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Thread: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seán Ryan View Post
    I take the point. But I disagree with the bulk of it. Technological developments, that are stunning in their breadth, have made basic survivability, a matter of moments, in effort. Nonethess, the "working man" has ever been a slave. Trade unions have not changed this and neither has the metamorphism, of these trade unions, changed this. Trade unions, despite the heroism needed to win many battles, could never and would never, change the system. To do so, they would need to have changed into collectives rather than what they did change into.

    All in all, Irish working class folks and all their organisations have been adversely influenced and damaged by all aspects of the enslavement process, which consists of enslavement followed by a never-ending re-definition of basic thoughts, words and ideas, like the joke-side of post-modernism. But the basic picture remains very basic all the same.

    There has been lots of courage on this tiny rock. But for all of that, it's not something I should claim for myself, like a prize, in lieu of having any myself. There's lots of pseudocourage in Ireland and I reckon it's been that way for some while.
    The question is about the left, and the left has a class basis. Trade unions will not change the system, but they are the basic spontaneous defensive organisations of the working class, day to day. "An injury to one is an injury to all." The level or organisation in which people get together as a class to fight their battles expresses the level of self - consciousness of the working class as a class. Because of the low level of union membership in Ireland, Trade Unions in Ireland form a power bloc that in fact favour a minority of workers, rather than organising the majority. The influences I described in my last post are in part responsible.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    There was a strong Labour vote originally and it went to FF which gradually solidified into an anti-FG/Cumann na Gael block that could beat the very sizable CNG/FG block . The FF machine and the almost complete lack of seats outside of Munster and Leinster have held back Labour, who lacked the ambition and party machine to make it in Connaught/Ulster. They've never been a match for the FF machine, but have been given chances and have blown them, but that 10% core vote is one of the most solid in the country, what exactly that core vote is comprised of is another thing. Is there a Labour tribal vote?

    1922 Lab 21.3%, pro-treaty SF 38.5%. anti-treaty SF 21.8%

    1923 Lab 10.6%, CNG 39%, Republican 27.4%, the Labour -10.7% vote seems to have gone to both FF+ 5.6% and the farmers party + 4.3%, or more likely some Labour went to CNG and some CNG went to the farmers party?

    1927 ( June ) Lab 12.6%, CNG 27.4%, FF 26.2%, SF3.6% with a few splits from CNG => ( Clann Éireann anti-boundary commission ) and the Unionist/Redmondite National League Party 7.3% and INDs 13.4% indicating how things were very much up in the air at the time.

    1927 ( Sept ) Lab 9.1%, CNG 38.7%, FF 35.2% with others starting to fall back.

    1932 Lab 7.7%, FF 44.5%, CNG 35.3%, and now FF have become the big beast and Labour are finished as a serious prospect..

    1933 Lab 5.7%, FF 49.7%, CNG 30.5%, National Centre Party 9.2%. Labour down and out and FF into overdrive with the CNG vote split into two but holding at at a combined 39.7%

    1937 Lab 10.3% FF 45.2%, FG 34.8%, IND 9.7%, the end of CNG and the modern pattern established.

    1938 Lab 10%, FF 51.9%, FG 33.3%. FF on steriods

    1943 Lab 15.7%, FF 41.9%, FG 23.1%, Clan Na Talmhan 9.8%. Labour profiting from FFs decline and FG losing straight to CNT.

    1944 Lab 8.8% ( National Lab ) 2.7%, FF 48.9%, FG 20.5%, CNT 10.1%. Labour split which benefits FF.

    1948 Lab 8.7% ( National Lab 2.6% ), FF 41.9%, FG 19.8%, CNT 5.6%, Clann Na Poblachta 13.2% . Amazingly a new leftish Republican party barely dents FF, but an inter party Govt pushes FF out of Govt.

    1951 Lab 11.4%, FF 46.3%, FG 25.8% with the CNT and CNP falling back.

    1954 Lab 12.1, FF 43.4%, FG 32% with CNT and CNP nearly finished.

    1957 Lab 9.1, FF 48.3, FG 26.6%, SF 5.3%.

    1961 Lab 11.6%, FF 48.6%, 32.6% with SF falling back and CNT and CNP all but gone.

    1965 Lab 15.4%, FF 47.7%, FG 34.1% with others out of the picture.

    1969 Lab 17%, FF 45.7%, FG 34.1%.

    1973 Lab 13.2%, FF 47.9%, FG 35.1%.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Flower View Post
    The question is about the left, and the left has a class basis. Trade unions will not change the system, but they are the basic spontaneous defensive organisations of the working class, day to day. "An injury to one is an injury to all." The level or organisation in which people get together as a class to fight their battles expresses the level of self - consciousness of the working class as a class. Because of the low level of union membership in Ireland, Trade Unions in Ireland form a power bloc that in fact favour a minority of workers, rather than organising the majority. The influences I described in my last post are in part responsible.
    The trade union bloc dynamic has changed though in the last few years. SIPTU has become more politicised and dominated by a large Labour faction. People last night at a meeting about CP II told me to get anywhere in SIPTU they felt they had to be a member of Labour to get anywhere. Voting against the cuts and then paying union money to Labour are two completely contradictory things! Trade Unions could change the system if the workers woke up and realised there is power in numbers and sought to de-politicise the unions.
    History is the only true teacher, the revolution the best school for the proletariat - Rosa Luxembourg

  4. #19

    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    It depends what you mean by 'left'. If you mean socialist/anti-capitalist, the reason that ideology has never been strong here is probably a combination of the strength of the Catholic Church throughout all sectors of society, and the lack of an industrial proletariat.

    If you mean 'social democratic'/centre left, clearly the bulk of the traditional working class vote that in other European countries went to ideological left wing parties, went here to Fianna Fail. To this day, many members of the UK Labour party would fit comfortably within FF, and vice versa.

    And, going back to the first point, it's probably true that genuine socialists/anti-capitalists have never been that numerous in most Western European countries, but because they were members of left wing parties that had much larger social democratic wings, some of these socialists got access to power when their party got into government. While there have been plenty of social democrats in FF, there have been few socialists (despite what Bertie might have said).

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Flower View Post
    The question is about the left, and the left has a class basis. Trade unions will not change the system, but they are the basic spontaneous defensive organisations of the working class, day to day. "An injury to one is an injury to all." The level or organisation in which people get together as a class to fight their battles expresses the level of self - consciousness of the working class as a class. Because of the low level of union membership in Ireland, Trade Unions in Ireland form a power bloc that in fact favour a minority of workers, rather than organising the majority. The influences I described in my last post are in part responsible.
    Class is a very broadly defined concept. Broadly speaking, it can be subdivided into two very distinct areas: mindset and situation. Added to this, that one's circumstances are not fixed, it's quite simple to hop from one class to another. In other words, using the class system, to define one's enemies and comrades, is to guarantee that one is 100% inaccurate in one's choices, given enough time.

    It is right to consider class. It is proper to factor it into one's actions having considered it. But it is a mistake to see it as a basis for any long-term strategy. And that is what is at the heart of the question. Trade unions are a brilliant example of this. A trade union begins as a defence mechanism. It then becomes a power broker. When that happens, the upper echelons become breeding grounds for the upper classes, whether it be by transforming those present, into the upper classes, or by just inviting one's betters to move in. Thus what started out as a weapon in a class war, perpetuates the very beast it delusionally sees as a mortal enemy. That is the nature of the beast and it was heading that way regardless as to who or what might have influenced its development. Indeed, I'd be willing to bet that Ireland is far superior to Britain in the art of suppression and manipulation. But again, that's a viewpoint fixed firmly in the here and now and over time, given enough of it, it will flip.

    The class war, from the left's perspective, is one that will not be won. It promises a two state solution where the goal cannot be other than one.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Came across this on the web ... a PDF .. scanned so not searchable unless anyone has an OCR!

    The Irish Labour Party in Transition - 1957-1982
    Give me a misty day, pearly gray, silver, silky faced, wide-awake crescent-shaped smile

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    There are pretty easily explainable reasons why Ireland never was attracted to the left.

    Political systems are in part a creation of the time frame where they emerged. If a state is predominantly urban, a class based political structure often emerges. Where a state is predominantly rural, or where its politics is driven by rural concerns, the political division is driven by a cleavage based on identity.

    Ireland underwent three mass political mobilisations - in the 1820s-40s, in the 1880s and 1916-1932. At now point in any of them was there a large industrial society in Ireland. So identity issues produced the system - for example, who the Irish are in terms of their relationship with Unionists and with Britain.

    When a mass political political mobilisation occurs the political system it throws up tends to remain in situ longterm. That is because once created parties control the messages to enable their survival and ensure no outside new force can replace them. That's why Britain has had the same party system in reality for 150 years, with the only difference being that the Liberals and Labour swapped positions. It is why the US has had the same party system for so long. It is why Ireland has had the same parties for so long. In some places, 'new' parties are created all the time but in reality they are just an old party reinvented a bit with a new name.

    A dominant party only loses its status if it makes a catastrophic blunder (Liberals in the 1920s and 1930s, Radicals in France, Fianna Fáil in Ireland).

    Added to the two party system in Ireland was the fact that Fianna Fáil from day 1 set itself up as the real Labour Party, and succeeded. It was to the left of Labour for much of its history, and involved on the ground in communities where one would expect Labour to dominate. Lemass openly admitted that that was a tactic - by getting the votes of the moderate left they marginalised Labour and ensured their own dominance, as they also had other blocks (democratic republicanism, centrist, etc).

    So Labour in Ireland lacked all the necessary conditions to take off in Ireland. There was little industrialisation, weak unions, minimal urbanisation and a larger better organised party had stolen the role it might have played.
    "Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions." Blaise Pascal.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaadi View Post

    1922 Lab 21.3%, pro-treaty SF 38.5%. anti-treaty SF 21.8%
    Just to clarify this -

    The LP ran 18 candidates and got 17 of them elected - they topped the poll in 5 constituencies and would have won extra seats if they had ran more than one candidate. If the LP had ran enough of candidates in the election they could have won in the region of 35 seats and replaced anti-treaty SF as the second biggest party.

    The election took place at the height of a major strike wave, particularly among farm labourers (two ITGWU shop stewards leading farm labourer strikes were elected in Waterford/East Tipp). In the aftermath of the election the strikes were abandoned by the leadership of the trade unions and the LP - particularly by O'Brien and the ITGWU (who refused to pay strike pay to striking workers). This created massive disillusionment with the LP and in the 1923 general election the LP took a hammering and settled into its half party status in the two and a half party system.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simonsays View Post
    There are pretty easily explainable reasons why Ireland never was attracted to the left.

    Political systems are in part a creation of the time frame where they emerged. If a state is predominantly urban, a class based political structure often emerges. Where a state is predominantly rural, or where its politics is driven by rural concerns, the political division is driven by a cleavage based on identity.

    Ireland underwent three mass political mobilisations - in the 1820s-40s, in the 1880s and 1916-1932. At now point in any of them was there a large industrial society in Ireland. So identity issues produced the system - for example, who the Irish are in terms of their relationship with Unionists and with Britain.

    When a mass political political mobilisation occurs the political system it throws up tends to remain in situ longterm. That is because once created parties control the messages to enable their survival and ensure no outside new force can replace them. That's why Britain has had the same party system in reality for 150 years, with the only difference being that the Liberals and Labour swapped positions. It is why the US has had the same party system for so long. It is why Ireland has had the same parties for so long. In some places, 'new' parties are created all the time but in reality they are just an old party reinvented a bit with a new name.

    A dominant party only loses its status if it makes a catastrophic blunder (Liberals in the 1920s and 1930s, Radicals in France, Fianna Fáil in Ireland).

    Added to the two party system in Ireland was the fact that Fianna Fáil from day 1 set itself up as the real Labour Party, and succeeded. It was to the left of Labour for much of its history, and involved on the ground in communities where one would expect Labour to dominate. Lemass openly admitted that that was a tactic - by getting the votes of the moderate left they marginalised Labour and ensured their own dominance, as they also had other blocks (democratic republicanism, centrist, etc).

    So Labour in Ireland lacked all the necessary conditions to take off in Ireland. There was little industrialisation, weak unions, minimal urbanisation and a larger better organised party had stolen the role it might have played.
    Just one thing. 1820 ireland was still almost a preindustrial, heavily populated country, though the act of union had begun to have its desired effect of crushing embrionic irish industry. People were returning to the countryside but the towns were bigger then than they are now, for example.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jolly Red Giant View Post
    Just to clarify this -

    The LP ran 18 candidates and got 17 of them elected - they topped the poll in 5 constituencies and would have won extra seats if they had ran more than one candidate. If the LP had ran enough of candidates in the election they could have won in the region of 35 seats and replaced anti-treaty SF as the second biggest party.

    The election took place at the height of a major strike wave, particularly among farm labourers (two ITGWU shop stewards leading farm labourer strikes were elected in Waterford/East Tipp). In the aftermath of the election the strikes were abandoned by the leadership of the trade unions and the LP - particularly by O'Brien and the ITGWU (who refused to pay strike pay to striking workers). This created massive disillusionment with the LP and in the 1923 general election the LP took a hammering and settled into its half party status in the two and a half party system.
    Thats very interesting. Why did they not run enough candidates? Wouldve made a huge change indeed.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seán Ryan View Post
    Class is a very broadly defined concept.
    It's not really though. People can read the Sunday Independent and sincerely believe they are the coping classes or indeed the squeezed middle™ but none of it changes the reality.
    The thinking behind such terms gaining traction should say enough about where most people really are.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ogiol View Post
    Just one thing. 1820 ireland was still almost a preindustrial, heavily populated country, though the act of union had begun to have its desired effect of crushing embrionic irish industry. People were returning to the countryside but the towns were bigger then than they are now, for example.
    There were a couple of significant differences however.

    1. The electorate was small, and the absence of the secret ballot meant that those that did have the ballot had to vote in public. (I read an old copy of a regional paper from the early 1870s they actually published how people voted. They could say John Murphy voted for the Irish Liberals and Paul Lynch voted for the Irish Tory Party, for example.) The first phase of mass political mobilisation is not thought to have pre-dated O'Connell. Even though as a result of emancipation the electorate size was reduced O'Connell's mass movement energised the electorate and so gave a sense of power to an electorate that had felt irrelevant.

    2. The towns of the period were small and there actually was a minimal distinction in many ways between urban and rural, and between contemporary industry and non-industrial society. It was only when a clear physical and class distinction began to emerge that in many ways a separate community begins to appear, and that tended to need larger towns less integrated with the surrounding agricultural society.

    The three mobilisation periods (1820s-40s; 1880s and 1916-1932) coincided with in the latter two cases significant broadening of the electorate, and in all three the appearance of mass movements. Each phase coincided with the sweeping away of the polity of the previous period. At the point of full universal suffrage the political system in broad terms tends to get locked in place because there is not a new segment of society waiting to be added to the electorate. In effect you have the electorate and it forms into its party structure. Usually it takes a catastrophic mistake by a dominant party to enable their displacement by lower down parties because otherwise they remain in control of the public definition of politics. It took, for example, an internal civil war in the Liberals to lead its non-conformist wing to defect to Labour, moving Labour in the UK from the third placed party to one of the top two. Having lost their position among the top two, the Liberals found they could not gain it again, as now Labour and the Tories were in the political driving seat.

    Thats very interesting. Why did they not run enough candidates? Wouldve made a huge change indeed.
    Remember there was no polling, no salaries and few funds. Labour would not have known how strong or weak it was in the country.
    "Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions." Blaise Pascal.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simonsays View Post
    There are pretty easily explainable reasons why Ireland never was attracted to the left.

    Political systems are in part a creation of the time frame where they emerged. If a state is predominantly urban, a class based political structure often emerges. Where a state is predominantly rural, or where its politics is driven by rural concerns, the political division is driven by a cleavage based on identity.

    Ireland underwent three mass political mobilisations - in the 1820s-40s, in the 1880s and 1916-1932. At now point in any of them was there a large industrial society in Ireland. So identity issues produced the system - for example, who the Irish are in terms of their relationship with Unionists and with Britain.

    When a mass political political mobilisation occurs the political system it throws up tends to remain in situ longterm. That is because once created parties control the messages to enable their survival and ensure no outside new force can replace them. That's why Britain has had the same party system in reality for 150 years, with the only difference being that the Liberals and Labour swapped positions. It is why the US has had the same party system for so long. It is why Ireland has had the same parties for so long. In some places, 'new' parties are created all the time but in reality they are just an old party reinvented a bit with a new name.

    A dominant party only loses its status if it makes a catastrophic blunder (Liberals in the 1920s and 1930s, Radicals in France, Fianna Fáil in Ireland).

    Added to the two party system in Ireland was the fact that Fianna Fáil from day 1 set itself up as the real Labour Party, and succeeded. It was to the left of Labour for much of its history, and involved on the ground in communities where one would expect Labour to dominate. Lemass openly admitted that that was a tactic - by getting the votes of the moderate left they marginalised Labour and ensured their own dominance, as they also had other blocks (democratic republicanism, centrist, etc).

    So Labour in Ireland lacked all the necessary conditions to take off in Ireland. There was little industrialisation, weak unions, minimal urbanisation and a larger better organised party had stolen the role it might have played.
    Certainly the mechanisms and tactics you describe help to consolidate power, but no party is going to get into and hold on to power (for long) unless it represents a dominant and progressive social class.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seán Ryan View Post
    Class is a very broadly defined concept. Broadly speaking, it can be subdivided into two very distinct areas: mindset and situation. Added to this, that one's circumstances are not fixed, it's quite simple to hop from one class to another. In other words, using the class system, to define one's enemies and comrades, is to guarantee that one is 100% inaccurate in one's choices, given enough time.

    It is right to consider class. It is proper to factor it into one's actions having considered it. But it is a mistake to see it as a basis for any long-term strategy. And that is what is at the heart of the question. Trade unions are a brilliant example of this. A trade union begins as a defence mechanism. It then becomes a power broker. When that happens, the upper echelons become breeding grounds for the upper classes, whether it be by transforming those present, into the upper classes, or by just inviting one's betters to move in. Thus what started out as a weapon in a class war, perpetuates the very beast it delusionally sees as a mortal enemy. That is the nature of the beast and it was heading that way regardless as to who or what might have influenced its development. Indeed, I'd be willing to bet that Ireland is far superior to Britain in the art of suppression and manipulation. But again, that's a viewpoint fixed firmly in the here and now and over time, given enough of it, it will flip.

    The class war, from the left's perspective, is one that will not be won. It promises a two state solution where the goal cannot be other than one.
    Social classes are groups of people who share the same relations to the means of production. Some are owners of factories/machinery/vehicles and make profit from the work other people do with them, for wages. Those are the two main classes. Plenty of people think they are something called "middle class" when they are part of the working class.

    We know at this stage that leaders of unions and parties can be corrupted or adapt themselves to the ruling class. If you are saying that it is inevitable that all leadership will always be corrupted, I have to say I disagree with you. There have plenty who have not.
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by C. Flower View Post
    Certainly the mechanisms and tactics you describe help to consolidate power, but no party is going to get into and hold on to power (for long) unless it represents a dominant and progressive social class.
    It is a bit more complicated.

    What simply happens is that because they are dominant they have an advantage and they then add to their issue appeal whatever new issues the electorate develops an interest in. Smaller parties get squeezed out because someone else takes their issues.

    For example: one modern issue that arose in Ireland was Ireland's membership of the EEC. None of the dominant parties had a stance on that originally, but evolved stances - Fine Gael was more pro-European. Fianna Fáil adopted a Gaullist-type populist approach to Europe based on the national states.

    In effect the dominant parties have the cards stacked in their favour through their dominance. All they have to do is keep adapting to issues as they arise and they will maintain their dominance.

    An example in Ireland would be in the 1960s when Fine Gael's Tom O'Higgins championed 'Irish unity through brotherly affection' - or as it is now known 'unity by consent'. At the time all other parties derided it. But Fianna Fáil then assimilated that policy, taking it as their policy when it became clear the electorate bought into it. So Fine Gael failed to gain electorally as their big policy idea was nicked by someone further up the political pecking order with more power.

    The problem for Fianna Fáil in the Cowen era was that a fundamental illogicality in their approach that they had dodged being caught up by finally caught up with them. In other words they populism that involved overheating economies in the run-up to elections to buy votes crashed the Celtic Tiger. They had pretty much bankrupted the state before but each time before they quickly lost power and someone else got the flak for bringing spending under control. Under Cowen their policies crashed the economy but for the first time ever they were landed with the consequences of dealing with that as they were early in a term. So they faced the consequences of their policy decisions for the first time in government. Fianna Fáil all through its history had maintained a complex coalition of support (middle class, working class, republican, small farmer, etc) but in the crisis the policies it faced to sort out its mess tore the coalition that they had kept together since the 1930s apart.
    "Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions." Blaise Pascal.

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    Default Re: Why has there never been a strong left wing cause in Ireland?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simonsays View Post

    Remember there was no polling, no salaries and few funds. Labour would not have known how strong or weak it was in the country.
    Absolutely not the case - the LP had run SF a very close second in the local elections in 1920 (in many areas SF made deals with the local LPs to divvy up the seats in order to avoid taking a hammering from the LP at the polls) and the power and strength of the labour movement had grown significantly following that election.

    The primary reasons for so few candidates was that the leadership of the ILPTUC didn't want a whole raft of rank-and-file left-wing and Marxist candidates elected that they couldn't control so they consciously discouraged local LPs against running and in some places (like Limerick) actually prevented LP branches being built - and the primary focus of the left-wing industrial organisers and union activists was on building the syndicalist trade union movement, for them parliamentary elections were not the primary focus and they didn't push for to run candidates.

    As I said - the 1922 elections were a lost opportunity - between O'Brien's wholesale shafting of the strikes taking place and Tom Johnson's 'moral crusade to protect democracy' in the Dail, largescale disillusionment in the LP set in by mid-1923.

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