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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Clare Daly and the true meaning of the word 'comrade'

with Clare Daly at the Dublin launch of my book Mentioning the War: Essays & Reviews (1999-2011)

Clare Daly has been much in the news over the past twenty four hours following her resignation from the Socialist Party. No doubt today's newspapers will have more.

I first met Clare in 1988 at a Labour Youth conference in Liberty Hall. She had become a supporter of Militant in Newbridge a couple of years previously and I'd been involved in Galway for the previous six years. At that conference Clare was elected to the Administrative Council [National Executive] of the Labour Party. The following year she was expelled from the Labour Party in Dick Spring's anti-Militant purge. I was similarly expelled from the British Labour Party a couple of years later.

I first really got to know Clare when I returned to Galway in 1991 after three years in London. Often times I stayed with her when I was up in Dublin for meetings which were so important I've got no memory at all what most of them were about. I left what we used to call the 'organisation' in 1994 but always retained huge respect for Clare. She is 100% principled and 100% human. A million miles from the caricatures of socialists which are all too often close to the mark.

The Socialist Party's statement about her resignation, which sparked off the media storm yesterday, is an absolute disgrace. But it is no surprise.

There are two types of people in organisations like the Socialist Party. There are those who would stand in front of an oncoming tank in defence of someone smaller than themselves. And then there are those dull little people for whom Trotskyist politics is less about changing anything than it is about finding a place to hide. They are the type who love committee meetings held on a Sunday and whose feeling of political purity tends to be dependent on their ability to find some ex-comrade to denounce.

Later today the Socialist Party is holding a press conference about Clare's resignation. It's likely that all their public representatives will line up to put the Party spin on her departure from their ranks after 26 years. Their faces will be a picture of earnestness. The one thing you can be sure of is that, whatever they say, you shouldn't believe a word of it.

One or two of their public representatives will probably be there only because if they were to refuse they would soon enough be on the receiving end of the sort of statement the Socialist Party issued against Clare yesterday.

Clare was never a Party hack in that way. She's the sort of person who'd speak up for you when there was no one else left to speak up, which of course is precisely why she is such a brilliant public representative. Long may she continue.