The Irish Trade Union Defence Committee (1966)

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IM march

IM Walsh

The Irish Militant of September 1966 reported on a march of the Irish Trade Union Defence Committee to the Irish embassy in London.  Among the banners listed as present were those of anarchists, and the chair of the rally was Mike Walsh of the London Federation of Anarchists.

The photograph shows Saor Eire activist Frank Keane carrying the Irish tricolour and Dublin republican Eamonn Nolan carrying the Starry Plough.  Behind Keane is Butch Roche who threw a canister of CS gas into the House of Commons in 1970, after the British army had fired thousands of rounds of CS into the Bogside area of Derry, and the Lower Falls in Belfast.

IM cover 1click here to dowload

This paper was published by the Irish Workers Group, a 1960s London-based group of Irish emigrants, which brought together disaffected left republicans and Trotskyists.

Members of the IWG later influential in the Irish left include SWP member and Derry MLA Eamonn McCann, and former Peoples Democracy leader Michael Farrell.  Paddy and Seamus Healy were also involved, later setting up the League for a Workers Republic in Ireland.  Today Seamus is an independent TD for Tipperary.


You can find copies of the Irish Militant at Red Mole Rising

and more information about Saor Eire at the Irish Republican & Marxist History Project

Radical politics in late 1960s/early 1970s Ireland

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As part of his work to preserve the history and memories of Irish left and left republican movements, Mick Healy is hosting a public meeting in Dublin on September 12th.

Alan MacSimoin of the Irish Anarchist History Archive will talk about the group of Official Republicans who moved towards anarchism in the early 1970s, the case of Marie & Noel Murray, and the Dublin left of that period.


Belfast Anarchist Group and the long march to Derry (1969)

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People’s Democracy march with Belfast Anarchist Group banner, January 1969

There is a myth about John McGuffin carrying the Belfast Anarchist Group‘s banner singlehanded on the Belfast to Derry civil rights march organised by Peoples Democracy in January 1969.

In his A Wee Black Booke of Belfast Anarchism (1867-1973) the Derry anarchist and historian Máirtín O Catháin described that episode:

“It was during the ‘long march’ and savage attack on the demonstrators at Burntollet by police and Paisleyites, that McGuffin was written into history for having an anarchist banner on the march. Much mileage has been made out of the story that McGuffin allegedly carried the banner on his own at times throughout the march, though it is something confirmed only in some memoirs of the events and finds no verification in the major studies of the protest and period. What actually happened, according to a Belfast Anarchist Group member, was that McGuffin phoned him to bring the banner for the last stage of the march into Derry, and after the Burntollet ambush, these members joined with McGuffin and marched with the banner into Derry.

“However, at Irish Street in the Waterside the march was attacked by another group of Paisleyites. A Belfast anarchist veteran takes up the story, ‘I remember sticking my pole into the face of one attacker before I was punched and kicked and the banner snatched away. The attackers must have had lighter fuel with them for only a few moments later I looked back to see the banner well alight’.(1)

“It’s not in doubt, of course, that McGuffin did indeed carry the banner, but not all the way from Belfast and certainly not on his own as a demonstration of his political righteousness. Such apocryphal tales may entertain but they rarely enlighten, and they permit those who are not anarchists (though they may even be patronisingly sympathetic), to portray anarchism as a political eccentricity – the last refuge for the impractical and the whimsical on the left – of those convinced but unable to convince.”

(1) The mistaken story of McGuffin carrying the banner himself appears to have originated with Bernadette Devlin or her ghostwriter (see Bernadette Devlin, The Price of My Soul [London, 1969], p.125 & p.142).