Connolly in head, gun in hand – Why the Irish Republican struggle is an Antifascist one

Almost every Irish Republican group has had its own tale of Antifascist struggle. Although Irish Republicanism predates Fascism by many years, as principled socialists, they took up the Antifascist struggle when it became apparent that Fascism was a threat to working class people across the world. From the Spanish Civil War in 1936 to today, Irish Republicans have always been at the forefront of the Antifascist struggle both in Ireland and here in Britain.

During the Spanish Civil War, support for the Second Spanish Republic was growing in left wing Republican groups, partially because there was the ‘Irish Brigade‘, a 700 strong group of Irish volunteers fighting on the fascist side of the war, apparently to “protect the Roman Catholic Church from the Red Terror” , but their main motivation was to support genuine working class resistance to a Fascist coup. Among the volunteers who went to fight against the Francoists was Peadar O’Donnell, avid socialist and republican, and Frank Ryan, ex member of the anti-treaty Irish Republican Army and Marxist Leninist, who was captured by Francoists and delivered to the Nazis in Germany who offered him a way back to Ireland if he worked with them. Ryan refused, and eventually died in Germany, never seeing Ireland again. Let us remember their names.

When The Troubles began, it became very clear that the Irish Republican struggle had morphed into an Antifascist struggle by its very nature, because of who it was fighting against.

The links between the reactionary forces of the Ulster Loyalists and British Fascists are long, storied and well documented. We cannot, and will not ignore this. One of the largest groupings of gangsters is the “Ulster Volunteer Force”, founded in 1966. They are most famous for their indiscriminate sectarian attacks against Irish Catholics, and for killing more Protestants with their own infighting than they claimed the Provisional IRA killed in reprisal attacks. The other large Loyalist paramilitary is the Ulster Defence Association, also famous for most of it’s victims being civilians. We won’t go into too much detail on The Troubles or the whole situation in Ireland at the time, as the focus of this article is Antifascism.

Now, who do you think was supporting the false claim of these Loyalists that Ulster is part of Britain? None other than our very own Fascists. From the National Front to the British National Party right down to the reprobates living in the shadow of the English Defence League such as Britain First and the “Infidels” groups, there is a tradition of supporting Loyalist groups. Some of the scum that make up the British Fascist scene even went as far as running guns into Northern Ireland to help kill innocent people, and principled Republicans fighting to free Ireland.
By cosying up to these Fascists, these Loyalists shore up British rule. They accept the claim of a foreign Imperialist power over their lives, whos only ties to then are in Ireland’s domination and suppression of Irish national identity. By accepting the support and using the tactics of these Fascists, they have shown their true faces. Not that of Protestants innocently defending their communities from non-existent IRA sectarian attacks, but that of a band of thugs, born from the gutters and slag piles of Imperialist subjugation.

To round this up, there will be one specific example of how the British Fascists and the Ulster Loyalists are in bed together.

Billy Wright (“King Rat”), ex-UVF and, at the time of his death, leader of the LVF (Loyalist Volunteer Force) was sent to prison in Long Kesh, where he continued his sectarian reign of terror from within his cell. Before he was interned, he played host to members of Combat18 and various far right Christian organisations based in the US. He was eventually killed while interned by Volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party. After his death, members of Combat18 would get tattoos of his face on their body. His name is still lorded as one of a hero and a martyr, when in reality he was a grass.

By this very same entwining and crossover of the interests of Fascists and Loyalists, so have the goals and destinies of Antifascists and Republicans become paired. As both sets of people fight their reactionary enemy, we have to support one another, and protect each other, for our interests are one and the same; National Liberation and Socialism, and the destruction of both Fascism and Loyalism.

Saoirse go Deo!


– a Manchester Antifascist 

*This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily represent every member of our group*