Bodenstown Cemetery, Sunday, June 16 by President, Republican Sinn Féin, Des Dalton.
“We have come to the holiest place in Ireland; holier to us even than the place where Patrick sleeps in Down. Patrick brought us life, but this man died for us. And though many before him and some since have died in testimony of the truth of Ireland’s claim to nationhood, Wolfe Tone was the greatest of all that have made that testimony, the greatest of all that have died for Ireland whether in old time or in new. He was the greatest of Irish Nationalists; I believe he was the greatest of Irishmen. And if I am right in this I am right in saying that we stand in the holiest place in Ireland, for it must be that holiest sod of a nation’s soil is the sod where the greatest of her dead lies buried.” Thus spoke Pearse in 1913, one hundred years later those words still hold true. As Irish Republicans we come here each year to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals passed down to us by Tone and the Society of United Irishmen.
Standing here on this sacred soil we come into communion with the spirit of Tone and renew our Republican vow first taken by Tone and his comrades on Belfast’s Cavehill in 1795: “Never to desist in our efforts until we have subverted the authority of England over our country and asserted her independence.” This was the programme of Tone and it remains the programme of the Republican Movement today. We are proud of our continuity of ideology and organisation with the United Irishmen, just as veterans of the United Irishmen endorsed and supported the Young Irelanders in the 1840s, today’s movement represents a meeting of the generations in common struggle.
The historian C. Desmond Greaves described the reorganisation of the United Irishmen in 1795, transforming itself into a fully revolutionary movement as a: “…turning point in Irish history. For the first time the Irish nation was exclusively identified with Irish democracy”.
Today the Republican Movement continues to champion and lead the fight for true All-Ireland democracy in defiance of the forces of reaction led by Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House. The political and economic conditions experienced by the Irish people today are a gross betrayal of the high ideals and vision for a new Ireland articulated by Republicanism from Tone and Emmet right up to today.
Last week we laid to rest our Patron and former President Ruairí Ó Brádaigh. Throughout his life he was a gifted and tireless worker for such an Ireland, an Ireland worthy of the sacrifice given to achieve it and one that lived up the high idealism of the historic Republican Movement. The actions of the 26-County police evoked memories of the funeral of Frank Stagg and if anything were a testament to power of a revolutionary idea over the seeming might of a corrupt and failed state. In life they feared Ó Brádaigh and the cause which he served and articulated with great skill, conviction and courage and in death they showed that the power of the ideals and ideas he espoused lived on with the same potency as before.
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was one who lived fully according to the template of Republicanism set out by the United Irishmen. For him sectarianism was a weapon in the arsenal of the British State and one that must be countered as forcefully as any political or military threat posed by that same state. Along with his friend and comrade Dáithí Ó Conaill and other Republicans, he devised ÉIRE NUA as a means of making a reality of Tone’s dream of substituting the common name of Irish man and Irish woman for the denominations of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. The central thrust of ÉIRE NUA is the maximum devolution of power from national to provincial, regional, right down to local or community level. The Provincial Parliaments will be elected by the people of each province according to a system of proportional representation.
Unionists and Nationalists within a nine-county Ulster would have a real and meaningful input and control over the political, social, economic and cultural life of their province, regions and communities. Unlike the institutions set up under the Stormont and St Andrew’s Agreements, the governmental structures set out in ÉIRE NUA, would be accountable only to the people who elected them. Under ÉIRE NUA the sovereignty of the Irish people is paramount.
As an alternative ÉIRE NUA offers a framework within which all sections of the Irish people are the decision-makers on the vital issues for their communities, their regions and their nation.
The people of Ulster within a free and Federal Ireland will make decisions affecting the people of a nine-county Ulster – they will not be dependent on the whim of a foreign parliament or government.
Speaking in University College Cork in January 2008, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said: “We do not want to back the Unionists on to a cliff-edge politically where they will oppose us all the more. Neither do we seek to have them as a permanent and disgruntled political minority in one corner of Ireland.
“During the 1970s, soundings were taken with every shade of unionism to obtain reactions. The result in all cases was similar; first choice was an independent Six Counties. We did not think that would be viable. All said, in that case they would opt for our ‘four provinces idea’ as the ‘most generous on offer’.
“Apart from providing a solution to the Ulster situation, these proposals would bring power nearer to the people and help to correct east-west economic imbalance nationally. Republicans submit that such structures will be necessary to ensure justice for all, including the 18% of the national population who have supported the unionist position.”
Tone had realised from the beginning that an effective union of the all the people of Ireland would be necessary to affect a revolution. As James Connolly pointed out in Labour in Irish History what was required to bring about such a union of hearts and minds was: “The activity of a revolutionist with statesmanship enough to find a common point upon which the two elements could unite, and some great event, dramatic enough in its character, to arrest the attention of all and fire them with a common feeling.” The figure with the qualities set out by Connolly was Tone and the event capable of firing the people with a revolutionary fervour was the French Revolution.
ÉIRE NUA also proposes a new All –Ireland constitution which would be put to the people of Ireland for adoption and which would include a Charter of Rights. A draft Charter of Rights contained within ÉIRE NUA enshrines such fundamental rights as freedom of conscience, religion, ethical or political beliefs; freedom of expression and communication, the right to education, to join a trade union, the right to access adequate housing, food and medical care. It is also proposed that the European Convention on Human Rights be made part of the internal domestic law of the New Ireland. In fighting back against the new imperialism of the finance capitalists of the EU superstate we carry an alternative social and economic programme SAOL NUA. Our social and economic programme SAOL NUA – A New Way of Life - represents a vision of Ireland based on Republican, Socialist, and Self-reliance and Ecological principles; it identifies the obstacles to be overcome and the goals to be reached if we are to build an All-Ireland Federal Democratic Socialist Republic
SAOL NUA is based on the principle that “…every person is entitled to have his or her inherent human dignity respected and every citizen should be able to enjoy freedom from poverty or insecurity and to have access to a fair and adequate share of the nation's wealth. All citizens should be equal before the law and all have the duty and the right to contribute by work to their own welfare and the welfare of society.”
It identifies the essential elements of Democratic Socialism which are required in building the New Ireland; banking and all key industries must be brought under democratic or social control and the further development of community banking such as Credit Unions.
Social control of capital is essential to ensure capital serves people rather than people being the slaves of capital. By doing so you ensure balanced development and equitable distribution of wealth. Money must be regarded, not as a commodity, but as an accounting system in which all participate.
We must have new indicators of what constitutes economic success to replace the discredited indices of GNP and GDP. They merely record economic activity in terms of transaction and movement of money, commodities etc. They take no account of the voluntary sector, those who work in the home etc -- all of who make a valuable contribution to the local and domestic economy. Quality of Life is a far more valid index of human development and progress, the recording of adult and infant mortality, literacy, access to health services, nutrition etc.
The UN Human Development Report mission statement is clear on what distinguishes meaningful human development: “The goal is human freedom. And in pursuing capabilities and realising rights, this freedom is vital. People must be free to exercise their choices and to participate in decision-making that affects their lives.”
ÉIRE NUA and SAOL NUA give us a blueprint for the future built on the sure foundation of true All-Ireland political and economic democracy. A New Ireland fashioned from the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil. As Liam Mellows reminded us we are back to Tone: “Our freedom must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves by the aid of that large and respectable class of the community – the men of no property.”
We have set out here what distguinishes Irish Republicanism from those who collaborate in the interests of British or EU imperialism against the Irish people. Because of this Irish Republicanism has throughout its history faced the full brunt of British and later Free State repression. But all of their gallows, firing squads, jails and internment camps could not and never will quench the flame of true revolutionary Irish Republicanism. However the forces of the State have introduced a new a more insidious threat to Republicanism, one if unchallenged threatens to drive a wedge between Republicanism and the people of Ireland. Even those who would declare themselves as opponents of the revolutionary Republican tradition have admitted to a grudging respect for the idealism and integrity that underpins it.
Writing in the Irish Times on September 14 John Waters, whilst dismissing the organisations to which Bobby Sands and Patsy O’Hara belonged to in withering terms he still acknowledged: “there was something noble and redemptive”. Over the past number of years we have seen a plethora of groups emerge, a number of which have taken on the name of the historic Irish Republican Army. The emergence of groupings styling themselves as ‘Republican’ who in reality are merely using that noble title to mask their real purpose of extortion and racketeering. In some cases such groupings masquerade as anti-drugs activists, posing as ‘champions of the community’. These pseudo-Republican groups seek to control their communities through fear. Posing as revolutionaries but merely hiding the grim reality that the only war they wage is not one of national liberation but instead a war on the youth of their own communities. The forcing of a parent to present their son for a punishment shooting as happened in Derry is medieval and far removed from any ideal of progressive Republicanism.
The drugs’ gangs who peddle their wares in communities throughout Ireland and across all classes are enemies of the Irish people. The community and political activists who oppose them deserve our full and active support. However the pseudo-Republican groupings that take money from the drug dealers are no less parasitical than the drug dealers themselves. In many ways they are worse in that they leech from the communities they purport to defend – in effect they are drug dealers by proxy with the added insult of sullying the noble name of Republicanism in doing so.
The activities of these pseudo-Republican gangs have the potential to eat away like a cancer at the very heart of Irish Republicanism, leaving in their wake an empty husk with neither relevance nor credibility. Such groups have descended into a bloody feud with criminal gangs in a wasteful and futile exercise, which has already resulted in much needless death. Sadly the feuds and deaths which they have led to do not contribute in any way to the historic fight for Irish freedom. The duty to halt this slide lies with those who claim the title deeds of Republicanism. We have a bounden duty to hold out against this hijacking of the Republican ideal; we must lead by example in ensuring that authentic Irish Republicanism continues to live in the hearts of the Irish people. It is not enough to claim those title deeds without acting on them. To do so we in Republican Sinn Féin must ensure that a clear distinction can be made between what represents true Republicanism and those who instead provide a perverse and twisted parody of it.
We must look first to ourselves if we are serious about building a credible and effective opposition to the political and economic enslavement of the Irish people. There are those who believe that there is a short cut to this by creating a false unity, a so-called unity based on ignoring fundamental principle. To do so is to build on sand and any movement built on such a foundation contains within it the seeds of its own fragmentation and division. We must instead concentrate our energies and focus our attention on building the Republican Movement into what Dáithí Ó Conaill described as its historic role: “It was the catalyst for the for the progressive forces of this country and abroad who desired the establishment of a sovereign democratic socialist Republic.” We must have confidence in ourselves and our own Movement and not relying on other groups or organisations who may on the surface provide a certain glamour and gloss but who lack the necessary ideological depth and commitment to the task of achieving our ultimate goal, the complete ending of British occupation and the re-establishment of the All-Ireland Republic of Easter Week. It is our duty to take up the torch of freedom and carry it forward; each person has a key role to play and must be willing to play it if we are serious about completing our noble task.
The political analysis provided by Republican Sinn Féin of the political trajectory of the current process of embedding British rule in Ireland has proven to be accurate. The very fact that the British Government and their surrogates in Stormont still rely the draconian laws, secret evidence and internment to protect their undemocratic statelet points to the abnormality of British rule and partition. The continued interment without trial of Martin Corey – justified by the British State on the basis of secret evidence – the continued attempt to criminalise Republican POWs – the repressive deployment of an armed colonial police force all illustrate for those who wish to see that the nature and reality of British occupation has not changed.
Our analysis is sound because it is based on the lessons of Irish history. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are not to be found within the portals of Leinster House, Stormont or Westminster; they are to be found only by a revolutionary awakening of the Irish people to their own strengths and possibilities as a people and nation. Wolfe Tone was clear about this in his own day, he too rejected the puppet parliament of College Green, he recognised it as merely an agent of the English Government, an institution anchored in greed and corruption.
In words which are applicable to both partitionist states today he wrote of the Dublin Parliament in scathing terms: “The revolution of 1782 was a Revolution which enabled Irishmen to sell at a much higher price their honour, their integrity and the interests of their country; it was a revolution which, while at one stroke it doubled the value of every borough-monger in the kingdom, left three-fourths of our countrymen slaves as it found them, and the government of Ireland in the base and wicked and contemptible hands of those who had spent their lives in degrading and plundering her . . . The power remained in the hands of our enemies, again to be exerted for our ruin, with this difference, that formerly we had our distress, our injuries, and our insults gratis at the hands of England, but now we pay very dearly to receive the same with aggravation, through the hands of Irishmen.”
The French Revolution armed the Society of United Irishmen with the ideological tools to formulate a democratic programme for a free and independent Irish Republic. Drawing on that rich tradition Irish Republicanism has remained truly international in character. Irish Republicans are not bound by the narrow vision of reaction and reformism but by the wide and embracing ideals of progress and the revolutionary possibility of all peoples. Our cause is the cause of humanity and in the words of the Proclamation of 1916: “…we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.”
As we turn from this honoured place we should consider again the words of Theobald Wolfe Tone: “To break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils, and to assert the independence of my country, these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, these were my means.” As Pearse puts it, here we have “implicit all the philosophy of Irish Nationalism”, the very definition of Ireland a nation. I leave you with the words of Pearse spoken here one hundred years ago:
“To that definition and to that programme we declare our adhesion anew; pledging ourselves as Tone pledged himself – and in this sacred place, by this graveside, let us not pledge ourselves to follow in the steps of Tone, never to rest, either by day or by night, until his work be accomplished, deeming it the proudest of all privileges to fight for freedom, to fight, not in despondency, but in great joy, hoping for the victory in our day, but fighting on whether victory seem near or far, never lowering our ideal, never bartering one jot or tittle of our birthright, holding faith to the memory and the inspiration of Tone, and accounting ourselves base as long as we endure the evil thing against which he testified with his blood.”
An Phoblacht Abú.