As a brief follow up to the footage of the Barnes-McCormick reburial in 1969 and much of the mythology that has developed around the IRA split, here’s a news item from The Irish Times on 18th March 1967:
REPUBLICANS TO DEFY BAN
The Northern Directory of Republican Clubs announced yesterday that it will hold a public meeting at Divis street, Belfast, tomorrow afternoon “…to defy the unjust banning of the Republican Clubs in the Six Counties by the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs,” and “…to protest against this flagrant abuse of civil liberties and democratic freedom which this action entails.”
The meeting will be held at the 43 Club, Divis street, Mr James Steele, Belfast, chairman of the directory, will preside. The announcement from the directory stated that the meeting will be attended by delegates from Republican clubs all over Northern Ireland, members of civil liberty and trade union organisations and Labour Members of Parliament from both Westminister and Stormont.
Typically, Jimmy Steele (and many of those involved in the formation of Provisional Army Council of the IRA in December 1969) are presented as being ‘…physical force men… whose methods would be purely military as opposed to the new socio/political methods advocated by Goulding’ (as described in Rosita Sweetman’s 1972 book On Our Knees, Ireland 1972, p.190). A review of contemporary news sources suggests the context given to the 1969 split, largely developed over the early 1970s against the backdrop of sometimes violent disputes between the different factions, merits some reconsideration and that the picture is more complex than is usually presented.
4 thoughts on “The Northern Directory of Republican Clubs, 1967.”
Those I’ve talked to who lived through the split usually say that sides were taken based on who you knew and respected.
There’s also a theory that divides it into two splits- one in 69 over the community defence issue focused in the north, and one in the south a year later over absenteeism. Unlike other splits (like the 1998 GFA one) there’s considerable grey zone that’s let both sides rewrite the story to suit themselves and history suffers as a result.
I would go with the multiple splits theory. In Belfast personalities were a significant driver and had been for some time. It’s clear from the analysis presented by the likes of Roy Johnstone that GHQ was only seeing some of the picture in Belfast, due to who they were receiving information from. Retrospectively its meant some fairly imaginative explanations for the split when in reality, the political analysis by Goulding, Johnstone, Coughlan etc at the time was predicated upon flawed or incomplete data rather than being bad analysis. Belfast had already signaled that it was withdrawing support for Goulding as C/S by refusing to send delegates to the Army Convention in December 1969. The Belfast IRA had engaged with politicisation and the idea that it was right-wing doesn’t stand up to any serious scrutiny. I don’t think the idea that many were devout Catholics (that seems to feature as ‘evidence’ against them) has any relevance to the argument either – general church attendance was 95% at the time, McMillen and Sullivan etc were equally pious and all of them had been regularly excommunicated by the Catholic church or refused sacraments but had never let it affect their politics.
The McStiofain/O Bradaigh dimension to the split over abstention should be seen as distinct from the Belfast IRA. Contemporary sources make this clear. Goulding and his supporters referred to a ‘provisional alliance’ in the early 1970s before later invoking more all-embracing conspiracy theories for the split. Given the blood spilled in the interim, its easy to see why people would seek different readings of what happened to justify their position.
As well as personalities and political strategy, I think there is also a Belfast-Dublin dynamic here that hasn’t really been fully explored. It is evident in IRA strategy from the 1920s onwards and is worth a closer look.
Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.