Bernadette and the IRSP

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Tue Sep 3 02:14:02 MDT 2002

>  >The other chief founder of the IRSP was Bernadette, but she
>  >left early on as she disagreed with the decision to set up
>  >an armed wing (or that it was done behind her back, anyway,
>  >which was rather unfortunate.)

> There's an amusing story I heard recently about that.  At the last IRSP
> leadership meeting she attended, she asked those who were also in the INLA
> to please stand.  Everyone in the room except for her stood up.

I think Bernadette has been the most consistently clear-sighted left
activist in Ireland over the past 30 years and I have a really deep
respect for her.  But she also has a real weakness, which is the
inability to knuckle down and build a political organisation.  Her
departure from the IRSP, with a handful of people to form a wee left
group that soon faded away, was a big loss for the IRSP but also for her
and for the struggle.

I used to know someone who was in the IRSP leadership at the time she
left.  He'd lived in Britain for a few years and been involved in IS
there and joined the IRSP when he returned to Ireland and quickly became
the editor of the 'Starry Plough'.  He had a real admiration for
Bernadette, as did any revolutionary-minded person of that time, but he
said he couldn't believe it when she got up at an IRSP leadership
meeting and outlined her views about how the seizure of power would take
place - he said it was textbook Trotskyism that bore no relation to what
was actually happening in Ireland and she had no comprehension of the
vital role of the armed struggle and INLA.

I think that later on, into the 1980s, her views on armed struggle
probably improved.  Whether she ended up regretting leaving the IRSP
would be interesting to know.  On the other hand, if she had've stayed
she may well have ended up dead when the Brits decided to take out the
IRSP leadership in 1981 and people like Miriam Daly, Ronnie Bunting and
(Noel?) Little (?) were murdered.

Anyway, I wish the reorganisation and revitalisation of the IRSP well.
They're probably the best hope there is right now of taking things
forward in Ireland - although I also think they should sit down with the
best ex-Provo left elements and Bernadette and really try to fuse with
them into a single party.  Then go and try to set up their broader front
with other republicans.  Trying to get people like Brendan Hughes and
Bernadette involved would also be a real counter to any remaining
tendencies there might be from the IRSP's worst days of the late
80s/early 90s.


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