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Eamonn McCann

Ireland – The Gathering Storm

(January 1973)

From Notes of the Month, International Socialism (1st series), No.51, April 1972, pp.9-12.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Eamonn McCann writes: Events in Ireland gather towards one of their periodic climaxes. Within a few weeks Whitelaw will have produced the definitive White Paper on the future government of the Six Counties, and the British Army will brace itself for possible backlash from Protestants outraged by the denial of security powers and a refurbished Stormont. Whitelaw has prepared his ground fairly well. Lynch, in return for British ‘concessions’ on the control of security in the North, has begun the long-awaited crackdown on the Proves. Meanwhile, in the North, the Army has desperately been trying to take the steam out of Protestant allegations of a British ‘sell out of Ulster’, by stepping up its harassment of the Catholic ghettos. The reasoning behind this is that if the army can be seen to have smashed the Provos – with Lynch’s help – there will be much less chance of an organised Protestant rejection of the White Paper.

The indications are that there will be a blacklash of sorts, no matter how the lily is gilded. Whether Craig’s threat of an armed uprising is bluster remains to be seen. But we have already seen that on the lunatic fringe of the Protestant right wing – not the least populated segment of the Irish political spectrum – there are those who will ‘fight’ – i.e. shoot and bomb Catholics more or less at random on both sides of the border.

The response to the situation by the Republicans and the revolutionary left has been less than adequate. The Marxist forces are, as yet, too tiny to intervene directly with any decisive effect. The Provos, confused about the nature of the twenty six county state, have reacted to the arrest of two of the top men in a sporadic fashion which betokens no real strategy. The Officials have called for a Civil Rights Movement in the South on the lines of the Northern experiment. The Provos, quicker, so to speak, on the gun, have already set up one – though it is far from clear what they want it to do.

The Tories’ strategy of smashing Republican resistance and isolating the Protestant right could work, just. Whether it does or not depends in some measure on the ability of those within both Republican sections who are, apparently, moving towards Marxism, to understand what is happening: and understand specifically that neither an intensified purist Republican campaign, nor an adaptation to ‘respectable’ political methodology meets the needs of the moment.


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