‘On Ireland’s Neo-Blueshirts, and Attempts to Hijack Republicanism’


By Prionsias Ó Riain


This article was written in the aftermath of the vandalism of IRA Chief of Staff Seán Russell’s statue in Fairview North Dublin with spraypaint. This was not the first time that the Russell statue was attacked, in 1953, two years after it was first unveiled, the statue was targeted . The right arm which was raised in a clenched fist salute was torn off by far right elements claiming that the fist was raised in a communist salute. In 2004 the head of the statue was removed, and the right forearm was also removed. In 2009 the statue was again vandalized and spraypainted with swaztikas and the word ‘Nazi’ written on the plinth. The latest attack on the Seán Russell statue was carried out in June 2020 with a variation of the LGBTQ rainbow flag painted on the plinth of the statue. Following this vandalism Twitter was awash with Irish fascists lamenting the attack, including Nazi Party leader Justin Barrett stating that this should be treated as a declaration of war. Niall McConnell of Síol na hÉireann, a fringe fascist group, stated that communists attacked the statue. In the following days fascists were sharing images of Russell’s statue with some of their supporters in a staged photo op. This was clearly done to portray themselves as Republican, and to try to appeal to the growing resurgence of republicanism within working class areas of Dublin. This article will set forth that Republicanism has inherently always been left-wing, and Socialist, and that the current brand of Irish fascists role playing as Republicans are nothing of the sort. 

Tone’s Men of No Property – An Bhunchloch 

Theobald Wolfe Tone has often been described as the father of Irish Socialist Republicanism. Born in Bodenstown County Kildare to a coachbuilder father he done well in school and went on to attend trinity College Dublin where he studied law. At age twenty six he qualified as a barrister in King’s Inn, but grew to dislike the profession (much like Patrick Pearse who reffered to it as a heinous profession). He soon became involved with the Whig club and subsequently entered the Irish House of Commons where he forged his political beliefs. At this time he wrote in his diary ‘I made speedily what was to me a great discovery, though I might have found it in Swift and Moleyneux, that the influence of England was the radical vice of our government, and consequently that Ireland would never be either free, happy, or prosperous, until she was independent, and that independence was unattainable while the connection with England existed. This theory has ever since unvaryingly directed my political conduct’. Tone recognised that whilst Ireland was occupied by a foreign imperialist power her resources, and people would always be oppressed and subjugated for the benefit of England’s ruling classes. Tone also recognised that the Irish elites and bourgeoisie were the ones who were benefiting from England’s colonialism in Ireland and that it would be likely that the role that they would play in the struggle for national liberation would be minimal at best. The class that the United Irishmen would rely on for support would be the Irish working class, Tone put it as such ‘Our freedom must be had at all hazards, if the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves with the aid of that large and respectable class of the community the men of no property’. Writing further on the matter of the aristocracy in one of his most famous quotes Tone says; ‘When the aristocracy come forward, the people fall backward; when the people come forward, the aristocracy fearful of being left behind, insinuate themselves into our ranks and rise into tímid leaders or treacherous auxiliaries. They mean to make us their instruments; let us rather make them our instruments’. Regarding class and the revolution it is quite clear that Tone envisioned the working class being the driving force of the revolution, not the bourgeoisie. The working class alone would reject attempts by the ruling class to subvert the revolution, to infiltrate and undo the organizational progress made by the working class. This proves beyond any shadow of doubt the socialist character of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the father of Irish Republicanism.

Misquoting and Distorting Our Patriot Dead

 However we are not quite finished with Tone at this point. Though we have proven through usage of his own words ( not misquoting or using them out of context) the socialist beliefs of Wolfe Tone we arrive at another issue which Ireland’s Neo-Blueshirts and Fascists often repeat on social media. They claim that yes some of these men were definitely socialist but to truly be a socialist in the modern world one must tackle immigration as it drives down wages ensuring that the Irish working class will suffer as a result. Some of these fascists even have the gall to proclaim themselves as socialists in saying this. Theobald Wolfe Tone was inspired by the French Revolution, most importantly in the saying Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. Tone envisioned uniting Catholic, Protestant, and Dissenter, and as we have examined earlier he envisioned a united working class in revolution against English colonial occupation and Ireland’s native oppressing class. In the spirit of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality why would any sane socialist exclude working class men and women from abroad coming to our shores in search of better wages. This is the complete opposite of what socialism tells us, and what Tone himself preached. To be a socialist is to be an internationalist, that is to stand in solidarity with the oppressed peoples the world over, not to stand in solidarity with white workers of your own country. The struggle for national liberation and socialism which we are building in the occupied six counties and the Free State will be comprised of a united working class of all creeds and colours against our common enemy. The enemy in this regard is not a Syrian migrant fleeing war, or a Nigerian taxi driver working to feed his family, the enemy is the garrison class, and our goal is to see that this vile sleeveen class is defeated and that the people of Ireland, whatever their origin, are happy and prosperous in a Worker’s Republic

From Connolly, Frank Ryan, and East Tyrone – Éire Dhearg

In the previous section we have explored Wolfe Tone’s beliefs, his contributions to Socialist Republicanism before it was conceptualized, and his egalitarianism. Ireland’s contemporary fascists would have us believe that all of our patriot dead were hellbent on an Irish ethnostate, this is false, and a lie which is being pushed through constant propaganda which has to and will be challenged. In this section we will explore the conceptualization of Irish Socialist Republicanism and the volunteers who followed afterwards.

One cannot mention Irish Socialist Republicanism in the same breath without mentioning James Connolly. Connolly is one of the most important figures within Irish Socialist Republicanism. Connolly’s magnum opus, Labour in Irish History, should be treated as essential reading for anyone looking to bring about concrete change in Ireland. Labour in Irish History deals with how history has been writted and presented to the Irish people by bourgeois historians. When one reads Labour in Irish History one will be struck with how history, particularly within the Free State Education system has been and continues to be used as a political weapon, ensuring that the youth of today remain docile, and that they believe that the struggle is a thing of the past. In it Connolly talks about how Ireland before the decimation of the Irish Clan System operated under a form of primitive Marxism based on common ownership of the land, and that feudalism (a foreign concept) was introduced to Ireland by the Normans and then imposed on the population in earnest following the Nine Years War and the defeat of the Irish Chieftans. Connolly also states clearly Tone’s socialistic beliefs, and also he attacks Daniel O’Connell often dubbed “The Great Liberator” by bourgeois intellectuals. Connolly states that O’Connell in Westminster voted against the implementation of legislation seeking to curb child labour. O’Connell’s chapter in Labour in Irish History is dubbed ‘The Chapter of Horrors’. O’Connell was vehemently anti-worker, and indeed anti-Republican. It must also be noted that he was apart of the Yeomanry, the forces which fought against the United Irishmen in 1798. As well as Labour in Irish History, Connolly founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party the very first party in existence to call for a Worker’s Republic a combination of the ideals of Republicanism and Socialism. Though the party was short lived this remained the cornerstone of Connollys ideology. During the 1913 Lockout Connolly along with Michael Mallin and others founded the Irish Citizen’s Army to protect workers on strike from attacks by the Dublin Metropolitan police who were on the side of the capitalist William Martin Murphy. The Citizen Army was regarded by Vladmir Lenin as being the first red army in Europe.  The Citizen Army went on to play a part in the major theatres of the Easter Rising such as the garrison under Michael Mallin and Constance Markiewicz. Connolly’s analysis of the conditions of British Imperialism and native Irish capitalism in Ireland combined the traditions of Republicanism with Socialism. He also noted that were Ireland to achieve independence without the implementation of socialism that it would be folly because through capitalism England would still rule Ireland in all but name. Connolly stated ‘If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs. Whereas Tone was an egalitarian and a pre-Marxist revolutionary who contributed to the ideology that would later become Socialist Republicanism, Connolly was the man who synthesized it. Connolly is thus regarded as one of the most important figures in Irish Socialist Republicanism despite baffling attempts by fascists to claim him. 

During the 1930s Ireland saw multiple streetbattles between Republicans who remained loyal to the All Ireland Republic of 1916 and the Blueshirts, who were a fascist group led by former Free State police cheif Eoin O’Duffy, who wanted to establish a dictatorship along the lines of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Having lost in the Free State elections to Fianna Fáil in 1932 the Pro-Treaty Cumman na nGael turned to extra-parliamentary activity to try and seize power. An organization called the Army Comrade’s Association was set up comprising of former Free State soldiers which would later become the Blueshirts. They gained support through propaganda warning of a communist takeoever to scare middle Ireland into offering them their support. They used anti-communism as a cover for their fascist beliefs and activities which comprised of attempting to break up republican and socialist meetings. Though O’Duffy’s March on Dublin was banned and Fianna Fáil brought in measures to reduce their influence it was Republicans in a United Front with Trade Unionists and Socialists who succeeded in bringing about their demise. Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan two staunch Republicans issued a call for this United Front stating “The dangers that face this and every other country from Capitalism, Fascism, International War and Imperialism are too real and too serious for us to remain parties to artificial divisions within working class ranks. We call for a truce among all who stand for an Irish Workers Republic and a united front against the common enemy”. Blueshirt meetings were disrupted, fascists were driven out of towns where they attempted to organize, and they were beaten in street confrontations. All of this was done by Republicans who offered their alliegance to the Irish Republic proclaimed in arms in 1916. Fascists were, and are in 2020, Free-State ethno-nationalists. This is blatant proof of Republicanism’s Left Wing and Socialist characteristics, and further the fact that fascists were and are not Republican in any way shape or form. If Republicanism were right wing and Christian as the contemporary fascists would have us believe why then did Republicans mobilize to defeat fascism in the 1930s when it reared it’s ugly héad above the surface? It may be a bitter for them to realize that Republicans have historically and still do to this day oppose fascism and will oppose all attempts by them to organize.  In the words of Frank Ryan ‘“While we have fists and hands and boots to use and guns, if necessary, we will not allow free speech to Traitors.”

Moving on from Connolly, we could examine, and perhaps go into too much detail, about each individual volunteer and organization and their Socialist beliefs. This however will be the topic for another article in the future. What the article will examine next however as mentioned in the subheading is the Irish Republican Army’s East Tyrone Brigade. During the 80s when the leadership of the Republican Movement of the time were wanting to slow down the conflict, the East Tyrone Brigade were increasing the intensity and regularity of their activities. The East Tyrone Brigade were comprised of men such as Jim Lynagh and Pádraig McKearney who had great interest in Maoism, primarily the Maoist theory of Protracted Peoples War. Protracted People’s War consists of the setting up of Revolutionary Base Areas where the guerrilla force has the support of the local populance, and engaging the enemy in mobile warfare resulting in liberated areas where the guerrilla force can begin to set up Alternative Power Structures in defiance of the enemy. This was put into practice by the East Tyrone Brigade under Lynagh and MacKearney when they striked at Crown Forces in certain areas with the goal of making those areas unmanageable for the occupying force. Though these brave men would give their lives for the Republic in 1986 their contributions to the war of liberation in the occupied six counties were hugely significant and further evidence of Republicanism being Socialist. 

Conclusion – An All Ireland Worker’s Republic or a 26 County Fascist Dictatorship?

The article has proven beyond any doubt the Egalitarian pre-Marxist origins of Republicanism, and the contributions to it by brave thinkers and volunteers throughout history. Fascism and Republicanism are absolutely incompatible with one another. The fascists of today may cherry pick and quote Republicans out of context to try and fool people into believing them when they say that they stand for the Republic, but on closer examination these people co-operate with groups and individuals who are not only not Republican, but Anti-Republican. The Irish Freedom (Fascist) Party has links to UKIP, Niall McConnell of Síol na hÉireann is linked to Scottish loyalist Jim Dowson, The National (Nazi) Party leader has links with European Fascists, and his deputy leader lives on a property named Rork’s Drift named in honour of a battle the imperialist Brit Military took part in. That these people attempt to portray themselves as Republicans is laughable. What is more likely is that they attempt to deceive ordinary people with Republican imagery and quotations into joining them in their endeavour of a mythical religious ethno-state that never existed before. To be a Republican is to be an Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Fascist, and a Socialist. To finish we should examine the Anti-Imperialist words of Patrick Pearse, first president of the All Ireland Republic when he said ‘Ireland for the Irish’. ‘Ireland for the Irish’ said by Pearse was meant in the spirit of Anti-Imperialism. Pearse meant that he wanted an Ireland free from the imperialism and interverance of Britain to who she was a colony of. ‘Ireland for the Irish’ should not be distorted from its original meaning of Anti-Imperialism to one of racist xenophobia. This slogan should be reclaimed from anti-republican elements seeking to portray themseleves as an ideology that runs counter to what they are trying to build. Wherever fascists attempt to organize we will be there to stop them just as Frank Ryan and the Republican Congress did to their predecessors in the 1930s. They will be defeated, the forces of the Free State built upon Counter Revolution will be defeated and an All Ireland Socialist Republic as envisioned by James Connolly will be established. 

No Pasaran

Beir Bua

Dare to Struggle and Dare to Win

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