Archive for May, 2015

Vol. Matt McLarnon IRSP Cumann successfully leafleting the lower Falls, Belfast

Posted in IRSP, Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann with tags , , , , on May 29, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars


Members of the Volunteer Matt McLarnon IRSP Cumann delivered many hundreds of leaflets to homes in the lower Falls area of West Belfast last night.  Despite the inclement weather there were numerous members involved in the leaflet drop which was well received by local residents.  The lower Falls/Divis area suffers seriously from the negative impact of imperialism.  This negative impact translates into ultra high levels of unemployment, anti-social behaviour, youth alienation, anti-people crime and neglect by statutory agencies causing disempowerment  and misery for many residents of this large working class area.  The Irish Republican Movement has always had a high level of support in the area.  Prior to it’s demolition, the area was the site of the internationally known Divis Flats, nicknamed ‘the Planet of the Irps’ (‘Irps’ being a colloquialism for the INLA/IRSP).

The leaflet that is pictured above succinctly informs readers:

  1. That the IRSP is active in the area  (as it has been since it’s formation 40+ years ago);
  2. The origins of the Cumann’s name;
  3. Key political positions of the IRSP;
  4. Contact details.


For those interested in joining the Vol. Matt McLarnon IRSP Cumann whose catchment area, at present, is the Falls Road or for anyone interested in the revolutionary politics of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, they can make contact or post questions on-line relating to the politics of the IRSP via  the cumann’s Facebook Page.  

Fair play to all members who helped make the leaflet drop successful!

Saoirse go deo! 

Some members of the Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann on the streets of the lower Falls last night

Some members of the Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann on the streets of the lower Falls last night

National Hunger Strike Commemoration – Derry Sunday 24 May 2015

Posted in Commemoration, Hunger Strikes with tags , , , on May 21, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars


Source: IRSP NEWS!

The National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Derry on 24 May, assembles at at 1.30pm at the Rosemount Factory to make it’s way to the City Cemetery to commemorate the bravery and the ultimate sacrifice made by the Irish National Liberation Army and Provisional IRA Hunger Strikers in 1981.  All are welcome to attend the National Hunger Strike Commemoration to show their respect in this, the 34th anniversary, of the 1981 H-Block Hunger Strike, for those martyrs who laid down their lives for the right to be treated as the political prisoners they were.  Their sacrifice will never be forgotten – history has vindicated the ’10’ as the bravest of the brave!

All IRSP members are expected to attend.

All supporters, families, Republicans, Socialists, Trade Unionists and all progressives are welcome to attend the National Hunger Strike Commemoration this weekend.

Bill Norton – Hollywood Producer To International Revolutionary

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

The late Bill Norton


JC: Okay. Now we come to the next chapter in your life, the gun smuggling days. Talk about that.

WN: Ellie and I had been in support groups for the Central American people and Guatemala. Anyhow, a woman came to the door, and just looking at her and talking briefly with her, I got the impression that she was an ex-nun, or she was a nun wearing civilian clothes. So I assumed from this lady that she just had the look and attitude that she came from that religious kind of background.

Anyhow, she asked me if I would help in the purchase and shipment of arms for Guatemala. She told me the name of the group and I’ve forgotten it. But anyhow, it was the Guatemala revolutionary group. So we went out in the backyard, and I said, “Let’s go talk out here.” So that was the first time I purchased guns.

The way you do it, you got to one of these gun shows and she was the one who had the suggestion where you look in the newspaper for guns for sale, and if it seems logical, then you purchase it and put it in the trunk of your car and so on. You go to the gun show out at Pomona, where there’s a big fairgrounds building, and there’s a whole bunch of people with tables, and they’re all selling guns to each other- hunters and whatever, shotguns and rifles and pistols, etc. The groups will have a certain small number of weapons that they wish to purchase. They don’t want just random things. They liked the AR-15, which is an American automatic. It’s a semi-automatic, meaning you pull the trigger, and you get one shot. Then you pull the trigger again and you get another one. A full automatic weapon is one where you pull the trigger and it keeps shooting in automatic fire. Well, this AR-15 and AR-16 are American weapons that American people would sell to each other and buy, and so on. They would just pull the trigger once and it shoots once. But they, then, did some kind of small amount of work, and they would convert it into a fully automatic one. The Latin American groups wanted just a few, let’s see, like a revolver pistol instead of an automatic because the revolver doesn’t jam as much. The same thing, ultimately, was true of the Irish; they would have a certain specified type of weapons that they would want and not others.

Anyhow, I started doing it a bit, going to the gun shows, and then I would meet in a certain parking lot where a guy in a pickup truck would be, and I would recognize him because he’s got fishing poles and so on. And the reason he had that was that pickup truck would then have weapons concealed in the sides of the truck body or the bottom of the truck body. And the fellow’s name was John. He seemed like a school teacher kind of guy. (But this is interesting, he was a Basque, and the Basque people have a revolutionary tradition. They had an arms struggle in their own country against the Spanish government, so that the Basque region would be independent.) So this fellow that I knew, that I’d seen, met every once in a while in a parking lot of a certain restaurant or a certain place, I’d take the four or five guns out of the trunk, my trunk, and then he’d put them in his pickup and they’d be out of sight under fishing gear. Anyhow, I did that, or Ellie and I both did that, for Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, supplied weapons and also money.

And then, in our travels, we participated with the hunger striker people of the Irish movement, and one time I was taken to a prison as a relative to visit a prisoner. The prisoner comes in; he’s all long haired and clothed in a blanket. That was a spectacular visual. We became involved in the Irish struggle for equal rights for people in Ireland and civil rights and housing.

I was working at Disney on contract to do whatever the hell they wanted me to do. Yet Ellie and I were gonna retire because by that time, I was sixty, and I could get a Writers Guild pension of a meager sort, but enough to live on. We were going to move to Belfast and participate in that struggle over there, which we did. When we were over there, a fellow that we had known there wanted us to purchase and transport arms for, not for the IRA, but for the Irish National Liberation Army, as a project for self defense.

JC: I’m sorry, what’s the difference between the IRA and them?

WN: They are related, actually. The origin of the INLA was a socialist guy named Costello. The IRA, Irish Republican Army, was non-political. They did not want to get mixed up in this socialism.

The fellow that wanted us to buy arms for the INLA came over and was in charge. He told us to purchase a pickup camper, and then arrange in the compartments of the back of the pickup, a narrow space, 15 rifles and 20 pistols. You would ship that by boat over to France or to Holland. The first load we did went to Holland and then, we’d go over there as vacationers, and we were going to travel around Europe and go to Ireland. That was our story, that we were American vacationers, and then the guns would be unloaded in Ireland at some specific place out in the boondocks. So when we unloaded the weapons, it was a little dodgy because the wrong guy showed up when we were supposed to unload them. Then, another guy got into our vehicle, and he was giving us directions where to go. But we finished that first shipment successfully.

After a while, we were asked to do it again. We had questions about him, but we went on the second trip. On the second trip, we were to pick up the vehicle, with its hidden guns on it, in France, this time. When we walked into the shipping office, there is the cops. So that was the end of our career as gun runners.

We were in prison and waited around for the trial. There was a women’s part of the prison, where Ellie was, and the men’s part. I began a project where I wrote letters to the Pope and everyone- the president and senators and congressmen and government officials all over hell- trying to talk about the right of self defense of the republican people in the north of Ireland. I had traced the origins of the Catholic right to self defense doctrine, and it was this guy that I’ve forgotten the name of, and he replied, “Well, yeah, I can see your religious point of view here, but that does not give you the right to smuggle guns to the IRA.” The response that I got from a variety of letters in many countries was respectful and reasonable and so on.

JC: But none of them came to your defense?

WN: No, no. Well, I didn’t really want them to do that because I pitched all of this not because we were in prison, but rather in support of the principles of Irish self-determination and I didn’t want to say, “Oh, I’m in jail.” I never thought in that area, but I wrote to all kinds of countries and all kinds of religious people.

Ellie and I were sentenced to four years. Then, on an appeal, it was reduced to two years. My son had come over to see the trial, and it was wonderful to see him. We did our best to center around this question of self-determination and the right to self-determination, which I believe in.

When we were released, we were going to be sent back to Chicago, where the FBI was going to try us for having purchased the guns in the United States. By that time, one of the other ladies that was arrested with us, Susan had gone to the embassies or the consulates of Nicaragua in Ireland, and also in Paris, and finally, at the last moment, the permission came through that we could get visas to go to Nicaragua rather than being deported to Chicago and the FBI. So we were very happy about that.

When we lived there in Nicaragua, there would be the Contra movement, who’d be shooting around at night around different places. You’d just hear it. We purchased a house there that the El Salvador movement used to store food for their activist movement. Eventually, we gave it to the El Salvador people; they were going to use it as an orphanage for refugees.

People would come around to the house and set fires. Ellie and I would alternate being on guard at night, just keeping watch. One night, three guys came to the door with what looked like petitions, and they were talking to me, and boom, they pulled out guns and robbed me. Ellie was away at the market or something. But there, I’m tied up on the floor with these guys with guns, and I’m thinking, “How in the hell did I wind up here?” But they didn’t do any violence; they just robbed the house and then left.

Then, another time, Ellie was keeping watch; she told me that there was a noise outside. I took out a Kalashnikov, which is like an AR-50. I went into a bedroom that had been a guest room. I opened the door and I saw a guy, a shadow of a figure at the window, starting to come in there. It was a Contra. Just like a reflex action, I put one in him, and hit him right in the head, and that was the end of that Contra. Then the police came, and our El Salvador friend intervened, so there were no consequences to it.

After Ortega lost the election, and the Contras had full sway, I thought, “We ought to get out of Nicaragua.” Through our El Salvador friend, we got permission to go to Cuba, where I thought there wouldn’t be Contras roaming around and breaking into your house. I spent a couple of years there in comfortable circumstances, meeting many people that were interesting. One of the people I met there was Sydney Pollack, when he came down for some sort of film conference.

JC: So you saw him after all these years in Cuba?

WN: Yeah. I saw him at this conference. He, later, made a film about Cuba, Havana. Then, Ellie suffered illness and she was in the hospital in Cuba. Her father was a lawyer, and he had arranged things so that she could come back to a hospital here in Los Angeles. I thought at the airport that she was so ill that I would never see her again, but the hospital was excellent and she recovered. I continued to stay down there.

JC: So you were in Cuba while she was back in the U.S?

WN: Yes.

JC: And I take it, you weren’t Cuban, because I know you can’t leave the country if you’re a citizen.

WN: Actually, we were Nicaraguan citizens. The Nicaraguans had given us passports. I wanted to come back to the states and so the Cubans were fine with it. So I went on a plane to Nicaragua with the Nicaraguan passport. I intended to go up to Mexico, and then, get up to the border in Tijuana, where you can just drive over.

Of course, I was nervous, and I thought it would turn into a disaster, but it didn’t. I took a plane up to Mexico City, and then, from there, to Tijuana. My daughters came down and picked me up and drove across the border, and that was it for foreign travels.

JC: Were you able to become a U.S. citizen?

WN: Well, see, when you’re a citizen, you’re a citizen and they can’t cancel your citizenship. The only thing they could do is arrest you for some crime that you’ve done and have a trial, and then have proof of it in the course of a trial. Ellie’s father, as a lawyer, was very aware of the specifics. Also, her brother, is a lawyer and worked for the district attorney’s office, so their research showed that the government did not intend to or were unable to bring specific charges of purchasing these weapons at that time, and putting them on this pickup truck, and loading that pickup truck to go to Holland. They didn’t have that specific paperwork. They didn’t put out an arrest warrant on me. So it just kind of dwindled away.

JC: What did you do back in the US?

WN: My son said, “Well, pop, you’re retired. Why don’t you do something?” He had an art gallery friend. So I did paintings, a hell a lot of paintings, and there was a show of them at the Santa Monica gallery place. It got a good review for the LA Times and some art magazine also gave a good review, far better than the painting deserved. However, nobody has wanted to buy them, so I got rid of my hobby.

The guy from the little theater where I did my plays, named Phil Mishkin, had heard I was back, and he called up and he talked to Mike Wise who had been my agent. Mike talked to me about two different projects.

First, he put together a deal where I went to see a producer, I’ve forgotten his name, and they had a story about three over the hill western characters who are hired by a lady they used to know because a bad guy was gonna extort money out of her and kill her or something like that. So from the point of view that westerns are sort of action-packed tough things, I had formed a little story outline. So I went to the meeting, and I sat in the office. And there was a film called Grumpy Old Men with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau which had been successful. The producer began trying to switch this around to kind of the cutes. He thought it was funny that these old duffers are hired by this lady. So I said, “Well, I think you guys want a different writer, not me.” So I got up and left. I apologized later to Mike for the fact that he tried to get a paying job for me and I just screwed it up with my opinions.

Second, Phil, from the little theater, and Mike, my agent, thought I should do a screenplay of the whole adventure in Ireland, Nicaragua and Cuba. Phil was good friends and worked with Rob Reiner. Rob, before he got to be successful in television, acted in the little theater where Phil and I had done work before. Phil talked to Rob Reiner, and eventually he was trying to get a production going. He was going to get Richard Dreyfuss to play the role of me. Mary Steenburgen would play Ellie. Richard Dreyfuss said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” Rob Reiner said, “No, I don’t like anything to do with guns.” So that was the end of that.

I never felt right about it. In fact, I just didn’t want to do it. But Mike talked me into it, and it never went any place. But all right, that’s enough sad stories. Here’s one story I’ll end on just for fun.

Here’s the idea here. What if there’s this fur trapper, and he’s got this load of furs and he’s going to take them in and sell them? He runs into a guy who’s got a pedal sewing machine in the back of his wagon. He’s making pants out of old canvas- canvas sails and canvas wagon covers.This is related to Levi Strauss, the historic figure, who did that in San Francisco. He started making pants out of old sails. Now, there’s a lady that’s driving this wagon for him. It’s a Mormon lady, and she’s on the run. She was the seventh wife of this bearded old guffer. Then, the African American slave, who’s escaped, comes into the story when he wants the fur trapper to teach him how to cheat at cards.

Then, the scalphunters, the bad guys, and some confederate deserters are encountered. The confederate deserters say, “Why the hell should we be fighting this war for rich plantation owners? They never owned any slaves, and the land was too steep to plow.” There was a Northern Louisiana movement that I’ve read about who were anti-war confederate people. That’s who these deserters would be based on. So out of that, episodic western event, I would try to do Scalphunters II.

The bulk of the interview can be read at:

Postscript: William Wallace “Bill” Norton, Jr died in October 1, 2010 and as far as I know his ashes were scattered in Ireland.  A very accomplished individual, revolutionary and Republican Socialist.


Saoirse go deo!

The Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann IRSP – Falls Road, New Facebook Page

Posted in IRSM, IRSP on May 5, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars

matt facebook

Source: Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann Facebook Page

Our IRSP Cumann was named after 21 year old INLA volunteer Matt McLarnon, who was killed by the British Army on active service in May 1981 in the Divis area of Belfast, following the death of Hunger Striker, Francis Hughes.

Our cumann was formed by IRSP members from the greater Falls Road area of Belfast to carry out and channel the revolutionary founding principles of the party at this time when an alternative to one dimensional nationalist politics and reformism is as badly needed and necessary as ever during the current vicious Westminster and Stormont offensive against ordinary working-class people. Our politics are unapologetically consistent with the revolutionary ideology of Connolly and Costello which correctly maintained that the struggle for national liberation and an Irish Workers Republic are inseparable.

As revolutionary Republican Socialists we maintain that there can be no real ‘freedom’ for ordinary working class people in a Gombeen unitary state. Likewise, we oppose the ‘two-nation’ reformist ‘socialism’ of the Brit-centric or reformist ‘Left’ parties that accept partition, who our co-founder Seamus Costello dismissed as ‘ring road socialists.’ James Connolly during his time in Belfast, was equally critical of the ‘Walkerite’ socialists who approximately 90 years ago also chose to ignore the impact of Imperialism in Ireland.

If you are interested in the politics of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, feel free to contact the Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann page’s admin. Our aims are those of our party’s co-founder, 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!”

Saoirse Go Deo!
Alex McGuigan
Vol. Matt McLarnon Cumann
Irish Republican Socialist Party

Source: Vol.Matt McLarnon IRSP Cumann Facebook Page

This nascent Facebook page will be of interest to those both within and without the Falls Road, Belfast catchment area to find out more about the history and politics of the IRSP via social media.  There are photo galleries, notices of forthcoming activities and there is a facility to ask questions of the Admin of the page.  It is well worth checking out via the links above.


IRSP host Miners Strike veterans during weekend of International Workers’ Day events.

Posted in May Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by The Plough & The Stars


In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the end of the miner’s struggle against Thatcher, in which those involved fought a hard battle to the bitter end, in defence of their jobs, families and hard built social structure, the Irish Republican Socialist Movement were delighted and honoured to host a visit to Ireland this weekend from comrades who played a central role in that fight, from the Hatfield Colliery picket line and as participants in often brutal mobilised actions at coal fields, towns and villages across England.

Veterans of the Miners Strike visit Costello House ahead of their mayday events.

Dave Nixon, David Douglass and Leslie Moore were all politically grounded workers and members of the National Union of Mineworkers; involved in other successful strike actions since the late 70s, they foretold the oncoming attacks from the Thatcher government in the run up to the 84 strike and recognised that the Tory hatred for organised Labour in England, Wales and Scotland would herald an attempt to destroy the coal industry, under the guise of making it appear unprofitable. When the time came to strike, the Hatfield Colliery under the watch of the NUM was ready, and throughout the period proved to be the most militant of all areas involved in the fight. Their personal stories and reflections of the period were covered in the BBC Documentary ‘The Miners Strike’ which was made to mark the 20th Anniversary:

The Banner

The delegation were also responsible for restoring the internationally iconic Follonsby-Wardley ‘Connolly/Lennin’ banner which was commissioned by the miners in 1928 yet destroyed in later years, due most likely to a malicious fire. After years of determined research, fundraising and lobbying, the Follonsby/Wardley banner was restored at a cost of around £13’000, to date it is the only trade union banner which depicts ICA Commander James Connelly in full military attire.



Later that evening, the delegation made their way to Derry City, where comrades from the James Connelly Youth movement had secured a venue at the City Hotel for a lecture on the 84-85’ strike. In what was to become a very moving discussion, those present heard from the miners themselves on how many thousands of English workers’ understanding of what the people of Ireland were going through at the time (at the hands of British imperialism) was very much shaped by the plethora of oppressive tactics and dirty tricks which were used against the miners themselves, by the Police and MI5, who utilised all underhanded means at their disposal; including collective community punishment, wrongful arrest and conviction, frame-ups, spying and murder in order to try destroy a formidable peoples movement.


Following an in depth Questions & Answers session, which touched upon topics as diverse as ‘the next arena for class struggle’ to the ‘potential for a return to coal as a general source of energy’, the meeting was addressed by two currently striking Glasgow Homeless case workers. Homeless workers Suzanne and Jennifer spoke on how they have been out on strike for the past five weeks, an ‘unofficial and indefinite strike’ their struggle is based around gaining official recognition of the work that they do, a reaction to staff bullying and an end to exploitative work conditions and unacceptable workloads. A small collection was also conducted on their behalf.

Striking Glasgow homeless care workers, Suzanne & Jennifer address the audience on their struggle.

Back to Belfast

After a late trip back to Belfast, the next day the Miners delegation formed up in the rain to join with comrades from the IRSP to take part in the annual Mayday rally in the city. Some good press coverage of this and a follow up lecture at the ‘Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre’ had created a bit of a buzz at the event, yet the arrival of the Yorkshire miners and their iconic banner was marred by appalling conditions, rain and wind meant that the Follonsby-Wardley banner had to be covered by a heavy plastic wind sheet which made it much harder to handle and called for some Irish support several Belfast comrades got their first taste of windy banner techniques as they were required to literally ‘take the ropes’ in gale force conditions through Belfast city centre.


Legion of the rearguard at the Belfast Mayday march

As is unofficial tradition within the Belfast Mayday march, Republican and other revolutionary organisations form up at the rear of the procession. Yet as a result of the buzz created around Newspaper stories in the run up to the march, the delegations arrival had been noted by the Trade Union movement and upon forming up the visitors were understandably invited by March organisers to take themselves and their banner to the front and lead the rally. However the miners politely declined this invitation, stating plainly that ‘we came with these people [IRSP] we’ll march with them’. Although they would have been thought no less of if they had taken the up the organiser’s invitation, the decision of the miners to stay behind with Republican Socialist comrades was noted as typical of their grass roots spirit and complete lack of pretence.

The Hatfield miners who fought the might of the Thatcher government in 1984-85 walked in the rain at the back of the Belfast march with Republican Socialists, it was a hard walk with rain and wind making the heavy banner hard to negotiate and at times making it more akin to a sail than a banner, nevertheless they persevered with help from Irish Comrades made it to the end.

Standing room only

Immediately following the march, it was standing room only at the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, were again David Douglass gave a moving breakdown of the political conditions which led to the Strike, the appalling poverty and living standards endured by striking miners and their families at the time and as always the draconian conditions applied to them by the corrupt British state as well as the virtually unspoken of yet [then] real possibility of mining communities being forced to mobilise against the British army had Thatcher seen fit to send in the troops, which appeared more than likely in 1984.

The after rally meeting was extremely well attended.

Moving contributions were also made from the floor from others who had been in England at the time of the strike and who had participated in struggle on the streets. The meeting ended with Dave Douglass giving his analysis of the layout of the Follonsby-Wardly banner itself, and how it represented every tradition within the left, the Social-democratic, Syndicalism and revolutionary Socialism. Describing how all those depicted in the banner were related through struggle, he spoke of the link between reform and revolution, describing the IWW tactic of ‘fighting for more bread this side of the revolution, and the whole damn bakery afterwards’.

Moving contributions and recollections about the period were made from the floor.

As predicted the visit of the miners to Belfast and Derry for anniversary Mayday lectures was an immense success and both helped to educate and raise the morale of comrades on both sides of the Irish sea, for that alone the effort was worth it. Many took the opportunity of paying tribute to these class fighters later on in the day, in bars and at left wing Mayday functions at which they were both warmly welcomed and invited to sing, which they did.

IRSP & Teach na Failte comrades, raise a salute with the fighting Yorkshire miners.

All in all a great weekend of events was had and comradely contacts made for the future. The IRSP, Teach na Failte and the Republican Socialist Movement thanks our English comrades for the efforts they made on our behalf.

Source: IRSP NEWS!

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