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Irish Republican Socialist Party

Irish Republican Socialist Party
Leader Ard Comhairle
(National Executive)
Founder Seamus Costello
Founded 8 December 1974 (1974-12-08)
Headquarters Costello House,
392b Falls Road,
Belfast, BT12 6DH,
County Antrim,
Northern Ireland
Newspaper The Starry Plough
Youth wing Republican Socialist Youth Movement
Paramilitary wing Irish National Liberation Army
Ideology Irish republicanism
Irish unification[1]
Political position Far-left
Colours Blue and white

The Irish Republican Socialist Party or IRSP (Irish: Páirtí Poblachtact Sóisialach na hÉireann) is a republican socialist party active in Ireland. It is often referred to as the "political wing" of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) paramilitary group, and claims the legacy of socialist revolutionary James Connolly, who founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in 1896 and was executed after the Easter Rising of 1916.


  • History 1
  • Policies 2
  • Membership 3
  • Representation 4
  • Milestones in the IRSP's history 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The Starry Plough is often used as a symbol to represent the Irish Republican Socialist Party, its armed wing the Irish National Liberation Army, and other Irish republican socialist groups

The Irish Republican Socialist Party was founded on 8 December 1974 by former members of the Official Republican Movement, independent socialists, and trade unionists headed by Seamus Costello. A paramilitary wing, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), was founded the same day, although its existence was intended to be kept hidden until such a time that the INLA could operate effectively. Costello was elected as the party's first chairperson and the Army's first chief of staff. Together, the IRSP and the INLA refer to themselves as the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM).

Former MP for Mid-Ulster Bernadette McAliskey served on the executive of the IRSP.[2] She resigned following the failure of a motion to be passed which would have brought the INLA under the control of the IRSP Ard Cohmairle. This led to the resignation of half the Ard Comhairle, which weakened the party. The future Dublin TD Tony Gregory was also a member for a short time.[3] Its poor showing in the 1977 Irish General Election and the assassination of Seamus Costello also hampered the organisation.

Costello had been expelled from the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) following a court-martial, and from Official Sinn Féin on the same basis. Along with other activists he was dissatisfied with the group's tactics and policies especially on the issues surrounding the 1972 OIRA ceasefire and his growing belief that the emerging conflict was sectarian. In 1977 he was shot dead in his car by a man armed with a shotgun. His supporters blame the Official IRA for the killing.

Although a truce was eventually reached following meetings between the INLA and OIRA leadership in Dublin, in one of the first of the INLA's armed operations, Billy McMillen, C/O of the OIRA Belfast Battalion, was murdered by Gerard Steenson. In the following years the IRSP and INLA saw many members killed in attacks from British state forces and loyalist paramilitaries including leading members Miriam Daly, Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little.

Three members of the INLA died in the 1981 Irish hunger strike in HM Prison Maze (aka Long Kesh). They were Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Devine.

In 1981, party members Gerry Kelly and Sean Flynn won two seats on Belfast City Council in a joint campaign with People's Democracy. Neither councillor served a full term, with one going on the run after being implicated during the supergrass trials and another resigning his seat citing disillusionment with the IRSP and later claiming in the Irish News that he had received threats from his former colleagues. Lately the IRSP has been involved in campaigns and political protests, mainly around Belfast and Derry but also in of parts of the Republic of Ireland as well.


The IRSP opposes both the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, viewing both as simply cementing British rule in Ireland. As of 11 October 2009 the INLA has ordered an end to the armed struggle, because unlike during the Troubles, the current political stance in Ulster allows the IRSP to contest fairly in new campaigns and local elections, as mentioned in their 2009 statement.


Party members often refer to themselves as the 'Irps' (pronounced 'Erps').[4]


The party is represented in North America by the Irish Republican Socialist Committees of North America.

Milestones in the IRSP's history

  • 1975: At the IRSP's inaugural convention, it becomes the first political party in Ireland to support the legalisation of abortion and equal rights for gays and lesbians
  • 1981: The IRSP wins two seats on the Belfast City Council, and comes close to winning a third. The IRSP runs two candidates, Kevin Lynch and Tony O'Hara, in the Irish parliamentary election as Independent Anti H-Block candidates. Neither candidate wins, but Lynch comes within 300 votes of winning a seat, while O'Hara garnered a respectable number of votes.
  • 1982: Party member Brigid Makowski wins a seat on the Shannon Town Commission.[5]
  • 1984: At the IRSP's convention, two motions are put forward:
  1. That the IRSP stands in the tradition of Marx, Engels, and James Connolly. (Drafted by party member John Gilligan [now an elected Independent member of Limerick City Council] and put forward by the party's Limerick branch).
  2. That the IRSP stands in the tradition of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. (Drafted by the party's chairperson, Jim Lane, and put forward by the party's Cork city branch.)
    Both motions are passed and combined into a single statement: that the IRSP stands in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Connolly.
  • 2000: The IRSP passes a new ideological motion at its convention, which affirms:
    • That the IRSP is a revolutionary Marxist organisation, and that by this we mean that the IRSP believes:
      • Class conflict is the motive force in human history;
      • The IRSP stands unreservedly and exclusively for the interests of the working class against all others;
      • Only the creation of a 32-county Irish socialist republic can provide the means by which Irish national liberation can be realised;
      • That there can be no socialism without national liberation in Ireland, nor can there be national liberation without socialism;
      • That there is no parliamentary road to socialism, because socialism cannot be forged by seizing the bourgeois state apparatus; nor is there a guerilla road to socialism, because a social revolution requires the active participation of the masses; and therefore a socialist republic can only be established through the mass revolutionary action of the working class in the political, economic, and social spheres;
      • That socialism means the ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange collectively by the entire working class, with an end to wage labour, an end to production for profit and its replacement by a system of production based on human need; and
      • That socialism must be administered democratically by the working class itself, recognising the class dictatorship of the workers, because the vast majority of society is formed by that class. This does not suggest the need for a political dictatorship of a single party. Rather it calls out for a class dictatorship, administered through new working class institutions created to permit the greatest degree of political freedom for all working people.
  • 2011: The IRSP puts forward five candidates in Northern Ireland local elections, its first foray into electoral politics in almost 30 years. The candidates all poll well but fail to secure a seat. Candidate Paul Gallagher of Strabane missed out on a seat by just a single vote.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ Irish TimesThe Guardian The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Morality of Terrorism By Timothy Shanahan pg.88Irish Political Studies Reader: Key Contributions By Conor McGrath pg.170 Northern Ireland: Conflict and Change By Jonathan Tonge pg. 207
  2. ^ The IRA By Tim Pat Coogan published by Harper Collins
  3. ^ Obituary Tony Gregory: 1947 – 2009 WorldbyStorm of Cedar Lounge Revolution Irish Left Review. Published: 6 January 2009.
  4. ^ Preventing a return to conflict Michael Hall, August 2009, Island Publications
  5. ^ Shannon Town Commission Local Elections
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Mourne District Electoral Area Results".  

Daughter of Derry: The Story of Brigid Sheils Makowsk, Pluto Press, London 1989 Available on Amazon

External links

  • Irish Republican Socialist Party Official web site
  • Derry IRSP website Derry IRSP website
  • Brief history of IRSP IRSP history
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