What is Irish Republican Socialism?

A war for national liberation continues in Ireland today, which traces its roots to the original conquest of the island by Britain in 1167. In its most current phase, this war has centered on bringing to an end the continued occupation by Britain of six counties in Northeast Ireland. The political representatives of the revolutionary interests of the Irish working class in this struggle are constituted collectively as the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, which includes the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the Irish National Liberation Army, the Irish Republican Socialist Prisoners of War from both the IRSP and the INLA, and the organizations established throughout the world to support these forces in Ireland.

The IRSP and INLA were founded on December 10, 1974. Most original members were drawn from Official Sinn Féin and the Official IRA (the same organizations from which the Provisional Irish Republican Movement had split five years earlier). These members were joined by independent socialists from throughout Ireland to form the new Irish Republican Socialist Movement. James Connolly, Ireland's leading Marxist, who was executed for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916, originally formulated the analysis upon which the movement was founded: that the struggle for national liberation and the fight for socialism in Ireland are inseparable.

The object of the IRSM remains a 32-county socialist republic, wherein the Irish working class will control the means of production, distribution and exchange, administered by the proletariat through workers' democracy.

The central political thesis of the IRSP is that only a socialist revolution is capable of providing a means to address the needs of the Irish working class. The IRSP rejects a 'stagist' concept of the struggle - that first we must win national liberation and then we can press forward towards socialist objectives - understanding the national liberation struggle is but an aspect of the struggle for socialism. The Party also rejects the position that socialism can be achieved in one or both parts of Ireland without reunification, understanding that it is the very fact of partition that has served to divide the Irish working class and mask their actual collective interests as a class. While acknowledging that national liberation and socialism cannot be achieved through a military victory by guerrilla forces in the national liberation campaign, the IRSP defends the right of the revolutionary forces to employ this tactic whenever useful to achieve its aims. The Party also understands that no parliamentary road to socialism exists, and feels no compulsion to participate in all electoral campaigns, but is prepared to use parliamentary politics and hold elective office as a means of carrying out propaganda, and where possible to aid the self-organization of the working class towards winning immediate objectives.

The IRSP is proud to be Ireland's largest party fully supporting women's control over their reproductive rights, including access to abortion on demand. In addition to consistent efforts for women's liberation, the IRSP is committed to the liberation of lesbians and gays and of ethnic minorities; defense of the rights and cultural integrity of Irish speakers and of Irish neutrality; ending multinational corporations' continued expropriation of the surplus value produced by Irish workers; opposition to the European Union, and to continued environmental degradation; separating the Church from civil affairs and education; and supports efforts to free the Irish people from restrictions of their personal liberties through reactionary, clerically-inspired legal restrictions.

Because of its revolutionary program and principled stand on issues, the IRSM has always faced violent opposition disproportionate to its size. Immediately after its founding it came under military attack from the Official IRA, which in 1977 killed Seamus Costello, the first IRSP chairperson. The SAS, using the guise of a Loyalist death squad, in 1980 murdered his successor, Miriam Daly, as well as IRSM activists Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle. Again disproportionately, the INLA has seen its volunteers murdered in British Army and Irish Gardaí shoot-to-kill operations (including the 1997 assassination of a Volunteer in Dublin). In 1987, some former members previously purged for criminal activity and calling themselves the Irish People's Liberation Organization, launched an attack on the movement, killing the INLA Chief of Staff, as well as INLA Staff Officer (and IRSM theorist) Thomas 'Ta' Power. Though seriously crippled, the IRSM survived, thoughby 1992 the IPLO had collapsed. In January 1996, IRSP Ard Comhairle member Gino Gallagher was killed in cold blood by another criminal band acting on behalf of British Intelligence, followed by a number of attempts on the lives of IRSM members.

During the 1980s, the INLA continued to engage the occupation forces in the Six Counties while also carrying out military actions that underlined the unique character of the IRSM's political line, such as assassinations of reactionary Loyalist paramilitarists like John McKeage of the Red Hand Commandos and the bombing of the Mount Gabriel radar station near Cork, Ireland, exposing the violation of Irish neutrality through the station having been used to supply information to NATO. As a measure of their successes against imperialism, INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey was such a threat that he was named the most wanted man in both the 26-county Irish Republic and in the six counties, and became the first republican to be extradited from the Republic into British custody.

Imprisoned comrades of the IRSM joined in all prison struggles of the late 1970s and the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981. Three of the ten men who died during the 1981 hunger strike, Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Devine, were INLA Volunteers. In 1985 INLA prisoners in Portlaoise Gaol won parity with other republican prisoners through a brief, but successful, hunger strike, and in 1986 all Republican Socialist prisoners in England won repatriation to Ireland through a renewed blanket/dirty protest.

Since August 1994 the INLA has held to a 'No First Strike' policy, that is, not initiating any offensive military action, in order to allow the Nationalist people to see for themselves the failure of the so-called 'peace process' and IRA ceasefire. The INLA maintains their legitimate right to act in defense of the membership of the IRSM and the Irish working class. This policy twice resulted in actions against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) when they joined with Loyalist mobs in attacking Nationalist workers.