Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

Historic Republican Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis

REPUBLICAN Sinn Féin held its 205ú Ard-Fheis in Dublin on the weekend of November 14/15. It was a successful and historic occasion. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh stepped down as President of Sinn Féin –however he was formally invested as the new Patron of Republican Sinn Féin. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh has not retired from active involvement as indicated by his election to the incoming Ard Chomhairle.

Another leading Republican Joe O’Neill of Bundoran, Co Donegal was elected as Honorary Life Vice President of Sinn Féin.

The new President of Republican Sinn Féin is Des Dalton from Co Kildare. Des Dalton (38) has been a member of Sinn Féin since 1989. He has been Vice President since 2003 and has represented Sinn Féin in the 2004 and 2009 local elections in the 26 Counties when he stood for Athy Town Council. He has represented Republican Sinn Féin internationally also. Des Dalton is also an active trade unionist and is Vice President of the Athy/Kildare Branch of SIPTU.

In his final address as President Ruairí Ó Brádaigh outlined the challenges which lie ahead both political and economic. He said that the process of normalising British rule in Ireland is continuing: “The process of normalising English rule in Ireland proceeds in the teeth of organised opposition. The playing of Gaelic football matches between 26-County police/army teams and teams representing British forces, British royal visits, so-called courtesy visits by British naval vessels to 26-County ports, the erection of memorials to British soldiers are all part of this process.

“Such events are highly publicised, especially after the occasion while opposition by Republican Sinn Féin and others is blacked out. A gratuitous insult to the people of Ireland and the unity of Ireland was the decision of the Tyrone Co Board GAA, to bring the senior and minor football All-Ireland trophies, the Sam Maguire and Tommy Markham cups into Stormont on February 6.

“To do so was to hijack two symbols of the essential unity of the Irish nation in order to lend credibility to a prop of British rule here and of the partition of Ireland.” He said

He also pledged Republican Sinn Féin’s continued support for the Shell to Sea campaign and he singled
Maura Harrington out for special mention: “In March last one of the fearless leaders of the “Shell to Sea” campaign, Maura Harrington, was imprisoned for 28 days in Mountjoy in connection with protest activities. Later on she served another two weeks and now she is appealing a further four months sentence and two three month sentences.

“All of this is a shameful indictment of the political culture of the 26-County state. She has been jailed because her fearless defence of the Irish people’s right to the ownership of their own natural resources, while those who have robbed and profited at the expense of the people escape with impunity and in many cases are rewarded from public monies.

“Maura Harrington’s imprisonment illustrates all that is wrong with modern Ireland and the political and economic system which underpins it. The 26-County state and its institutions have once more closed ranks to punish a woman whose alleged crime is to adhere faithfully to the 1916 Proclamation’s declaration of “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland”. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said. He went on to restate Republican Sinn Féin’s continued support for worker’s locked in a ba
ttle to defend their hard fought for rights.

He said that the election of Tomás Ó Curraoin to Galway Co Council in June signalled what could be achieved: “His outstanding success proves that Republican Sinn Féin candidates are electable -- it can be done -- but it requires hard work over time. Comhgháirdeachas ó chroí, a Thomáis”.

He said that democratic control of the banking system was the only effective means of dealing with the causes of the collapse of the economy. “Republican Sinn Féin advocates “finance and banking under public, democratic or social control” (SAOL NUA; Long-Term Policy). Banks should be nationalised, sorted out and then, rather than staying under state control or being sold to outside investors, be turned into mutuals. In other words, they would be controlled by their accountholders.

“The scope and extent of local community banking, like the Credit Unions, should be extended, so as to serve the needs of local people.” (SAOL NUA) Essentially the banks would become co-operatives, with one vote per person rather than per account. They would operate under a Trust Deed which would govern the basis on which the bank had to be run, with security a primary objective.” He said.

He also praised the youth of the Six Counties for their continued resistance to British rule: “For our part we compliment the Republican youth on their courage and daring. They have recognised British rule for what it is – the very same as it has been down the centuries. Having identified it, they have stepped forward to oppose it.
Others – to their shame – have joined forces with the Brits; to cover their shame they have called faithful Republicans “traitors”.” Concluding he explained his reasons for stepping down as Uachtarán of Republican Sinn Féin and his future plans: “But anno Domini catches up with us all, eventually. My turn has come to step down as President. I do soon the grounds of age and health. I have given service in that role for 35 years, a first period of 13 and a second of 22. All in all I am in my 60th year as an active member of the Republican Movement. My first Ard-Fheis was in 1950 when Margaret Buckley gave her last Address as President.

“I intend to continue with my activity, both at local and at national level; today I am going forward for membership of the incoming Ard-Chomhairle.

“I have never found any difficulty in carrying out my duties and want to record my appreciation and thanks to all who worked with me down the years and over the decades.” He concluded to a standing ovation.

The incoming President addressed the Ard-Fheis in the afternoon following a presentation to Ruairí Ó Brádaigh. In his address Des Dalton said that he was humbled by the honour which the members of Republican Sinn Féin had bestowed on him by electing him President. He also said he was: “conscious also of the grave responsibility which has also been placed on me.”

He described Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as: “a pillar of this movement. His contribution to Irish Republicanism is immense and singular. Over the course of almost 60 years of involvement in the Republican Movement he has never shirked responsibility or leadership when it has been thrust on him.”

Des Dalton continue
d by saying it was not enough to be proud of the tradition inherited by Irish Republicans: “As inheritors of such a tradition, it brings with duties and responsibilities. Our duty is to bring about the realisation of the ideals which inspired all those who have gone before us. Ideals and a sense of duty which have inspired succeeding generations of Republicans to sacrifice their very all.

“The responsibility falls on each succeeding generation to take up and carry forward the torch of Irish freedom. It is not enough to say we are right but we must show it by our actions, our work and our commitment.” Des Dalton said.

Des Dalton said the attacks on British Crown forces this year: “tell us that the iron law of Irish history has not changed. While there is a British presence in Ireland it will be met with resistance.”

Des Dalton said that over the coming year Republican Sinn Féin will be carrying out a review of its ability as an organisation to take on the “challenges which face us and seizing the opportunities which lie ahead.”

He also set out Republican Sinn Féin’s involvement in struggling against imperialism in all of its forms –describing Globalisation as “the new imperialism of the 21st Century.” He stressed the importance of international solidarity in opposition to the common enemy of imperialism political, economic or cultural. “Our struggle against British imperialism is part of the international struggle against the same enemy.” Des Dalton said.

He concluded by saying that a strong united Republican Movement was the only vehicle which can deliver on the goal of a free Ireland and said that the warning given by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh in 1983 should be heeded. “A strong disciplined and united Republican Movement is the only vehicle which can deliver on the historic goal of a free Ireland. It must and can only be a unity based on the principles of Irish Republicanism. In 1983 when Ruairí Ó Brádaigh stood down as Uachtarán he warned “During my 14 years as head of Sinn Féin there were no splits or splinters – long may it remain so, as it will provided we stick to basic principles.”
They are words which we would do well to heed.

“We have much to be proud of – a noble tradition has been handed to us. We can only honour that tradition by endeavouring to fan the flame of Irish nationality. Ensuring it is not extinguished but rather in the words of Terence MacSwiney it can become a living flame ‘scorching up hypocrisy, deceit, meanness, and lighting all brave hearts to high hope and achievement’.”

Over the course of two days the Ard-Fheis discussed and passed resolutions covering areas such as Political and Social and Economic Policy. Political Prisoners, International Affairs, Organisation and Activities, as well as Education and Culture.

A rsolution from the Ard Chomhairle pledged: “Irrespective of the outcome of Lisbon this Ard-Fheis reiterates and upholds the right of the Irish people, acting as a unit, to bring about self-determination.” While a resolution from the Brugha/Sabhat Cumann, Limerick reaffirmed: “That Republican Sinn Féin reaffirm that they will accept nothing less than total British withdrawal.” Another resolution Roscommon Comhairle Ceantair pledged Republican Sinn Féin’s opposition to political extradition; “That this Ard-Fheis opposes extradition of Irish citizens at any time as the Free State, the British and Americans will use it against Republicans in the future as in the past.”

Resolutions extending greetings and solidarity to Republican prisoners were also passed as well continuing to campaign actively for the right of Republican prisoners to political status.

A resolution from the Joe Conway Cumann, Newry, Co Down called on Sinn Féin members to: “to join and to fully participate in the community, voluntary and trade union organisations in their local area, advancing w
herever appropriate the principles of SAOL NUA.”
A resolution from the Ard Chomhairle declared: “greetings and solidarity to the Dublin port workers and all workers engaged in defence of the rights secured over the past 100 years of trade union struggle. We recognise that a war is being waged on the working people of Ireland and we pledge to place ourselves in the vanguard of that struggle.”

On Saturday morning a lively seminar took place on the Saturday morning of the Ard-Fheis. The seminar first heard from Andy Connolly who pressed the need to build the organisation on the ground. He stated that Fianna Fáil and the GAA were two organisations with massive numbers around the country and that Republican Sinn Féin should be trying to reach the
same amounts of people. Once we have people we then must educate them to achieve the Republic. We must be visible and be seen to campaign as we did with the Lisbon Treaty. When people join this organisation they must be placed in positions to which they are suited.

Des Dalton spoke next. He pointed out that our own structures are often not working and that the work ethic from our own membership is sometimes not there. Des asserted that we cannot sit back and rest on our laurels but we should instead take stock of ourselves. Any review such as the SWOT analysis performed 5 years ago would be meaningless however unless we acted on it. Des was also adamant that we should interact with people on everyday issues to make Republicanism relevant to people in their everyday lives. We should be campaigning on a wide range of issues because revolutionary movements die if they remain static. We should put ourselves amongst the people in a bold, confident manner.

There were then several submissions from the floor of the hall. The general feeling of those in attendance was that Republican Sinn Féin should be more involved with communities than it currently was. It was pointed out that we are a revolutionary political organisation not a political party. One speaker felt that a radio programme such as Radio Free Éireann would be of great benefit in getting the Republican message across to the people. Delegates were reminded of the words of Connolly that “the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland and the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour.” We cannot divorce socialism from Republicanism. This was all important if we are to build the Republic.

The task before is to convince and win over the people towards revolutionary Republicanism and we can only do this if we are relevant.

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