Saor Éire
Saor Éire

There is a considerable debate going on amongst Irish Republicans and interested observers in Ireland over the future direction of revolutionary republicanism. With a renewed focus on the ideological aspects and political traditions of Republicanism as it pertains in the 21st century some new ideas are emerging as well as much self-analyses (and quite a bit of recrimination, fair and otherwise). The independent Republican website the Pensive Quill has been one platform for airing these debates but there are others. Two recent articles are of interest, this Q&A on contemporary matters with former senior PIRA Volunteer Gerard Hodgins on the PQ and this lengthier examination of recent history from Diarmuid Breatnach over on Rebel Breeze. A lot to agree with in both (some of Hodgins’ points match those I made two years ago and repeated several times since then) and a lot to disagree with in both (I believe that some of Breatnach’s interpretations are open to question). As I have pointed out before the internet has become the primary anti-establishment platform in Ireland, a medium for debating and disseminating progressive republican values and politics to the wider citizenry and beyond. That looks set to only grow.

6 comments on “Republican Think-Tanks

  1. Haidh, go raibh maith agat as do chuid focla cneasta. However, it would be useful if, even privately to me, you were to tell me which of my “interpretations are open to question” (although of course in theory ANY statement is open to question but I don’t think that’s whay you mean :-]


    • Hi Diarmuid. I agree with a lot of the points made in the article. Critical self-analysis is badly needed in Republican thinking and yours was an excellent – and knowledgeable – contribution to that. It’s exactly the thing Republicans of all hues should be engaged in (which seems to be happening now more so than before, whatever the outcome of those debates).

      Just a few quibbles. Not sure I agree that the “struggle” as such could have been expanded from the Occupied North to a national one. That would certainly have led to far greater clashes with the Irish state, something most were anxious to avoid since it would almost certainly have led to far more repressive measures (enough to effectively close down the network of support for the insurgency in the north-east). Given the delicate balancing act of the Republican Movement as a whole in relation to “Official Ireland” and southern popular opinion it is difficult to see where there was much room for expansion, in revolutionary terms. Though admittedly that is a matter of practical (largely military) concerns rather than ideological ones.

      I certainly agree that Republicanism should have pursued a strategy of “entryism” along the lines of the OSF-WP and done more to cultivate allies in positions of influence in the media. But then again OSF-WP members were so successful because they were singing a partitionist/British-apologist hymn that those already in positions of power wanted to hear. They were the radically chic version of the pre-existing conservative elites.

      The criticism of seeking inappropriate friends/allies overseas is fair enough but practical realities made it necessity and certainly so in terms of Irish-America. Whatever one can say about the likes of Congressman Pete King, etc. there is no doubt that by tapping into Irish-American politics the Republican Movement gained far more than it loss. Certainly looking to European-style Left-wing groupings in the US for support would have brought very little gain. Possibly the opposite. Socialists are relatively rare outside of the old north-east urban redoubts 😉 Actually just look at the recent reaction of the American Left to King’s congressional witch-hunt of Moslems and their views on Sinn Féin. From MotherJones to Salon the view is unrelentingly hostile of the Irish Republican movement and cause. And this in 2011-2014! The views could have come straight from the Sun newspaper c.1977. The American Left is largely pro-British due to anglophilia/hero-worship/sycophancy and certainly in no way sympathetic to Irish nationalism.

      Personally I’m more troubled by our associations with Gaddafi.

      As I said just a few points though I found the information on the London situation in the 1990s’ fascinating. Some I was aware of, though from a more critical sources on what was achieved or the value of local support in Britain. Good to get the other side of the story.


  2. Grma for your kind words.

    At the time, from a revolutionary perspective, I questioned theirs and your perspective. But surely the outcomes have borne out the wrongness of theirs and at least the possible correctness of mine?

    Set out with a perspective of overthrowing imperialism and neo-colonialism and you may or may not succeed. But set out with a perspective of overthrowing colonialism in one small area, with no perspective of overthrowing imperialism or neo-colonialism and you are heading for either defeat or cooption.

    Btw, in your dismissal of the range of possible allies in Britain you did not look at the Irish community or the other ethnic community nor the possible role of the Irish in breaking the allegiance of much of the British Left to their state.

    Long live the discourse!


    • @Diarmuid, apologies the very late reply. All fair points. Personally I have grown disenchanted with the Belfast Agreement as it has worked out since SF are failing to push it to its maximum limits (as de Valera did in the 1930s with the 1921 Treaty and other post-treaty agreements). They are loosing allies and supporters through their own timidity.


      • No apologies required, a chara. Well, I never agreed with the Belfast Agreement in the first place nor even with the direction SF was heading from Time To Go onwards. The Provos seem to me to have been swinging from militarism to social-democracy and liberalism and back again. We can see where they are now. With regard to the Irish community in Britain, you may be interested in the Rebel Breeze article How To Silence an Ethnic Community.


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