Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Irish Republican Socialist Party

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Martin McMonagle

Irish Republican Socialist Party

Ard Chomhairle (National Executive)

Seamus Costello and others

8 December 1974 (1974-12-08)

Costello House, 392b Falls Road, Belfast, BT12 6DH, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Starry Plough Worker's Republic (Belfast)

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, 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.


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. 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. 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. 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.

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.


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

The IRSP put forward five candidates in Northern Ireland local elections, 2011, 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.

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

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.

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. 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".

European Union

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

The Broad Front

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

  • Britain must denounce all claims of sovereignty over the island
  • Withdrawal of all troops and release of all republican prisoners
  • To compensate the Irish people for the "exploitation" that has occurred.
  • Policing

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


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


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


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


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


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

    List of secretaries

  • Kevin Morley
  • John Martin
  • Mick Plunkett
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Additional reading

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

    Irish Republican Socialist Party Wikipedia

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