Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Archive for the ‘H Block-Armagh Political Status Campaign’ Category

“H-Block and Sectarian Civil War – Socialists Against Nationalism”- A Short Read from 1981

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Events have moved on since this pamphlet appeared. Many sections of the 1980’s Irish left, primarily from social-democratic and Stalinist streams, opposed the mass movement in favour of political status for prisoners of war locked up in the H-Blocks and Armagh Jail. People’s Democracy and Bernadette McAliskey, by contrast, advocated a polar opposite policy.

The long-term Socialists Against Nationalism (SAN) objective, deletion of Articles 2 and 3 from the Irish Constitution, was successfully achieved in a 1998 referendum on both sides of the Irish border. 21st Century Sinn Féin promotes power-sharing with the DUP. No legal end to the partition of Ireland is possible unless a majority of voters in the state called Northern Ireland vote for it. Now, as we enter the 2020’s, the partition of Ireland emerges again as a reactionary millstone crushing the neck of the Irish working class. Details tell us a lot : If we are to achieve an effective victory over a deadly virus, we need an effective all-Ireland Zero-CoVid policy – the Stormont Government is an obstacle. It was the same over abortion, when Westminster imposed a progressive policy while Stormont was suspended. The wheel of history is turning again. John Meehan January 26 2021

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Pat O’Connor 1948-2015, Limerick Socialist, Supporter of the Fourth International

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Recently, following prompts by Pádraig Malone, I forwarded material celebrating the life and political activities of the late Pat O’Connor to the Irish Left Archive site.

A 21 year old Pat O’Connor is holding the placard saying “PD [People’s Democracy] Opposes Racism”. 1970 demonstrations against the touring South African 
All-White Rugby Team.

Readers can find links to to that material in two PDF’s below. The pamphlet link includes the text of a speech I delivered at a 2015 memorial meeting for Pat. A second link is a copy of an obituary submitted to the Limerick Leader newspaper written by myself and Cian Prendiville.

John Meehan December 7 2020

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Apologies and Recantations – The Strange Cases of two Elected Representatives from Ireland and England – Brian Stanley TD (Sinn Féin, Ireland) and Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour Party, England)

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We start with a tip, and two savage cartoons.

All political apologisers – such as the Sinn Féin Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley – forced to swallow and spit out his words of praise for IRA ambushes in 1920 and 1979 – do not believe any of the sentences they are forced to utter in humiliating public recantations!

Memorial Statue at Kilmichael Co. Cork, Commemorating an IRA 1920 Ambush of Black-and-Tan British Crown Forces

Nobody ever believes the recantation :

The same applies to apologies uttered under duress by former British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Steve Bell’s Cartoon, Banned by the British Guardian Newspaper
Steve Bell’s Cartoon, Banned by the British Guardian Newspaper?

Nobody believes the apologies. The effect is to censor debate on issues which ought to be publicly aired.

Every honest person knows Brian Stanley’s Kilmichael/Narrow Water Tweet about British soldiers successfully ambushed by the IRA in Ireland – Black-and-Tans (1920) and Parachute Regiment (1979) – is a public picture of his own personal opinion and the opinions of many members of his own party.

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Bobby Storey has passed away – Suzanne Breen reviews the life of a Peace Process IRA soldier

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Most lives contain a mix of the Good, Bad, and Ugly. The long war in the bit of Ireland 🇮🇪 directly controlled by Britain 🇬🇧 finished in the 1990’s, and was, according to the Official Version (OV), replaced by peace. We are all expected to go along with the OV, while the British and Irish ruling classes protect their own interests. We are supposed to Keep Up Appearances (KUA)!

OV’s and KUA are politically lethal. People rise to the top who are masters of loyalty to leadership hierarchies, which protect reactionary unethical behaviour. Bobby Storey was a very talented man. According to former Long Kesh prisoner Anthony McIntyre Storey held his nerve during a daring 1983 prison escape :

McIntyre said that when the 1983 escape started going wrong after the prisoners reached the Maze tally lodge Storey took control of the situation. “He held it together, thought on his feet, and directed people as to what to do. I later asked him how he’d managed that. He said he had been as terrified as everybody else, but the trick lay in overcoming those feelings and getting the job done.”

Storey probably masterminded the 2004 Northern Bank robbery and a 2002 IRA raid of British Secret Service Headquarters in Castlereagh. In both instances the Peace Process motored along very smoothly. KUA triumphed. The organisation which robbed the bank raid and broke into Castlereagh was supposed to be on a ceasefire. And there was a dark side – Bobby Storey was totally loyal to a party leadership which protected its own interests. Gerry Adams never had to account for the disappearance of Jean McConville. How much else is hidden from view?

Keeping Up Appearances – the Chuckle Sisters

Bobby Storey, and his organisation, prop up a Stormont Parliament in Belfast, run by a corrupt politician called Arlene Foster, responsible for a major financial scandal, the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI). Keeping Up Appearances.

After Bobby Storey’s death, his republican organisation sheds another republican principle – abolition of the non-jury Special Criminal Court in the 26 County State. Keeping up appearances, as the facade crumbles :

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Tarlach Mac Niallais Radio Broadcast from 1984 – Gay Liberation Politics, the Partition of Ireland, Fighting Against a Carnival of Reaction

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Previous Readers of this blog know about the New York Death of Belfast Gay Liberation and Socialist Activist Tarlach Mac Niallais. Thanks to an old friend and comrade of Tarlach, Cathal Ó Ciorragáin, we can listen to a New York Radio Interview with Tarlach dated October 9 1984

The interview concludes with a ballad sung by Tarlach.

CoVid-19 Has Taken Tarlach Mac Niallais From Us in New York – A Courageous Fighter from North Belfast who “Saved Sodomy from Ulster”

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We are starting to lose comrades and friends dying before their time. I met Tarlach a few times in the 1980’s, a courageous member of People’s Democracy, a brilliant up-front fighter for Gay Liberation Politics – and the then-partner of Fergus O’Hare. Huge condolences to Fergus who has suffered an awful sudden and unforeseen loss. Many tributes will be written about Tarlach. – John Meehan

Ian Paisley’s DUP Tried and Failed to “Save Ulster from Sodomy”. Tarlach Mac Niallais led the Counter-Charge – a Man who Saved Sodomy from Ulster.

The article below, from the Irish News, is great humane journalism. It brings us up close to the very harsh reality of a CoVid-19 Death.

I picked it up via a Facebook link supplied by Fergus, who offers these thoughts :

Comhbhrón ó chroí lena theaghlach agus lena chairde uilig faoi bhás Tarlach. Tá an saol níos boichte agus níos dorcha gan é. Ag caoineadh an chailliúint mhór seo.

Fergus O’Hare
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Bernadette McAliskey’s Speech to the January 2013 Bloody Sunday March for Justice – We Have Got to Get Our Act Together or We Are In for One Hell of a Hiding

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Bernadette McAliskey addressing the rally at this year’s Bloody Sunday March For Justice which had the theme ‘End Impunity’. Despite a wet, windy, wintry day around 3500 people braved the elements to march in solidarity with the victims of Bloody Sunday and other injustices

Link to a Video of Bernadette McAliskey’s Speech :

End Impunity! on Vimeo on Vimeo

via End Impunity! on Vimeo.

Some Key Points from the speech :

Is the state of Northern Ireland governed according to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability?

Lawyers and human rights campaigners had to spend a whole day in court to force the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Alliance Party Leader Mr David Ford, to allow Marian Price spend four hours grieving beside the coffin of her dead sister Dolours. 

Nobody read about this because Mr Ford asked the judge to prevent public reporting of the case in the media.

But Bernadette McAliskey is not reporting; she does not work for the media; so she was only telling us :

The judge told Mr Ford  that his behaviour was “unlawful, unreasonable, and irrational”.

“We are not supposed to say this” advises McAliskey. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Foley 1939 – 2012 : An American Revolutionary Inspired by Irish Rebellions

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Gerry Foley 1939 – 2012 : An American Revolutionary Inspired by Irish Rebellions

Many thanks to friends and comrades on the Cedar Lounge Site for publishing a tribute to an old friend and comrade, Gerry Foley. Here is an article from March 1996 where Foley analyses the state of the “Peace Process” in Ireland after the IRA had broken its ceasefire and started a bombing campaign in England. Two key points are highlighted here :

There is a well-established pattern in the long history of Irish republicanism that when the movement loses its momentum or its perspective in Ireland it turns to bombing England in the hope that scattered explosions in the imperial heartland will have a political effect greater than anything that can be achieved in Ireland. Such a course was followed in the name of the “Skirmishing Fund” in the 1880s after the Land League struggles were defused by a reformist leadership and at the end of the 1930s when the IRA was torn apart by unresolved political differences and lost its direction.

The movement found itself in a blind alley when it proved unable to
widen the political breakthrough that it had made in 1980-81 as a
result of the mass movement in support of the ten Republican prisoners
who starved themselves to death one after the other in protest against
the British machinery of repression. 

This was the basic political context in which Republican leadership
began negotiations with the British authorities in 1990, which led to
the IRA ceasefire on August 31, 1994.
 John Meehan April 23 2012  

What's behind the breakdown of the Irish Peace Process?
by Gerry Foley 
The Irish "peace process" was not ended by the flurry of IRA bombings
in London in February. At the end of the month, the British and Irish
governments announced agreement for the start of all-party talks --
including Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican political organization -- on
June 10. 

So-called proximity talks -- that is, indirectly involving Sinn Fein --
were to be held in March 4-13 to prepare for a new round of

As a condition for including Sinn Fein in the June talks, London and
Dublin insisted on a resumption of the IRA ceasefire. Gerry Adams,
president of Sinn Fein, and John Hume, leader of the bourgeois
nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), met with the IRA
leadership to discuss renewal of the "peace process." 

The IRA response was noncommittal, obviously reflecting an uneasiness
in the Republican movement over where the peace process had been
leading. The IRA statement, released February 29, said: "We listened
attentively to the case presented by both leaders and noted their
shared commitment to restoring the peace process... 

"For our part," the IRA leadership continued, "we restated our absolute
commitment to our republican objectives, which include the free
exercise by the Irish people of our inalienable right to national

"We also took the opportunity to reiterate what we said on February 9
[the date of the statement declaring the end of the ceasefire],
stressing that a resolution of the conflict in our country demands
justice and an inclusive negotiated settlement without preconditions. 

"We pointed out to Mr. Hume and Mr. Adams that the failure of the
British government to put in place inclusive negotiations free from
preconditions, the abuse of the peace process by the British over 18
months, and the absence of an effective and democratic approach capable
of providing an irrevocable momentum towards a just and lasting peace
in Ireland, were the critical elements which led to the failure, thus
farm, of the Irish peace process." 

The conditions that led to the "peace process" still exist. The British
government and its pro-imperialist allies in Northern Ireland have not
crushed the insurgency of the radicalized section of the nationalist
population in the Catholic ghettos. 

On the other hand, the military campaign of the IRA has been
effectively contained by the massive British military machine.
Politically, the militant nationalists have been clearly isolated and
on the defensive for many years. 

In a blind alley

The movement found itself in a blind alley when it proved unable to
widen the political breakthrough that it had made in 1980-81 as a
result of the mass movement in support of the ten Republican prisoners
who starved themselves to death one after the other in protest against
the British machinery of repression. 

This was the basic political context in which Republican leadership
began negotiations with the British authorities in 1990, which led to
the IRA ceasefire on August 31, 1994. 

On February 9, 1996, the IRA leadership announced that it was ending
the ceasefire. Their statement said: "The [ceasefire] presented an
historic challenge for everyone, and an Oglaigh na hIireann [IRA]
commends the leaderships of nationalist Ireland at home and abroad. 

"They rose to the challenge. The British prime minister did not.
Instead of embracing the peace process, the British government acted in
bad faith with Mr. Major and the Unionist leaders squandering this
unprecedented opportunity to resolve the conflict.... 

"We take this opportunity to reiterate our total commitment to our
Republican objectives. The resolution of the conflict in our country
demands justice. It demands an inclusive negotiated settlement. That is
not possible unless and until the British government faces up to its

"The blame for the failure thus far of the Irish peace process lies
squarely with John Major and his government." 

This statement was followed within hours by the explosion of a truck
bomb outside a large building in the Docklands area of London. The
blast was claimed by the IRA. 

On February 15, a small bomb placed by the IRA in a phone box in
London's theatre district was defused by police, following an IRA

On February 18, a bomb carried by an IRA operative on a London bus
exploded prematurely, killing him and injuring several passengers. 

According to accounts in the British press, about a third of the IRA
men killed since the start of the insurgency in Northern Ireland have
died in premature explosions of their own bombs. This figure attests to
readiness for self-sacrifice of the Republican volunteers but not to a
high degree of military organization. 

That is understandable. The IRA is based essentially on a small
impoverished community that is under the constant surveillance of one
of the world's biggest and best equipped professional military forces. 

A well-established pattern

What is decisive for the IRA, therefore, is the political impact of its
actions, and in particular the effect on the morale of its activists
and supporters. 

There is a well-established pattern in the long history of Irish
republicanism that when the movement loses its momentum or its
perspective in Ireland it turns to bombing England in the hope that
scattered explosions in the imperial heartland will have a political
effect greater than anything that can be achieved in Ireland. 

Such a course was followed in the name of the "Skirmishing Fund" in the
1880s after the Land League struggles were defused by a reformist
leadership and at the end of the 1930s when the IRA was torn apart by
unresolved political differences and lost its direction. 

This pattern tends to recur, despite the fact that its political
effects on British and international pubic opinion have always been
negative. On the other hand, these actions have served as a symbol of
indomitable resistance for Irish Republicans themselves. 

In the present situation of the peace process, however, the Republican
strategy is to use the pressure of international public opinion to
induce the British to give concessions to the nationalist people. In
this respect, it is hard to see how the London bombings could have any
effect other than to weaken the political position of the Republican

That point was made in fact in two quite long letters published in the
February 29 issue of An Phoblacht/Republican News, the weekly newspaper
of the Republican movement. 

In one of them, a Republican political prisoner in England, Joe
O'Connell, wrote: 

"For the IRA to order a resumption of war until it is promised a date
for all-party negotiations -- something which is achievable under the
now binned peace process anyway -- must surely go down as the most
stupid, blinkered and ill-conceived decision ever made by a
revolutionary body anywhere ever before in history." 

Given the intense pressures on the Republicans in the wake of the
London bombings, publication of these letters must have been a
carefully considered political decision. 

Endless "talks about talks"

On the other hand, in the same issue of An Phoblacht, the editorial
touched on the nub of the problem: "So the convoluted progress of the
peace process continues with yet more convoluted language.... 

"Republicans should welcome the fixed date for all-party talks, but
essential guarantees must be in place.... Sinn Fein cannot sign up to a
process which underpins the unionist veto [e.g. the veto of the
pro-imperialist settler caste that is a majority in Northern Ireland
but a minority in Ireland as a whole] and partition.... 

"On Wednesday evening, in the aftermath of the communique, Unionists
signalled that they will not move beyond the first item on the agenda
-- in effect, decommissioning [the IRA surrendering its weapons] --
until it is resolved. 

"In fact, David Trimble went further and said that his party will not
meet face to face with Sinn Fein until the issue is resolved. How then
can there be all-party talks?" 

To sum it up, the peace process has become a labyrinth in which the
Republicans find themselves becoming more and more lost, further and
further from the goals of their struggle, and without even any real
alleviation of the repression from which they have been suffering. 

That is obviously the reason why the IRA statements kept repeating that
the movement is going to stick resolutely to its goal -- a united
Ireland free of imperialist domination. 

One might think something else from the Sinn Fein leaders' exaltation
of "peace" as the greatest of "sublunary blessings," and from the "hand
of friendship" that Adams has extended even to British Prime Minister
John Major. Since the IRA have suffered most for the movement's goals,
obviously they feel the drift from them most acutely. 

In this regard, the new promise of "all party talks" solves absolutely
nothing. In fact, it appears only to be a continuation of the British
delaying tactics designed to exhaust the patience of the militant
nationalists and provoke them into desperate acts that can be exploited
to further isolate and demoralize themselves and their supporters. 

Increasing frustration

The critics in the February 29 An Phoblacht of the IRA's resumption of
military action were quite correct about the effects of these actions.
What they failed to recognize is that they are absolutely inevitable if
the "peace process" talks about talks keep dragging on with no results
expect increasing the confusion and frustration of the nationalist

In fact, the new agreement for talks is between the British and Irish
governments, in which Sinn Fein is included as basically a juvenile
delinquent ward of the Irish government. Dublin effectively promised to
get the Republicans to mind their manners in order to be accepted into
talks, and thus is now twisting their arms harder and harder. 

After the end of the IRA ceasefire, the Sinn Fein leadership called for
public pressure for a resumption of the peace process. 

On the weekend of February 24-25, in fact, there were demonstrations of
tens of thousands of people in Ireland for peace. But Sinn Fein found
itself mingling with forces that were demanding a peace that meant
simply condemnation of the IRA and abandonment of the goal of national

The IRA itself, while impatient with the "peace process," has still not
challenged its basic premise, the "nationalist consensus" -- that is, a
bloc of all nationalists, including the Dublin government and the
bourgeois nationalists of the SDLP. That is the nub of the problem. 

The Republicans recognize there is a contradiction between the British
imperialist and all nationalists, including the bourgeois nationalists.
After all, the bourgeois nationalists rule in the name of the goal of
Irish independence. But they have decided to forget that they live by
selling out Irish nationalism. 

Thus, the contradiction cannot be exploited simply by hobnobbing with
them. That means that they pull the Republicans rather than the other
way around. 

The only way to exploit the contradiction is to expose the bourgeois
nationalists' false pretences of defending the interests of the Irish
people. But this requires mass campaigns against the most acutely felt
concrete effects of imperialist domination, not abstract appeals to the
bourgeois nationalists' presumed love of peace and sense of
responsibility, or concern for the fate of their compatriots. 

The civil rights struggle that led to the insurgency in Northern
Ireland and assured its continuation for more than 25 years shows what
can be accomplished by such a course. 

It was the failure of the Republicans to set in motion such a process
in the South after the end of the 1980-81 hunger strikes that led them
into their present predicament. 

Gerry Foley was International Editor for Socialist Action USA when this article first appeared in March 1996.

The Cedar Lounge Revolution

On foot of the sad news that Gerry Foley has died here’s a few pieces relating to him and his life. As a socialist with a profound interest in Ireland and matters Irish and as the author of a number of pamphlets directly linked to that his views of the situation, particularly in the early to mid 1970s are of particular interest.

We start with with a letter from a comrade of his reflecting on his passing and his life.

Dear Comrades,

I just learned from Gerry Foley’s friend in Mexico that Gerry died  suddenly today in Mexico. Gerry called me a few days ago to say that  he was happily moving from his rented home in Mérida to a happy home  in San Cristobol de Las Cases, in the mountains of Chiapas.

Just a few moments ago Gerry was walking into his house. He fell down  and died almost immediately…

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“Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey” – An exploration of Mass Action Politics

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Mass action in Ireland in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s comes across vividly in Lelia Doolan’s Documentary “Bernadette – Notes on a Political Journey” which is screened on the Irish Language Channel TG 4 on Monday January 30

Here are some reviews :

If you have not already seen this documentary – don’t miss the TG4 Broadcast.

If you have seen it – watch it again!

Bernadette Devlin, A Fearless Socialist

John Meehan January 28 2012

“Be Patient and Never Give up the Struggle” An interview with Tommy McKearney

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International Viewpoint has published a stimulating interview with Tommy McKearney,


A Patient Revolutionary Socialist

Tommy McKearney - A Patient Revolutionary Socialist


We hope soon to carry a review of Tommy’s recently published book

Goodbye Armalite, Hello Ballot Box?

Tommy welcomes the United Left Alliance Project :

Q: In late 2010 the United Left Alliance came together to contest the February 2011 general elections in Ireland, winning five seats. What is you assessment of the ULA?

TM: The ULA is a positive and progressive development. The fact that organizations of the left have come together at any time is good and that these groups are doing so at this time of capitalist crisis is heartening and encouraging. The ULA has also given some needed visibility to the left through its articulate and high-profile spokespersons such as Richard Boyd Barrett and Joe Higgins.

Asked about Ed Moloney’s “Voices From the Grave” and the British state attack on the Boston College Belfast Project, Tommy says : Read the rest of this entry »