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25 January 2007 Edition

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Remembering the Past

The launch of An Phoblacht


Following the split in the Republican Movement in January 1970, one of the urgent tasks facing the leadership was producing a new republican newspaper. The first issue of the monthly paper, An Phoblacht, under the editorship of Seán Ó Brádaigh, appeared on 31 January 1970.

It was a title which had a long standing connection with republicanism, having first appeared under its English title, The Republic, in Belfast in 1906 as the official organ of the Dungannon Clubs. In the first edition, Bulmer Hobson, one of the founders of the Dungannon Clubs, sets out their aims:

“Ireland today claims her place among the free peoples of the Earth. She has never surrendered that claim, nor will ever she surrender it, and today forces are working in Ireland that will not be still until her claim is acknowledged and her voice heard in the councils of the nations.’’

The paper reappeared as An Phoblacht in 1925 and continued until 1937 with a tumultuous history of internal splits and constant state oppression. Frank Ryan, Seán MacBride and Peadar O’Donnell were just some of the prominent contributors during this time

In 1970, An Phoblacht was at first circulated only in the South with another republican paper also established in the Six Counties in 1970, Republican News, under the editorship of veteran republican Jimmy Steel.

An Phoblacht began with a circulation of 20,000 per month, which steadily rose over the next few years. It covered historical events and provided in depth analysis of the policies being formulated by the reinvigorated Republican Movement.

Located at 2a Lower Kevin Street in Dublin’s south inner city, it moved to the northside of the capital, to Kevin Barry House, 44 Parnell Square, in August 1972. And in that October it became a fortnightly publication under the editorship of Eamonn Mac Thomais, a Dublin historian and author who instituted changes in layout and general improvements so that it became a weekly publication. After 1976, the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Conor Cruise O’Brien, a Labour Party minister in the Fine Gael/Labour coalition, beefed up Jack Lynch’s original 1971 Section 31 censorship directive so that it now effectively prohibited the expression of any kind of a republican viewpoint. Section 31 specifically banned Sinn Féin from the airwaves.

This produced a climate where career journalists learned how to sing for their supper and the media in the 26 Counties became increasingly biased against republicans to the point where the plight of Northern nationalists could not be discussed lest it be denounced as ‘Provo propaganda’.

An Phoblacht became ever more important in disseminating the republican message and highlighting the naked state oppression by the Unionist Party and the RUC in the Six Counties. Consequently, it suffered regular Garda Special Branch harassment. Mac Thomais was arrested and charged with IRA membership and sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment. The paper continued under the stewardship of Dublin journalist Deasún Breatnach until Mac Thomais resumed duties on his release in July 1974. Within two months, Mac Thomais was again arrested and sentenced to another 15 months. Another editor, Coleman Moynihan, who had succeeded Seán Ó Brádaigh in 1972, suffered a similar fate.

Nevertheless, the paper continued on with the succeeding editors being Gerry Danaher (1974-75), Gerry O’Hare (1975-77), and Deasún Breathnach (1977-79).

However, it had become increasingly clear that a single paper for the whole of Ireland was required to provide a clear and coherent line from the leadership and to counter any partitionist thinking which might flow from the British division of Ireland.

Accordingly, on 27 January 1979, the first issue of the merged publications, under the banner of An Phoblacht/Republican News, appeared under the editorship of Danny Morrison.



An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1