50 Years Ago: The Irish question fifty years ago

But if Ireland has been a hunting ground for ambitious politicians, it has also been the home of ignorant and superstitious leaders. Catholic priests and Protestant clergy have used their influence and authority lo foment religious strife, which had no existence till after the Union. The Catholic priests were so deeply involved in the political game that they helped to collect the forty thousand pounds that Parnell squandered on himself and Mrs. O’Shea. Everyone knows the methods of the Protestant clergy: how the orthodox Church bolsters the Tories and the Nonconformists buttress the Liberals and both assist to rope in the workers to the support and sanction of capitalist government.

The Irish movements of the eighteenth century, the “white boys” and the “oak boys”, etc., were movements of the workers. Sometimes they were directed against the middle men and sometimes against the tithe system, though not often the latter. They were secret organisations and the Government found it extremely difficult to deal with them. But when they developed into an open volunteer movement, widely extended, and holding Congresses at Dublin and elsewhere, the Government quickly permeated it with their tools and agents and subverted it to their own uses, finally incorporating it in the regular army. Since that time the working class of Ireland has never succeeded in organising for anything without the help or interference of capitalist tools or agents. The Fenians were robbed by Isaac Butt and outwitted by Parnell. All their organisations from the “Land League” to the “Ulster Volunteers” or the “Molly Malones”, have been composed of workers bluffed and cajoled by political prostitutes and adventurers . . .

The latest blunder of the Irish working class is in the support given to the Sinn Fein Movement which seeks to establish a republic, with the examples of France and the United Slates before thcm proving conclusively the futility of such an experiment to abate their ever-growing poverty.

From the Socialist Standard, August 1916.