Century of Endeavour

Buried Alive in Ireland

A Story of a Twentieth Century Inquisition

(c) Roy Johnston 1999

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

I have adapted this from a review which I submitted to the Autumn 2001 issue of the Boston 'Irish Literary Supplement'. In this review I also treated his 'Irish Republicanism - the Authentic Perspective' which was also published in early 2001. Stocks of both books are held mainly by Athol in Belfast, whose e-mail is athol-st@dircon.co.uk, and also marginally by Connolly Books in Essex St, Dublin 2.

This book by Derry Kelleher was published early in 2001 by Justice Books (no 8 in their series). It is relevant to this narrative because Derry shares with the present writer a background in science and technology, and a tradition of swimming against the tide of emigration in the 1950s, in order to try to convey a vision derived from the classic Enlightenment political message, via Wolfe Tone and taking Marx on board via Connolly, in the somewhat obscurantist Irish environment of the day.

Derry did a science degree in UCC in the 1940s, after a period of internment in the Curragh. He was associated with the development of the Cork Socialist Party, which ran public lectures on topics like 'science and socialism', 'on the Jewish question', 'West Cork Pioneers of Socialism', and getting a good vote for Micheal O Riordain in the 1946 by-election, upstaging the catholic-nationalist right-wing Aiseiri group (mostly Fianna Fail dissidents). This however triggered, by its very success, a virulent anti-communist campaign led by Alfred O'Rahilly, of which the result was that Derry, after getting his degree, had to emigrate. He went to Trinidad, where he began to pick up the experience that led to his becoming a full-fledged Chemical Engineer, with experience in the sugar and petroleum industries, both relevant to Irish economic development. Derry attributed most of the trouble he had subsequently in getting back to Ireland to this O'Rahilly 'Inquisition', which process underlies the title of the book.

During his subsequent spell in the Fawley oil-refinery in the late 1950s he encountered the Irish trainees who had been sent there in preparation for the Whitegate refinery project, and he has some critical things to say about the socio-technical aspects of this, and the workings of the Free State Establishment mafias.

During the 1960s he was involved with the present writer in an attempt to set up a Kane-Bernal Society, the objective of which was to pick up on the legacies of Sir Robert Kane and Desmond Bernal where they related to the role of science and technology in the Irish national economic and cultural context. He has kind words to say about Joseph O'Reilly the Cork Chemistry Professor who had defended him against the O'Rahilly Inquisition, and Colm O h-Eocha the National Science Council chairman, whom he credits with knowledge of something of the Bernal legacy.

He then develops a major apparent digression, but which is in fact germane to his Enlightenment message, into the background of the Orange Order and the Boyne mythology, with the Pope being in alliance with William in the Augsburg League, and then goes into the Dissenting tradition in the North, which he correctly credits as the originator of modern Republicanism, quoting my father Joe Johnston who in the Seanad of 02/02/1939 reminded us that '..the men behind the walls of Derry were better Republicans than the besiegers..'.

His analysis of the decline of 'official Sinn Fein' towards its present 'Workers Party' role is insightful, but better treated in another publication which I review separately. His view of the Green Party however is dominated by negative experience with its first TD Roger Garland, now no longer with them. He has not yet come around to a full realisation of the importance of grappling with the scientific analysis of the sustainability problem, which the Irish Greens are currently in process of doing creditably.

During the late 1960s and early 70s Derry was active in the 'Christian-Marxist Dialogue' in the spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, and also in the work of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society which was then in the lead of the republican politicisation process, with the present writer also involved. His treatment of the events leading up to the 1970 split, and the foundation of the Provisionals, is insightful, uncovering the negative roles of both the irredentist catholic-nationalism of Blaney et al, and the adventurist ultra-leftism of the Queens students who with the 'Peoples Democracy' group undermined the work of the NI Civil Rights Association. He gives credit to the latter and to Tony Coughlan for the attempt to develop in 1970 a campaign for a Bill of Rights, which if it had been pursued with vigour by the Dublin Government would have give us the current Good Friday Agreement situation without the decades of mayhem.

Derry treats in some depth the bizarre developments in 'Sinn Fein the Workers Party' in the 1970s, when the latter envisioned the 'proletarianisation' of rural Ireland under the influence of international capital; he instances direct experience of this process from his role as a chemical engineer with Asahi in Killala. He analyses the influence of Eoin Harris in this context. He also has things to say about the techno-economics of Nitrigin Eireann.

We have a book here which will be mined by future historians seeking to understand the problems confronting the development of political ideas in the context of Connolly's 'Carnival of Reaction' which the latter predicted would be the consequence of the partition of the country. Some will find it a good read; many will find it infuriating, but will read it all the same.

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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999