Irish Republican Socialist Party

The Irish Republican Socialist Party or IRSP (Irish: Páirtí Poblachtach 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.[4] 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.

Irish Republican Socialist Party

Páirtí Poblachtach Sóisalach na h-Éireann
LeaderArd Chomhairle
(National Executive)
ChairmanMartin McMonagle
FounderSeamus Costello and others
Founded8 December 1974 (1974-12-08)
HeadquartersCostello House,
392b Falls Road,
Belfast, BT12 6DH,
County Antrim,
Northern Ireland
NewspaperThe Starry Plough
Worker's Republic (Belfast)[1]
Youth wingRepublican Socialist Youth Movement
Paramilitary wingIrish National Liberation Army
IdeologyIrish republicanism
Left-wing nationalism
Left-wing populism
Political positionFar-left
International affiliationIrish Republican Socialist Movement
ColoursRed, yellow and white


Early years

The Irish Republican Socialist Party was founded at a meeting on 8 December 1974 in the Spa Hotel in Lucan, near Dublin, by former members of Official Sinn Féin, headed by Seamus Costello. According to the IRSP, 80 people were in attendance.[5] 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 referred to themselves as the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM).

Former Unity MP for Mid-Ulster Bernadette McAliskey served on the executive of the IRSP.[6] She resigned following the failure of a motion to be passed which would have brought the INLA under the control of the IRSP Ard Comhairle (executive committee). This led to the resignation of half the Ard Comhairle, which weakened the party. Tony Gregory, a future Dublin TD, was also a member for a short time.[7] Its poor showing in the 1977 Irish general election, and the assassination of Seamus Costello, weakened 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.

Clashes with other republicans and the British

In 1977, Costello was shot dead in his car by a man armed with a shotgun. His supporters blamed the Official IRA for the killing.

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

Three members of the INLA died in the 1981 Irish hunger strike in HM Prison Maze, also known as Long Kesh: Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch, and Michael Devine.

In 1987, the INLA and its political wing, the IRSP came under attack from the Irish People's Liberation Organisation (IPLO), an organisation founded by people who had resigned or been expelled from the INLA. The IPLO's initial aim was to destroy the IRSM and replace it with their organisation. Five members of the INLA and IRSP were killed by the IPLO, including leaders Ta Power and John O'Reilly. The INLA retaliated with several killings of their own. After the INLA killed the IPLO's leader, Gerard Steenson, a truce was reached. Although severely damaged by the IPLO's attacks, the INLA continued to exist. The IPLO, which was heavily involved in drug dealing, was put out of existence by the Provisional IRA in a large scale operation in 1992.

Recent history

In the 2000s and 2010s, 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.

In November 2016, after a number of raids on members of the party's homes, the IRSP issued a warning saying the PSNI were "playing with fire". IRSP's Lower Falls representative Michael Kelly claimed that “British security forces risk bringing serious conflict onto the streets” and said that “The Irish Republican Socialist Party has been in existence for over 40 years, in that time we have never tolerated attacks on our membership from any quarter,” The comments drew criticism from UUP MLA Doug Beattie and SDLP Alex Attwood.[8]


Election First Preference Vote Vote % Seats
1981 3,654 0.5%
2 / 523
2011 2,133 0.3%
0 / 572

In 1981, party members Gerry Kelly and Sean Flynn won two seats on the Belfast City Council in a joint campaign with the People's Democracy party. Neither councillor served a full term, with one going on the run after being implicated during the supergrass trials[5]

The IRSP put forward five candidates in Northern Ireland local elections, 2011, its first foray into electoral politics in almost 30 years. They failed to secure any seats. Candidate Paul Gallagher of Strabane missed out on a seat by just a single vote. He was originally elected but after a requested recount by the SDLP his election was overturned.[9][10]

The IRSP has explained its lack of participation in elections as due to "very limited" resources.[9]

Policies and ideology

The party is a staunch supporter of Irish republicanism, it believes a united Ireland can only be achieved through armed action. While being republican the party is also socialist and Marxist and supports the establishment of an all-Ireland "Worker's republic".

Physical force Irish republicanism

The IRSP opposes both the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, The party supports a 'No First Strike' policy, that is allowing people to see the perceived failure of the peace process for themselves without military actions.[11]

As of 11 October 2009, the INLA has ordered an end to the armed struggle,[4] 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. INLA admitted to "faults and grievous errors" in their prosecution of the armed struggle, stating that "innocent people were killed and injured" and offering "as revolutionaries" a "sincere and heartfelt apology".[4]

James Connolly

The IRSP claim the legacy of Connolly and say their policies are of the same tradition of Connolly. The IRSP also see their own modern policies as the "logical development in the twenty-first century of the programme established under Connolly’s leadership by the Irish Socialist Republican Party".[3]

European Union

The IRSP supported Brexit and supports the Republic of Ireland leaving the European Union[12]

Broad Front

The IRSP supports the formation of what it calls the "Broad Front" which would oppose British occupation and imperialism in Ireland. Policies would include:

  • UK must denounce all claims of sovereignty over the island
  • Withdrawal of all UK troops and release of all republican prisoners
  • UK to compensate the Irish people for the exploitation that has occurred throughout Ireland.[3]


The IRSP is in favour of an All-Ireland, democratically controlled, unarmed police force.[3]


The IRSP are not abstentionist in principle but they would support abstentionism in certain situations for tactical reasons.[13]


IRSP believes that the right to a home is a fundamental human right and that the state has a responsibility to deal with homelessness[5]


The party's policy on abortion is that it should be legalised, available on demand and free of charge.[5]


Party members are often referred to as the "Irps" (pronounced "Erps"). In the late 1970s, Divis Flats in west Belfast became colloquially known as "the planet of the Irps" (a reference to the IRSP and the film Planet of the Apes).[14][15]


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

List of secretaries

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.[18]
  • 1984: At the IRSP's convention, two motions are put forward and voted in:
  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."

See also


  1. "'Workers' Republic'. Newsletter, Belfast IRSP. Winter 2017". Republican Socialist News.
  2. "IRSP Speeches and Writings by Jim Lane, 1983-1987". embracing the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin, we are placing ourselves in line with the most advanced thought of our age and, as a consequence, are in line with the revolutionary tradition passed on by James Connolly
  3. "Republican Socialist Programme for Ireland" (PDF).
  4. "UK and Ireland welcome INLA ceasefire", BBC News, 23 August 1998
  5. "Perspectives on the future of Republican Socialism in Ireland" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  6. Coogan, Tim Pat. The IRA; St. Martin's Griffin; revised & updated edition : 5 January 2002; ISBN 978-0312294168
  7. Tony Gregory: 1947 – 2009, Irish Left Review, 6 January 2009.
  8. IRSP warn police 'playing with fire' after series of house raids on members
  9. "IRSP Local Council Election Results". Republican Socialist News. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  10. "Mourne District Electoral Area Results" (PDF). Strabane District Council. 9 May 2011. Archived from the original (pdf) on 1 April 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 June 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "IRSP reiterates call for full British, EU and US Military, Economic and Political withdrawal from Ireland at Moscow conference", Republican Socialist News, 26 September 2015
  13. "Interview with Séamus Costello". When we say that we are not an abstentionist party, what we mean by this is that we are not a party, in principle, committed to abstention. But there are circumstances and conditions under which is might be desirable to abstain and if we felt that it was tactically desirable at any particular point in time, in either the North or the South to abstain from Parliament, then we would do so. That would depend, however, on the circumstances existing at that particular point of time. If a situation existed, for instance, where there was a possibility of large scale dissatisfaction, on the part of the people, with either the 26 County parliament or the 6 County parliament then abstention, on our part would be a legitimate tactic. We are not, however, abstentionist in principle
  14. "Preventing a return to conflict: A discussion by ex-combatants," compiled by Michael Hall, Island Publications, August 2009
  15. The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Brian Hanley and Scott Millar, Penguin Books, ISBN 1-84488-120-2 p. 290
  17. "IRSP Political Secretary John Martin's presentation on republican socialism to the IRSP's ideological conference 29–30 May 99". Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  18. Shannon Town Commission Local Elections Archived 23 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

  • Bernard, Margie. Daughter of Derry: The Story of Brigid Sheils Makowski; iUniverse; 20 January 2009; ISBN 978-1440120008
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