People's Democracy (Ireland)

Last updated

People's Democracy
Daonlathas an Phobail
Founded1968
Dissolved1996
Ideology Socialism
Trotskyism
Irish nationalism
Irish republicanism
Factions:
Anarchism (1968-1974) [1]
ColoursGreen and red

People's Democracy (PD; Irish : Daonlathas an Phobail) [2] was a political organisation that arose from the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. It held that civil rights could be achieved only by the establishment of a socialist republic for all of Ireland. It demanded more radical reforms of the government of Northern Ireland than the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

Contents

Foundation

It was founded on 9 October 1968 at a meeting held in the Queen's University Belfast debating hall. A catalyst for its foundation had been the attack on a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march in Derry on 5 October by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). [3]

The group consisted mainly of students who were involved with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association or left wing groups such as the Labour Clubs and Young Socialist Alliance.

At the meeting the group decided on five aims:

It was initially led by a committee of ten members which consisted of Queen's University students Malcolm Miles, Fergus Woods, Anne McBurnley, Ian Godall, Bernadette Devlin, Joe Martin, Eddie McCamely, Michael O'Kane and Patricia Drinan, as well as Kevin Boyle, a law lecturer at QUB. Other prominent members included Cyril Toman, Eamon McCann and Michael Farrell. [4]

The name of the group was selected by accident, according to Bernadette Devlin.

The next evening our leaflet and poster were approved by a mass meeting of the students, and taken off to be printed. John D. Murphy, our printer, got the material late at night and only then noticed that our organisation had no name. To comply with the law, he had to put up the name of the organisation responsible at the bottom of the leaflet, and, the story goes, he read through it, decided it was all about people's rights and christened us People's Democracy. [5]

After marches in Belfast, in imitation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, about 40 People's Democracy members held a four-day march between Belfast and Derry starting on 1 January 1969. The march was repeatedly attacked by loyalists along its route, including an incident at Burntollet bridge on 4 January where the marchers were attacked by about 200 unionists, including off-duty special constables, armed with iron bars, bottles and stones, while the RUC stood by and watched. [6]

PD became increasingly radicalised as a result of these events. They also attacked the censorship laws in the Republic earning a rebuke from Ruairi Quinn and Basil Miller, then leaders of Students for Democratic Action, a revolutionary socialist student organisation, for letting British imperialism off the hook. In later years, members of the PD either quit politics altogether or became independent left-wing activists (such as Devlin and Farrell).

Development

In 1971, PD became a founder of the Socialist Labour Alliance.

In the mid-1970s, the experience of the Ulster Workers' Council strike led to PD predicting a loyalist takeover in Northern Ireland, but it later came round to the view that this perspective was incorrect, giving loyalism a degree of autonomy from imperialism which it did not possess. [7] The minority which clung to the old perspective left to form the Left Revolutionary Group, becoming the Red Republican Party in 1976, which was moribund by 1978. [8]

During the 1970s, PD evolved towards Trotskyist positions and, by merging with the Dublin-based Movement for a Socialist Republic, was recognised by the reunified Fourth International as its Irish section.

PD was especially active around the issues of internment and prisoners' rights. Following the formation of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee in 1979 to build support for the Republican prisoners then on the "blanket protest" in support of political status and the subsequent death of Bobby Sands and nine of his comrades during the H-Block hunger strikes, a number of members of the organisation, led by Vincent Doherty - then a member of the Political Committee and a former party general election candidate - argued that PD should join Sinn Féin, which had moved openly to the left in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1981, two members of People's Democracy were elected to Belfast City Council. John McAnulty and Fergus O'Hare were elected in a joint campaign with the IRSP. Fergus O'Hare won the council seat of Gerry Fitt, a sitting Westminster MP. O'Hare had been a founding member of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee and had previously been chairperson of the Political Hostages Release Committee which spearheaded the campaign against internment in the early 1970s. He subsequently went on to found the first Irish-language secondary school in Northern Ireland Meánscoil Feirste.

When Sinn Féin ended its boycott of elections and gained mass support among the republican community, PD entered a political crisis. From 1982 on, a number of activists left them and joined Sinn Féin. At a PD national conference in 1986, a group including Anne Speed proposed the dissolution of the group and that the members all join SF as individuals. This position was defeated by 19 votes to five. A few weeks later the minority of five resigned from PD followed by their supporters and joined Sinn Féin. The remaining members who continued to oppose this view maintained PD as a small propaganda group.

In the early 1990s the remaining members of PD initiated the Irish Committee for a Marxist Programme as an attempt to regroup socialists and left wing republicans. This project ended in 1996, when PD dissolved and reconstituted itself as Socialist Democracy, adopting the program put forward by the ICMP.

See also

Footnotes

  1. Hall, Michael (October 2019). "A History of the Belfast Anarchist Group and Belfast Libertarian Group" (PDF). Island Pamphlets. No. 117. Island Publications. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 June 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  2. Roibeaird, Fionnghuala Nic. "Tabhair dúinn an rogha! Léirsiú mór i mBéal Feirste Dé Sathairn".
  3. Devlin 1969, p. 101.
  4. Devlin 1969, p. 102.
  5. Devlin 1969, p. 103.
  6. The IRA by Tim Pat Coogan ( ISBN   978-0312294168), page 626
  7. John McAnulty A People Undefeated
  8. Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seamus Costello</span> Irish republican (1939-1977)

Seamus Costello was an Irish politician. He was a leader of Official Sinn Féin and the Official Irish Republican Army and latterly of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Official Irish Republican Army</span> Former Irish republican paramilitary group

The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA was an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a "workers' republic" encompassing all of Ireland. It emerged in December 1969, shortly after the beginning of the Troubles, when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split into two factions. The other was the Provisional IRA. Each continued to call itself simply "the IRA" and rejected the other's legitimacy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernadette Devlin McAliskey</span> Irish socialist and republican political activist

Josephine Bernadette McAliskey, usually known as Bernadette Devlin or Bernadette McAliskey, is an Irish civil rights leader, and former politician. She served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Ulster in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1974.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerry Fitt</span> Northern Irish politician (1926–2005)

Gerard Fitt, Baron Fitt was a politician in Northern Ireland. He was a founder and the first leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a social democratic and Irish nationalist party.

Events in the year 1969 in Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Socialist Democracy (Ireland)</span> Political party in Republic of Ireland

Socialist Democracy is the successor to People's Democracy, a left-wing current which emerged in Belfast in 1968 during the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. During the 1970s it evolved towards Trotskyist positions and, by merging with the Dublin-based Movement for a Socialist Republic, became a section of the Fourth International. After the hunger strike campaign Peoples Democracy shrank in size with some leading members joining Sinn Féin when it began to take more explicit left-wing positions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Free Derry</span> Self-declared autonomous Irish nationalist area of Derry 1969–1972

Free Derry was a self-declared autonomous Irish nationalist area of Derry, Northern Ireland, that existed between 1969 and 1972, during the Troubles. It emerged during the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, which sought to end discrimination against the Irish Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist government. The civil rights movement highlighted the sectarianism and police brutality of the overwhelmingly Protestant police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The area, which included the mainly-Catholic Bogside and Creggan neighbourhoods, was first secured by community activists on 5 January 1969 following an incursion into the Bogside by RUC officers. Residents built barricades and carried clubs and similar arms to prevent the RUC from entering. Its name was taken from a sign painted on a gable wall in the Bogside which read, "You are now entering Free Derry". For six days the area was a no-go area, after which the residents took down the barricades and RUC patrols resumed. Tensions remained high over the following months.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paddy Devlin</span>

Patrick Joseph "Paddy" Devlin was an Irish socialist, labour and civil rights activist and writer. He was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a former Stormont MP, and a member of the 1974 Power Sharing Executive.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irish Republican Army</span> Irish republican revolutionary military organisation

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a name used by various paramilitary organisations in Ireland throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Organisations by this name have been dedicated to irredentism through Irish republicanism, the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic free from British rule.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Seawright</span> British politician (1951–1987)

George Seawright was a Scottish-born unionist politician in Northern Ireland and loyalist paramilitary in the Ulster Volunteer Force. He was assassinated by the Irish People's Liberation Organisation in 1987.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Maskey</span> Irish politician

Paul John Maskey is an Irish republican politician in Northern Ireland who is a member of Sinn Féin. He served as a Sinn Féin member (MLA) of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Belfast West from 2007 to 2012. He has served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Westminster constituency of Belfast West since 2011, but in line with Sinn Féin's policy of abstentionism he has not taken his seat in the House of Commons.

The Mid Ulster by-election was held on 17 April 1969 following the death of George Forrest, the Ulster Unionist Party Member of Parliament for Mid Ulster. The two-way contest was unusual in featuring two female candidates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Éirígí</span> Irish political party

Éirígí, officially Éirígí For A New Republic, is a socialist republican political party in Ireland. The party name, Éirígí, means "Arise" or "Rise Up" in Irish, and is a reference to the slogan "The great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!" used by Irish socialists James Connolly and Jim Larkin. Éirígí was formed in 2006 by a group of community and political activists who broke away from Sinn Féin, believing that party was not committed enough to socialism.

Cyril Toman was a political activist in Northern Ireland.

Fergus O'Hare was involved in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland as a member of People's Democracy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Later he became a founding member and executive member of the Northern Resistance Movement, which continued to campaign for civil rights in Northern Ireland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Northern Resistance Movement</span>

The Northern Resistance Movement was an Irish republican organisation set up by Sinn Féin and People's Democracy following the introduction of internment on 9 August 1971. Bernadette Devlin was involved in founding the group, which from time to time engaged the support of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, with whom they organised the protest march which was attacked by the British state on Bloody Sunday. However their call for an end to Stormont meant that such relationships with more reformist organisations were not always smooth.

Miriam Daly was an Irish republican activist and university lecturer who was assassinated by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Socialist Workers Network</span> Irish political party

The Socialist Workers Network (SWN) is an Irish Trotskyist organisation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Niall Ó Donnghaile</span> Irish Sinn Féin politician

Niall Ó Donnghaile is an Irish Sinn Féin politician who has served as Leader of Sinn Féin in the Seanad since June 2020 and a Senator for the Administrative Panel since April 2016. He previously served as Lord Mayor of Belfast from 2011 to 2012 and a Councillor on Belfast City Council from 2011 to 2016.

The Northern Ireland civil rights movement dates to the early 1960s, when a number of initiatives emerged in Northern Ireland which challenged the inequality and discrimination against ethnic Irish Catholics that was perpetrated by the Ulster Protestant establishment. The Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) was founded by Conn McCluskey and his wife, Patricia. Conn was a doctor, and Patricia was a social worker who had worked in Glasgow for a period, and who had a background in housing activism. Both were involved in the Homeless Citizens League, an organisation founded after Catholic women occupied disused social housing. The HCL evolved into the CSJ, focusing on lobbying, research and publicising discrimination. The campaign for Derry University was another mid-1960s campaign.

References