UCD Republican Club

By Seamus Clancy, UCD Frank Ryan Society

“Members of the academic council of UCD, were forced to leave the board room in Earlsfort Terrace via a window and ladder yesterday, when students held a meeting outside the room in support of the claim by the college’s Republican Club for recognition.” – Irish Press Friday December 13, 1968

The above protest, organized by Students for Democratic Action was a long series of events which sought to seek official college recognition for the Republican Club in UCD during the late sixties. This campaign took two years of agitation for the college to finally give official recognition. The most notable individual who passed through the club when it was recognized was champion of the working class in Dublin the late Tony Gregory. The protest was also to highlight the undemocratic nature of the college authorities. This also complimented a campaign by the Republican Club in all of the national papers to highlight the case of recognition for the club with articles being printed in the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Press highlighting their case.

Some of the activities which the Republican Club was involved in were the United Front Against Victimization which compromised the Irish Student Movement and the Student Representatives Council. The front was pretty much a defense committee set up as a result of “unrest” in the college which certain students were being targeted for by the authorities and which sought full student consultation in regards the matter. The Republican Club also released a statement as Gaeilge themselves ‘promising full support for students in the present unrest in the college’. The college paper Campus also brought up controversy within the Cumann Gaelach where the then auditor was trying to construct links with the Republican Club to discuss the setting up of a general discussion group.

Tony Gregory

Another perhaps innovative event that the Republican Club was involved in and organized by Saoirse, a group comprised mainly of Republican Club and Cumann Gaelach members was the Anti-Imperialist céilí in the main hall. Posed as a cultural alternative to the College Ball the céilí included free admission. This was organized to coincide with the ‘official dress dance’ taking place at the same time. A number of posters around hall called for the smashing of imperial culture with slogans such as “Smash the system that fosters British culture’’ and “Call off colonial week now’’. Objections were made to the manner of the protest. In response one of the participants in the impromptu céilí/protest asked “Is UCD a mere hang over from the Castle clique?’’.

The first public meetings of the newly recognized Republican Club saw Cathal Goulding speak on ‘The Revolutionary Role of the IRA today’. About 50 people attended their inaugural meeting. A previous public meeting had to be held under the auspices of the UCD branch of the Labour Party. Speakers included Spanish civil war veteran Michael O’Riordan, president of Sinn Fein Tomas MacGiolla, councilor Flor O’Mahoney and Seamus O’Toole of the Labour Party. Over 150 people attended. The general theme of the discussion was
Republicans and Socialism.

6 Responses to “UCD Republican Club”

  1. Jim Monaghan Says:

    I was a member of SDA. Initially it was a front of the Labour Party, The Republican Club and left wing catholics (forgot group).Amongst its causes was the refusal of the UCD authorities to recognise the Republican Club. In fact it had just recognised political clubs for the first time. The big cause at the time was housing in Dublin (the DHAC) and the democratising of education. Hence the occupation in 1969.

  2. aphexacid Says:

    Thanks for sharing that Jim.

    Did you see that RTE four-part series on 1968? The third episode dealt with the occupation of Earlsfort Terrace and featured Kevin Myers, Ruairi Quinn and Una Claffey.

    Its interesting that many from the class of ’68 have crawled under the fence to service the other side. There’s an interesting interview with Alain Badiou, reflecting on why so many leaders of the French New Left are now public supporters of Sarkozy. He remarks:

    “There are a number of ways to understand this turncoat phenomenon. The first is that many of these people had a mistaken analysis of the situation at that time, in the years 1966–73; they thought that it was actually revolutionary, in an immediate sense. The Miller brothers gave me the tersest formulations on this point. A few years later, around 1978, I asked them: ‘Why did you just quit like that?’ Because they dropped out very suddenly—even today there are elderly workers, Malians in the hostels, Moroccans in the factories, who ask us: ‘How is it that, overnight, we never saw those guys again?’ Jacques-Alain Miller said to me: ‘Because I realized one day that the country was quiet.’ And Gérard: ‘Because we understood we were not going to take power.’ It was a very revealing response, that of people who saw their undertaking not as the start of a long journey with a great deal of ebb and flow, but as an avenue towards power. Gérard said as much in all innocence, and he later joined the Socialist party, which is something else again.”

    The full interview can be read here – http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/badiou-on-different-streams-within-french-maoism/

    If you ever want to put some thoughts on paper – reflecting on your own deeds; what went right and what went wrong; what lessons you learned – then we’d be happy to host it here.

    Take care brother!


  3. Jim Monaghan Says:

    Kevin was in the occupation. Rory Quinn was not. Una was out sick. She was Justin Keatings Sec. later and I think joined the Workers Party after.
    One prominent Republican of the famous quote
    “Better the rattle of a Thompson than a barrell of marxist phamplets”. Now a prominent lawyer and member of FF.
    Some ran out of steam some changed sides.
    I joined the Sticks after Bloody Sunday and left around the same time as Costello. I then joined Peoples Democracy and was active in the H-Block?armagh movement.
    On France I am very hopeful of the NPA. There is no guarantee of people staying the course. Mitterand in my opinion set out to coopt and win over far leftists. Here, FF are past masters in winning over and pacifying leftists and Republicans. The clientist system and the lure of realpolitic is a powerful draw.I am 62 and sometimes I feel a certain fustration at the failure of my generation and myself. This can make you tempted if offered a sinecure. Not that anyone bothered but I can see how tempting it could be and it would not be done crudely. “Come in and make change happen”. The early FFers though they would outwit and subvert the Free State. It converted them.
    Of my time in the Universities branch of the Labour Party I count only Roger Cole who led the Trinity part and myself and I am barely active.Roger who is the central figure in PANA is still fighting for neutrality and Republicanism in the broad sense. Please link http://www.pana.ie to your site

  4. Donal MacCraith Says:

    Thank you for an interesting article on the UCD Republican Club, of which I was the Runai (Secretary) at the time of its college “recognition” campaign. Oliver Rogers was its Cathaoirleach (Chair) and other members of the Coiste (Committee) included the late Tony Gregory and Sean Lynch. Unable to hold meetings in UCD we shared the use of TCD rooms in Pearse Street under the auspices of TCD Republican Club, members of which included Roger Cole, Alan Matthews and Eoin O Murchu. Most of us also played an active part in the SDA at UCD. A couple of years after graduating with Social Science Degree 1970 I emigrated to London to work in community development, information technology, race relations and social work and became active in local community action and the labour movement.

  5. mckennamike Says:

    I am researching a distant relative of mine called Robert (Bobbie) Bonfield who was killed in controversial circumstances during the Civil War.

    Bonfield was a third year Dental student in UCD when he died and a childhood friend of Kevin Barry. I believe he joined the IRA in UCD – probably radicalised after the execution of his friend.

    As far as I can see there does not seem to have been a UCD unit of the IRA and the students who were active were distributed around various units, a lot seem to have been in the 4th Bttn – beyond that I don’t know much more.

    Bonfield was OC of the 4th Bttn when he was arrested and killed by bodyguards of President WT Cosgrave on Holy Thursday 1923.

    Could anyone point me in the right direction to find out more about the Republican tradition in UCD, particularly during the Civil War period as I am finding it difficult to find much material about what went on in UCD at the time.

  6. mckennamike Says:

    I forgot to tick the email me if there is a comment box!

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