Presidential Address by Thomas Mac Giolla to the 63rd Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis, December 1968
Date:December 1968
Organisation:Sinn Féin [Pre 1970]
Author:Tomás MacGiolla
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

23rd June 2008

This week we have the Presidential Address of Thomas (sic) Mac Giolla to the 63rd Annual Ardfheis of Sinn Féin in December 1968. It was passed to me as a photocopy and unfortunately one or two lines of text are missing at the foot of some pages, while it may also be missing a cover.

It’s only 8 printed pages long and gives a good indication of the thinking of the pre-split Sinn Féin.

There is a telling even-handedness as regards ‘interference’ internationally…

‘… We equally condemn American interference in Vietnam and Russian interference in Czechoslovakia…’ A line that was missing from the United Irishman, some years later.

The impact of the Civil Rights Movement is strongly lauded… ‘… A slumbering and despairing Irish nation has suddenly awakened and showing amazing vigour and maturity has given a severe jolt to two powerful political machines who have controlled the destiny of this partitioned country for nearly half a century…’

But the tensions that the call for Civil Rights within Northern Ireland generated are not clearly teased out. And there is, in retrospect, a significant reference to the ‘… Ban on Republican Clubs… They have taken their full part in the Civil Rights Campaign together with other political organisations. It is only natural that they should since, in addition to denial of Civil Rights, they are denied the right of political existence…’.

That was a difficult road to take.

There is mention of ‘Direct Action’ and ‘extra-parliamentary democracy’ and somewhat optimistically it argues that ‘… Gradually the system of political patronage is being broken down’… A reference to the voting referendum of that year in the Republic of Ireland, with a hint of paranoia as well… ‘and follow this up with new coercive legislation against the mass organisations of the people’.

The section on Republicanism and Socialism is brief. We are told that ‘… True Republicanism and True Socialism are identical as both are based on the Brotherhood of man…’ and that ‘Socialism has nothing to do with either Atheism or totalitarianism as is evident from even a superficial reading of Connolly’. Whatever about the latter, I’m not as certain as MacGiolla about the former.

So, already the tensions that would convulse the movement months later were evident, albeit in submerged form.

More from Sinn Féin [Pre 1970]

Sinn Féin [Pre 1970] in the archive


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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 23 Jun 2008 10:55:40

    ‘… gradually the system of political patronage is being broken down’…

    Alas and I sound like O’Bradaigh the system entices and cagoles left parties in that direction.
    Even the beleif by people in the power of the TD’s letter corrupts.
    J.B. Keanes “letters of an Irish TD” is very apposite. Sinn Fein are being easily drawn into this. I hestiate to guess how amny votes are got by the voter being glad of the help for the pension or much more.
    I am told the most lucrative sinecure is that of prison visitor. Oh no doubt they do a fantastic job even if they have no formal qualifications

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  • By: Garibaldy Wed, 25 Jun 2008 23:47:12

    Thanks for this WBS. Very interesting indeed. I’d like to compare it to say 1970 or 1971 to see how much of this was designed to avoid people allying with the unhappy elements.

    I think it’s significant that there is no mention of the IRA in the speech. The thrust is very much political. NICRA is also placed within the context of rights sought in the south I think.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Thu, 26 Jun 2008 07:01:51

    You wouldn’t happen to know anyone with the 1970 or 1971 speeches? That’s a very good point re the IRA.

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  • By: Garibaldy Thu, 26 Jun 2008 12:30:51

    I’ll ask around.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Thu, 26 Jun 2008 16:48:38

    Cheers.

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