Irish Socialist Republican Party

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For the party founded in Belfast in 1944, see Socialist Republican Party (Ireland). For the party founded in Belfast in 1974, see Irish Republican Socialist Party.
Irish Socialist Republican Party
Leader James Connolly
Founded 1896
Dissolved 1921
Preceded by Dublin Socialist Club
Succeeded by Communist Party of Ireland
Ideology Communism
Irish nationalism
Political position Far-Left

The Irish Socialist Republican Party was a small, but pivotal Irish political party founded in 1896 by James Connolly. Its aim was to establish an Irish workers' republic. The party split in 1904 following months of internal political rows.


Despite its small size (According to the ISRP historian Lynch, the party never had more than 80 members) the ISRP is regarded by many Irish historians as a party of seminal importance in the early history of Irish socialism and republicanism. It is often described as the first socialist and republican party in Ireland, and the first organisation to espouse the ideology of socialist republicanism on the island. During its lifespan it only had one really active branch, the Dublin one. There were several attempts to create branches in Cork, Belfast, Limerick, Naas, and even in northern England but they never came to much.[1]

The party produced the first regular socialist paper in Ireland the Workers' Republic, ran candidates in local elections, represented Ireland at the Second International agitated over issues such as the Boer War and the 1798 commemorations. Politically the ISRP was before its time, putting the call for an independent "Republic" at the centre of its propaganda before Sinn Féin or others had done so.

A public meeting held by the party is described in Irish socialist playwright Sean O'Casey's autobiography Drums under the Window.

Connolly who was the full-time paid organiser for the party subsequently left Ireland for the United States in 1903 following internal conflict; in fact it seems to have been a combination of the petty infighting and his own poverty that caused Connolly to abandon Ireland (he returned in 1910). After a further split, where a small number of members established an anti-Connolly micro organisation called the Irish Socialist Labour Party, the party became inactive and wound up in March 1904. Connolly had clashed with the party's other leading light, Edward Stewart, over trade union and electoral strategy. It was revived in 1909 with the new name Socialist Party of Ireland, but once more fell into inactivity as Connolly, who was more inclined to see revolution as proceeding from 'one big union' than from a revolutionary party, became mainly engaged in the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and the union-based Irish Citizen Army.

Connolly compared the collapse of the party to 'losing a child'.

Other notable figures in the 'first' ISRP included William X. O'Brien, E. W. Stewart and P. T. Daly, who became leading figures in the Irish Trade Union movement, Cork man Con Lehane, future Northern Irish Senator Robert Dorman and Tom Lyng.

The legacy of the ISRP was to influence the left-wing and republican movements in Ireland for many decades following its demise in 1904.

Following Connolly's execution by the British in 1916 and the 1917 February Revolution in Russia, the party was once more revived and in 1921 it became the first Communist Party of Ireland. They published The Workers Republic in which the laid out their Programme in 1922. This was severely criticised by Sylvia Pankhurst in Workers Dreadnought.[2] The party dissolved in 1924. A later Communist Party of Ireland was founded in 1933.


  1. ^ Radical Politics in Modern Ireland- A History of the Irish Socialist Republican Party 1896-1904 (Irish Academic Press), David Lynch,
  2. ^ Pankhurst, Sylvia (1922). "Communism versus Reformism: Mistakes of the Communist Party of Ireland". Workers Dreadnought. 

Further reading[edit]

  • David Lynch, Radical Politics in Modern Ireland: A History of the Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP) 1896-1904, (Dublin: Irish Academic Press 2005) ISBN 0-7165-3356-1
  • Mike Milotte, Communism in Modern Ireland: The Pursuit of the Workers' Republic since 1916, (Dublin 1984)
  • Charles Townshend, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion (London 2006)
  • Charles Townshend, The Republic: The Fight For Irish Independence (London 2013)
  • Dictionary of Irish Biography (Dublin 2007)

External links[edit]