Communist Party of Ireland

Communist Party of Ireland
Communist Party of Ireland
Páirtí Cumannach na hÉireann
Chairman Lynda Walker
Secretary-General Eugene McCartan
Founded 1933 (1933)
Headquarters 43 East Essex Street,
Dublin 2
Newspaper Unity,
Socialist Voice
Ideology Communism,
Political position Communist
International affiliation International Conference of Communist and Workers' Parties
Politics of the Republic of Ireland
Political parties
Politics of Northern Ireland
Political parties

The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI; Irish: Páirtí Cumannach na hÉireann) is a small all-Ireland Marxist party, founded in 1933. An earlier party, the Socialist Party of Ireland, was renamed the Communist Party of Ireland in 1921 on its affiliation to the Communist International but was dissolved in 1924. The present-day CPI was founded in 1933 by the Revolutionary Workers' Groups. In 1941 the part of the party in the south of Ireland suspended its activities, while in the north it continued to operate under the name Communist Party (Northern Ireland). The party was re-established in the South in 1948 under the name Irish Workers' League, which changed its name in 1962 to Irish Workers' Party. The two sections reunited as the Communist Party of Ireland in 1970.

In the first half of the Twentieth Century the Communist Party failed to gain any traction, one reason for this is Communist hostility to the Roman Catholic Church which was the faith of a majority of the people in the country. Atrocities committed against Catholic clergy by Communists in Spain during the Civil War reinforced peoples' hostility against what was seen as an unwelcome, foreign and authoritarian political movement. The party provided some of the Irish volunteers in the 1936–39 Spanish Civil War, losing a number of members who were killed in action.

Historically, the party belonged to the wing of international communism that looked to the Soviet Union for inspiration. In the mid-1960s, the U.S. State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 100.[2] The party grew consistently through the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1960s, some IWP members (notably Michael O'Riordan) became active in the Dublin Housing Action Committee. The IWP also condemned the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia, although O'Riordan was opposed to this position.[3] In March 1970, following the CPNI/IWP merger, the new Communist Party of Ireland issued a manifesto called For Unity and Socialism,advocating the election of left-wing governments in both parts of Ireland, and eventually, the creation of a United Ireland.[4] The CPI strongly criticised the Anglo-Irish Agreement, claiming the AIA "underlined Partition and gave Britain a direct say in the affairs of the Republic". [5] In the 1980s, membership declined significantly during the collapse of the USSR and the electoral rise of the Workers' Party of Ireland, but the party survived the 1990s and has since been rebuilding.[citation needed] The party’s aim is to win the support of the majority of the Irish people for ending the capitalist system and for building socialism. It is actively opposed to neo-liberalism and to the European Union. Internationally, it maintains fraternal relations with other communist and workers’ parties and is a strong supporter of Cuba and Venezuela.

The general secretary of the party is Eugene McCartan, who would have a more prominent public presence sometimes appearing on the Vincent Browne Tonight Programme as a panelist in recent years. The Belfast district produces a weekly paper called Unity, while the Dublin district produces a monthly paper called Socialist Voice. There are also branches in Cork, Galway, and Mid-Ulster.

While it is a registered party, the CPI has rarely run candidates in elections and has never had electoral success. Despite this, it has had a significant influence in the trade union movement and was actively involved in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.[citation needed] In addition, a number of prominent Irish Labour Party members were former members of the CPI[citation needed]. The CPI operates a bookshop in Dublin called Connolly Books and has the support of a youth organisation, the Connolly Youth Movement. Both are named after the Irish socialist James Connolly.

One notable split from the CPI was the Eurocommunist grouplet the Irish Marxist Society, which left the CPI around 1976. The IMS advocated Marxist feminism [6] and was also outspoken in its rejection of the Two Nations Theory of Northern Ireland. [7] Most of the IMS's members later joined the Irish Labour Party. [8]

The party and its members would be prominent in a number of campaigns such as advocating a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty Referendum[9], recently the party is advocating a referendum on the bailout of Banks.[10] The party also supported the anti-war movement in Ireland as part of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance.

General secretaries


  1. ^ The Communist Party of Ireland is an all Ireland Marxist party.
  2. ^ Benjamin, Roger W.; Kautsky, John H.. Communism and Economic Development, in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 62, No. 1. (Mar., 1968), pp. 122.
  3. ^ Communism in Modern Ireland: The Pursuit of the Workers' Republic since 1916,by Mike Milotte, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 1984 (p.241, 250-1).
  4. ^ Milotte, p. 281-2.
  5. ^ "Agreement attacked as imperialist", Jim Cusack, The Irish Times, February 3rd, p.9. ,1986
  6. ^ What's on Today? Irish Times, 23rd June 1976, (pg. 19) advertises a speech by Naomi Wayne on "Marxist Feminism" on behalf of the IMS.
  7. ^ Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations by Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 (pgs. 224-5)
  8. ^ Eagle or Cuckoo? The Story of the ATGWU in Ireland by Matt Merrigan. Matmer Publications, Ireland ,1989 (pg. 316).
  10. ^ Communists call for referendum on non-payment of debt to 'foreign banksers' , by Mary Minihan, Irish Times, Saturday, March 5th, 2011

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