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Johnny White - An Appreciation

category derry | history and heritage | news report author Wednesday May 02, 2007 22:33author by Republican Socialist Report this post to the editors

Graveside Oration

The following speech was delivered today at the graveside of former IRA Officer Commanding and former Adjutant General of the INLA, Johnny White. This eulogy was delivered by Johnny's close friend and comrade Terry Robson.

Comrades and friends

We are gathered at this place to mourn the death and to honour and celebrate the life of our friend and comrade Johnny White.

In celebrating his life, we are expected to say that he lived life to the full and that we are able to remember the good times as well as the bad. His family will be left to mourn a man of generosity, of simple pleasures who was most at ease in the company of his own family and of his friends. But we also know that Johnny’s life since the death of his wife Maura was one of sadness and of loneliness. Although he was always comforted by the closeness of his sons and daughters, the light in his life flickered and never really recovered since the death of Moria.

But as many of you who stood at this same spot some three years ago will remember and who observed the effect on Johnny of the deep tragedy of Moria’s death and the pain that was evident in his face, there was also a realization that we were probably witnessing the beginning of the end of Johnny’s life as well.

There is a deep irony in claiming to be wise after the event, but there were those of us who knew him well who quietly looked at each other and understood instinctively that the man mourning the death of his wife was confronted by a deep and painful agony with which he was to grapple from then until now.

But just as it is important to express and make clear the hurt of this loss suffered by all of us and especially by his family, it is also important to make clear that Johnny White was no ordinary man and that in our individual and collective grief we should be able to record for posterity, our admiration for his intellect, our respect for his political commitment and our gratitude for his loyalty and devotion to his friends and comrades.

This connection with Johnny goes back a long way and in my case for almost forty years. During the heat of political debate and in the confrontations of street conflict, it was Johnny White who made it clear to me and to others that what was taking place in the struggle for civil rights in the North was both a struggle for national self-determination and a struggle for the freedom of the Irish working-class.

To those of us in our confused and undeveloped way who believed instinctively that we were involved in a class struggle, it was to Johnny and others who introduced us to the socialist republicanism of James Connolly and who made it clear that the national question and the class struggle were one and the same – not just two sides of the same coin – not separate, but related and everlasting. It was a view which he held for all of his adult life.

It was the simplicity of the message we received in those early days when we all felt that we were riding on the crest of a revolutionary wave in which fundamental political change seemed inevitable, which made Johnny so unique, so uncluttered, so reasoned and so consistent.

For him, society consisted of two great opposing classes and that the class interests of the minority were used to deny the class interests of the majority. This led him to declare in the tradition of Connolly his unapologetic support for the Irish working class and his hatred of bigotry racism, sexism and sectarianism. In so many ways this uncomplicated approach to politics was the mark of the man which set him aside from others and which demonstrated his talent and ability for leadership at critical periods in our history.

Johnny White had a long and distinguished involvement as a republican fighter. But for those who still believe that Irish Republicanism is confined to the expulsion of the British presence and that the struggle for working class emancipation is a distraction, let it be said that Johnny White represented a broader political consciousness, characterized by an internationalist perspective in which a rejection of exclusivity, of bigotry and of sectarianism would have been at the core of his political consciousness. He would have supported the tactic engaging in electoral politics, but he would never have agreed to an alliance with unionism. Johnny never wavered from this view He was for all of us a perfect example of the disciplined professional revolutionary.

Such a distinguished political involvement brought him through the ranks of the republican movement; as a member of the IRA army council and to act as Officer Commanding the Derry Command, Official Irish Republican Army during the most critical periods following the erection of the barricades in 19769 and in 1971 and in response to the widespread use of internment powers by the Unionist administration Johnny took part in several engagements against the forces of occupation.

But as important and significant as that particular role may have been, it needs to be remembered that Johnny White was also central to many of the political initiatives which led finally to the collapse of the Stormont regime during his chairmanship of the James Connolly Republican Club.

He was a founder member of the Derry Citizens’ Defence Committee, established as a peoples’ response within Free Derry to the uniformed invaders of the RUC and B Specials and acted in defence of those barricaded areas.

He was active in the formation of the Derry Housing Action Committee which highlighted the abuse of the landlord system and the sectarian mismanagement of local housing provision.

He took part in the many demonstrations of the Unemployed Action Committee, formed to highlight the problem of enforced emigration and long-term unemployment.

During all of this period whilst he continued to support the non-sectarian programme of the Civil Rights movement he argued forcefully for a class analysis of the situation in the North whilst forming alliances with other like-minded radical groups such as the Derry Labour Party, Derry Young Socialists and the Peoples’ Democracy, fore runners of the anti-imperialist broad front strategy.

After being forced over the border because of his leadership role as the most senior Official IRA man in Derry, Johnny and his family continued to lead a life of permanent and perpetual harassment by the Garda Special Branch as they moved from Buncrana to Letterkenny and then to Dublin.

It was during this time when, in exposing the duplicity and hypocrisy of the Goulding-led leadership of the Official IRA, he joined with Seamus Costello and others in the formation of the Irish Republican Socialist Party serving for a time on its first national executive. The leadership of Costello and Johnnie White also resulted in the coming together of former IRA volunteers in a new revolutionary armed initiative, the Irish National Liberation Army, in which Johnnie served as its first Adjutant General.

It was also during this period that he and Costello were praised for their contribution during a conference in Amherst in the United States when they vigorously debated the political programme of socialist republicanism with representatives of unionism and loyalism.

But these were difficult times in the movement and the debates which took place within the IRSP in those early days on what he saw as the dominant role of the army in the democratic process led Johnnie once again to move with others in the creation of the short-lived Irish Committee for a Socialist Programme and the Irish Socialist Party. It was a move which Johnnie was to deeply regret whilst for the fledgling IRSP it meant the loss of one of its most able organisers.

Since then he returned to Derry, involved himself in community work, acted as a welfare rights adviser, becoming active once again in trade union work.

His decision to give evidence at the Bloody Sunday tribunal with other former members of his IRA staff was to be no narrow contribution to a British established inquiry. On the contrary, Johnnie saw it as an opportunity to set the record straight – to confirm the defensive role of the IRA on that day, to expose the dishonesty of the British government and to reject the duplicity and hypocrisy of former priests that the ‘Officials’ were driven by an alien ideology and tainted with accusations of criminality.

Let there be no mistake, to the end Johnny White was a man of principle whose primary aim was the creation of a party of the Irish working class. To many of us he was one of the real heroes of the struggle for freedom and democracy in Ireland. The fact that he suffered pain and loss in later years merely confirms a real sense of humanity of the man. He was one of us and we shall always remember him for his contribution, for his commitment and for his comradeship.

To those of his family, his daughters Patricia, Roisin, and Maria, sons Sean, Kieran, Liam and grandchildren, his brothers Tommy, Willie and Bobby and sisters Tillie and Kathleen, who have lost a father, a grandfather and a brother we extend our deepest sympathy.

We have lost many comrades in the past and we loved all of them. But this one was special and we loved him because of who he was and, especially, because he was one of us.

Finally, let me use the words of a another revolutionary on the death of Malcolm X, the champion of black liberation and socialism recalled by Bernadette McAliskey on the death of Johnnie’s friend and comrade, Seamus Costello:

"Without Johnny, we feel suddenly vulnerable, small and weak, somewhat frightened, not by the prospect of death, but of life and struggle without his contribution, his strength and inspiration."

Thank you.

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author by sean steelepublication date Thu May 03, 2007 09:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors



So another paramiltary bites the dust. Too bad, given how much misery the INLA with its petty feuding and squabbling has caused. Not to mention its criminality and its drug dealing all under the guise of fighting for the IRish working class. More like a curse on the working class. The sooner this lot of ratbags shuts up shop and disappears into history's rubbish bin, the better. Good riddance!!!

Remember the Darkley Massacre!!!!

yours

author by Conor Cruise O'Brienpublication date Thu May 03, 2007 10:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Are you capable of reading the words on the screen?

"But these were difficult times in the movement and the debates which took place within the IRSP in those early days on what he saw as the dominant role of the army in the democratic process led Johnnie once again to move with others in the creation of the short-lived Irish Committee for a Socialist Programme and the Irish Socialist Party. It was a move which Johnnie was to deeply regret whilst for the fledgling IRSP it meant the loss of one of its most able organisers.

Since then he returned to Derry, involved himself in community work, acted as a welfare rights adviser, becoming active once again in trade union work. "

Get it now mate? That's how much he had to do with the drug dealers that came out of fragments of the INLA, or the Darkley massacre, or any of the other shitty things that were done in the name of the INLA. But I guess you'd prefer to play the same broken record "paramilitary scum drug dealers blah blah blah" and pretend that the whole conflict was caused by a bunch of mindless thugs who liked firing guns at each other

author by Sean Steelepublication date Thu May 03, 2007 10:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

nothing has changed mr connor cruise o booze,

Good bye and good riddance to the paramilitary trash whose main achievement over the last 40 years was to fill the graveyards adn dole queues. Nothing but a bunch of parasites adn thugs!

It is not a secret that the INLA (like their loyalist scumbag opposite numbers) were up to their necks in criminality that is of course when they weren't shooting each other over some peroanly clash over drunken row.

Goodbye and good riddance

author by Conor Cruise O'Brienpublication date Thu May 03, 2007 10:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When your previous argument has been torn to shreds, it's a sign of terminal incapacity to think and crashing ignorance when you simply repeat it. No matter how shrill you are, no matter how loudly you bang your fist on the table, it won't change the fact that you are talking thru your backside. You have completely ignored the fact that Johnny White had nothing to do with the activities that you are talking about, as you would see if you were capable of reading words that conflict with your fanatical, childish prejudices. Now if you have nothing new to say, just go away and keep your silly little rants to yourself. I'm sure it makes you feel like a big man to be gloating at the news of someone else's death from behind a pseudonym on a website. Enjoy the surge of masculinity that courses thru your veins Sean, it'll probably be the most exciting thing that happens to you all week.

author by Confusedpublication date Thu May 03, 2007 10:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

when you take over the country can we have a little squad of soldiers with bayonets on their guns marching up and down outside the GPO wearing white gloves and goose stepping to pay respect to the men of 1916?

author by sean steelepublication date Thu May 03, 2007 10:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Surge of masculinity? Argument thorn to shed? Oh dear you areally are living on planet of the IRPS.

No connection to the real worl then.

Ps. Remember Darkley!!! A great victory for the Irish Working classes!!!!!

Slán leat a chara

PS> A quick question for you Mr O Booze,

How may INLA/IRSP members were murdered in your petty squabbles?

author by Conor Cruise O'Brienpublication date Thu May 03, 2007 11:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm simply going to repeat what I said in the previous comment, since you have refused to read it, or respond to it in any way:

"You have completely ignored the fact that Johnny White had nothing to do with the activities that you are talking about, as you would see if you were capable of reading words that conflict with your fanatical, childish prejudices. Now if you have nothing new to say, just go away and keep your silly little rants to yourself."

You can rant and rave about the Darkley massacre all you like, it has nothing to do with the man whose death has prompted you to such ghoulish gloating. I have nothing to do with the IRSP or the INLA, never been a member and don't agree with their politics. You are obviously incapable of reading words that don't fit in with your fanatical dogma. I expect another post from you now, repeating the same blather and refusing to deal with arguments that you can't answer. For someone who understands so little, you're very sure of your own opinion. Oh well, ain't that the story of the Internet. Empty vessels and all that.

author by Sean Steelepublication date Thu May 03, 2007 11:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You accuse me of ranting and raving!! You should take a look at what you write!!!! It reads like the unstabel person's guinde to nutty nationalist politics. It don't matter what he was personally aprt of, he was part of an organisation that commited plenty of foul deed many of them towards the oppressed nationalists on whose behalf they claim to have take up the gun and the bomb!!! To this day the INLA is mired in criminality. It is you who refuse to look realith sqyarely in the face.

And why shouldn't I mention Darkley? after all it was one of the INLA's units that carried it out. Made a ncie change from shooting each other I suppose, killing some Prods at prayer. Chalk that one up in the annals of Irish Republican Socialism!]

yours,

author by Big Macpublication date Thu May 03, 2007 12:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While I have never been a member of the INLA, I was a member of PIRA before they decided to prop up the 6 County Statelet of N.Ireland, I knew Johnny White and greatly admired the man for what he stood for and that was the working class people. He died without selling out his long held principles for a slice of the cake as they say.
I always believed that the INLA were going no where but that doesn't take away from the fact that among their ranks there were truly committed and courageous people willing to give all for the struggle, people like Patsy O'Hara, Micky Devine and Johnny White.
I would say to friends of Johnny to ignore the rants of pathetic morons who have all the political awareness of a drunken England fan with a skin head and a can of lager in their hand. If you ignore their rants it would be like ignoring the tantrums of a spoilt child.

author by republicanpublication date Thu May 03, 2007 12:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Rest in Peace Johnny White. Unlike many others he was willing to put his life and liberty on the line when the Orange State tried to violently suppress the movement for democracy in the north.

As regards Steele and his remarks on Darkley: the Darkley massacre (regardles of how many times the pro-state media peddle this filth) was NOT carried out by the INLA. It was immediately condemned at the time by both the IRSP and the Chief of Staff of the INLA Dominic McGlinchy. The attack was carried out, off his own bat, by a very annoying INLA volunteer called Carroll in conjunction with two of his friends neither of whom were INLA. It was not an INLA operation - it was an act of personal bitterness.

author by Sean Steelepublication date Thu May 03, 2007 13:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

thanks for cleraing that one up. Now who was it shot all those INLA members in all their petty squabbles?

And were the INLA members who carried out the Darkley massacre subjected to any "republican justice" ie being hung upisde down in a cow shed in south armagh?

And as for being a moron, that is a bit rich coming from a member of the organisation that has killed more Catholics than the Brits and RUC did. (Charlie Armstrong anyone?) I can underatnd you are a bit frustrated. After all thirty year of bombing and killing so that teh Shinner could adminster British rule from Stormont!!!!

Good riddance to all that paramilitary rubbish!!! A curse on our country!!

author by Sean Steelepublication date Thu May 03, 2007 13:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

thanks for cleraing that one up. Now who was it shot all those INLA members in all their petty squabbles?

And were the INLA members who carried out the Darkley massacre subjected to any "republican justice" ie being hung upisde down in a cow shed in south armagh?

And as for being a moron, that is a bit rich coming from a member of the organisation that has killed more Catholics than the Brits and RUC did. (Charlie Armstrong anyone?) I can underatnd you are a bit frustrated. After all thirty year of bombing and killing so that teh Shinner could adminster British rule from Stormont!!!!

Good riddance to all that paramilitary rubbish!!! A curse on our country!!

PS. That Dominic McGlinchey you mention, was that Dominic McGlinchey the psychopath or was that someone else? Didn't he kill more than a few of his own members?

author by Gan ainmpublication date Fri May 04, 2007 21:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sean, reading your rants I cant help but get the feeling that you might have a bit of a history yourself.
I'm thinking bitter ageing stickie, your real name wouldnt be Garland by any chance?

author by BOBBYpublication date Tue May 08, 2007 23:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

eire nua Ireland unfree shall never be at peace

author by c hassenpublication date Tue May 08, 2007 23:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Have a bit of respect the mans dead.

author by Roisin White - Daughterpublication date Wed Jun 13, 2007 20:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is for my father Johnny White a great leader a man who gave and got a lot of respect a man with prinsiple a good father and a great husband so this is for you sean steel dont talk about things you dont no about read up on your history you silly man i dont expect people like you to have respect for any one

author by kieran whitepublication date Sun Jul 08, 2007 00:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Son of johnny white a good man who at a very yong age in the early 1960's saw a unionist controlled British establishment that occupied the six counties of Ireland, discriminate against people for religious reasons for British control over the six counties. Johnny didn't ask for this system of injustice but thankfully young men like Johnny White decided to do something about this. All Johnny and the others involved did was march for the rights that everybody else was entiltled to of which they were denied under a British rule through a one party unionist state. The 5th of October 1968, the R.U.C attacked the people that stood up to a state of corruption and controlled by secterianism. This system came about centuries ago for Britains own political reasons: divide and conquer. A good example was a partide in South Africia, the British did it there on colour of skin and in Ireland they did it on religion. It is still law in England that a member of the Royal family cannot marry a catholic. It wasn't Johnny White that made these laws. He died a man of no property and his primary inspriation in life was James Connolly. Johnny and the people of 1968 didn't ask the state to attack them, all they wanted was civil rights and thankfully for people like Johnny White who stood up to the brutality of the state, we can actually say that we are better off today in a British ruled state, unfortunately run by Sinn Fein. Unfortunately as in any war people die, knowing my father for what he was he wouldn't like to see anybody suffer in any way but unfortunately this British controlled state decided to deny his people their civil rights and thankfully for us my father did something about it. To anyone who has suffered over the last 30 years, I am sorry for your suffering but my father did not cause this conflict.

author by Peter Mc Lpublication date Sun Jul 08, 2007 00:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Alot of people sold the country out, Johhny was one of the good men, a legend that I hope will be in the history books for future generations to read about. In my eyes he was James Connolly. May he rest in peace.

author by Paul Dohertypublication date Sun Jul 08, 2007 00:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There are alot of people who had great respect for Johnny White. In my eyes anyone that does not respect the man that was on the run for 18 years does not understand, Johnny was living in a caravan with no running water, no heating, nothing. What did he gain? In my eyes alot of respect.

author by roisin whitepublication date Sun Jul 08, 2007 00:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

this is 4 kieran that wrote that message it was brilliant very movin but very true. Johnny white was a good man a carin man if only the small minded people could see that.

author by Derry IRP - IRSPpublication date Thu Sep 20, 2007 19:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Paul Doherty: "There are alot of people who had great respect for Johnny White. In my eyes anyone that does not respect the man that was on the run for 18 years does not understand, Johnny was living in a caravan with no running water, no heating, nothing. What did he gain? In my eyes alot of respect."

I am a member of the IRSP in Derry. I am too young to have known Johnny when he was politically active but I have learned a great deal about him since he died. He was a leader of the downtrodden in Derry before any troubles began. I read an interview in the Starry Plough a few years ago in which Johnny described how an agent of the Irish government offered £50,000 to members of the fledgling Provisional movement in 1969 to have Johnny killed. This shows how much of a threat the state thought of Johnny in particular and the political philosophy of Republican Socialism. Johnny sacrificed a lot for the working class people of Ireland and the attacks on his reputation here by those who know nothing about him show how ill educated and ill informed they actually are.

author by gerry b - socialist republicanpublication date Wed Dec 07, 2011 18:26author email gerardbyrne60 at gmail dot comauthor address clondalkin d 22author phone 4571643Report this post to the editors

i worked with and knew johnny white over 30 years ago in dublin and he was a gentleman who gave his life and time to others we need many more like him these days with our country destroyed by the greedy selfish native irish capitalist class he was a true republican socialist who will sadly missed rip johnny

author by gerry b - socialist republicanpublication date Wed Dec 07, 2011 18:26author email gerardbyrne60 at gmail dot comauthor address clondalkin d 22author phone 4571643Report this post to the editors

i worked with and knew johnny white over 30 years ago in dublin and he was a gentleman who gave his life and time to others we need many more like him these days with our country destroyed by the greedy selfish native irish capitalist class he was a true republican socialist who will sadly missed rip johnny

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