Daltún Ó Ceallaigh





Republicanism characterises the new Ireland. With this sentiment Daltún Ó Ceallaigh concludes his most recent book, Irish Republicanism - Good Friday and After. A long time trade union activist and campaigner for human, political and economic rights and justice, Ó Ceallaigh has produced a considerable body of writing in the past ten years.

This new title assesses the impact of the Good Friday Agreement on Irish republicanism, and in doing so views both the agreement and the republican project in a positive light. A detailed chapter outlining the 'gains’ for republicans in this project is both timely and refreshing, and is a valuable antidote for the pessimism generated by the present political crisis.

Ó Ceallaigh also examines the attitude of the Irish left to the agreement and contemporary republicanism. He presents an eloquent case not only against revisionists within the left, but for a renewed commitment by republicans to the values of social and economic justice and political and cultural equality.

Additional interesting chapters on a number of important issues for all progressive actors in Ireland today include neutrality, social class and international politics. Again Ó Ceallaigh argues for the prioritisation of the emancipatory values of republicanism and socialism to prevail over the 'pragmatic' considerations of the mainstream.

Finally the author turns his attention to the immediate future for the republican project, both in terms of Sinn Féin and the broader republican constituency. His analysis is refreshing and serves to remind those of us caught up in the detail of the struggle, of the broader republican project. Irish Republicanism - Good Friday and After is highly recommended.


Books Ireland [short review] (October 2000):

Ó Ceallaigh, an active civil rights man 30 years ago when the recent Troubles began, has written and published with consistent clarity about aspects of sovereignty and the North through the nineties, and this exceptionally forthright essay on internal and international aspects of socialism, republicanism and neutrality is remarkable again for its clarity and simplicity. References to social classes seem a touch dated, as if the author were straining to justify old theory in modern terms, but still we found ourselves reading political theory with great interest, which is not something we often do by choice. 


Books Ireland [long review] (June 2001):

Province and republic

Tony Canavan

Ó Ceallaigh is one of the more interesting Republican thinkers and one of the few who is aware of Unionist concerns about a united Ireland. This book lives up to his previous efforts and is a lively, interesting examination of Irish republicanism today. Often the Irish eclipses the republican in the movement, but he manages to strike the right balance, although there could be more exposition about what republicanism is.

               This is a useful contribution to the debate on whither republicanism now that it is again respectable with everyone from Fine Gael to the Labour Party claiming its legacy. He demolishes pretenders' claims to the ideology and argues that republicanism will be advanced through the Good Friday Agreement - not by a slavish adherence to its written word but by exploiting its potential for change. Ó Ceallaigh sees such progress in the Republic, also, where he identifies a broad alliance of left and partially-left groups as the way forward.                   

            While thought provoking, the book has certain weaknesses. Some will disagree with his assumption that Irish Republicanism is ipso facto left-wing, … His stance on the EU and neutrality is 'traditional' and lacks recent intellectual engagement. … Nevertheless, this book provides a solid, sustainable, republican analysis of the Good Friday Agreement, discusses incisively the nature of class and politics in Ireland today, and charts a viable way forward for left republicanism. As such it should be read and considered by all parties and individuals who consider themselves part of that movement.


Sinn Féin Bookshop Webpage

A must for any serious observer of the current political developments in Ireland. Daltún Ó Ceallaigh gives an assessment of the contemporary meaning and future potential of Irish republicanism. Highly recommended.


An Phoblacht - Republican News

5 October 2000

Food for thought

Mícheál MacDonncha

Since the early 1990s Daltún Ó Ceallaigh has published a number of books of political analysis, which mainly focus on the national question in Ireland and which seek to chart a way forward for nationalists and republicans. All have been coherent, significant and constructive contributions to progressive politics.

In this book Ó Ceallaigh attempts what he describes as ``an assessment of the contemporary meaning and future potential of Irish republicanism''. The attempt is successful and the result is thought provoking. He begins with a concise analysis of the background to the peace process and its roots in the failure of the British to defeat resurgent republicanism. This strikes a positive note for what follows.

Ó Ceallaigh gives a detailed analysis of the constitutional aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. This is a particularly useful section of the book and deals effectively with critics of the republican approach from several angles. The author is generally positive about what was achieved in the Agreement while recognising its many shortcomings.

On the key constitutional question of partition, British sovereignty and the unionist veto, there is clearly no real agreement - Good Friday represented an agreement to disagree. But the further erosion of the British government's constitutional commitment to the unionists represents a step forward. The equality agenda undermines the sectarian basis of the Six-County state. As the author points out, the Agreement is full of potential but will only have value if that potential is fulfilled. And we have a very long way to go.

Republicanism and the Left, a theme he covered in previous books, is revisited in a succinct and interesting chapter. There is still a need to refute the spurious arguments of those in the Labour Party and elsewhere who refuse to follow the true tradition of James Connolly and who try to portray Irish nationalism as reactionary. Ó Ceallaigh points out correctly that ``the real antithesis of internationalism'' is not nationalism but imperialism to which nationalism, as the expression of the freedom of nations, is hostile.

There is a great need for analysis and debate on the changing nature of social classes in Ireland. This has obvious implications for politics and involves such questions as what is the working class now, who represents them, and how can people be radicalised in this new climate. Ó Ceallaigh's chapter on these subjects is a good beginning to a debate we need to have.

Two chapters focus on international affairs - one on our place in the world generally and the other on the origins and development of Irish neutrality. The latter is very useful and shows the real historic basis of neutrality which anti-national and pro-NATO elements so often try to portray as a non-policy. The chapter on the international context is perhaps less focused. It does not really tackle the vital issue of the globalisation of capital and the huge implications of this for the nation-state and for socialists.

Global capital, the increasingly individualised nature of capitalist society and the destruction of the environment are factors which republicans must take into account in a more serious way than before. It is too much to expect the author to cover such a wide range but a start has been made and perhaps these themes might form the basis of a future work.

Many who read this book will focus on the author's view of what Sinn Fein should do about the `Coalition option'. ``If concessions on the right policies can be secured and implemented, and it is perceived that Sinn Féin is responsible for them, then there is no reason why coalition should not be entered into and why it should not benefit the party'' he argues. Food for thought and further debate.

We need more publications like this and more debate among republicans on `the big issues'. The development of the peace process necessitated much political debate among republicans but this has waned. There is a real danger now that we could slip into pure electoralism. Sinn Féin is a party of ideas and action. If the two are not in tandem then we are on the road to nowhere.



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