The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Goulding, the Provisionals and the Current Political Process

(In response to Liam O Comain and Anthony McIntyre)

Roy Johnston • Dublin, 9 September 2006

Thanks to David Granville, who does the reviews for the Irish Democrat and edits their web-site, my attention was drawn to The Blanket, where my name came up in the context of Liam O Comain's defence of Cathal Goulding. Liam's account of Goulding's role in the politicisation process in the 1960s is a creditable attempt to respond to McIntyre's accusation of 'corrosion' and 'deceit', but I feel I need to take him up on a few details.

He is right in attributing a seminal role to the pamphlet 'The Irish Question and the British People' written by Desmond Greaves (NB the spelling), which developed the Civil Rights approach to Northern Ireland politics in the context of the Connolly Association and its attempts to influence the Labour movement in Britain on Irish issues.

He is however wrong to characterise the Wolfe Tone Societies as being set up on the Connolly Association model by Goulding, Costello and Mac Giolla. They were set up originally as 'Directories', primarily by Goulding in the context of the Wolfe Tone bicentenary 1963; they subsequently evolved with their own constitutions into independent think-tanks fuelling the 1960s politicisation process, with Goulding's blessing, and with increasing involvement of MacGiolla, Costello, Mitchell and other in the leadership.

In this context they indeed were instrumental, via the Maghera seminars (there were two), in initiating a broad-spectrum Civil Rights Association at the War Memorial Hall meeting in November 1966. The prime mover in this context was Anthony Coughlan in the Dublin WTS, who had worked with Greaves in London earlier. In this context I was helping to develop some understanding of the utility of this process at the grassroots of the republican movement, in support of Goulding, where I encountered Liam O Comain and Malachi McGurran among the key activists.

There was in 1969 prior to the August pogrom, with the O'Neill reforms and increasing interest from the Labour Party in Britain under Connolly Association pressure, the makings of a situation in which republican politics could be legitimised, and cross-community working-class politics developed. The pogrom however had the effect desired by the hard-core Unionists and B-Specials who organised it: isolate Civil Rights in the Catholic ghettoes, and re-invent the IRA in its traditional mode as 'ezternal enemy' to unify all Protestants behind the Unionist bourgeoisie.

I have written up what I know of this period in the context of my book 'Century of Endeavour', linking it with the experiences of my father Joe Johnston (1890-1972), who came from near Castlecaulfield in Co Tyrone. He was an all-Ireland Home Rule supporter, of whom at the time there were many of the Protestant persuasion. He wrote his book 'Civil War in Ulster' in 1913, attacking Carson and the Tory-Orange conspiracy which introduced the gun to Irish politics at Larne in April 1914; he went on to make his career in the Free State, resisting Partition and countering its effects politically as best he could.

My own involvement in the process originated with the student Marxist Left in Trinity College in the late 1940s, and evolved in the direction of left-republicanism during the 1950s. I had some interaction with Sean Cronin (who incidentally became subsequently a member of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society) at the time.

I am not going to begin to comment on the McIntyre contribution as a whole, apart from the gratuitous, simplistic and unworthy attack on Goulding, to which I have responded as above. I can however suggest to him, and others like him, that if he seeks to attack flaws in the current Adams-led politicisation process (of which there are quite a few), it behoves him to try to evaluate critically what happened in the past, in particular the processes that led to the emergence of the Provisionals and the return to the armed struggle.

I have attempted to contribute to this discussion with my 'Century of Endeavour' memoir, of which an overview can be seen at, and which I understand is in the reviewing pipeline.































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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

10 September 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

It's Good to Talk
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Bye-Bye Daily Lies
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If You Cannot Organise a Meeting, How Can You Expect to Organise a Revolution?
Liam O Comain

RSF not involved in proposed 'Front'
Republican Sinn Fein Press Release

Renaissance Republicanism
Mick Hall

Goulding, the Provisionals and the Current Political Process
Roy Johnston

Puppet Show
John Kennedy

Fr. Mc Manus on His Visit to Garnerville PSNI Training Center
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Irlande du Nord: Interview With Anthony McIntyre
André Poulin

Sectarian Interfaces: Glenn Patterson's That Which Was
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 9
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 10
Michael Gillespie

A Curious Snub
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Con Artist
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Against Civilisation
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Blanket Coverage for All
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5 Years
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Sinn Fein: Or the Party of Symbolic Republicanism
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Public Commitment or Public Relations
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False Memory Syndrome
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True Faith
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Not the Cathal Goulding I Knew
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Dark Days Ahead
John Kennedy

Return to Conflict No Alternative
David Adams

Sir Reg's Party Games
Anthony McIntyre

A Secret History of Irish Music
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Unionism's Favourite Nationalist
Dr John Coulter

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 7
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 8
Michael Gillespie

Trotsky and the Ghetto of the Sects
Mick Hall

Global Conscience Not US Capital: The Case for Liberal Intervention
Gabriel Glickman

Letter to Bertie
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign



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