[Chapter excerpt from AFA’s book ‘Undertones: Anti-Fascism and the Far-Right in Ireland 1945-2012′. A few copies are left and are available to buy here.]
The simply named National Socialist Irish Workers Party (NSIWP) was founded in 1968 in Dublin by 26-year-old Terence Allan-Byrne , a self-employed decorator who lived with his mother at 6 St. Brendan’s Cottages, Ringsend. The founding of the organisation coincided with a ‘huge black swastika’ and the letters NSIWP daubed on the monument to Dr. William Ashford at Irishtown Square, Dublin.
This organisation, though never involving more than two dozen or so members, would be active for the next twenty years. It also played a vital role in the production of neo-Nazi paraphernalia for the European movement.
Byrne, who was born in 1942 and supposedly died in unknown circumstances in the early 1980s, insisted on being addressed as ‘Commander’ Byrne throughout his career in National Socialist politics. Other early members of the NSIWP included Pat Webb (Head of Propaganda), James Moore  (Head of Security), Colm Tarrant, Jos Mussche (former Dutch SS), P. O’Flaherty , Ann Flynn and two ‘leaders’ of the NSIWP’s Stormtrooper paramilitary units F. Radcliffe and Brent O’Brien. John T. Kane was a pseudonym used by several NSIWP members, originally Byrne.
Webb, an ex commando originally from Wolverhampton, was active with Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement (NSM) in the early 1960s and heavily involved in gun running for the far right. He went on to plant a bomb in the basement of a black family’s home in the 1970s, which exploded killing a visiting teenage relative. The rest of the family escaped injury as they were attending church at the time of the explosion.
There are also persistent rumours that both 1916 veteran Commandant W.J. Brennan-Whitmore, who was attached to the National Movement, and Alfred E. Day a former Mosleyite from Bristol who ran Carraig Books in Blackrock, were members of the NSIWP.
Throughout its existence militant anti-fascists in Dublin and elsewhere kept a close eye on the NSIWP and launched several unpremeditated, as well as pre-organised attacks, against NSWIP members and property. Commander Byrne was particularly sought out for ‘reasoned political debate’. The intensity and viciousness of these attacks does, to a degree, give credence to the long-standing rumour that Byrne had also “perved” on local kids.
In October 1970, he was shot and critically wounded. In May 1973, anti-fascists raided an isolated farm in Arklow, which was leased by James Moore, to steal NSIWP internal documents. A few hours after the operation, Byrne was attacked again and hospitalised for several months.
In March 1977, while out walking, a car pulled up beside him and a man ‘leapt out’ and stabbed him in the hand. That same week, a gang of four men attacked him and stabbed him in the stomach with a bayonet. In September 1977, the NSIWP’s HQ (6 St. Brendan’s Cottages) was petrol bombed.
In 1979, Byrne had a ‘wound in the shape of a back-to-front Swastika’ carved into his chest. He refused to allow a ‘greasy, slimy Indian’ doctor treat it and as such was referred to another hospital. Here, a different doctor refused to treat him and ‘remarked that the wounds he was receiving were costing the tax-payers a lot of money’. In another attack in the same time period, Commander Byrne ‘suffered severe lacerations to the leg and right arm’ which needed 26 stitches.
In the 1977 Sunday Independent interview with Byrne, his mother had remarked that he had been shot at three times. In another incident, Byrne had acid thrown over him and one night, when anti-fascists could not find Byrne at home they removed all the tiles on his roof and left them in a neat pile outside his front door.. Byrne always insisted that his dog had been poisoned by the ‘reds’ as well.
As one can imagine, Byrne was known to the Gardaí and at least on one occasion, March 1976, he was arrested and held for twenty-four hours under the Special Powers Act.
The NSIWP published three periodicals – The Phoenix, a monthly magazine from 1972, The Irish Worker, a monthly newspaper that was wound down around 1977 and N.S. News, an internal bulletin. These were amateurish, shoddily produced products filled with articles and images espousing Holocaust denial, racism and anti-Semitism.
In April 1970, Byrne tried to get involved with a Sinn Fein led protest campaign against the proposed building of a road through Ringsend Park. However, local activist Mairin de Burca told The Irish Times there would be absolutely no joint action between the groups as Sinn Fein had strong ‘ideological objections to fascism’.
In 1971, Mr. Maurice Abrahamson, a leading member of the Jewish community in Dublin spoke to the Sunday Independent about ‘scurrilous anti-Semitic literature’ that was being circulated from a ‘small cottage in Ringsend’. Abrahamson admitted that the Jewish community had been aware of this man’s (i.e. Byrne) activities for a number of months.
In July 1973, the NSIWP made its first and only known public appearance at a Anti-Apartheid Movement protest at the Portuguese embassy in Ballsbridge, called in response to the massacre in Wiriyamu in Mozambique at which 400 villagers had been killed by Portuguese troops.
Alan, a young Official Sinn Fein member at the time, remembers what happened next at the 50 or 60 strong demo:
…two lads turn up, brown shirts, jackboots, brown trousers, swastika armbands, real Hollywood Nazi stuff carrying signs “Stop hate against white Portugal!” People were a bit sort of stunned, not the sort of thing you usually saw in Dublin, certainly not in those days!
Some people wanted to sort them there and then. But maybe wiser heads prevailed saying “no, that would become the story in the media rather than the massacre in Mozambique “. So when the protest was over about a half of dozen of us followed them up the road and they got, eh, quite savagely beaten and thrown over the wall of another embassy into their garden.
We then turned around to see half a dozen Garda stood in a line looking at us. We almost put our hands out, and said ‘ handcuff me, take me away’ but the Garda were all “fair play lads, good on ya” and they walked off.
We had gone through (the Nazis) pockets, one of the guys had his address on him in Clonskeagh and some people visited him later. Nothing physical that time, just letting him know that people knew where we lived. And as far as I know, neither of the two were ever seen again at any public fascist activity. 
From around 1975 to 1977, leading NSIWP member Colm Tarrant split from the NSIWP and set up his own organization, the Nationalist News Service. Tarrant, an ex Private with the Irish Army based in Rathgar, Dublin, built links with numerous right-wing groups such as the Free Rudolf Hess Committee and the Free Czechoslovakia Committee. It also traded as Irish Worker Publications and Revisionist Books. Its youth group was called Michael Collins Youth. Tarrant took control of The Irish Worker while Byrne and co. held on to The Phoenix.
In the early 1970s, Tarrant was also involved with the miniscule Irish Council for European Freedom (ICEF) and later appeared as the registered secretary of the short-lived nationalist party called Aontacht Eireann, which was set up by former Fianna Fail minister Kevin Boland. Boland said in an interview many years later that himself and his colleagues ‘withdrew from the party after it was taken over by a group of right wing, conservative individuals’. In 1980, Tarrant became secretary of the Irish Arab Association before finally moving to London in the late 1980s where he became active on the fringes of various British Fascist groups.
In March 1977, Byrne gave a candid interview to a Sunday Independent journalist in which he said that he had been ‘Commander of the Irish Nazis’ for nine years, that beards, long hair and drugs are forbidden in the NSIWP and that his heroes included Adolf Hitler, Michael Collins and William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw).
In June 1977, Byrne was seemingly attacked by four Gardaí in Cork. He had:
been attending a hospital outpatients dept. for treatment when a drunken man, one William Flynn, entered and caused a disturbance. The police was sent for but instead of ejecting the drunk they set upon the Commander hitting him on the head with a baton, pushing over the bonnet of a car and inflected lacerations on his legs which necessitated 12 stitches and wounds to his face. NS literature was taken from his pockets as he lay bleeding on the ground and although he he managed to note the numbers of these police and their car the slip of paper mysteriously vanished too … The Commander was ten days in hospital.
In July 1977, the first issue of seminal punk fanzine Heat featured a small piece on Terence Byrne and the NSIWP. Shocked at the appearance of NSIWP leaflets at a TCD Rag Week gig, Jude Carr and a friend decided to visit 6 St. Brendan’s Cottages to ‘find out what type of dangerous person would peddle such garbage’. They noted that the walls in the vicinity were daubed with swastikas and NSWIP. Their first visit was abruptly ended when a young girl who answered the door, of the ‘small swastika dubbed terrace’ house, told them that Mr. Byrne was out but that they should call back tomorrow. They did. This time they were told by a man that Mr Byrne was away and that his ‘business keeps him away for long periods…’. Carr and friend made an appointment for the next Saturday. On arrival, they were bluntly told by an old woman that Byrne had ‘gone away’, presumably forever. It transpired however that a neighbour had seen him recently leave the house to go for a walk.
Another ‘important figure’ in the Irish far-right movement in the late 1970s was NSIWP associate Raymond Hughes from Santry, a university lecturer and member of the British Movement (BM) who apparently spoke Italian and made frequent trips to that country to meet the leader of the Italian fascists, Giorgio Almirante. (A Raymond Hughes was a fulltime staff member in the School of Engineering at the College of Technology, Bolton Street from c1974 – c1975. It possible that they are the same person.)
Personal correspondence from the late 1970s between John T. Kane (i.e. Byrne) and James Mason, a leading American neo-Nazi offers a glimpse into the paranoid and fanciful world of the NSIWP. The group’s likely exaggeration on the number of physical attacks on their members would seem to have been done to invoke sympathy and financial support from their American comrades.
On 8th March 1977, ‘Kane’ wrote that the NSIWP were receiving more trouble off the Special Branch and that the blame firmly lay on the ‘creep’ Tarrant who was passing on information to them. Only last Sunday, it transpired, in the letter, Byrne was attacked by two friends of Tarrant and had to spend more time in hospital.
In an undated letter from the same period, ‘Kane’ mentions their falling out with Colm Tarrant and describes him as a ‘creep been paid by the Special Branch here in Ireland for information. Last year Commander Byrne was arrested over this same person.’ It was also revealed that on Sunday 6th March 1977, ‘two creeps’ attacked Byrne, ‘kicked him in the face and several other parts of the body’ and called him a ‘Nazi bastard’.
All of these mysterious and violent attacks shocked James Mason who wrote:
Through movement contacts, I’ve heard that you and Comdr. Byrne have suffered injuries lately. My God, what the hell kind of place is it over there? Every time I turn around, I hear of another assault against you comrades!
In October, ‘Kane’ said that ‘Within the last six months the Commander has had to get 68 stitches in various wounds’ and that ‘the attacks on our H.Q. continue regularly’ and then in November it was reported that ‘Commander Byrne has had more trouble this time, he was knifed in the left shoulder and was admitted to hospital where he received many stitches. This has been reported to the local police but as yet nothing has been done’.
The NSIWP’s overall evaluation of their activity in 1977 is quite tragic:
…We hope that 1978 will be a better year for us than 1977 has been. Our party has been through a very bad year: Commander Byrne was attacked no less than 17 times and he received 79 stitches in various wounds – as you no doubt have heard. Just now, he is seriously ill from a badly infected right arm and this is not the worst of it – the infection has spread to his lungs and both lungs have a cloud on them. The doctor has diagnosed a chemical poison, so it seems that the reds have really made a special effort to put the Commander out of action. He suffers constantly from pain, nausea, weakness and lack of sleep … We are striving to go from strength to strength in 1978. Our greatest handicap, however, is lack of money to buy machinery to replace that damaged in the raid in our HQ last June.
It would seem that by January 1978, things weren’t going differently for the group:
Commander Byrne was attacked yet again on Sunday, and received 36 stitches – 22 to his left leg and 14 to his left arm. Two red creeps tried to get into his office and knocked a big wire grille down on top of him. I am told that the Commander managed to get one of them with a hatchet in the body – but so far there has been no red body found. This makes 116 stitches the Commander has had in wounds this year, or rather, the last 10 months. We really need some help – we can’t even buy a gun, or a proper big knife, over here, due to the IRA Special Power acts etc.
Searchlight front cover from 1978:
In March, ‘Kane’ described the commander as ‘still not well’ as ‘only last week the Cmdr walked into a booby-trap that one IRA creep left around.’ According to the letter ‘there was a razor blade placed very unobtrusively and Terry slashed his left arm. One would get the impression that Terry is going around half asleep (sic) this is not so not one of us noticed it in the side of the door’.
In the last of the letters in the collection ‘Kane’ wrote that:
‘Commander Byrne is at present in hospital and asked me to write to you’ and that the NSIWP would like to join the USA based White Confederacy but have financial problems and thus ‘are unable to afford to send you the requested fee.
1979 saw a wave of anti-Semitic graffiti attacks on the synagogue on canal bank which was most likely the work of the NSIWP.
In March 1980, The Irish Times reported that the NSIWP were ‘supplying Nazi literature and regalia to Right-wing extremists in Britain’. The article also noted that the group’s HQ was in Ringsend and that the ‘supposed leader’ of the group was seen recently putting up posters in Dublin.
In November 1982, the Irish Press ran a story about how British fascist groups were able to get around the Race Relations Act by having their propaganda printed here by the NSIWP. The group was able to ‘provide intermediary postal addresses’, enabling letters requesting racist literature or membership details to be given to extremist groups in Britain. The article noted that the NSIWP’s founder Terence Byrne had recently died at the age of forty and as such the group’s ‘accommodation address’ had moved to 69 Eugene Street in Dublin 8. While it was common knowledge that the NSIWP had little more than twenty-five or so members, the journalist wrote that the group was ‘able to create the illusion of size because of their capability of supplying a considerable quantity of material for distribution by members of other organisations’.
In 1983, NSIWP member Private Michael McAleavy murdered three Irish Army colleagues in Lebanon. McAleavy grew up in the Republican Ballymurphy estate in West Belfast and joined the NSIWP while still at school at St. Thomas’ secondary school. Former classmates remember him distributing NSIWP leaflets and trying to recruit fellow pupils into the organisation.
In September 1983, the NSIWP joined the debate surrounding the Abortion referendum by issuing leaflets asking people to support the referendum because ‘abortion is murder’. The newspaper piece, which publicised this, also noted that the NSIWP had moved its operations from Byrne’s home in Ringsend to their new ‘accommodation address’ on Eugene Street. This substantiates the belief that after Byrne’s death/disappearance in 1982 Hazel Etherington took over as main organiser of the group and moved operations to 69 Eugene Street, a house she bought in 1980.
The NSIWP hit the headlines again in February 1985 when it was reported that the government was to ‘purge’ the ‘Nazi propaganda cell’, which had been using Ireland as a ‘base to spread its evil across the world’. A special Garda surveillance squad had been set up to track the movements of the Nazis who visited the Eugene St. house while Attorney General John Rogers was in the middle of preparing ‘emergency legislation’ to outlaw the activities of the group. In fact this race relations legislation was not implemented till 1989.
In the same year, Brendan Holly of Sounds and Leisure record store in Rathmines, found three cards slipped into the cassettes and LPs of black artists proclaiming ‘Nigger Free Zone’ with the NSIWP initials and the Eugene St. address. Shocked but interested in learning more about the group, he contacted Liam Mackey of the music magazine Hot Press who in turn sent off a letter, using an alias, to the NSIWP. They received a ‘wad of scruffy photocopied material’ including racist leaflets, posters and a copy of their magazine The Phoenix. Mackey and photographer Colm Henry also paid a visit to 69 Eugene Street where they were greeted by a woman who said the NSIWP’s secretary H. Murphy was not there and that no-one from the group were available to comment. This woman claimed she was not a member of the party but ‘just a friend’.
Reasonable conclusion would suggest that this woman was Hazel Etherington who was the NSIWP’s main organiser in the 1980s. She was described by New Hibernia as ‘a middle-aged woman living on the Southside … married to an ex. British naval officer’. The same piece hinted that it was very possible that this woman was the same woman whom locals see ‘ … on a bicycle regularly collecting mail from the address … never talking to any of the neighbours’. Justine McCarthy in the Irish Independent also referred to a woman who called to the house every day, ‘sometimes twice a day’, who stays for no longer than an hour and then leaves with a bundle of mail on her bicycle. One resident of Eugene Street described her as wearing a ‘combat jacket, boots and a khaki cap’. The sporadic visits to 69 Eugene Street led it to become colloquially known as the ‘house that only Hitler enters’.
In the same period, In Dublin’s Colm Keena wrote a very well-researched piece on the NSIWP in which it exclusively revealed that the owner of 69 Eugene Street was Hazel Etherington, married name Deevy, who lived at 15 Stamer Street in Portobello. According to the documents in the Registry of Deeds, she bought 69 Eugene Street in July 1980. Etherington, when contacted by Keena, denied she was a member of the NSIWP but did admit that she had seen some of their material and ‘did not consider it incitement to racial hatred’ and had no qualms with renting the property to the group. It is important to note here that Thomas MacGiolla (Workers Party TD) had stated in the Dáil that ‘the owner of the Eugene Street premises was a principal member of the NSIWP’. Internal AFA files from this period also name Etherington as the NSIWP’s ‘main organiser’.
Etherington, who was a relatively well-known pianist and organist, died in 2004 after a short illness. Her obituary in The Irish Times made a fleeting reference to the fact that ‘her strong political views’ seemed to have ‘modified … and softened in recent years’. The next line talked about her deep interest in the ‘esoteric’ such as ‘extra-sensory perception, divining and telepathy’. She was organist for forty years at the Christian Science Church, though not a member of the church itself, and before that at Abbey St. Methodist Church. She taught piano in the College of Music in Dublin and then at Kylemore College.
A man going by that name of John T. Kane (a long standing pseudonym used by the NSIWP) was interviewed by Pat Kenny on his radio show in September 1984. Speaking with a distinct Northern accent, it is possible that this was known neo-Nazi Alan/Allen G. Glenhill from Warrenpoint, Co. Down. A transcript of this interview was later printed in Combat, the magazine of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
Also in 1985, the NSIWP provided a safe house for Gerhard Topfer, a fugitive German Neo-Nazi terrorist. Derick Turner, who would later found a short-lived Cork-based fascist group called the Social Action Initiative, told Searchlight Magazine that ‘Topfer stayed with some friends of mine but he was an undesirable type, he smoked dope and stole things. One time he wrecked the place he was staying in’. After only two months in Dublin, Topfer quarreled with Tarrant and moved to London.
The New Hibernia reported that two West Germans had lived briefly in no. 69 in 1985 but had left Ireland. The Minister for Justice Michael Noonan said at the time in the Dáil that they would be refused re-entry into the country. It is possible that they were referring to Topfer and an associate. The NSIWP were known to regularly accommodate visiting foreign fascists. In early 1985, it was reported in the Irish Independent that a handyman, who called to No. 69 to repair a faulty fixture, found he had difficulty communicating with the occupant, who eventually revealed he was Dutch.
In 1986, a kosher butcher shop on Clanbrassil Street was repeatedly attacked. It is widely believed that NSIWP members were involved in the vandalism, which continued over several months, and involved windows being smashed and the painting of anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas on the walls. The subsequent police harassment against NSIWP members, the implementation of the Race Relations Act and the continued activity of anti-fascists led to the NSIWP, in its present form, disbanding.
At the end of the year, the NSWIP made its last media appearances in two local newspapers The Echo and South Leinster Advertiser and The Carlow Nationalist in which NSIWP members living in Enniscorthy and Carlow were interviewed.
At some point in 1986-1987, though its not clear when, the NSIWP was ‘absorbed’ into another group the National Socialist Party (NSP) which was set up by Allen G. Glenhill and Desmond M. Holland. In the years afterwards, both names were used interchangeably for the organisation. Around 1987/88, the NSIWP went ‘leaderless’ with semi-autonomous NSP cells taking its places in Kilkenny, led by Michael McGrath, and Kinsale, led by Cormac Hayes.
When Holland left the group in late 1989, it was taken over by an English neo-Nazi, Terence Dempster, based in Knocknaheeny, Co. Cork. The 50 year old ex. martial arts instructor, who ran a electronics and video business in Cork City, tried to set up a local branch of the ‘International Order of the Schutzstaffel Waffen SS’. After appearing, fully uniformed, with a four of his devotees on an Irish language RTE programme local Sinn Fein members, with the backing of locals, set fire to his house and car. This spurred on Dempster, the ‘führer’, to have crisis of conscience and he dropped out of politics altogether.
(1) He also went by the names – Terry/Terence A. Byrne, T.A. Byrne and Terry/Terence Allan-Byrne.
(2) The Irish Times, 24 August 1968
(3) Moore fell out with Byrne in 1978 according to The Phoenix (July-August issue, 1978)
(4) A ‘Jos A. Mucche’ is listed under ‘legal immigrants, and others’ in the ‘Foreign minority nationalists in Irish exile’ Appendix in Daniel Leach’s ‘Fugitive Ireland: European minority nationalists and Irish political asylum, 1937 – 2008’ (Dublin, 2009)
(5) The Irish Worker, Christmas Issue 1969
(7) Gerry Gable, Lone Wolfs: myth or reality? (Searchlight, 2011)
(8) Patrice Chairoff, Dossier Neo Nazisme (Paris, 1977), 333
(9) Chairoff, Dossier Neo Nazisme, 333
(10) The Sunday Independent, 27 March 1977
(12) The Phoenix, November 1977
(13) NS News, 1979. Issue number not known.
(15) The Sunday Independent, 27 March 1977
(16) Alan, interview with author, 23 August 2011
(17) NS News, March 1976
(18) The Irish Times, 15 April 1970
(19) The Sunday Independent, 24 October 1971
(20) This is likely to be Pat Webb, the NSWIP’s ‘Head of Propaganda’. The Irish Press from March 21 1969 lists a Pat Webb living at an address in Nutgrove Park, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14
(21) Alan, interview with author, 23 August 2011
(22) Tarrant also went by the name Colm O’Torain, Colum O’Torain and Deaglan O’Torain
(23) Ó Maoláin, The radical right, 164
(24) Colm Keena, ‘The Roman Reich?’, In Dublin, October 1987
(25) Ó Maoláin, The radical right, 164
(26) The Sunday Independent, 27 March 1977
(27) The Phoenix, Sep – Nov 1978
(28) Jude Carr, ‘White students … the future can be yours! If you have the guts to fight for it’, Heat fanzine, July 1977 (Article headline was quote from NSIWP leaflet)
(29) Ó Maoláin, The radical right, 164 ; Searchlight Magazine (No. 42 1978)
(30) Letter from Mason to ‘Kane’, 31.05 77. Private collection
(31) Letter from ‘Kane’ to Mason, 29.10.77
(32) Letter from ‘Kane’ to Mason, 15.11.77
(33) Letter from ‘Kane’ to Mason, 06.01.78
(34) Letter from Kane to Mason, 29.01.78
(35) Letter from Kane to Mason, 03.03.78
(36) Letter from Kane to Mason, 20.04.78
(37) The Irish Times, 09 August 1979
(38) The Irish Times, 07 March 1980
(39) The Irish Press, 05 November 1982
(40) New Hibernia, July/August 1986
(41) The Irish Times, 06 September 1983
(42) The Sunday World, 03 March 1985
(43) Liam Mackey, ‘Nazi outbreak’, Hot Press, February 1985 (?)
(44) New Hibernia, July/August 1986
(45) The Irish Independent, 13 March 1985
(46) In Dublin, July 1986
(47) The Irish Independent, 13 March 1985
(48) In Dublin, July 1986
(49) The Irish Times, 07 June 1985
(50) Searchlight Magazine (Issue 15, May 1988)
(51) New Hibernia, July/August 1986
(52) The Irish Independent, 13 March 1985
(53) The Echo and South Leinster Advertiser, 07 November 1986; The Carlow Nationalist, 07 November 1986