The Irish Republican Congress Revisited
Date:1993
Organisation:Connolly Association
Series:Living History Series
Author:Patrick Byrne
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

22nd August 2011

Many thanks to NollaigO for donating this document to the Archive.

This document was printed in 1993 by the Connolly Association, however it appears it was originally printed in 1986 as a preface from C. Desmond Greaves makes clear. As Nora Harkin writes in the Foreword:

At a meeting on 27th February, 1993, in the County Museum Letterkenny, to mark the centenary of the birth of Peadar O’Donnell, the Chairman, Kevin Monaghan, reminded the large gathering that as two of the speakers (I was one) had been lifelong friends and comrades with pear in the good cause, the time was opportune to obtain information from them about him because in a few more years they mightn’t be around.

She continues:

The story that Paddy Byrne, the other ancient speaker, has to tell in this pamphlet on the Republican Congress (1933-39) will provide an answer to many questions bearing on this period of Peadar’s long life. There is little printed material on this phase of Socialism in Ireland. Modern historians and revisionists are given to dismissing it as a putsch arising from a split in the IRA caused by Peadar O’Donnell, George Gilmore, Frank Ryan and Michael Price, which collapsed after the Convention in Rathmines Town Hall in September 1934. This version is however at variance with the facts, nor was the leadership confined to four well-known names in the Republican hierarchy.

And concludes:

This pamphlet deserves a place in Irish social history and should be seen, not just as a milestone on the road to a Socialist Republic, but as a signpost for Young Ireland, showing the way to the future.

As C. Desmond Greaves notes in his preface:

[Patrick Byrne’s apology is hardly necessary. [His] memory is as clear as a bell. His account is as authentic as any of the printed sources and more so than most.

Byrne was a member of the Connolly Association, and as Greaves notes ‘the Connolly Association began its existence as the London Branch of the Republic Congress’.

The text by Byrne offers an interesting insight into his perception of the genesis and development of the Republican Congress. The issue of a ‘reborn Irish Citizen Army’ is particularly intriguing as is its outcome and the obvious similarities with later debates about militarism in the context of revolutionary social organizations. Perhaps most notable though is the consciousness of fascism [and ‘clerical reaction’] in an Irish context and how this fed into response by Republican socialists later in the 1930s to the Spanish Civil War.

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