The secret world of the SFWP Part 2
Political Lobotomy - How the Workers' Party came to abandon the policies for which it stood a decade ago by Vincent Browne
The organisation now known as The Workers' Party has in previous periods been known variously as Sinn Fein, Official Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein (Gardiner Place) and Sinn Fein The Workers' Party. In these articles we have used the name most appropriate to the period being described.
Last Easter Sunday, Tomas MacGiolla, President of The Workers' Party, delivered a speech at the Sunset Ridge motel near Blarney, Co. Cork, at a social function attended by most members of the organisation in the region. The tone of the speech was apparently more "republican" than statements emanating in recent years from the party.
Ted Tynan, one of the party's most prominent members in Cork city and candidate for the party in the Cork North Central constituency in both recent general elections, stood up to rebut MacGiolla in an answering speech. Tynan is nowadays very much associated with the "economist" wing of the party, which is very hostile to the republican eleement. Another prominent member in Cork, Doc Doherty, and many of his faction, were also present. These are assoociated with the republican element.
One word borrowed another and a vicious row ensued with several people being laid out and glasses and bottles used in the affray. The local Gardai apparently had to be reeinforced by extra Gardai to quell the rumpus. This partiicular row had its origins partly in rivalry over the nominaation for the Cork North Central constituency in the recent election. At the local convention Doherty won the nominaation but the Ard Comhairle reversed the decision and Tynan was installed as the candidate.
However the row also had its origins in the peculiar ideoological development of the party over recent years and the tensions and bitterness which this has given rise to.
The Workers Party is now almost ideologically unnrecognisable as the party it was under the guise of Sinn Fein a decade ago.
On the national question, the EEC, trade union miliitancy, foreign investment, participation in broad front organisations and the use of violence, the party has changed beyond recognition.
From being a republican, anti-partitionist organisation, the party is now virtually unionist and drawing plaudits, as a consequence, from the likes of Ian Paisley and Harry West. From a position of being the foremost opponent of EEC membership during the referendum campaign of 1972, the party is now in favour of membership. Having opposed foreign industrialisation a decade ago, The Workers Party is now the foremost advocate of foreign investment. Ten years ago the party was advocating trade union militancy, including the rejection of national wage agreements, now the party is a deeply conservative influence within the trade union movement and in favour of national wage agreeements/understandings. From being open advocates of violence for both national and social objectives in 1972 the party is now rhetorically the shrillest opponent of violence in the country .
The change has represented nothing short of a political lobotomy and has come about not through the process of open democratic debate within the party but through the establishment of an elite corps within the organisation, the Industrial Section, which has operated outside the normal institutions of the party, been largely unaccountable to the party's decision-making bodies, and which has conducted its deliberations in secret.
The driving force for this change has been Cathal Goulding, who first inaugurated the New Departure within the Republican movement in the early 1960s. It was he who steered the movement towards political involvement in the first place, he gave the physical force element its head from 1970 to 1972 but then managed to turn off that tap very effectively, if not immediately on the declaration of a cease fire in May 1972. It was Goulding who also inspired the much more significant ideological transformation from 1975 onwards - much more significant than what occurred in the 1960s - by his support for the Industrial Section within the party and of the policy lines it was formulating. Without his support it could never have happened.
For Goulding to have foreseen from the perspective of twenty years ago the direction in which he was to steer the movement would have required not alone inspirational foresight but also stoic patience and a Machievellian deviousness. Such qualities are superhuman, but Goulding certainly determined early on to move the republican moveement away from military elitism towards fully-fledged political involvement aimed towards an ill-defined socialist objective. He also was and is possessed with considerable patience and even himself relishes his reputation for deviousness. He has been by far the most commanding figure within the Official Sinn Fein/Official IRA movement.
Goulding had been in jail in England from 1956 to 1962 and had thus avoided the disillusionment and despair of the hopeless 1950s border campaign. In prison he voraciously read revolutionary tracts and on his release and his appointment as Chief of Staff of the IRA he was deetermined to change the direction and focus of the moveement.
Goulding initiated a self-critical examination of the whole development of the republican movement and the experience of the 1950s defeat - the results of this examination were assembled in a number of internal IRA documents and later published under the title In The 70s: The IRA Speaks.
The major conclusion was that the IRA had no solid political base amongst the people and that its concentration on military struggle had ignored the political aspects of Britain's presence in the North and the changing nature of the relationship between Britain and Ireland as a whole. It declared: "our objective was to be the reconquest of Ireland, not simply to place an Irish government in political control of the geographical entity of Ireland but to place the mass of the people in actual control of the wealth and resources of the Irish nation and to give them a cultural identity" .
The IRA army convention of 1965 declared the obbjective of the IRA to be the establishment of a "democratic socialist republic" and shortly afterwards republicans got involved in a frenetic series of political activities, including fish-ins, housing action campaigns, etc. The instigation of the civil rights movement in the North flowed logically from this initiative.
Its involvement in the military campaign in the North from 1970 to 1972 is now regarded by spokespersons for the party as an aberration but there is no doubting the centrality of the republican objective in the party's ideology after Goulding's New Departure had come into being.
At the outset of the civil rights campaign, the party's newspaper The United Irishman, in an admonishment of the People's Democracy for a too great concentration on social and economic issues, stated: "economic resistance, the struggle for jobs and the campaign against neo-colonial and free trade, is only one aspect of the struggle against British imperalism in Ireland, of which partition is, and remains, the main bastion."
Equivocation quickly set in as the Northern conflict unfolded. Increasingly the party identified civil rights as the central issue. An editorial in The United Irishman in mid-1972 stated: "the main issue at the moment in the North is still, as it has been for the last few years, the civil rights issue. We have firmly and repeatedly stated over the years that the achievement of civil rights and basic demoocracy is necessary if we are to make real progress towards winning our aim of a united, independent, socialist, demoocratic republic.
"We understand that such a republic can only be built upon the combined efforts of all Irish workers ... To achieve this unity of workers, it is essential to overcome the vicious divisions which have been carefully fostered by the alien British regime."
The latter sentiments were a rehash of the Redmondite view that there could be unity only after the Catholic and Protestants of the North had been united - the opposing view is that first ennunciated by James Connolly who reegarded the Protestant working class as a "labour aristoocracy" who would be ameliorated only when the country was united into a socialist republic, (i.e. unity of the country was a necessary precondition for the unity of the working class not visa versa.).
In the April issue of Magill we stated that Bernard Lynch had been convicted of the murder of Larry White in Cork on June 10, 1975. Mr. Lynch was aquitted on appeal. We reegret therefore the inclusion of his name among those who were finally convicted of the murder. We apologise to Mr. Lynch and regret any embarrassment he may have been caused.
The conflict between these two notions was to divide Official Sinn Fein for several years and indeed led to the split which gave rise to the IRSP. Seamus Costello and Sean Garland were foremost within the movement in 1972 in opposition to the civil rights thesis. They presented a docuument to the Ard Fheis of that year which stated that there was an impression that the movement was not in favour of the national struggle and rejecting the view that the civil rights campaign should be directed towards reforming the Northern state. A similar debate went on inside the Official IRA at that time but the "republican" forces within the movement were weakened by basic disagreements between Costello and Garland - Garland was in favour of more "mass activity" on the civil rights issue aimed at destroying the coherence of the Northern state, thereby putting national demands on the agenda and opening a vista to an all-Ireland struggle. Costello favoured a resumption, in one form or another, of the military struggle.
With the tensions engendered by the emergent split with Costello, Garland's position got lost, as indeed did mention even of the civil rights issue. In early 1974 Eoghan Harris, who even then was becoming the dominant ideologue within the party, delivered a paper entitled "From Civil Rights to Class Politics", which effectively argued that civil rights had been achieved in Northern Ireland and that now the way was open for the kind of political initiatives which would unite the Protestant and Catholic working class - it was this paper which ultimately gave rise to the slogan:
"Peace, Justice and Class Politics". It was this which also gave rise to the acceptance of the proposal of devolved Government, opposition to power sharing, acceptance of the RUC as an impartial peace-keeping force and the abandonment of any demands for the withdrawal of the British presence from Northern Ireland.
The process by which the party came to accept the existence of the Northern state - indeed to be one of its foremost allies as evidenced by the laudatory comments of Paisley and West - has involved a mechanical application of the Marxist theory of the stages of development.
The accepted Marxist stages theory holds that the demoocratic revolution has to be completed before the socialist revolution would be possible and that these two revolutions could be separated by long periods. In Marxist doctrine, the democratic revolution involves, among other things, the achievement of national independence and unity.
In Ireland the holders of the stages theory added another stage: before the fight for national independence and unity could begin, the Protestant and Catholic working class would have to be united. On this basis SFWP and the Communist Party of Ireland opposed the abolition of the Northern Ireland state - they proposed to "democratise" it.
The stages theory, although it has a background in Marx, was made the official doctrine of Communist Parties only after the rise of Stalin. It reflected the conservatism of the established regime in the Soviet Union and the contraadictions between the material interests of the Soviet state and its need to justify itself ideologically. The practical implication of the theory is that the Communist Parties should fight for reforms in order to maintain their support but not press far enough to endanger the status quo.
Eoghan Harris was involved in the internal affairs of the party from the late 1960s onwards - he became friendly with Cathal Goulding shortly after coming to Dublin and RTE from university in Cork. Harris played a minor role in the Republican Industrial Division under Lar Malone but didn't get on with Malone. RID was disbanded at the end of 1972 but reformed as the Department of Economic Afffairs in early 1973 under Eamon Smullen, whom Goulding had brought b-ack from England on Smullen's release from jail (see note on Smullen on page 10).
Harris and Smullen hit it off from the beginning and there then began a process of ideological re-evaluation which effectively transformed the party over the next three years. Which was the dominant personality it is not possible for an outsider to judge, but certainly the input of Harris I was immense as was the input of those he brought into the Industrial Section of the party with him. These were mainly colleagues from RTE.
The first of these was Oliver O'Donoghue who was then a researcher on The Late Late Show. O'Donoghue had none of the polemical flair of Harris but he was a thorough and serious researcher who did a great deal of the detailed reesearch work for the documents produced by the party over the following few years. Others from RTE whom Harris innvolved included Tish Barry, now producer with Today Toonight, Eugene Murray, the producer of Public Account, and John Cadden who worked also as a researcher on The Late Late Show for a few years before becoming a radio produccer and currently producer of The Gay Byrne Hour.
Harris nowadays takes pride in certain strategic decisions which the party took in the mid 1970s whichhave reaped considerable political gains. There were four in all and these were:
*The identification of the public sector workers as a specific target of the party's recruitment efforts. This was done by the sponsorship of issues linked with the interests of these workers, including the expansion of the public sector against attacks from Richie Ryan and others. The party has recruited heavily from this sector as a consequence.
*Support for the national wage agreements. This was in sharp contrast to the position of the party in the early 1970s but the volte face was occasioned by the realisation that centrally conducted wage bargaining highlighted the national powers of the trade union movement as a whole, made the working class aware of its corporate strength and juxtaposed the organised industrial class with the rural bourgeoisie in as stark a manner as possible.
*The promotion of industrialisation, irrespective of the environmental consequences. The rationale for this was to strengthen the party's identification with the working class by consciously alienating the liberal middle class.
*The identification with the PA YE classes, thereby heightening the polarisation between town and country, between the working class and the farming class. The purrpose of this was also to heighten the working class awareeness of its identity versus other groups.in society.
The ideological context in which these decisions were . taken was outlined in the famous document, The Irish Industrial Revolution, which has been the foremost creation of the Industrial Section. This document very much compleemented the party's ideological stance on the national quesstion - effectively exonerated British imperialism from any culpability for the backwardness of the Irish economy. The bete noir of the IIR was the southern bourgeoisie which "refused" to create an industrial revolution in the south 1 and thereby the basis for socialism in Ireland - the volunntarist nature of this thesis is essentially non-Marxist, although couched in Marxist language.
Underpinning The Irish Industrial Revolution, and indeed all policy statements of The Workers' Party on economic issues since 1977, is the Harris argument which went as folllows: Lenin described monopoly capitalism - the stage of capitalism when bank capital and industrial capital are linked together in huge conglomerations - as the last stage of capitalism. before socialism. Therefore the road to socialism in Ireland lay in first of all supporting the monopolies which would crush the local capitalist forces, industrialising the country in a substantial way in the process, creating a proletariat free of the peasant prejudices and connections and thereby sow the seeds of socialism.
It was this thesis which led to The Workers' Party aban-. doning the progressive policies it espoused in the early seventies and adopting positions, which to many of its fol- . lowers and many others, appeared reactionary or at least well to the right of the Labour Party. It was not that the party was attempting to promote the interests of monopoly capital per se, but, since even according to itself, socialism was not on the agenda for some time to come, it meant collaborating in policies which were objectively oppressive of the working class which it supposedly was serving.
Among the extraordinary turn-abouts on policy were the following:
"Sinn Fein believes that the interests of the Irish people can best be served by withdrawing from the EEC and are cammpaigning to mobilise the Irish people to demand that such a course be adopted" - party programme, September 1976.
"We do not advise withdrawal from the EEC" - The frish Industrial Revolution (page 126) 1977.
In 1975 Des O'Hagan, then director of eduction for the party, wrote: "also closely allied to the EEC is the small farmer problem. Here the Republican Movement believes that while recognising the petty-bourgeois nature of the class that the proper policy is to defend the small farmer against the rancher and show his class ally as workers - not to do so is to see the small farmers driven into the right wing camp." (Up to this time, all party literature referred to the "workers' and small farmers' republic".)
Two years later in The Irish Industrial Revolution the "farrning class" (without differentiation between ranchers and small farmers) were described as the enemies of the working class. The IIR advocates the reduction in farming numbers of 10,000 per year.
A RID bulletin in December 1972 refers scathingly to the IDA saying "someone should buy the IDA an adding machine" and attacking the IDA policy of "spending taxxpayers' money - attracting foreign investors and corporaations to exploit the wealth and resources of Ireland".
In 1977 the Irish Industrial Revolution document reeferred to the IDA as "objectively progressive".
In his Carrighmore speech in July 1972 MacGiolla said "preference will be given to those who have a stake in the country rather than fly-by-night international junketeers".
The Irish Industrial Revolution declares: "foreign indusstry means a progressive industrial base, explicit imperialist control and a vast workforce, which, in times of crisis, is open constantly to the argument for state socialism rather than feudal and reactionary appeals of the "buy Irish nature" .
This truly gargantuan shift of position was accomplished with only the mimimum of debate within the party. Indeed many members of the Ard Comhairle knew of The Irish fndustrial Revolution only when it was published. Since then the party has been equivocal about its status but MacGiolla, in an interview in connection with this article, stated that it was now official party policy - the genesis of it had been passed at Ard Fheiseanna.
It managed to get through primarily because the Indusstrial Section lived a life of its own within the party. Other party members were otherwise occupied and had little time for research or ideological deliberation. But, more crucially, the departure of Seamus Costello in 1975 and the simulltaneous departure of a number of people who defected to the Communist Party, most notably Eoin 0 Morchu, meant that there was not a formidable intellectual challenge to the new line coming from any source within the party.
There were many within the party deeply unhappy with the line being enunciated by the Industrial Section - Joe Sherlock and MacGiolla, for instance, were in deep disagreeement with the categorisation of small farmers along with ranchers as enemies of the working class - but no effective challenge was mounted to the new ideology.
The decision to change the name of the party was a logical progression from the change that had occurred ideoologically within the organisation. The tag "The Workers' Party" was added to Sinn Fein in 1977 when the Industrial Section was at its zenith, having just published The Irish Industrial Revolution. Then in 1980 the Stapleton Cumann - one of the Industrial Section's secret cumainn - prooposed that the Sinn Fein part of the party's name be dropped. This was defeated but the following year there was' an attempt made at Ard Comhairle level to have it sponsor the same resolution for the 1981 Ard Fheis. This initiative was halted when Joe Sherlock threatened to reesign and MacGiolla also voiced his opposition.
The unanimity with which the proposal was accepted at this year's Ard Fheis is all the more remarkable therefore. There were no speakers against the resolution and only a handful voted against. How such unanimity could have been obtained within the space of a year, given the deep division which the proposal evinced just a year ago, is inexplicable.
SFWP 2 - Finances
The Workers' Party is probably the wealthiest party in the country, bar none. This is especially surprising given the small membership of the party - we estimate less than 1,000 throughout the entire country.
The Workers' Party is the owner of the following premises:
* 30 Gardiner Place, the party headquarters, which was bought in 1973.
* the party offices in Trevor Hill, Newry, which is a buildding listed as of architectural merit and cost something in the region of £90,000.
* Thomas Ashe Hall, Fr Mathew Quay, Cork.
* social club in Cyprus St, Belfast, which seats 750 people. * social club in New Lodge Road, Belfast.
* social club in Lagan St, The Markets, Belfast. * social club in Turf Lodge, Belfast.
* the headquarters in Springfield Road, Belfast. * the headquarters in Barrack St, Waterford.
* a summer camp at Mornington, Co. Meath, used for weekend educational courses - but also used on occasion for other purposes (e.g. it was there that the Seamus Costello "courtmartial" took place).
In addition the party leases premises in Gardiner Place, Dublin, where Club Vi Cadhain occupies the basement, and a premises at 10 North Quay, Drogheda. The party has a
full-time staff of twenty, all of whom are paid out of party funds. The staff is as follows: Sean Garland, the general seccretary, and Peter Kane, the assistant general secretary; Sean Kenny, the PRO; Padraigh Yeats, Margaret O'Leary and Teresa Moriarty, all on the staff of The Irish People; Des O'Hagan, Paddy Gillen, Gerry Flynn and Adrian Gallagher on the staff of Workers' Life; three people in the print shop; Eamonn Smullen, the director of Economic Affairs; Gerry Doherty, the finance director; a full-time person in the bookshop; a full-time person in Cork; three full-time people in. Belfast.
The party publishes the following periodicals: The Irish People (weekly), workers/ Life (monthly), Toeric (quarrterly), Women's View (every two months), Ireland (a monthly sent free to foreign subscribers). In addition the party publishes more pamphlets than any other political party in the country.
It is difficult to estimate the net costs of running all these activities and paying the wages of all these people, partly because some of the party's operations are selfcing. However, several former members of the party estiimate that the net costs of running the party is in the region of £3,000 per week - i.e.; £156,000 per annum and this would not include the repayment of any mortgages on premises.
The party's declared source of funds is membership fees - each member who is employed has to pay SOp per week and with about 1,000 members this would yield about £500 per week. There are also the sales of The Irish People or rather the contributions obtained through the distribuution of the paper - the paper is given away free but a simulltaneous collection is made which purportedly yields a great deal of money each week. In an interview with Magill for this article, Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland stated that the party also earned a lot from the sale of Easter Lilies.
SFWP 3 - The making of a conspiracy
How secret branches and secret members were organised to infiltrate the unions and RTE along the lines of the infiltration strategy outlined later. By Ray McGuigan
Ray McGuigan is a journalist with the Evening Herald and a former member of SFWP - he resigned in 1976.
The first tentative moves toward involvement by the then Official Sinn Fein (SFWP) with the trade unions came in early 1972. It was largely a spontaneous decision by members of the organisation in Dublin and it was welcomed and encouraged by the leadership. It called itself the Republican Industrial Department (RID) and was particularly encourraged by Cathal Goulding.
Its first leading light was Lar Malone, who was at that time a leading member of the Officials in Dublin and was highly regarded both by the leadership and by the memmbership of the political and military wings of the movement.
It was primarily Dublin-based and its initial idea was to co-ordinate the party members within their unions, so that they could assist each other and to ensure they didn't cut across each other.. The main aim was to influence other trade unionists to join the movement. A central job of RID in its early days was to liaise with members of the Commuunist Party in the unions and to present a 'left wing united front' within the unions. There was for some time a joint liaison committee between the two organisations.
Des Geraghty, who recently contested the Vice Presiidency of the ITGWU was an early' member of RID and, like most if not all the other members, was publicly known -as a member of Sinn Fein. He worked with a group within the ITGWU who included Jimmy Jordan, now a full-time ITGWU official, Jim Sheridan, and a former chairman of the Dublin Housing Action Committee, Sean Dunne.
Broadly speaking the members of RID saw themselves as a progressive force within the Official Republican Moveement - moving away from the militarism of earlier days toward a direct involvement in the 'day-to-day struggle.'
One of the activities of RID was the publishing of eduucation lectures and newsletters for the rest of the moveement's membership - and it was in this area that RID met its problems. Many of the mainstream members of the movement were unhappy with some of the policies of RID and more so unhappy with the lack of direct control over its activities.
At this stage (late '72, early '73) Eoghan Harris and Oliver O'Donoghue were both in contact with members of the leadership of the movement and were involved in drawing up various proposed policies and discussion docuuments. They were involved with RID - where Harris was considered a 'Trotskyist' by those members who had heard of the term - but did not always have a close relationship with the members of RID. Malone in particular was susspicious of Harris and O'Donoghue.
Sean Garland was also known to have little time for this new 'research section' and referred scathingly to meettings between Harris, O'Donoghue and Cathal Goulding who was their main link man, as "the Army Council in exile."
In 1973 RID became involved in increasingly bitter rows Within, the party over who controlled it and eventually was disbanded. This action by the leadership however did
not mean the abandonment of trade union work and Goullding in particular was anxious to see a reconstituted section concentrating in this area. Goulding knew what he wanted the section to do but he needed someone to control it and to plan its direction. The release of former Communist Party member and trade unionist Eamonn Smullen from prison in England, where he had served a sentence for conspiracy to import arms along with Gerry Doherty (now Finance Officer of SFWP) gave Goulding his opportunity and on his recommendation Smullen, who was virtually unknown to the rest of the Ard Comhairle, was appoinnted.
Perhaps the major influence nowadays on the party allthough Garland holds the centre of power within the movement. He was imprisoned in Portlaoise during the second World War and was held in solitary confinement and "on the blanket" there for several years. On his release, he joined the Irish Workers' League and later joined the British Communist Party on emigrating to England, where he was active in the trade union movement. Convicted of conspirring to buy arms illegally in England in 1969. he was brought back to Ireland by Cathal Goulding in early 1973 to start the Department of Economic Affairs. His infiltrationist tactics and predilection for secrecy. which he has brought to the industrial section of SFWP, were learned while in the British Communist Party. He is the direct link between the "secret" members and the open party. He is very ambittious within the movement and is known tp have sought a senior position of late. Vincent Browne
The new Industrial Section was to be under the control of the leadership - via Smullen who was the linkman to the Ard Comhairle. He produced the 'plan of action' for an industrial section (see pages 18 and 19) - this was the blueprint for the party's industrial strategy.
One important difference with this industrial section was that a significant number of its members would not be known openly as party members. They would be 'secret members' and a motion was passed at the 1973 Ard Fheis hdespite the opposition of Seamus Costello - to facilitate this. These secret members would be known only to Smullen and would report to him. The only link between the movement and the section was Smullen. At the beginning two 'secret cumainn' were established - the William Thomppson (within the ITGWU) and the Ned Stapleton (initially within the WUI). Subsequently other cumainn were estabblished but since the name of the game was simply to ennsure a presence atArd Fheiseanna and to facilitate the tabling of motions there wasn't the same need to establish cumainn specifically. There are now said to be five industrial cumainn in Dublin (up to three of them in the ITGWU) along with others in Cork and Belfast.
Membership of these cumainn was never as strictly deefined as 'industrial cumainn' might suggest. Some of the cumainn might include officials with semi-state bodies ¨where open membership might point a finger at them when the party produced a policy based on confidential company documentation, The cumainn also included members who were actually open members in their local area but who were either being groomed for greater things or being used as stalking horses within the party to advance the industrial section policy within the open organisation.
When the two 'secret cumainn' were established their YW jobs were supposedly identical. The Thompson was the stronger initially but after a short time it was clearly being over-shadowed by the Stapleton cumainn whose memmbers included at this time (1974) Harris and O'Donoghue. People who were at the time members of the Thompson cumainn claim that Smullen 'did a deal' with Harris. Cerrtainly what happened is that Smullen became more and more dependent on the Harris-O'Donoghue axis (or research and policy and his relations with Geraghty became very strained - at one time to breaking point.
At this stage there was much more progress being made within the WUI as John Cadden, now producer of the Gay Byrne Hour on RTE Radio One, was elected to the WUI executive having been chairman of the prestigious No. 15· Branch (covering RTE and the semi-states area). While Official Sinn Fein had a presence in several of the ITGWU Branches they had no presence on the executive, nor did they have the sympathy of any officials besides Geraghty.
Within the ITGWU there was a strong alliance between the Communist Party and SFWP, (then Official Sinn Fein), members. They established an informal liaison committee where they could discuss possible common strategies and ensure candidates didn't run against each other, as well as helping each other's candidates. There was no such commmon purpose in the WUI and indeed pressure was brought to bear, around 1974, on the SFWP people in the ITGWU to distance themselves from the CP.
Around this time Smullen began to formulate the idea that for SFWP to succeed it would first have to smash the CP and the Labour Party. The idea had originated from Harris who had been pushing that line for some time. Things came to a head in the ITGWU when the CP asked SFWP for support for a candidate whom they were supporting for a Branch office. The SFWP people felt that the candidate was worthy of support and agreed. Soon afterwards however, they were informed by Smullen that he was not happy with their support for a 'crypto-provo' (the person concerned was associated with the Sovereignty Movement). However, there was a difference of opinion and the Thompson cummainn carried on as before. As the election approached howwever orders came from Smullen that the cumainn was to withdraw its support from the candidate - they refused and a confrontation came about which - along with the issuing of the Irish Industrial Revolution - was to lead to most of the SFWP members in the ITGWU at that time resigning. These included Sean Dunne, John Connolly, Jim Sheridan and several others. Only two of the originnal band remained members, Des Geraghty and Jimmy Jordan, though both these were highly upset by the events and indeed, Geraghty refused even to talk to Smullen for :a long time afterwards.
In the WUI things had progressed faster earlier. At one stage John Cadden, Liam Maguire and John McAdam, all SFWP members, were on the WUI executive. However, Maguire, of the airport branch, withdrew through ill health while McAdam pulled out of both the party and union office and Cadden was defeated. The method of his rise and defeat are interesting indications of the way the party operates.
The WUI No. 15 Branch, and the RTE section of it in particular has been a central battleground for SFWP for some years. The branch consists of some 4,000 members (or did until it was split earlier this year leaving it now with 2,000 members). Attendances, though, would flucctuate between 50 at a boring meeting to 160 at a crunch meeting. With a membership of 4,000 the branch had a large delegation at annual conference - enough votes to ensure - after bartering for support with other branches, that its nominee would be elected to the executive at the conference. For several years the RTE section was dominaated by the Harris-Cadden influence with Cadden as Secction chairman and Tish Barry (now producer on Today 'j(might) secretary. Cadden was also chairman ofthe Branch. When he first ran for the executive he received support from across the board on the left and was seen as a 'broad left' candidate.
One of the issues which soured the left unity arose on the departure of Denis Larkin when Paddy Cardiff moved up to General Secretary. In the election for Deputy General Secretary (Cardiff's job) there were three candidates: Bill Atlee, the candidate of the Labour Party establishment and an official in Bray; Peter Keating, a CP member and head office official; and Paul Bushell from the Aer Lingus area where Liam Maguire (Irish Wheelchair Association activist) was the dominant force. Paul Bushell was not a member of SF\VP but the party decided to support him rather than Keating. Pat Brady, who was an official at this time was one of several party members who broke the whip and suppported Keating. Atlee, though a competent and efficient official, was not well known in the WUI. A full-time official at the time of the election didn't even know Atlee was an official in Bray! Atlee was better known in football circles where he was an active soccer referee.
In the No. 15 Branch a meeting called to vote on the job showed the weakness of SFWP's conspiracy methods. With 160 people present Bushell and Keating could get only 30 votes each with the anonymous Atlee picking up around 100. Paddy Cardiff had cracked his own whip and SFWP had been taught a lesson.
There were tensions within the RTE section also because ••• ~he clerical workers - who make up most of the WUI members at RTE - were outnumbered on the Section commmittee by the programmes staff, the breakdown being 5-4. In addition, the chairman .and secretary were Cadden and Barry respectively, giving the programmes area control. The programmes area was dominated by Harris and Cadden and the section committee reflected this. In 1979, there was a. conflict between the two areas when the committee, dominated by; programmes people, recommended accepptance of a wages deal for clerical workers to which there was a strong resistance by the clerical people. After a ballot the offer was rejected. Many in the clerical area (350 people) were asking how the programmes area (less than 200) could control the committee and a motion was introduced at the AGM to give the clerical people 6 seats. This was passed and Cadden was defeated for the chair. Subsequently, Cadden lost the Branch nomination for the executive of the union to Brian Higgins, who went on to win the executive seat.
SFWP hit back in 1981 when Una Claffey, formerly Secretary of the Resources Protection Campaign, was eleccted to the chairmanship of the Branch. This year she again won that election but failed to shift Higgins from the executive nomination. The party's next action shows the planning which goes into their actions. They proposed and passed a nomination for Trustee. The effect of this is to seriously damage Higgins chances of retaining his seat on the executive. This is because of the 'barter system' widely used in the big unions. At the conference the No. 15 Branch might normally trade its votes for trustee, for example, in return for another branch's votes for the executive. Higgins is now unable to do this, although he is said to be against the 'barter' system anyway and he will have a harder task in getting the required number of votes, especially since his branch is now half its former size, with a smaller deleegation. It is believed that Claffey will be the executive canndidate next year and there will be no trustee nominee then to ensure that the barters can take place.
However, Claffey's position within the WUI is by no means secure. Earlier this year she was one of four SFWPPassociated names to go forward for section committee from programmes area. She is a Production Assistant on Today Tonight and in a general meeting of the PA's she failed to get their support (there were three PA candidates). Of the four candidates associated with the party (David Blake Knox, Gerry Gregg, Claffey and Avril McRory) only one (Blake Knox) was elected to the 5 person section committee.
Another area where SFWP lost face and support was over the Pat Feely issue. He was producer of the McElligot's Garage programme, a repeat of which was stopped by RTE. There was an allegation that a relative of Feely worked in one of the garages and a tribunal of enquiry was set up but the WUI instructed Feely not to attend. The tribunal sat anyway and decided to demote Feely. A meeting of radio producers was called to consider strike action in his support. At that meeting Cadden took a line very close to that of management and opposed supportive action. Feely had supported the clerical members in the wages issue a year earlier and many members of the Will saw this as SFWP revenge.
The level of SFWP dominance in RTE union matters and in No. 15 Branch has fallen over the last two years and it remains to be seen whether or not Una Claffey can help re-assert the party's grip. Perhaps an omen for this is that Eoghan Harris was 'expelled' from the Branch Committee last year for lack of attendance at meetings - though Caddden insisted at the AGM that the report be changed to a 'less offensive' word. The lack of offence however didn't help him in the elections for conference delegates. He lost out - despite his consistently entertaining speeches over the years - and is only a substitute delegate.
SFWP 4 The takeover of the Resources Protection Campaign
by Ray McGuigan
Perhaps the worst example of the manipulative politics of SFWP was the manner in which it took over the Resources Protection Campaign and ousted members of the Communist Party (CP) and the Labour Party from executive positions in that organisation. The purpose of the exercise seems to have been to establish SFWP as the sole party identified with the natural resources issue.
The Resources Protection Campaign, (a product of a Trinity College based research project on natural resources), was originally a broad-based organisation campaigning on the issues of natural resources and specifically on the lead zinc mining at Tara and the need for downstream industries rather than export of raw ore.
The original group represented a cross section of left wing opinion and those involved included Roy Johnston (CP at this stage), Dave Nelligan (Labour Party), Pat Carroll (Labour Party), Eoghan Harris and Oliver. O'Donoghue, and Dermot Boucher (Labour).
The founding members of the RPC were determined that it would be a properly organised organisation so they deterrmined early on that it should have its own full time secreetary. The Labour Party people were strongly in favour of Una Claffey getting the post. She had formerly worked for Justin Keating and had been a member of the Labour Party for some years. However, unknown to Nelligan and Carroll she was at this time a member of SFWP. She set up a strong central organisation and SFWP, the CP and the left of the Labour Party threw all their weight behind the organisation.
The RPC was extremely effective especially during Jusstin Keating's period of office in Industry and Commerce. They had ready access to RTE and were given prominence in the papers as the Tara-Bula issues were never far from the front pages. However, within a year tensions began to crop up. The main activity of the members at this stage was to collect money. This was through organised collections done every week with the money brought straight to central office. The money was mainly needed for rent, publications and increasingly for the wages of the Secretary who was on a wage comparable with a trade union official - the idealisstic members of the RPC not wanting to 'exploit' a fellow trade unionist. However. more and more the row centred on control. Eamonn Smullen began to make his view known within the party that SFWP was simply providing policies for the CP and left Labour Party to 'steal.' He felt that all the policy developments were coming from his team with very little coming from the others.
The Communist Party were the effective backbone of the RPC branches and of the Trade Union Support Group (TUSG) which was becoming the cornerstone of the organiisation. The TUSG met with several union leaders and connvinced them to back the RPC demands and got the demands accepted by ICTV conference in Cork in 1976. However, in the months leading up to the AGM in 1976/77 the main energies of both parties were in the fight for control. The executive of the RPC was elected by delegates from brannches at the AGM. And it was through the branches that SFWP mounted a highly effective coup.
Many new members were added to the organisation, mostly relatives of party members or associates. All sFWP members in Dublin were ordered to join and those who didn't were joined up anyway and given a card. Those joinning in the weeks before the AGMs included Sean Kenny and Mick Ryan both of the Ard Comhairle. Since SFWP had many more members than the CP this ensured it had a majority. Eamonn Smullen carefully organised the voting at branches and lists were given out to all members. Signiificantly no CP members appeared on any of the lists. At one Branch the chairman, a CP member, found himself unable to get on a 14 strong delegation while people who had joined the previous week and had never been to a meetting before were easily elected.
However, the CP pinned its hopes on the TUSG where it had always been strong numerically. But SFWP had made the simple deduction that all its members must be trade unionists as well and joined them all up. On the day of the TUSG AGM a minibus load of trade unionists arrived from Belfast - with fully paid up cards. The cP were foolish enough to challenge the credentials of one of them - Mary McMillen who signed in as a member of UCATT (the carrpenters union). Fergal Costello of the CP sarcastically pointed to this fantastic breakthrough for women's rights to laughter from his members only to find the laughs comming from the other side when an equally sarcastic McMillen was able to produce UCATT cards for herself and afemale companion who had in fact become the first female members of UCATT.
With the vote so organised the result of the AGM was a foregone conclusion. Of 10 seats, seven went to SFWP and three to 'left' labour party. Dave Nelligan was installed in the chair as a 'respectable' neutral. Prior to the coup Smulllen had been pressed within SFWP about the anti-CP line. He always denied that the intention was to get rid of the CP saying that in fact the CP were plotting to get rid of SFWP and he was merely organising in defence. After the AGM he attributed the result to CP 'inefficiency'. Prior to the AGM also CP members had complained to Nelligan about the purge against them. He reported back that he had approached MacGiolla who had assured him that there was no purge underway.
After the SFWP takeover the RPC was allowed to fall apart. Activity dwindled and in the run up to the 1977 General Election, when they might have been expected to try to make an impact they simply disappeared. Eventually Nelligan and Matt Merrigan dropped out and Rabbitte took over the chair making it a fully SFWP executive.
At an early attempt to set up an RPC Branch in Bray the inaugural meeting was disrupted by Seamus Costello, then IRSP, who gave as part of his explanation that ifhe didn't wreck it then the sFWP would take it over and wreck it later. They did take it over but opinion ofthose who were once involved differs as to whether they meant to let it die, having served its purpose, or whether they simply ran out of ideas. Certainly, with its demise there was little threat of anyone to steal SFWP's detailed resources policies which were about to appear in the IIR
FollOWing the death of the RPC the next joining of battt~ le between the forces of the left, under the guise of working together on a broad front, came with the widely acclaimed "Left Alternative'. This was a joint policy stateement on the economy and unemployment, by SFWP, CP and Liaison of the Labour Left. Right from the first meetting the battle lines were drawn. In the basement office of the Wolfe Tone Society in Mountjoy Square Tom Reddmond and Mick O'Riordan of the Communist Party met with D. Boucher and John Burke of the Labour Party Liaiison and Smullen and MacGiolla. After some pleasantries the meeting was moving toward possible areas of co-opera- ~. tion when Eamonn Smullen reached into his pocket to prooduce a clipping from an obscure US left wing publication. The clipping was of an article by. O'Riordan in which he analysed the left forces in Ireland - naturally favourably for his own party and concluded that the CP was the party of the future in the cities with SFWP having a rural role. Most of the rest of that meeting was spent with O'Riordan trying to defend the article, which he had clearly assumed would never see the light of day on this side of the Atlantic, while Smullen counter-attacked.
After that initial stumble however, the Left Alternative moved along quite well. MacGiolla in particular was very enthusiastic for it, as were most of his members and most of the CP members. A joint policy document was written and a meeting in the Mansion House to launch it attracted around 1,000 people.
Once again, however, Smullen struck. While Noel Browne and O'Riordan made speeches about the importance of unity and the strength of the Left Smullen spoke of the only alternative being SFWP. It was a speech which embarrrassed even his own party colleagues.
However, SFWP worked fairly hard within the L.A. to make it work. It did coincide with more bad blood between the CP and SFWP but in the event two other issues deterrmined its failure. The Labour party establishment, fearing the LA moved to proscribe it and that finished the Liaison input and the approaching election ensured that SFWP were more concerned with their own electoral efforts and didn't want the stigma of going into an election in an alliance with the Communist Party.
SFWP 5 - How they infiltrated the ITGWU
by Carol Coulter
Over half the recent appointments to full-time positions in the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union have gone to members and sympathiisers of the Workers' Party .
This gives the party considerable influence in seventeen branches of the union, which between them would control about 80 votes at an annual conference. Sixty votes is sufficient to ensure election onto the fifteennperson National Executive Committee.
In the next two years, the union's General Secretary, Michael Mullen, is due to retire, as are two National Group Secretaries. The SFWP candidates for all three of these positions are strong contenders and, if successful, the party will have a virtual stranglehold on the union.
The influence of the Workers' Party in the country's largest union has been gained through career apppointments rather than election. Succcess in elections within the union has, on the whole, eluded it.
Branch officials and other professsional staff are appointed nominally by the National Executive Committtee. A sub-eommittee interviews canndidates, and makes recommendations to the national officers, who recommmend to the NEC as a whole.
But in practice members of the NEC play quite a small part in apppointments. They have no knowledge of interviewing techniques or experrience in interviewing. Most of the questioning is done by the full-time officers of the union, and their recommmendations are rarely challenged. The union's General Secretary, Michael Mullen, has overall responsibility for staff.
But perhaps the main reason for the success of this "infiltration" proocess has simply been that the SFWPPinclined candidates were very often by far the most outstanding appliccants for positions - most of them have also proved to be highly competent and diligent.
The recent election for the posiition of the union's Vice President, in which SFWP man Des Geraghty was defeated by Christy Kirwan, gave rise to allegations of SFWP "infiltration", countered with allegations of a "witchhhunt."
But what concerns the opponents of the SFWP is not that the party has been steadily advancing in the unnion through the winning of support for its policies and positions for its members, which is not the case. Ratther they are worried about the fact that they now hold a number of fullltime and permanent positions with the apparent support of the top leaderrship of the union.
Fears that this adds up to a "red" take-over of the ITGWU have so far proved groundless. Supporters of the SFWP have supported the general offiicers on every major issue. This support has been most marked in the case of rank and file opposition to national wage agreements. It was also shown in the party's attitude to a number of individual disputes, notably last year's strike in Alcan.
On the North, the SFWP have proovided valuable backing for the union's leadership in its resistance to "efforts last year to get the union to support the hunger strikers. This resulted in both the Derry and Belfast Number I branches opposing Des Geraghty for the Vice Presidency.
SFWP influence in the ITGWU is concentrated in Head Office, where it has supporters in full-time office in three of the seven national groups and five of the nineteen Dublin branches. There is also a heavy party influence in the union's Research and Development Unit, which services the whole country with training and addvice, and therefore has access to every branch.
The most prominent members of the SFWP in the ITGWU are Des Gerraghty and Pat Rabbitte, both National Group Secretaries, Rabbitte's assistant national group secretary, Pat Brady, is a member of SFWP as well as being an old friend of Rabbitte's and another assistant national group secretary, Tony Mulready , also supports the party.
One of the main avenues into the ITGWU for the SFWP has been through officerships in the Union of Students in Ireland, controlled by the party for almost a decade. Eamon Gillmore came straight from USI into a branch secretaryship in Tralee, from where he moved to become secretary of the Professional and Managerial Unit of the union. Paul O'Sullivan went straight from being Education' Officer of USI into the ITGWU, and now runs the Local Authority and Professional Officers' Branch. Another former USI Education Officer, Johnny Curran, is branch secretary in Athlone.
Mike Jennings, a USI officer in the Limerick area, got a job in the ITGWU there, from where he moved to the Lucan branch. Perhaps most bizarre of the lot, SFWP man John Gallagher, whose curriculum vitae includes two years sitting in the office of the Mosscow-eontrolled International Union of Students in Prague, also got a job in the ITGWU when he was forced to leave Prague by USI disaffiliating from the IUS.
Former editor of USI News and member of Trinity College Republiican Club, Dee McGarry, is now Pubblications Assistant in the Research and Development Unit. She is joined there by two other former members of the TCD Republican Club, Paul Sweeney and Seamus Shiels. Another research assistant, Rosheen Callender, is also strongly identified with SFWP.
Other branch secretaries include Joe Sherlock from Mallow and Seamus Lynch from Belfast, Michael Conlon in Galway, Dave Mullis in Mayo and Seamus MacRuairi in Donegal. A new branch assistant in Cork's number three branch, Martin Doherty, is also thought to have links with the party.
In recent months two of the SFWP's stars from the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, Fergus Whelan and Ray McGran, have been appointed as assistant branch secretaries in the ITGWU Lucan and Number 3 branches respectively; Whelan has since been transferred to the Branch involved with Alcan. Three other branch assisttants, Gerry Lynch in Number I branch Noel Dowling in the Number 12 and Derry McDermott in the Number 19, consistently support the party's poliicies.
Two groups feel threatened by the rise in influence of the SFWP within the union's official hierarchy. One is the group of old-time officials - who came into full-time positions from the shop floor, and whose political loyalties, if they exist at all, lie with the Labour Party. Some of these have. no political affiliation, but have Republican sympathies. They see promotion opportunities blocked by the sudden rise of what they regard as intellectual whizz-kids.
Many of them see the union's traditional support for the Labour Party, combined, somewhat ambiguously, with its constitutional commitment to a united 32 county workers' republic, threatened by the influence of the SFWP. They also feel that the relative political independence of the union is threatened.
The other group which is worried about the rise of SFWP influence in the union bureaucracy is the unorganised colllection of dissidents who have run foul of the union leaderrship on its lack of support for militant policies and actions. They have found themselves opposed by the SFWP with viigour equal to - and often more skilful than - that of the traditionally conservative elements.
Fears for the future of the ITGWU affiliation to the Labour Party are well-founded. A motion from the Number 2 branch to the union's annual conference asks the NEC to critically examine the whole area of the union's political affiliation, and specifically mentions the SFWP for consiideration.
so far the SFWP has failed to have anyone elected onto the Executive of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, though two full-time jobs with the ICTU, the tutorships held by Oliver O'Donoghue and Stephen McCarthy, are held by party supporters.
But this may change in the near future. Another former USI officer and member of the Rabbitte/Brady clique, Kieeran Mulvey, has recently been promoted to the General Seccretaryship of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland. Under an arrangement with the other teachers' unions, which fell into abeyance in recent years, but which is likely to be reactivated, the ASTI General Secretary is due for a stint on the Executive of the ICTU.
I n t~e largest craft un~on in the country, the ~ational Engineering and Electrical Trade Union , one of Its geneeral secretaries is claiming that moves to dismiss him originnated with the SFWP.
Kevin McConnell was dismissed over a year ago for reefusing to carry out an instruction of the NEe. He is challennging this in the courts, claiming that the NEC was not emmpowered to instruct him to break the union's rules, as he alleges it did. He is also claiming that it lacks the power to dismiss him, as he was elected by the members (where he received 75 per cent of the vote).
McConnell claims that the attempts to get rid of him emanate from the SFWP. Certainly its two mem bers on the Executive, Donnchadh MacRaghnaili and Tomas O'Mordha, strongly supported it. McConnell has been strongly identiified with the If-Block campaign, and was a Republican prisoner in Crumlin Road Jail in the 50s.
In no union, however, does the SFWP command the degree of strength it does in the ITGWU. Here it is due almost entirely to career rather than elected positions. Geraghty's failure to be elected as vice-President of the union, and the party's relatively weak position in other unions all underline this.
It is possible that the party hopes its fortunes will change here in the wake of its electoral successes in a wider arena. So far there is little evidence of this, and the left vote which went to its representatives in the recent general election has been going to others in internal union elections.
SFWP 6 - The Phantom Army
by Vincent Browne
Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland have demanded the production of evidence of the existence of the official IRA herewith
Tomas MacGiolla: "I have no reason to think that (the Of ficial IRA) still exists. Certainly it doesn't exist in any way down here. There was for some years a suggestion that it may have existed in the North and I pursued that therefore for quite a number of years to see any evidence of its exisstence and I am satisfied that it certainly doesn't exist in any association with us".
Sean Garland: "The party has never had anything to do with military campaigns as such or anything of that nature. The party didn't call off any (military) campaigns but the party did, in Tomas MacGiolla s speech in Carrighmore (July 1972), where it was made clear in a party statement that this party wanted nothing to do with such activities from then on ".
(Interview on Day By Day, RTE Radio One, Monday March 1,1982.)
The protestations of Tomas MacGiolla, Sean Garland and others within The Workers' Party of ignorance of the existence of the. Official IRA or of any activities on the part of that organisation since the cease fire of May 1972 is surprising. The following are instances since then when the existence of the Official IRA should have been apparent to these individuals.
* In a speech at Bodenstown in June 1972, just within weeks of the declaration of the cease fire , Sean Garland himmself made the following remarks: "let no one take from this gathering and from this repudiation of terrorism any suggesstion or even any hint that the army of the people will not be used and when necessary fully employed to defend the interests of the working people .... No movement of the people, no revolutionary party has the right to demand of the people that they should set aside the weapon that is so viciously used by the gangsters who act in the name of this law and in the name of the continuing capitalist order. We will not do it."
* We have instanced in the last issue of Magill a series of military actions which the Official IRA engaged in the period after the ceasefire, including a massive mortar blitz on a number of British army bases throughout the North on December 5, 1972, and a statement issued by the Command Staff of the Official IRA in Belfast on May 2,1973, claiming the deaths of seven British soldiers.
* The April issue of Magill also referred to the murder of David Walker in Belfast on June 21,1973, the murder of two members of the IRSP in early 1975 and the murder of Hugh O'Halloran as recently as September 8, 1979, for which two people who acknowledged that they were memmbers of the Official IRA were convicted in court.
* We have received additional information about the murrder of Larry White on June 10, 1975. We have been inforrmed by two members of the IRA army council at that time that the murder of Larry White was specificially authorised by the army council, as was the murder of a number of White's associates. We have been informed that previous attempts were made to murder these men, again with the full authorisation of the Official IRA army council. We would also point out again that a full-time organiser of Sinn Fein The Workers' Party, Barry Doyle, was one of those convicted of the murder. In the light of this latter fact it is difficult to understand how Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland were unaware of the existence of the Official IRA at that time.
* We also have acquired additional information about the murder of Seamus Costello on October 5, 1977. As we reeported in our last issue there was a previous attempt made to murder Costello on May 7, 1975 in Waterford. That murrder attempt had the specific authorisation of the army council, according to two people who were members of that body then. As members of the army council at the time were and are members of the political organisation, there should be no difficulty in either Tomas MacGiolla or Sean Garland discovering the necessary information in relaation to this.
* In the April issue we instanced several cases where people who stated in open court that they were members of the Official IRA were convicted of various robberies. These included the Glens of Antrim robbery on April 26, 1977, after which two men, James Michael Feeney of Banbridge, and Hugh Murphy of Lurgan, stated that they were memmbers of the Official IRA. Also the Cork CMP Dairies robbbery in 1975 when three members of the party were connvicted.
* There is also the question of political prisoners. There are over ten prisoners now in Limerick Jail who claim to be members of the Official IRA. There are over forty people in Long Kesh who are treated as special category prisoners and who claim to be members of the Official IRA. In both these cases the men are organised on a command structure basis and have appointed an O/C. In the case of some of the families of these men, the Workers' Party itself provides financial assistance to the dependents. We have actual hard evidence of this but have been requested by the families concerned not to divulge it at this stage. Apart from this, a minibus, provided by the Workers' Party in Belfast, leaves the headquarters of the party in that city each week to take relatives of the Official IRA men in Long Kesh to the prison.
* In February 1977 the Official IRA openly boasted of having killed five members of the Provisional republican movement in Belfast during the course of one of the recurrrent feuds. It is difficult to understand how such startling evidence of the existence of the Official IRA could have escaped the notice of Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland.
* In an interview in The Irish Times on March 8, 1975, Cathal Goulding, described there as the chief of staff of the Official IRA, stated "in the course of trying to lay their hands on our property in the North, the IRSP kidnapped our members, beat them up, shot them. In retaliation and in defence we took similar action against the IRSP."
Asked what would happen if someone came knocking on his door asking him could they join the IRA, Goulding repplied: "well you see, if I start talking to you about this sort of thing, then there's a statement in the paper and someone comes knocking at my door and I get about two fucking years, you see. The Official IRA will always be involved in the political field .... The IRA is not to be used in mountting any offensive campaign or in any aggressive manner, unnless it has the support of the vast majority of the people."
Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland might be expected to place some credence in what Cathal Goulding says about the existence of the Official IRA - Goulding is a member of the Ard Comhairle of The Workers' Party - it is difficult to understand how they were unaware of the interview or how they have been in ignorance of the existence of the Offficial IRA for a period long pre-dating this interview, given the ready access they must have to Mr Goulding.
* There is a further incident which Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland might wish to investigate for a clue about the existence of the Official IRA. This relates to the stopping of a car near the Rossnaree Hotel, outside Drogheda on Noovember 12, 1975, in which were found 2 semi-automatic rifles, 5 revolvers and 621 rounds of ammunition. The driver of the car, Vincent Fahey, was convicted of possesssion of these items and sentenced to 15 months imprisonnment. We have learnt that present in the car with Fahey just prior to the Garda roadblock, was a member of the current Ard Comhairle of The Workers' Party and that in fact it was he, not Fahey, who had been responsible for the guns and ammunition being in the car. This person, however, manaaged to escape from the car and thereby avoid apprehension and, worse, embarrassing publicity. Enquiries by Tomas MacGiolla and Sean Garland among their colleagues on the Ard Comhairle might provide useful information on who the person was in the car with Fahey. Mr MacGiolla and Mr Garland would then be in a position to furnish this informaation to the Gardai themselves.
SFWP 7 - The slanting of a programme
by Vincent Browne
On April 22 last Today Tonight broadcast one of its most successsful programmes on the PSRI dispute.
The success of the programme had largely to do with a studio discussion but prior to that there was a filmed introduction where one, Dr John McManus, appeared as a doctor addmitting that there was very considerrable tax evasion on the part of the medical profession. Dr McManus happpens to be on the Ard Comhairle of The Workers' Party and was the party's candidate in the recent general elecction for the Wicklow constituency. There was no mention of Dr McManus's political affiliation, when speakking on an issue of clear political signifiicance and while expressing almost verrbatim the party line on the issue.
This was a glimpse of the bias which has affected Today Tonight since its inception - a bias which has been introduced into only a small prooportion of the programmes it has broadcast but which has nonetheless been heavy-handed on those issues which are dear to the heart of the party. The bias has also had considerrable repercussions internally among the programme staff with a clear divide emerging between those whose politics
are close to The Workers' Party and the rest. Many of the most respected broadcasters on the programme have been known to have been unhappy with the bias since the programme beegan in the autumn of 1980.
In spite of this bias on a minority of its programmes, Today Tonight has been the most outstanding current affairs television programme the station has known since it started. Its investigation into the background of the Stardust disaster was one of the best pieces of journalism undertaken in this country - Joe Mulholland himmself was personally the inspiration beehind this. Other programmes on Fatima Mansions, Finglas, Knock airrport etc, have also been first rate. But the success of the programme has been its ability to stay on top of the news, night after night, and to bring the Dail on to television by persuading politiicians to come into studio again and again.
The bias has been most evident on programmes on Northern Ireland, where the virulent antipathy to the Provisionals has expressed itself at times in terms of a general antiinationalist bias. In all the programme has done fifty-five items on Northern Ireland up to the end of April and a significant number of these have given rise to suspicions even among proggramme staff of slanted editorial treattment.
It was perhaps unfortunate that the programme should have been launched just before the first H-Blocks hunger strike got under way in October 1980 - unfortunate because the impartiality of the programme was tested before it had time to find its editorial feet. The first four programmes on the issue were all hostile to the H-Block cause Ðthe first included a discussion between John Cusnahan of the Alliance Party, Harold McCusker of the Official Unionnists and Michael Allison of the Norrthern Ireland Office; the second Bishop Daly and Gerry Fitt; the third programme sought to show, without any evidence, that there was intimiidation in Derry in connection with a H-Block demonstration; and the fourth was devoted primarily to the victims of the violence of the men in H-Block.
The fifth programme on the su bject, on November 27, 1980, was devoted to an opinion poll on attitudes toowards H-Block and, we are informed, that there were many on the proggramme staff who believed that the outtcome would be unfavourable to the HHBlock cause but in fact it showed a largely confused picture. It was then, for the first time, that a supporter of the H-Block cause, Bernadette McAlisskey, was invited to take part in the programme.
In the run up to the death of Bobby Sands tensions within the proggramme ran very high with the editor of the programme, Joe Mulholland, dissplaying irritation with any material which seemed to favour the hunger strikers. Forbes McFaul did one proggramme from West Belfast, in which he reported fairly widespread support for the hunger strikers and also mentioned that anti If-Block people were afraid to talk, and this resulted in a row withhin the programme. In the course of this row McFaul's journalistic imparrtiality was questioned by another reeporter, Barry O'Halloran, who said the programme was an incitement to violence.
More interestingly, that programme led Joe Mulholland to commission a programme on the victims of violence to be done by two people whose poliitics accorded with his own and also with those of The Workers' Party ˜Tish Barry, the producer, and Joe Little, the reporter. This programme, which won an Emrny Award, concenntrated very largely on victims of IRA violence and was seen as, and indeed was clearly intended to be, an antiidote to If-Block "propaganda" at the time of the hunger strike.
There was another major incident around this time concerning an interview with Glen Barr and Bernadette McAliskey. Barr was invited on to the programme by Tish Barry to give "an overview of Protestant opinion" on the hunger strike. We have been inforrmed by sources close to the proggramme that some members of the programme staff were aware that Barr was to appear, not as another runthe-mill Unionist but as a spokessperson for the UDA, which at the time was banned from the R TE airwaves under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act.
In fact, we have been informed that members of the programme staff were obliged to seek the permission of the UDA leader, Andy Tyrie, to have Barr appear on the programme - Mullholland denies that he was aware of such a stipulation.
In the event, Barr immediately launched forth into an exposition of UDA battle plans, referring again and again to the UDA as "we". Bernadette McAliskey, sitting across the studio from only a few months after she had been riddled with UDA bullets could only wonder how Barr could have the freedom of the RTE airwaves while the IRA had no such opportunity. Mulholland says that the programme was a grave error and shouldn't have happened.
The coverage of the Northern ireeland elections in May 1981 also caused some concern. It was thought that exxcessive coverage was given to Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin, both of whom fared very poorly in the contest. Seamus Lynch of The Workers' Party also featured prominently.
The list of participants on Today Tonight programmes shows that cerrtain individuals have appeared with remarkable regularity for reasons which aren't immediately obvious. The most salient example is of John Cusnaahan, who has appeared no less than nine times in the fifty-five programmes that Today Tonight did on Northern Ireland. (The politics of the Alliance Party on Northern Ireland is almost identical to that of The Workers' Party.) No single member of the SDLP appeared in anything like that number of programmes and indeed members of the SDLP collectively appeared in only about twice that number, which is dissproportionate, given the significance of that party as compared with the almost unknown Cusnahan. Another favourite is Harold McCusker, who has appeared on ten occasions as commpared with seven appearances for John Hume and six for Seamus Mallon. (Again, there is no perceptible diffeerence between the politics of the Unionist Party and The Workers' Party in Northern Ireland.)
Throughout its series, hardly a single programme has been done which challenges the British Government's position on Northern Ireland - there has been no examination, for instance, of the Fair Employment Agency reeports, no examination of the backkground to the hunger strikes and of prison conditions, no examination of the impartiality of the RUC, or of the courts etc.
The incidence of bias on proggrammes dealing with southern issues is very much less significant and really attaches to only a handful of programmes. These include the proggramme on PSRI, already referred to. There was also a programme on a disspute involving Tesco in Galway where Jimmy Brick, then the adopted SFWP candidate for the forthcoming elecction, was interviewed at length withhout at any stage being identified as a member of the party. There was a programme on housing in Cork, where again the local SFWP candidate, Ted Tynan, was interviewed at length. There have been many instances in which members of the party have apppeared again and again on the screens - most notably Des Geraghty and Pat Rabbitte, both of the ITGWU - but the suspicion of bias in these instances is tempered by the fact that they are both highly articulate spokespersons for their unions.
There has perhaps been a curious incidence of programmes on topics dear to the heart of The Workers' Party - tax evasion, lead poisoning, the meat industry etc - but these issues were valid topics in themselves and deserved treatment.
The programme has done two items specifically on The Workers' Party, folllowing the 1981 and 1982 party connference. Both programmes were valid topics, indeed the party could have some grounds for complaint with the paucity of the treatment meted out to it compared with the blanket coverage which other party conferences receive. However, on both occasions there was a suspiction of significant bias.
Tish Barry was the producer for the 1981 programme and, we are innformed, Forbes McFaul, the reporter, had to struggle to maintain an element of objectivity in the programme. There was a similar occurrence in 1982 when David Blake Knox was the producer.
In both instances the treatment of the party was bordering on the deferential. But, more significantly, in both instances, Senator John A. Murphy was invited onto the programme as an impartial commentator on the party.
Murphy's politics are indicepherrable from those of The Workers' Party
Out of a total of sixteen editorial staff on Today Tonight, six hold poliitical views very similar to the positions of The Workers' Party. These are Joe Mulholland, the editor, Tish Barry, Gerry Gregg, Barry O'Halloran, David Blake Knox, Joe Little and Avril McRory - the latter is only marginally associated politically with the others. O'Halloran and Little are reporters, the others are producers.