Nov 08 2015


The RCN has continually emphasised the significance of political developments in Northern Ireland. In contrast to England and Wales, where conservative unionism remains dominant, and Scotland where a hybrid constitutional nationalism/liberal unionism is dominant, in Northern Ireland reactionary unionism has become the predominant political force. Together the Ulster unionist parties and the loyalists been able to push back the post-1997 Good Friday Agreement component of the UK state’s ‘New Unionist’ Peace Process and Devolution-all-round settlement. UKIP intends to use this model to extend its own reactionary unionist offensive across the UK.  This article, from Socialist Democracy (Ireland)  shows how the UK state has used the Ulster unionists’ current offensive directed against Sinn Fein, to further its austerity programme, in return for more political concessions to entrench the political position of reactionary unionists and loyalists. 

Ultra-sectarian Ruth Patterson of the DUP challenges party leader, Peter Robinson. from the further Right

Ultra-sectarian Ruth Patterson of the DUP challenges party leader, Peter Robinson. from the further Right


The results of the report by a British government monitoring panel caused bemusement among observers inside and outside Ireland. Following the statement of a few truisms – the IRA still exist, the loyalist gangs are still active – the Democratic Unionist Party, who had been blocking the operation of the local Assembly by resigning their positions and re-appointing themselves in a weekly cycle, returned to their positions full-time.

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Sep 25 2014


Category: Against Unionism,IrelandRCN @ 2:34 pm

 We are printing two articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website examining aspects of politics in Northern Ireland:- 

1. Peter Robinson repudiates peace deal. Another step towards the abyss.

2. Paisley, the chief bigot is dead. The sectarian state lives on.



Peter Robinson shows his wholehearted support for the Peace Process!

Peter Robinson shows his wholehearted support for the Peace Process!


The statement by the North’s first minister Peter Robinson that the local administration is “not fit for purpose” and that the St. Andrew ‘s agreement, on which the current settlement rests, must be renegotiated has brought cries of horror from the press and from London and Dublin governments who have been accommodating an accelerating slide to the right by unionism.


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Aug 10 2014


In the following two articles from Socialist Democracy (Ireland), John McAnulty of chronicles the further decline of the ‘New Unionist’ settlement in Northern Ireland.



Lady Justice Hallet, author of 'On the Runs'

Lady Justice Hallet, author of ‘On the Runs’


When Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was nominated to head an enquiry into child sexual abuse by leading politicians, there was an outcry that objected to her on the grounds of her position within the establishment. The victims objected to a “safe pair of hands” guiding the enquiry.


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May 13 2014

ADAMS ARREST – Sinn Fein responds to British attacks by calls to the dark side

 John McAnulty of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) outlines what was behind the arrest of Gerry Adams by the PSNI, and why Sinn Fein is unable to respond to this British state initiated event.


Gerry Adams arrested by PSNI with British state backing

Gerry Adams arrested by PSNI with British state backing


When Sinn Fein claim that the arrest of Gerry Adams is a political act they are clearly correct. The arrest of former IRA leader Ivor Bell and then Adams on the basis of tape recordings that cannot possibly be the basis of prosecution in relation to a killing whose evidential base is buried 42 years in the past, all on the eve of election where Sinn Fein hope to establish themselves as a major party in the 26 county Irish state, poised for entry into coalition government in the next general election, is clearly political and could not have taken place without the knowledge of the British government. The failure of Sinn Fein to follow the logic of this analysis shows just how helpless they now are in the face of a new offensive.

Continue reading “ADAMS ARREST – Sinn Fein responds to British attacks by calls to the dark side”

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Feb 07 2014


New York based Sandy Boyer is the co-host of “Radio Free Eireann” broadcast Saturdays at 1pm on WBAI, 99.5 FM, or He has helped to mobilize support for political prisoners including Marian Price, Roisin McAliskey, the Birmingham 6, Pol Brennan and Joe Doherty. Here he outlines the continued threat to human rights in Northern Ireland.


Fifteen years ago, the Good Friday Agreement promised a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Today there is still no Bill of Rights, and human rights are under a severe and sustained attack.


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Dec 19 2013


Below are three articles from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website highlighting the role of Loyalism and mainstream Ulster Unionism, aided by the UK government in pushing the Good Friday Agreement  further to the sectarian right. Underscoring the UK state’s own declining imperial role, Richard Haas, the unofficial US representative has been drawn in to help them.

These articles also highlight the role of the Catholic Church and middle class, who go along with this, in return for  official state recognition and their cut of  state backed sectarian funding and job allocation. Sinn Fein, in its adopted role of making the UK-state brokered settlement work, is is central to this process  too. The last article also highlights the methods the UK state  is prepared to resort to, whenever it feels threatened.


1. HAAS TALKS DEBACLE – Decay of the Irish Peace Process accelerates

Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein, look disconsolate after the collapse of the Haas Talks.

Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein, look disconsolate after the collapse of the Haas Talks.


The debacle of the Haass talks collapse, on the early morning of New Year’s Eve, marked a growing instability in local political structures. The talks were supposed to settle conflicts in the Irish peace process and their outcome was somewhat obscured by a persistent failure to tell Irish workers anything about their contents and by a torrent of lies from the British and Irish media, talking the negotiations up while the talks were ongoing and suggesting after the fall that the collapse contained elements of progress.


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Dec 23 2012


John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy – Ireland) writes about the broader implications of the British government’s De Silva Report into the killing of the Nationalist lawyer, Pat Finucane, murdered by UDA members.


Pat Finucane mural

Pat Finucane mural

There is really no excuse for confusion about the role of investigations and enquiries held by the British state into itself. They are given into a safe pair of hands.  Where possible, wrongdoing is denied. Where it is not possible a formula is found to limit the damage.


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Sep 12 2012


By the early 1990s it was apparent that the IRA had been militarily defeated by the British. The fantasy that an organisation of a few hundred active members could beat a professional army of tens of thousands backed up a a massive police and intelligence apparatus was laid bare. The resulting demoralisation made it very easy for MI5 and the RUC to recruit informers. Depending on which estimate you accept it’s claimed that between 20% to 30% of the organisation’s members were providing information to the police or MI5, a weakness that seemed to become more common in the upper reaches. Freddie Scappaticci, who had a key role in the IRA’s counter intelligence section, fed information over a number of years which resulted in the arrests and assassinations of people who considered him a comrade. These jailings and killings enabled the British to prune the Republican leadership by getting rid of its most uncompromising members and, as the accounts of Scappaticci’s story reveal, they were willing to approve the murders of large numbers of unconnected people to preserve their informants. Such is the moral high ground of imperialism.

This is the squalid, treacherous setting of the new film Shadow Dancer. Whatever the intention of its writer Tom Bradby, a former ITN journalist, it may be the first film ever made in which the hero is a relentlessly determined IRA counter-intelligence officer.

Continue reading “SHADOW DANCER”

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Mar 20 2009

Inside Ulster Loyalism

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 2:24 pm

by Ed Walsh – Irish Socialist Network (first published in Resistance no. 8)

UVF: The Endgame (Poolbeg, 2008) by Jim Cusack & Henry McDonald

Jim Cusack and Henry McDonald are well placed to tell the story of the UVF, having spent decades building up contacts inside the loyalist scene. If you want to know what happened over the last forty years in the North, this is a very useful book. If you want to know why it happened you may need to take the authors’ political analysis with a pinch of salt.

The two writers are keen to downplay evidence of collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries. While they acknowledge that members of the RUC and UDR gave assistance to the loyalist groups, the authors deny that collusion was systematic. Cusack and McDonald give us a stark choice – either the loyalist paramilitaries were sock-puppets of the British state, or else they must have been completely autonomous. But there’s another way of looking at things which is far more convincing: the UVF and the UDA may have a life of their own, but their effectiveness during the Troubles would have been limited if the state forces had dealt with them as they dealt with the Provos. The spectrum of collusion could range from active support (of which there was plenty) to helpful neglect.

The authors also stress their view that loyalist opposition to a united Ireland would have been strong enough to block its realisation, even if the London authorities had been keen to withdraw. There is no way of proving this claim right or wrong, since London never had any intention of withdrawing and was prepared to commit vast resources to contain and defeat the IRA. Again, Cusack and McDonald are trying to lead us back to the false notion that Britain was a neutral player in the conflict. That said there can be no question that the strength of unionist belief in the North (often intensified by IRA attacks on Protestant civilians) is the most important prop for what remains of British rule in Ireland.

At one point the authors accuse Sinn Fein of taking a Jesuitical approach to the consent principle. But you need a bit of mental gymnastics to pick your way around the issue of partition. In principle, it’s wrong to suggest that partition of Ireland has a democratic basis (it was imposed by the crudest form of military aggression and based on sectarian gerrymandering – the Northern state has a unionist majority because it was designed that way, just like the Serb Republic in Bosnia or the Turkish enclave in northern Cyprus). In practice, however, its hard to imagine an end to partition before a large number of Ulster Protestants are convinced they have nothing to fear if British rule ends.

Some left-wingers would rather kick the national question into touch and concentrate on other matters. The experience of the UVF itself suggests why this approach is likely to founder. Cusack and McDonald describe the post-ceasefire attempt to build a working-class unionist force with a progressive line on social and economic issues that was spearheaded by David Ervine and Gusty Spence. They don’t spend much time, however, asking why that attempt failed. The majority of working-class Protestants have continued to vote for the DUP, despite its right-wing economic policies, while the Progressive Unionist Party {linked to the UVF} has failed.

The authors note that Ervine, Spence and Billy Hutchison never convinced the UVF rank-and-file to adopt their left-of-centre agenda. But talk of socialism and class politics was hardly going to blend with loyalty to a capitalist, imperialist state and its institutions. The British Labour Party has always been crippled by its submission to a political order shaped by ruling class interests. The PUP’s support for British nationalism is an even greater hindrance to any progressive ideas its leaders may have wanted to advance. You can cheer the troops returning home from the colonial occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as so many Protestant workers did before Christmas – but ultimately you are cheering a system that inflicts 40% unemployment on the people of West Belfast, regardless of their communal identity

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Jul 26 2002

Republican Forum: A way forward for republicanism

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 02RCN @ 7:40 pm

This article appeared in The Starry Plough (Dec. 2001/Jan. 2002) the paper of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

It was a momentous day for Republicanism in Ireland. Tuesday the 23rd of September 2001- the day the Provisional IRA decommissioned weapons in order to save not only the Good Friday Agreement but also the Stormont Assembly. The shock waves are rumbling through the Republican heartlands ever since.

A number of phrases are heard – At least ‘the stickies’ didn’t decommission, an act of unparalleled treachery, we told you so and so on.

When the issue was first raised in the early days of the peace process the IRSP was sceptical about the whole process but did not believe that decommissioning was an issue or that any republican group would voluntarily decommission its weapons.

Representatives of the Republican Socialist Movement met with representatives of the Provisional Movement on a number of occasions over the last five years and were assured that decommissioning of weapons would not happen. We had no reason to disbelieve the sincerity of those we spoke with. It was a matter for them; it is still a matter for them.

But for all that there is no doubt that shock, disillusionment, feelings of betrayal, and a shaken trust in the leadership, and a reluctant but necessary step all summon up what strong supporters of the Provisional Movement feel.

Betrayal & disillusionment

Emotions run high and talk of what about Bombay Street? etc echoes through the streets of Belfast. The image of the burning streets of Ardoyne in 1969 runs through the mind as the northern nationalist working class tries to come to terms with this event.

It is always a good thing to become disillusioned. That is the throwing away of false illusions and the start of seeing things as they really are. The IRSP feel for those whose have feelings of betrayal and disillusionment. Within our own history we have suffered our own disillusionments. So we understand why many out there are feeling bruised and sensitive to criticism.

But now is the time to see things as they really are, not as we wish them to be. When the Civil Rights Movement started not only republicans of all shades but socialists of all shades didn’t know how to react.

Those who later went on to form the Provisionals were reluctant to become involved in what was a reformist movement. Those who later went on to take the Official IRA down a dead end street of arrogant political self seeking saw the Civil Rights Movement as the only way forward and tried to suppress both the emergence of a more militant brand of republicanism and any manifestation of class struggle.

Those of us who consistently and persistently raised social and economic issues within the mass struggle that the Civil Rights Movement became, were derided as ultra left-ists, wreckers, trots and looney lefties. Socialists veered between a full acceptance of the nationalist agenda or swallowing whole a form of British Imperialist socialism under the guise of an exotic form of communism.

Out of all this confusion the Provisionals emerged from the ashes of 69 and the failure of the Official leadership to re-arm the North in a time of increasing political tension. The Provos rejected a reformist agenda and launched an armed campaign on the single issue of Brits Out. Later in 1973/74 the Official Republican Movement split again and eventually the IRSP/INLA emerged to re-establish the Republican Socialist tradition that they felt had been betrayed by the Officials. The programme the IRSP then set out has still not yet been met. We have not yet attained a Broad Front, removed the Brits, or established the Socialist Republic.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since the seventies and there have been many changes. The Provisionals have accepted, albeit 30 years later, the reformist strategy first put forward by the Officials. The reason for armed struggle has gone and their goals can be achieved by political means and the growth of the catholic population. The Good Friday Agreement saw the Provisionals ditch one of the pillars of Republicanism, non-sectarianism when they accepted the sectarian headcount that gave them seats in the Stormont Cabinet.

This can all be very confusing for those who trust in leaderships and go for the personalities in politics. A trust in a Gerry, a Martin or even a Ruaridh will eventually lead to disillusionment. All of us as individuals are influenced not only by our parents and neighbourhood but also by the interaction between our core beliefs and our actions. We are formed in specific historical and economic conditions. We all are, in a sense, prisoners of history and also of the organisations we are members of.

The Provisionals were an all-class alliance merging militarists, disaffected urban nationalist youths and traditional nationalists from rural areas. During the seventies this alliance while capable of launching ferocious military attacks made no political progress. Sinn Fein in the 70‘s was a right wing pro catholic and anticommunist mouth piece for the IRA with the occasional radical articles to appeal to more left wing elements.

When the Hunger Strikes occurred the urban based northern seized the leadership, swung the movement towards the left to soak up the militant radicalised working class youth, the growing republican minded women’s groups and the radical intellectuals politicised by the mass actions around the hunger strikes.

During all this time regular contact was kept up with the British Intelligence services through various contacts. This was because the Provo leadership recognised that eventually they would have to do a deal with their enemy. They knew from the mid eighties that the continuation of the armed struggle was a road to nowhere.

Armalite & Ballot Box

The Armalite and Ballot Box strategy saw the Provisionals make many political gains. They were able to exercise a strangle-hold over most nationalist working class areas in the north and through the exercise of social and economic control, which they had wrestled from the SDLP/Catholic Church, were able to create a middle bureaucracy of supporters who formed the intellectual backbone for their control in the ghettoes. All opposition whether militarily or politically was ruthlessly crushed within their areas of control.

Throughout all this they were able to retain the loyal support of their base because of their militancy and also their astute political leadership. This leadership was trusted. The development of their peace strategy was an advance from the Armalite etc strategy. It was strongly driven by their support base in the USA. The swing to the left of the early eighties was slowed, a distancing began with anti-imperialist movements worldwide, the suits came in and the advisers multiplied. Now they were appealing to the emergent nationalist middle classes within the north and they began to occupy the ground that the SDLP had once walked on.

That is because they represent bourgeois Ireland. That is why they can occupy seats in a capitalist Government and introduce privatisation schemes into the educational system. Of course they will oppose corrupt practices and use radical phrases but their whole function now as a political organisation is to make Ireland a more effective and efficient place for international capital to invest in. That is the importance of the USA connections.

Obviously the creation of one Republican Governmental system on the isle of Ireland will reduce bureaucracy make easier access for multinationals to Government and speed the integration of Ireland into the whole NATO defence scheme. This will be in spite of the desire of individual Republicans to keep Ireland neutral. Their subjective wishes will come up against the brutal logic of Imperialism and objective reality will always over-come subjective wishes.

He who pays the piper…

Witness the response to the Colombian Three, the Turkish Hunger Strike and the September 11th massacres. There is no way that their principal leaderships will be identified with any radical movements from now on. No matter how much that leadership may support the cause of the Turkish Hunger strikers they can not be seen to do so. Some of the middle tier leaderships will be allowed to associate and participate with safe leftist tinged causes but not the leadership. He who pays the piper calls the tune and be under no illusions the tune is now called from Washington.

That is not to say that the IRSP have all the answers. We don’t. It is always easier to criticise than to put forward solutions. Since the return of the Republican Socialist Movement to its political roots following a bitter political and military struggle in the mid nineties we have been measured in our criticisms of other Republicans. While critical of the Good Friday Agreement and the political basis of the peace process we accepted the verdict of the people of Ireland as expressed in referenda and persuaded the leadership of the INLA to call an unconditional ceasefire. We are for peace. We are for politics. We are for the democratic road. We are against militarism.

But we are not for republicans, or socialists for that matter, taking their seats in a capitalist Government. We are not for decommissioning and we are for the defence of working class areas from sectarian attacks.

I owe my allegiance to the working class

Does that lead to political impotence? We don’t believe so. Our politics have always been based on a class analysis and can be best summed up in the words of Seamus Costello, I owe my allegiance to the working class. The working class of all countries are our friends and allies. The capitalists of all countries are our enemies. Capitalism is ruthless in its logic as it breaks down national barriers and creates a global economy. There can be no Socialist Republic built in Ireland in isolation. The idea of a socialist paradise isle surrounded by capitalist states is a fantasy. That is why republicans have always been internationalists from Tone to Connolly from O’Donnell to Costello. Republicanism itself was an import to Ireland from France. What is going on today in Afghanistan, in Columbia, in Sierra Leone and Iraq, impinges on the day to day life of people in Ireland. In its relentless pursuit of profit modern day capitalism is no respecter of states or governments. Hence the creation of super states like the European Union.

It is in this context that we in the IRSP are internationalist. The international capital market profoundly affects the Irish working class. Many of the 1200 workers who have only recently been told that they are facing redundancies are instinctively aware of the internationalist nature of capitalism. It is the task of socialists and republicans to bring together the best elements of both republicanism and socialism and create an alliance of the dispossessed within this isle that can successfully challenge the cosy capitalist consensus that accepts the permanency of the capitalist system. The provisional movement has clearly shown by the actions of its leadership that it accepts that consensus. We do not.

An all class alliance of nationalist Ireland while it may weaken the unionist case also weakens the working class. It is a case of labour must wait as De Valera said during the war of Independence. But now it is the current leaders of Sinn Fein who are saying labour must wait.

We disagree. Labour, that is the needs and aspirations of the Irish working class, can not wait, must not wait. They are the only class capable of building a just and equitable society on this isle. That is why we repeat the call we made a number of years ago for the creation of a Republican Forum with which to rally the disorganised and demoralized forces of the left. There is a way forward for the republican and socialist left and we intend to play our full part in rallying the Irish working class. If you are radical, republican and working class play your part. Join us in the struggle.

On to the Republic.

Belfast Socialist Forum

A non-sectarian socialist discussion group has been set up in Belfast. Initiated by Socialist Democracy and supported by left activists and the International Socialists (former members of the Socialist Workers Movement who have resigned in protest at the SWM’s lack of democracy), it is open to all socialists interested in debate and education in socialist ideas.

Decisions on discussions, activities and speakers are taken by open meetings of Belfast Socialist Forum, which is open to all socialist activists.

For further details contact Socialist Democracy PO Box 40, Belfast or ring 028 9060 1555)

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