The Connolly Youth Movement’s (CYM) recent article on Seán Mac Stíofáin was immature and erroneous. It is the latest move in a trend by elements of the Left to lay claim to Irish Nationalist and Republican icons and iconography. Figures and symbols to which they have absolutely no claim, and a mentality of theirs which we as Nationalists must disabuse them of. Just as they sought to ‘reclaim’ Connolly, they seek to ‘claim’ figures they have no business claiming —and which they know they have no business claiming.
It is rather odd that the CYM would seek to claim a man and a movement derided by their progenitors as being too sectarian. Even stranger is their pretence of being Republican-adjacent, given that the CYM’s original parent organisation, the Communist Party of Ireland, has historically had an anti-Catholic bent when it suited them, and that Republicanism was historically not a warm-house for Communists.
Seán Mac Stíofáin was a revolutionary, a Nationalist, a Catholic, a Republican, and a Socialist; but what he was not, was friendly with Communists. In his very first Army Council meeting, Seán Mac Stíofáin argued with Cathal Goulding that Roy Johnston’s membership of the IRA was in direct contravention of standing Army Orders prohibiting the membership of Communists (Army Order 4), and sought him expelled.
That same Johnston would later circulate a letter in the United Irishmen criticising the saying of the Rosary at Republican commemorations —and in return, Mac Stíofáin would refuse to allow it to be sold in any area under his command. A decision which Mac Stíofáin would temporarily lose his position for in the leadership of the IRA. That was until his return, and his eventual leading of the schism and the formation of the Provisional IRA, alongside other strongly anti-Marxist traditionalists like Billy McKee, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (not “Ruarí” as the CYM spelt it —remember boys, leathan le leathan ‘s caol le caol), and Joe Cahill.
This was not a simple personal ‘dislike’ of one individual —Seán mac Stíofáin rejected Communism as the arena of anti-national opportunists, and the IRA rejected Soviet interventions in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia. “If Socialism were imposed on us from the outside, it would be as alien as the British Imperial Capitalism which has been imposed on us from the outside. The foreign Capitalist system can only be destroyed and replaced by a Native conception of Socialism. Hungary is a classic example of this. In short, nobody can appreciate being freed by the scruff of the neck.” —An t-Óglach, 1968.
The CYM article called Mac Stíofáin “progressive” and “representative of the Provisional movement”, which is nothing but an empty arrangement of buzzwords paying false homage. It is true that he was representative of the Provisional movement —he was a Catholic and a Nationalist-Republican of the physical force persuasion, not some illusory ‘pro-trans cis-gendered ally’. In his own memoirs, Mac Stíofáin alluded to “a better way” to deal with child molesters and sex offenders rather than locking them up for long periods of time. You would be hard pressed to find a member of the Communist Youth Movement (or anyone on the far-Left for that matter) advocating for the execution of paedophiles.
Communists have always been given short shrift in Ireland —from the St. Patrick’s Anti-Communist League and the Rosary Riots of the 1930s, to the attempted burning and storming of Connolly House in March 19331, to the forced seizure of “Republican” Congress banners in Bodenstown 1934 (under order of the IRA), to the women of Cumann na mBan refusing to march alongside Communists at Bodenstown in the 60s. One of the last major operations carried out by the Provisional IRA was an attack against drug-dealing Communists in Belfast 1992.
The IRA has always made clear its opposition to Communism: “‘The vast majority of Irish people reject Communist imperialism and the sources from which it stems. By none among them is it more emphatically rejected than by members of the Republican Movement.”2
Whenever Republicans allowed Communist elements to exist, it only served to weaken Irish Republicanism and Nationalism. And once those elements had exploited and extracted all they could from the movement, they would turn their back on Nationalists and Republicans —and indeed, would blame the Irish for being forced to defend themselves from marauding Orange gangs:
“The much smaller Irish Communist Organisation was also challenging Official policies, taking the view that responsibility for the Northern conflict lay ‘at the door of the Southern ruling class’, and that the choice was between a ‘secular social democratic British state’ and the ‘reactionary 26-county Catholic state’. Claiming to be applying Stalin’s writings to the national question, the group now argued that there were two historic nations in Ireland —Protestant and Catholic— each entitled to self-determination. The organisation accordingly changed its name to the British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO). They argued that the Officials were ‘chiefly responsible’ for the Troubles, having led NICRA into ‘a policy of sectarian confrontation’.”3
One can hardly read the above and then look at the article the CYM wrote in any other light than as a measly attempt at rewriting history in order to re-ingratiate themselves now that they’ve been divorced from the CPI. All to claim some kind of contribution to our national struggle and mythos, now that they are without any guiding hand. In the same manner these Trotskyite internationalists pretend to be Irish Republicans, they also claim to be Marxist-Leninist, yet preach intersectionality above class struggle.
They pretend that our national heroes’ Socialism was incompatible with their Catholicism or their Nationalism, whereas the truth is the complete opposite; their Socialism, their Nationalism, their revolutionary spirit, and all that made them who they were complemented each other. Their being open to a Socialist method of reconstructing society did not extend into deep friendship with Communists, despite the fallacious alternate-history of the CYM. “Tony Meade recalls that neither Ó Brádaigh nor Mac Stíofáin ever demonstrated any overt opposition to socialism, as opposed to Marxism and more importantly members of Marxist organisations.”2
Our heroes did not care for Socialism for the sake of intellectual posturing —they were Socialists (so far as that term applies) in order to protect and cultivate our national character, to ensure our national resources were used for the betterment of our people and not simply a segment of our people or a segment of foreigners who held those resources. “In 1964 the IRA stressed that ‘our native language and culture are being systematically obliterated… our finance is being controlled by the Bank of England… our land is being grabbed at an alarming rate [and] our industry and commerce is controlled by foreigners’.”3
That did not mean they accepted Marxism as the motivator of Republicanism, and they made sure to define themselves for us in very plain terms: “[The United Irishman] contained references to the encyclicals and rejected both Capitalism and Communism as anti-Christian in their ideas on marriage and the family. The Irish revolutionary tradition was ‘Christian, republican, and democratic’ and state ownership was rejected on the grounds that ‘every man must be an owner to be free’. The republican alternative was based on the ‘Old Gaelic system’, Comhar na gComharsan, ‘an economy of owner workers grouped into co-ops.”2 Their Socialism and their Nationalism was one and the same; Gaelic in origin, informed by their Catholicism, and the historical conditions affecting Ireland and her people.
You are no doubt attempting to provoke us into making false claims, or trying to goad us into disavowing some aspects of the characters of our national heroes, but it will not work. We do not believe you are actually idiotic enough to legitimately try and claim Mac Stíofáin —if you are, God have mercy.
We do not see their Socialism as incompatible with or separate from their Nationalism, we do not see their Catholicism at odds with their revolutionary status. Because we, the Nationalists of Ireland, see in our ancestors the same flame which we carry in our soul of souls. Pearse and Connolly, Moran and Mellows, all carried within them that burning desire to see the Irish race (and they are careful to use such terminology) as supreme in Ireland, to be the masters of our own destinies.
“I have no prouder boast to say I am Irish and have been privileged to fight for the Irish people and for Ireland. If I have a duty I will perform it to the full with the unshakeable belief that we are a noble race and that chains and bounds have no part in us.” —Francis Hughes
“The Irish people stand for a cause that is as great as that of any race: a cause as great as that which Belgium stands for; a cause as great as the liberty of Serbia and Montenegro. They stand for a cause which has lived for longer than that of any of these other countries, because Belgium and Serbia have been persecuted for three years, and Ireland has suffered for seven hundred and fifty years.” —Liam Mellows, Pennsylvania, 1918.
To the authors at the CYM: your limp-wristed attempt at claiming our Nationalists as yours may have gone unchallenged before, but it will go unchallenged no further.
1. R. M. Douglas, Architects of the Resurrection: Ailtirí Na hAisérghe and the Fascist ‘New Order’ in Ireland, 2009.
2. Matt Treacy, p.36-40, The IRA 1956-1969: Rethinking the Republic, 2011.
3. Brian Hanley, Scott Millar, p.82,22, The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party, 2009.