Séamus Costello: An Appreciation

Nora Connolly O'Brien, daughter of Ireland's greatest Marxist, James Connolly, and lifelong socialist activist, said of Seamus Costello shortly after his assassination:

"Of all the politicians and political people with whom I have had conversations, and whom I have had conversations, and who called themselves followers of Connolly, he was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people."

He was born in Bray, County Wicklow in 1939. At the age of 15 he applied to join the Republican Movement, and was accepted into both the IRA and Sinn Fein when he was only 16. A year later he was already commanding an active service unit of the IRA in South Derry. He was arrested in 1957 and given six months in Mountjoy, after which he was interned in the Curragh for another two years - time that he always referred to as "my university days." During his time in the Curragh that he participated in the critical analysis of the 1950's "Border Campaign," and after his release helped to reorganize the Republican Movement.

In 1966, he succeeded in involving the Bray Trades Council to join in republican Easter commemorations, and helped found a strong Tenants Association in Bray, as well as being involved in the Credit Union movement and farmers' organizations. It was also in 1966 that he was selected to give the historic Bodenstown oration (included in this pamphlet) which marked the departure of the Republican Movement to the Left. The following year he pushed for Sinn Fein to contest local elections, and was elected, along with fellow Sinn Fein activist Joe Doyle, to the Bray Urban Council. He was instrumental in getting Sinn Fein to drop its abstentionist policy, seeing parliament as a useful propaganda forum but consistently rejecting the reformist concept of a parliamentary road to socialism. He was also one of the original backers of the civil rights strategy on the national question, and pushed hard for the establishment of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

When the Provisionals split from the Republican Movement in 1969-70, Costello remained with the more class-conscious Official wing. He became both Director of Operations and Chief of Staff of the Official IRA and Vice President of Official Sinn Fein. When the Officials declared a cease fire in 1972, however, Costello's opposition building with movement ranks made him a threat to the reformist leadership, who used bureaucratic machinations to thwart other revolutionaries, with Costello, from raising their perspective before the membership.

Unable to press from inside the Republican Movement, Costello joined with other disillusioned republicans and socialists in founding the Irish Republican Socialist Party and Irish National Liberation Army in December 1974. Immediately after its founding, the Irish Republican Socialist Movement came under bloody attack from the Official Republican Movement - to stem the mass exodus of their members to the new IRSP - and the Dublin government. While Costello weathered this initial storm, an OIRA assassin murdered him in October of 1977. At the time of his assassination he was a member of the Wicklow County Council, County Wicklow Committees of Agriculture, General Council of Committees of Agriculture, Eastern Regional Development Committee, Bray Urban District Council, Irish Transport and General Workers Union, Bray and District Trades Union Council, and Cualann Historical Society, as well as Chairperson of the IRSP.

The Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America - the only organization sanctioned to represent the Irish Republican Socialist Movement in Canada and the US - takes great pride in publishing this short collection of works by Ireland's greatest Marxist of the latter half of the 20th Century. In these times when many of the mistakes of the past are being repeated in Ireland, the unwavering revolutionary perspective and keen insight of Seamus Costello are more relevant than ever. We salute both the thoughts and actions of this fallen comrade, who grasped, as did Connolly before him, that the struggles for national liberation and socialism in Ireland, are, in fact, one inseparable struggle.

The selected works published here by the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America are chiefly drawn from Seamus Costello 1939-1977, Irish Republican Socialist, published by the Seamus Costello Memorial Committee, and the Starry Plough, periodical of the IRSP.

"From the ranks of mass struggle, others will come. From the experience of struggle, the political programme, organization and method of struggle will come. But another Seamus Costello may never come again."


- Bernadette Devlin McAlisky