What is the Connolly Association?
Date:1963
Organisation:Connolly Association
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

8th March 2010

We’ll most of us know of the Connolly Association  and Irish Self-Determination League. An organisation  of considerable significance in the course of Irish Republicanism. Founded in 1938 as the Connolly Club, the Association was the product of the merger of a number of Irish groups based in London. The aim was to organise Irish men and women in Britain:

…for the defence of their interests, in the united struggle with the British working class movement and in particular - To win support for the struggle of the Irish people for a united independent Republic, and to fight for the removal of all obstacles placed in their way by British imperialism.

And also:

To stand for equitable treatment for all Irish people living in Ireland.

Luminaries of the Connolly Association included Roy Johnston, C. Desmond Greaves and Anthony Coughlan. It’s activities were not restricted to Britain. During the civil rights march of October 1968 members of the Connolly Association were in Derry. As indeed were they at most of the key points during the late 1960s and after. Many will be familiar with The Irish Democrat.

Needless to say it is still extant, its position one of support for the Good Friday Agreement while still lobbying for reunification. It regards itself as a left Republican organisation.

This Constitution and Explanation is an interesting document. Consider the section on party politics and affiliations to the Association. Note also the ‘Explanation’ which in a discursive fashion notes:

Sometimes somebody writes in to ask ‘is the Connolly Association Socialist’. They can get confused when they don’t get a simple answer. You do not have to sign a declaration that you support socialism in order to be a member - though you have to support an independent Irish republic of 32 counties. The whole outlook policy and work of the Association is informed by Socialist ideas. But it is not dogmatic. Many good Irish Republicans agree with some socialist ideas and disagree with others. These days socialism is fashionable. There are many people whose ideas are as different from Connolly’s as chalk from cheese who proclaim themselves socialists. The Association is not interested in people’s consciences. It is interested in what they do. No republican who agrees with what the Connolly Association is doing and wants to forward it is going to be refused admission because he isn’t a socialist and his family votes Fianna Fáil! And any real socialist will welcome him. And those who will not the Connolly Association does not want.

Well worth a read.

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 08 Mar 2010 16:50:11

    Wonder what happened to the “Irish Democrat”‘s distribution?
    You used to be able to get copies in Connolly Books, but I haven’t seen one there in years. Also some of the public libraries in Cork used to
    keep IDs in the Reference section, but not anymore.

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  • By: CL Mon, 08 Mar 2010 17:12:39

    “The CPGB ran an Irish front organisation, the Connolly Association. Instead of advocating socialism and secularism and working to organise as communists those being shaken loose from the dogmatic certainties we had learned in a society ruled by Catholic “fundamentalists”, the Connolly Association disguised themselves as simple Irish nationalists. They purveyed ideas not seriously different from those of the ruling party in Dublin, Fianna Fail, except for occasional words in favour of Russian foreign policy.”-Sean Matgamna
    http://www.workersliberty.org/node/12464

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 08 Mar 2010 17:59:13

    Wonder does the CA still have connections with any of the
    CPGB’s descendant groups ?

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  • By: Nadal Spring Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:09:06

    Ahhh, Sean Matgamna. The Glenn Beck of Irish Trotskyism.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Mon, 08 Mar 2010 18:09:57

    Ex members.Besides above.

    O’Hagen, Official SF, then WP
    Was Eoin O’Murchu a member.
    At least one leading Provo who died in the last few years.Cannot remember name.
    Daltun O’Ceallaigh, leading TUist.
    The CA for better or worse played a leading role, influence way beyond it’s membership.In many ways it was the main factor in the evolution of Official SF from the late 50s on. It combatted simple militarism, but when the pupil dropped not only militarism but nationalism they parted ways.
    I would regard the CPI and say the Peoples movement very much on the same wavelenght as the CA.
    Interesting on FF. Greaves regarded FF in the same way as the South African CP regards the ANC.FF as sort of lost republican cousins that can still be saved.
    Greaves is worth a biography.More significant than many who hve been biographed.

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  • By: Peter Hart Mon, 08 Mar 2010 20:50:10

    A Greaves bio would indeed be a most worthy endeavour. Where would the memory of Liam Mellows be without him?

    A word in favour of the old Irish Democrat as well. I used it a lot doing research on Irish republicanism in Britain in 1916-24, and it’s a terrific source for that, looking back from the 40s through the 60s. If memory serves, it also reported on a lot of Irish stories besides the North, esp. land and labour disputes, in considerable detail. I seem to recall a long series on Kerry, where a dynamite war had broken out, possibly over a farm labourers’ strike? I suspect it’s a neglected source for Irish social conflict in that period: one of the few long-running left-wing journals of its era perhaps – and protected by being published in Britain?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 08 Mar 2010 21:11:31

    That’s an interesting question you pose at the end… do you mean that an Irish based left-wing journal of its type would have been subject to pressures of one sort or another that would prevent it having any degree of longevity?

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 08 Mar 2010 21:12:13

    Thanks for that Jim. Useful list!

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  • By: Captain Rock Mon, 08 Mar 2010 22:13:21

    The Republican Congress is famous but their paper lasted less than two years. The Connolly Association emerged partly from Congress in London.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Mon, 08 Mar 2010 22:33:56

    I’m trying though to think of other left wing journals during the same period produced on the island. One could point to the United Irishman, albeit I’m not sure many would term that in the 50s, or indeed even the early to mid 60s as ‘left-wing’ in that way (or some unkindly although not necessarily inaccurately might say it wasn’t left wing at all).

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  • By: Starkadder Mon, 08 Mar 2010 23:14:03

    Pouvez-vous comprendre la langue française ? I’ve just found a
    big online article in the language of Proust about Irish Marxism,
    that mentions the Connolly Association and other names familiar
    to CDL readers:

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  • By: Conor McCabe Mon, 08 Mar 2010 23:52:57

    As far as other Irish left-wing newspapers, The Torch springs to mind, especially its run under the editorship of Michael Price – 1939 to I think 1942? The paper itself runs until I think c.1944. It’s well worth a study. There’s The Plough from 1957-65, and of course Irish Socialist from 1961 onwards, under the editorship of Paddy Carmody.

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  • By: Conor McCabe Mon, 08 Mar 2010 23:57:27

    “A Greaves bio would indeed be a most worthy endeavour. Where would the memory of Liam Mellows be without him?”

    In the hands of BICO, I expect.

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  • By: Bartholomew Tue, 09 Mar 2010 00:12:25

    Just had a quick look – it was a masters’ thesis in the university of Reims. Judging by the preface, the author, Romain Ravel, went as an Erasmus student to NUI Galway. One intriguing thing – one of the (many) sources listed is ‘Entretien avec Angela et Brendan Clifford a Fere-en-Tardenois, Septembre 2006.’ (p.548) I would guess he invited them to his house.

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  • By: Tom Redmond Wed, 10 Mar 2010 11:09:47

    I was a member of the Connolly Association from 1957 to 1968 serving on its Executive most of this time. My brother Sean was also involved being a full time worker up till the mid 70’s. Sean has written a pamphlet on the history of the Association.

    It indeed grew out of Republican Congress veterans in London and some International Brigade settling in London.
    It was never a CPGB front but maintained its unity front or broad left approach.
    The Irsh Democrat has indeed folded a year or two ago but maintains a web page on ciultural and current affairs and the Association still ticks over.
    The ICO and the BICO did not grow out of the Connolly Association and I can not recall more than one of two leaving the later.
    Dessie O hagan, Eoin O Murchu or Daltun O Ceallaigh were never in the CA. Desmond Greaves was the inspiration of the Assocation and as editor of the Irish Democart for decades was on close terms with the above and every one on the serious left North and South.
    It is fitting that that inspiration keeps the best summer school in Irealnd going

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Wed, 10 Mar 2010 14:14:33

    Tom would of course know. I am surprised that O’Hagen was not a member, back in the day. I suppose Smullen was not as well. Oh, Tom I am not scoring points guessing that they were members, their later political evolution has little to do with the CA.

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  • By: Wilson John Haire Thu, 31 May 2012 13:05:36

    Of course the Connolly Association had strong links with the Communist Party of Great Britain. I was a member of both. I used to meet Desmond Greaves going into the the canteen of the the Daily Worker (later the Morning Star) when it was at Farringdon Road. when I myself was there to report on a bulding site strike at Bishopsgate when I was on the strike committee and in charge of PR. There is no point in denying it now when both organistaions are gone. In the end the CA didn’t addd up to much for no one in England cared about ireland very much, except for politicians courting it during election time in order to get the Irish vote.

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  • By: Wilson John Haire Thu, 31 May 2012 13:12:16

    Eamonn Smullen and Dessie O’Hagen were never in the CA. I knew both of them. It was too pussyfoot an organisation for both of them. The B&ICO didn’t come out of the CA. It was set up in order to oppose it.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Thu, 31 May 2012 13:36:08

    O’Hagen was in the CPGB. As was I think Brian Keenan.

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  • By: No other law Fri, 01 Jun 2012 06:52:52

    Being in the CPGB and being Irish was not the same as being in the Connolly Association. Certainly E Ó Murchu was never in the CA or CPGB- he joined SF in London. O’Hagan did not join the rep mvt until 1970.

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