IRSP Gaining Ground in Derry
Danielle Ni Dhighe
danielle at irsm.org
Thu Sep 5 14:07:11 MDT 2002
5 September 2002
IRSP Gaining Ground in Derry
By Paddy McGuffin
Paddy McGuffin talks to senior IRSP member Terry Harkin about
ceasefires, the Agreement, drugs and the party's re-emergence in the
The leadership of the IRSP - the political wing of the INLA - said
yesterday that their numbers were on the rise in Derry and across
Ireland due to a growing disillusionment among republicans over the
Good Friday Agreement.
Derry has traditionally been a stronghold for the Republican
Socialist Movement, but due to the infamous supergrass trials and
attacks on members from outside influences, support waned.
Now though, the movement claim that more and more working class
republicans are turning to them as the only viable option.
Speaking to the Derry News, the London based Derry IRSP Ard Comhairle
member Terry Harkin said that the Republican Socialist Movement
needed to provide coherent opposition to "bourgeois loyalism and
He explained: "The IRSP and the INLA were conceived on the premise of
one simple idea, the need to unite, once and for all the class and
national questions, the idea was that of class unity.
"Derry has always been a stronghold for republican socialism and I
think this has a lot to do with the shirt factories. Marx and Engels
based part of Das Kapital on Tillie's in Derry.
"The attacks on the movement in '87 and '96 prevented the movement
from achieving re-cohesion following the supergrass trials but we
have had a long period of stability and people are coming back."
The organisation, by means of its non-aggression pact, has also made
inroads into Protestant communities.
Harkin commented: "We have always had Protestant members of the
organisation, Ronnie Bunting in Belfast being a case in point. We
have always set out to do what Seamus Costello [founder member of the
IRSP] wanted to do and that is to try and unite the working class
against our oppressors. We already have a foothold in Protestant
working class areas due to our work in the trade unions and workers
councils, and we have always been active on the ground. The fact that
we are not preaching a doctrine solely based on painting things
green and leaving the class structure alone also works in our favour."
Nevertheless the IRSP and INLA would be seen as sectarian by many
Harkin said: "We are sectarian, we are sectarian against the large
landowners who own huge parts of the country from outside Ireland. We
are against the multinationals, the low pay employers who are
reintroducing non-unionisation to the country and pro-Brit gunmen."
Harkin believes, however, that oppression is more institutionalised
in Protestant communities than in Catholic areas.
He said: "I think they are more oppressed because they do not know
that they are being oppressed. They have been so successfully
bamboozled by generation after generation being bought off or killed
off in England's wars that they don't notice anymore.
"The greatest achievement of the British Empire was the retardation
of the Presbyterian faith in Ireland. Here, you had a faith that was
the most radical and freethinking in the world at the time. A faith
that gave birth to revolutionary liberation theory and in a sense to
Irish republicanism. Where once you had Henry Joy McCracken and Roddy
McCorley, now you have Gregory Campbell and Ian Paisley - it's mind
There has long been friction between the IRSP and Sinn Fein, a mutual
distrust that has existed since the movement's inception in 1974.
Harkin commented: "We differ from Sinn Fein because we come from a
class perspective. At times, this can be a curse.
"We would say that the sectarian divide has been institutionalised by
the Good Friday Agreement. We are trying to move this from the so-
called religious confrontation as the Brits have labelled it. It is
not about that, it is about being ruled from across the sea, it is
about us having the right to this land and the right to take it back.
To own, as a nation, the produce of our nation. We are saying let's
get back to brass tacks.
"We are not now and never have been abstentionist. When the time is
right we will get into the councils and the Dail but what the IRSP
will not do is take bribes from the US or anywhere else nor will we
stand for their lame duck assembly. However the point is that when
Patsy O'Hara, Mickey Devine and Kevin Lynch were dying on hunger
strike, Thatcher told us to get an electoral mandate, we refused,
look what happened to those who did get a mandate."
So, what view do the IRSP take of other republican groups such as the
RIRA and the CIRA?
Harkin thinks the use of the term 'dissidents' is incorrect: "These
are people following the line they have always followed. To call them
dissidents is to stand republicanism on its head. The dissidents are
those sitting in Stormont. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement and RSF
have the ideology the Republican Movement always had. The IRSP
espouse socialist republican ideas. They haven't learned, they are an
umbrella group for a spectrum of views from right wing nationalists
to left wing socialists.
"The physical presence of Britain in our country with soldiers and
paramilitary police on our streets means that people will feel they
have a legitimate right to attack them and I would not criticise them
for that. I differ greatly from them in that I do not believe that
armed struggle has a place at this time but I cannot condemn them out
of hand. Omagh was wrong.
"The GFA must fall but it must be allowed to fall by itself, because
it is wrong. It is not for us to bring it down. People voted for it
and we don't tell people what to think, we tell them to think for
The movement has been dogged by persistent rumours that it is
involved with the illegal drug trade. And it was reported last week
that the INLA were moving in on the drug trade in North Belfast.
Harkin strongly denied the claim: "The Sunday World ran a story some
time ago that the Provos had smashed a drug ring involving the INLA
in Belfast. What actually happened was that the INLA smashed the ring
and expelled those involved. It was a particularly insidious ring
where kids were being sold bags of glue. The Sunday World jumped on
it and said that it was the INLA doing that, but the people of North
Belfast know who is out there on the ground protecting their
communities and smashing the drug trade.
"There has never been a current or serving member of either the IRSP
or INLA questioned, arrested or charged with having drugs, selling
drugs or being involved with them. I would challenge any journalist
to check out that statement. This is deliberate black propaganda. If
one of our members had been involved it would have been on the front
page of every newspaper but it simply hasn't happened."
So, how does Harkin see the current and future role of the party?
"I think the fact that we have always called it straight down the
line has made an impression on people," he stated.
"People are becoming discontented and are looking for a stable
organisation to help them. If we thought the GFA would have worked,
we would have been there at the very beginning. We didn't, it hasn't
but we haven't been sniping from the sidelines. If there had been a
serious attempt under the GFA to sort out Northern Ireland's problems
there would have been conflict resolution measures but there haven't
"The non-aggression pact deals with workers, with people who are at
war not the bourgeoisie. People who left our organisation years ago
are coming back, you only have to look at North Belfast. People are
looking at us and saying 'they have a point'. We have not been
rattling our sabres, we have been saying that workers from both sides
need to sit down and sort this out."
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