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Fethard-on-Sea and The Beginnings of Ian Paisley (and The Workers Party)

Sunday, 24 February, 2008
From: "Rory Connor"
To: tadhgfanning

Tim Fanning

Dear Mr Fanning

I believe you are doing a book on the subject of the Fethard-On-Sea Boycottt. The following two articles have appeared on the website


Rory Connor
087 675 1169

Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2007 18:25:39 +0100 (BST)
From: Rory Connor
Subject: The Beginnings of Ian Paisley (and The Workers Party)
To: mick.fealty

Mick Fealty
at Slugger O'Toole

I am interested mainly in false allegations of child abuse against Catholic clergy and others. I will have my own website as soon as I do a FAS course but a lot of my material is on at present. I recently came across some material that is relevant to my subject AND the politics of Northern Ireland. It concerns the Workers Party and the recently showing (for the umpteen time) by RTE of the film about the Fethard-on-Sea boycott. I had not realised before that

(a) one of the producers is a member of the Workers Party
(b) the film includes lying depictions of a armed aggression and a house burning by alleged Catholic fanatics.
(c) Ian Paisley's involvement
(d) the conditions set by the lady before she would return to her husband.

There are two articles and the last part of the second one comes from your blog (Note 6).


Rory Connor 

A LOVE DIVIDED" - The Fethard-on-Sea Boycott and the Workers Party (1)

[The following short article by David Quinn appeared in the Irish Catholic on Thursday 13 September 2007.  I did not realise that Gerry Gregg, one of the producers of the film, is a former member of the Workers Party. However it does not surprise me at all. Doctor Moira Woods - who accused Eddie Hernon of child abuse - was a member. So of course was Pat Rabbitte - the man who brought down the government of Albert Reynolds in 1994 by falsely suggesting that Cardinal Cahal Daly had engaged in a conspiracy with the Attorney General to delay the extradition of Father Brendan Smyth.

The film "A Love Divided" is supposed to be based on fact but it includes a depiction of the burning of a Protestant farmhouse that never happened. The Workers Party liked to stir up religious hatred but only when that hatred was "progressive". They regarded anti-clericalism as a progressive form of religious hatred!

Rory Connor
21 September 2007]

Irish Catholic, 13 September 2007 by David Quinn

"No-one denies that the boycott of Protestant businesses by Catholics in Fethard-on-Sea in 1957 was a terrible thing. But why oh why did the movie about the boycott, 'A Love Divided' by former Workers Party member, Gerry Gregg, have to embellish it even more by including incidents that didn't happen, such as the burning down of a Protestant farmhouse? I bring this up because 'A Love Divided' was on again the other night."

[ The following is based on an article in Wikipedia. Among other things it demonstrates that Gerry Gregg of the Workers Party had quite a lot in common with Ian Paisley in exploiting a dispute between husband and wife in order to stir up religious hatred. It turns out that Eamon de Valera had little in common with either as he had no wish to stir up hatred between Catholics and Protestants!

Rory Connor
23 September 2007]

The Boycott
In May 1957, Fethard-on-Sea found itself embroiled in controversy related to the Ne Temere decree. The Roman Catholic priest Father Stafford and his parishioners started a sectarian  boycott of Protestant-owned local businesses; a Protestant music teacher lost 12 of her 13 pupils, and the Catholic teacher of the local Protestant school was forced to resign. The boycott was in response to the actions of a Protestant woman, Sheila Kelly Cloney. Cloney had left both her Catholic husband, Sean Cloney, and the village, taking her two daughters, rather than sending them to the local National (Catholic) School as Father Stafford demanded. The boycott received national and international coverage through the summer (some TDs regarded this as a case of kidnapping) , before ending that autumn.
In 1998, the diocese's bishop publicly apologized for the boycott.

The Film
A movie, A Love Divided (1999) was made about the Cloney family, starring Irish actress  Orla Brady as Sheila Cloney. Certain scenes, such as those of the burning of Tom Kelly's (Sheila Kelly Cloney's Protestant father) farm and of violence involving firearms were fabrications and historical misrepresentation, according to Eileen Kehoe, one of the couple's daughters [Note 1]. Also, the film depicted the active support of the local Bishop Dr James Staunton, for the boycott. In reality, while many local clergy supported the boycott, Dr. Staunton merely refused to condemn it. [Note 2] Sheila Cloney took the children with her to Belfast and made contact with her husband through the means of a solicitor, as depicted in the film. The solicitor suggested a reconciliation was possible, provided Seán Cloney accept her terms, never revealed in the film. They were, that her husband sell the farm and emigrate (with herself and the children) to Australia or Canada and that he accept that the children be raised as Protestants . [Notes 3 and 4] He refused. Contrary to what was depicted in the motion picture, the Catholic school teacher employed by the Protestants was not ordered out of the school by her (Catholic) Parish Priest: she herself was the subject of a boycott by the local Protestant parents of pupils . [Note 5] One of the movie's writers, Gerry Gregg, was an ardent Communist and former member of The Workers Party of Ireland noted for his antagonism towards the Catholic Church and Irish Republicanism [Note 6].

(1) from article "Love Conquers All" Sunday Mirror, 5 December 1999 by Amanda Doherty
Sean Cloney, who remained a devout Catholic but stern critic of the Church's hierarchy,  died last month from pneumonia. But his daughter, Eileen Kehoe, revealed that he was delighted  to see the film screened  before he died.

"The country's response to the film has been overwhelming. My father was pleased to  see it before he died," she said. "He did make some public comment about where the film had misrepresented some historical points  such as the burning of my grandfather Tom Kelly's farm and the physical violence involving sticks and guns. These events did not happen."

Eileen returned to the town with her parents and sister Mary when the boycott ended. She lives in a comfortable bungalow across the road from the farm where she grew up. Her husband Bill Kehoe, a world champion tug of war team member, runs the  125-acre Cloney farm.

"After the boycott when we returned to Fethard not a word was said about it," she said.  "Everyone smiled at each other and were as courteous as ever.

(2) from (UK) Independent, 22 October 1999 by Alan Murdoch

Catholic clergy in the south-east backed the boycott; Dr James Staunton, the hardline local bishop, declined to criticise it.
 As national and international press highlighted the controversy, it was seized on by a young Northern Ireland Presbyterian, Ian Paisley [!!], for whom it confirmed his prejudices about the fate of Protestantism in a wider Catholic society. Irish Catholics further afield did not generally support the boycott. The Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, a devout Catholic and instigator of the Constitution, called the boycott "ill-conceived, ill-considered, and futile" in July 1957. His words fell on deaf ears.

(3) from The Mayo News, 23 May 2007, "Fethard Boycott Recalled" by Fr Kevin Hegarty
In late April Sheila left home, without informing her husband, and went to Belfast with the two girls. Some days later a Belfast barrister, Desmond Toal, went to Fethard-on-Sea to inform Seán Cloney of the whereabouts of his wife and children. He also told him she was prepared to return to him only if he sold the farm and emigrated. Seán refused and began legal proceedings for the return of his children.

(4) from Time Magazine 19 August 1957
One day last April, while Sean worked in his fields, Sheila bundled their two children into the car and drove off. Later, a Belfast barrister turned up at Dungulph Castle with Sheila's terms for coming back: Cloney must sell the farm, move to Canada or Australia, agree to let the children be raised as Protestants. Cloney got a conditional order for a writ of habeas corpus for his children's return, and waited.

(5) Extract from National Archives, Record 18441 from Department of the Taoiseach
Newsclipping from the 'Irish Times', 27 May 1957, containing an article entitled 'Village boycott of school and shops'. The article relates to the boycotting by Catholics of Protestant shops in Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford . Their actions resulted from a domestic dispute between Sheila Cloney, a Protestant, and her husband, Sean Cloney, a Catholic. 'The terms of settlement included his agreement that the two children be brought up in the Protestant faith, and that he consider changing his own religion'. The article states that a Protestant boycott of the local school's Catholic teacher was initiated in response to the action of the Catholic community. The concluding paragraph of the article outlines local opinion. 'A Catholic trader said he believed that if the children were not returned to their father the boycott might spread all over the diocese'.

(6) from "Slugger O'Toole" Blog 20 December 2004
"In 1992, the Irish Times' Moscow correspondent, Seamus Martin, was rooting around the official archives of the Soviet Communist Party when he made an interesting find. 

Martin discovered two letters on Workers Party (WP) headed notepaper, addressed to the international department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
The letters were dated July and September 1986, and were apparently signed by the general secretary of the Workers Party, Sean Garland.

The September letter sought a grant of GBP1 million from the CPSU and referred to WP fundraising through "special activities". The party later claimed that this letter was a fabrication, but never denied the authenticity of the earlier letter.

That letter, sent on July 1 1986, was a request by Garland to the CPSU to meet Gerry Gregg - then on leave from his job as an RTE television producer - who had recently formed his own TV production company, Iskra Productions. (Iskra was the name of the Bolshevik newsletter in 1917.) Iskra, wrote Garland , was interested in producing films on Soviet life.

Garland explained that the Workers Party in Ireland had devoted a lot of time and money to combating the "capitalist media" and to educating "the working class".

"As part of this struggle," he continued, "some members of the Workers Party recently formed Iskra Productions. Iskra productions functions in an environment hostile to a Marxist analysis of many of the problems confronting western society.
"However, Iskra Productions also recognises that, within the western media there is a commercial appetite for 'stories' which, paradoxically, may embody a critique of the dominant ideology or power structure of western society."

Garland described the company as "a Marxist film-making enterprise which commands this party's full support. Iskra is potentially a useful propaganda device for the socialist cause, for a small party like ours it promises much by way of building up the intellectual, ideological and financial resources of our party."
Garland said Iskra's "very talented team" included Gregg, his fellow TV producer Eoghan Harris, and radio producer John Caden. All three were longtime and vocal Workers Party supporters in RTE.

Gregg was a paid-up member of the party who would later  go on to make its political broadcasts at election time."

Posted by: Henry94 at December 20, 2004 05:52 PM
The above is taken from a  Sunday Business Post profile  of Gerry Gregg