Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

Nation-state lays foundation for democratic advance of humanity

Speaking against the motion that: “Nationalism is a hangover from history” hosted by The University Philosophical Society of Trinity College, Dublin on Thursday October 28 the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton said:

“We are being asked tonight to consider nationalism and its value in the modern world. I think firstly it is necessary to define what we mean by nationalism and patriotism before we can answer that question we need to do so because Nationalism is a concept and a banner under which many diverse and indeed unsavoury forces have rallied historically.

“Edward Said (Champion of Palestinian independence and anti-colonialist) defined nationalism in the context of the struggle against imperialism: ‘ 'nationalism' is a word that still signifies all sorts of undifferentiated things, but it serves me quite adequately to identify the mobilizing force that coalesced into resistance against an alien and occupying empire on the part of peoples processing a common history, religion, and language.”

“In building a national movement Connolly wrote: ‘It must demonstrate to the people of Ireland that our nationalism is not merely a morbid idealising of the past, but is also capable of formulating a distinct and definite answer to the problems of the present and a political and economic creed capable of adjustment to the wants of the future.

‘This concrete political and social ideal will best be supplied, I believe, by the frank acceptance on the part of all earnest nationalists of the Republic as their goal.” Connolly goes on to define what kind of Republic this would be.

“He discounts the Republic of France as ‘flaunting its apostasy to the traditions of the Revolution’ (echoes of today) and that ‘great’ Republic of the west in the US ‘where the power of the purse has established a new tyranny under the forms of freedom, (Again Connolly still has something to say to the modern world).

‘No the Republic I would wish our fellow-countrymen to set before them as their ideal should be of such a character that the mere mention of its name would at all times serve as a beacon-light to the oppressed of every land’, he continues ‘The Irish Republic might be made a word to conjure with – a rallying point for the disaffected, a haven for the oppressed, a point of departure for the socialist, enthusiastic in the cause of human freedom.’

“These are lofty ideals but for the revolutionary the goal must of such a nature as to inspire, and if change is to be attained it must be fundamental and radical and revolutionary.

“The historian, political activist and biographer of Connolly, Desmond Greaves regarded the nation state as the ‘locus of democracy’ arguing that it was only within national communities that people could exercise democracy in a meaningful way. It was the largest political unit within which rights of minorities could be protected.

“The value and need for community of strong nation states has rarely been as evident as it is today in light of the domestic and world economic collapse. The 26-Coounty state is a parody of the All- Republic proclaimed in 1916, willing to sacrificing its people in order to protect the economic model, which created the collapse in the first place. In order to meet the demands of remaining within the eurozone the essential markers of a civilised society such as access to health services at the point of need, education for all, care of the young, the disabled and the elderly and other vulnerable members of society, all will be sacrificed on the alter of the free market and the euro.

“In the Six Counties cuts of up to £5 Billion in services and supports for the most vulnerable are set over the next four years and, which trade unions warn will mean a loss of 40 to 50,000 jobs.

“The choice is stark and comes down to whether you believe an economy is there to serve people or the other way round. The political and economic establishments in Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster have made their choice. They view people and their rights as being subservient to the demands of the international money markets, profiteers and speculators who are setting their economic agenda.

“The false promises and lies told in order to foist the Lisbon Treaty on the people of the 26 Counties in the second referendum are coming home to roost now. The rights of individual nations and with them of the invidual citizen are subservient to the needs of the EU super state. The very definition of a free nation is one, which controls its resources and decides its relationship with the rest of the world. Which frames and implements policy based on the needs and welfare of its citizens.

“The political Editor of the Sunday Business Post (October 24) Pat Leahy sets out the reality of the EU: “Any four-year economic plan contains a fair degree of guesswork and supposition. Brussels knows this, of course, and it also knows the danger that too much austerity will dangerously deflate the economy. But and this is a vital point to grasp the European priority is Europe, not Ireland.” In other words the effect of the slash and burn economics on this and future generations of Irish people is of no consequence when set against the survival of the euro.

“Again the words of James Connolly are no less valid as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century: ‘There can be no perfect Europe in which Ireland is denied even the least of its national rights; there can be no worthy Ireland whose children brook tamely such denial. If such denial has been accepted by soulless slaves of politicians then it must be repudiated by Irish men and women whose souls are still their own.’

“Irish Republicanism was born out of the ideals and ideas of the enlightment. From its very beginnings it has taken a worldview, which has placed it in the vanguard of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.

“Desmond Greaves believed rightly that one could only claim to be an internationalist if one stood for the right to self-determination of the different nations into which humanity is divided. Connolly believed in building a community of free nations.

“The struggle for national freedom is part and parcel of the struggle against imperialism. It is not enough to oppose imperialism in one country if you do not oppose it internationally, conversely it is meaningless to oppose it internationally if you do not recognise and oppose it at home. Edward Said writes about internal colonialism and external imperialism. It is not enough to say no to US and British occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan or Israeli occupation of Palestine if you ignore England’s occupation of Ireland. It is not enough to create democracy within nations but it is also necessary between nations.

“It is the quest for a new and better Ireland for the present and future generations, which has always inspired and informed the struggle for a free Ireland. Like Connolly Irish Republicans believe removing British rule is not enough, this merely creates the space within which all of the Irish people can set about the essential task of building the All-Ireland Republic. Fulfilling the dream of Theobald Wolfe Tone of uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter as citizens of that Republic.

“The 1998 Stormont Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement of 2006 merely institutionalised sectarianism whilst denying the exercise of real All-Ireland democracy. Since 1921 there have been at least six agreements arising from the enforced partition of Ireland. However none of them have represented a settlement of the historic ‘Irish question’, merely an attempt to reframe it.

“The lesson of Irish history is clear and continues to be played out today, continued occupation of Ireland by England will always be a source of conflict and a spark for continued resistance.

“EIRE NUA constitutes a serious and credible attempt to break that cycle. It offers a framework within which all sections of the Irish people can make the important decisions for their communities, their regions and their nation. To the unionists and others in Stormont who complained last week about the prospect of the British government reneging on the commitment to provide £18 Billion over the next decade (not the first time a British government has reneged on a promise) we juxtapose EIRE NUA.

“Decisions affecting the people of a nine county Ulster being made by the people of Ulster within a free and Federal Ireland, not dependent on the whim of a foreign parliament or government. Sammy Wilson’s plaintive call “[We] have to simply accept what has been handed down to us.” In reference to the British budgets cuts sums up the impotence of the Stormont Assembly. Surely the path laid out in EIRE NUA leads to a better future for all of our people.

“EIRE NUA provides for horizontal democracy based on local majorities, ensuring maximum decentralisation of political power and decision making from national to provincial right down to regional and community level. 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. This is true participatory democracy involving people in making decisions on important matters like health, education, regional development and employment. It is real decentralisation based on decentralising the decision-making process rather than simply moving civil servants from one part of the country to another.

“Coupled with our social and economic policy SAOL NUA we believe they provide the blueprint to make tangible the dream of the All-Ireland Republic with real political and economic democracy.

“Irish Republicans do not desire a 32-County Free State but rather the creation of a New Ireland fashioned by the representatives of all the Irish people.

“We propose in the Towards A Peaceful Ireland document following a public declaration of intent by the British Government to withdraw from Ireland, the election of a constituent assembly, elected by the suffrage of the people of the 32 Counties. This assembly would be tasked with drafting an All-Ireland constitution. Republican Sinn Féin if elected would place the EIRE NUA proposals before the assembly for consideration. The constitution once agreed would be put before all of the Irish people in referendum. The internal relations of the Irish people with one another and their external relations with Europe and the world at large would be determined through free and open debate.

“Republican Sinn Féin and its leaders were prepared in 1981-82-83 and again in 1986 to take a principled stand to preserve the Republican position contained within EIRE NUA, which would “cherish all of the children of the nation equally” and stood by the goal of an inclusive Ireland when others within our movement were prepared to abandon these ideals. They are ideals, which go right to the heart of Irish Republicanism. 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. Besides, the proposals outlined would be more in keeping with the ideas of Wolfe Tone and Thomas Davis.

“An opportunity beckons to a new generation of Irish people to come together in fraternity and leave the failed politics of partition and sectarianism behind. England has little or nothing to offer at this stage and the time is long since past for them to bow out and for the Irish people to plan their future together setting about the work of building the Republic.

“Last Tuesday marked the 90th anniversary of the death on hunger strike of the Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney. In his political and philosophical writings Principles of Freedom, MacSwiney defined ideal of an independent Irish nation ‘Accordingly, if we are to justify our own position as separatists, we must show that it will harmonise, unify and develop our national life, that it will restore us to a place among the nations, enable us to fulfil a national destiny, a destiny which through all our struggles, we ever believe is great and waiting for us.’ The nation-state lays the foundation for the democratic advance of humanity.”

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