Additional Material for Lawless’ History of the Irish Workers’ Group (1968) By Liam Daltun.

Additional Material for Lawless’ History of the Irish Workers’ Group (1968).

Author: Liam Daltun (1936-72)

1. Mending Mr Truth’s Shoes.

When Gery Lawless tells the truth it is usually an accident. There are a few accidents in the jumble he has cobbled together in answer to Sean Matgamna’s “Trotskyism or Chameleonism”.
To say that Lawless’ whole statement is dishonest is to put things mildly. It amounts to nothing more than an attempt retrospectively, and by means of more lies than one could be bothered to count up, to give a political coloration to a wholly apolitical record – a record of scandalously unprincipled combinations, actions, and manoeuvres. These latter in my opinion and in that of dozens of others who’ve experienced them for some time resulted from Lawless’ need to assert himself over all comers in the Group and to have his own wee “empire” in working-class politics.
The great gulf separating the nominal politics (i.e. Trotskyism) of this “empire” from the actual politics and practices (totally undemocratic and corrupt) thereof gave rise to a state of permanent crisis and recurrent upheaval, which continue to date. Located in Lawless’ kitchen the “Centre” could never be anything other than a centre of intrigue, lies, and disruption.
Standing on no politics in particular, balancing between different points of view in the Group, opposing with abuse, hooliganism and personal hate campaigns (and Lawless’ spite has got to be witnessed to be believed) any attempt to break out of the vicious circle – including the latest – Lawless was never concerned except with beating down all opposition or even presumed opposition to himself, and with maintaining the status quo. In faction fights his only concern was and is to win at all costs, to save his ego. He takes everything personally and has no regard for the ideas and issues. Thus in the faction fight against the Maoists, in which Lawless prided himself on his tactics, MM was “shopped” to the police. No enquiry was held into the affair. The Trade Union Defence Committee was disrupted by Lawless – an enquiry was held into this and brought in a verdict based on lies (Eamonn McCann, Alex MacCafferty, Jim Lavery and others can corroborate this), clearing Lawless. The Trotskyist faction is demanding a public enquiry into the MM affair. Lawless likes to claim that the Group has been “moving towards Trotskyism” thanks to his endeavours. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that he has been sitting on its tail all the time and any progress that’s been made in any direction has been made in spite of him. Lawless gives an impression of “it’s all happening” when in fact very little at all is being accomplished. His omnibus, with destination “Trotskyism” in red letters on its front, and with its assorted passengers aboard, is in gear and the accelerator is on the floor, but the rear wheels are mostly just churning up dirt. Lawless, who collects the fares and drives it erratically along the highways and byways with no map to go by, is quite happy as long as he conducts and drives; as long as he has the power to decide who gets on or gets kicked off, whether we get shot of some socialists today or take some Fascists aboard tomorrow.

2 “Walkerism”, etc.

“Put them in Walkrite and they’ll walk happily ever after…” goes the footwear advertisement. It seems to me that since Lawless heard of Walker and Walkerism he’s never been done “Walkeriting”. There’s been a joke about this for some time. Lawless’ hurling of charges of “Walkerism” has long been known as predictable reaction when relations with some other “empire” seem to threaten his position within his own “sphere” by upsetting the “balance” on which he carries on his high wire act. The result of the affair with the English Militant group was, inevitably and eventually, that politics reared its ugly head. The result? I quote Lawless: “Walkerism again reared its ugly head”. Lawless’ abuse – for that is all it is – of the term “Walkerism” is similar to the abuse by that other great helmsman B Clifford of the term Internationalism. Clifford says that an attempt to build a movement not dependent on the bureaucracies (or at least on some one or other of them) is a “rejection of internationalism”. Lawless has always used the “Walkerism” bit to appeal to the Little Irelanders whenever the obtrusion of politics has threatened his position in the Group with any degree of polarisation or increased clarity. He guards himself against serious discussion with groups in the British labour movement by means of a hasty retreat at the critical moment and the bandying of this term “Walkerism” – “walking out”, you might say. Any introduction of politics, any possibility of increased clarity or of the development of the level of consciousness in the Group, Lawless has always fought against, seeing it quite simply as a danger to his own room for manoeuvre within and without. He never had any choice except to keep on “shuling”.
Referring to the period when he was almost lost irretrievably to even nominal Trotskyism (the ICG period) Lawless says that by ignoring politics B Clifford “managed to get the support of some Trotskyists for my removal as editor”. (It seems Lawless is always falling foul of the species). It is true that I was prepared to have Lawless removed from his position then – as I am now and as Eamonn McCann was some months ago (and still is, I think, though I’m not so sure)… The only reason I didn’t proceed with the business against Clifford’s hatchet man at that time was that I crossed swords almost simultaneously with Clifford himself, to the embarrassment of the hatchet man/ editor. It had to be postponed. It is interesting to recall that Philip Flynn, who came back into activity at this time and helped in the fight against Clifford, was saying before that fight was over: “Listen, lads! After f…ing Clifford, f…ing Lawless!” As things turned out it was Flynn who followed Clifford – “couldn’t stand the tension”. Lawless makes great play of the political reply to Clifford which Ted Grant provided us with at that time. The Militant people (Taaffe and Grant in particular) were highly critical of the fact that the discussion on the basis of this reply was not carried through, that we did not fight the issue out politically, win people to our faction on the basis of agreement with our politics, etc. (I remember when I mentioned Trotsky’s article on the 1916 Rising in Nashe Slovo to Lawless during the preparation of the reply to Clifford, he told me on no account to mention it as Clifford would use it against us! He added that Trotsky was “up shit creek”, etc.Philip Flynn was the only one I think apart from myself who had reservations about the vote that finalised the split with Clifford. It was Lawless who jumped up at a propitious moment and triggered the denouement that took place. I think many of us felt a bit rotten about it, much as we disliked the politics and methods of the Stalinists. We did a certain violence to ourselves and our alleged politics. It was dishonest to terminate the discussion at that point and in that manner. Lawless may remember screaming at me afterwards that “I knew fuck-all about tactics” and that “by continuing the discussion I was playing into Clifford’s hands”. Anyway, when the vote took place I felt I had to vote with the faction. It was a case of the lesser of two evils. Facing this kind of situation regularly is one of the prices of associating with Lawless…

3 “Wheatsheaves” meeting.

On page 4 of “Comrade Matgamna and the IWG”, Lawless says: “My first inkling that Sean Matgamna was less than 100% honest came in April ’67. I returned to London after spending a week in Ireland. Four members of the Group approached me with the information that a ‘Lawless must go’ meeting had been held in the Three Wheatsheaves, Islington, presided over by… Sean Matgamna.
“That evening, with the help of one of the comrades who had been at the meeting, I drafted a very sharp letter to Comrade Matgamna challenging him on this point. He was obviously shocked by the fact that the letter was in the handwriting of one of the comrades who was at the meeting. He rejected the whole idea, and said that what had taken place was a general discussion. Because of my past friendly relations with Comrade Matgamna, I let the matter drop”.
I must say, I find this very “rich”, Lawless of all people expressing amazement at discovering that someone was “less than 100% honest”. The “I returned to London” bit, though true, is quite obviously meant to convey the impression that the Wheatsheaves meeting was held only because he was absent from London – it was in the nature of a stab in the back, as it were, to an honest man by elements who feared an above-board confrontation! There were six or seven people present at the Wheatsheaves meeting. The four members who, Lawless alleges, told him of it, were in opposition to him within a few months.
What happened that weekend was quite straightforward and normal. There was nothing underhand about it. SM and RM were in London for the annual Aldermaston affair. I met SM and we talked as we walked in the march. He raised various questions, including the USFI, and expressed optimism for the future growth and development of the IWG, established on the basis of a clear Trotskyist programme. He was, I know, trying to get me to take more interest in the Group. He obviously knew I’d been at odds with the Group and/or Lawless and was for this reason not very active.
It was somewhat difficult to discuss what with the crowd and the noise, so I suggested that we meet in the Wheatsheaves that night for a “general discussion”. I promised to notify all the Group members on the march. I did this. Eamonn McCann was notified but couldn’t make it. I invited three young Dublin republicans who joined the IWG section of the march, thinking they would learn something from our “general discussion” and that we might win them.
So, the meeting was held on my initiative. It was not “presided over” by Sean M or anyone else. As a matter of fact I think it would be true to say that I myself did most of the talking. I tried to describe the “regime” in the Group to SM who was, I thought, a bit surprised and taken aback by it all. I told him what had happened to the TUDC, about the end of the relationship with the Militant group, the fight against the Maoists, etc. I was of the opinion then, as now, that one of the first requirements for the stability of the Group was that Lawless’ “politics” and methods be got shot of and this meant “disciplining” Lawless.
Sean Matgamna did not see eye to eye with me at the time, although I think his eyes were opened a bit to Lawless. As it happened, it took him several more months to tumble GL’s carry-on. Had he been in London for a while he’d have tumbled him faster, no doubt. Anyhow when Eamonn McCann a few months after the Wheatsheaves meeting wrote to SM informing him of the set-up and the resultant “Lawless must go” demand, SM was still not prepared to act in support. “He had to go through the experience”, as he himself says.
My own impression was, and is, that Matgamna thought then that my attack on Lawless and his practices was an expression of a purely personal feud; the only thing that seemed to really shake him out of his scepticism that night was the account of the TUDC episode, which saw Lawless hound a working-class organisation out of the Committee while he and Donovan went on their hands and knees to a fascist group to try (unsuccessfully) to win its participation.
I also asked SM that night if he could come to London for a few months to witness at first hand what I’d been trying to describe to him. I told him that it needed a few people to offer stern opposition to Lawless’ methods, to rally the Group against these methods and their author, and then we could have a reasonably healthy organisation. I offered to get SM accommodation in London, etc.
Nothing came of this. It took SM some time yet to discover what a few others already knew, and yet others were only beginning to recognise. It was the fact that a number of comrades came more or less simultaneously to the same conclusion in recent times and that the Matgamnas were around to analyse politically the problems that caused the present fight against Lawless’ “politics” to take the shape it has taken…
4 The end of the affair

4 The end of the affair.

Lawless says: “… in June/July 1966 I came to the conclusion that the close relationship with the Militant was not in the best interests of the Group”. This, most indicatively, is followed immediately by the statement: “I had come to the conclusion (my emphasis in each case, LD) that the political line of the Militant resulted in their members being buried in the Labour Party…”
Lawless seeking about for a formula to hide something comes through here very clearly. These “conclusions” make interesting, though unsurprising, reading for anyone who knows Lawless’ ways reasonably well and at the same time knows anything of the facts relating to the “affair” with the British Militant group. Reading this bit I became acutely aware of the old tired mechanism whereby Lawless suddenly discovers political reasons for past actions and behaviour, comes belatedly to conclusions which are nothing more than rationalisations of old deeds of which he may actually even feel ashamed. Whatever he does feel about such deeds he quite obviously does not feel the need to write about them in the IB. And all too understandably, too.
The Group has ever been a client group, beset by crises, staggering from one combination to another, the only constant in life being the rotten combinations and anti-democratic maniacal behaviour of its “Trotskyist” führer. The Lawless regime completely precluded democratic discussion and decision-making as well as politics. (The present discussion is only taking place because Liam Boyle, the National Secretary – now a member of the Trotskyist Faction – warned all members in a circular that Lawless was preparing an unprincipled split with Matgamna. Lawless will never forgive Liam Boyle for that). For politics the Lawless regime substituted hooliganism, verbal violence, and regular threats of physical violence (many can attest to Lawless threatening to stick a knife into a comrade and twisting it around, all this accompanied by the appropriate gestures, grimaces, etc.), disloyalty, scandal-mongering, behind-the-scenes deals, etc. Relations with other groups gave rise to discussion of politics, perspectives, etc., thus menacing the regime and giving rise to new bouts of paranoid suspicion and hate, more “Walkerism”, and yet another shaky combination…
True to this well-worn pattern, the Group turned to the Militant for political help as well as duplicating facilities in the fight against Clifford. These were readily granted as well as the use of their premises, on the basis of political sympathy and a desire to see a Trotskyist cadre develop in Ireland. After the split with the Maoists we continued for 6 to 8 months to run off the weekly Irish Workers’ News and the Solas on their premises free of all charge. Their sympathy was being exploited to the full.
The affair came to a rather sudden end as soon as a political discussion and discussion of perspectives for Ireland was mooted. As far as I personally was concerned I thought the Group needed and could benefit from a discussion then, as before in the fight with the Maoists. I wasn’t under any illusion that any one of us in the Group knew it all. I thought a discussion with the Militant would have been useful and educative.
I by no means saw it as a step towards affiliation to the Militant. If there wasn’t complete agreement with them we could carry on the discussion on the points of difference, whilst maintaining friendly relations and reaching agreement on payment for the use of their duplicator. This was also their attitude: they were not attempting to take over the wheel of Lawless’ taxi. There was no British chauvinism or so-called Walkerism involved. It was Lawless’ paranoid fear of political discussion that led to what followed.
The meeting was held in the Militant office. Present were Grant, Taaffe, Dickinson, and Deane. From the IWG were present McCann, Barbara McCluskey, Paddy Lynch, Lawless, and myself.
Up to this time the orientation, if such there was at all, was toward the Republican movement. Grant, Taaffe, and Deane had been critical of this. But instead of a useful discussion, the evening and everybody’s time was wasted. We had one continuous, abusive, and insolent filibuster from Lawless, aimed at preventing any discussion whatsoever of political points of view. No discussion whatsoever took place. Instead there was Lawless ranting irrelevances and turning viciously on myself any time I tried to speak…
Ted Grant talked of classes in Ireland and spoke of the turn of the Irish working class toward the Labour Party. Lawless cut in in an impatient moaning tone of voice (he’d developed a sudden head cold at the time) that he hadn’t got up out of his sick bed to come all the way down here to listen to someone who didn’t know the difference between Sinn Fein and something or other else tell him about Ireland. Ted Grant, not having the privilege of an Irish birth certificate (and a few uncles shot by the British in 1916) could never, it seems, be capable of understanding such a unique phenomenon as Sinn Fein (not to mention guerrilla warfare, of course!) Lawless, a veteran of the campaigns in Northern Ireland and North Africa, dread foe of Walkerism, wasn’t having any…
The tactical genius Lawless now says that the turn away from Republicanism and toward the Labour Party was not a haphazard occurrence: that pressure from his faction (whatever that was) was decisive in pushing the Group in this direction. Was this really the case, Lawless?…
In his reply he says that as well as the conclusion he’d come to about Militant entry into the Labour Party, he’d also come to the conclusion that the Militant group under Taaffe’s secretaryship had developed (so-called) Walkerite tendencies.
If our great tactician had come to such a conclusion then he missed a really first-class opportunity of carrying the fight against his pet hate, Walkerism (carried on before his arrival on the scene, he informs us, by Lenin and Connolly) into the midst of the perfidious chauvinists in their very own den. Did he do this?
As we walked away from the Militant office that night I felt tense with anger and disgust. I felt like either belting Lawless or just pulling out altogether. There was no reaction from any of the others, except maybe a slight bewilderment. A couple of yards from the street door of the Militant office Lawless… turned suddenly and said to me in that stupid threatening manner of his, complete with the well-known menacing grimace: “You’ll want to make up your mind which side you’re on!” I said, trying to keep calm: “I know which side I’m on”. Again, a few yards further on: “We can get a better deal any time we want to go down to Clapham Common than we can up here”. Eamonn McCann, surprisingly to me, said: “Yeh, that’s right, actually”.
Better deal is what the Great Crusader against so-called Walkerism said, folks. And yet, somewhere else in his Reply, Lawless gives an account of his alleged experience of Walkerism in the SLL…
So much for Lawless’ shameless nonsense about the Flag issue having been the cause of the rupture of relations between himself and the Militant. The Flag issue, in fact, arose later on…

5 The Trade Union Defence Committee

In late summer of 1966 it was decided at a weekly group meeting in the Lucas Arms to start up a campaign in the British labour movement against the anti-trade-union legislation which the Lemass government in Ireland was proposing to introduce. It was proposed that various organisations in the British labour movement be written to and invited to send delegates to a meeting at which the TUDC, to be composed of these delegates along with members of the IWG, would be set up. The committee would then plan the campaign activities.
The following are some of the organisations it was proposed to contact: SLL, the Militant, The Week, IS, Solidarity, Syndicalist Workers’ Federation, London Anarchists, Connolly Association, etc. I (LD) proposed that the Irish Communist Organisation (the Maoists with whom we’d split in the ICG) should be notified “even if they did have only three or four members”. Comrades Tom Skelly and Eamonn McCann supported this. Lawless opposed it. The ICO was not notified. This small fact is worth noting not only because it shows Lawless’ personal bitterness towards those he breaks with “politically”, but in view of what happened later.
I put forward the idea of inviting the ICO for a number of reasons. Even if they did have a crazy political position, there was no reason why they shouldn’t participate, or should be prevented from participating, with their very small forces, in the campaign that was projected. I felt that the failure to propose inviting them along smacked of the same small-minded and mean attitude that Greaves and his Connolly Association had always maintained towards non-Stalinist groups that challenged him from the left. Greaves, as he was wont to make known regularly in the Irish Democrat, only recognised the existence of organisations which come within the category of (I quote) “bona fide nationalist organisations”. As we shall see the “Trotskyist” führer of the IWG has a lot in common with not only the kind of petty meanness practised by Greaves, but also uses the same yardstick for measuring what is “bona fide” and what isn’t.
This first meeting, including delegates from other organisations, was chaired by Sean Lynch. There were about 50/ 60 people present, including individual workers who’d dropped in. Lawless got off to an early start in wrecking the whole affair, with a long, boring diatribe (dispensed at something approaching screaming pitch in places – and it was obvious to many, and they said so after the meeting, that the “anger” was exaggerated, feigned) against the British working class and labour movement for its failure again and again in the past to support Irish struggles, strikes, and demands. It was a totally nationalist outburst and presented the question of relations between the British labour movement and Ireland in a completely non-Marxist manner. It was apparent within moments of Lawless starting on this anti-Marxist, disruptive binge that he wanted to drive some people (the Militant, represented by Taaffe) out of the campaign by treating them to some (barely) disguised abuse.
Having opposed participation by the ICO, and refused to notify the SLL, Lawless now set out to drive the Militant out of the campaign. (It should be noted that Lawless had had relations with all three groups).
Lawless’ venomous rodomontade was an insult to anyone’s intelligence, never mind that of people with any knowledge of relations between the working class in Britain and Ireland over the generations. Taaffe was well aware that much of the abuse was directed at himself and the Militant group. However, he put the case on legislation and cited numerous instances from the history of the working class struggle in Britain and Ireland showing how British workers had reacted in support of Irish workers, in the 1913 strike in Dublin, etc. He pointed out how social democratic bureaucrats in the British movement had thwarted rank and file efforts to aid Irish struggles.
In Internal Bulletin 4 Lawless says that he “did not attempt to engineer a split between the Group and the Militant organisation. This came in the ‘flag dispute’.” He continues: “I now see” (that old hindsight again!) “that the Militant organisation used the question of the flag to avoid participating in the campaign against the anti-trade-union laws. Their political line precluded joining limited, unofficial campaigns such as this. The question of the flag was an excuse for inaction. Thus ended the relationship with the Militant organisation…”
Now, this sounds like the truth, especially when you know the Militant. But comrades will also remember a few facts. a) The meeting described above, i.e. the first meeting, already saw Lawless doing his best to drive them out. b) It was the only meeting of the TUDC at which they were present, i.e. they were pushed out before the flag dispute meeting. c) Before either meeting of the TUDC, the split with the Militant was consummated at a private meeting in the Militant office, described above. d) They did, contrary to what Lawless says in his “omnibus”, participate in the protest march to the Free State embassy.
Whilst they were, of course, wrong to just turn tail and fail to mobilise their full forces (either for the campaign or for the demonstration) on account of Lawless’ behaviour, this does not excuse Lawless. Neither does it make his version of the facts any more honest. If they were able to cover their own retreat by saying that they “would not risk having their YS supporters mis-educated by listening to Lawless’ anti-Marxist nonsense”, this was only because Lawless was throwing this poison around.
Nor were the Militant the only people to be driven away. Had this first meeting been conducted in a proper manner we could have won some of the individual workers who were present. But Lawless, the supreme tactician, set the whole thing on a supremely “bent” course…
A promising contact, Frank Conran, was one of the workers alienated, a good example of Lawless’ “party-building”. A seaman fitter, a Republican formerly and more recently a Marxist, he’d arrived in London shortly before this and attended some meetings of the Group. During the meeting his reaction was: “Lawless is f-ing disgusting… the man’s mad, he’s got to be”. Downstairs after the meeting there was terrible unrest and commotion, people arguing and shouting at each other.
A former Sinn Feiner, a member of NUPE, who’d recently joined the Group, had had his nationalism roused by Lawless and was supporting the ultra-nationalist Lawless line. He engaged in a shouting session with Conran, who was putting an internationalist anti-Sinn-Fein position. Just before they disappeared, neither to be seen again, Conran was shouting angrily: “I tell you, Lawless is an absolute f-ing lunatic”.
I will not attempt to describe further the degree of tension and disruption engendered at this meeting by Lawless. Suffice it to say that the stage was set for what followed at the next meeting of delegates, where plans for the demo to the Free State embassy were made…

6 The Irish National Union

I must at this point diverge to tell members something of the above-named organisation, two of whose members were present at the meeting which Donovan chaired and where the ‘flag’ incident took place. As you’ll see later, it’s very relevant to the whole issue.
Shortly after I came to London in late 1957 I went to have a look around Speaker’s Corner, of which I’d often heard. As I entered Hyde park I saw an Irish tricolour on a platform way over on the grass. I headed down to see what this platform represented. An old white-haired man was waffling on and on about St Patrick, Ireland’s ancient history and culture, saints and scholars, etc. etc.
He was followed onto the platform by an individual I afterwards learned was called “Mr Callaghan”. This latter was putting some kind of Republican line. I’d been in the Republican movement, had taken part in the split that led to the so-called “campaign of resistance”, and even played a tiny part in this so-called “campaign”. I was genuinely curious as to where these people in Hyde Park fitted in.
I put a question to “Mr Callaghan”. “Mr Speaker”, I said, “I got the impression from listening to you that you are Republicans. Why then aren’t you in Sinn Fein?” I just wanted to know if they had political or other differences. “Mr” Callaghan, a bit taken aback at my question – he liked to give the impression that he had something to do with Republicanism, the IRA, etc., – said that Sinn Fein was not prepared to come to Hyde Park and put the case for Irish freedom. Callaghan and Co. thought it was necessary for someone to do it, and so… the INU.
Callaghan then proceeded with his old reactionary demagogy. He was (and is) a Catholic version of Paisley. (When recently the latter appeared, Callaghan promptly reappeared in Hyde Park). I tried to put a further question, only to be told more or less that “Mr” Callaghan “knew his commies”; that he too had read “the Bible” according to Karl Marx, and that I was maybe at the wrong meeting! I should go over to the Connolly Association meeting! He pointed the way for me.
I thought all this pretty fantastic. I hadn’t even read the Communist Manifesto and could not be called a socialist. I tried to put one more question. “Mr” Callaghan told me he’d “kick the arse off me across Hyde Park” if I tried to say another word at his meeting – coming “threateningly” down a few steps of his platform, where he was “restrained” by some of his militants, and putting on a fine artificial anger. With that, two thugs came over and set up, arms akimbo, one on each side of me, as if to say: “another word and you’re in hospital”.
Callaghan “calmed down” and continued. This time he got on to the “ancient Irish language and culture”, etc., at which I shot out: “Mor an tsuim ata agatsa i gcultur no i nGaeilge!” (“A lot of interest you’ve got in culture or the Irish language!”)
I almost copped it at that point. The two zombies made a move. Callaghan stopped momentarily in his verbal attacks and swung round towards me. It was only the fact that the interjection was in Irish that saved me from a largely hostile crowd, as well as from “Mr” Callaghan’s militants. They were a bit put out by the sound of the “ancient language” in their midst.
This wasn’t a bad introduction at all to “Mr” Callaghan and his merry men. I afterwards heard him trying to provoke pogroms against the Connolly Association meetings in the Park. On one occasion he succeeded. The crowd headed for the CA meeting when he closed his own meeting, and broke it up. (Was this the occasion when Greaves had to seek refuge behind an iron railing while his platform was smashed on the railings?)
Many people, including Joe Quinn and myself, used to wonder what the kind of people who collected around “Mr” Callaghan’s platform Sunday after Sunday actually represented. But one had only to observe these meetings for a moment to see that here was something a bit different. The main sort of slogan of Callaghan’s platform was: “When Ireland was a nation, England was a pup”. It was often taken up by people in the crowd and chanted back. To cheers from his audience, Callaghan would declare that all the greatest generals and military men of the day were Irishmen. He’d then cite Montgomery, Alanbrooke, Templar, Alexander, etc. etc. as proof of this.
Callaghan’s demagogy attracted a following to him. He continued to surround himself with the IRA mystique and aura. He collected money for prisoners, which I believe was drunk in pubs around Paddington. At one stage later on he was given a hiding in a back street in Paddington which put him in hospital for a while. I heard this was a Sinn Fein job. He was suspected of many things by people who’d known him since before the war. The police seemed to have a soft spot for him, as people observed on those demos to the Embassy.
Later “Mr” Callaghan’s (all members of his movement referred to each other and addressed each other as “Mr”) militants turned up in Trafalgar Square helping (without much success) to defend one of Mosley’s meetings. These “militants” included an ex-Free-State army sergeant (member of the INU) who openly admitted he was a “Mosley man”. When Mosley’s lot were chased all the way to Victoria, Callaghan’s men were again there, faithful to the last.
One of these – he was also one of the two who’d stood one on each side of me at Callaghan’s meeting the first time I was ever at Speaker’s Corner – afterwards confronted me in Hyde Park in the company of a few of his buddies. “You, too”, he said menacingly, pointing his finger, “you were attacking Mosley in Trafalgar Square”. I replied: “I’m bloody sure I was, mate, and let me tell you this. You attack any of our meetings and we won’t mess about – we’ll blow a couple of your fucking heads off”.
Some members and ex-members of the Irish Workers Group will remember Callaghan’s mob jeering demos organised by the Connolly Association or ourselves as they left Hyde Park. Others will remember the picket of 28 people (I wasn’t on this) that demonstrated outside Claridge’s Hotel against the Six Counties Tory prime minister O’Neill. Two of Callaghan’s men turned up. One was armed with a camera. He took photographs of the picket. They both refused to join the picket – a picket against a Tory prime minister.
One of these two gentry afterwards allowed Colin Jordan’s men {an overtly Nazi strain of British fascism] to speak from their platform in Hyde Park. They were running a wee side show called “Light and Darkness” for a while at the time in the Park. They struck a badge, too. It was a CND type circular affair, half white, half black, the border/ diameter running at an angle of about 35 degrees to the horizontal. The white was uppermost, and “Light Over Darkness” inscribed over the whole. They used to talk from the platform about Freemasonry, Communism, and other “dark” forces.
I think that’s enough to show what the orientation of “Mr” Callaghan and his friends was. We all laughed scornfully a few years back when it became known that Greaves had tried for a united front with this “bona fide, etc.” outfit. We were to see the day when the “Trotskyist” Lawless and his aide-de-camp Donovan were to do precisely the same.

7. The Trade Union Defence Committee (continued)

[At the second meeting] Pat O’Donovan was in the chair, and Gery Lawless as secretary was sitting beside him. The question of what flags should be carried eventually arose. But in the “discussion” that preceded this Donovan showed a distinct desire “to hear some of the Irish people present speak”. The “Irish people” were of course two members of Callaghan’s outfit, who were present in a “private, individual” capacity.
It was pathetic to see Lawless and Donovan trying to get something out of them whilst they almost literally sat on anyone else who piped up. They wanted Callaghan to support the TUDC by holding a meeting in the Park and marching with the demo! (They were impressed by the fact that he’d been able – with his demagogy and anti-working-class line – to get a couple of hundred poor ignorant sods down to the Embassy in the past on his almost weekly demonstrations).
Again and again Lawless and Donovan tried to get the two blokes at the meeting to commit the INU to the demo. They said that they were there in an individual capacity, not as representatives of the INU; that they could only take any request back to a meeting of their organisation for discussion. They “doubted that the INU would participate”. (Many of us knew only too well that they wouldn’t).As it happened the Irish Militant which came out after this meeting carried in the lead article on the front page the list of organisations which had been represented at meetings and had agreed to participate in the demo. Remember, the ICO and SLL had not been invited and the working-class Militant had been strongly discouraged. The list began: Irish National Union… and this was followed by the other, the working-class, organisations. So great was Lawless’ desire to bring “Mr” Callaghan into his demo. (Lawless can’t deny responsibility by saying Eamonn McCann was editor. McCann pointed out afterwards that he just wrote the lead article – Lawless supplied him with the list of organisations in that order).
The following month the Irish Militant carried an abject apology to the Irish National Union for mentioning it in connection with something with which it had nothing to do. It was generally known at the same time that Callaghan had decided that any member of INU who participated “with communists” etc. in this demo would be faced with immediate expulsion…
The “flag” incident occurred at this second TUDC meeting because many of us were in favour of carrying only the Starry Plough of Irish Labour and the Red Flag of International Labour. Lawless and Donovan wanted the INU in and feared that the carrying of a red flag and/ or the lack of a Tricolour would keep them out. They (Lawless and Donovan) wanted a Tricolour and Starry Plough. That is the basis and background of the “Flag Incident”. And let me again say that no representative of the English Militant was present at this [second] meeting, and the flag issue was not, as the liar Lawless tries to make out, used as a pretext by them for “refusal to participate”.
Eamonn McCann was sitting near me at this meeting and is a witness to what follows. McCann was in favour of a Red Flag and Starry Plough. So was I. We both had our hands up to speak on the question. I was given the floor by Donovan.
I spoke about the past revolutionary significance of the Irish Tricolour and then went on to deal with the fact that the Free State capitalist class, whose flag it now was, had helped the British Army “maintain the peace on the Irish Border”; they had sent their army to the Congo and Cyprus to help out imperialism in difficulty; the Tricolour had recently flown alongside the flags of 31 other imperialist nations in Saigon where… etc. etc.
Lawless had been getting more and more restless as I spoke. I’d got to “Saigon” or thereabouts when he abruptly intervened to save his putative “front” with the INU.
A quick whisper in chairman O’Donovan’s ear (what was it? “Go and get yourself a drink, Pat”, or maybe just “Give me the chair for a minute, Pat”) and Donovan stood up in sprightly fashion saying, “I’ve got to go downstairs for a minute. OK?” in the direction of the attendance. Lawless immediately opened up. He screamed at me: “I’m chairman now, and I’m declaring you out of order! I’m ordering you to sit down!”
I tried to continue for a moment or two longer, but Lawless’ carry-on was causing tension to rise all round as so often before (and since). Another meeting was about to be disrupted.
I sat down. I’d been sitting a matter of seconds when Donovan came back to the meeting and took the chair again – Lawless having accomplished his task. But Lawless didn’t leave things at that. With Donovan back in the chair he came down the hall and, standing a few yards from me – he couldn’t approach any closer because of the chairs and crowd – he pointed his finger at me and, with threatening grimace, he screamed (yes, screamed) – “I’m going to move your fucking expulsion from the Group, you fucking cunt!”…
A few months after this Lawless held an “inquiry” in the Wheatsheaves in Islington into allegations made about him and things he’d said at this meeting. Eamonn McCann was not present. Lawless denied point blank that he’d said any of the things that were alleged. Indeed, he was surprised and shocked that anyone would dare accuse him of such a thing: he was armed with the “file” on Daltun at the inquiry, shuffling sheets of paper about and rummaging in his Moroccan leather briefcase like nobody’s business. He got some kind of verdict or other clearing him of everything.
Some time later, when Eamonn McCann, speaking at a weekly meeting in the Lucas Arms referred (McCann at this stage was beginning to oppose Lawless and demand that “the bureaucracy in the Group be got rid of root and branch”) to the “incidents” that occurred during the TUDC, Lawless interjected: “But there was an inquiry into…” McCann cut him short: “I don’t give a damn what inquiries were made or what verdicts were brought in – I know what happened, and I know what you said to Liam Daltun at the time”.
Lawless shut up like a clam. But I bet he’s still prepared to cite his “inquiry” and its “verdict” as evidence of something or other in spite of everything. I believe he’s now even trying to make out that there was an inquiry into the Mick Murray affair. There wasn’t…
Readers should note what Lawless’ “politics” and methods achieved as far as the Group and the protest were concerned. The ICO turned up on the demo – as did also the English Militant group. Members of both groups sold literature and marched in the demo. The INU people not only did not participate, but their leading committee threatened any member who might do so with expulsion. The IWG was considerably demoralised and disrupted by the Lawless/ Donovan manoeuvres.

Thanks to Sean Matgamna Workers Liberty. Link here- Additional Material for Lawless’ History of the Irish Workers’ Group (1968) By Liam Daltun.


One response to “Additional Material for Lawless’ History of the Irish Workers’ Group (1968) By Liam Daltun.

  1. Pingback: WHO WAS THE INFORMANT? By Rayner O’Connor Lysaght. | irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject·

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