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

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.


Ainriail, Belfast no.1 (1985)

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Ainriail 1 cover

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This A5 magazine was published by a group of anarchists in Belfast, who had earlier that year also published a similar magazine called R@view.  Seven issues of Ainriail* were produced, with the final one appearing in March 1987.  As they note in their ‘Who We Are’, “This paper is an attempt to carry on where it [R@view] left off.  Our Aims and Principles are a more refined version of R@view’s”.  Their politics now placed capitalism at the centre, with various oppressions (national, gender, etc.) flowing from it – rather than seeing capitalism as just one more bad thing.  Their goal was explicitly stated as “a classless and free libertarian communist country”.

Perhaps reflecting the nationalist ideas surrounding most radical dissent in Northern Ireland during this period, the 26 counties are described as a “neo-colonial” state.  For nationalists this meant that sections of the southern ruling class could be won to involvement in the ‘national liberation struggle’ as they were still partially under the thumb of Britain.  However, there is no evidence that Ainriail shared this view.

Most other Irish anarchists rejected the ‘neo-colonial’ tag and pointed to Ireland’s membership of the EU, the declining role of British investment in the economy, and the rapid growth of a confident native capitalist class since the era of Sean Lemass and the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement in the 1960s.

Other articles included:

How the use of plastic bullets against marchers supporting the republican hunger strikers in the Lower Ormeau had the effect of making local people afraid to take to the streets, even on issues like the lack of community amenities.

The failed court case taken by life prisoners Noel and Marie Murray for conjugal rights in prison. There were two anarchists from a small Dublin group, composed mainly of ex-republicans, jailed in 1975 after the fatal shooting of a garda during a bank robbery. Interestingly, among their legal representatives was Sean McBride, a former Chief of Staff of the IRA and later a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The long running (and ultimately successful) strike against selling South African apartheid produce in Dunnes Stores.

The censoring, by the BBC, of the ‘Real Lives’ TV programme because it included an interview with Martin McGuinness – the same man who is now Deputy First Minister at Stormont. The National Union of Journalists held a one-day strike against this censorship, which resulted in the programme being shown later with only minor changes.

Asbestos being removed from the Divis Flats in West Belfast by the Housing Executive, and just dumped in open skips on the street.

*Not to be confused with the Ainriail published in the 1990s by the Frontline Collective in Galway.

R@view (1985)

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This A5 little magazine appeared in March 1985, published by some ex-members of the Belfast Anarchist Collective.  The BAC had disbanded a couple of years previously, seemingly as a result of major political differences but no explanation of these was ever published.  However the Just Books anarchist bookshop on Winetavern Street continued and the R@view group were involved with it.

R@view coverclick here to download

The first article is a ‘who we are and what we want’ introduction.  Most striking is their apparent view that the class division in society is just one of several oppressions, rather than the root cause of them all.  The magazine “will concern ourselves with three inter-related areas: patriarchy, state repression, capitalism”.  They also say that “we see ourselves as fighting alongside the working class”, which might imply that they don’t see themselves as part of the class.  Of course it could also be simply a case of clumsy writing.

There was only one issue, but Ainriail* began publication later that year.  It was in the same format and came from the same people, but with a more developed explanation of their politics.

*Not to be confused with the Ainriail published in the 1990s by the Frontline Collective in Galway.

Other articles dealt with

The court case for conjugal rights by Marie and Noel Murray, two anarchists from a small Dublin group composed mainly of ex-republicans, jailed in 1975 after the fatal shooting of a garda during a bank robbery.

Union busting at Hyndman’s Bakery in Maghera, and the failure of their union to stand up for its members after they were sacked for going on strike in defence of that same union.

An interview with two anarchists who were part of the group which made a video about the “supergrass” trials.

Strip searching of women prisoners in Armagh jail.

A look at the Irish Feminist Review ’84.

The Kerry Babies case.

Resistance! (Dublin) no.1 (1980)


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Resistance! was produced in 1980 by members of the Dublin Anarchist Group who also ran the ABC bookshop in Dublin’s Marlborough Street. Much of the magazine is given to stories about “state repression” (H Block, Mountjoy jail, the Curragh military prison, Noel & Marie Murray, torture of criminal suspects in Sundrive Road garda station, and an uncritical short about an arson attack on a clothing factory which had a contract for Garda and Army uniforms – with no mention of the people put out of work). Circulation was about 500 copies.

Other articles of note are one criticising the Sunday World columnist Fr Brian Darcy for “writing lies and misrepresentations” attributing industrial unrest to “sinister anarchist groups” like the Socialist Workers Party!; and a review of “the right” which put Trotskyists and Fianna Fail on the same side of the left/right divide.

Believing in the concept of creating alternative anarchist organisations (unions, campaign groups, etc.) rather than being active where people already are and trying to win them over, we see a call for a new ‘syndicalist’ union and the announcement of a ‘Student Anarchist Movement’. Nothing more was heard about either. In the anti-nuclear movement, for which the Contaminated Crow magazine in 1979 listed 46 local groups, they refused to engage with others and instead set up their own Anti-Nuclear Collective. They were also sympathetic to “armed struggle” but there is no suggestion that they actually practiced it.

Only two issues of this magazine were published and the group disappeared shortly afterwards, though a couple of members were involved in the formation of the Dublin Anarchist Collective in 1983.

Among those involved were ex-Provos like Billy Jackson and Jackie Crawford, as well as Mike Gilliland (whose father was a former President of the Methodist Church), Doreen McGouran, Steve Woods, Denise Jackson.

Workers Solidarity no.1 (November 1984)

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The first issue of Workers Solidarity was published in November 1984, a few weeks after a small group of anarchists from Cork and Dublin had founded the Workers Solidarity Movement. Initially an 8 page A4 monthly, it later appeared as a 20 page magazine, then a 12 page A3 newspaper and currently as a folded A2 paper. Circulation in their first years ranged from 750 to 1,500. Sales were mostly in pubs on Friday evenings, street sales on Saturday afternoons, outside labour exchanges (the biggest regular sale was at the women’s labour in Cork), and at left events.

The WSM is part of the ‘platformist’ current within anarchism,

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As befits a first issue, there is an article setting out the politics of the WSM. Others look at the British miners strike, free trade unions in Russia, the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike, how the government managed to cut some some women’s dole payments while conceding equality, the connection between socialism and freedom, and the campaign for conjugal rights by anarchist prisoners Marie and Noel Murray.

The manic looking guy on page 4 is Dessie O’Malley, then Fianna Fail minister and later the leader of the Progressive Democrats. Dessie was very worried about “industrial subversives” at the time. Also of note is a letter from Poland and an advert for a WSM picket protesting about the Polish government’s export of coal to Britain during the miners’ strike.

Black Rag (February 1978)

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Published from Belfast, with a few supporters in Dublin, it’s aim was to encourage “organising in small affinity (friendship) groups which cooperate in a non-hierarchical way and support individuals or small groups involved in direct action”. Its politics were feminist and there was a concentration on “oppressions” (prison conditions, drug laws, anti-gay laws). There was never a second issue but some of those involved joined the Belfast Anarchist Collective.

Amnesty International gets slated for doing little when anarchists (and ex-Official IRA members) Maire & Noel Murray were sentenced to death for the killing of a garda in Dublin during a bank raid. And in a review of an early Boomtown Rats gig, we see early indications of the Bob Geldorf we all know. “Then came the first of the many pseudo-intellectual lectures to the misguided audience who waited n every word. These varied from the complete overthrow of the system in Ireland to the fact that they wre not making enough money because of the response to their latest album. This sold only 175,000 copies that week.”