by the assassination of Seamus Costello in 1977:

“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” (5)

He goes on to list many of the testimonials to Seamus Costello’s outstanding Revolutionary character from the likes of Nora Connolly O’Brien (James Connolly’s daughter), Fr Piaras O’Duill, Sean Doyle and Dr Noel Browne. He recounts the lengthy list of elected and appointed positions held by the  Indefatigable Seamus Costello from 1964 until his tragic murder in October 1977 in Dublin’s North Strand as he sat unarmed in his car by a Sticky hitman, allegedly the ‘bagman’ Jim Flynn.

The Struggle in the H-Blocks

Ta Power admits that the IRSM were the main beneficiaries of disillusionment within the Official IRA in Long Kesh, in the early 1970’s, which produced a ready made reservoir of recruits, but at the time it was in a volatile state. At first the gaol authorities did not grant recognition to the IRSP prisoners, but after the correct pressure was applied, they did give in.

Shortly after this, the infant IRSP had the morale boost of 5 prisoners escaping from Newry courthouse and then the first ever mass escape from Long Kesh by 9 INLA prisoners from via a tunnel in May, 1976. However, by this stage political status was being phased out by the British as part of their ‘Ulsterisation‘ aka “Normalisation” counter-revolutionary strategy. The H-Blocks of Long Kesh concentration camp then became the main focus of the anti-Imperialist struggle for the Republican Socialist Movement and indeed the entire Irish Republican community:

“suddenly, captured republicans were thrown back to an active role & again to the forefront of the struggle. Their courage, resolve & mettle would be tested to the full. The tremendous responsibility, which was imposed on them, was a heavy burden to carry but carry it they did!”

As well as invigorating the Republican Socialist Movement, the campaign for political status was a double edged sword:

“with the end of [political] status came the end of segregation. The effects of this on our movement was more profound than are sometimes realised. Because of our numerical weakness we were always a minority within the broad republican family & this created further problems for us. The IRA always set the tempo & pace but we always retained our seperate organisational structures, independence & identity .” (7)

What is to be done?

From page 14 Ta Power begins his ‘What is to be done‘ and quotes Seamus Costello:

“..we must make no secret of the fact that we are a Revolutionary party, prepared to give leadership on the streets as well as in the elected chambers & that we are out for a revolutionary state.”

Ta Power’s sentiments in this part of his critique echo those of Seamus Costello, in that he advises a multi-faceted Revolutionary Socialist approach. For instance, agitation both on the streets and in elected bodies, bluntly emphasising that there can be:

“no easy way to the Socialist Republic, no shortcuts!”

Power bluntly states that neither can the IRSM fool the Irish working class, as they know only too well ‘who the phoneys‘ are.  Power prophetically states that:

“we must be vigilant that we dont sink into the morass of sectarianism, mixing, pettiness etc. We must not get involved in unprincipled slagging matches etc or into positions that are sectarian, anti-revolutionary, morally damaging that give succour to the enemy & that confuse & divide the working class” (10)

Power states that an important facet of Irish Republican Socialism is that it should be able to describe it’s vision for a Democratic Irish Socialist Republic, not just limit their vision to the transitional stages and the process to achieve it. He again echoes James Connolly, in his belief that it is only by the actions of the Irish working class that the age old project of Ireland’s liberation from British imperialism can be achieved. Bourgeois parties will always compromise with Imperialism, which VI Lenin accurately described as the most advanced stage of Capitalism.

Ta Power writes that the might of the pro-Imperialist forces can only being defeatable by a Broad Front of progressive anti-Imperialist forces. Power advocated the convening of a conference of anti-Imperialist parties. This is very relevant in today’s context where Irish republicanism is very much splintered, despite various half-hearted calls for Republican Unity. He criticizes Stalinist Stage-ism, as adhered to by the likes of the Officials, as a deflection from the National Liberation struggle:

“it is only by strengthening ourselves ideologically, inculcating in ourselves the values & ideals of the struggle and building up the ranks of the revolutionary party that we will make it! Finally, we must constantly review, criticize & self criticize all aspects of our actions, policies, tactics etc. Keep appraising the whole situation & keep striving to raise the class consciousness, spirit & capacity to fight & win of the working class.”

The Primacy of Politics

As Ta Power indicates, the Irish Republican Socialist Movement followed what is known as the ‘party/army model’ and Ta Power critiques the ‘contradictions’ in that relationship.Ta Power utilises Marxian dialectics to explain the relationship between the political activities of the IRSM, which he refers to as:

‘A’ the party (IRSP) and: ‘B’ the military wing, (INLA.)

He states that ‘group A’, the party, should guide ‘group B’, the army, but due to structural defects that Ta Power identifies, group B ended up being the dominant element and therefore a very retarded form of Marxian Praxis existed. He states that for many within group B, overtly political work was viewed as being unimportant, unfashionable and a distraction from armed struggle:

“therefore there arises a definite trend of spurning “A”[political] type work as being beneath their standing, style etc; there arises contempt for those involved in “A” type work ” 

He questions why political work came to be looked down upon as a lesser form of revolutionary struggle, despite there being so many extremely intelligent individuals involved. This one dimensional militaristic political culture within the IRSM at that time led to factionalism and power-base building:

“Are we amateurs & not professionals? We know the lessons of history, we know the mistakes & we either act accordingly or collapse. Salvation lies in clarity & the courage to implement change!”

Ta Power states that doing things in half-measures will only prove to be counter-productive, as he states that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions!’

He then uses Lenin’s polemic against the myopic, cordite soaked Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s) in Russia, to critique the purely militarist tendencies within the then IRSM. (It is worth noting that Lenin and therefore Ta Power, are using the term ‘terrorism’ in the strictly sociological sense here, not the bourgeois subjective sense)

“their terrorism is not connected in any ways with work among the masses……it distracts our very scanty organisational resources from their difficult & by no means complete task of organising a revolutionary party “


Although this article deals primarily with Part One of the Ta Power Document, the central theme of his dissertation is to assert the principles of Politics in Command‘ as the only salvation for the Irish Republican Socialist Movement. Power is fearless in his critique of one dimensional militarism within the IRSM and how that culture of disdain for overtly ‘political work’ led to such tragedies as the emergence of the IPLO counter-revolutionaries, power-base building by individuals and a general ‘running down’ of the role of the party.

Unlike the Irish Republican Socialist Movement’s various detractors who spend their time sniping from the sidelines, Ta Power’s critique came from within and therefore his essay should be studied, discussed and itself critiqued and indeed added, to if need be, in light of today’s political climate which has changed significantly since 1987 when the only ‘Republican’ groupings were essentially the Provisionals, the IRSM and the Officials, whereas in contemporary times there are a variety of Provisional movement splinter groups competing for primacy.

However, Ta Power’s critique of the IRSM still retains it’s resonance, even after a quarter of a century and it’s final prophetic lines are as apt today as in the late 1980s:

It will take a resolute leadership and the use of a firm but fair hand to drag this movement back onto the rails. Those who stand in the way of development and progress must be cast aside, no one or group will dictate solely the pace and path this movement will take to overcome its difficulties.

Those who seek to impose shackles must be cast aside without hesitation. We either go forward or backward.

Finally let us return to what we said in the first page of part one. There we said our objective in this draft, was an attempt to UNDERSTAND THE PAST so that we may ANALYSE THE PRESENT in order to INFLUENCE THE FUTURE. This is a bold claim to make, and an even bolder one to succeed with!”

Ta Power’s final words of his essay pulls no punches and is stridently honest and relevant  in the tasks facing the Irish Republican Socialist Movement in contemporary times if they are to grow as a viable revolutionary movement and not fall into the sad guise of a commemorative body, a one-dimensional nationalist grouping or a reformist movement far removed from it’s revolutionary raison d’etre but continue on as Ireland’s most progressive and revolutionary movement as envisioned and encouraged by Costello, Power, Bunting and Gallagher into the political and economic realities of the 21st Century.  Thankfully the IRSM continues to be involved in the struggle against imperialism, builds links and often leads the most militant elements workers’ movement in the struggle against Gombeen Capitalism, has created links in solidarity with revolutionaries abroad and continues to spread what Connolly described as ‘the divine gospel of discontent!’

Alex McGuigan,


The Unravelling of the Stormont Experiment?

Posted in GFA, James Connolly, Stormont on October 16, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

Observers of the Irish dialectic will no doubt see portents of an unravelling, little by little, of the so-called ‘new dispensation’ and much vaunted equality measures supposedly enshrined within the GFA and St Andrews.  Observers of a certain age will remember previous attempts to reform the irreformable 6 county statelet from O’Neill’s much too little and much too late not to mention crassly offensive stated attempts to treat Catholics semi-decently so that they would ‘live like loyal Protestants.”

Every attempt at reforming the irreformable statelet, from the Sunningdale power-sharing experiment, to the various pet projects of successive ‘Secretaries of State’, including the 1982 ‘Prior assembly’ in the aftermath of the Hunger Strikes, rolling devolution, forums, etc have fallen victim to the supremacist action s of extreme Unionists, aided and abetted, sometimes openly, other times covertly by the Unionist ruling class often with the active direction of the most Hawkish elements within the ‘security services’ when it dovetailed with British imperialist counter insurgency policy.

One need only look to the various injuries visited on civilians and even the RUC (at times when they dared to deviate, ever so slightly, from their usual unity of purpose enjoyed with their sash wearing brethren) by their proverbial ‘ceremonial’ swords wielded by the Orange Brøderbund  This is not a recent phenomena of a few weeks ago, when they acted in tandem with the UVF in attempting to stop a human rights march but at other times, such as the under-policed Unionist mob handed protests against the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the various Drumcree crises (all of which, by the way caused de facto mutinies within RUC ranks) when swords, pikes, maces and other assorted ‘ceremonial’ offensive weapons were used by the Loyal Order members, filmed by the media in full regalia, while later, in the height of irrationality, as a body attract hundreds of thousands of pounds in “cross-community” grants!

It is early days as yet to predict the downfall of the Stormont project but even casual observers will see it straining at the seams, as attempts to reform the irreformable become more apparent.  No doubt former Provisionals, who fully bought into  and even joined the movement based on the highly visible leftist posturing of that organisation when they talked of the smashing of the state in sync with revolutionary socialists, only to see it jettisoned as a disposable ‘tactic’ have become disillusioned enough to form or join other left Republican parties.

It is becoming clearer that even with the most timid attempts at so-called ‘Cross Border Bodies’, a drastically changed demographic, and a proposed ‘border poll, Connolly’s words are apt in relation to both partitionist ‘parliaments’, north and south, as Republicans within these assemblies supposedly aspire to a unitary state:

“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs”

James Connolly, Marxist, revolutionary and founding father of Irish Republican Socialism


 Alex McGuigan
Belfast 16th October 2013

INLA Volunteers Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little’s Anniversary

Posted in Collusion, IRSM, Noel Little, Ronnie Bunting on October 15, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

Ronnie Bunting was a founder member of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, which included both the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). He was brutally murdered in the early hours of the 15th of October, 1980, shot dead along with his friend and comrade, Noel Little, by a pro-British death-squad. Ronnie Bunting’s wife, Suzanne, was also shot and seriously injured during attack on their Downfine Gardens home, in the Gransha area of West Belfast.

History and early political background

Ronnie Bunting was a living example of the non-sectarian, secular nature and universal appeal of Irish Republican Socialism. Ronnie was from a northern Protestant background and indeed his father, Major Ronald Bunting, although at one time Gerry Fitt’s election agent, later became closely and publicly associated with Ian Paisley and the extreme right-wing politics of Ulster Unionism. In spite of his father’s association with reactionary Loyalism, Ronnie Bunting became involved with the revolutionary socialist, Peoples Democracy group, while studying for a BA honours degree at Queens University Belfast. He eventually joined the Official IRA in 1970, who at that time were a leftist alternative to the narrow nationalism of the Provisionals. It must be remembered, that within the Official IRA, at that juncture, were the genus of what would later become the Irish Republican Socialist Movement. By this stage Ronnie Bunting’s revolutionary activism had come to the attentions of the RUC’s Special Branch and he was interned without trial in Long Kesh concentration camp from 1971 until 1973. At one stage he was the only Protestant internee in Long Kesh but for Ronnie Bunting and like minded comrades, denominational differences were irrelevant.

Ronnie Bunting and the Irish Republican Socialist Movement

Ronnie Bunting was among the revolutionary Republican Socialists who disagreed with the Official IRA’s ceasefire of 1972, their reformist direction and their adherence to stage-ism, which was eventually to see the Stickies embrace the 6 county statelet. He was among the militant comrades of Seamus Costello, who were eventually expelled alongside him, from both the Official IRA and Official Sinn Fein/Republican Clubs.

When the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Irish National Liberation Army were founded in 1974, following the inaugural convention at the Spa Hotel, Lucan, Ronnie Bunting was an enthusiastic founding member. Although not a named member of the IRSP’s 1974 Temporary National Executive, he was soon elected to the party’s Ard-Comhairle. Ronnie Bunting held senior positions in the INLA, including, reportedly, Chief of Staff, during the last two years of his life.

In the turbulent times of the fledgling years of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, Ronnie Bunting was a deadly enemy of British imperialism. Shamefully, his former comrades in the Official IRA passed his personal details to Loyalist paramilitaries and publicly named him in their newspaper as a leading member of the INLA. Loyalist paramilitaries from the UVF named Ronnie Bunting as a ‘Trotskyist’ and ‘a renegade Protestant’ in their publication Combat and made no secret of the fact that he was their number one target for assassination . The Loyalist’s use of the Trotskyist term to describe Ronnie Bunting, was almost certainly an indication that their source for information on him came from the Officials. The Official IRA (or Stickies, as they were colloquially referred to) who had by then descended into their terminal counter-revolutionary trajectory and made several serious attempts to murder Bunting, including shooting him in the neck while at the wheel of his car in Belfast.

Ronnie Bunting became active in the Relatives Action Committees which subsequently became known as the Smash H-Block/Armagh Committees . He worked tirelessly to highlight the plight of the protesting Republican prisoners in the H-Blocks, irrespective of their organisational allegiance. Unfortunately, Ronnie Bunting’s adherence to broad front politics was not matched by elements within the Provisionals, who having largely watched from the sidelines as the RAC’s gained momentum and effectiveness, later tried to exclude Republican Socialists from platforms and committees.

On the military front, as reportedly Chief of Staff of the INLA, Ronnie Bunting’s name was, rightly or wrongly, linked to the spectacular assassination of Airey Neave, within the heavily guarded palace of Westminster. Neave, an extreme right-wing ally of Margaret Thatcher, was tipped to have become the secretary of state for the occupied 6 counties in the next Tory government and had threatened to re-introduce mass internment without trial. The INLA prevented that from becoming a reality.

The State Sponsored Murder of two Revolutionaries

The murder of Ronnie Bunting and his comrade Noel Lyttle, can not be viewed in isolation. Certainly, Ronnie Bunting was high on the Thatcher regime’s hit-list and it is rumoured that she may have held him personally responsible for the assassination of her fellow ultra-right wing Tory, Airey Neave. However, Ronnie Bunting’s murder, along with his comrade, Noel Little, was one of a series of murders of some of the most able and articulate Irish Republican Socialists and H-Block activists, who included the senior IRSP member, Miriam Daly, IIP leader, John Turnley,and the attempted murder of Bernadette Mcaliskey and her husband, in Tyrone.

Suzanne Bunting, Ronnie’s grieving widow, who despite being seriously injured by the pro-British death-squad who had just murdered her husband, recounted that the murderers wore military type clothing and acted with military discipline. Furthermore, the Bunting home was in the heart of Republican West Belfast and for any Pro-British death-squad to operate in that area would have required state collusion in the murders, at the very least, to clear a safe zone for the killers in an area usually bristling with British army and RUC checkpoints and patrols.

The murder of Ronnie Bunting by a pro-British death-squad at the age of just 32, deprived his wife Suzanne of a loving husband and his three young children of a father. The Irish Republican Socialist Movement were deprived of one of their most dedicated, articulate and able revolutionaries. The IRSP’s magazine the Starry Plough said:

“Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle died as they lived – as revolutionary socialist republicans murdered in a conspiracy hatched by the combined military forces of British Imperialism in the Six Counties. The unashamed grief and sense of loss shown in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery last weekend is doubtless mirrored by gloating satisfaction in British militarist and other reactionary circles in these islands. But in Pearse’s historic phrase, they are fools. They understand neither the commitment that drove Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle nor the inspiration that their example – in life as well as death – provides and will continue to provide to countless other Irish men and women.”

Present day Irish Republican Socialists should always remember and commemorate the lives of their fallen comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of an Irish workers Republic and draw inspiration from their example. Ronnie Bunting, the Marxist revolutionary and INLA guerrilla leader, was too deadly and dynamic an enemy of imperialism, for the forces of reaction to allow him to live. Like Ta Power, Ronnie Bunting was the epitome of the Republican Socialist revolutionary.

“They can kill the revolutionary but not the revolution!”

A Very British Jihad by Paul Larkin

Posted in Collusion, Imperialism, State sponsored murder on October 14, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

A Very British Jihad: Collusion, Conspiracy and Cover-up in Northern Ireland by Paul Larkin


A Very British Jihad: Collusion, Conspiracy and Cover-up in Northern Ireland ranks as one of the best ever exposes of state-sponsored murder in Ireland available on the market, written by award winning journalist Paul Larkin, a former producer of the BBC’s Spotlight current affairs programme. A Very British Jihad is 300 odd pages of compulsive reading for anyone with even the most casual interest in Irish affairs. The author comes across as a decent, honest human being whose role as Truthseeker led him to some very dark and sinister places within the British colonial establishment’s so-called Counter-terrorism community. The title refers to the undercover war, fought with almost religious zeal by the British occupational forces in Ireland and their ‘Loyalist’ allies.

A Very British Jihad delves into a murky world of spooks, agents, Loyalist bosses and a plethora of British government sanctioned sectarian murder, where the blurred edges of their dubious morality was refracted by much smoke and splintered mirrors. It’s 22 chapters surpass anything thrown up in Martin Dillon’s’The Dirty War’, which always struck me as merely hinting at collusion , in a very timid fashion. Paul Larkin builds a much more solid construct of British state-collusion in sectarian murder, which compliments and even surpasses Sean McPhelimy’s groundbreaking ‘The Committee.’

Larkin begins his book with his arrival on the Belfast political journalistic scene, where he meets his first Loyalist/military contact, the closet homosexual taxi driver and shady part-time UDR soldier ‘Howard, ‘ literally before he even exits the cab he had hailed from the city’s Central station.  In the following chapters Larkin interviews the late Billy ‘King Rat’Wright in his ultra-camp, yet fortress-like home in Portadown. As Larkin narrates, readers are left in no doubt that Wright was the epitome of the ‘British Jihadist’.

The author meets a brace of assorted Unionist paramilitaries, spies, touts ,Special Branch men, ‘Stickies’, South African Apartheid-era hit-men and bizarrely, the UDR on ‘peacekeeping’ duty in Bosnia plus many other assorted and unsavoury characters. Even the most streetwise and politically savvy readers will feel like they have sampled a parallel world, where the lights are constantly dimmed and there are no friendly faces for the likes of us or anyone else to the Left of Eugene Terreblanche.

The chapter “A very fine Soldier” deals with British infantryman Cameron Hastie’s trial for involvement in a state-sponsored murder conspiracy and his subsequent unduly lenient sentence. Larkin devotes several chapters to pro-British death squad boss, the late Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright . (Billy Rat was later spectacularly assassinated by the INLA while still held in Long Kesh prison camp.) The late Marty O’Hagan, the Sunday World journalist assassinated by Billy Wright’s LVF, gets numerous positive mentions in Larkin’s book. The author reveals how Jim McDowell, the Northern editor of the Sunday World, effectively handed several pages of the Northern edition over to the then mid-Ulster UVF and Billy Wright, to clarify their threats against his exiled colleague, Martin O’Hagan! These dubious actions by McDowell were doubly ironic, as the late Martin O’Hagan read of the UVF”s clarification’ in his own newspaper, while he was in hiding in Cork under threat from Wright’s paramilitary gang who eventually made good on their very public threat to the investigative journalist in September 2001.  O’Hagan passed Wright’s Special Branch ‘codename’ to Larkin and it is exclusively disclosed in Larkin’s book as “Bertie”

Another chapter “Sticking to their Guns” deals with the Workers Party’s not so secret links to the Official IRA and Larkin narrates of a very close shave with already media angered Sticks during an encounter at their now, raised to the ground, Twinbrook social club.

Copies of Paul Larkin’s excellent expose A Very British Jihad are now retailing at between £90 to £110 used on Amazon, presumably this meteoric rise in value from it’s original retail price of £10.99 is because it has gone out of print. Hopefully A Very British Jihad will sometime soon be available at less extortionate prices. Anyone who has a copy should treasure it as it is an invaluable insight into the neo-Kitsonian collusion model that few of us get to understand concisely.

Readers are left in no doubt that all Republicans and numerous apolitical Catholics were targetted by a British state-sponsored murder machine. All it took was a name to be entered into the ‘system’ on the most spurious of suspicions at a British military checkpoint or a sighting in the supposed ‘wrong company’, for the gears of a Kitsonian sectarian murder-machine to rotate into action. In the not too distant past, many people only knew they had been included in that murderous ‘project’ when it was much too late and the state-sponsored Loyalist murder gangs had departed, leaving splintered door frames and shattered lives.

In conclusion, A Very British Jihad should be compulsory reading for anyone wishing to scratch beneath the surface of ‘authorised’ and revisionist versions of the period of Anglo-Irish conflict popularly known as ‘The Troubles’ Larkin’s book exposes the British counter-insurgency ‘jihadists’, which the establishment unleashed in post-1969 Ireland and leaves the reader in no doubt of their hidden hand in a plethora of Loyalist paramilitary murders.  High profile victims of collusion such as human rights lawyers, Pat Finucane or Rosemary Nelson were merely the tip of the iceberg, a brief glance at the ‘Collusion Wall’ on Beechmount Avenue, Belfast will give readers an insight into the number of victims of British imperialism’s victims throughout the height of the recent Anglo-Irish conflict.

Reject The Imperialist Poppy

Posted in Bloddy Sunday, Imperialism, The British Legion on October 13, 2013 by The Plough & The Stars

There was an article in 2009 from an individual who claimed to be an Irish Republican but who also stated that they would now be wearing a British Legion poppy. It is not for anyone to dictate what anyone can or can not wear, but we can define what an Irish Republican is and it has since turned out that the individual was in fact a constitutional nationalist. Traditional Republicans and indeed Irish Republican Socialists will not be availing of the British Legion’s emblems for all too obvious reasons

In the Ireland, the poppy and the British Legion are inseparable from reactionary Unionism and British militarism. In practice, British Legion Clubs in the north of Ireland are often little more than Loyalist drinking shebeens. Remembrance Day parades are in effect just another date in the Loyal Orders marching calendar, with the standard Loyalist band, leading their November pageant in homage to British imperialism.  Socialists of all hues would have real ideological problems remembering the wholesale slaughter and waste of lives in two World Wars, by commemorating the dead in the same spirit of jingoist militarism, that caused the tragedies of both World Wars in the first place!

Over in Britain, veterans of a Socialist or pacifist world-view now tend to wear a white poppy, or none at all. Some of these veterans do attend the British Legion events in Britain, though do not march in military formation or hold their own commemorations. Many who fought in World War 2 certainly felt they were fighting Fascism, but that was arguably not the real rationale behind the conflict or indeed the causus beli . World War1 was an obscenity to humanity which saw the triumph of militarism over the hopes for a better world not dominated by the Great Powers but by class unity. No-one should be denied the right to remember their war dead, in whatever way they feel, as long as it does not cause widespread offence to the majority of people. The tragedy and misplaced bravery of the World War1 combatants is aptly summed up in the description of the working-class conscript soldiers, as being lions led by donkeys. In effect, they were mere cannon-fodder for imperialist brigands whose hands were thrust so deeply into each others’ proverbial pockets via systems of alliances, that war was an inevitable consequence, if not their prime objective.

Unfortunately, similar imperialist adventures, that the British Legion are commemorating each year in November, are still sadly being continued overseas, from Ireland to Afghanistan and from Iraq to Syria and elsewhere either directly or by proxy in countless other lands in contemporary times. Furthermore, Britain has yet to become the land fit for heroes, as the Beveridge generation hoped. Many of the war veterans today are still living in abject poverty, dreading fuel bills, depending on meagre benefits while the rich just keep on getting richer..

If the truth be told, the vast majority of areas in Ireland are not culturally or politically ready for commemorations which showcase the British Army and all it’s imperialist trappings. It may never be acceptable in that format in the majority of areas of Ireland, as the British army conducting their imperialist displays of militarism is as insensitive as permitting the same imperialist power to hold pageants praising their military jingoism in the Indian city of Amritsar where they were responsible for the massacre at the Golden temple, the holiest of holies of the Sikh religion.

These militaristic pageants effectively honour the same British army that massacred 14 Irish civilians in Derry in 1972, as they were peacefully marching for civil rights. Remembrance day ceremonies honouring the British army leave a bad taste in the mouth when Irish citizens remember that it was the same regiments who dragged thousands of Irish men and women from their homes to intern, torture and imprison them in concentration camps and who still illegally occupy 6 counties in the north of the country. The list of reasons for not wearing pro-British imperialist symbols, such as the British Legion’s poppy is over 800 years old and there is no discernable appetite from Irish citizens to look favourably upon them

The aftermath of Bloody Sunday in Derry when 14 peaceful civil rights marchers were murdered by the British Army in 1972

%d bloggers like this: