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James Connolly and modern politics

Political affiliations

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott
The Irish Times - Letters to the Editor.

Sir, – Michael McDowell (“Sinn Féin collapse does not mean voters want the current Government to get another run”, Opinion & Analysis, June 12th) writes: “As a party Sinn Féin has aspired to be a political chameleon. In reality it is driven by the hard left socialist ideology of James Connolly”. He implies that quite apart from being “hard left” or “socialist”, there is something particularly suspicious about a claim of political descent from James Connolly.

It is not at all unusual for contemporary political actors in Ireland, by no means all “hard left socialist ideologues”, to identify with Connolly. Most obviously, Labour Party members are never shy to point out it was co-founded by Connolly. Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern channelled Connolly’s memory at the official 1916 Rising commemoration in March this year. Ireland’s largest trade union, Siptu, trumpets Connolly’s leadership of its predecessor, the ITGWU. A cursory search of Oireachtas debates over recent years reveals positive references to Connolly from across the political spectrum: Labour Senator Annie Hoey, Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín, PBP TDs Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith, Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan and Senator Eugene Murphy, Independent Senators Sharon Keogan and Victor Boyhan, among many others.

In Dublin, there is a train station and a hospital named after Connolly, and a large public memorial to him between the Customs House and Liberty Hall. There are GAA clubs in Edinburgh and Charlotte, North Carolina, named after him. Back in 2016, even Brown Thomas department store got in on the act with shop windows featuring Connolly and other Rising leaders. All of which suggests that the Irish public is unlikely to find an association between Sinn Féin’s “ideology” and James Connolly quite as frightening as Senator McDowell hopes. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 9.