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Eire Nua Tanzanian Style

Liam O Ruairc

Recently, Sinn Fein and the IRA's foreign links have been put in the spotlight with the arrest of three Republicans in Colombia and Gerry Adams' visit to Cuba. Over the last thirty years, the Republican Movement's foreign connections have been examined by many observers. Much of what has been written on that topic is based on speculations by self-proclaimed "experts" in the "terrorism industry": the Republican Movement is supposedly manipulated by foreign agencies like the KGB, Libya, etc. and a secret international network links the IRA to ETA, the PLO, RAF, etc. The best known examples of that type of approach are authors like Claire Sterling, James Adams or Yonah Alexander. More serious studies have been devoted to analyse the links between the Irish struggle and the Palestinian, Basque or South African struggles. Those links have been relatively well documented. But an area which remains unexplored is the Republican Movement's attitude to particular political regimes or specific foreign governments. If the general public is aware that Irish Republicans back the Basque struggle, very few would know for example that Sinn Fein had developed for almost a decade a fascination with Julius Nyerere's regime in Tanzania.

During the 1970s, Irish Republicans were speculating on the new Ireland -the Eire Nua- they would establish after British withdrawal. The Republican Movement then rejected both what they called Eastern Bloc "State Socialism" because of its "totalitarianism" and denial of civil liberties and Western capitalism. It sought a "third way" between the two. The early Sinn Fein programme Eire Nua (1971/1972) envisaged an independent federal Ireland, non-aligned to the Western or then Easter blocks either military (NATO or Warsaw Pact) or economically (EEC or COMECON). Private property would be restricted and economic activities would be based on co-operatives. This programme would create a balance beween East and West. To illustrate what this new Ireland would be like, Republicans looked for inspiration in some other countries and political regimes. In an interview in the mid-1970s, Ruairi O'Bradaigh explained that Sinn Fein's programme inspired itself from a number of countries. "When we talk about our federal structures of government and local participation, there is something like that in Switzerland. When we talk about workers' ownership there is something like that in Yugoslavia. On the co-operative side we find certain developments in Danish agriculture quite encouraging." ("Interview with Steve Johns", An Phoblacht (vol.7 n.28) 16 July 1976, p.5) The countries most referred to up to the late 1970s are the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Tanzania. The new Ireland would be a synthesis of all good aspects in those countries. Sinn Fein then showed a great interest in Swiss Federalism. A brochure titled "Switzerland - A Model of Federal Democracy" was even for sale for years in the offices of Provisional Sinn Fein located in Kevin Street (As late as 1995, the author still saw them in RSF offices in Parnell Street). The original Eire Nua programme had favourable references to economic policies in Denmark or cultural policies in Finland.

Maybe most remarkable was Tanzania. If in the case of Switzerland or Denmark, only aspects of those countries were looked upon favourably, but with Tanzania it was promoted as a model to emulate as a whole. From the Provos' publications, it looks like the new Ireland they were trying to create was a European version of Julius Nyerere's regime in Tanzania. In 1970, Ruairi O Bradaigh wrote: "Social and economic thinking in the Republican Movement is based on the Comhar na gComharsan ('Neighbours' Co-operation') philosophy . For us in Sinn Fein, it is our 'socialism' just as for Julius Nyerere of Tanzania his Ujamaa or 'Familyhood' is the basis of 'African Socialism' " (Ruairi O Bradaigh, Our People, Our Future: What Eire Nua Means, (Dublin: Sinn Fein, 1973), p. 7) Sinn Fein presented the Ujamaa as being "Eire Nua Tanzanian style" ('Eldrida', "Ujamaa: Eire Nua Tanzanian Style", An Phoblacht (vol.8 n.3) 25 January 1977, p.4 as well as 'Eldrida', "Ujamaa", An Phoblacht (vol.8 n.4), 1 February 1977, p.4) Tanzania was the closest example to the type of regime Provisional Republicans were seeking to establish in Ireland. In 1978, a member of Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau visited Tanzania, and wrote about the trip under the pseudonym of "Eldrida". "There is much in the Tanzanian experiment which should be of interest to Irish Republicans. Tanzanians are also discovering what 'ourselves alone' means, and that the 'risen people' are they themselves when they came together to claim and build their own nation." ('Eldrida', "Building a Nation in Tanzania", Republican News (vol.8 n.48) 9 December 1978, p.10). (See also the quote and photo of Nyeyere in Republican News (vol.7 n.38), 8 October 1977, p.2)

However, by the late 1970s, Irish Republicans had lost interest in Tanzania, finding other references to identify with. At the time of the fascination with Tanzania, also appeared an odd article praising President Kaunda of Zambia, whose slogan "humanity, religion, discipline, industry" was according to Sinn Fein "of great significance to the world" (T.P. O'Grady, "Africa's Gentle Giant", Republican News (vol.4 n.37), 28 September 1974, p.5). But by the 1980s and 1990s, the main African reference for Irish Republicans in Africa was Nelson Mandela. Sinn Fein also expressed sympathy for SWAPO in Namibia or Angola, but the difference with Tanzania is that Republicans never promoted these countries as models to emulate.

This is article is the second in a series examining Sinn Fein's international links.
See also: From Havana to Pyongyang



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