Nov 25 2013



The RCN received the unanimous backing of  the Edinburgh branch of RIC to ask the  RIC National Steering Committee to organise a session at the second national RIC conference on November 23rd in Glasgow, entitled ‘The break-up of the UK – the case for ‘internationalism from below’’. This was then unanimously agreed by the Steering Committee, subject to availability of speakers and any modifications required by the overall conference programme. In the event, the session was renamed ‘After the UK: the future for 4 nations’.

The initial choice of speaker for Ireland was agreed to be Bernadette McAliskey, and for Wales, Leanne Wood, a republican and the president of Plaid Cymru. Leanne initially indicated her interest, but later had to give her apologies because the conference clashed with a Plaid Cymru event, which also meant that a substitute speaker could not be arranged. Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance was also proposed as a speaker for England, and after the organisers’  consideration this was also agreed. The organisers were left to arrange a speaker for Scotland. In the meantime, Mary McGregor (RCN and Dundee RIC) was proposed to chair the session. Later the organisers came back and, in the interest of preserving gender balance, transferred Mary to speak on Scotland. Tony Kenny, a republican and former SNP member and council candidate was asked to chair the meeting instead.

Below we provide a video link which shows Bernadette’s contribution to this session. After this we provide both videos  and the full texts of Steve Freeman’s and Mary McGregor’s contributions (which was slightly curtailed because of time considerations).

This is followed by a reply to David Torrance’s report of the conference in The Herald.

Videos by Patricia Kirk and John Lanigan


Bernadette McAliskey, Mary McGregor, Steve Freeman and Allan Armstrong at the RIC conference

Bernadette McAliskey, Mary McGregor, Steve Freeman and Allan Armstrong at the RIC conference




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Mar 20 2009

Deirdre McCartin, 1944 – 2009

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 3:15 pm

by D.R.O’Connor Lysaght

A small dark woman in her early thirties, dressed in a black three-quarter length coat: this was how Deirdre McCartin appeared first to the writer thirty years ago. That he noticed her was not because she was outstanding in physical appearance or dress, nor because she made any intervention in the meeting they were attending. However, though she was anonymous, still and silent, her immense vitality could be sensed very clearly.

Vitality was what Deirdre displayed throughout her career as painter, feminist, film-maker, revolutionary socialist, university lecturer, community activist, social worker and at the last, carer, as well as good friend. In whatever she did she applied herself 100 percent. Her approach could embarrass and enrage but usually it got things done.

The writer learnt from Deirdre’s own account of her life before he met her. Born in Glasgow, of Irishborn parents, she had attended art school where she met a fellow student whom she married. They emigrated to New Zealand where her husband’s inability to take her own career seriously led to their divorce. Without his encumbrance, she directed several feminist videos, which stood her in good stead when she decided to try to move to the land of her Irish ancestors and got a director’s post in the features department of Radio Telefis Eireann.

In New Zealand, she had acted as a feminist independently of political affiliations. She had made contact with that country’s section of the Fourth International, but had been unwilling to commit herself to it. Now, in the enclosed environment of Telefis Eireann, she found herself plunged in the middle of an internecine political struggle between the bourgeois establishmentarians and the economistic ‘socialism’ of Official (Sticky) Sinn Fein.

Wisely she rejected both. As a socialist, she opposed the conventional politics of the bourgeoisie, as well as the simplistic, essentially pro-imperialist and cultist approach of the Stickies (an approach that would lead many of their members in Telefis Eireann into the bourgeois politics they had denounced). The militarism of Provisional Sinn Fein did not attract her either. She found herself attracted to the politics of the Irish section of the Fourth International, People’s Democracy, which she joined in 1979.

In this organisation, she took a characteristically active role, concentrated particularly on the women’s struggle. Immediately, her work centred on Women Against H Block, a fight which climaxed with the hunger strikes of 1980-1. Subsequently, she helped organise a major conference of feminist activists and campaigned against the insertion of the anti-abortion clause into the Irish Constitution. The writer remembers how she drove to distribute leaflets on an unusually cold, wet, windy day in the wintry summer of 1983, clad only in a light summer dress, until his wife, Aine, insisted that she covered it with one of her own coats.

For all this activity, her membership of People’s Democracy coincided with a period of setbacks for the workers’ side of the anti-imperialist movement. The hunger strikes ended, though the prisoners’ demands were met clandestinely, with most of the prestige from them going to Sinn Fein. The Anti Abortion Amendment was carried. Economic crisis provoked the Government to operate deflationary policies leading to increased unemployment.

This created problems within People’s Democracy. There were bitter internal disputes as to its way forward. Deirdre participated in these, but her enthusiasm handicapped her in putting her case. She edited one particular document in terms more suitable to tabloid journalism than debate between a few dozen activists. This made her a particular butt for some among her opponents. It is worth stating that, by now some of the most hostile of these have been out of the revolutionary movement for years. She might have stayed to fight them, but she had developed a relationship with a comrade of the International’s Portuguese section and decided her future was in his country, where she moved in 1984.

Within a year, the relationship had collapsed in a bitter row in which her partner’s politically and socially unprincipled behaviour was condoned by the national leadership. She returned to Ireland to lecture on Media Studies in Dublin City University. She resumed membership of the Irish section, but its problems climaxed with a stampede of its less developedcomrades into Sinn Fein. Eventually increasing pressure ofwork caused by university cutbacks forced her to break finally with People’s Democracy in 1989.

She left Dublin for west Co. Cork where she played a leading role in the local community organisation. There, too, she met her ultimate life’s partner, and eventual husband, Charlie Rees. In the mid-nineties, they moved to Scotland. Eventually, she got a teaching job there. They became active members of the Scottish Socialist Party.

The writer had lost contact with Deirdre when she left Dublin. Then, in 1996, she wrote him from Ayr enclosing a contribution that she could ill afford towards a memorial to a dead comrade. A correspondence began and continued until her death. In 1997, when Aine was getting a university degree, Deirdre appeared unexpectedly and disheveled to present her with an enormous bouquet and a painting which she had executed to represent Aine’s soul.

In her usual fashion, she gave unstintingly to the Scottish Socialist Party but there were problems with accommodation and employment. In 2001, they forced Charlie and her to move out of Scotland to Scarborough, where they founded an active independent Socialist Group, selling literature and organising anti-war agitation.

New pressures of unemployment, Charlie’s illness and Deirdre’s sister’s death curtailed all this. In her last year, Deirdre had to concentrate on her work as domestic carer before the cancer that had killed her sister claimed her as well. In her communications, she put a brave face on her fate, organising her death and funeral and Charlie’s future without her. She died having begun a set of twelve new paintings.

After Christmas, 2008, the writer and his wife received from Deirdre a last picture postcard that she had prepared herself, containing a report of her current situation. It ended with the words ‘Pure Joy’. In sending his heartfelt condolences to Charlie, the writer and his wife hope that the spirit of the last words that they received from her remained with the fighter for Socialism in her very last days.

March 18th 2001

Comrades, friends, mates, pals
None of these words describe the way I feel
A bond between us all

They are my left hand

Pure chance we met, just taking any seat
A trick of fate
A show of hands and there we were

I bled today
I cut off my left hand

Charlie Rees

Deidre’s partner, Charlie, was inspired to write this poem in 2001 when, due to factors beyond their control, they had to move away from their home in Dunure, Scotland to northern England. This poem was originally printed in Republican Communist Issue 6 – the forerunner to Emancipation & Liberation.

Other obituaries for Deidre were printed in the Scottish Socialist Voice, The Herald, Scarborough Evening News and on the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website.

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