Advance, No. 22
Date:1976
Organisation:Socialist Party of Ireland [1971]
Publication:Advance
Issue:Number 22
July - August 1976
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Housing and Homelessness National Wages Agreements, 1970s

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

21st November 2011

This issue of Advance from 1976 is, like the other copy in the Archive, a well produced document from the Socialist Party of Ireland, a relatively small orthodox Marxist formation which split from Official Sinn Féin in the early 1970s.

It covers a wide variety of topics from the then recent rejection of a national wage agreement by ICTU, unemployed marches. There is a focus on Tallaght and in international news it looks at ‘Argentina Communists [who] fight on’ and Cyprus.

On page 6 there is under the ‘Socialism’ column a report on a ‘new residential district at Berlin-Buch in the German Democratic Republic’ where ’48 of the flats were handed over to severely disabled people’ and the design of the interiors finalised with them. There’s another short piece on ‘Religious Freedom in the USSR’ and a photograph of the first Aeroflot jet to have ‘transited Shannon’ that year.

There is a Socialist Party statement on Squatting and the Housing Crisis and a short piece on ‘Unity and the Class Struggle’ where the party states:

The policy of the Socialist Party stated simply is: to organise the working class in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; to lead the struggle by the working class to win political power and at the same time to work with all democratic and anti-monopoly forces to win and retain democratic freedoms and to fight for maximum unity against nationalism and sectarianism.

And…

The Socialist Party recognises the existing reality of the two states in Ireland. We see no useful purpose being served furthering divisions along the lines of ethnic or national origin and will work to bring about a consciousness in the working class of the main division of society - that is the class division between the capitalist class and the working class.

There is also a revealing snippet on page 2 under the Red Herring column where it notes:

Latest defection from the “United Ireland Socialist Republicanism” is the historian C Desmond Greaves. At a recent seminar he said ‘At least in in the 26 counties, the government structures which exist are independent and would allow for the establishment of socialism. Mind you. I am not saying you would find the going easy, but it would be possible.’ Thank you Mr. Greaves, we never expected it to be easy.

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  • By: Dublin: International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian … | Irish Free Press Mon, 21 Nov 2011 22:28:50

    […] Left Archive: Advance, No. 22 July-August, 1976, Socialist Party of Ireland [1970s] 07:52 Mon Nov 21, 2011 | WorldbyStorm […]

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  • By: John O'Neill Wed, 23 Nov 2011 13:48:57

    i knew a few SP members, Eamon O’Brien, WP Cllr in Ballymun and later Labour and Larry Byrne from Coolock was also a former SP member. Both joined the Workers Party (or SFWP) from the SP but I don’t think either were former members of Official Sinn Fein but I’m not sure. Some of the Cedar lounge regulars would know Larry well.

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  • By: Joe Wed, 23 Nov 2011 16:53:42

    Iirc, when the SPI broke up, some of them ended up in (SF)WP, others in DSP. I knew Larry Byrne in the WP in Dublin NE. Solid. Sang a great ditty about McCartan once…”In Dublin North East we’ve got a councillor, Pat McCartan is his name, he’s got a seat on Dublin Corporation….and seventy five thousand pounds.”
    Another ex SP who joined the WP in DNE after me was Dessie whose surname I can’t recall. Went on to become a SIPTU official. Again, solid. Both Larry and Des had read their Marx and Lenin. Marxist-Leninists I guess. Larry said to me once that the Eurocommunists were wrong because they ditched the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Something solid about the old SPI that attracts me – genuine working class Joes, the ones I knew. Pity they were Stalinists, I suppose.

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  • By: Eamonn F Tue, 28 Aug 2012 00:44:46

    I guess I’m a bit late with this info regarding SPI members etc, but I suppose one should respond to genuine interest in old leftie fogies, if only to ensure that they are at least tarred with the correct brush!

    The Dessie to whom Joe was referring is of course Dessie Hughes,
    the legendary SIPTU rep for Aer Lingus flight crews. Des was indeed a member of the SPI, but could not rejoin the WP as he was
    never originally a member. He did join the WP, sometime after the SPI had merged into the DSP. He could tell you the exact details himself as he is of course hale and hearty.

    For the record the people who were expelled from the Official Republican Movement for ideas unbecoming, and who went on to set up the SPI were Fergus Brogan, Seamus O’Reachtagain, Seamus O’Brogain, and Eamonn O’Fearghail. To the best of my knowledge Seamus Brogan is in the CPI, Fergus Brogan is happily tending his garden and playing the tin whistle in a secret location in the West, Seamus Rattigan is in the Labour Party and associated left wing groups, runs a blog and is still putting up the good fight. And Eamonn O’Fearghail, well no one seems to know where he is or what he does, but the odd rumour has surfaced that he has a son who is a famous movie star. Don’t believe it myself.

    Its not true that some members rejoined the WP after a few months.
    One person who was involved in early discussions about the setting up of a socialist party did rejoin the Officials, but was never actually an SPI member.

    The original members were joined by others including Des Hughes, Fergus Quinlan, Norman McGrath, Larry Byrne, Joe Davis, Eamon O’Brien etc.

    Perhaps the four main achievements of the SPI were introducing a whole new modern look and content to socialist publications, coming out from under the woodwork in putting forward socialist ideas, and putting forward a socialist alternative (Two States) to the concept of a United Ireland by force and its success in hiding from the media and others, its paid up card carrying membership of thousands!

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  • By: Mark P Tue, 28 Aug 2012 02:02:07

    That’s very interesting, Eamonn. Thanks for those details. There’s quite a bit of SPI material in the archive here, but we haven’t had anyone contribute much in the way of up close knowledge of the group.

    I was wondering if you could fill in a few more gaps about the SPI.

    Firstly, did the whole group merge into the DSP, or were people going different ways by then? And was the BICO as a whole involved in that merger, or was it just some people in the BICO?

    Secondly, it seems that three current Labour TDs, Jan O’Sullivan, Eamonn Maloney and Michael Conaghan were in the DSP. Were any of them in the SPI before that? I’m presuming that O’Sullivan was more likely to have been in the Limerick Socialists, or to have joined the DSP later, but the other two are Dublin based.

    As for the achievements you mention, I’d certainly agree that their publications were ahead of their time, at least by comparison with the offerings of most of the rest of the Irish left. I’d add though that, judging from those publications, it could also claim some credit for having taken a strong line on various social issues, like divorce, contraception and abortion before it was popular or profitable to have done so.

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  • By: Tom Redmond Tue, 28 Aug 2012 10:37:46

    Eamonn O Feargail is around about town, still running his photo agency. met him lately at some demo photo shoot !

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  • By: Joe Tue, 28 Aug 2012 20:12:51

    Thanks Eamonn F. Yes Dessie Hughes. Alive and kicking still, thank god. I remember Dessie telling me of a strike he was very involved in when he worked in Superquinn. And how Fergal Quinn thought nothing of calling personally to the house and talking to Dessie’s missus about the strike. He said Quinn had this paternalist approach where he thought he was friends with all his staff and that that sort of approach was kosher.
    And I also remember an education session where Dessie gave us a talk on supermarkets and the tricks they use to get customers to spend as much as possible. That’s where I learned never to go supermarket shopping when you are hungry.
    Just a couple of questions about the SPI:
    Looking at that list of members you put up, did yis let any women join at all?
    And fick me punk, are you telling us that Colin Farrell’s da was a founding member of the SPI?

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  • By: eamonnfarrell Tue, 28 Aug 2012 22:41:19

    Well Mark P, maybe I’ve said too much already, but heck you may as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb! The SPI sure was a bit heavy on the old discipline.

    Most members of the Socialist Party of Ireland or was it the Socialist Party at that stage, merged into the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) along with members of the British and Irish Communist Party (BICO) and the Limerick Socialists. Some members used the opportunity to say goodbye to active politics. Very few if any left to join other parties. Although Seamus O’Brogain and Norman McGrath had already left to join the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), over an internal party disagreement.

    After the merger of the DSP into the Labour Party, some former SPI members joined the Workers Party (WP) or maybe it was Democratic Left (DL) by then. Jan O’Sullivan, Eamonn Maloney or Michael Conaghan were never in the SPI.

    You are of course right, the SPI took a very active role in social campaigns for contraception, divorce and the right to choose etc,
    as well as its main national activity of opposing nationalism, campaigning for the removal of Articles Two and Three and proposing a socialist alternative. To this end it played a leading role inSocialist Against Nationalism and the May Day Committee which organised relatively large marches and social activities on the actual May Day as opposed to the nearest Sunday, which had been common up to that time. Members were active on trades councils and in their individual unions as well as tenants associations.

    It also took a very active part in community activity, running Advice Centers in local areas and campaigning on issues relevant to local communities. Its quite likely that during the 1977 General Election, had Ballymun been included with its natural urban neighbour of Dublin North West, instead of the almost rural North County Dublin, Eamon O’Brien would have been elected to the Dail. Even so, his performance of over 6% of the vote caused broadcaster Rodney Rice to ask Fine Gaels John Boland ‘Who are these guys”.

    Apart from the founder members booted out of the Official Republican Movement, almost all new recruits to the SPI were people who had no previous affiliation to other political organisations or parties. Many were trade union or local community activists or people interested in social justice or socialism without nationalist attachments.

    New members such as Des Hughes, Fergus Quinlan, Brian Farrell, Denis O’Connor, John Tierney, Clair O’Connor, Norman McGrath, Jean O’Connor, Brendan O’Sullivan, Larry Byrne, Bride McCarthy, Joe Davis and Tony McGarry to mention a few, brought a range of talent, ideas and energy, which allowed the party to punch way above its weight. Perhaps its strong point was that it always new it was punching above its weight, so when the opportunity came to merge with like minded activists and create a larger broader party, it took the opportunity to do so.

    Perhaps its weak point was its demand of total commitment to party discipline, even in matters that were of a purely personal and private nature.

    Yes Joe, as you can see there were some female members. Even one on the Central Committee, whose name I won’t mention as I am not sure of her current situation. But just as now, there were not enough women in the SPI. Nothing new there.

    As regards Colin Farrell’s dad being a founder member of the
    SPI, I’m afraid I can’t comment.

    Well Mark P, maybe I’ve said too much already, but heck you may as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb! The SPI sure was a bit heavy on the old discipline.

    Most members of the Socialist Party of Ireland or was it the Socialist Party at that stage, merged into the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) along with members of the British and Irish Communist Party (BICO) and the Limerick Socialists. Some members used the opportunity to say goodbye to active politics. Very few if any left to join other parties. Although Seamus O’Brogain and Norman McGrath had already left to join the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), over an internal party disagreement.

    After the merger of the DSP into the Labour Party, some former SPI members joined the Workers Party (WP) or maybe it was Democratic Left (DL) by then. Jan O’Sullivan, Eamonn Maloney or Michael Conaghan were never in the SPI.

    You are of course right, the SPI took a very active role in social campaigns for contraception, divorce and the right to choose etc,
    as well as its main national activity of opposing nationalism, campaigning for the removal of Articles Two and Three and proposing a socialist alternative. To this end it played a leading role inSocialist Against Nationalism and the May Day Committee which organised relatively large marches and social activities on the actual May Day as opposed to the nearest Sunday, which had been common up to that time. Members were active on trades councils and in their individual unions as well as tenants associations.

    It also took a very active part in community activity, running Advice Centers in local areas and campaigning on issues relevant to local communities. Its quite likely that during the 1977 General Election, had Ballymun been included with its natural urban neighbour of Dublin North West, instead of the almost rural North County Dublin, Eamon O’Brien would have been elected to the Dail. Even so, his performance of over 6% of the vote caused broadcaster Rodney Rice to ask Fine Gaels John Boland ‘Who are these guys”.

    Apart from the founder members booted out of the Official Republican Movement, almost all new recruits to the SPI were people who had no previous affiliation to other political organisations or parties. Many were trade union or local community activists or people interested in social justice or socialism without nationalist attachments.

    New members such as Des Hughes, Fergus Quinlan, Brian Farrell, Denis O’Connor, John Tierney, Clair O’Connor, Norman McGrath, Jean O’Connor, Brendan O’Sullivan, Larry Byrne, Bride McCarthy, Joe Davis and Tony McGarry to mention a few, brought a range of talent, ideas and energy, which allowed the party to punch way above its weight. Perhaps its strong point was that it always new it was punching above its weight, so when the opportunity came to merge with like minded activists and create a larger broader party, it took the opportunity to do so.

    Perhaps its weak point was its demand of total commitment to party discipline, even in matters that were of a purely personal and private nature.

    Yes Joe, as you can see there were some female members. Even one on the Central Committee, whose name I won’t mention as I am not sure of her current situation. But just as now, there were not enough women in the SPI. Nothing new there.

    As regards Colin Farrell’s dad being a founder member of the
    SPI, I’m afraid I can’t comment.

    Well Mark P, maybe I’ve said too much already, but heck you may as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb! The SPI sure was a bit heavy on the old discipline.

    Most members of the Socialist Party of Ireland or was it the Socialist Party at that stage, merged into the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) along with members of the British and Irish Communist Party (BICO) and the Limerick Socialists. Some members used the opportunity to say goodbye to active politics. Very few if any left to join other parties. Although Seamus O’Brogain and Norman McGrath had already left to join the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), over an internal party disagreement.

    After the merger of the DSP into the Labour Party, some former SPI members joined the Workers Party (WP) or maybe it was Democratic Left (DL) by then. Jan O’Sullivan, Eamonn Maloney or Michael Conaghan were never in the SPI.

    You are of course right, the SPI took a very active role in social campaigns for contraception, divorce and the right to choose etc,
    as well as its main national activity of opposing nationalism, campaigning for the removal of Articles Two and Three and proposing a socialist alternative. To this end it played a leading role inSocialist Against Nationalism and the May Day Committee which organised relatively large marches and social activities on the actual May Day as opposed to the nearest Sunday, which had been common up to that time. Members were active on trades councils and in their individual unions as well as tenants associations.

    It also took a very active part in community activity, running Advice Centers in local areas and campaigning on issues relevant to local communities. Its quite likely that during the 1977 General Election, had Ballymun been included with its natural urban neighbour of Dublin North West, instead of the almost rural North County Dublin, Eamon O’Brien would have been elected to the Dail. Even so, his performance of over 6% of the vote caused broadcaster Rodney Rice to ask Fine Gaels John Boland ‘Who are these guys”.

    Apart from the founder members booted out of the Official Republican Movement, almost all new recruits to the SPI were people who had no previous affiliation to other political organisations or parties. Many were trade union or local community activists or people interested in social justice or socialism without nationalist attachments.

    New members such as Des Hughes, Fergus Quinlan, Brian Farrell, Denis O’Connor, John Tierney, Clair O’Connor, Norman McGrath, Jean O’Connor, Brendan O’Sullivan, Larry Byrne, Bride McCarthy, Joe Davis and Tony McGarry to mention a few, brought a range of talent, ideas and energy, which allowed the party to punch way above its weight. Perhaps its strong point was that it always new it was punching above its weight, so when the opportunity came to merge with like minded activists and create a larger broader party, it took the opportunity to do so.

    Perhaps its weak point was its demand of total commitment to party discipline, even in matters that were of a purely personal and private nature.

    Yes Joe, as you can see there were some female members. Even one on the Central Committee, whose name I won’t mention as I am not sure of her current situation. But just as now, there were not enough women in the SPI. Nothing new there.

    As regards Colin Farrell’s dad being a founder member of the
    SPI, I’m afraid I can’t comment.

    Well Mark P, maybe I’ve said too much already, but heck you may as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb! The SPI sure was a bit heavy on the old discipline.

    Most members of the Socialist Party of Ireland or was it the Socialist Party at that stage, merged into the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) along with members of the British and Irish Communist Party (BICO) and the Limerick Socialists. Some members used the opportunity to say goodbye to active politics. Very few if any left to join other parties. Although Seamus O’Brogain and Norman McGrath had already left to join the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), over an internal party disagreement.

    After the merger of the DSP into the Labour Party, some former SPI members joined the Workers Party (WP) or maybe it was Democratic Left (DL) by then. Jan O’Sullivan, Eamonn Maloney or Michael Conaghan were never in the SPI.

    You are of course right, the SPI took a very active role in social campaigns for contraception, divorce and the right to choose etc,
    as well as its main national activity of opposing nationalism, campaigning for the removal of Articles Two and Three and proposing a socialist alternative. To this end it played a leading role inSocialist Against Nationalism and the May Day Committee which organised relatively large marches and social activities on the actual May Day as opposed to the nearest Sunday, which had been common up to that time. Members were active on trades councils and in their individual unions as well as tenants associations.

    It also took a very active part in community activity, running Advice Centers in local areas and campaigning on issues relevant to local communities. Its quite likely that during the 1977 General Election, had Ballymun been included with its natural urban neighbour of Dublin North West, instead of the almost rural North County Dublin, Eamon O’Brien would have been elected to the Dail. Even so, his performance of over 6% of the vote caused broadcaster Rodney Rice to ask Fine Gaels John Boland ‘Who are these guys”.

    Apart from the founder members booted out of the Official Republican Movement, almost all new recruits to the SPI were people who had no previous affiliation to other political organisations or parties. Many were trade union or local community activists or people interested in social justice or socialism without nationalist attachments.

    New members such as Des Hughes, Fergus Quinlan, Brian Farrell, Denis O’Connor, John Tierney, Clair O’Connor, Norman McGrath, Jean O’Connor, Brendan O’Sullivan, Larry Byrne, Bride McCarthy, Joe Davis and Tony McGarry to mention a few, brought a range of talent, ideas and energy, which allowed the party to punch way above its weight. Perhaps its strong point was that it always new it was punching above its weight, so when the opportunity came to merge with like minded activists and create a larger broader party, it took the opportunity to do so.

    Perhaps its weak point was its demand of total commitment to party discipline, even in matters that were of a purely personal and private nature.

    Yes Joe, as you can see there were some female members. Even one on the Central Committee, whose name I won’t mention as I am not sure of her current situation. But just as now, there were not enough women in the SPI. Nothing new there.

    As regards Colin Farrell’s dad being a founder member of the
    SPI, I’m afraid I can’t comment.

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  • By: eamonnfarrell Tue, 28 Aug 2012 23:02:54

    Double whammy there Moderator, will you please correct. Thanks

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  • By: Mark P Tue, 28 Aug 2012 23:14:08

    A triple whammy in fact Eamonn, but no less welcome for that.

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  • By: WorldbyStorm Wed, 29 Aug 2012 06:27:59

    Thanks a million EF. This is very useful information for those of us interested in the development of the left.

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  • By: Joe Wed, 29 Aug 2012 19:22:46

    Thanks Eamonn, great stuff.
    “…total commitment to party discipline, even in matters that were of a purely personal and private nature.” Wow. That sounds a little scary!

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  • By: Eamonn F Wed, 29 Aug 2012 20:24:32

    Bueno.

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