When the campaign in the Six Counties ended in 1962, the leadership of the movement was faced with the question: what form will our next campaign take? We had to ask this question of ourselves, because we knew that if we were to retain the leadership of the movement, and maintain the movement itself as a revolutionary organization, we would need to have a policy for the next phase of the fight against British Imperialism in Ireland.
Also, we had on our hands trained physical force revolutionaries who were, to some extent, still armed. They would decide for themselves what would happen next, if we didn’t decide for them. With that idea in mind, we called a conference. It lasted roughly eighteen months—almost two years. We held its sessions regularly, almost once a fortnight. At these meetings we called representatives of local leadership.
We included in this Conference a number of the younger people who were active militarily—in the 25 year age-group or even younger. It was essential to stop any premature action by these people. We weren’t just sitting down and waiting for something to happen. We were determined to plan for something that we could develop.
Yes, but it was also a post-mortem in a larger sense. The terms of reference that the Army Council gave this Conference, were, briefly, to examine the whole position of the Republican movement from the beginning of this century, to try to supply answers to a number of different questions—such as why was the Republican movement unable to succeed in spite of the fact that the people who were engaged in its revolutionary activities were willing to make any sacrifice for it. Although supporters made sacrifices in the sense that they gave us their property, their money, we still never came within a real hope of success.
We found that we couldn’t stay within the historical terms of reference we’d been given. We had to go back further. The whole history of the resistance to British Imperialism in Ireland, even from 1798, was relevant. The conclusions that we came to were that, although we had the potential for revolution (we had the manpower, and in some cases we even had the material), we were separated from the people of Ireland, in the sense that we were a secret organization.
The people had no real knowledge of our objectives, they didn’t understand our tactics or our motives. It they didn’t understand us, they couldn’t be with us. Without the support of the majority of the people, we just couldn’t succeed.
The question was: how could we get the people to support us? The evidence was that the Republican movement had no real policies. Without objectives, we couldn’t develop a proper strategy. Tactics were all that we had employed. The actual fight for freedom had become an end in itself to us. Instead of a means, it became an end. We hadn’t planned to achieve the freedom of Ireland. We simply planned to fight for the freedom of Ireland. We could never hope to succeed because we never planned to succeed.