IRA appeal to the Orange Order


An Address from the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army to the Men and Women of the Orange Order

[This is the text as quoted by The Kerryman on 16th July 1932. It was published in An Phoblacht the same day and had been largely written by Peader O’Donnell. Prior to publication, it had been circulated with a covering letter from the IRA’s Adjutant General, Donal O’Donoghue, on 8th July to newspaper editors. Most, even including the Belfast Newsletter, published abridged versions as early as 11th July 1932. I have kept the formatting here from The Kerryman version. The address was distributed as leaflets in unionist districts of Belfast by IRA volunteers.]

Fellow Countrymen and Women,

It is a long call from the ranks of the Irish Republican Army to the marching throngs that hold the 12th July Celebrations in North East Ulster. Across the space we have sometimes exchanged shots, or missiles or hard words, but never forgetting that on occasions our ancestors have stood shoulder to shoulder. Some day we will again exchange ideas and then the distance which now separates us will shorten. For we of the Irish Republican Army believe that inevitably the small farmers and wage-earners in the Six County area will make common cause with those of the rest of Ireland, for the common good of the mass of the people in a Free United Irish Republic. Such a conviction is forming itself in an ever increasing number of minds in North East Ulster.

The Irish Republican Army – within North East Ulster as well as in the rest of Ireland – believe that the mass of the Working-Farmers and Wage-earners must organise behind revolutionary leadership if they are to rescue themselves from a system within they the few prosper and the many are impoverished.

It is our opinion, a conviction driven in on our mind by the facts of life around us, that capitalism and imperialism constitute a system of exploitation and injustice within which the mass of the people can know no freedom.

The burdens of to-day’s bad times are falling with increasing weight on Working Farmers, who must surrender an increasing part of their produce to meet rents, taxes, bank interest, etc, while their incomes diminish The unemployed workers are being torn at with economies in social services – adding daily to the destitute. The wage earners are finding their conditions _s of employment and standard of living steadily worsening.

We can see no permanent solution of these evils except by the transfer of power over production, distribution and exchange to the mass of the people.

The power to produce what the many require exists; the Organisation and its distribution presents no insoluble difficulty. But the vested interests of a privileged minority are across the road and progress is impossible, unless we are prepared to clear away these obstacles.

These interests that deny their rights to the many are those on which the Empire rests. Touch or threaten these privileged interests and the whole force of the Empire is invoked for their protection. Thus it is that we see and say that the freedom of the mass – of the Irish People is impossible without breaking the connection with Imperial Britain and with all the Imperial system connotes.

Do you see any other road to freedom for yourselves and your families?

You must realise that the chief industries on which the former alleged prosperity of North East Ulster rested are gone beyond hope of being revived; that the same thing has occurred in Great Britain; that everywhere the pinch grows tighter on those who are unemployed as a result of this breakdown in the whole structure of capitalism. Can the British people help you while their own workers and industries are struggling desperately to exist and are not succeeding in these days? Where do you see any hope?

Working-farmers and Wage-earners of North East Ulster. You surely must see that your future is bound up with the mass of the people in the remainder of Ireland. To preserve yourselves from extinction, you and they must combine and go forward to the attainment of A Free Irish Nation within which life and living will be organised and controlled by you to serve your needs and thus end the present economic and social injustices for ever.

The industrial capacity, and training of you industrial workers, of North East Ulster ensure you a leading influence and place in the economy and life of a Free Irish Nation.


To prejudice you it is emphasized that we of the Irish republican Army and the mass of Republicans are mainly Catholic, and that your religious beliefs would not be respected in a free Ireland! It is quite true we are mianly Catholics, but in Southern Ireland the same political and economical interests and voices that tell you we are Catholics, tell the Catholic population of the South that we are Anti-God fanatics, and yearning for an opportunity to make war on the religion to which the majority of us belong!

The fact is we are quite unaware of religious distinctions within our Movement.

We guarantee you, you will guarantee us, and we will both guarantee all full freedom of conscience and religious worship in the Ireland we are to set free.

This is the simple truth, and just now when Imperial interests are attempting to conceal themselves behind the mad fury of religious strife you and we should combine to make certain that no such escape should be provided them.

In the process of exploitation of the wage-earners and small producers, do you not realise how little religion matters to the exploiters? Orangemen and Catholic, Catholic women and yours toil side by side in the factory and mill, all equally victims Those who thus exploit mercilessly your labour and energies, would outside set you at one anothers throats, because it is to their advantage to divide you and lead you into conflict by arousing religious issues and inflaming passions.

Do yon not find yourselves queued shoulder to shoulder outside the Unemployed Exchanges waiting for the ‘Dole’, that crumb which the exploiters throw to the exploited of different religions? In these vital matters jour religion or your membership of the Orange Older counts for little, nor does Catholicism to the unemployed and starving Catholics in Southern Ireland.

The fact is that the religious feelings of the masses of both Orangemen and Catholics are played on and exploited by the Imperialists and Capitalists the more surely to enslave them.


You celebrate the victory of the Boyne. This battle was a victory for the alliance of the then Pope; and William of Orange; strange alliance for you to celebrate; strange victory for Catholics to resist! History has been muddled to hide the occasions when your forefathers and ours made common cause, and passions are stirred to manufacture antagonisms. If William of Orange and His Holiness could achieve an alliance, there is hope that “NO SURRENDER” may come up from a throng which also roars “UP THE REPUBLIC”.

Your stock were the founders and inspiration, the North East Ulster the cradle, of the modern Revolutionary Movement for National Independence and Economic Freedom. Your illustrious ancestors and co-religionists, the United Irishmen, by their gallant struggle in 1798 set aflame the ideals of Republicanism which never since have been extinguished. We ask that you should join us to achieve their ideals — National Freedom and religious toleration.

It was John Mitchel, a Newry man of your stock, who addressed these words to your forefathers: “In fact religious hatred has been kept alive in Ireland longer than anywhere else in Christendom. Just for the simple reason that Irish landlords and British statesmen found their own account in it, and so soon as Irish landlordism and British domination are finally rooted out of the country it will be heard of no longer in Ireland any more than it is in France or Belgium, now.”

Fraternally, Your Fellowcountrymen,

The Army Council,

On Behalf of the Irish Republican Army


6 thoughts on “IRA appeal to the Orange Order

  1. I would say that Geoffrey Coulter could well have had a hand in this. O’Donnell had brought him back into the army council and it he was he who was effectively running An Phoblacht. Two years later two buses left the Shankill road for the Republican Congress that both O’Donnell and Coulter helped organise. These northerners were prevented from taking their place in a parade by the IRA O/C from Kildare and a separate parade was arranged in something of a protest according to Coulter.
    His republicanism had been greatly influenced by his coming from a Protestant family and by his interest in socialism. He had after 1918 tried to re-form the Irish Citizens Army with Roddy Connolly but the pace of the Anglo-Irish war overtook them. The prospect of reuniting workers under a republican banner, regardless of religion remained an aspiration for Coulter into the middle of the century.


    1. Yeah, I definitely would think Coulter was involved. O’Donnell was also connected into left wing politics in Belfast with the likes of the McVickers and Billy McMullen (this is according to Peter Carleton in his account in Uinseann MacEoin’s book ‘Survivors’ and in the book Belfast in the thirties: an oral history). All were Protestant and some were involved in the Shankill Republican Club later in the 1930s. There was a reformed Irish Citizens Army, made up of TGWU members in the early 1930s, with either two (according to the RUC) or four companies (according to Roddy Connolly) but it also fell apart after the split in Republican Congress.
      There were long running tensions between the left republicans in IRA GHQ in Dublin (like O’Donnell, Ryan, Gilmore, Price etc) that date back to the mid-1920s and seems to be personality driven. Some, if not all of that group, contrived to have Dan Turley (Belfast I/O and a former O/C) court-martialled and forced Davy Matthews (Belfast O/C) resignation. That was after a long running battle where O’Donnell and Gilmore harangued the Belfast Battalion in the pages of An Phoblacht. The negative picture painted of Belfast (a battalion of armed Catholics etc) presented by O’Donnell and Gilmore, in particular, doesn’t really stand up to any scrutiny. A critical issue here was that O’Donnell seemed to mainly be connected to trade union people in Belfast who mostly came from the Protestant working class – he didn’t seem to appreciate the difference between the grades of labour and how sectarianism had segmented the trades so that Catholics were generally not represented in those trades with organised labour representation. Paradoxically, in the early 1930s, the Belfast IRA had no representation in GHQ and those with northern connections of one sort or another were from Protestant backgrounds (Coulter, Gilmore, even likes of George Plant). The Belfast IRA staff argued that O’Donnell and others weren’t getting an understanding of how unionists deployed sectarianism from the safety of Dublin.
      Even the Bodenstown clash between the Shankill contingent and a Tipperary Battalion is deceptive – on closer inspection the whole thing looks more like an ego trip of O’Donnell’s than anything else. Other people who have commented on it claim that the whole incident was treated as a misunderstanding and over in minutes (I think Liam Mulholland, Liam Burke and others have made that point). The Tipperary unit had been told to police the inner field where all banners and flags were banned. This was always the case –
      but neither O’Donnell or Gilmore had bothered to inform the Shankill contingent of this (even though both attended Bodenstown every single year, the Republican Congress had been founded only two months previously). O’Donnell returned to Dublin and already had a full page press release ready to issue to The Irish Press that evening (it appeared in the next morning’s edition). I think that O’Donnell contrived the incident and talked it up to create some distance between Republican Congress and the IRA. No-one ever seems to entertain the possibility that O’Donnell’s motivations should be questioned.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Peadar O Donnell was a life-long personal friend of the late east belfast socialist Andrew Boyd, though Boyd was a much younger man (born 1921).

        apart from that to get back to the info in the post – the republican message to Unionists and Loyalists hasn’t changed much over the years and the response from them hasn’t changed at all!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting discussion. In terms of Republican Congress, I have long thought that O’Donnell and Gilmore were wrong and that Nora Connolly and Mick Price were right. They wanted to form a socialist-republican party, something that was surely on the agenda in that era. O’Donnell’s closeness to the CP seemed to be a factor in opposing the formation of a party because such a party would rival the CPI, which was being increasingly Stalinised. The CPI, it seems to me, wanted a broad republican grouping which it could possibly lead, and certainly recruit out of – but not a socialist-republican party which could emerge as the vanguard of the Irish revolution. I don’t think Nora Connolly has ever been given her due in relation to Republican Congress. (Which is not to say she didn’t err either – in going to Labour after the split and in accepting a Seanad seat from de Valera). But she did stay a socialist-republican the rest of her life, strongly supported the IRA and INLA prisoners and the jail struggles and spoke on platforms literally up to her death.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: