Socialist Workers Party (Ireland)

Socialist Workers Party (Ireland)

party_name = Socialist Workers Party
party_articletitle = Socialist Workers Party (Ireland)
leader =
foundation = 1971
ideology = Trotskyism
international = International Socialist Tendency
european = "none"
europarl = "none"
colours = Red, Black, Yellow
headquarters = PO Box 1648,
Dublin 8
website = []
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is an Irish Trotskyist political party.

Foundation and Growth

The SWP was originally founded in 1971 as the Socialist Workers Movement by supporters of the International Socialists of Britain (now called the SWP) living in Northern Ireland, who had previously been members of People's Democracy, the Waterford Socialist Movement and the Young Socialists. Many of the members had been active in the new Socialist Labour Alliance. The SWM subsequently affiliated to the SLA, but soon left, claiming that the Alliance was organised to debate, rather than to campaign.

Some of those who joined the SWM after its formation sympathised with a small tendency in Britain and later split away to form the Irish Workers Group,Goodwillie, John (Aug/Sept 1983). "Glossary of the Left in Ireland". Gralton: an Irish Socialist Review 9: 17-20.] which later became Workers Power (Ireland). Meanwhile, the SWM grew on a modest scale and published a paper called "The Worker".

When the Socialist Labour Party was founded in 1977, SWM joined as a 'tendency' (or subgroup). The Socialist Workers Tendency was noted in the SLP for producing a bulletin more professional than that of the party. They left in 1980 to reform the Socialist Workers Movement.Trying this]

The SWM was long overshadowed on the Irish left by Stalinist organisations such as the Workers Party, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Bloc regimes post 1989 saw it grow. Unlike most other socialist groups, the SWM supported the revolutions against what it saw as 'State Capitalist' dictatorships - that regimes such as the Soviet Union were not socialist but another form of capitalism, directed not by corporations but by a Stalinist bureaucracy using the state.

Growing from a small agitation group of about fifty members, the SWM now began to build groups in major colleges such as Trinity College and University College, Dublin. Its traditional workplace bastion, Waterford Glass, has faded in strength but the SWP has developed some limited support in the Dublin Bus unions and the education branch of SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union). It campaigned strongly around issues such as the X Case, taking a pro-choice stance in a country still dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. SWP theorists such as Kieran Allen argue that the X Case protests to let the 14-year-old rape victim travel to England for an abortion represented a 'molecular shift' that ended Church domination of Irish society. The party campaigned vigorously in subsequent referendums for abortion choice and for divorce.

The SWM changed its name to the Socialist Workers Party at its conference in 1995, after delegates working at Dublin Bus argued that it should now take itself seriously on the left, as it then had a growing and active membership.

From Movement to Party

The SWP grew from a mostly Dublin-based membership, where it had two branches, to today's organisation with a number of branches in Dublin as well as branches in some other Irish cities and towns, and also in some colleges and universities. At its 2004 conference it claimed to have five hundred members, although this membership figure was regarded as much exaggerated by many others on the Irish left who have estimated SWP membership at anything between seventy and two hundred. It has not made any public membership claim since 2004.

Since it began to participate in elections, both General (Dáil) and Local Government, in 1997, it has so far failed to have any of its candidates elected. So far the party has not run any candidates for the European Parliament or the Senate.

In the 2004 Local Elections, it improved on its previous performances by polling relatively strongly in four Dublin wards. There were Artane, Dun Laoghaire, Clondalkin and Ballyfermot, where its candidates won 792 votes (5.65%), 1,439 votes (7.94%), 1,044 votes (7.36%) and 1,094 votes (11.75%) respectively.

However, as a revolutionary socialist group, it claims that real change will not come through parliamentary means. It performed best in local areas in which it has been politically active, reflecting its parallel roles as a campaign group and a political party.

The 2002 General Election was the last occasion on which SWP candidates stood as SWP candidates in a General Election. However the party ran SWP candidates as SWP candidates in the 2004 Local Government Elections.

In the 2007 General Election, their candidates ran under the banner of the People Before Profit Alliance. The People Before Profit Alliance stood five candidates, four of them SWP activists. Their candidate in Dun Laoghaire, Richard Boyd Barrett, was 2,000 votes shy of winning a seat, scoring 8.9% of the first-preference vote. [ [] ]


Its best known member is Eamonn McCann, a journalist from Derry, who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. He was present at both the Battle of the Bogside in August 1969 and Bloody Sunday in January 1972, and has campaigned for the families of the fourteen shot dead by the British Paratroop regiment. McCann writes articles for media such as the "Belfast Telegraph" and "Hot Press", and attracted 9,127 votes (1.6%) for the Socialist Environmental Alliance in the Northern Ireland constituency in the European Parliament elections of 2004.

Other notable members include Richard Boyd Barrett, chair of the Irish Anti-War Movement, and American urban theorist Mike Davis. Jimmy Kelly was chief shop steward in Waterford Glass, and is now a leader of one of Ireland's largest unions, the ATGWU. Kieran Allen is a sociologist in UCD, and is one of the party's main theorists, writing books on "The Politics of James Connolly", the "Celtic Tiger" and "Max Weber - Sociologist of Empire". Brid Smith, a Ballyfermot party representative, was jailed in Dublin's Mountjoy Prison after campaigning against rubbish-bin charges in Dublin. The late John de Courcy Ireland, longtime leftwing veteran and nautical historian was also an active and dedicated member. Rory Hearn was President of the Trinity College Student Union and Deputy President of the Union of Students in Ireland. Other important figures are Kevin Wingfield and Conor Kostick.


The best known SWP is the monthly newspaper "Socialist Worker". In recent years the paper has sought to change itself from a narrow party publication to a broader, full colour, anti-capitalist 'paper of the movements', including contributors from the wider Irish left. "Socialist Worker" was for a period the most frequently published Marxist newspaper in Ireland,Fact|date=July 2007 published fortnightly from 1995, and weekly for a brief period in 2003 following the Iraq War. However, in 2005 it was issued only once every three weeks and in 2006 it slipped to a monthly schedule.

It has occasionally attempted to launch a magazine dealing with theoretical and political issues in greater detail. One such attempt was called "Resistance" and lasted for eight issues. More recently another attempt has been made with the publication of a magazine entitled "New Left Journal". "NLJ" is advertised as a quarterly magazine, although its two issues thus far have been separated by six months.


The SWP argue that in Northern Ireland, more unites Roman Catholic and Protestant workers than divides them. They believe that working class unity can only be built if Protestants turn their back on loyalist ideas, which promote their superiority,POV-statement|date=December 2007 and Catholic workers reject the idea of a 'pan-nationalist alliance'.Fact|date=July 2007

However, in earlier years they tended to take a more Republican line on The Troubles, for example arguing in 1985 that "Protestant workers can be compared to the poor whites of the Southern states of the USA. Their cheap labour goes hand in hand with their racism." ("Socialist Worker", No. 21, December 1985). The SWP were active in the mass movements opposing the criminalisation of IRA prisoners in the early 1980s, and members of the SWM were active in local Anti-H Block committees (Dundalk member Phil Toale, a shop steward in the town's cigarette factory, organised a general strike in the town the day that hunger-striker Bobby Sands died). The SWM took the view that it was the duty of revolutionary socialists to support those opposing British imperialism, but that this would be better done by a mass movement like the Civil Rights Movement than the five hundred or so volunteers of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The SWM used to call for a vote for Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland up until its party conference of 1995, when it was argued that the Adams/McGuinness leadership of Sinn Féin were moving to an accommodation with imperialism. It opposed the subsequent Belfast Agreement, arguing that rather than ending conflict in Northern Ireland, the Agreement was 'institutionalising sectarianism', creating two competing communities and political leaderships, both nationalist and unionist, which did little for working class people.

Following riots in Dublin on 25 February 2006 by Republicans, organised by Republican Sinn Féin, protesting at a planned 'Love Ulster' parade, the SWP issued a press release in which it expressed its full support for the actions of the rioters. According to the press release, given the wider context of (apparent) working-class alienation at the hands of the capitalist political establishment, the riots were completely justified: "socialists do not join in the condemnation of young working class people who riot against the police - especially given this wider context." Also, the SWP claimed that the 'Love Ulster' march was purposely planned by Michael McDowell, the Minister for Justice, as a provocation to republicans to riot, and thus further blacken the Republican movement, of whom the Minister is a most vocal critic.

The SWP is organised on both sides of the border, but in Northern Ireland it works as part of the Socialist Environmental Alliance (SEA) in elections. The SWP is the only organised grouping within the SEA. It supports a united, socialist Ireland, organised as a "worker's republic".

The SWP is part of the International Socialist Tendency grouping. It should not be confused with the Socialist Party (Ireland), the Irish Republican Socialist Party or the Workers Party (Ireland).


External links

* [ Official web site (Republic of Ireland)]
* [ Official website (Northern Ireland)]
* [ Irish Anti War Movement]
* [ A reply to the politics of the SWP] A Socialist Party in Ireland document
* [ SWP statement on Dublin riots]
* [ SWP statement on Dublin riots (posted to indymedia)]

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