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L-R David Meehan, Dr. Philip O'Connor, John McDonough, Jack Lane

British and Irish Communist Organisation archive donated to DCU

DCU Library has received a substantial donation of papers from the British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) and its associated groups.

Delivered to the university in 27 old and battered suitcases, the BICO archive is an extensive collection of continuous publications and related material originating in the mid-1960s, centring on the then Irish Communist Organisation, to the present, notably those of the Aubane Historical Society. It includes over fifty years of historic records relating to a variety of left-wing organisations, campaigns, and debates on topical issues pertaining to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Britain, Europe and the wider world. 

Among the items in the collection are:

  • BICO’s own periodicals, pamphlets, and records;

  • Papers relating to groups such as the Divorce Action Group, the Limerick Socialist Organisation (established by Jim Kemmy), the Campaign to Separate Church and State, and the Campaign for Labour Representation in Northern Ireland;

  • Material from the 1960s onwards concerning the Dublin and Cork Housing Action Committees, the Irish Workers Group in London and early Irish Maoist organisations

  • Many publications from the 1990s onwards of the Aubane Historical Society disputing the revisionist development in Irish history writing, most lately a full printing – and first ever republication – in six volumes of the Irish Bulletin, the newspaper of the First Dáil

The archive came to DCU through Philip O’Connor, who has just completed a PhD on Charles Haughey and the political history of Irish social partnership through DCU’s School of Law and Government.

Present at the formal donation of the materials today were John McDonough, the University Librarian at DCU Library, Dr. Philip O’Connor, left wing activist and former BICO member, Jack Lane, who was central to the archive being donated to DCU, and David Meehan, Associate Director, Special Collections & Archives, DCU Library.

John McDonough said:

“We're delighted to accept the BICO collection into the care of DCU Library. This collection complements our extensive primary sources in the field of government, politics and activism, which include the papers and diaries of Charles J. Haughey, Mary Kenny, Sean Lester, Frank McDonald, Mary Raftery and the Union of Students in Ireland. 

BICO gives us real insights into social activism and policy generation during crucial periods of our recent history. Once processed and made available to scholars and the public, the collection will enable Dublin City University to identify research priorities and help realise outputs with real impacts on understanding Irish society and its relationship with our British and European neighbours.”

Dr. Philip O’Connor said:

“I’m very happy that this important collection has now found worthy home alongside the papers of other key figures in the development of modern Ireland.

Jack Lane said:

“I hope the archive will provide a perspective on Irish history and political developments of recent decades.”

This major donation complements archives of leaders, activists and innovators in Irish society held at DCU Library, including papers of the NGO Afri and the Union of Students in Ireland. BICO also stands alongside and contrasts with leading DCU collections with political and international resonance such as the Charles J. Haughey papers, the Sean Lester diaries, the Bob McDonagh library and the Mary Raftery collection.

About BICO

Developing out of the Irish Communist Organisation, The British and Irish Communist Organisation (BICO) was a communist organisation led over the years by Brendan and Angela Clifford, Pat Murphy, Denis Dennehy and Jack Lane and it had bases in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and London. 

It famously developed the “Two Nations” position on Northern Ireland and controversial positions on many other issues that impacted on public debate. It produced a large number of publications, both under the BICO name as well as through several publishing imprints.  Among those publications were periodicals such as The Irish Communist, Workers Weekly, The Irish Political Review, Church and State and a wide range of pamphlets and books on historical studies. Notable among these are the many later publications of the Aubane Historical Society.

About Jack Lane

Jack Lane first became politically active while in UCC in the late 1960s. He helped break the ban on political party activity in the college by setting up a branch of the Irish Labour Party. He was active in anti-Vietnam war demonstrations and supported the activities of the Cork Housing Action Committee - a support group of the Dublin Housing Action Committee. For these activities he was arrested and convicted, denounced in the Dáil and lost his teaching job. He left the Labour Party and moved to Dublin and got involved with the Maoist movement – the Internationalists. 

He joined the Irish Communist Organisation (ICO) in January 1969.  He participated in the defence of the Falls Road by joining the Citizen Defence Committee in the Beechmount area of Belfast in August 1969. He moved to London in the mid-70s and continued to participate in all the campaigns and activities of the ICO and later BICO in Ireland and Britain. He helped set up the Aubane Historical Society in 1985 which has facilitated the publication of over a hundred publications on Cork local history and countering the revisionist tendency in Irish history writing.

Photo: L-R David Meehan, Dr. Philip O'Connor, John McDonough, Jack Lane