A New Nationalism for the New Ireland
Date:1972
Organisation:Comhairle Uladh
Author:Desmond Fennell
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

17th March 2014

This document, issued under the imprint of Comhairle Uladh (Council for Ulster), which was in effect linked to Provisional Sinn Féin, is of some interest to the Archive offering an insight into those who were associated with various political and national campaigns during the 1970s. According to Robert William White’s biography of Ruairí Ó Bradaigh, Comhairle Uladh was based on ideas which Ruairí Ó Bradaigh and Dáithí O’Connell had proposed for a regional parliament for Ulster (incorporating nine counties) as part of a federal Ireland. To this end they had in 1970-71 invited various strands of political opinion including nationalists and unionists to a conference in Monaghan. While the SDLP declined the invitation a number of others including NICRA representatives did turn up. At the conference there were two proposals, one put forward by the PIRA Army Council for a Dáil Uladh and the second for elections to Comhairle Uladh as a means of promoting the first proposal. Both were passed unanimously. Fennell, according to White, came from a position somewhat different to the Comhairle Uladh concept, suggesting that a self-governed Ulster under Irish and British joint control might be a way forward, but as an observer to the meetings he later became more involved in the idea. Indeed White notes that he organised a similar conference in Connacht attempting to establish a Comhairle Connacht (interestingly White says that one of those who spoke at a Comhairle Connacht meeting in UCG was Michael D. Higgins).

As the document itself notes on the first page, “Comhairle Uladh seeks the establishment of Dáil Uladh – A Parliament of Ulster – within a New Irish Republic restricted with strong regional governments.”

In addition Comhairle Uladh – Council for Ulster – promotes cooperation with the Civil Disobedience Campaign in the North, endeavours to co-ordinate the relief of distress and suffering in that area and works for the release of all political prisoners.

Some 28 or so pages long the pamphlet covers a broad area. It is worth pointing out that it is not a left-wing document as such though implicit and explicit at times is a position that is in opposition to ‘liberal capitalist individualism’. It engages glancingly with Marxist socialism.

It argues that there is a ‘need for a humanist nationalism’ which it argues is reflected in Comhairle Uladh in ‘two strains’. These it is contended are:

The members of the Comhairle have been brought together by their concern for the Irish nation, whether as a reality to be asserted and realised or as a ruin to be reconstructed. Their nationalist concern is reflected in the literature issued by the Comhairle. But at the same time, reflected in the same literature, there is a humanism which regards the centralised, bureaucratic state, and the lack of real self-government which goes with it, as anti-human and anti-people. On these grounds, it advocates their replacement throughout Ireland by real self-government at three levels of society under an all-Ireland parliament and government.

In the conclusion it asserts:

The value of having an Irish community of communities as the overriding goal of Irish nationalism is that it challenges every kind of Irishman to be a nationalist in some sense. It makes the nation the highest value, within Ireland, that an Irishman can work for whatever his special talent.

It gives us, moreover a measure by which to discern which are the pro-national, which the anti-national, forces and institutions in Irish life. The measure is the simple question: are they contributing to or impeding the development of an Irish community of communities.

Straight away we notice , for instance, that the structure of the Catholic Church, with its team of self-appointed officials administering a powerless mass of laity, is as anti-national as the Dublin state. We see that the Presbyterian church structure is more conducive to community-building, but that Presbyterians, like other Protestants, are anti-national in their conformity to liberal capitalist individualism, and liberal capitalism generally.

And states:

As for the economic structures, there is little for us to notice that has not been observed already. The fact that they are anti-human, anti-community and anti-national has been pointed out many times.


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  • By: roddy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:16:13

    Fair enough Brian ,anytime I want to spout anything a bit iffy i’ll stick a couple of inverted commas round it and then say “nothing to do with me gov” !

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  • By: Brian Hanley Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:42:38

    Roddy, we will end up going around in circles here, but I’ll give this a try.
    When Scott Millar and I wrote the Lost Revolution we aimed to try and firstly chronicle what happened, and provide SOME explanation for why things happened as they did. The 1975 feud was absolutely pivotal in the evolution of the Officials, particularly in Belfast. Nearly 40 years after the event we were trying to recreate something of the atmosphere. The week after the feud began (with as I’m sure you know, the shooting of up to 30 people by the PIRA) Hibernia magazine in Dublin ran the front page headline ‘Provo Pogrom’ illustrated by a photograph of a gunman running up a street of terraced houses. Hibernia was regarded as a hostile magazine by the Officials: there was little love lost between them. Yet the term ‘pogrom’ was used by them first and the Officials ran with it, using the Hibernia front cover as the model for their own pamphlet ‘Pogrom’. Our use of inverted commas signifies that while the subjects of our book still use that term, we didn’t agree with it.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:02:30

    Brian ,if I thought that a particular term was replacing historical fact with horseshit ,I would not give it any credibility by using it at all ,inverted commas or not.Believe it or not I would not have been overly hostile to the officials at that time.I would not have been affiliated to either group in 75 and would have been on good terms with people from all shades of republicanism.This would not have been uncommon outside Belfast and any officials I knew would never have described it as a pogram when talking in republican circles.In fact they would have boasted about casualties inflicted on the provos.

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  • By: Marxman Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:45:16

    Roddy, I was there in 1975 when the Provos launched their no warning attack on the Officials. I lost several good comrades who were shot in their homes in front of their families or having a quiet drink in their local club or pub, a young girl was shot dead on her fathers knee as well. There will be a commeration next year (there have been several in the past) at the Workers Party Plot in Milltown cemetery to mark loss of these comrades and friends. I will be there as I was at the past ones, you are welcome to attend and you will hear people who were shot and survived talking of the Provo Pogrom. You might meet some of these people you were on good terms with!

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  • By: Marxman Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:45:57

    * commemoration

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:50:20

    I enjoyed Roddy’s contributions here. They reveal that when it comes to war criminals since world war 2, he judges not, for example, by who deliberately killed the most civilians in indiscriminate terror bombings from the air in, say, southeast Asia, but how can he use it to get jabs in at localised opponents. Genuine anti-imperialism and internationalism at work, in no way reminiscent of Harris et al judging WWI on Irish terms. I also like his outrage at factual inaccuracy, not so long after he was on here stating baldly as fact that Tony O’Reilly funded the Workers’ Party. And we know it wasn’t iffy because there were no inverted commas around it.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:04:54

    I was talking about Europe since world war 2 and you know damn well I utterly detest what the yanks did in Vietnam.Perhaps you could tell me how you oppose “nationalism ” in Ireland yet side with those who practised nationalism in its vilest and most perverted form in the Balkans. As for your comrade “marxman” ,maybe he’ll let us know who killed the IRSP members and provos in the various feuds and why nobody else referred to them as a pogram.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:13:13

    See Roddy, you’ve just proven my point. Even when Brian pointed out to you where the pogrom phrase comes from, you still insist no-one else used it.

    Regarding Vietnam, I know nothing of the sort. I do know, however, that some of the most prominent supporters of the provisionals in the US supported the US in Vietnam.

    And the exact phrase you used was “the world” and not Europe.

    The WP sided with international law and against imperialist aggression, not with nationalism.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:39:19

    You supported the imperialists in Ireland,were described by Jim Prior as his favourite party and accommodated Harris ,Bew and their ilk within your ranks.You voted in the dail for extradition to Thatchers Britain and then had the affrontery to ask SF to support Garland when he faced extradition to the US.Ironically virtually every SF TD and MLA did so including Dessie Ellis who you were glad to hand over the Brits.When Garlands campaign succeeded he expressed his thanks by joining in an anti SF television hatefest within weeks.

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  • By: Bruno Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:39:35

    Amazing how a slight discussion about Desmond Fennell has switched to a raking over the embers of a vicious sticky-provo feud.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:41:18

    Classic whataboutery. Perhaps you should spend more time on Sluggerotoole.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:02:58

    Slugger is also an anti SF hatefest where you would be welcomed with open arms.

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  • By: Garibaldy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:09:49

    “also an anti SF hatefest”

    So CLR is one of these then? News to whoever sends the An Phoblacht stuff every month I imagine.

    Like I say, I’m enjoying your comments on this thread.

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  • By: roddy Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:17:11

    CLR is a site that gives a fair hearing to all views .The anti SF hatefest I was referring to was the TV programme that Garland so enthusiastically participated in.Harris has you well schooled in the black arts.

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  • By: Starkadder Tue, 18 Mar 2014 00:59:28

    Wonder was that a reprint of the anti-Fennell articles that
    appeared in the RMG’s “Marxist Review”.

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  • By: Starkadder Tue, 18 Mar 2014 01:04:37

    To get back to Fennell: he caused a bit of a ruckus with
    some of his letters to the IT, one in September 27th 1999 stating:

    “…the rules of Western civilisation are well known. Massacre and abortion are grievous crimes. Christian morality guides the making of laws. Men’s work and women’s work are different. Chastity and frugality are admirable virtues. Homosexual relationships are an unnatural vice. Women are legally subordinate to men”.

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  • By: Gearóid Ó Faoleán Fri, 21 Mar 2014 21:37:46

    “Hibernia was regarded as a hostile magazine by the Officials: there was little love lost between them.”

    >>

    Brian,

    In your and Scott Millar’s book, on p. 205, it notes:

    “Hibernia magazine regularly featured articles by leading Officials, with supporter Anne Harris writing a regular back-page column.”

    Granted, there wad three-odd years between the period referred to in your book and the feud.

    Interestingly, on p.45 of ‘Provos: Patriots or Terrorists?’, the 1974 booklet produced by an An Phoblact editor, it notes that the Irish Times and Hibernia are less biased than the Irish Independent “even if some of their individual writers are slanted towards the Gardiner Place N.L.F.”

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  • By: Brian Hanley Fri, 21 Mar 2014 22:12:51

    Gearóid,
    Hibernia featured articles by Officials and Official supporters in the early 70s. By 1974 relations had cooled and articles by Brian Trench and Jack Holland would have been regarded as hostile by the Official leadership. Post- the IRSP split the Officials saw Hibernia as a pro-IRSP magazine. So by the time of the 1975 feud the magazine and Gardiner Place were not on speaking terms. If anything that relationship worsened by the late 1970s.
    People like Conor Cruise O’Brien would have regarded Hibernia as a ‘pro-IRA’ magazine throughout the 1970s.
    In terms of political coverage it was far more impressive than anything out there today.

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  • By: Gearóid Ó Faoleán Sat, 22 Mar 2014 07:35:59

    Brian,

    Thanks for that.

    I do recall it being mentioned in your book that Jack Holland had a cousin shot by the Officials. He himself would also be quite hostile to the Provisionals.

    On your last point, I agree entirely.

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  • By: Desmond Fennell Tue, 20 May 2014 10:41:56

    22. Desmond Fennell
    Let me point out that my website desmondfennell.com is headed “Desmond Fennell on the Post-European Condition of the West”. In my recent books I treat European/Western civilisation as something we have left behind us.

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