Irish republicans part 2: The gunmen in power

Submitted by Anon on 12 August, 2004 - 2:53

Thomas Carolan continues his series about the history of Irish republicanism
"Ireland occupies a position among the nations of the earth unique… in the possession of what is known as a physical force party - a party, that is to say, whose members are united upon no one point, and agreed upon no single principle, except the use of physical force as the sole means of settling the dispute between the people of this country and the governing power of Great Britain…
"The latter-day high-falutin hillside man exalts into a principle that which the revolutionists of other countries have looked upon as a weapon, and in his gatherings prohibits all discussion of those principles which formed the main strength of his prototypes elsewhere and made the successful use of that weapon possible.
"…Every revolutionary movement in Ireland has drawn the bulk of its adherents from the ranks of disappointed followers of defeated constitutional movements…
"Their conception of what constitutes freedom was in no sense changed or revolutionised: they still believed in the political form of freedom which had been their ideal in their constitutional days…"
James Connolly

The first government of "physical force" republicans, come down from the hills, that of Cumainn na nGael, lasted almost exactly a decade, from 1922-1932. It was the first government of independent Ireland - the Saorstat, the "Irish Free State". They called it that because neither the concept nor a word for "Republic" existed in Gaelic.

The state they founded was stamped with their own likeness - that of conservative Catholic bourgeois-democrats. Kevin O'Higgins, one of the Free State's leading ministers had said their state should be judged by whether the law and the state was strong enough for the bailiff to be able to work freely. Their state passed that test. The "writ of the bailiff" did indeed run in the new Ireland.

Patrick Pearse, one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence in 1916, the first to be shot - on 4 May 1916 - at the surrender of the insurgents had had a different view of that. In one of his rhetorical poems, he had used the same image, the bailiff, as the emblem of oppression:

The men and women whom I have loved have had masters over them.
And, though gentle, have served churls.
Have gone in fear of lawyers and of their jailors
Men mean and cruel
I would have borne stripes on my body rather than
This shame of my people.

Pearse had had in mind national oppression but working class people would have heard more in it than images of national oppression. And so, come to think of it, had Pearse, who sided with the workers in the Dublin labour war of 1913-14. Some of the "churls" were now in power.

But, though the bailiff's writ ran the state of the Irish bourgeoisie, theirs was a state in which O'Higgins himself could be shot dead on a Sunday morning - in 1927 - on his way to mass by members of the Republican underground. (When one of his killers, Bill Gannon, who never stood trial, died peacefully in Dublin 38 years later, his coffin would be draped with the hammer and sickle to proclaim his longstanding support of the Stalinist USSR.)

The greatest English language poet of the 20th century, William Butler Yeats, was a senator of the new state. He had been a socialist in his youth, and a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) before being turned into a romantic authoritarian by the horror stricken realisation that independent Ireland would not be the wonderful place of his dreams and poetic fantasies but a place shaped by hucksters, gombeenmen* and… their bailiffs.

When, in September 1913, on the eve of what everyone at that stage believed would be the erection of an all-Ireland Home Rule parliament (something more like the Welsh Assembly than the Dominion-status-Ireland that emerged after the War of Independence in 1922), the Dublin bosses started the famous Dublin labour war by locking out their workers, Yeats sided with the workers, writing for Jim Larkin's Irish Worker and speaking at meetings against the employers, who used vicious Catholic sectarianism to try to break the union.

In a famous poem, "September 1913", he summed up the bourgeoisie who, by the 1920s ruled in the Free State, and their relations to the long Catholic Irish struggle for freedom:

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were born to pray and save.
Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
It's with O'Leary in the grave…
Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all the blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?…

They defended and strengthened a state that was stubbornly bourgeois-democratic on the British model and that is to their great credit, but socially they were ultra-conservative. Everything revolutionary about them was gone when they took charge of the state, unless you count a small Land Act in 1923, which completed the revolution from above on the land which the British ruling class had carried through over the previous 40 years in an effort to pacify Ireland. O'Higgins' symbolic use of the bailiff and the bailiff's power to do his work unresisted, as the test and measure of his ideal free Irish society, flew in the face of all the elements of social protest, discontent and rebellion which had fuelled political Irish nationalism. The long war was over. The national revolution had triumphed. The guardians of property would now do their work beneath the green flag. But do it they would.

The First Minister of the Free State government, William Cosgrave, for his part, matched O'Higgins' bailiff test when the trade union leader William O'Brien approached him in 1930 to plead for asylum in Ireland for Leon Trotsky. Cosgrave noted: "Told him [O'Brien] I could see no reason why Trotsky should be considered by us. Russian bonds had been practically confiscated. I asked [Trotsky's] nationality. Reply Jew. They were against religion (he said that was modified). I said not by Trotsky…"

Just as they ground down the working class, the ruling Irish bourgeoisie collected the annual payments - "the annuities" - which the farmers owed the British state for financing the buying out of the landlords since the 1880s, and passed it on to London.

Not only were they, in power, abject bourgeois conservatives, they were the opposite of republicans: Catholic sectarians.

Still calling for a 32-county united Ireland, where they ruled they built a Catholic state, a "Hibernian" state. The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) was a Catholic parody of the Orange Order, copying it down to the rituals and regalia. In its mythology it claimed to have originated in 1641, when the Catholics rose against the Protestant English and Scots. It had existed in the USA in the 19th century. In Pennsylvania in the 1870s, when the coal miners union was smashed "the Malloys", a secret society of the Irish Catholic miners, playing the role of an Irish agrarian secret society, employed terrorism against the bosses; a number of them were hanged. In Ireland the Malloys were sectarian strikebreakers (in Dublin 1913-14 for example). But effectively it was founded at the beginning of the 20th century in Belfast, by Joseph Devlin, a Home Rule Party MP.

When it was appointed one of the agencies working the 1911 Social Security Act, it was greatly strengthened. It worked throughout Ireland as a Catholic freemason force against Protestants - for example, organising boycotts of Protestant shops in the small towns (see illustration).

They took control of the Home Rule Party machine in 1909 - the party split as a result. The main organiser of the "populist" agrarian agitation in the days of the militant Land League, William O'Brien (not the trade union leader) led a breakaway, "The all for Ireland League". The "Hibs" were Catholic-"nationalists", of course, but they were bitterly hated and denounced as Catholic sectarians by pre-World War One republicans - for example, by Patrick Pearse in the paper secretly controlled by the IRB, Irish Freedom. Irish Freedom (and others, such as James Connolly), blamed the "Hibs" as much as, or even more than, the Orange Order for the sectarian polarisation between Protestants and Catholics that would lead to Partition. Orangeism and Hibernianism fed off each other.

There was always tension between the Catholic bishops, who would brook no rivals, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

As an organisation the AOH never played the role in the Irish Free State that the Orange Orders played in Northern Ireland. But its ideas, ethos, ethno-history and historical mythology would for many decades dominate in the schools, - in the Catholic schools of the Six Counties too -in the public life and in the press of independent Ireland, deepening, widening and fixing the divide between the six- and 26-counties Irelands.

Not only did the AOH ethos survive in independent Ireland; the AOH's pre-World War One control of Catholic-nationalist politics survived in the Six Counties. Where in most of Ireland, the old Home Rule Party was destroyed by the rise of the second Sinn Fein in 1917-18, in the Six Counties it survived, led by the AOH "pope", "Wee Joe" Devlin. It would survive as the Nationalist Party until its remnants fused with others to form the Social Democratic and Labour Party in 1970.

This was remarkable, because three months before the outbreak of war a representative conference of the nine counties of Ulster met in Belfast, organised by the AOH and the Home Rule Party, and endorsed the first British proposal to partition Ireland as a "temporary" expedient.

In 1925 the Free State abolished the civil right to divorce for those non-Catholic citizens whose religion allowed for divorce.

The ex-physical force revolutionaries in power allowed the bishops informally to assume the sort of powers in the Free State that the imams now have in Iraq.

Collins, Griffith and the others had reluctantly accepted partition as a "temporary" measure, subject to a revision of the borders to put the one-in-three of the Six Counties' population who were Catholics and who were the majority in about half the land area of the Six Counties - and on the south and west borderlands adjoining the 26 Counties. Ruling out any attempt to force the Protestant Unionist Irish into a united Irish state as inevitably counterproductive, they did not think they had an alternative - nor did the De Valera-O'Connor republicans think they had an alternative. But a difference in approach to the North and Protestants would develop between the political heirs of the two sides of the split Sinn Fein: the De Valera-ites would look to Britain to convince or coerce the Unionists into Irish unity; the others would see it more as an intra-Irish problem that could only have an intra-Irish solution. It is a division that exists now, with the Adams Sinn Fein/IRA looking to a "British" solution. But only the seeds of the distinction existed in 1922.

British Prime Minister Lloyd George had convinced Collins and Griffith that, faced with the loss of a lot of Six Counties territory, including the second city, Derry, where Catholics were a majority, the six county leaders would choose to "come in" to the Catholic-majority state. When the "boundary commission" - British, Six Counties and Free State representatives - finally met, in 1925, the Irish Unionists and the British refused even to discuss major changes and offered Dublin a large sum of money in compensation.

The Free State government accepted and its representative, the great Gaelic scholar and disastrous politician, Eoin MacNeal, came back to Dublin claiming that he had "got a good price". Indeed, it was a state run by small-minded social, political and religious gombeenmen!*

How does this relate to James Connolly's thesis? A lot of the Free State ex-republican leaders corresponded to Connolly's category of constitutionalist nationalists driven to take up the gun, people who became revolutionaries without changing their ideas about society. Michael Collins was the notable exception, having been a member of the secret society, the IRB. (As had Arthur Griffith in the distant past.)

These, running the first independent modern Irish state, corresponded pretty exactly to the pattern James Connolly had drawn in 1899 from the 19th-century experience.

What concerns me here is the 20th-century version/inversion of that pattern: the waves of republicans who began as physical-force republicans - and even as "physical-force-on-principle" republicans in whose political theology physical force had been an all-defining fetish - who in power showed themselves to be reformists, or usually, abject conservatives, thoroughly bourgeois, and socially not at all revolutionary.

The second party to govern independent Ireland established the dominant 20th-century pattern. The "physical force" republicans who had made of the refusal to take the oath to the king a quasi-religious principle, who had fought and lost the Civil War - 1922-23 - and then organised a constitutional party, Fianna Fail, (whose activist core still held to a military-style discipline), came to power in the Free State by constitutional means early in 1932, and ruled for an unbroken 16 years.

In the first year, they depended on the Dail votes of the Irish Labour Party; thereafter they had a majority. With a few, usually short, breaks they would rule the 26 Counties for most of the 20th century; they are in power now.

We saw, the old ascending and better-off bourgeois sections of 26 Counties' Irish society rallying to the Collins-Griffith segment of the divided Sinn Fein; so had large numbers of ex-British army soldiers, who made up the Free State army that fought and won the civil war for the empowered Irish bourgeoisie. On the other side it was mainly but not exclusively the "lower orders" who supported those who would settle for nothing less than a Republic and would have died rather than swear an oath of allegiance to the British King-Emperor. The labour movement refused to back either side, though its left wing, including the tiny Irish Communist Party, backed the "revolutionary nationalist" republicans.

At the end of the civil war in 1923 the republicans still included a pretty broad segment of Catholic-Irish society. For example, one of the heroes on an epic scale was Cathal Brugha (Charles Burgess).

Brugha is misrepresented and traduced in Neil Jordan's film "Michael Collins" as the character who is motivated by jealous antagonism to Michael Collins.

Brugha had continued to fight in the 1916 Rising even after he had been repeatedly wounded: afterwards, he was not interned because the British thought he was dying.

When the Republican HQ at the Four Courts building was set on fire by Collins' borrowed British field guns and the Republicans' leaders surrendered, Brugha refused to surrender and chose instead to come out of the burning building with guns blazing, to be shot down.

He had been a small factory owner. The leading Republican militant, Rory O'Connor - he was shot, with three comrades, including the socialist Liam Mellows, after six months in captivity, in December 1922, in a government reprisal for republican attacks on Dail deputies - had been a civil engineer; Eamonn De Valera, the leading republican politician, a teacher of maths; Liam Lynch, the IRA leader in the civil war, a shop assistant.

After the civil war they retained the support of a large part of the electorate.

De Valera's 1926 breakaway Fianna Fail, the "soldiers of destiny", came close to toppling the government in a Dail vote in 1927, a mere four years after the end of civil war. Between Fianna Fail and the Free State party Cumman Na nGael - known as Fine Gael from the 1930s to now - there was a notable class distinction, but it would also be misleading to say that as between the De Valera-ites and the republicans who split with them in 1926, refusing to enter the partitionist 1926 Dail on any terms, there was a clear class distinction. There wasn't.

At most, it was different segments of the bourgeoisie that backed the different wings of Fianna Fail in 1921-22. Sections of the smaller bourgeoisie backed Fianna Fail after it split from Sinn Fein in 1926, but the De Valera-ites took with them a lot of the "lower orders" supporters of the civil war republicans - farmers, farm labourers, school teachers, town labourers, shopkeepers, lawyers, and so on. In government after 1932, they would increase their support in all parts of society.

The intransigent anti-Fianna Fail republicans were pretty much the same sort of people.

Of the leaders of the left - or, rather, Stalinist - wing of the intransigents, Frank Ryan was a university graduate, a rare species then amongst republicans, and Peader O'Donnell was an ex-trade union official who "married money". The leader of the Catholic right of the anti-, or rather non-De Valera-ite, republicans was Sean MacBride - we will encounter him as a prominent example of a gunman revolutionary turned governing conservative in the 40s and 50s - a would-be small manufacturer turned lawyer.

Inevitably, however, the intransigence of the republicans, their anarchist-like rejection of all the existing governments - Dublin, Belfast, Westminster - drew to themselves all sorts of impulses of social revolt amongst agricultural and town labourers - the sorts of people who would have been drawn to a working class revolutionary movement, had it existed in Ireland. Back in the 1880s Engels had described the ant-political republican dynamiters of that time, who repudiated the activities of Parnell's party in Parliament, as "Bukunists". However, it is the story of the revolutionary gunmen turned ruling bourgeois politician that concerns us here.

There was something of a revolutionary crisis, or some of the type of events typical of revolutionary crises, about Fianna Fail's assumption of government power in 1932 and in the first couple of years of Fianna Fail's rule. In their last years, the ruling victors of the civil war had responded to republican extra-parliamentary agitation with a pretty severe repression. Many people were jailed.

In the election held at the beginning of 1932, the government, backed by the bishops, used scare tactics and a degree of red-baiting, to discredit Fianna Fail and its sinister "foreign" leader (New York born De Valera was supposed to have had a Spanish father).

The De Valerites had not abjured any of the republican goals. The extra-parliamentary republicans could be depicted as no more than "Fianna Failers with guns", plus a vocal "left" wing, and vice versa.

The republican movement outside the Dail and the De Valera-ites inside it had enough in common as to seem one movement - an earlier version of the Provos' mix of "the armalite and the ballot box" almost.

When, nonetheless, Fianna Fail emerged from the election as the biggest party in the Dail, and with the Dail backing of the Labour Party, proposed to form a government Irish parliamentary bourgeois democracy would be put to the test. Would the outgoing Cum Na nGael government and the Free State armed forces that had been selected, shaped and bloodied in the civil war - would they peacefully let the losers in the civil war take over? In fact, they did.

They believed in the parliamentary rule they had fought the civil war to assert against the would-be over-topping gunmen of 1922.

They acted accordingly, seeing Fianna Fail's Dail dependence on Labour support as something of a safety barrier. When, two years later, they concluded that this might have been a mistake, it was too late. Fianna Fail formed a minority government with Labour support (they would win a majority a year later).

Fianna Fail in power began to carry through the alternative to the Treaty which De Valera had advocated in the debates on the Treaty in 1921-22. This objective was an Irish republic within the British Empire-Commonwealth. Inside five years of forming a government De Valera had succeeded.

First, the position of British-appointed Governor General of the Irish Free State was abolished. The British constitutional crisis around the abdication of King Edward VIII in late 1936 gave De Valera an opportunity to abolish the Oath of Allegiance to the king, which he duly did.

He claimed that the Irish Free State was now a republic within the British Commonwealth. Effectively it was.

Just as the record of the Dail debate on the Treaty shows how surprisingly small a part Partition played in their deliberations, so also in the disputes and discussions up to the late 1930s - more or less all of them took it as a fact that they could do nothing about Partition because the Six Counties majority wanted it.

De Valera knew that an attempt to coerce "the North" into a united Ireland could at best only lead to a shifting of the Partition border north and east, as Catholic-majority areas were incorporated into the Free State. The Protestant majority areas in Antrim and Down, and parts of other counties, would remain and the Protestant-Unionists, could not be compelled to want or accept incorporation into the Catholic-majority state. Nor did either Free Staters or De Valeraites want to incorporate the Six Counties' Catholic-majority areas adjoining the Free State. That would only have rationalised the Protestant-Unionist mini-state; whereas the anomaly of a big (and growing) Catholic minority in the Six Counties meant that Partition could not be regarded as "settled". It would be the mid-1960s, before the Dublin and Belfast government leaders would so much as meet each other!

There is a curious similarity between the Dublin government's "use them" attitude to the Six Counties Catholics along the border with the Free State and the way Arab governments in the years since 1948 have preserved the Palestinian refugees' status as refugees, refusing them the right to work, etc, as a "fact" to use against Israel and the "normalisation" of Arab-Israel relations.

The Fianna Fail government developed its distinctive line on Partition and the Protestant-Unionist Irish of north east Ulster: it is Britain's fault and Britain's responsibility to solve it. Britain and Dublin must relate to each other over the heads of the Six Counties Unionists. That is the policy of the Provisional IRA - and of Fianna Fail governments still. It has been implemented or half-implemented, in the last 19 years, beginning with the London-Dublin Agreement of 1985 and continuing with the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) period as the framework within which to seek to foster Unionist-Nationalist agreement within the Six Counties framework.

When the 1998-agreed Belfast power-sharing government is impossible, as it has been for most of the time since the GFA was signed, London and Dublin can cope…

Nor, until the end of the 1930s, did the IRAs - they split, right and Stalinist-led "left" in 1934 - have any notion of coercing the "Protestant North".

By 1937, the De Valera government had realised the goals for which the republicans had fought the civil war, and that was codified in a new Constitution. This constitution embodied the radical contradiction at the heart of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois and Catholic "republicanism". Defining the territory of the nation, the territory over which the Dublin government had a right to rule, as the whole island, including the Six Counties, it also recognised a "special place" for the Catholic church in Ireland!

Doing that, it only codified the reality of the 26 Counties, where the bishops had tremendous power to dictate to the Dail and to governments. Nobody in their sane political senses could have thought this was the way to prepare for the eventual adherence of Protestant Ireland to the Republic.

The decisive test for whether Britain accepted that the Free State was really independent would come in World War Two, when the 26 Counties refused to join Britain, as the other "white dominions" did, and proclaimed itself neutral. Would Britain try by force to regain the important naval bases in the 26 Counties that had only been handed over to Dublin in 1938? It didn't.

It was the ultimate success of the De Valera-ites, achieving what the republicans of 1922 had fought for. This success would force physical force republicanism into a new shape and put opposition to partition at the centre of Republicanism's raison d'etre.

Socially, what was the Fianna Fail government?

In the early 30s, tariff barriers were going up everywhere - Britain had abandoned the free trade that had served it so well for nearly a century in 1931. Coming to power at the nadir of the Great Slump Fianna Fail implemented the old policy of Arthur Griffith. To first create Irish industry by way of "nursery tariffs". Fianna Fail erected high tariffs behind which to develop Irish manufacturing industry.

If you wanted to set up as a manufacturer of goods now imported, just tell the government, and a tariff, high enough to give over the market to the new Irish manufacturer, would be slapped on such imports. That, together with state help, led to a small growth of Irish industry. But such "hothouse" products could not compete outside the home market. When the capitalist world after the great bloodletting of World War Two began to recover from the dislocation and neo-mercantilism of the inter-war years, the Irish economy stagnated and stifled behind its autarkic tariff walls.

Immigration then reached a thousand a week, from a population of just under three million. The attempt to build Irish industry behind high tariffs would be abandoned - by a Fianna Fail government; indeed, by the minister who had initiated the turn to tariffs in 1932, Sean Lemas - in 1958.

In terms of social radicalism, the second government of revolutionary gunmen turned constitutional bourgeois politicians was at the start more radical than the first.

They stopped sending to London the money the Free State was obligated by the Treaty to collect annually from the farmers to pay back the money the British government had advanced at various times between the 1880s and 1922, to buy out the old landlords. Fianna Fail lowered what the farmers would pay, and kept the rest in Ireland.

Britain retaliated by banning Irish cattle from its main, British, market. This was the start of the "trade war".

It would only end completely in 1938, when as part of a package Britain also vacated the three coastal bases it had held under the Treaty. The consequence for internal Irish politics was that the socially powerful big Irish cattle producers revolted against the De Valera government. So did the party that had held power until 1932. The crisis attendant on the coming to power of the defeated of the civil war, thus came late, but for a while it was very secure. To some a second civil war seemed a real possibility.

The Fianna Fail government had opened the jails for the many jailed republicans. A section of physical force republicans, feeling that the government was on their side, took to physically breaking up the meetings of their civil war opponents.

"No free speech for traitors" was their cry.

De Valera sacked the Free State's chief policeman, Eoin O'Duffy; he recruited republicans into a special police squad.

The Free Staters raised a hue and cry that a communist revolution was creeping up on Ireland. De Valera is, they said, a "Kerensky", a weak bridge-man to Bolshevism allied with Republicanism and secretly controlling the republicans in Ireland. They could cite some real links between the "left" physical force republican leaders and the Communist International.

The anti-De Valera forces combined in a fascist party.

Under the leadership of Eoin O'Duffy, the policeman De Valera sacked, a mass fascist-style movement, incorporating the ousted party of government of the first 10 years, suddenly sprang to life, fully grown and challenging for power - the "Blueshirts".

When they announced a "march on Dublin", modelled on Mussolini's "march on Rome" in 1922, De Valera, now in control of the state machine, banned the march and mobilised the forces to enforce the ban, including both the trade unions and the physical force republicans, functioning as an auxiliary of the government.

The fascists backed down.

Soon they split. The biggest segment becoming Fine Gael (the second party in the state today), the rest hardcore clerical-fascists led by the somewhat quixotic O'Duffy, who faded quickly to the margins of political life. He would take a large contingent of fascists off to fight in France in the Spanish civil war.

Having dealt with the right, De Valera's state then asserted itself to rein in the physical force republicans on its "left".

In power, De Valera had built up support by way of what was a weak, poor-country equivalent of Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal.

They distributed meat from the cows the British would not allow into Britain to the poor. They appealed to a spirit of constructive nationalism. They consolidated support among the poor of the country and town. At first they leaned on the left against the Blueshirts. Then in 1936 they turned on their brother republicans and started a slow process of repression that would culminate in shootings and hangings during World War Two.

Socially the De Valera-ites represented the middle and poor farmers and the petit-bourgeoisie of the towns. Their ideal of Ireland was an Ireland of small capitalists and small farmers, an Ireland as De Valera put it, of "comely maidens and virile youths living frugally but well on their homesteads". It was a petit-bourgeois fantasy with little grip on the world as it was.

The reality was that a small part of the population grew rich, some into big and bigger bourgeois, as a result of De Valera's revolution.

The working class of the small towns and the countryside was still ground down by poverty, unemployment and lack of social amenities, and spiritually and intellectually by the narrow Catholic culture and the "illiteracy in two languages" (the second language was Gaelic, in which for three decades the schools taught children whose language was English other subjects). The rule of the divided wings of Sinn Fein from 1922 was also the rule of a narrow cultural-nationalist sect. When the world economy revived a bit in the late 1930s mass immigration resumed.

They were social conservatives in everything that affected the working class and the poor.

In power, sections of Fianna Fail became a corrupt party of Irish "business". As former Fianna Fail Taoiseach Charles J Haughey, who began on the "republican" side of the party - his family were refugees from the anti-Catholic pogrom in the north at the beginning of the 1920s - and took millions for political favours has in recent years demonstrated, that is what it is now.

When, after 16 years in office, the electorate dismissed Fianna Fail, its place would be taken by a coalition government in which the physical force republicans who had resisted De Valera's turn to parliamentary politics in the 20s and 30s, led by Sean MacBride, would play the pivotal role.

There is, however, from here on in an important new element in the story, between the physical force republicans before and after, say, 1937, when the rational goals of the older physical force republicans were realised, as much as they could be and the physical force republicans since. One might think, the 1922 republicans' obsession with the oath to the king grossly disproportionate, but it was not, for those religious men and women who took oaths very seriously, irrational.

The physical force republicans after the late 1930s dealt in real problems - the division of the Irish people, the Six Counties Catholic minority, etc - but from now on they would do it increasingly through mystification and by feeding themselves and others downright ideological lies. We will give an account of this in the next issue of Solidarity.

* Gombeen is a money-lending huckster, a petit bourgeois greedily striving to accumulate.

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