United Irishman, Vol. 32, No. 9
Date:1979
Organisation:Sinn Féin The Workers' Party (see Workers' Party)
Publication:The United Irishman
Issue:Volume 32, Number 9
Meán Fómhair (September) 1979
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

10th March 2008

Here is the United Irishman, from Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party, from 1979. It’s a crisp production, quite different to earlier versions - if only in the use of red and black. The unsmiling visage on the front page is a relatively youthful Sean Garland. He is used to illustrate a speech on terrorism. Interesting stuff too.

Given by him to the “Irish Democratic Youth Movement” weekend school (as a side note, Fianna hÉireann, the youth section of the IRA, were considered to have been instrumental in assisting the rise of the Provisionals, so much so that I was once told ‘…we won’t make that mistake again’), it charges that:

“It is clear that the Fianna Fáil party are living in the shadow of the gunmen. Continually they must keep looking over their shoulders at such people as Neil Blaney…” And it’s not just Fianna Fáil who raise his ire. “…John Taylor is in some ways a mirror image of the Fianna Fáil government…feeling that he was overshadowed by Dr. Paisley at the opening of the Strasbourg Assembly he now howls for the dogs of war to be unloosed by Northern paramilitary groups….’ And then an unlikely (for some) antagonist is referenced.

“On the other hand their (sic) is the response of Dr. Conor Cruise O’Brien. His quasi religious view of the problem facing Northern Ireland in no way helps it to bring about unity of the people rather it reinforces those who benefit from perpetuating existing divisions”.

Overall it’s telling how this paper deals with both parts of the island, somewhat unlike the Irish People posted some weeks back which took a decidedly Southern ‘turn’. Having said that there are some intriguing aspects to that, for example consider the article on page 4 about prison reform in the North, and its passing reference to the ‘blanket’ protests. There is also a sense that it sits between two time periods. On the one hand there are the articles about former conflicts, such as Vietnam, and then pieces on new ones like Nicaragua. Thatcher had recently gained power in the United Kingdom.

And then, as on the back page, there is a further opportunity to criticise the Provisional Sinn Féin, in the unlikely setting of an article about Irish-America. Indeed this has an expressly ‘international’ feel and was clearly intended for consumption outside of the island of Ireland. How else, to explain pieces such as the following under the heading Historic:

The visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland later this month is being awaited eagerly not only by members of the Roman Catholic faith but by other Christian denominations. Leading Roman Catholic spokespersons have recently expressed their horror as to the manner in which this historic trip has been clouded by murderous terrorist acts.Undoubtedly the Vatican will not want to become embroiled in Irish politics but there are widespread rumours that the Roman Pontiff will feel it necessary to call upon the Provisional Alliance, known to many as the Roman Catholic guerrilla army, to immediately cease their terrorist campaign.

It would be easy to say this is a distinction with earlier incarnations (and a much earlier UI will be posted up over the next couple of weeks by way of contrast). The international aspect is still there, the ideology is clearly of the left, but this is a document which focuses on its political adversaries and names them all. Yet, the UI was always clear about who those it considered to such adversaries. So perhaps less change than might be imagined.

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