Unfinished Business

Link to streaming video.

Unfinished Business: The Politics of “Dissident” Irish Republicans (2012), a 59-minute documentary. Unfinished Business provides insight on the motives and ideology of Irish Republicans who reject constitutional politics and continue to endorse the right of Irish people to engage in armed struggle. The unique resources of Unfinished Business include:

  1. Excerpts from interviews with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (IRA Chief of Staff, 1958-59, 1960-62; President of Sinn Féin, 1970-83, and Republican Sinn Féin, 1987-2009);
  2. Commentary from Tom Maguire (1892-1993; the last surviving member of the Second Dáil Éireann) and Michael Flannery (1902-1994; IRA veteran and founding-member of Irish Northern Aid); and,
  3. Portions of a Gerry Adams (President of Sinn Féin, 1983-current) press conference held outside of Sinn Féin offices on the Falls Road, Belfast, in July 1995. See also: http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/social-movements-and-terrorism-and-if-thats-what-a-terrorist-is-i-want-to-be-a-terrorist/

See the IUPUI Irish Republican Movement Collections (http://ulib.iupui.edu/digitalscholarship/collections/IrishRepublicanMovement) for more information.

Description of Key Persons

Unfinished Business: The Politics of “Dissident” Irish Republicans

In order of appearance:

Ruairí Ó Brádaigh (b. 1932) – Ruairí Ó Brádaigh grew up in an Irish Republican family in Longford Town, County Longford.  He joined Sinn Féin in 1950 and the Irish Republican Army in 1951.  He graduated from University College, Dublin (1954), with a BA in Commerce and certification in teaching the Irish language, and became a secondary school teacher.  In the summer of 1956 he was “co-opted” onto the IRA Army Council.  During the IRA’s 1956-1962 “Resistance Campaign,” he was: arrested (December 1956); elected to the Dublin parliament on an all-Ireland platform (March 1957); interned (July 1957); escaped from an internment camp (September 1958); and served as IRA Chief of Staff (1958-59; 1960-62).  Through the 1960s Ó Brádaigh was a member of the IRA’s Army Council.  He was the first President of “Provisional” Sinn Féin, (1970-1983).  In 1986, Ó Brádaigh opposed participation in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann and helped form Republican Sinn Féin (RSF); he was RSF President (1987-2009) and is currently Patron of the organization (2009+).  http://www.rsf.ie/  For additional information see: Robert W. White, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006).  Interviewed June 2009, March 2010.

 Cáit Trainor – Cáit Trainor is from an Irish Republican family in Armagh.  In 2000, at the age of 16, she joined Republican Sinn Féin.  In 2010, Trainor, Seán Maloney, and Gerard Lambert were interviewed by Channel 4 News, Northern Ireland, for the program “Terrorism: Dissident Republican paramilitaries wage campaign of violence in Northern Ireland.”  Because of comments made during the interview, Cáit Trainor and Seán Maloney were arrested under the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act (2006) and charged with “glorifying terrorism” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/11/contents); the charges were subsequently dropped in the spring of 2012.  Trainor is currently a member of the Republican Sinn Féin Árd Chomhairle.  In October 2012, she was arrested and spent a week in custody for refusing to pay a fine associated with a January 2011 march in support of Martin Corey, an Irish Republican political prisoner. http://www.releasemartincorey.com/ Interviewed May 2012.

Martin McGuinness (b. 1950) – Martin McGuinness, from Derry, joined the Irish Republican Movement in the early 1970s; McGuinness has admitted that he joined the Provisional IRA, but claims that he left the organization in 1974.  McGuinness was a member of the 1972 delegation, led by Seán Mac Stíofáin, that met with British representations in London.  McGuinness became prominent in Sinn Féin in the early 1980s.  http://www.sinnfein.ie/ Along with Gerry Adams, McGuinness was a key architect of Sinn Féin/Provisional IRA involvement in the peace process.  Since 1997 he has been the (abstentionist) MP for Mid-Ulster.  In 2007, he became Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly.  In 2011, he was Sinn Féin’s candidate for President of Ireland.  For additional information see: Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston, Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government (Edinburgh: Mainstream Press, 2003). 

Richard English – Richard English is Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St. Andrew’s, Scotland (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~cstpv/).  He is the author of several scholarly works, including Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) and Irish Freedom: A History of Nationalism in Ireland (London: Macmillan, 2008). Interviewed October 2011.

 Theobald Wolfe Tone (b. 1763-d. 1798) – Theobald Wolfe Tone is considered the “Father” of Irish Republicanism.  In separate annual events, Irish Republicans across an array of organizations meet at his tomb at Bodenstown, County Kildare, and commemorate the birth of Wolfe Tone (June 20, 1763).  Tone was born into a middle class Protestant family in Dublin and “was called to the bar” in the summer of 1789.  In 1791, he joined the “Society of United Irishmen,” an organization inspired by 18th Century republican political philosophy (“the Rights of Men”) that tried to unite “Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter” and establish an Irish Republic.  Tone was captured on Lough Swilly aboard the French ship the Hoche.  Wearing the uniform of a chef de brigade (colonel), he was tried in Dublin and found guilty of treason.  He asked to be shot as a soldier, but was instead sentenced to be hanged as a traitor.  Theobald Wolfe Tone died in custody several days after an attempted suicide.  Several sources provide information on the life of Wolfe Tone, including: Marianne Elliott, Wolfe Tone: Prophet of Irish Independence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989); and, Thomas Bartlett (editor), Life of Theobald Wolfe Tone: Memoirs, journals and political writings, compiled and arranged by William T.W. Tone, 1826 (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1998).

 Patrick/Pádraig Pearse (1879-1916)  – Pádraig Pearse was an Irish-speaking poet, educator, and key organizer of the 1916 “Easter” Rising; Pearse was President of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Republic.  He was executed in 1916.  For additional information see: Ruth Dudley Edwards, Patrick Pearse: The Triumph of Failure (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006); and, Joost Augusteijn, Patrick Pearse: The Making of a Revolutionary (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

Eamon de Valera (b. 1882-d. 1975) – Eamon de Valera was the senior 1916 Irish rebel leader who was not executed.  He was born in New York City but raised in County Limerick, Ireland.  He was a mathematics teacher.  After 1916 de Valera became President of Sinn Féin and President of the rebel parliament, Dáil Éireann.  De Valera was the senior political leader of those opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921).  When Dáil Éireann ratified the Treaty (by a vote of 64-57), de Valera resigned as President of the Irish Republic.  He actively opposed the Treaty during the Irish Civil War (1922-23), and after the Civil War he refused to recognize the authority of the Dublin (for the Irish Free State) and Belfast (for Northern Ireland) parliaments.  At the 1926 Sinn Féin Árd Fheis (Annual Convention), however, de Valera changed his view and supported Sinn Féin’s participation in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann.  The delegates rejected the proposed change.  De Valera resigned as President of Sinn Féin and with several supporters formed the political party Fianna Fáil (Soldiers of Destiny).  http://www.fiannafail.ie/  In 1927, de Valera led Fianna Fáil into Leinster House/Dáil Éireann; de Valera and Fianna Fáil dominated Irish politics for the rest of the century.  De Valera was Taoiseach (Chief) of the Irish Government from 1932-1948, 1951-54, and 1957-59.  He was twice elected President of the Republic of Ireland, serving from 1959-73.  For additional information see: The Earl of Longford and Thomas P. O’Neill, Eamon de Valera: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970); and, Diarmuid Ferriter, Judging Dev (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2007).

Michael Collins (b. 1890-d. 1922) – Michael Collins was a 1916 veteran who helped reorganize the IRA and Sinn Féin after the Easter Rising.  He was one of five plenipotentiaries who signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921), which he supported.  Actively involved on the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War, Collins was killed in an ambush by the anti-Treaty IRA.  For additional information see: Peter Hart, Mick: The Real Michael Collins (New York: Penguin, 2005).

Thomas Ashe (b. 1885-d.1917) – In 1916, Thomas Ashe led a successful IRA attack on the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) at Ashbourne, County Meath.  After the 1916 Rising, Ashe helped re-organize the IRA and Sinn Féin.  Arrested for sedition in 1917, he went on hunger strike and subsequently died from pneumonia caused by forced-feeding.  His funeral in Dublin attracted thousands of supporters.  Ashe was a friend of Michael Collins, and it was Collins who offered the oration at Ashe’s funeral.  For additional information see: F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine (London: Fontana, 1973, pp. 366, 387, 388).

Arthur Griffith (b. 1872-d. 1922) – Arthur Griffith is considered the founder of Sinn Féin (1905).  Active in Irish Nationalist politics, Griffith was one of five plenipotentiaries who signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921).  In 1922, he succeeded Eamon de Valera as President of the Irish Republic (which was terminated by the Anglo-Irish Treaty).  Griffith was pro-Treaty during the Irish Civil War.  He died of a heart attack in August 1922.  For additional information see: F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine (London: Fontana, 1973).

Tom Maguire (b. 1892-d. 1993) – Tom Maguire, from County Mayo, was an IRA Commandant General and the IRA Commander in the “Battle of Tourmakeady” (1921).  Elected as a Sinn Féin representative to the Second Dáil Éireann (1921), Maguire opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) and never recognized the legitimacy of the “partitionist” parliaments in Dublin (for the Irish Free State) or Belfast (for Northern Ireland), created by the Government of Ireland Act (1920).  Tom Maguire was arrested by Irish Free State forces and might have been executed but for his status as an elected representative.  In 1923, his brother Seán Maguire, aged 17 and an IRA volunteer, was executed by the Irish Free State.  In 1969/70 Tom Maguire supported the Provisional IRA and “Provisional” Sinn Féin.  In 1986, he supported Republican Sinn Féin and the “Continuity” IRA.  At the time of his death, Tom Maguire was the sole surviving member of the Second Dáil Éireann.  For additional information see: Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Dílseacht: The Story of Comdt. General Tom Maguire and the Second (All-Ireland) Dáil (Dublin: Elo Press); and, Martin Mansergh, “Review of Dílseacht: The Story of Comdt. General Tom Maguire and the Second (All-Ireland) Dáil,” in The Legacy of History (Dublin: Mercier Press, 2003, pp. 304-309).

Michael Flannery (b. 1902-d. 1994) – Michael Flannery was a member of the IRA in County Tipperary.  In the Irish Civil War, Flannery took the anti-Treaty side.  In 1922, he was captured by Free State forces and was held in Mountjoy Prison until 1924.  In 1927, he immigrated to the United States, where he remained committed to Irish Republicanism.  Flannery supported the Provisionals in 1969/70 and helped found the Irish-American support group Irish Northern Aid.  In 1986, Flannery opposed Sinn Féin taking seats in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann, left Irish Northern Aid, and helped found Cumann na Saoirse Naisíunta/National Ireland Freedom Committee.  http://www.irishfreedom.net/  For additional information see: Dermot O’Reilly, Accepting the Challenge: The Memoirs of Michael Flannery (Dublin: Cló Saoirse/Irish Freedom Press, 2001).

Matt Brady (b. 1890-d. 1942) – Matt Brady was born in North County Longford.  He was the father of Rory Brady/Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.  He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1917 and later served as a lieutenant in the Columbcille Company, Longford Brigade, Irish Republican Army.   In 1919, Matt Brady was severely wounded in an attempt to secure weapons from Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) officers.  He never fully recovered from his wounds.  He actively opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921).  In 1934, Matt Brady was elected to the Longford County Council (1934-42), where he served as an Independent Irish Republican.  For additional information on the life of Matt Brady, see: Robert W. White, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006).

May (Caffrey) Brady (b. 1899-d. 1974) – May Caffrey was born in Belfast and raised in Armagh and Donegal Town.  She was the mother of Rory Brady/Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.   May Caffrey joined Cumann na mBan in Donegal (1917) and remained active in the organization while a student at University College, Dublin, from which she received a BA in Commerce (1921).  She opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921).  Professionally, May (Caffrey) Brady she served for decades as the Secretary of the County Longford Board of Health.  For additional information see: Robert W. White, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006).

Seán Mac Stíofáin (b. 1928-d. 2001) – Born in England as John Stephenson, he joined the Royal Air Force in the 1940s.  After completing his RAF service he joined the IRA in England, in 1949.  Arrested following an arms raid at Felstead (1953), he learned Irish in prison and adopted the Irish form of his name.  Seán Mac Stiofáin immigrated to Ireland upon his release from prison in 1959.  He was a member of the IRA’s Army Council during the 1960s, and in 1969 he opposed recognizing Leinster House/Dáil Éireann. 

Mac Stíofáin was the first Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA, and he chose the members for an IRA-delegation that met with William Whitelaw (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) in July 1972.  Mac Stíofáin was arrested in November 1972 and immediately embarked on a controversial hunger strike (the first ten days he also refused liquids) that lasted 59 days.  For additional information see: Seán Mac Stíofáin, Revolutionary in Ireland (London: Gordon and Cremonesi, 1975). 

Gerry Adams (b. 1948) – Gerry Adams was raised in an Irish Republican family in Belfast.  He joined Sinn Féin in the mid-1960s.  Adams denies membership in the IRA, but it is widely reported that he has served in several leadership positions in the organization, including serving on the Army Council and as Chief of Staff (1977-1978).  In 1972, Adams was an internee in Long Kesh when he was released so he could be included in the IRA delegation, led by Seán Mac Stíofáin, that met with William Whitelaw.  Adams succeeded Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as President of Sinn Féin (1983; http://www.sinnfein.ie/), and he led Sinn Féin’s development into a political party, including the party’s decision to participate in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann (1986).  Adams and Martin McGuinness were the driving forces behind the participation of Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA in the Northern Ireland peace process, which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement (1998; http://foreignaffairs.gov.ie/home/index.aspx?id=335).  Adams was an abstentionist MP at Westminster for Northern Ireland’s West Belfast constituency (1983-1992; 1997-2011).  In 2011, Adams resigned his seat at Westminster and was subsequently elected to Leinster House/Dail Éireann for the Louth constituency in the Republic of Ireland.   He continues as President of Sinn Féin.  For additional information see: Gerry Adams, Before the Dawn: An Autobiography (London: Heineman/Brandon Books, 1996); David Sharrock and Mark Devenport, Man of War, Man of Peace: The Unauthorised Autobiography of Gerry Adams (London: Pan Macmillan, 1998); and, Ed Moloney, A Secret History of the IRA (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).

Bobby Sands (b. 1954-d. 1981) – Bobby Sands joined the IRA in West Belfast in the early 1970s.  He was arrested and convicted of possessing weapons, and served time (1973-76) in Long Kesh where the authorities acknowledged his (and others’) status as a “special-category” (political) prisoner.  In March 1976 the British authorities began enforcing their criminalisation policy, after which paramilitary prisoners were treated as criminals.  Sands was released in April 1976 but re-arrested in October 1976 after an IRA attack on a furniture factory.  When he was again convicted of possessing a weapon he refused to accept criminal status.  Sands joined other prisoners on the “blanket protest”, in which they refused to wear a prison uniform; they were naked, wrapping themselves in only a blanket.  As the struggle for political status escalated, Sands became commanding officer (O/C) of the IRA prisoners in the “H-Blocks” of Long Kesh (called the “Maze” by the authorities).  In 1981, Sands led a hunger strike for political status in which 10 Irish Republican prisoners fasted to death.  During Sands’ hunger strike he was elected as MP in the Fermanagh/South Tyrone constituency.  He succumbed on May 5, 1981, after 66 days without food.  Sands’ hunger strike, election to Westminster, and death, generated enormous interest in the Irish Republican cause and set the stage for Sinn Féin’s political transformation.  For additional information on Bobby Sands and the 1981 Hunger Strike, see: David Beresford, Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike (London: Grafton Books, 1987).

Peig King – Peig King was born in County Tyrone, and her parents were active in the Irish Republican Movement.  In 1943, she joined Cumann na gCailíní (Irish Republican scouts for young women) and in 1947 she joined Cumann mBan, in Dublin.  Peig King became the O/C (Commanding Officer) of Dublin Cumann na mBan and served as a member of the Cumann na mBan Executive.  In 1986, she joined Republican Sinn Féin.  She has served the organization as Treasurer and as Joint General Secretary.  Peig King is currently a member of the RSF Árd Chomhairle.  She was also founder member of Cabhair (Republican Prisoners Dependents Fund).  Interviewed October 2009.

Seán Lynch (b. 1933)– Seán Lynch is the son of Seán F. Lynch, who helped save Matt Brady’s life in 1919.  Seán F. Lynch, as an Independent Irish Republican, was a member of the Longford County Council (1934-1969) and a colleague of Matt Brady (1934-42).  Seán Lynch joined Sinn Féin in 1955.  In 1970, he opposed participating in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann and supported “Provisional” Sinn Féin.  In 1986, Seán Lynch again opposed participation in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann and supported Republican Sinn Féin.  Lynch represented Sinn Féin (1974-1985) and Republican Sinn Féin (1991-2004) on the Longford County Council.  Interviewed March 2010.

Geraldine Taylor – Geraldine Taylor, from Belfast, joined the Republican Movement 1969.  She was active in Belfast Sinn Féin.  In 1986, she opposed taking seats in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann and was one of relatively few Belfast Republicans who helped form Republican Sinn Féin.  Taylor is currently Vice-President of Republican Sinn Féin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN_nXkk1ufc).  Interviewed June 2009.

Josephine Hayden – Josephine Hayden, from Waterford, joined Cumann na mBan in the early 1970s; she subsequently joined Sinn Féin.  In 1986, she opposed participation in Leinster House/Dáil Éireann.  In 1995, she was a member of the Republican Sinn Féin Árd Chomhairle when she and five others were arrested in Dublin and charged with possession of weapons.  Hayden served five years in Limerick Prison.  She is currently General Secretary of Republican Sinn Féin. Interviewed June 2009.

Des Dalton (b. 1971) – Des Dalton is from Athy, County Kildare, and a Fianna Fáil political background.  His brother is a Fianna Fáil representative on the Athy Town Council.  Dalton first joined Ógra (Young) Fianna Fáil.  In 1989, at the age of 18, he joined Republican Sinn Féin.  In 2009, Dalton succeeded Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as President of RSF.  Interviewed June 2009.

Tomás Ó Curraoín –  In 2009, Tomás Ó Curraoín was elected to the Galway County Council (in Irish: Chomhairle Chontae na Gaillimhe), representing the Connamara electoral area.  He is a fluent Irish speaker.  Because Republican Sinn Féin is not registered as a political party, Ó Curraoín’s political affiliation is identified as “Non party.”