Interview with John O’Neill from Treason Felony

The Chemical Elements

Belfast IRA

The following is an interview I conducted recently with John O’Neill, the author behind the excellent Treason Felony blog which covers the history of the Belfast IRA in its ‘lean years’ from the end of the War of Independence (1921) to the eruption of the Troubles in the summer of 1969.

John’s original research has uncovered a number of fascinating insights into overlooked topics in republican history including 19th century Fenianism in North Belfast; James Connolly’s time with the British Army in Ireland; the role of Belfast IRA volunteers in 1916 and on the pro-Treaty side the Civil War; and the connections between the Belfast IRA and the Communist Party in the ‘20s and ‘30s.

From a historiographical perspective, John’s fastidious and unbiased attention to the sources also illuminates the Belfast IRA’s complex political evolution over this period, running counter to certain simplistic myths about…

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3 responses to “Interview with John O’Neill from Treason Felony

  1. Excellent interview John – was very interesting.

    Sincere complimentsd from one Antrim Rd person to another!!!

    Was struck by one point you made

    “Another example of how retrospective narratives are shaped is that a left wing dynamic did in fact exist among Belfast republicans in the 1930s and ’40s – for example with the ‘Republican Club’ which is created at the time, that involves Betty Sinclair among others, and unites republicans and official communists at the time on a loose ‘anti-imperialist’ basis.”

    Anecdotal evidence in support of what you wrote comes from a personal communication I received some time ago from a now deceased very elderly republican lady who was originally from North Queen St and later the Falls .
    She refused to comment either way as to whether she was Cumann na mBan.

    She told me about ” protestant communists ” she had got to know because they “frequented” the Republican Club.

    I couldn’t work out what she was talking about as I thought Republican Clubs dated back to the 1960s, (tricolour riots) not earlier.

    Now it’s clearer.

    Have you any other info about the activities and location of this 1930s-40s Repbulican Club?

    Like

    • I assume some used the TGWU rooms in (I think) Skipper St since, like Communist Party, it was closely linked to the union. The steering group behind the 1939/40 one met in Ernie Hillens house somewhere in St James. Any social events linked to it could have been held in likes of TGWU rooms etc. There was also an Ulster Union Club which was basically a Protestant republican club. Not sure if it had ‘rooms’ per se. Must try and suss that out!

      Liked by 1 person

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