Irish anarchist interviewed about the 1970s and 80s (part 2)

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This is the story of Alan MacSimoin a long-time Anarchist activist who, as a young man, joined the Official Republican Movement (Sinn Fein).  MacSimoin was part of the Murray Defence Committee in 1976-77 to stop the state execution of anarchists Noel and Marie Murray for the killing of a member of the police.  He was a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement in 1984.


In this interview, filmed in October 2014, MacSimoin talks about the death sentence handed down to Noel and Marie Murray, the H-Block hunger strike, the current crisis within capitalism, also the lack of a response to the Palestinian struggle from western governments, and why socialists need to be a lot positive.

Alan lives in Stoneybatter, where he is involved with the Stoneybatter and Smithfield Peoples History Project and the local campaign against the Water Tax.

The interview was conducted by the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project, and is at

Anarchist Workers Alliance leaflets (1979/80)

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Some leaflets from the Anarchist Workers Alliance in 1979 and 1980.  First off are two national ones about nuclear power.  The first set out their position, with two points of particular interest.  They, along with almost everyone else at that time, had believed the ‘research’ indicating that oil deposits would be exhausted within thirty years.  There may be a similarity with the “peak oil” argument of the last decade, which was also widely believed but does not appear to have been accurate.  Both of these outcomes will occur, but clearly not as quickly as had been believed by many.

The other point of interest is their rejection of ‘zero growth’ economics, “while we oppose any attempt to bring nuclear power into Ireland (or anywhere else for that matter) we distance ourselves from those who say we don’t need nukes because there should be no increase in energy usage.  Zero growth would mean more poverty, unemployment and lack of facilities.  We need more energy to create socially useful jobs, more facilities for leisure and entertainment, and better living conditions.”

The second leaflet was given out at the 5,000 strong anti-nuclear festival in 1979 at Carnsore in Co Wexford.  It calls for a campaign in the unions to win ‘blacking’ of any work to build nuclear power stations.  At that stage the ESB Officers Association had come out in opposition to nuclear power.

Today Ireland has no nuclear stations, and never had.  An account of how this was achieved is here

The others leaflets are from the AWA’s Dublin branch.
(1) An advertisement for a public meeting in the offices of the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union.  Today the ATGWU is part of UNITE, and the hall is now the headquarters of the Samaritans.

(2) A call for industrial action circulated at the tax reform march in late 1979.  The ICTU leadership was trying (successfully) to reassert its control over the more militant Trades Councils who had earlier organised massive demonstrations on working days to demand that more of the tax burden be shifted to the rich.  There is an interview with Sam Nolan of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, where Sam discusses the marches here

(3) A response to the declaration of a “housing emergency” in Dublin.  See here for information about the Dublin Squatters Association of the mid-1970s.

(4) And finally, one produced during the Pope’s 1979 visit to Dublin.  At a time when the Catholic Church and its influence on the state was almost beyond question (with divorce banned, gay sex illegal, and contraception restricted to married couples) it pulls no punches.  Church control of schools is seen as filling “young people’s heads with superstitious drivel about hell, god and other repressive fantasies”.

Anarchist Workers Alliance expose fascist meeting (April 1981)

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A 1981 press statement from the Anarchist Workers Alliance about a fascist meeting in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel. This small meeting was attended by a few AWA members, who kept asking embarrassing questions about the fascist connections of the invited speakers. The result was that the audience scurried off and the organisers gained nothing, not even a few addresses to add to their contact list.

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The hosts were the Christian Community Centre, a group of about 50 mainly elderly fundamentalist Catholics led by TCG O’Mahony, a solicitor whose offices at 22 Merrion Square also served as the CC Centre. This group appeared in the early 1970s and was last seen during the 1997 Presidential election when the Irish Independent reported (17/08/1997)

“Among Dana’s backers is the curious figure of TCG O’Mahony, an elderly Dublin solicitor, who has urged a “national prayer crusade” to get her elected.  He is targeting 37 Fianna Fail and 23 Fine Gael parliamentarians, hoping optimistically that they might nominate her.

Mr O’Mahony is best known for a bizarre row in Dublin courts over his attempts to erect a basilica for rosary prayers to the Virgin Mary in the middle of O’Connell St.  When he lost he carried on the worship over a loudspeaker while driving up and down O’Connell St with the Virgin Mary statue strapped to the roof of his pink Mercedes.”

In the 1982 general election O’Mahony stood in Dublin North Central, getting a mere 214 votes (0.5%).

On another occasion they tried to take over the assembly point for the Dublin Council of Trade Unions May Day march, parking a van at the Garden of Remembrance and blaring out very loud hymns on a PA system. After about 10 minutes some anarchists and Trotskyists disconnected their PA and sent them on their way.

O’Mahony also operated a pirate radio station, CC Radio, from his offices. This was on air for a year or two in the early 1980s and it’s output consisted of religious music, tapes from American extreme conservatives and monologues from O’Mahony himself railing against abortion, divorce, contraception, Vatican II, socialism, liberalism and secularism. It was finally closed down by the Department of Posts & Telegraphs after repeated complaints of interference.

They were a bit like Youth Defence, but without the violence or the youth.

Anarchists stop theft of strikers’ money (1979)

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As reported on the cover of the Anarchist Worker below, the gardai tried to seize money collected for the McDonalds strike fund as the AWA had no permit for a street collection.  Refusing to hand over the buckets of cash, the AWA members were quickly joined by a large group of fellow trade unionists and the cops backed off after taking a couple of names.

£200.04 was delivered to the union office the following day.  (This would be roughly €1,200 at 2012 values)

Anarchist Worker (May/June 1978)

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Anarchist Worker, published by the Anarchist Workers Alliance in the late 1970s/early 1980s, can be regarded as one of the forerunners of the Workers Solidarity Movement. The AWA existed in Belfast and Dublin but was always more of an idea than a reality, with membership never going into double figures. The print run was about 750 (ranging from 500 to 1,500).

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As befits a first issue, we get a page about the Anarchist Workers Alliance and why it was formed. Other articles look at the McDonalds strike for union recognition, the PAYE tax protests, the post office strike, the H-Block & Armagh prison protests, and the six county Payment for Debt Act. Longer pieces look at why the CIE craft workers committee collapsed, and the law that legalised contraceptives in the 26 counties. That was Haughey’s ‘Irish solution to an Irish problem’ which required a doctor’s prescription to buy a condom.

The centre pages are given over to an explanation of how the Spanish anarchist CNT union structures itself, with the conclusion that it “tries to abolish the bureaucracy that comes with centralisation by making sure that decisions effecting workers are taken by, and only by, those workers effected.”

Anarchist Worker (October 1979)

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Contents include the (successful) squatting of the Mansion House by families from Dublin’s East Wall unable to get Corporation housing, a strongly secular approach to education, and an emphatic pro-union stance. There is also a double page spread on Anarchism and Religion which uses as its starting point the then recent visit of the Pope.  The article on the last page which criticises punishment shootings, resulted in threats and accusations of “black propaganda” from INLA members.