Republican Congress
The Republican Congress was an Irish republican
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 political organisation founded in 1934, when left-wing
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 republicans left the Irish Republican Army. The Congress was led by such IRA veterans as Peadar O'Donnell
Peadar O'Donnell
Peadar O'Donnell was an Irish republican and socialist activist and writer.-Early life:Peadar O'Donnell was born into an Irish speaking family in Dungloe, County Donegal in northwest Ireland, in 1893. He attended St. Patrick's College, Dublin, where he trained as a teacher...

, Frank Ryan
Frank Ryan (Irish republican)
Frank Ryan was a prominent member of the Irish Republican Army, editor of An Phoblacht, leftist activist and leader of Irish volunteers on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War....

 and George Gilmore
George Gilmore
George Gilmore was a Protestant Irish Republican Army leader during the 1920s and 1930s. During his period of influence the Republican movement moved significantly to the left...

. It was a socialist
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 organisation and was dedicated to a "workers' republic" in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. The group viewed the principles of Irish socialist republicanism as: "We believe that a republic of a united Ireland will never be achieved except through a struggle which uproots capitalism on its way."

Two councillors were elected as Republican Congress candidates in Westmeath and Dundalk
Dundalk is the county town of County Louth in Ireland. It is situated where the Castletown River flows into Dundalk Bay. The town is close to the border with Northern Ireland and equi-distant from Dublin and Belfast. The town's name, which was historically written as Dundalgan, has associations...

 in 1934. At the Republican rally at Bodenstown
Bodenstown is a townland on the outskirts of Sallins in County Kildare, Ireland.The most notable local features are a golf club and the parish cemetery for Sallins. The cemetery is best known as the gravesite of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the eighteenth century Irish revolutionary and leader of the...

 in 1934, clashes occurred between Republican Congress supporters and IRA members. Congress supporters among the crowd of about 17,000 were estimated at between 600 and 2,000. The IRA leadership did not authorise banners other than its own and ordered the Congress banners to be seized. The clash was given a sectarian element by the attack on 36 Congress members from the predominantly Loyalist
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 parts of West Belfast - they formed the Shankill Road branch - who carried a banner reading, "Unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter to break the connection with Capitalism".

Following moderate success in agitating on behalf of the workers the Congress split at its first annual conference held in Rathmines Town Hall on September 8-9, 1934. The split occurred mainly due to organisational disunity between two factions. One side believed that a united front of leftist republicans could challenge the dominance of the mainstream political parties and form a "republic". The opposing faction believed that a political party should be formed in order to fight for a "workers' republic". The former resolution was passed following support from O'Donnell and the Communist Party of Ireland
Communist Party of Ireland
The Communist Party of Ireland is a small all-Ireland Marxist party, founded in 1933. An earlier party, the Socialist Party of Ireland, was renamed the Communist Party of Ireland in 1921 on its affiliation to the Communist International but was dissolved in 1924. The present-day CPI was founded in...

 (CPI). Those calling for a "workers' republic" withdrew their support and left the Congress. The group went into decline thereafter and was essentially defunct by 1936. The Congress had its last hurrah on the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 when a group of Irishmen fought for the Second Spanish Republic
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

 in the Connolly Column
Connolly Column
The Connolly Column was the name given to the Irish volunteers who fought for the Second Spanish Republic in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. They were named after James Connolly, the executed leader of the Irish Citizen Army...


The collapse of the Republican Congress is representative of the failure of the inter-war Irish socialist republican movement. The inability to form an organisationally coherent group was ultimately the crippling shortcoming of socialist republicanism.


  • Brian Hanley, The IRA 1926-1936
  • Sean Cronin, Frank Ryan: The Search for the Republic
  • Donal O'Drisceoil, Peadar O'Donnell
  • Paddy Bryne - "Memoirs of the Republic Congress"
  • Eugene Downing, a CPI member was interviewed and describes the Bodenstown episode of 1934
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