Saoradh, The Revolutionary Irish Republican Party

Last weekend saw the launch of Saoradh, a self-titled “Revolutionary Irish Republican Party”, at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry, County Down. Attended by around 150 people, including an array of former members of the (Provisional) Republican Movement, the party’s first ard-fheis or conference passed a limited number of resolutions setting out the organisation’s initial goals and objectives. Some of the attendees at the event were previously associated with existing lobby groups like the Republican Network For Unity (RNU), the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (32CSM) or the 1916 Societies and included recognisable figures such as Nuala Perry, Dee Fennell, Kevin Murphy and the Duffy family, Colin, Paul and Mandy. David Jordan, a well-known activist from County Tyrone, was elected as the party leader along with a twelve-person national executive. Despite the prominent position of older republicans from the era of the 1966-2005 conflict, a respectable number of men and women in their twenties and thirties filled the seats in the hall.

Early press allegations that Saoradh is linked to one or more of the disparate groups making up the broad Republican Resistance were given added weight when one of the first speeches read out to the gathering was a statement of support from political prisoners aligned to the so-called New Irish Republican Army (NIRA) in both parts of the island (the prisoners were specified as those held at Roe 4 Maghaberry and E3/E4 landings Portlaoise). Hardly the most auspicious way to start out in terms of public relations.

Unsurprisingly the conference devoted much of its time to criticising Sinn Féin, and by extension the political compromises and arrangements reached under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. While it would be unfair to characterise Saoradh as “anti-peace” it is certainly opposed to the “peace deal” reached nearly two decades ago. While this is a perfectly reasonable position to take, and one which extends far beyond republican politics (notably reflected in the critiques of the regionally quasi-republican PBPA), it is hardly a solid foundation to base an entire movement upon. A statement from Saoradh summed up its interpretation of the present situation in the country using needlessly portentous phrasing:

Today, Saturday the 24th of September 2016, we a significant collective of Irish Republican activists, who for a number of years have acted autonomously, have after a number of years of debate, consultation and organisation today in Ard Fheis organised, constituted and launched a Revolutionary Irish Republican Party, the Party’s name is Saoradh.

Saoradh believes that Ireland should be governed by the Irish People with the wealth and wealth producing mechanisms in the ownership of the Irish People. This can not happen while British imperialism undemocratically retains control of Irish destinies and partitions our nation, this cannot happen while a neo-colonial elite in a subservient supposed indigenous administration sell’s the nation’s labour and natural resources to international capital.

Saoradh does not believe that British imperialism or capitalist exploitation can be confronted in the structures they have created to consolidate their undemocratic control of the Irish nation. As such we believe any assembly claiming to speak for the Irish People without being elected by the united people of the Irish nation to be illegal. Saoradh will seek to organise and work with the Irish People rather than be consumed and usurped by the structures of Ireland’s enemy’s

Standing on a long and proud revolutionary Irish Republican history of resistance, inspired by the actions and words of Tone of Connolly of Mellow’s of Costello and of Sand’s, upholding the founding documents of our forefathers – the 1916 proclamation, the declaration of independence and the democratic programme of the first Dáil, Saoradh hereby declares its commitment to the unfinished revolution, the liberation of Ireland and the social emancipation of the Irish People.

Personally I found this a depressingly old-fashioned approach, one that would not look out of place at a gathering of Republican Sinn Féin, a party whose very existence is an exercise in futility. Is this really the best political vision that revolutionary republicans can come up with in 2016?

There have been previous false dawns in terms of republican pluralism, notably the establishment of éirígí, which I had high hopes for until a few of its members went down the familiar route of playing at freedom fighting. Have we not learned by now that in the 21st century the war to liberate the north-east will be won through political, legal, social and cultural activism not military actions of dubious significance or meaning? Éirígí failed to exploit its position as a potential home for republicans holding an unfavourable view of Sinn Féin’s policies or institutional behaviour. Will Saoradh fulfil that role? It is extremely doubtful. At the moment the party looks like a Republican Sinn Féin clone for those who couldn’t stomach joining the real thing (there is, one hears, a lot of personality-driven momentum – or ambition – behind Saoradh’s formation).

The strategy of “abstentionism”, of refusing to sit in legislatures or assemblies objectionable to republican principle, was an honourable one in the immediate aftermath of the counter-revolutionary Civil War of 1922-23 or during the decades of discriminatory unionist rule at Stormont, but hey. Guess what? It’s not 1922 or 1972 anymore! The world, and Ireland, has moved forward and you are either on the political boat or you are overboard and drowning.

A fundamentalist approach to realpolitik results in only one outcome: failure. If some of those characterised as “Dissidents” fear being compromised by “constitutional politics” (a meaningless phrase in the case of the UK-occupied Six Counties) then don’t form a political party. And certainly not one that you intend to contest elections with at some future date. Why? Because when nobody votes for the party you and your movement will be rightly subject to ridicule or derision. If an insurgent movement requires a public face for whatever revolutionary shenanigans it is up to, a civil support organisation is required not a registered political party with an electoral mandate of 0.01%. Donating rhetorical baseball bats to your opponents so they can beat you over the head is kinda fucking stupid.

However, if an underground organisation is determined to participate in elections, then it should do so properly. Campaigning on the basis of “Sinn Féin Out!” and “Brits Out!” makes any grouping a one-and-a-half issue party. Instead an front-movement needs to stand on a range of political, socio-economic and cultural issues and if elected its members need to take their seats. In this case, not in Britain’s parliament, not as MPs in Westminster, which has no right whatsoever to exercise authority over Irish affairs. But if elected they must sit in Dáil Éireann, the national parliament of the island of Ireland, as recognised by the overwhelming majority of the people of the island of Ireland. Anything else is the philosophy of political troglodytes not political savants. That includes participating in the admitted farce at the “new” Stormont, because the regional institution in Belfast is going nowhere, and it will still be functioning long after this country is reunited and we are all in our graves. Fenian entryists, agents for change, need to reform the system from the inside. Which doesn’t mean that republican men and women will be co-opted or suborned. It means that they will follow the path taken by every other progressive movement in Europe for the last two or three centuries, though hopefully with better results.

saoradh-the-revolutionary-irish-republican-party
The emblem of Saoradh, the Revolutionary Irish Republican Party. Green, white and orange colours? Check! Pike? Check! Commie star? Check! Fake Gaelic script? Check! Fenian Sunburst? Check! (Though I actually approve of the latter!)

Unfortunately I think pessimism rather than optimism is the view to take of Saroadh. It may translate as “Liberation” but from the fake Gaelic script on its party emblem to the old-fashioned image of the pike, the party clearly hasn’t liberated itself from the nationalist rather than republican thinking of the past. A red star does not make one a progressive (and James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army socialists used the Lámh Dhearg or “Red Hand”!). That said, I like the Fenian Sunburst in the organisation’s iconography. But are the party members aware of the history of the Gal Gréine? And do they understand that it was continuously reinterpreted for each age it was popular in, a recalling of the past but in modern form? Revolutionary republicanism needs to move forward, exploiting the present, not going into political and intellectual reverse.

(Apologies to all at Saoradh, and good luck with the new party. I believe that a plurality of Irish republican representation is lacking in our body politic and welcome an alternative voice to Sinn Féin. However, seriously? Refusing to sit An Dáil in 2016? Madness, madness I tells ya…)

 

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14 comments

  1. A strange choice of name. Twil be anarchy when the Tuiseal Ginideach needs to be applied. Saoirse would’ve been better in many ways.
    You’d wonder at their pantheon of heroes also: “the actions and words of Tone of Connolly of Mellow’s of Costello and of Sand’s”. The first three are obvious enough I suppose but Costello and Sands are a bit odd.

    1. In the case of Séamus Costello I presume they are staking a claim to be true socialist republicans while drawing parallels with the INLA/IRSP split from the Officials. Something along those lines, perhaps. I don’t think anyone knows enough about their ideological settings to make a real interpretation of where they stand. The Bobby Sands reference is just a name-check for a younger audience, an obvious attempt at capturing the brand recognition. I doubt any of the Sands-McKevitt axis have any involvement with the group.

  2. They are preferable to Sinn Fein, who in border constituencies in the 26 counties are now allied with gardai who take bribes from local drug dealers.

  3. Well, your Twitter description of this post was certainly on the money!

    I agree that to focus solely on removing the British state from the North of Ireland, although an extremely admirable goal in and of itself, is not enough for Ireland’s future. The all-island Irish Republic has got to be accompanied by a progressive economy that keeps unemployment, homelessness, and income inequality to an absolute minimum, and uses strong government intervention to ensure this. And a strong environmental program (renewable energy, maybe banning plastic cups like in France, maybe urban emissions zones like in Germany) too. I mean, Ireland’s color is “green”…

    Then again, I’m probably not qualified to write legislative programs for Ireland.

    1. But that is the kind of thinking that is required. The “Brits Out” policy should be one part of an overall strategy not just the answer to everything. No one seems to able to learn from SF’s mistakes.

    2. I truly believe that Ireland will not be taken seriously the world over without a resuscitation of ár theanga féin. How about adding that to the platform?

  4. I don’t see the necessity for this group.
    And where does this leave 32csm or RNU for that matter?

    1. Good question. I’m hearing all sorts of rumours but then what should you believe? As far as I can see the other groups will continue independent of Saoradh. Not least because not all agree with it or are allied to the New IRA.

  5. Take a deep breath. Here’s a cuppa and a hug. Excellent piece as always, and you have, again, said much of what is in my mind, far better than I ever could!

    1. Though you might say it without the swearing! 😉 I hate seeing political potential being thrown away and for no good cause. I fully support a Sinn Féin alternative. I’d actually like one. But Saoradh, in its present form, is not it. Denying the existence of Dáil Éireann in Dublin, refusing to accept its legitimacy, is like some of the Tea Party crazies in your part of the world who refuse to pay federal taxes because they think them unconstitutional. Yeah, keep thinking that while the IRS is wheeling away your stuff! 😉

  6. Still wedded to support of a suicidal strategy which causes deaths and leads to the prison or the grave. Support for a strategy without any political analysis about whether there is any mass support or that it fits in with the objective situation. No evidence of a genuine rethink. Yes, there is alienation caused by SF being slowly being absorbed like FF before, but this is not an alternative. There a time and a place for armed struggle, this is not it. With these groups the masses are consigned to be at most cheerleaders to the anointed militarist elite.
    There is still a need for a Connolly based Socialist Republicanism. The nature of imperialist oppression shows that. But it has to be based on mass struggle and answerable to the masses in some shape or form.

    1. I agree. The stilted language and the old-fashioned terminology will never resonate with young people, potential members or voters. Evolve or die. In any case, why waste a vote? Abstentionism in relation to northern MPs and Westminster makes sense because the (new) end objective is to gain admittance to Dáil Éireann, first as observers and then as Six County TDs.

      Why would an ordinary working-class or middle-class voter in a Dublin constituency vote for a party that not only doesn’t recognise the state but refuses to recognise its parliament and government either? Just, why?!

  7. It makes me sick to my stomach that you refer to the 26 County parliment as Dáil Éireann when it is NOTHING like what the First or Second Dáil were, and is Leinster House. As a former RSF member, you will not find my views surprising but as someone who has being involved in the current Water Protests where people are clambering for change, A LOT of those people are becoming VERY disillusioned with Leinster House so its ironic that you are ridiculing those beliefs. Finally, can you tell me ONE party that has changed ANYTHING once they got inside that cesspit???!!!

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