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Extracts from 'The People's Democracy 1968-73'
by Paul Arthur (1974)
Text: Paul Arthur ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
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2: March 1969 - September 1969. In Search
of a Role
The 'Long March' and the February election proved to be a watershed
in PD's development. As a group it was never again to win so much
popular support, and as a ginger group within the Civil Rights
movement its influence was to wane. Its fundamental strategic
problem had already been acknowledged by one commentator:
'. . . it is torn by the same doubts as the Student Movement - whether
to remain a pressure group with Anarchist overtones, or try to
work through conventional political machinery.'
PD's strategy was to change. It still believed in the politics
of the streets - the 23,000 votes won by its eight candidates
had been construed as a mandate to pursue its policy of harassing
the Government by a programme of marches and demonstrations. But
community divisions had hardened - in some measure due to the
activities of PD - and demonstrations were becoming a dangerous
exercise. Much of its student support had disappeared, and it
had failed to put down roots in any urban or rural area with the
exception of Armagh and Fermanagh. Thus it was desirable to concentrate
its activities outside Belfast.
One of the reasons for this change in strategy may have been helped
by the increasing attention paid to Irish politics by various
left-wing groups in Britain. To appreciate this shift in attitudes
we must return to the events of early January 1969.
As a result of the Burntollet ambush Derry erupted in violence
on January 4: 'The day ended in serious rioting. Shops and department
stores were looted, windows smashed and gangs of police terrorised
Bogside throughout the night.' (As a result of allegations
of police misconduct the Minister of Home Affairs announced on
January 6 that County Inspector Henry Baillie had been appointed
to conduct an enquiry into the incidents.) The Bogside area
of the city closed itself off to the RUC and called itself 'Free
Derry.' A 'people's militia' of 500 male residents was formed
and patrolled the area until the RUC returned on January 12. A
radio transmitter was smuggled into the area by PD members, and
Derry left-wingers launched Radio Free Derry, which broadcast
traditional music and political statements while the barricades
For some, the barricades symbolised the first signs of the revolution
to come. Eamonn McCann was to speak of Northern Ireland being
'in a pre-revolutionary situation.' International, the
organ of the International Marxist Group,went so far as to
claim in an editorial comment that 'Permanent Revolution Reaches
UK in the form of the young street fighters of Derry.'
In a special paper the Revolutionary Socialist Students' Federation
attempted a Marxist analysis of the Irish situation and promised
its support to PD:
'The importance and uniqueness of PD is that as a student organisation
from the only non-sectarian institution in the country led by
socialists it has combined the militancy to mobilise the Catholic
working class, the principle of non-sectarianism and the example
of bravery. Now its participation in the elections has given it
a national presence and at the same time removed it from its university
A New Left Review editorial looked at the Irish situation
with some envy:
'The struggle in Northern Ireland has attained a higher level
than on the English mainland. The Left here has traditionally
failed to win any important section of the working class to anti-imperialist
positions, even where it is subjectively anti-capitalist. The
situation in Northern Ireland highlights the urgency of doing
In the short-term the aspirations of Left-wing ideologues from
Britain have not been realized, but their views are important
in the development of PD for three reasons.
It reinforced the belief of the more optimistic socialists that,
perhaps, Ireland was in a pre-revolutionary situation. (The importance
of having an ideology should not be underestimated. 'The fact
that student groups are able to fall back on ideology - usually
some form of Marxism - makes it easier for such groups to survive
periods of political quiescence.' It gave them
a sense of self-importance. For example, when one humble interviewer
asked what English comrades could do to help the Irish situation,
Michael Farrell told him bluntly: '. . . the best way English
comrades can help the Irish revolution is by making the English
Thirdly it left the PD open to charges of 'Reds' and 'Communists'
and agents of international atheistic revolution. The conspiracy
theory did not help its cause among the Catholic working class,
a factor it was to realise when it worked behind the barricades
in 'Free Belfast' and when it tried to put down roots in the Catholic
housing estate of Ballymurphy.
The March to Dublin April 1969.
In deciding to march to Dublin at Easter the organisers may have
considered it an opportunity to pull the various left-wing strands
together and thus demonstrate that the sects of the left could
be united by the experience of direct action. (The 22 March Movement,
which played a leading role in the struggles in France in May
1968, illustrated this type of solidarity: '. . they were an activist
group containing every branch of political radicalism - anarchist,
Marxist, Trotskyist, anarchist-Marxist - without compromising
either their revolutionary efficacy or their individualistic this
was so it appears to have been low on their list of priorities.
From its inception the New Left in PD had seen the Fianna Fail
Government as a bête-noir. On November 2nd 1968,
it had written to Mr. Jack Lynch 'deploring his attempt to make
capital out of the civil rights issue in Northern Ireland by linking
it with the question of partition.
Again, we have earlier evidence that Michael Farrell and Eamonn
McCann were unwilling to accept the status quo in the Irish Republic.
The march was to begin in Belfast on Friday, April 4, under the
banner of 'Civil Rights, North and South.' It attracted the support
of about forty members of the RSSF (John McGuffin had spoken
at their conference in Manchester about three weeks previously)
about forty anarchists who had been advised by Freedom as
early as March 8: 'See You At Easter ... Belfast Where It's All
Happening' some members of the Birmingham ad hoc Civil Rights
organisation; representatives from a conglomeration of British
Left-wing groups; the Western Civil Rights Movement
who were marching from Galway; and a number of socialist organisations
in the South, some of whom had taken part in the 'Long March.'
From the beginning the march ran into several difficulties. Mr
Richard Ferguson MP, a moderate Unionist, and a group of 'prominent
citizens' from Lisburn expressed their fears for community relations
if the march went through the town. In the prevailing political
atmosphere confrontation would have been dangerous. Capt O'Neill
was fighting a losing battle to save his position, and it had
been announced that the 'B' Specials were to be mobilised.
By April 3, PD decided, in the interests of peace, to begin its
march in Newry, to hold a 'manifestation of personal discontent'
at the City Hall, Belfast on April 4 and to have a demonstration
in Lurgan on the same day. To ensure that this decision was carried
out, the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Robert Porter, issued Orders
at 2.00 a.m. on April 4 prohibiting any march by the PD from Belfast
to Newry and also the holding of PD meetings in certain parts
The 'manifestation' did not happen. Instead a meeting took place
outside the City Hall attended by police and Paisleyites. It was
in Lurgan that the only serious violence of the march erupted.
'Police waded into 150 PD marchers who sat down in Lurgan's Frances
Street last night. Eighteen people, one of them a girl, were arrested.
Twelve of these, a police spokesman said, were from "across
the water." (The charges were for disorderly behaviour,
assaulting the police and obstruction.) In Newry a fifteen minute
sit-down passed off without incident.
It was a rather insignificant incident at the border which illustrated
serious differences of opinion among the marchers. One of the
organisers, Cyril Toman, challenged the Irish Republic's censorship
laws by bringing with him two novels, The Ginger Man, and
The Girl With Green Eyes, and presenting them at the customs
post. (The former was not banned at that time in the South.) This
action particularly annoyed some of the southern supporters, one
of whom issued a press statement:
As co-ordinator of the Belfast to Dublin march and series of demonstrations
of the PD, I, in common with the Young Socialists, Students for
Democratic Action. the Socialist Society TCD, and the Civil
Liberties Association received an assurance from PD that they
would not give prominence to the issues of birth control or censorship.
The rest of the march was uneventful and badly organised, although
a meeting in Dundalk had been carefully planned and meetings in
Balbriggan and Swords were well attended. When the marchers arrived
in Dublin on April 7, they were greeted by a crowd of 3,000 and
another rebuff-four of the Galway marchers resigned and refused
to have anything to do with the mass meeting in Dublin.
'We believed that any such action would be an adventurist attempt
at breaking sectarianism by attacking areas of traditional Protestant
prejudice. As a means of attaining this it cannot be successful
. . Thus I would condemn as strongly as possible the adventurist
gimmick of Cyril Toman in displaying two banned books at the border
post on Saturday morning . . . Mr Toman's action was an anti-socialist
one calculated to offend the republican socialist feelings of
a large section of the Twenty-Six Counties.'
'We think PD are not interested in civil rights in the Republic
but are here only for their own political ends.'
Further they objected to the organisation as a 'Conglomeration
of all sorts' since it included British anarchists, communists
and other bodies.
A march from the General Post Office to the Department of Justice
led to the burning of copies of the Criminal Justice Bill and
the Public Order (Amendment) Bill. Again there was some disagreement
between PD and the southern groups. Michael Farrell failed to
pacify the 800 dissidents who moved off to protest at the British
Embassy in Merrion Square. There speakers 'claimed-and it was
argued by Mr. Basil Miller, Mr. Paddy Wally, Mr. Rory Quinn, Mr.
John Feeney and a number of others - that the main motive of the
PD group was just to use their criticism of the South as a tactic
to show the followers of Ian Paisley that they were not agents
of the Government.'
At the end of the day five windows had been smashed, but PD's
reputation had suffered a much more serious set back. Clearly
it had alienated potential support among southern left-wingers,
and generally it had received a bad matter of some concern to
an organisation which realised the value of good publicity. The
only exception appears to have been the Irish Times. A
leader described it as: 'a useful exercise. It is a forcible reminder
that to young people the border is more and more an irrelevancy
. . . A united Ireland would bring much more of the aggressive
thinking which these students typify into our political life,
much more irreverence, and impatience, and hopefully with constructive
This view was to the satisfaction of PD: 'PD recognised no borders
in the struggle against injustice and the march to Dublin under
the slogan Civil Rights, North and South, drove that point home...
PD did not expect to precipitate a revolution in the South. It
did hope to arouse the anger of the working people against the
exploitation of Green Tories as well as Orange ones, and against
the fact that the 40,000 unemployed in the North were matched
by the 60,000 in the South...'
Within PD there was a measure of disagreement as to its success.
Cyril Toman was criticized for bad organisation. One prominent
member began to drift away from the group as a result. He saw
it as 'a gimmick for Protestant support,' 'a fiasco' and it enabled
people to think of PD as 'an eccentric bunch of students.
The anarchist, John McGuffin, felt that it was a useful exercise
because it enabled British left-wingers to see the situation for
themselves. As one of the two organisers he made the most out
of the failings of the march since 'people found they could organise
spontaneously in a short time.'
On the whole anarchists were satisfied with the march if only
because it gave them a greater insight into the host organisation.
'There are a lot of misconceptions about PD which is (in organisation)
an open libertarian umbrella movement. It consists of many sections
and is open to anyone who wishes to speak. Of course this means
the rise of charismatic leaders, furthering their own factional
ends. It is also evident that PD will only survive if the bulk
of the people are aware of this problem and are determined to
carry on their campaign of a non-factional basis with the use
of free assemblies.'
The relative failure of the Dublin march jolted PD's confidence,
no matter what its official press statement might claim. It had
expected to make a greater impact on public opinion and it did
not expect the volume of hostile press comment which it received.
The media were able to trivialise the march after Cyril Toman's
juvenile protest at the border and left-wing activists in the
Irish Republic felt that their task was being made more difficult
by the incident. The bad organisation and the multifariousness
of the organisations involved led to recrimination during the
march. It is difficult to imagine how it increased support for
PD in the North. Slogans such as 'Build Houses, Not Churches'
can have impressed very few. Only the converted were assured.
The Mid- Ulster By-Election: Fragmentation Sets In
While PD was marching to Dublin, Miss Bernadette Devlin was campaigning
in Mid-Ulster as a Unity candidate in a straight fight against
the Unionist nominee, Mrs Anna Forrest. The march may have caused
her some annoyance; she described it as 'a stupid mistake.' Certainly
some of her more conservative advisers considered it to be badly
timed. But there was no evidence at this stage that there was
any split in PD concerning her nomination. Her manifesto was a
duplicate of the PD February manifesto; her programme was 'an
aggressively non-sectarian campaign speaking sometimes through
hails of broken bottles and stones,' (for example in Moneymore
she had to cancel a meeting after a mob stoned her platform; she
promised to return the next day - she did, and held a peaceful
meeting) her opponent linked her with PD, denouncing it as Communist
Her brand of socialism, crude 'Connellyism' again was to the liking
'If necessary we will take over the factories for ourselves. That
way there will be no discrimination because there is no sectarianism
in the heart of the ordinary working man. That was put there by
a bigoted Unionist party in order to keep itself in power.'
Some leading members of PD supported her by speaking on her behalf
- Kevin Boyle and Bowes Egan in Omagh on April 7; Fergus Woods
and Michael Farrell in Moneymore on April 10 and Strabane on April
12; Bowes Egan, Kevin Boyle and Michael Farrell at the eve-of-polling
rally in Carrickmore on April 16. Her campaign was hectic - in
the largst parliamentary constituency in Northern Ireland she
spoke in sixteen places in ten days - and successful.
Several questions pose themselves to the interested observer.
How was it possible for a twenty-one year old undergraduate with
only six months active political experience to capture a Westminster
seat? The youngest MP to go to Westminster since Pitt in 1781
gives her own account of how she managed to win the nomination
and the election. What that account illustrated was the complexity
of opposition politics. What the remainder of the book demonstrated
was that Miss Devlin's charismatic personality made her very popular
with the Catholic minority. She had demonstrated intelligence,
courage, debating ability and a rebellious spirit. But the fact
that she had won the Unity nomination owed itself to something
more than her personal qualities. The one commentator who comes
closest to describing the reason is J Bowyer Bell:
'Very young, very sincere, widely out of touch with the tradition-encrusted
electorate, she was accepted by the Republicans because she did
not look like a stayer in Mid-Ulster politics, backed by the civil
rights movement because she symbolized all the idealism of the
young and endorsed by Austin Currie because he had no choice . . . Whatever Bernadette Devlin was for, Mid-Ulster knew what to
vote against - and the Unionists lost a seat. With Devlin at Westminster,
the Republicans scraped through.'
The choice of the mid-Ulster constituency to fight her first Westminster
election must also have helped Miss Devlin. Mid-Ulster had a Republican
tradition, a tradition which had been highlighted in the General
Election of 1955 - (in that year Tom Mitchell, a Republican who
preached a policy of absention from Westminster, defeated his
Unionist opponent. However he was prevented from claiming his
seat because he was a convicted felon, and a re-election was ordered.
Again he stood and again he won and again a further re-election
was ordered. On the third occasion Republican abstentions enabled
the Unionists to win.) - and Miss Devlin faced an indifferent
opponent in Mrs Anna Forrest (Unionist).
Yet much had been made of her radical socialism:
'Miss Devlin is a Socialist and preaches the Irish rebel leader
James Connolly's Utopia of an Irish Workers' Republic. This, combined
with her youth, may well alienate the Catholic middle class.'
She herself refused to fight as what she wryly called a 'pan-papist
candidate.' She tells us:
'I'd fought the election honestly on the non-sectarian radical
socialist policies I believed in. I was quite sure I'd alienate
more Catholic Tory votes than I could make up for by an honest
Miss Devlin is guilty of a degree of self-deception
in the above statement. While it is correct that her speeches
were radical and that she relied on radical support from PD and
individuals like Eamonn McCann, her platform party often included
conservative Nationalists. (It should be remembered
that PD pilloried the Nationalist Party in the February elections
because it epitomised the traditional political values of a united
Ireland.) And in answer to the allegation that she was a Communist,
Miss Devlin issued a statement (April 10):
'. . . As a practising member of the Roman Catholic Church I cannot
accept the policies of the Communist Party which denies the existence
of God and opposes the basic ideals of Christianity and the teaching
of the Christian Church in which I believe.' If anyone again suggests
that she is a Communist, 'I shall have no hesitation in consulting
my solicitor, and if necessary, clear my name in open court.'
Such a statement can have done her electoral prospects no
great harm in Mid-Ulster.
After her election Miss Devlin appeared to move further away from
the PD organisation - one must stress 'organisation' since she
had contact with individuals in PD from time to time. This caused
some resentment among PD stalwarts, though Miss Devlin explained
her position thus:
'I felt personally justified in that I was not a member of Parliament
for the People's Democracy nor was I anything particularly unique
in the People's Democracy.'
She believes that it is a mistake to see the by-election as a
turning point in her relationship with PD.
Her fundamental criticism of PD at this stage was that it did
not move out of the University mentality. She saw the February
election as an attempt to commit the movement to the people and
so justify itself as a 'people's' democracy rather than a 'student's'
democracy. It was at that period that the break came, though she
would not put it so strongly: 'It was a natural drift. I was virtually
cut off in South Derry between the February election and the by-election
in April.' Nonetheless her nomination and campaign exacerbated
her relationship with PD leaders. She has made it clear that she
would have preferred Michael Farrell's nomination to her own,
and that they discussed this problem at his home. But she
felt that she had been let down when she did stand:
'I was sour on the PD leadership because it was their idea that
I should stand as an individual on a PD basis. I felt I was being
sold out. Michael Farrell and Cyril Toman were caught between
two stools. They personally thought it was a good idea but were
not too sure PD would back it. They refused to help me actively.'
Circumstances, too, played their role in preventing PD support.
Most of the activists were committed to the Dublin march. Kevin
Boyle could only give limited support because he had too much
academic work to do. Others, like John McGuffin, had a principled
objection to elections and, besides, he could not help because
'she didn't stand as a PD candidate and she was a pan-papist candidate.'
There is further, admittedly slender, evidence that these last
complaints were voiced by more than John McGuffin. The fact remains
that her two closest advisers during the campaign were Louden
Seth, her election agent and Eamonn McCann, her Press officer.
Neither of them had been closely involved in PD for some time.
PD's Campaign to Spread Its Influence
If the first three months of 1969 marked the apex of PD's influence
on the community, April illustrated the beginnings of the downward
curve. The Dublin march had brought its share of bad publicity
and Bernadette Devlin's campaign had been a victory for her rather
than a triumph for PD. However, the media had now turned their
attention to the power struggle within the Unionist Party.
Law and order seemed to be breaking down and the Government did
not appear to have the answer. There had been attacks on electrical
and other installations on March 31, April 20 and April 23 (twice)
and it was widely believed that the IRA were responsible. A serious
riot in Derry on the days following April 19 had led again to
the temporary creation of 'Free Derry.' The last straw for the
loyalist faithful was the ability of the Prime Minister to persuade
the Party to accept 'One man, One vote' in principle on April
23. His Minister of Agriculture, Major James Chichester-Clark,
resigned in protest over the timing of this decision. Clearly
the Prime Minister could not continue in power indefinitely. On
April 29 he resigned to be replaced by Chichester-Clark on May
1. The new Prime Minister took his first decisive step on May
6, when he announced an amnesty for all 'political' offences committed
since the disturbances began.
PD's tiny demonstrations could not hope to compete with such news
stories. It contented itself by building up its support in the
urban and rural areas - and, incidentally, refuting Bernadette
Devlin's criticism that PD remained part of the University mentality.
Largely as a result of the February election, active branches
sprang up in Fermanagh and Armagh, while others existed for only
a very short period.
The best example of a 'one issue' branch which met a very sudden
death was Cromac PD. On March 12 and 19 a small group of people
- never numbering more than thirty - marched to the City Hall
from the Cromac area of Belfast to protest about housing conditions
in their area. It ran into the same difficulty as PD in its earliest
days - on both occasions it was re-routed away from Shaftesbury
Square. There is no evidence of any activity by this group after
March 19, 1969.
The most militant branch to appear after the general election
was the Armagh PD. The committee of young people who had helped
the candidate in Mid-Armagh, Cyril Toman, remained in existence
to form another PD branch. Its chief spokesman and leader was
Niall Vallely, a contemporary of Toman, Farrell and McCann at
Queen's. It first sprung into prominence on March 22, 1969, a
day in which PD and the NICRA had organised demonstrations in
six centres to protest against the Public Order (Amendment) Bill,
and a day in which all civil rights sympathisers were aware of
undoing the valuable gains already achieved by the civil rights
movement. With the exception of Armagh, where five arrests were
made after scuffles with Paisleyites, all the meetings passed
Like its counterpart in Cromac, Armagh PD concentrated on the
housing issue. On May l3 a small group of old-age pensioners and
PD members held a silent picket outside Armagh Rural Council monthly
meeting. Their leader, Niall Vallely, addressed the Council demanding
the immediate rehousing of the residents of Mill Row and Lislea.
Though that protest was peaceful the PD was dissatisfied that
nothing had been achieved and returned to make their protest to
the Armagh City Council annual meeting on May 27. But they were
refused permission to address the Council, a scuffle developed
and four PD members, including Niall Vallely, were arrested on
charges of disorderly behaviour. As a result the Council imposed
a ban on public attendance of its meetings.
That action, combined with an imposition of increased rents, resulted
in a much larger demonstration on June 2 when 350 demonstrators
protested. While PD and Civil Rights supporters held a two-hour
rally in front of the City Hall, a group of two hundred people
marched from four Catholic housing estates but would not join
the rally. Instead, they sent a deputation to hand in a protest
to the Council members, much to the displeasure of Niall Vallely
who called 'the Curse of Cromwell' on the tenants and described
the march as a 'Catholic tenants' protest.'
The conflict with the Council continued into July and had not
resolved itself by September. An attempt at a sit-in on July 7
was foiled although a three-man deputation, led by Senator G Lennon,
of the local branch of the NICRA, staged a sit-in in protest against
the council's decision not to receive the deputation in the presence
of the Press. While this was going on, 200 PD supporters marched
through the town. At one point they were confronted by a police
blockade and scuffles broke out with one policeman being injured
and a number of protesters being arrested.
By July 26 PD appeared to have achieved its objective when eighteen
supporters held a five-hour sit-in. But PD was not satisfied with
this token occupation, so it extended its protest to highlight
discrimination in jobs as well as housing in the city. Finally,
on September 5, PD returned to the housing issue when it accused
the local tenants' association of 'selling-out' to Armagh City
Council because it postponed a rent and rates strike in the larger
interests of community peace:
'This sell-out can only be regarded as the final episode in the
disgraceful careers of Armagh Green Tories. This alliance with
the Orange Order and abandonment of solidarity with the people
of Derry and Belfast exposes the Tenants' Association for what
The extension of PD activity to Armagh clarified the militance
of the organisation but not necessarily a socialist militance.
It was following the traditional pattern of opposition protest
by concentrating on discrimination in jobs and housing. It is
difficult to see how it hoped to attract Protestant support especially
in the city of Armagh which had a delicately balanced Unionist
majority in the Council. By attacking other Catholic groupings
it was not necessarily demonstrating its own non-sectarian base,
rather it was proving to Protestants that it was a more militant,
therefore more dangerous, Catholic organisation. This was seen
in its protest ol July 7 when a policeman was injured. On that
occasion its 20C 'supporters' included many who were not members
of PD. One can only surmise that an open-ended militant organisation
whose means was direct action and whose ends were vaguely utopian
would inevitably attract the disenchanted, particularly in a polarised
(b) The Battle with tile NICRA: Generational Conflict
One of the victims of PD's youthful exuberance was its relationshii
with the NICRA. In its enthusiasm to build up branches it was
inevitable that it would clash with the NICRA at central and at
local level. A serious split did develop within the NICRA executive
and it spread throughout the local branches never to be properly
healed. This rift highlighted a fundamental difference of opinion
on tactics and principles between the 'moderates' and the 'activists'.
It was the first clear sign of a 'generational struggle' within
the Civil Rights movement.
In Gulladuff, Co Derry, on March 6, Bernadette Devlin disclosed
that the NICRA and PD were to march through Belfast to Stormont
to protest against the Public Order (Amendment) Act on March 29.
In fact, the NICRA's decision to support PD was not taken until
March 14 when four members of the Executive - Mr John McAnerney,
secretary; Mr. Fred Heatley, treasurer and founder member; Miss
Betty Sinclair, former chairman; and Dr Raymond Shearer - walked
out of the meeting in protest. They objected to what they considered
to be brinkmanship:
'All we needed was time . . . a lull in which to see if Captain
O'Neill is going to carry out the reforms he had promised. But
PD would not give us time and their political views are infringing
the non-political aims of the NICRA.'
Furthermore they objected to PD's political principles:
'We have been taken over by people preaching the most extreme
form of revolutionary socialism, the sort of politics that have
been causing trouble in France, Germany, Japan and many other
parts of the world.'
(The irony in the above statment was that one of the signatories
Miss Betty Sinclair, had been a member of the Communist Party
all her life. PD's contempt for that organisation was an open
secret and, in that respect it was in line with 'New Left' thinking
in the Western world.) But that is not to say that PD's political
judgment was correct in this case, a fact acknowledged by Owen
'.... before the New Left emerged on the scene, the vanguard of
the movement was led by Miss Betty Sinclair of that organisation
(ie the Communist Party of Northern Ireland). As the CPNI is predominantly
of Protestant stock, it was in a good position to balance the
predominance of Catholic stock on the New Left; but the PD and
its friends, strongly anti-Communist, made extended co-operation
impossible. Significantly enough, this was the one real casualty
of "Popular Front" politics in Northern Ireland; the
fault was not on one side only.'
To charges of infiltrating the Civil Rights movement, Michael
Farrell's reply was uncompromising. He described such charges
as arrant nonsense. There are only two PD members in an eighteen
man committee. The real crime of the PD appears to be that they
want action in the field of Civil Rights.' John Murphy claimed
in a letter to a Belfast newspaper that 'the Civil Rights movement
never has been and never could be non-political. Any movement
which campaigns to have laws changed is, of necessity, political.
While the CRA constitution proclaims that it is non-political
this can only be interpreted to mean that the organisation is
The argument did not remain within the Belfast area. In Derry
Ivan Cooper MP and John Hume MP resigned as Chairman and Vice-Chairman
respectively for Derry Citizens' Action Committee, perhaps in
sub-conscious solidarity with the NICRA dissidents: 'We will still
serve on the action committee, but we felt our role as politicians
might be misconstrued with our role as civil rights supporters.'
In Omagh eight of the thirteen-man CRA committee resigned in sympathy
with the four dissidents: 'We feel that the Civil Rights movement
is being undermined by extremists for whose action we cannot hold
ourselves responsible.' (The Omagh Committee had been formed only
in January and the resignations meant that it no longer officially
existed because the five members remaining did not constitute
At a meeting in Enniskillen Town Hall on March 15, a decision
was taken to join PD for a march on the Public Order (Amendment)
Bill in the town the following Saturday. The chairman described
Fermanagh Civil Rights Association as 'an umbrella under which
all bodies can unite and demand for civil rights.' Five members
of the local executive would not accept this decision and resigned,
explaining that the committee had already taken a decision (March
10) that the People's Democracy was a political party, and could
not therefore receive the support of a non-political body.
It was against this unhappy background that PD and NICRA embarked
on a series of demonstrations against the Public Order (Amendment)
Bill in six centres on March 22. Since a special conference had
been called for Sunday, March 23, to investigate the split in
the movement, it was vital that the protests pass off peacefully.
The demonstrations were organised by the local Civil Rights Associations
in Newry and Toomebridge, and jointly with PD in Enniskillen;
in Derry by the local Unemployed Action Committee; and in Belfast
and Armagh by PD. With the exception of Armagh they passed off
peacefully, and PD distributed 30,000 leaflets explaining the
proposed act. However, this did not satisfy the dissidents
who refused to withdraw their resignations at the conference.
Genuine attempts seem to have been made to prevent a further exacerbation
of the rift between NICRA and PD. The proposed march to Stormont
on March 29 was postponed until after Easter. (It never took place.)
Instead PD supporters made their way to Derry where they marched
with 8,000 others over the route refused to them on October 5,
1968-this was the first legal march over that route. Miss Bernadette
Devlin MP, Eamonn McCann and Michael Farrell shared the same platform
as Ivan Cooper MP and John Hume MP who welcomed 'friends from
the PD and people from Belfast, Dungannon and all over the North.'
Again in Omagh on April 12 and Enniskillen on June 14 PD speakers
appeared to be in agreement with the NICRA speakers. Perhaps the
most sucessful alliance occurred in Dungiven, Co. Derry during
June. On June 8 an Orange parade was attacked as it passed a Gaelic
Athletic Association field in Dungiven. One policeman was injured
and eleven people were arrested. Fears were expressed that the
planned unfurling of a new banner for an Orange lodge in the village
on June 28 would meet the same fate. During the next fortnight
some members of PD, notably Kevin Boyle, travelled to Dungiven
and met local people and politicians in an attempt to prevent
violence erupting on that day. They drew up a leaflet, persuaded
people to boycott the parade and marchers, and to poster the village
with civil rights material. The parade passed off peacefully and
could be considered a minor success for the civil rights movement.
It may have helped to have restored PD's somewhat tarnished image.
Kevin Boyle considered it 'one of the most successful non-Old
Left activities.' He accepts responsibility for not getting enough
publicity for PD, although he believed that 'Ivan Cooper and
company took advantage of the situation.' (Certainly in a Commons
debate on the march Ivan Cooper did not mention PD's role in the
affair at all.) The fact that PD could not generate enough
favourable publicity was more indicative of its irrelevance to
the situation in general.
While members of the Orange Order were unfurling their banner
in Dungiven, a civil rights march was taking place in Strabane.
(The march had originally been planned for January 18 but had
been postponed because of the abject failure of the Newry march
of the previous Saturday.) The demonstration, attended by about
3,000 people, followed the same format with the same platform
speakers who had orated and harangued in so many different centres
over the past nine months. What was peculiar about the platform
speeches on that occasion was the tendentious material uttered
by two prominent activists, Miss Bernadette Devlin MP and Eamonn
The latter wanted to know: 'What the hell are three Opposition
MP's (Mr Austin Currie, Mr P. O'Hanlon and Mr P. Kennedy) doing
on the same platform if they believe the Government's reform time-table
is reasonable?' He was followed by Bernadette Devlin who claimed
that she had never heard more sectarian speeches from an allegedly
'It does not matter what your religion is; it is the whole system
of the individual minds of people . . . You have got to stand
up with the Protestant working class who have "got it."
You march for employment in Strabane but you march with employers
who pay low wages in Strabane.'
Mr. John Hume MP who was not present at that meeting, issued a
press statement clarifying the parliamentarians' point of view
and demonstrating the rift between the moderates and the militants.
He pointed out that 'the acceptance of a timetable did not mean
the acceptance of the reforms. We could not accept what we have
not seen.' He explained what he understood the civil rights movement
not to be about:
'It is not, it never has been, and it has been repeatedly stated
not to be a movement which seeks to promote either a socialist
or a conservative society. It seeks only a just society, and the
achievement of justice and democracy is surely a necessary first
step in Northern Ireland to end for ever the equation of religion
and politics before normal politics can take place . . . the place
to express these views is on a political platform. To seek to
use the civil rights platform to express these views is dishonest.'
To counter charges that the platform speeches were sectarian he
gave his definition of sectarianism:
'To me, it is an attempt by one religious group to promote hatreds
against or to seek to dominate another. This has never been the
policy or the attitude of the Civil Rights Movement or of the
thousands of the people who marched for justice. We have always
upheld the rights of all sections of the community and we can
hardly be held responsible for the fact that there are still many
people in the community who cannot support our call for no more
or no less than simple justice . . . I am convinced that the approach
to our problems of people like Mr McCann and the People's Democracy
- which is today far removed from the large number of sincere
students who sat down in Belfast last October - is much more likely
to lead to sectarian strife than the approach which we advocate.'
Significantly there is no evidence to indicate any attempt to
refute this reasoned reply to the militants. Of further significance
is the fact that Michael Farrell had not been part of the initial
attack on the Opposition MP's, an example of a rift within a rift.
The one undeniable fact is that the split which had first appeared
in March but which had been temporarily healed was now irrevocable.
Necessity, in the form of the greater enemy, Unionism, might force
them to join in temporary alliance but they could never work together
Following the Strabane affair two other marches tended to underline
the split. A march of 2,000 Civil Rights supporters on July 5,
along the route banned to them on January 11, in Newry was attended
by only two Opposition MP's. (Mr P Kennedy and Mr P O'Hanlon.)
On the previous day Miss Devlin MP had requested people at the
unemployment exchange to march under the banner of 'Newry Unemployed'
but she had been warned by local CRA committee members that she
and PD must conform to the march programme.
At the public meeting following the march she had to seek permission
to address the crowd.
The Fermanagh branch of PD was another active group formed after
the general election, though it was not as consistently militant
as the Armagh PD. Its early activities are best studied within
the broader context of the civil rights movement. Events in Fermanagh
during July illustrated PD intransigence and the worsening of
relations with the local CRA committee. At the beginning of the
month the local branches of both organisations issued a joint
statement announcing two marches to take place on July 19 (later
postponed one week) in the county. Both marches would converge
in Enniskillen where a rally would be held to call attention to
the high rate of unemployment in the county, the continued flight
of people from the area and the iniquitous behaviour of the County
Council. On July 24 the Fermanagh Civil Rights Committee withdrew
from the march on the grounds that it was ill-timed and ill-advised.
Later Major Bunting had warned: 'We will be glad to advise the
loyalists in Fermanagh on how to hinder or harry the revolutionaries
of the so-called PD movement.'
On July 25, the Minister of Home Attairs banned the march and
all meetings between Newtownbutler and Enniskillen, but Peter
Cosgrove, for the local PD told a small meeting that it would
defy the ban by holding a rally in Enniskillen.
The proposed meeting in the Diamond, Enniskillen, never took place.
It had been occupied by a group of Paisleyites. An impromptu meeting
in Church Street, a protest procession in single file to the police
station and a sit-down led to the arrest of fifty-four PD sympathisers.
At a special court that evening thirty-seven of those arrested
were remanded in custody. The heavy handed administration of the
law led to the inevitable closing of the ranks. Protest meetings
were held in Birmingham by the Irish Civil Rights movement, in
London by the local NICRA branch, in Downpatrick by the local
Civil Rights committee, in Armagh by PD, and in Derry by the NILP
branch. At this latter meeting Eamonn McCann made a veiled reference
to the latest split:
We would point out that it was the action of the 'moderate' leadership
in the Civil Rights movement that tried to denigrate and isolate
the Fermanagh PD protest which gave the authorities the confidence
to behave in such a manner.
At a special vacation sitting of the Northern Ireland High Court
thirty-four of the thirty-seven prisoners were released on bail
on July 29.
The Fermanagh episode demonstrated a lack of responsibility on
the part of the PD leadership, though one of them described it
as 'brinkmanship of the worst sort.
The annual celebrations of the July 12 ceremonies had illustrated
that intercommunal violence was very near to the surface. Serious
rioting on the days following July 12 in Derry, Belfast, Lurgan
and Dungiven had made it evident that any form of street politics
could have a debilitating effect on the local community. Nor could
the leadership excuse itself on grounds of lack of foresight;
the Burntollet ambush had brought the politics of innocence to
a rapid close. The events of July 28 only succeeded in importing
sectarian strife -albeit on a minor scale - to Enniskillen.
In Belfast PD had lost the initiative and was aware of the fact.
Its ingenuity was stretched in trying to take the lead again.
It realized that the parliamentary opposition was now in the hands
of men of ability and it was they who were getting the publicity.
The successful civil rights candidates transferred the politics
of the street into parliament - in the short-term at any rate.
(One incident, in particular, suggested that the opposition could
still embarrass the Government without having to resort to protest
on the streets. When the Government decided to press ahead with
the Public Order (Amendment) Bill - seen as a repressive measure
directed against civil rights campaigners - opposition MP's tabled
fifty-eight amendments in a fourteen hour sitting. The Government
Chief Whip reacted by moving a closure motion, a rare occurrence
in Northern Ireland. The opposition, in its turn, staged a sit-down
on the floor of the House singing 'We Shall Overcome.' For their
pains they received a week's suspension from the House but managed
to prevent the Bill becoming law by Easter.)
By contrast PD's words and deeds were mostly hollow. Its threat
to undertake a massive campaign of civil disobedience, and to
involve trade unionists in its opposition to the Public Order
(Amendment) Bill did not materialise. It had attempted an
abortive housing campaign when eleven demonstrators occupied a
large office block in the centre of Belfast in protest against
the building of prestige office blocks; and it reacted to the
City Council's decision to sell off some of the grounds of Belfast
Castle to private enterprise by organising a folk festival in
the 'People's Park' on June 14.
Attempts were made by PD personalities to influence events in
certain areas after they erupted but they met with limited success.
There were riots around Hooker Street on the Crumlin Road for
a mumber of nights after May 16. After allegations of police brutality
had been made by local people, Belfast CRA, the Ardoyne Citizens
Action Committee and PD offered their assistance. Michael Farrell,
Kevin Boyle and a few other PD supporters took statements from
residents and spoke at public meetings. But their influence was
not very strong, because when a four man deputation was being
selected to meet the City Commissioner of the RUC, Mr H Wolseley,
the Ardoyne Citizens Action Committee, which was in control, made
it clear that it did not want anyone from PD on the deputation.
The one attempt to establish some sort of left-wing unity at this
time also failed. Michael Farrell tried 'to form a Socialist Alliance
with people like the Newtownabbey Labour Party, but it was
a half-hearted gesture. He may have known that PD socialism had
not made the required impact, a fact which Eamonn McCann was to
comment on much later:
'By the middle of 1969, the Left was established in the public
mind as those who were most impatient, who were willing to run
most risks, who wanted to go along the same road as the moderates,
but further faster. It was not clear that the Left wanted to go
along a different road.'
At this stage it was probably too late to change course anyway.
On the streets the occasonal skirmish had been replaced by widespread
communal rioting. Rioting on the Crumlin Road, Belfast, for a
number of nights after August 2 - the worst riots in the city
since 1935; pitched batt'es in four centres - Belfast, Lurgan,
Dungiven and Derry - following the July 12 celebrations; these
ominous manifestations of sectarian warfare put PD's activities
in the shade.
'Free Belfast': The Concept of Dual Power
Ironically, it was the death and destruction of August 1969 which
re-activated PD and gave it some credibility - in the eyes of
its remaining supporters at any rate. The Apprentice Boy's parade
in Derry on August 12 led to the inevitable violence of stone-throwing
at the RUC followed by a withdrawal into the barricaded Bogside
and the resurrection of 'Free Derry.' On this occasion the residents
of the area were determined that the police would not gain entry
and had taken all the necessary precautions. One month previously
a Citizens Defence Committee, representing a broad spectrum of
political opinion within the Bogside, had been formed and was
ready to take control of the defence of the area. The intensity
of hatred for the police by the local people revealed itself in
the fierce rioting which showed no sign of abatement.
On the next day when it became inevitable that this battle would
continue, and that it would be supported in other areas - already
RUC stations in Strabane and Coalisland had come under attack,
and there had been a sit-down in Newry - NICRA issued an ultimatum
to Stormont demanding the immediate withdrawal of police from
the Bogside. It threatened to hold meetings in about twelve centres
in defiance of a Government ban if its wishes were not met.
The crisis had taken on a momentum of its own by this stage. A
verbal intervention by the Premier of the Irish Republic and an
angry reply by Mr Chichester-Clark escalated the situation. Rioting
spread to Toomebridge, Dungannon, Enniskillen and Belfast. After
Catholics attacked the Andersonstown and Hastings Street RUC
stations in Belfast, Protestant militants retaliated by launching
a fierce attack on the Catholic ghettos. By Saturday, August 16,
the official death toll had risen to eight, the injured numbered
many thousands and hundreds of homes were either destroyed or
badly damaged. It was the Catholic communities of the Falls and
Ardoyne areas which had borne the full weight of the attack. They
fell back on the traditional means of defence by building huge
The speed and nature of events took everyone, including the IRA,
by surprise. 'The IRA, like everyone else unprepared for the August
outbreak, had too few men on the ground, no real chance to bring
in people from the South.. . and very few available arms in the
city.' A Republican, Jim Sullivan, was responsible for forming
a co-ordinating body for the defence of the areas, the Central
Citizens Defence Committee, on August 16. Eventually, this body
elected ninety-five delegates to represent 75,000 people in Free
Belfast. The PD did not have a single representative on any of
the defence committees. The group was tightly stretched in August:
Fergus Woods was on holiday in London and returned as quickly
as possible; John McGuffin was in Morocco and could not get back
until September 1; Peter Cosgrove was in Fermanagh but returned
to Belfast; Cyril Toman stayed in Belfast until August 13, moved
on to Armagh for a few days, then to Dublin for one day to raise
support, and finally to assist in Free Derry. Others were involved
in the NICRA - Kevin Boyle produced most of its press and propaganda
material, and Niall Vallely assisted in Monaghan, where a CRA
had been set up.
During the period of Free Belfast it is difficult to get a precise
picture of the role played by each organisation behind the barricades.
There were very few examples in the press of PD activity
and therefore we are forced to rely on material obtained by interviewing
some of the personalities who worked in the Free areas. Besides
information that Michael Farrell spoke in Toomebridge, and Peter
Cosgrave spoke in Enniskillen on the night of August 13, there
appear to be only two examples of Press statements made by PD-
in one it criticises the role of Mr John McQuade MP and in the
other it rejects a speech made by the Prime Minister. In interview,
Michael Farrell gave one reason for PD's lack of publicity. He
said that about twenty Republicans had been detained under the
Special Powers Act and PD supporters did not want to draw attention
to themselves lest they be arrested.
This seems somewhat plausible. Nor does one gain any insight from
Farrell's pamphlet which devotes only two paragraphs to 'Free
Belfast.' One would have expected a close analysis
of the situation behind Belfast's barricades since the author
had first-hand experience of it and since he has stressed earlier
his concept of 'dual power.
'We cannot call for all power to the Soviets because our present
basis is not the working-class as a whole, or the working-class
and small farmers as a whole, it is only one section of the working
class. This leaves us with the question of whether we concentrate
initially on putting forward the largely reformist demands which
could unite Catholic and Protestant working class, or whether
we concentrate on posing the question of dual power in areas where
the Catholic population is concentrated and militant - by getting
the local Catholic population to take over and run its own affairs,
a sort of "Catholic power". This would be a very serious
decision, but it is just possible that it might be necessary for
us to establish such dual power; on the one hand Catholic-based
power, of a socialist form, and on the other, Unionist state power.'
The Free Belfast experiment lasted just over one month, that is
a period when Catholic power ruled. There is no evidence, however,
that PD was in the vanguard of the movement to create a socialist
area. What is evident is that PD was subservient to the Republicans
who controlled the CCDC.
PD acted as a miniscule but important group behind the barricades.
Both Fergus Woods and Michael Farrell could only remember about
ten of its members being actively involved. It produced most of
the literature and manned Radio Free Belfast most of the time
but it had to pass on its material first to the Republicans who
vetted it. (This happened after one of the PD members threatened
a particular 'B' Special over the air; the CCDC considered this
to be sectarian and insisted on censoring all proposed broadcasts
and news-sheets.) Also there was criticism of PD on the one
occasion when it tried to assert its own identity by holding a
meeting in Leeson Street; it was charged with taking people away
from the barricades.
It is from the Radio and from the Citizen Press that
we can glean PD attitudes during these days. Both the newspaper
and the radio were similar in style and content. Generally, the
paper reflected the aspirations and the fears of those behind
the barricades. For example, an early edition of Citizen Press
published what minimum demands would have to be met before
the barricades would come down:
- Disband the 'B' Specials.
- Disarm and re-organise the RUC.
- Amnesty for those held without trial, and those threatened
because they fought to save their homes.
- Use of Article 75 of the Government of Ireland Act to force
those reasonable demands through.
But the paper also indicated attitudes which were to become familiar
in Free Citizen when it attacked 'moderates' or prominent
persons from the Catholic community.
Radio Free Belfast presented much the same material as the news
sheet, in some cases quoting directly from it. Mostly it broadcast
political statements and music . . . 90 per cent of the material
put on by 'Radio Free Belfast' was made up of Catholic music (that
is to say the political music of the Catholic community).
One of the people involved in producing the Radio
agreed that some sectarian music was played. Attempts were
made at being satirical in two series entitled 'Profiles in Carnage'
and 'Profiles in Corruption'; some of it may have been slanderous,
and most of it was vituperative. The socialist content of the
Radio was virtually nonexistent, apart from a number of platitudes
directed at the Protestant working class urging them to recognise
their real class interests and unite with their Catholic comrades.
The Free Belfast experiment did little to enhance PD's reputation
as a radical organisation with revolutionary socialist overtones.
It did leave it open to charges, by the New Ulster Movement, of
attempts at exploiting the situation:
'. . . the street rioters and agitators of the People's Democracy have
been capitalising on the legitimate fears of the Roman Catholic
population by insisting that the barricades in the Falls, Ardoyne
and Bogside must stay up. The disease has now spread. The followers
of Mr Paisley and the other rabid Protestant extremists are trying
to get in on the act by erecting further barricades.'
It did not enable it to sink roots in the area, although local
people were aware of 'the students' as being a separate group
who were trying to help them. (Fergus Woods remembers that 'it
was recognised that PD contributed quite a bit' but some people
objected to it as being 'communist'). In fact in the long
protracted arguments as to when the barricades would come down,
PD was not consulted. As a result PD withdrew its 'support from
the Radio and Citizen Press. There were other reasons -
in particular PD insisted in criticising the Fianna Fail Government,
a liberty which some Republicans wanted to deny it.
In Derry, PD had little influence. Bernadette Devlin and Eamonn
McCann personified left-wing activism and opinion, a factor which
annoyed Cyril Toman:
'. . . some PD supporters, including myself, held public meetings
at Free Derry Corner to keep up morale and make it more difficult
for the CDC to arrange the dismantling of barricades. Mr McCann
was always too busy participating in the deliberations of the
CDC - where he represented the NILP - to attend the public meetings.'
Frequently they gave press statements and demonstrated that they
exercised some control in the area. PD's role at the time was
to help in running Radio Free Derry, which did not play as important
a function as its counterparts in Belfast, but then the situation
was much more serious in Belfast.
PD activists did not seem to realise the implications of their
failures in the 'Free' areas. They were more aware of an atmosphere
of solidarity - 'There was a good spirit behind the barricades'
- and of possibilities for the future:
'. . .Those who doubt people's ability to manage themselves could
consider the soviets set up here in Ireland during the civil war
and even various aspects of conditions prevailing in Free Belfast
and Free Derry . . . Moreover, the atmosphere of solidarity behind
the barricades was in itself a political education to many sceptics.'
Fragmentation had occurred at two levels - within the Civil Rights
movement generally and within PD.
'The very success of the institutionalization stage leads to the
fourth stage, fragmentation. As the movement and some of
its leaders gain increasing respectability, they come to have
an increasing stake in maintaining the status quo, or at least
in not changing it too rapidly. In short, they are "bought
off'. Radical militancy is reduced also by the realization that
some of the radical programme has been implemented, or at least
picked up as part of the campaign of one or more of the establishment
political parties. Increased repression, meanwhile, is making
the radical stance more and more costly. It is perhaps inevitable
that such conditions should make for a great proliferation within
the movement of varied degrees of radicalism, as each radical
individual continues to assess and reassess his position vis-a-vis
an everchanging establishment. It is just as inevitable that this
proliferation should lead to segmentalization into small factions
(fractions) representing the various degrees of radicalism.'
We should not underestimate the success of the Civil Rights movement.
The November reform package; the sacking of the right-wing Minister
of Home Affairs, William Craig, on December 11, 1968; the appointment
of the Cameron Commission on January 15, 1969; the acceptance
by the Unionist Party of 'One man One vote' in principle on April
23, and the announcement of a general Amnesty, for all those convicted
of 'political' offences during the civil disturbances, on May
6; all contributed to an easing of civil rights demands. The success
of the three civil rights candidates in the general election of
February ensured that protest would be removed from the streets
and taken into parliament.
This was not to the liking of PD activists, a fact which revealed
itself in the split within the NICRA executive and in the platform
disunity of Strabane on June 28. It also revealed a measure of
generational conflict - PD supporters were youthful and impatient
whereas most of the NICRA members belonged to the older generation
and appeared to be satisfied with most of the concessions gained
from the Government - but that aspect of the conflict was not
too important. The row in Strabane highlighted the dangers of
adopting a millenarian approach to the Northern Ireland problem:
'. . . splitting the civil rights movement on a class basis was
a dangerous thing to do, since people in Derry and PD who suddenly
saw their goals in terms of the distant ideal of a James Connolly
Socialist Workers Republic, rather than the pragmatic achievement
of specific reforms and immediate projects, then found themselves
acting not in relation to people and neighbourhoods, which must
be respected, but on a vast stage dominated by historical forces
in a battle between good and evil for an ideal future. In this
battle the individual is insignificant, trapped in a situation
where violence is inevitable and his individual acts can be judged
by no more precise criteria than what has helped most in the light
of history in the struggle for a Socialist Workers Republic.'
Fragmentation within PD appeared during this period. It had been
going on ever since the reform package of the previous November
was announced. It continued after the February election for a
number of reasons. PD's electoral success had been ephemeral simply
because it did not win any seats. The partially successful tactics
of the opposition in the new session of Parliament encouraged
some PD supporters to place their trust in the efficacy of the
parliamentary process. Bernadette Devlin's by-election victory
encouraged this reasoning, since it demonstrated that parliament
was open to radicals. The march to Dublin with its continuous
public bickering was a positive example of the failure of radical
unity attempts. And the row at Strabane indicated that PD and
its allies were quite willing to destroy the successful civil
rights alliance and replace it with some vague formula for a Workers'
The growth of PD branches in such places as Fermanagh and Armagh
revealed varying degrees of radicalism, even within the PD movement.
The Armagh branch undertook a series of militant demonstrations
which won it a measure of notoriety but which did little to narrow
the sectarian divide. This fragmentation and segmentalization
took its toll on PD to such an extent that it could only muster
about ten supporters to work behind the barricades in Belfast
With such small numbers Michael Farrell's 'dual power' theory
could not get off the ground. ('Double power' was considered by
the New Left to be the most important political innovation of
the 'May Revolution' in France. It owed its development to the
Russian Revolution of 1917 and found its contemporary expression
in the insurrectionary centres (focos) of the Guevarists in certain
South American countries. Its function was not only to challenge
existing social values and institutions but was also to create
the embryo of a new society to which it aspires in a parallel
movement.) Thus, by the end of September 1969,
PD had a base and had the basis of an ideology, but it lacked
the necessary support to build the Workers' Republic.
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