Brief History of the IRSP
(IRSP Pamphlet Reprint)

The author and original date of publication of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but it was part of a series of pamphlets produced by the IRSP to give the working class of Ireland a clear vision of the IRSP's policies.


The Irish Republican Socialist Party was founded in 1974. Like Sinn Fein and the Workers Party, its roots can be traced back to the broad republican tradition in Ireland and in particular James Connolly and the Irish Citizens Army.

Following the disastrous border campaign in the 1950's, serious debate took place within the Republican movement about exactly how they could become more receptive to the needs of the people, in an Ireland vastly different from that of the 1920's.

Given that the Republican Movement was not ideologically united, there emerged several "factions". The socialist faction advocated that the movenent should immerse itself in the everday affairs of the people, whilst not denying the need for armed struggle to confront imperialism, it was felt that armed struggle should go hand in hand with building a solid political base. Abstention from elections, long considered one of the main tenets of republicanism, was no longer thought politically viable, instead, it was argued that participation in elections should be considered as a tactic, not a principle. But within this faction there was also developing a totally reformist position, which was later to become the predominant force.

The other dominant trend within the Republican movement was the old traditionalist faction who believed that only the national question had any relevance to the Irish people. Participation in elections was considered to be in total opposition to republicanism. This faction later emerged as the Provisionals.

Events outside the control of the movement were to push it into the position where a "split" became inevitable. During the civil rights campaign, the state, in collusion with militant loyalists, launched repeated attacks on the nationalist community culminating in the pograms of August 1969. The I.R.A. were unable to adequately defend the nationalist community and blamed this on the new social policies being pursued by the leadership of the movement. This, coupled with the dropping of abstentionism, led to the Republican Movement splitting into the Provisional and Official wings.

Those who still believed that the national class question was inextricably linked remained with the Official camp. This element was led by Seamus Costello. When the Provisionals launched their offensive military campaign against the British, the Officials found themselves also committed, not because it was what the leadership wanted, because they did not, but because the rank and file in the six counties saw an opportunity to expand the struggle.

However, by 1972-73, those with radical and militant policies had become more and more isolated by the forces of reform. A split was inevitable and with the expulslon of Costello in 1974 there was no alternative but to leave the "Officials" and form a new party. Revolutionary republicans came together with trade unionists and other socialists to form the Irish Republican Socialist Party under the slogan "For National Liberation and Socialism". There were widespread defections from the Officials.

The fledgling party soon came under armed attack from the Officials and three members were killed and forty people wounded. Those who had refused to fight against the armed forces of British occupation, freely turned their weapons on those who posed an alternative to their reformism.


The I.R.S.P. saw the necessity not only to confront British lmperialism in the six counties but to mobilise the working class in the 26 counties. Thus it soon came under sustained attack from the Free State government.

In an attempt to criminalise and intimidate the I.R.S.P., over 40 of its members were arrested following a train robbery in Co. Kildare. Many of those arrested were tortured and several were subsequently convicted of the robbery on the basis of statements signed under duress. The medical evidence of torture was overwhelming, and after a lengthy campaign both in Ireland and abroad, and a long and painful hunger strike by Nicky Kelly, one of those convicted, all were eventually freed.

In 1977, Seamus Costello was assassinated by the Workers Party, and this was to be followed several years later by the assassination of other leading members - Miriam Daly, Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little, almost certainly by the S.A.S.


From its inception, the Party was involved in all aspects of politlcal struggle in Ireland; participating in the compaign for political status for republican/republican socialist prisoners, culminating in the Hunger Strikes of 1980/81 in which ten prisoners died, including three I.N.L.A. volunteers, Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch and Micky Devine; it campaigned against the 'supergrass system' in the mld 198O's, and was involved locally in numerous campaigns against repression. At the same time, the Party was consistently involved on class issues, including the fight against cut backs in health and education, the water tax, it was prominant in the compaign to introduce divorce in the 26 counties and was active in supporting strike actions.


Because of the sustained attacks against the party, it had little breathing space and was unable to develop a clear ideology nor define its politics beyond the slogan "For national liberation and socialism" and a vague call for a "Broad Anti-imperialist Front". It was not until the 1984 Ard Fheis, that an attempt was made to give the party a coherent balance of theory and practice, with the adoption of the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin as the essential basis for a revolutionary party. These proposals were passed unanimously and without argument.

Those who opposed the public declaration of Marxism/Leninism did not appear at the Ard Fheis to voice their arguments. Instead, they chose to distance themselves and engage in a campaign of smear, innuendo and outright physical intimidation which eventually culminated in the counter-revolutionary attacks on the party in 1987, when five comrades were murdered and several wounded.

Since the attacks, the IRSP has been totally committed to building a genuine revolutionary communist party, and it is through the pages of our national paper, "An Camcheachta/Starry Plough", that we are encouraging debate amongst the working class around the major political questions facing the struggle in Ireland today.

The Party is also active in the campaign against the health cuts, against extradition, as well as being involved in local activity on a day-to-day basis. Whilst we believe that participation in certain elections is a necessary tactic, we also recognise that there is no parliamentary road to socialism.