Ireland – The Historical Background

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Ireland – The Historical Background

No popular movement ‘comes from nowhere’. Injustices in the past, repression and exploitation, aspirations for the future, these all play a part in historic struggles. This is especially the case with the struggle for the independence in Ireland where the fight against British invasion and oppression goes back to just after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066.

Reaction always seeks to deny any historical context, preferring to denigrate revolutionary forces as irrational and terrorist, having no basis in the society and merely acting as murderous individuals. In Ireland itself Republicans know their history (although some of their leaders seem to have forgotten much of it themselves) so perhaps this page will be more useful for those outside that country but with a wish to understand why the ‘Irish Question’ will not go away.

A selection of the writings of James Connolly, arguably the greatest leader of the Irish people so far, can be found on a separate page.

Handbook for Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army – Notes on Guerrilla Warfare, digital version of a document produced by the IRA General Headquarters in 1956, 33 pages.

Fiery Cross, The Story of Jim Larkin, Joseph Deasy, New Book Publications, Dublin, 1963, 44 pages.

‘In addition to being an outstanding pioneer of Irish trade unionism, he was also a patriot and socialist, who saw far beyond the immediate aims of industrial organisation. He wanted an Ireland completely free of exploitation, where a worker’s hope of a job no longer depended on an employer’s ability to make a profit out of him.’

Trade Unionism in Ireland Today, Anthony Coughlan, reprinted from Irish Democrat, April 1965, Connolly Publications, London, 1965, 8 pages.

Our Own Red Blood, the story of the 1916 Rising, Sean Cronin, 1966, 66 pages.

‘ .. we also believe that in times of war we should act as in war. We despise, utterly despise and loathe, all the mouthings and mouthers who infest Ireland in times of peace, just as we despise and loathe all the cantings about caution and restraint to which the same people treat us in times of war.’ James Connolly, ‘What is Our Programme?’, January 22, 1916.

Labour and the Republican Movement, George Gilmore, Republican Publications, Dublin, 1966, 24 pages.

‘.. as the squeezing out of the Labour leadership from the vanguard of the Independence movement was of such importance in ensuring its defeat, so it would appear that, if there is to be any future for the Irish people as a free people, it must depend upon a return by organised Labour to the politics of Connolly.’

Robert Emmet’s Speech from the Dock, 1803, Irish Book Bureau, Dublin, 196?, 8 pages.

The speech given in Green Street Courthouse on September 19, 1803, after he had been sentenced to death.

History of Ireland (to 1014), Frederick Engels, Irish Communist Organisation, 2nd edition, Dublin, 1970, 68 pages.

‘Engels wished, by using Ireland’s history as an example, to unmask the system and methods of English colonial rule, and to expose its serious effects on the historical fate of both the oppressed and oppressor nations.’ From the German introduction to Engels’s uncompleted ‘History of Ireland’.

The Irish Tragedy, Scotland’s Disgrace, John Maclean, introduction by Harry McShane, John Maclean Society, Glasgow, 1970, 15 pages.

Sworn to be Free, The Complete Book of IRA Jailbreaks 1918-1921, Anvil Books, Tralee, 1971, 207 pages.

The Great Fraud of Ulster, TM Healy, foreword by Dennis Kennedy, Anvil Books, Tralee, 1971, 154 pages.

Imperialism and the Irish Nation, Repsol pamphlet No 9, Republican Education Department, Dublin, 1972, 21 pages.

‘The main conflict which affects the lives and destinies of the Irish people today is that between English imperialism and the Irish nation. The great majority of the Irish people, who make up the Irish nation, are adversely affected by imperialist domination and pressure, as they have been for many years.’ The first words of the pamphlet.

The Historical Basis of Socialism in Ireland, Thomas Brady, Cork Workers Club, Cork, 1972, 14 pages.

This pamphlet was originally published by the Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI). First published in New York in 1919. When he returned from America James Connolly became the National Organiser for the SPI.

Republicanism Part 2, 1922-1966, Repsol pamphlet No 10, Republican Eduction Department, Dublin, 1972, 44 pages.

The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922 was hailed at that time as a stepping stone to a Republic. It, in fact, became as time went on, a surer means for Britain to retain her hold on Ireland.

Republicanism Part 2 charts the sellout from 1922 to 1966.

Marx, Engels and Lenin on the Irish Revolution, Ralph Fox, Historical Reprints No 3, Cork Workers Club, Cork, 1974, 40 pages.

‘ .. they considered the Irish Revolution not merely the concern of the Irish people themselves, but because they knew that its success would have immense consequences for the world revolution, for the liberation of all oppressed peoples and classes.’

British Imperialism in Ireland – A Marxist Historical Analysis, Elinor Burns, Historical Reprints No 2, Cork Workers Club, Cork, 1974, 76 pages.

‘The present booklet, analysing as it does the long and bitter record of class antagonism in Ireland, will prove an invaluable guide to the thousands of struggling Irish workers and farmers who, at the moment, find themselves at a loss to explain the forces that oppress them.’ From the March, 1931 Introduction.

Revolutionary Movements of the Past, J De Courcy Ireland, Repsol pamphlet No 4, Republican Education Department, Dublin, 1974, 32 pages.

‘If we accept that the answer to the problems of our time is a socialist society we have to start by discarding the prejudices and the outlook in which we were brought up. … Our history is far too full of heroic failures, and I sometimes think that small injections of insurrectionism have put us in very serious danger of being immune against the development of a genuine mass revolutionary movement.’ From 1st paragraph.

The Irish Question, John Leslie, Historical Reprints No 7, Cork Workers Club, Cork, 1974, 32 pages.

Apart from Karl Marx’s and Frederick Engels’s writings on Ireland, this pamphlet is the first known analysis of the Irish situation written from a Marxist viewpoint.

The Irish Republican Congress, George Gilmore, Historical Reprints No 4, Cork Workers Club, Cork, 1974, 32 pages.

‘We talk of the working class coming into the leadership of the Republican movement without realising that the way to do that is just to do it.’

The Irish Crisis, C. Desmond Greaves, Seven Seas, Berlin, 1974, 278 pages.

No Pasaran, The Story of the Irish Volunteers in the International Brigades in defending the Spanish Republic against International Fascism, 1936-1938, Belfast Executive of Republican Clubs, Belfast, 1975, 44 pages.

The Making of the Irish Revolution, a short analysis, Tomas Mac Giolla, Repsol pamphlet No. 17, Republican Education Department, 1975, 7 pages.

The Struggle of the Unemployed in Belfast October 1932, the Falls and the Shankill Unite, Historical Reprints No 17, Tom Bell, Cork Workers Club, Cork, 1976, 12 pages.

The struggle of the unemployed workers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, including the heroic struggle against the armed police on October 11, contains many lessons on proper methods of work among the unemployed.

Ireland Her Own, an outline history of the Irish struggle, T A Jackson, edited and with an epilogue by C Desmond Greaves, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976, 513 pages.

James Connolly and the United States, the road to the 1916 Irish Rebellion, Carl and Ann Reeve, Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1978, 321 pages.

The Rise of Papal Power in Ireland, Athol Books, Cork, 1983, 40 pages.

‘ .. the Catholic Church in Ireland is a new Church that was constructed between the 1820s and 1840s as an integral part of the social movement by which the mass of the Gaels sloughed off their Gaelic heritage and entered European civilisation as a new people. The Gaels had not been Roman Catholics in any meaningful sense while they were Gaels. And in the light of this knowledge the great mystery about the Irish dissolves. The mystery was only a misapprehension.’ From the Introduction.

Irregulars, tales of Republican Dissonance, collected by the Hungry Brigade Collective, 2014, 252 pages.

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11 thoughts on “Ireland – The Historical Background

  1. Hi, can tell you now, the Historical Basis for socialism in Ireland is from 1919, originally published in New York

  2. This is a great collection of PDFs, thank you for hosting it. Gilmore’s pamphlet on the Congress is particularly difficult to find today sadly. Readers might be interested to know that another recollection of the Congress, by Patrick Byrne, is easily available online and also worth reading.

  3. That’s if you’re not a Republican supporter and are to afraid to answer and will just delete this comment!

  4. Is this the Michael Harrison who done the article on soldiers speak out in NI ? If so I would like to have my say! I’ve been waiting for years to have my say. I’ve tried to research Barzilay with no luck. You have a article by a Marine called Moran about abuse by Marines on the 76 tour. I was on that tour and in the same troop as ” Bugsy” Moran. At no time on that tour did we use snatch squads so we never ran into any crowds hitting people! No1 lie! Abuse was not rife on the streets No2 lie by Moran. He himself used to stop and search people and make them strip right Down. He tried to steal a Tricolor belonging to a Mrs Green. He had an obsession with Hitler. Am I painting a picture? The fact that someone watched him pack his bags on the night that he went AWOL when he was putting 24 hour ration packs into them and never thought that this was odd cause it was just Bugsy being Bugsy! Again am I painting a picture? This has angered me for years! Please answer me by email. Steve

    • No it’s not so I don’t really know to which article you are referring. Direct me to it and I’ll put it on the blog so people can take you comments into account in a meaningful context.

      • It’s on your blog michaelharrison.org.uk. Soldiers speak out on Ireland left side of the road. It’s your web address I’ve checked and double checked. If you have the contact for Barzilay I would love to put him straight to

        • I didn’t write the booklet, British Soldiers Speak Out on Ireland. I have merely posted a pamphlet that was produced in the 1980s. I’m not able to say whether what I have posted on the different pages of the blog is totally accurate or not. That’s something for the original writers to ensure before they publish. I have posted these documents to put the information out into the public domain. It’s then for others to decide whether they agree or not.

          • Any idea on how to contact Barzilay the author of The British Army in Ulster? He’s the one who published that story first and I would love to put the story straight. Are you going to put these messages beside that story?

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