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‘An address from the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army to the men and women of the Orange Order’

Orangemen and Catholic . . . those who thus exploit mercilessly your labour and energies would outside set you at one another’s throats because it is to their advantage to divide you and lead you into conflict by arousing religious issues and inflaming passions

Thanks to John O’Neill of the Treason Felony Republican History Blog for reminding us of An address from the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army to the men and women of the Orange Order.

It was published in An Phoblacht of 16 July 1932 and was largely written by Peadar O’Donnell.

The Editor at the time was Proinnsias Ó Riain – Frank Ryan.

Prior to publication, it had been circulated with a covering letter from the IRA’s Adjutant General, Donal O’Donoghue, on 8 July to newspaper editors. Most (even including the Belfast News Letter) published abridged versions as early as 11 July 1932.

The address was distributed as leaflets in unionist districts of Belfast by IRA Volunteers.

1932 An Phoblacht Frank Ryan Editor


An address from the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army to the men and women of the Orange Order

Fellow countrymen and women,

It is a long call from the ranks of the Irish Republican Army to the marching throngs that hold the Twelfth of July celebrations in north-east Ulster.

Across the space we have sometimes exchanged shots or missiles or hard words but never forgetting that, on occasions, our ancestors have stood shoulder to shoulder. Some day we will again exchange ideas and then the distance which now separates us will shorten. For we of the Irish Republican Army believe that, inevitably, the small farmers and wage-earners in the Six-County area will make common cause with those of the rest of Ireland, for the common good of the mass of the people in a free, united Irish Republic. Such a conviction is forming itself in an ever-increasing number of minds in north-east Ulster.

The Irish Republican Army – within north-east Ulster as well as in the rest of Ireland – believe that the mass of the working farmers and wage-earners must organise behind revolutionary leadership if they are to rescue themselves from a system within which the few prosper and the many are impoverished.

It is our opinion – a conviction driven in on our mind by the facts of life around us – that capitalism and imperialism constitute a system of exploitation and injustice within which the mass of the people can know no freedom.

The burdens of today’s bad times are falling with increasing weight on working farmers who must surrender an increasing part of their produce to meet rents, taxes, bank interest, etc, while their incomes diminish.

The unemployed workers are being torn at with economies in social services, adding daily to the destitute. The wage-earners are finding their conditions of employment and standard of living steadily worsening.

We can see no permanent solution of these evils except by the transfer of power over production, distribution and exchange to the mass of the people.

The power to produce what the many require exists; the organisation and its distribution presents no insoluble difficulty but the vested interests of a privileged minority are across the road and progress is impossible unless we are prepared to clear away these obstacles.

These interests that deny their rights to the many are those on which the Empire rests. Touch or threaten these privileged interests and the whole force of the Empire is invoked for their protection. Thus it is that we see and say that the freedom of the mass of the Irish people is impossible without breaking the connection with imperial Britain and with all the imperial system connotes.

Do you see any other road to freedom for yourselves and your families?

You must realise that the chief industries on which the former alleged prosperity of north-east Ulster rested are gone beyond hope of being revived; that the same thing has occurred in Great Britain; that everywhere the pinch grows tighter on those who are unemployed as a result of this breakdown in the whole structure of capitalism. Can the British people help you while their own workers and industries are struggling desperately to exist and are not succeeding in these days? Where do you see any hope?

Working farmers and wage-earners of north-east Ulster – you surely must see that your future is bound up with the mass of the people in the remainder of Ireland.

To preserve yourselves from extinction, you and they must combine and go forward to the attainment of a free Irish nation within which life and living will be organised and controlled by you to serve your needs and thus end the present economic and social injustices for ever.

The industrial capacity and training of you industrial workers of north-east Ulster ensure for you a leading influence and place in the economy and life of a free Irish nation.

Twelfth historic 1920s/1930s

Exploitation of religious prejudices

To prejudice you it is emphasised that we of the Irish Republican Army and the mass of republicans are mainly Catholic and that your religious beliefs would not be respected in a free Ireland! It is quite true that we are mainly Catholics but in Southern Ireland the same political and economical interests and voices that tell you we are Catholics tell the Catholic population of the South that we are anti-God fanatics and yearning for an opportunity to make war on the religion to which the majority of us belong!

The fact is we are quite unaware of religious distinctions within our Movement.

We guarantee you, you will guarantee us, and we will both guarantee all full freedom of conscience and religious worship in the Ireland we are to set free.

This is the simple truth and just now, when imperial interests are attempting to conceal themselves behind the mad fury of religious strife, you and we should combine to make certain that no such escape should be provided them.

In the process of exploitation of the wage-earners and small producers, do you not realise how little religion matters to the exploiters?

Battle of the Boyne

Orangemen and Catholic, Catholic women and yours toil side by side in the factory and mill, all equally victims. Those who thus exploit mercilessly your labour and energies would outside set you at one another’s throats because it is to their advantage to divide you and lead you into conflict by arousing religious issues and inflaming passions.

Do you not find yourselves queued shoulder to shoulder outside the unemployed exchanges waiting for the ‘dole’, that crumb which the exploiters throw to the exploited of different religions?

In these vital matters your religion or your membership of the Orange Order counts for little, nor does Catholicism to the unemployed and starving Catholics in Southern Ireland.

The fact is that the religious feelings of the masses of both Orangemen and Catholics are played on and exploited by the imperialists and capitalists the more surely to enslave them.

The victory of the Boyne

You celebrate the victory of the Boyne. This battle was a victory for the alliance of the then Pope and William of Orange – strange alliance for you to celebrate; strange victory for Catholics to resist!

History has been muddled to hide the occasions when your forefathers and ours made common cause and passions are stirred to manufacture antagonisms.

If William of Orange and His Holiness could achieve an alliance, there is hope that “No Surrender” may come from a throng which also roars “Up the Republic”.

UI Blue Circle

Your stock were the founders and inspiration, and the north-east Ulster the cradle, of the modern revolutionary movement for national independence and economic freedom. Your illustrious ancestors and co-religionists, the United Irishmen, by their gallant struggle in 1798 set aflame the ideals of republicanism which never since have been extinguished. We ask that you should join us to achieve their ideals — national freedom and religious toleration.

It was John Mitchel, a Newry man of your stock, who addressed these words to your forefathers:

“In fact, religious hatred has been kept alive in Ireland longer than anywhere else in Christendom just for the simple reason that Irish landlords and British statesmen found their own account in it. And so soon as Irish landlordism and British domination are finally rooted out of the country, it will be heard of no longer in Ireland any more than it is in France or Belgium now.”

Fraternally, your fellow countrymen,


On behalf of the Irish Republican Army

July 1932

(The Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque pictured above is from Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street, Belfast)

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