Irish Republicanism and Buried Alive in Ireland

Peter Berresford Ellis reviews Irish Republicanism: the authentic perspective and Buried Alive in Ireland: a story of a 20th century inquisition by Derry Kelleher, Justice Books IR£20 each

Derry Kelleher is no stranger to controversy. He joined the IRA and was interned in the Curragh in 1940. On his release he studied science at UCC but remained active in socialist politics, first in the Irish Labour Party and then in the Cork Socialist Party.

He acclaimed Desmond Greaves as a mentor and in 1950 joined the Connolly Association. He worked in the West Indies and then in England where he joined the trades union movement. Back in Ireland in the 1960s he returned to the republican movement and was vice president of Official Sinn Féin until he disagreed with its policies in the north.

In the first of his new books, a 516 -page tome, he presents his interpretation of the history of Irish republicanism in a fashion that is contrary to both orthodox and revisionist history.

He clearly demonstrates the core of the dissensions in Irish politics and the English establishment's role in creating and maintaining those dissensions which were not inherited traditions from the Reformation but colonial traditions fostered as late as the l9th century to maintain power.

Agree or disagree with Derry's views and ebullient style, this is a work that has to be read and a book that must be on the shelves of anyone who serious wishes to examine the history of Ireland.

Derry's second book, another large tome of 476 pages, is essentially a volume of philosophy.

It sweeps from politics to art, from science to sport, from technology to morals. Above all it is about the Irish people and their development and their views of themselves.

It starts with a key text from Connolly: "Ireland as distinct from her people, is nothing to me, and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for Ireland, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and degradation brought upon the people of Ireland -- aye, brought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is in my opinion a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland."

Connolly also said that the enforcement of Partition would lead to "a carnival of reaction north and south". He was right and in this book Derry gives his insightful interpretations of that 'carnival' across the entire range of Irish life.

Behind it all is the way that the 'establishments' of both north and south have used a propagandised version of history to give foundations to their power politics.

Yet again Derry makes a forceful and significant contribution to understanding the modern mind-set of the Irish peoples perceptions of themselves. If the book's only result is to force people to ask questions -- then it will have achieved its object. To shift people from their complacent false perceptions is the purpose of the book.

Both volumes are essential additions to the cannon of work on James Connolly and Desmond Greaves, whose thoughts and quotes permeate both volumes.

Derry Kellaher, a friend of the Irish Democrat over many years, died suddenly in August. An obituary will appear in a future edition of the paper. -- ed.

October/November 2001

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