Monday, 31 December 2012
New Year Statement from the leadership of Republican Sinn Féin: Republican Sinn Féin extends fraternal New Year greetings to friends, comrades and supporters in Ireland and internationally. Millions of working class people in Ireland and across Europe will greet the coming year with a sense of fear and foreboding. The recent budget announced by the 26-County Administration shows that the unrelenting policy of austerity - dictated by their political masters in Brussels - is not only to be continued but increased, squeezing all sections of our people beyond breaking point. In the eyes of the political class and their media cheerleaders the working poor and unemployed, the elderly and the young are all expendable. The very concept of a society, which can educate its young, and care for its sick and elderly, is being sacrificed on the alter of the EU’s political and economic ideology of centralised authoritarianism and finance capitalism. The decision by the British Government to host the G8 Summit in Co Fermanagh on June 17 and 18 is highly symbolic and presents an opportunity for progressive forces to make the important connection between the old imperialism in the shape of British occupation of the Six Counties and the new imperialism represented by the economic colonisation of the 26 Counties by the EU/ECB/IMF troika. Republican Sinn Féin will be holding an alternative Anti-Imperialist Forum on the weekend before the G8 summit to present national as well as international alternatives to these twin imperialisms. For Irish Republicans our struggle is both political and economic, anything less would be to ignore the reality of imperialism and consequently to dilute our revolutionary programme. As with James Connolly we believe that it is not enough to merely remove the physical presence of imperialism in the form of British military occupation without creating a New Ireland based on real political and economic democracy; an All-Ireland Federal Democratic Socialist Republic. Ninety years after the death of Liam Mellows his teaching has never been more relevant: “If the Irish people do not control Irish industries, transport, money and soil of the country, then foreign or domestic capitalists will. And whoever control the wealth of a country and processes by which wealth is attained control also its government.” In the Six Counties the process of normalising British Rule continues with the designation of Derry as a “UK City of Culture”. Republican Sinn Féin will be actively opposing this hijacking of the historic Doire Colmcille throughout 2013. The recent revelations arising from the discredited Da Silva report into the murder of Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane by a British backed loyalist death-squad, exposes the true face of British rule in Ireland. Today nothing has changed, last year saw an increase in the repression of Republicans and 2013 promises more of the same. We will be once more campaigning for the unconditional release of political internee Martin Corey as well as veteran Republican Marian Price. We take this opportunity to extend New Year’s greetings to the Republican POWs in Maghaberry Prison and pledge them our unstinting support in the latest phase of their fight for political status. By suspending their protest the POWs have placed a serious onus on the Six-County Justice Minister David Ford and the Six-County Prison Service to speedily implement in full the August 2010 Agreement. As the centenary of the historic 1916 Rising approaches, other important centenaries must also be marked. Next year will see three significant centenaries all of which carry a pressing relevance for the Ireland of today. Next August will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the heroic 1913 Lockout when Irish workers struck a telling blow in the universal fight for human dignity and freedom. The coming year will also mark the centenaries of the founding of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, both of which would combine in 1916 to form the Irish Republican Army. All will be fittingly marked. For those who doubt the potency and power of history one has only to consider the words of the filmmaker George Morrison in reference to his masterful Mise Éire film covering the revolutionary period in Ireland from the 1890s to 1918: “ I regard Mise Éire as being a great anti-imperialist document.” History, if utilised correctly, can awaken and inspire the brightest and best of a generation to the possibilities of radical change in the present and the future. We must resist all attempts to sanitise and package our history in a way that will rob it of its meaning and message for the Ireland of today. Rather than merely commemorating the past we must set out a programme for the future that will challenge the powerful and rouse the down trodden. As Connolly warned a national movement must prove itself 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.” We appeal to the Irish people to awaken to the realisation that they possess the power to bring about true political and economic change, not the chattering classes in Leinster House. Electing politicians to the corrupt Lenister House institution will not deliver the revolutionary change that is demanded by the present political and economic conditions. As the only political organisation which rejects the two partition states in their entirety, Republican Sinn Féin is best positioned to lead the struggle for a New Ireland worthy of the ideals set out in the 1916 Proclamation. An Ireland which would harness our natural resources for the betterment of this and future generations, an Ireland which would truly “cherish all the children of the national equally.” In the lead up to 2016 we will be unveiling a series of seven specific polices covering areas such as natural resources, banking, economic development etc, all based on our political, social and economic polices Éire Nua and Saol Nua. We can only truly honour the men and women of 1916 by making the All-Ireland Republic of Easter Week a reality for all sections of our people. In 2013 let the slogan of the 1913 Lockout ring in our ears: “The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise.” An Phoblacht Abú
Sunday, 16 December 2012
On Sunday December 16 in Kildare Town, Kildare Republican Sinn Féin held a commemoration to mark the 90th anniversary of the executions of seven soldiers of the Irish Republican Army by Free State Army. The executions took place in the Glasshouse on the Curragh on December 19 1922. The commemoration began at 2 pm with a parade, led by a colour party, from the Square in Kildare Town to Grey Abbey Cemetery. The ceremony at the Republican Plot was chaired by the An tUachtarán Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton and began with the laying of two wreaths. Anne Origan, Newbridge, a grandniece of Commandant Bryan Moore, laid the first wreath on behalf of Republican Sinn Féin. The second wreath was laid by Kevin Kavanagh, Co Wexford, on behalf of the South East Comhairle Ceantair of Republican Sinn Féin. This was followed by a minute’s silence and a dipping of the flag. Róisín Hayden, Dublin, read the Four Courts Proclamation, issued by the Republican leadership at the beginning of the war in defence of the All-Ireland Republic of 1922-23.
Republican Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Seán Dolan, Co Westmeath gave the oration. He briefly outlined the events leading up to the executions of the seven IRA Volunteers. “These men dedicated their lives to the cause of the All-Ireland Republic and died in its defence. The recent riots in Belfast and across the Six Counties as well as the latest revelations relating to the murder by a British backed loyalist death-squad of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, all point to the fact that only a full British withdrawal and the creation of a New Ireland north and south can deliver a just and lasting peace.” Seán Dolan said.
The seven members of the Rathbride Column executed were : Patrick Bagnall and Patrick Mangan, Fairgreen, Kildare; Joseph Johnston, Station Road, Kildare; Bryan Moore and Patrick Nolan, Rathbride, Kildare; Stephen White, Abbey St. Kildare and James O’ Connor, Bansha, Co. Tipperary. This was the single biggest execution of the civil war or counter-revolution of 1922-23. An eighth member of the column, Commandant Thomas Behan of Rathangan died at the scene of their capture in Mooresbridge on December 12 1922 as a result of the beating he received from Free State soldiers. The Free State Army later tried to cover up his murder by claiming he was “shot while trying to escape” from the Glass House.
Thursday, 13 December 2012
Statement by the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton
The latest revelations regarding the murder of Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane by a British-backed loyalist death squad in 1989 exposes the reality of British Occupation in Ireland. That the British Government was aware of the threat to Pat Finucane two months before his murder, a fact confirmed by journalist and author Ed Maloney, is particularly damning. We would share the view of the Finucane family that the De Silva Report is a: “…sham” and: “…a whitewash”, designed to protect the British Government and its institutions, including the covert intelligence force MI5.
As a result of the Stormont Agreement the position of MI5 in the Six Counties is now stronger than ever before. The Director of the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) Brian Gormally made the telling observation: “The reality is that MI5 – secret, unreformed and unaccountable – is now running one of the most sensitive areas of policing – covert national security.” This enhanced role includes the recruiting and running of agents like those who were instrumental in carrying the murder of Pat Finucane, such as Brian Nelson.
The De Silva Reports admits that 80% of the intelligence supplied to loyalist death squads came from the British Army’s notorious Force Research Unit or the RUC Special Branch. This merely underlines their role as another arm of the British Crown forces. The activites of the loyalist death squads are a classic example of the counter-insurgency tactics set out by senior British Army General, Sir Frank Kitson in his books Gangs and Counter-Gangs and Low Intensity Operations. The murder of Pat Finucane was carried out as part of just such a carefully directed campaign, designed to strike terror into the nationalist community. The British-backed loyalist death squad murder of lawyer Rosemary Nelson in 1999 also fits into this pattern.
Monday, 12 November 2012
A Chathaoirligh, a Theachtaí is a chairde go léir.
Fearaim céad míle fáilte romhaibh ar fad ag an Árd-Fheis seo.
You are most heartily welcome to our annual Ard-Fheis. Since last we gathered in national conference we have seen the twin imperialisms of British occupation, on the one hand, and the EU/ECB and IMF, on the other, tighten their grip on Ireland. Increased repression in the Six Counties coupled with the surrender of any remaining vestiges of economic sovereignty to the EU by the 26-County State shows the challenge that lies ahead for the progressive forces for political, social and economic democracy.
Writing in 1914 in reaction to the proposed partition of Ireland as part of a Home Rule settlement, James Connolly warned of the consequences that would result from partition: “the betrayal of the national democracy of industrial Ulster would mean a carnival of reaction both North and South, would set back the wheels of progress, would destroy the oncoming unity of the Irish Labour movement and paralyse all advanced movements whilst it endured.”
Those words are no less relevant to the Ireland of 2012 than they were to that of 1914.
Today the forces of reaction that are arrayed against us are no less formidable, but just as Connolly, Pearse and their comrades identified the opportunity that such a challenge held for their generation, it is up to the present one to likewise find the opportunities that are presented to us and exploit them to the full.
The year began with a very successful commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry. On Sunday January 29, people from Derry and throughout Ireland defied the political establishments of Stormont, Westminster and Leinster House when they came out on to the streets of Derry to remember the 14 unarmed civil rights marchers murdered in that city by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment on January 30 1972.
Three thousand people according to the Irish Times of January 30 made their presence felt in a dignified display of solidarity with the survivors and families of the victims of Bloody Sunday. The march was to further the cause of truth and justice. But the presence of such a large crowd also told us that the pulse of Irish nationality still beats strong despite the censorship and repression of Britain and its surrogates.
As Republican Sinn Féin pointed out at the time of its launch, the Saville Inquiry failed the crucial test of holding the British Government to account for the events of Bloody Sunday. Instead as pointed out by Éamonn McCann on BBC’s Spotlight programme the Inquiry was limited to dealing with the British soldiers who were present on the ground but not allowed to investigate the military and political chain of command which placed the British army’s notorious Parachute Regiment in direct confrontation with unarmed civil rights protesters. In August of 1971 the same regiment was responsible for the murder of 11 people in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast.
The failure of the British State to bring any prosecutions against the British soldiers identified in the report as being responsible for the murders is in stark contrast to the ongoing arrests and charges being brought against people by the HET (Historical Enquiries Team) in relation to events over the past 43 years.
Kate Nash, whose father William was murdered on Bloody Sunday spoke eloquently and movingly of the pain endured by the families over the past 40 years. She also used the occasion to remind people that those murdered on Bloody Sunday were marching against internment while 40 years later internment was still a reality in the Six Counties citing the examples of Martin Corey and Marian Price.
All of this must be seen in context. The Saville Inquiry was hailed by the so-called constitutional nationalist parties – including the Provisionals – as drawing a line under Bloody Sunday – despite its obvious shortcomings. Keeping up their side of the bargain as it were, they moved almost immediately to announce that the annual march, organised by the relatives would be wound up.
Thus another uncomfortable truth about the nature of British rule would be conveniently brushed under the carpet. They went so far as to threaten those families who had stated their intention to continue with the annual Bloody Sunday march that they would “de-legitimise” any future march. Soon after this it was announced that Derry had been designated as ‘UK City of Culture’ for 2013. It is evident that the British State is now attempting to co-opt the three strands of a distinct Irish culture, our games, music and language in order to prop up British rule in Ireland.
Over the past ten years, beginning with the ending of the ban on members of the British Crown Forces joining the association, the GAA at leadership level have allowed Cumann Lúthchleas Gael to be used in the campaign of normalisation of British rule. This was followed by the England Rugby team playing in Páirc an Chrócaigh in 2007 and culminated in the Queen of England’s visit there in May of last year.
In December the historic ground was used to stage a Gaelic football match between the RUC/PSNI and the 26-County police. As a result of blatant political pressure Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann effectively forced its Ulster Council to overturn its initial decision not to hold the annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Derry as part of the promotion of the so-called ‘UK City of Culture’ year in 2013.
As Patrick Murphy points out in his column in the Irish News of January 21: “The Fleadh is a particularly Irish event, reflecting a proud tradition of music and song which survived centuries of ridicule, scorn and suppression.” Now however it is to be used to sell the notion of Derry and the Six Counties as being an integral part of the British State. Of course Irish Republicans would welcome the Fleadh in Derry but not for this purpose. We will be joining in the protests against this hijacking of Doire Cholmcille over the coming months.
It has also been mooted that the Oireachtas festival – celebrating the Irish language – will also be held in Derry next year. Patrick Murphy tellingly points out that while constitutional nationalism has now fully embraced British rule and as a result is drifting from cultural nationalism, which still extols a sense of Irish separateness from Britain.
However Britain recognises this: “If you were in Whitehall today trying to bed down the latest British victory in Ireland, you would bring cultural nationalism into line with political nationalism. That explains the political pressure to bring the Fleadh to a British government event in Ireland,” Murphy states.
In the last year in Newry, the RUC/PSNI held an Irish language public meeting, using the language as a recruiting tool.
Former British Six-County Direct Ruler Peter Hain let ‘the cat out of the bag’ regarding the British government’s real attitude to the Irish language. The newspaper Gaelscéal reports Hain as admitting that the promise of an Irish Language Act for the Six Counties was off set by moving its ratification from Westminster to Stormont where, Hain proclaimed there would be an “inbuilt majority” against it.
So it is obvious that part of our culture the British can’t extinguish they will try to absorb. But as we saw in Derry in January, there remains “…the risen people who shall take what ye would not give.”
The ongoing internment of Martin Corey, Marian Price and others further underlines the fact that nothing has changed in the relationship between England and Ireland. The unchanging face of British rule in Ireland was underlined with two instances of the stark inhumanity of the regime.
The first was the initial refusal and final granting of compassionate parole to Republican veteran and political internee Martin Corey to attend the funeral of his brother Peter who died on May 21. A request by Martin to the authorities at Maghaberry prison was refused, forcing Martin, only hours before his brother’s burial, to take his case before the High Court in Belfast on May 24. Martin was eventually allowed to attend the funeral, accompanied by two MLAs who collected him from, and returned him to, Maghaberry prison. This is not the first time POWs have been refused parole; in February another Republican POW, Damien McKenna was refused compassionate parole to attend his father’s funeral.
The second instance was the overturning of a Belfast court ruling, which ordered the release of Martin Corey on July 9 thus exposing as myth any notion that the Six-County state is a ‘normal’ democratic society.
The internment of Martin Corey coupled with the treatment meted out to another veteran Republican, Marian Price bears out the truism that when it comes to Ireland the default position of the British Government when dealing with Ireland is naked repression.
In his judgement on the continued imprisonment of Martin Corey Justice Séamus Treacy ruled that the use of closed or secret evidence as the basis for interning Martin Corey was a breach of his human rights under Article 5 (4) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this the then British Secretary of State Owen Paterson ordered that the case be heard by a second judge effectively subverting the original judgment.
As Republican Sinn Féin’s POW Department puts it: “And so 41 years after the introduction of internment in the Six Counties it appears it is once more being employed as a means of silencing Irish Republicans. What has happened to Martin Corey constitutes not only an attack on Martin’s human and civil rights but are an attack on the human and civil rights of all people within the Six Counties.
”The continued imprisonment of Marian Price on trumped-up charges coupled with the vindictive imprisonment of Gerry McGeough tells us much about the true nature of British involvement in Ireland. So much for the much heralded human rights agenda of the Stormont regime what we have got instead is more of the same.” The statement concluded by calling on people “to join the campaign for the release of Martin Corey and help expose the true nature of British occupation”.
Meanwhile in Maghaberry prison Irish Republican POWs continue to resist the inhuman brutalising regime which attempts to deny them of their right to be treated as political prisoners. However, like Republican prisoners of previous generations they have resisted all attempts to criminalise them or the cause for which they suffer the loss of their liberty. They are indeed worthy successors of all those who have gone before them. We salute them and pledge our unswerving support to them and their families.
A day of action in support of the Republican POWs was held on October 27. It was the most significant coordinated display of international solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners in many years involving at least 16 protests in 12 countries on three continents. Protests or events highlighting the plight of the Republican POWs in Maghaberry as well as the internment without trial of Republicans such as Martin Corey, the illegal detention of Marian Price and the plight of Michael Campbell in Lithuania were held in Dublin, Lurgan, New York, Sydney, London, Rome, Manchester, Toronto, Paris, Glasgow, Hamburg, Colorado, Darmstadt, Dusseldorf, Magdeburg, Utrecht and Gothenburg.
The worldwide events sent out a strong message that the political situation in Ireland is not normal and that British Rule is still being met with resistance.
Of course such a successful day of action was accompanied by the usual State repression. In Lurgan the RUC/PSNI chose to use the protest to arrest Ard Chomhairle member Cáit Trainor for non-payment of a fine arising from a ‘Release Martin Corey’ protest march held in Lurgan in January 2011. Her arrest follows that of Lurgan Republican Martin Duffy on October 13 in relation to the same march.
Martin Duffy was held for a week in Maghaberry prison, while Cáit Trainor was held in Hydebank prison also for a week. In Hamburg the German police broke up a protest at the Lithuanian Consulate and threatened those taking part with arrest. The spokesperson for the Republican Sinn Féin International Relations Bureau Dieter Blumenfeld, condemned the repressive actions by both the RUC/PSNI and the German police forces against Irish Republicans: “The arrest of Cáit Trainor at a protest in Lurgan and the breaking up of a peaceful picket in support of Michael Campbell in Germany shows that the reactionary and imperialist forces want to silence Irish Republicanism.” All who took part in the events on October 27 are to be commended
The spectacle of Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen of England should not have come as a major surprise. One needs to simply examine the facts; he is a minister of the British Crown meeting the head of the State he serves. That is the reality of what occurred in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre on June 27.
The Provos and their spin-doctors may spin a line but it cannot hide the fact that McGuinness did not meet the Queen of England as the representative of a free nation but merely as a functionary within the apparatus of British occupation in Ireland. Martin McGuinness’ meeting with the Queen of England was merely a symbolic confirmation of the fact that the Provisionals are now part and parcel of the British administration in Ireland. Dungiven, Co Derry, Republican Sinn Féin spokesperson Michael McGonigle put it simply: “By joining in the celebrations for the 60-year reign of the English monarch former antagonists had been compelled to fling away any remaining trace of political opposition and had been seen to acknowledge the authority of the British Crown in this part of Ireland.”
The road to reformism they embarked on in 1986 was clearly signposted along the way for those who wished to see where it led. Each step, such as the acceptance of the Unionist veto over national independence or the decommissioning of arms was carefully mapped out.
The first step would involve an initial strenuous denial by the Provos of what was about to occur, the next step involved the inevitable announcement that the new departure was being considered or ‘debated’ by its members. The final step invariably involved presenting the latest sell-out as a fait accompli to its members in lieu of any meaningful consultation and to the general public as essential to ‘advancing the peace process’.
The choreography has not changed, nor has the end result – further enmeshing in the machinery of the British State. Speaking on The History Show, on RTÉ Radio 1, on October 14, in a programme marking the 90th anniversary of the infamous Public Safety Bill used by the Free State to execute Republicans during the Counter-Revolution of 1922-23, Shane Mac Thomáis, a historian with the Glasnevin Trust made the observation: “What Michael Collins accepted in 1922, de Valera accepted in ’27 and Gerry Adams accepted in ’98”. Only the names change but never the result of the sell-out.
The next step for the Provisionals will be to sit in the British Parliament in Westminster and just as before their protestations to the contrary ring increasingly hollow. The Sunday Business Post of July 1 reported that the Provos are now preparing to issue an apology to the British State for the deaths of its soldiers and police or anyone else killed or injured during the course of the war against British Rule. Such a development demeans the sacrifice of the IRA volunteers who sacrificed their lives not for a New Stormont but for a New Ireland.
Such a move is simply a cynical attempt to fatally undermine the efforts of any future generation to end British rule in Ireland. The journalist Vincent Browne observed that the Provisionals have now adopted the unionist position, which views the Six-County State as the ultimate unit of decision-making rather than the Republican position, which upholds the right of the people of a 32-County Ireland to act as single unit of self-determination.
We salute our members who protested at Belfast’s City Hall and at Belcoo RUC/PSNI barracks in Co Fermanagh against the visit of the Queen of England to the Six Counties. Also the people who placed a message of defiance on the Black Mountain in Belfast declaring, “Ériu is our Queen”.
A protest entitled ‘Truth and Justice – not Jubilation’ attracted up to 1,000 people who marched from the Falls Road to Belfast’s City Hall. These actions tell us that there still remains a “respectable minority” prepared to defy the Anglicisation of our country.
The normalisation process is all too evident in the 26 Counties also. On August 25 a ceremony was held in Ireland’s historic Glasnevin cemetery commemorating the infamous Black-and-Tans. The fact that this ‘ceremony’ was held in a cemetery, which contains some of the most illustrious of Ireland’s patriot dead merely compounds the insult.
This event, ostensibly organised by two retired members of the 26-County police, should be recognised for what it is, the latest in an incremental attempt to rewrite Irish history in order to normalise and justify Britain’s occupation of Ireland past and present. Indeed the leading national paper the Irish Times devoted hundreds of column inches – including an editorial in pushing the publicity for this event. In February 2010 a similar ceremony was held in Granard, Co Longford. Half of the town was burned by the Black-and-Tans in November 1920.
The strategy employed by those behind this policy begins by attempting to create an equivalence between the forces of the British Crown and the Republican Movement, from this the balance is titled to the point where the forces of British occupation and their actions are legitimised, while those of the Independence Movement are de-legitimised.
This is demonstrated in the letter sent by the organisers to the Irish Times on August 22 described the purpose of the commemoration as being: “…to commemorate the over-500 other police officers who were murdered by the IRA during and after the War of Independence and in 1916”. Now we get to the heart of the matter. The use of the term “murder” immediately suggests that a state of war did not exist between Ireland and the British State and consequently the actions of the Irish Republican Army were criminal acts. This is to turn history on its head, which of course is the intention of those behind this campaign.
There is no equivalence between the Independence Movement and the RIC. The RIC, described by the BBC history website as “the eyes and ears of Dublin Castle”, was an instrument of British repression in Ireland which acted in defiance of the Irish people’s historic right to national self-determination whilst the Independence Movement acted in accordance with, and in defence of, that right.
There cannot be equality in value between the oppressor and the oppressed following a war of national liberation. The organisers of the Glasnevin event want to stigmatise the Irish side in 1916-22 as ‘murderers’. That is far beyond equivalence. This slavish commemoration, which the leading party in the 26-County Administration, Fine Gael, supported, is symptomatic of a state which has lost its way and is unsure of its identity. Does France commemorate the Vichy policemen or Norway its Quislings who collaborated with German occupation forces?
All of this contrasts with the treatment meted out by the 26-County State to many veterans of the struggle for Irish freedom between 1916 and 1921. In 1985 a veteran of the 1916 Rising, Dorothy McDowell was allowed to die in abject poverty having been refused admission to Dr Steven’s Hospital, while today the same State prepares to elevate the British forces which people like Dorothy McDowell fought against in the cause of Irish freedom. The Glasnevin ‘ceremony’ on August 25 according to media reports attracted only small and unorganised protest. A repeat of such events will be met with much more attention and much better organisation.
The march of the new economic and political imperialism of the troika, consisting of the EU/ECB and IMF, continues apace. Republican Sinn Féin played its part in the referendum campaign against the Austerity Treaty – as well as enduring the usual media blackout by RTÉ. As we pointed out during that campaign, the Austerity Treaty is the creation of the same political and financial elite who created the present economic collapse.
During the so-called boom the profits of the wealthy were privatised to ensure they would not be shared with society, now during the bust they socialise their losses, forcing people across the EU to pay for them. Political events in France, Holland and Greece indicate that people have had enough of this kind of lop-sided economics.
The voting patterns of the vote, which took place on May 31, tell us much about the polarisation of Irish society with the increasing divide between rich and poor. Those who have suffered most from the slash and burn economics of the political and financial elites recorded the highest percentage of No votes. Like millions of working people across Europe, working people in the 26 Counties have given out a strong signal of their determination to oppose the neo-liberal economic agenda that lies is at the heart of the entire EU project. EU power is based on the fear of the People not the will of the People.
Of course we have seen it all before during the referenda on the Lisbon and Nice treaties. On both occasions people were forced to vote again for treaties they had already rejected. The power elites of the EU are intent on grabbing even more power. In all of this they have willing collaborators in the political establishment of the 26-County State.
The system of finance capitalism driven by France and Germany created the economic collapse of the past four years, yet it is the working people of Ireland and Europe who are being asked to pay the price.
In a May Day address to the leadership of the Irish trade union movement we pointed out: “The orthodoxy of the political and economic elites both here in Ireland and within the EU is to rebuild the collapsed structure of finance capitalism rather than deal with the human cost of that collapse. The legacy for future generations will be an inability to educate the young, care for the sick and provide for the old, the very markers of a civilised society.”
It is time that the trade union leadership remembered that they owe their allegiance to the Irish working-class and not the hierarchy of the 26-County Labour Party. Social Justice Ireland highlights how the selective use of social and economic data by the Troika is leading to inaccurate analysis, which in turn is producing inappropriate policy recommendations for the 26 Counties.
Amongst the points made by Social Justice Ireland are:
Poverty in Ireland is rising despite Troika claims.
The vulnerable have not been protected despite ‘Troika’ claims.
Accurate analysis of data shows the richest 25% of the population have not been hardest hit despite ‘Troika’ claims to the contrary.
An example of this unacceptable process in practice can be seen in the analysis provided on poverty. This analysis states that poverty fell between 2006 and 2010. What this statement hides is the fact that poverty fell in the period 2006-2008 but has been rising since then.
A report commissioned by the 26-County Department of Social Protection finds that 450,000 people in Ireland (10% of the population) were in food poverty in 2010. The households identified as being most vulnerable to food poverty are (i) households on low incomes, (ii) households with three or more children under 18, (iii) households where the head of the household is ill or disabled, (iv) lone parent households and (v) households headed by a person who is unemployed. The measure used takes three key “deprivation factors” into account:
- Not being able to afford a meal with meat, or a vegetarian equivalent, every second day.
- Not being able to afford a weekly roast dinner.
- Missing a meal over a two-week period, due to a lack of money.
The research shows that in 2010, 10% of people questioned for a CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions experienced at least one of these factors.
The coming years will see an increase in grass-roots opposition as we see with the various campaigns against the household charge, the septic tank charge, turf-cutting, health and education cuts. We applaud the leading role played by our own public representative Cllr Tomás Ó Curraoin, Contae na Gaillimhe and other Sinn Féin members in these campaigns.
The need for unity between urban and rural, employed and unemployed, young and old, the public and private sector has never been greater. People must set about the essential task of building a mass movement that is capable of acting as a vehicle for radical political, social and economic change. The way forward is not to resurrect a failed political and economic model but to begin anew.
A radical change in thinking is demanded creating real economic as well as political democracy. This means ensuring that the decisions which affect people and their communities, are made by them rather than unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels or elsewhere.
Our political and economic policies, ÉIRE NUA and SAOL NUA set out a blueprint for such a New Ireland. We believe that our programme for a Federal Ireland, ÉIRE NUA, along with our social and economic policy SAOL NUA, provides the basis for just such a radical transformation leading to a New Ireland. Taking control of the levers of political and economic power and decision-making are vital if we are to bring about the type of revolutionary transformation that is required. This includes taking ownership of our natural resources.
We have only to look to South Africa to see what results from refusing to address economic as well as political inequality. It leaves us with the spectacle of an ANC government using apartheid-era laws to crush a miner’s strike. We extend our solidarity to the South African miners and salute the memory of their fallen comrades. They are part of the international fight against imperialism.
The excellent booklet Liquid Assets, launched by Dublin Shell-to-Sea in September, sets out the extent of natural gas and oil off the Irish coast and proposes a number of options by which these can be exploited in the interests of the Irish people – in contrast with the present set-up where our resources are being given away.
According to Shell-to-Sea: “International studies show that State ‘take’ in Ireland is among the lowest, roughly half the rate of countries with a similar economic approach.
“An industry report suggests the exchequer would earn as little as 7% of the revenue generated from the sale of the gas from an Irish field. In other words, Ireland (sic) effectively pays 25% of the exploration and development costs, but gains considerably less than 25% of the profits, despite owning the resource in the first place.”
Yet when challenged the 26-County Administration peddle the big lie that the cost of exploration prohibits any State involvement.
However Shell-to-Sea point out in Liquid Assets that “This is a false argument. In order to take a share in an oil or gas field discovered by a private company, the State would not need to have shared the risk involved in finding that field. The State can simply issue exploration licenses to private companies on the basis that when a discovery is made, the State will step in and take a percentage share in the ownership. These resources belong to Ireland.” International best practice should be followed in utilising our natural resources.
Michael Burke, writing in The Guardian cites the example of Venezuela, which wrested back ownership of its oil industry from foreign multinationals: “Hugo Chávez’s victory marks him as one of the few leaders anywhere to be re-elected since the global economic crisis began.”
Venezuela has had very large oil revenues for decades, but only since his government took control of the industry, away from foreign multinationals and local oligarchs, has the wealth it creates been distributed among the population.
Unlike Ireland, and all the countries implementing “austerity”, poverty in Venezuela is declining, healthcare and education improving and the economy is growing. If Ireland is to benefit from an oil boom it needs to look to Chávez, not to Thatcher.
As Irish Republicans we too believe this is the only way forward in keeping with the principle of the “The right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.” We salute the on-going fight in defence of Ireland’s natural resources being waged by the Shell-to-Sea campaign.
The announcement by 26-County Environment minister Phil Hogan of the decision to abolish town and borough councils in the 26 Counties marks yet a further power-grab by the Dublin based political elite. It marks a decisive shift in the balance of power between local communities and the Dublin administration.
The 26-County State, already one of the most highly centralised states in Europe according to Dr Jane Suiter of Dublin City University, has increased further the imbalance of power between the Dublin administration and the people. This move serves to exacerbate the relentless power-grab of the EU political elite at a national level. The cumulative effect is to place ever-increasing power in the hands of unaccountable political elites in Dublin and Brussels while disenfranchising people on the ground.
Republican Sinn Féin identified this imbalance in power relations over 40 years ago and forecast that it would only worsen. Through ÉIRE NUA we put forward a credible alternative to what was then and is clearly now a dysfunctional political system.
The type of real decentralisation of decision making from national to provincial,
to local level as advocated by ÉIRE NUA has never been as relevant or as necessary as it is today. ÉIRE NUA would empower people in a tangible way, ensuring that they, and not an accountable elite made the political, social and economic decisions that directly affected them and their communities.
Buille mór don daonlathas agus don Ghaeltacht araon é deireadh a bheith curtha le toghcháin d’Údarás na Gaeltachta. In ÉIRE NUA ón tús thugamar tacaíocht don Ghaeltacht mar aonad féinrialaithe. Sna hOchtóidí, Nóchaidí agus chomh fada leis an gceann deireannach i 2005, ghlacamar páirt sna toghcháin don Údarás.
Mar bharr ar an donas buille eile don Ghaeltacht ab ea críoch á chur le Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge agus gan aon rud fiúntach nó spreagúil a chur ina áit. Molaimid iarrachtaí na Scoileanna Gaeltachta curaclam cuí agus cur chuige fíorthacúil a aimsiú do na cainteoirí óga dúchais. Freisin, is cúis mhór díomá dúinn a laghad dul chun cinn atá déanta le Straitéis 20 Bliain an Rialtais ó dheas don Ghaeilge.
Earlier this year direct Údarás na Gaeltachta elections were abolished in what can only be described as a retrograde step. Since ÉIRE NUA first appeared we have always stood for maximum self-rule for the Irish-speaking areas. We have contested elections since Údarás elections began and condemn this shameful development. This anti-democratic move is also a huge blow against our Gaeltacht areas, which continue to find themselves under ever increasing English language pressure.
As further evidence of the marginalization of the Gaeltacht speakers, we view with extreme dismay the complete removal of the Gaeltacht Irish-speaking Families Scheme and its replacement with a woolly and non-inspirational set of leaflets for parents. The Scheme, while it had its faults, was universally accepted, provided motivation and was a very accurate barometer of the strength of the language.
In recent months the efforts being made by the Gaeltacht Schools to finally provide an appropriate curriculum and supports for young native speakers are very worthwhile of recognition. Meanwhile outside the Gaeltacht the silence of the 26-County Departments of the Gaeltacht and Education on the 20-year 26-County State Strategy on the language, almost three years old, is deafening.
Beginning next year with the centenaries of the foundation of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army and the 1913 Lockout, the coming decade will be one in which we will mark some of the key events in our revolutionary history.
Other anniversaries including the landing of the arms off the Asgard in 1914 and Pearse’s oration at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa act as milestones on the road to the centenary of the Rising. The years after 2016 will bring the centenaries of the historic 1918 General Election – the last occasion in which the Irish people acted as a unit in a single vote on the question of Ireland’s right to national independence.
The Tan War, the British Government of Ireland Act of 1920 which led to the partition of Ireland, the Treaty of Surrender and the subsequent Civil War or Counter-Revolution. All will be reminders of where we have come from and how far we have still to travel. In April we launched the build-up to 2016 and the centenary of the Rising with a very successful seminar entitled Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week?
Among the speakers was the historian Dr Ruan O’Donnell of Limerick University. However the coming decade is not merely a matter of historical memory, commemoration or inquiry. No, it is much more than that. This decade marks an escalation in what is a battle for hearts and minds. The build-up to the Centenary of the 1916 Rising is rapidly developing into a battle over not only how we view our past but also the vision we have for our future.
The speech by Stormont First Minster Peter Robinson marking the centenary of the signing of “Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant” in 1912 at the Head Quarters of the 26-County Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House on March 29 is the first step in a campaign to dilute and sanitise the Centenary of the 1916 Rising. The political establishments in Stormont, Leinster House and Westminster have signalled their intention to suppress any meaningful commemoration of the 1916 Rising by burying it in a celebration of the imperialist carnage of the First World War.
The 1916 Proclamation and the so-called “Solemn League and Covenant” symbolise the fundamental difference in the vision for Ireland held by Irish Republicans as opposed to the forces of imperialism. The ‘Solemn League and Covenant” was written in the narrow, sectarian and patriarchal language of empire, while the 1916 Proclamation addresses itself to “Irishmen and Irishwomen” in the inclusive language of democracy, progress and human freedom.
Irish Republicans unapologetically declare that 1916 will remain unfinished business while “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland” continues to be denied by either the old imperialism of British occupation or the new imperialism of the EU and IMF. We should view the coming decade as an opportunity to infuse a new generation with the same idealism, principle and endeavour that moved a nation between 1913 and 1923.
The October edition of SAOIRSE addressed the ongoing attack on the integrity of Irish Republicanism from the myriad groups and gangs using that honoured name as a cover for their nefarious activities. It is something which bears repeating here: “A new threat has emerged in recent years and in many ways one which is potentially the most serious of all that Irish Republicanism has faced throughout its long history.
“The emergence of groupings styling themselves as ‘Republican’ but 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 gangs are an insidious threat to the very survival of the Republican ideal.
“These pseudo-Republican groups seek to control their communities through fear. Posing as revolutionaries hides 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 father to present his 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. Irish Republicans are rightly proud of the part they played in groups such as Concerned Parents Against Drugs in the 1980s, and today it is vital that Irish Republicans continue to stand by their communities both urban and rural in opposing these dealers of death and social destruction.
“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.
“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.”
SAOIRSE also addressed itself to the threats posed directly to Republican Sinn Féin: “Over the past two years Republican Sinn Féin has been a direct target of such activity. A Limerick-led grouping has attempted to steal our identity and good name in order to cloak their criminal activities.
“This particular gang meet the criteria of the classic black operations or ‘black ops’ engaged in by State forces whereby a shadow grouping is set up which is a perversion of everything that the legitimate revolutionary movement represents. The purpose of these bogus groupings is to sow confusion, lower morale and discredit the genuine revolutionary movement.
”In the past, Republican Sinn Féin has been accused by its opponents of being ‘elitist’. I believe this is an accusation we should not be afraid of but indeed embrace. When it comes to ensuring our movement is a credible, motivated revolutionary political organisation to be described as elitist should be considered a badge of honour.”
Irish Republicanism has always appealed to the highest and noblest instincts of young people. Today we should be no different and the bar we set for membership should be as high as that set by those who went before us.
Facing into another year it is right that we should be conscious of the challenges, and threats that face us but importantly we must also be aware of the opportunities that are there for us. We must work to increase our profile on the ground and in this regard we must step up our preparations for the 2014 local elections in the 26 Counties.
There is much work to be done and many battles to be fought on the political, the social and the economic front. As we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising, Republican Sinn Féin’s place is in the vanguard of the struggle for a 32-County Federal Democratic Socialist Republic, a Republic worthy of the ideals set out in the Proclamation of Easter Week.
We are the true heirs to a proud and noble revolutionary tradition and we neither apologise nor bend to anyone in making that assertion. Indeed we should draw confidence for the tasks ahead by that very fact.In the words of Roger Casement “We stand in goodly company and a right noble succession.”
Thursday, 18 October 2012
Statement by the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton
The decision of the 26-County Environment Minister Phil Hogan to abolish all borough and town councils marks a decisive shift in the balance of power between local communities and the Dublin administration. The 26-County State, already one of the most highly centralised states in Europe according to Dr Jane Suiter of Dublin City University, has increased further the imbalance of power between the Dublin administration and the people. This comes on top of the relentless power grab of the EU political elite at a national level. The cumulative effect is to place ever increasing power in the hands of small and in many cases unaccountable political elites in Dublin and Brussels while disenfranchising people on the ground.
Republican Sinn Féin identified this imbalance in power relations over 40 years ago and forecast that it would only worsen. Through Éire Nua we put forward a credible alternative to what was then and is clearly now a dysfunctional political system. The type of real decentralisation of decision making from national to provincial, local level as advocated by Éire Nua has never been as relevant or as necessary as it is today. Éire Nua would empower people in a tangible way, ensuring that they, and not an unaccountable elite would make the political, social and economic decisions that directly affected them and their communities.
Friday, 5 October 2012
I am adding this month the editorial from the October issue of SAOIRSE as I feel it is important to share it with as wide an audience as possible:
"Many will find the following uncomfortable reading while more will argue the issues dealt with here should be avoided at all costs in the interest of ‘unity’. I believe that to brush these issues under the carpet instead of confronting them head on would be to do a disservice to Irish Republicanism. I would go further and say that to confront these issues is a duty that can no longer be ignored. A time comes when certain things must be said and placed on the public record.
Irish Republicanism is possibly one of the oldest revolutionary traditions in the world. Its roots reach right back to the end of the 18th Century and the foundation of the Society of United Irishmen in 1791.
Throughout that long history it has faced many threats and at certain periods it appeared that it had been extinguished – in the 1940s 26-County Justice Minister Gerry Boland boasted that the IRA was dead and that he had killed it. Boland was no more successful than many who went before or would come after him, despite centuries of coercion the revolutionary flame has been kept alight. Republicanism has survived the gallows, the firing squad, internment camps, and prisons.
The full panoply of draconian laws and repression has been employed by Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House in an attempt to extinguish that flame. That they have not succeeded in doing so can be put down to a number of reasons. However one reason that stands out over all others is the simple fact that Irish Republicanism has commanded, at the very least, the respect and regard of large sections of the Irish people.
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 about the conviction and sacrifice of these men'.
Today the ranks of the enemy have been swelled with erstwhile comrades now prepared to administer and enforce British rule, but a new threat has emerged in recent years and in many ways one which is potentially the most serious of all that Irish Republicanism has faced throughout its long history.
The emergence of groupings styling themselves as ‘Republican’ but 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 gangs are an insidious threat to the very survival of the Republican ideal.
These pseudo-Republican groups seek to control their communities through fear. Posing as revolutionaries hides 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 father to present his 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. Irish Republicans are rightly proud of the part they played in groups such as Concerned Parents Against Drugs in the 1980s, and today it is vital that Irish Republicans continue to stand by their communities both urban and rural in opposing these dealers of death and social destruction.
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.
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. Over the past two years Republican Sinn Féin have been direct targets of such activity. A Limerick led grouping has attempted to steal our identity and good name in order to cloak their criminal activities. This particular gang meet the criteria of the classic black operations or ‘black ops’ engaged in by state forces whereby a shadow grouping is set up which is a perversion of everything that the legitimate revolutionary movement represents. The purpose of these bogus groupings is to sow confusion, lower morale and discredit the genuine revolutionary movement.
In the past, Republican Sinn Féin has been accused by its opponents of being “elitist”. I believe this is an accusation we should not be afraid of but indeed embrace. When it comes to ensuring our movement is a credible, motivated revolutionary political organisation to be described as elitist should be considered a badge of honour.
The Republican Movement throughout its history has prided itself on attracting the most idealistic, sincere and able of each generation. In his seminal history of the IRA The Secret Army writing of the Republican Movement in the 1920s, J Bowyer Bell had this to say: 'The army council meetings and GHQ conferences seethed with ideas, disputes, options and suggestions; despite the attrition of time and politics, there remained within the leadership as much talent as could be found within one group in Ireland.' Thomas Davis sets out the what is required in forging a national movement: 'We must be disciplined – disciplined in rigorous virtue and made strong in a sense of justice, truth and national trustfulness.'Terence Mac Swiney too sets a high standard: 'We must get a proper conception of the great cause we stand for, its magnitude and majesty, and that to be worthy of its service we must have a standard above reproach'. In the Ireland of the 21st century that should be the bar we aim for. It is from such material that revolutions are fermented and through whom ideals and a cause live on.
To do other wise is to surrender a revolutionary tradition - which has survived the best efforts of both the British and 26-County states to destroy it – to dark forces dancing to the twitch of many puppet-masters.I believe it is fitting to finish with the words of the 1916 Proclamation; these are words which all who seek to take up the standard of Republicanism should ponder long and hard: 'we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.'"
Saturday, 4 August 2012
The latest census figures for the Six-County State (Irish Times July 17) puts the population of the Six Counties at 1,810,900, while the other three counties of Ulster have a combined population of 204,803 giving a nine county Ulster a total population of 2,105,803 out of an All-Ireland population of 6,399,152. What this means is that Ulster accounts for 32.91% or one third of the total population of Ireland. In practical terms for unionists this means that under the proposals for a Federal Ireland contained in the Éire Nua programme a nine county Ðáil Uladh would have considerable clout within a New Ireland along with the regional assemblies which come a level below that.
The Éire Nua proposals allow for the maximum devolution of decision-making to the four provincial parliaments - with the exception of overall financing, defence and foreign affairs. Key areas such as health, education, social and economic development etc would be under the control of regional assemblies all elected according to local majorities. This would be real empowerment for all sections of the people within the nine counties of Ulster unlike the present arrangement where the people of the six counties exist as a mere region within a highly centralised British state while Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are relegated to the margins of the 26-County state both politically as well as economically.
As we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising Éire Nua would harness the power inherent in the population growth and turn it to the advantage of the people of all four provinces creating in turn a truly democratic All-Ireland Republic worthy of ideals set out in the 1916 Proclamation.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
The actions of the British Government’s Northern Ireland Office (sic) and the British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson in overturning a decision of the Belfast High Court to release veteran Republican Martin Corey underlines the fact - as was pointed out last year with the imprisonment of the seriously ill Brendan Lillis – that the default position of the British Government when dealing with Ireland is naked repression. All the fine talk of the rule of law upon which the British state is supposedly based counts for naught when it comes dealing with those in Ireland or elsewhere whose only ‘crime’ is to seek to break away from that state and assert the independence of their respective nations or engage in political activism on issues which the British establishment deems inimical to its ‘national interests’ . In this case the British state has subverted its own courts in order to block the release of an Irish Republican. What the imprisonment of Martin Corey has done is to lift the veil on the Six-County state and what is revealed is a state where there is no rule of law, where a person can be locked up on the secret evidence of a shadowy and hidden intelligence agency such as MI5. Nobody is safe in such a state and those foolish enough to dismiss Martin Corey’s case as relevant only to ‘Dissident Republicans’ would do well to remember the words of the German anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
“Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
“Then they came for meWhat has happened to Martin Corey constitutes not only an attack on Martin’s human and civil rights but are an attack on the human and civil rights of all people within the Six Counties. The continued imprisonment of Marian Price on trumped up charges coupled with the vindictive imprisonment of Gerry McGeough tell us much about the true nature of British involvement in Ireland. The apologists and cheerleaders for the Stormont Agreement and the political arrangements it has led to propogate the big lie that everything is, if not normal, then is rapidly approaching normality. They trumpet the new ‘human rights’ agenda of the Stormont Regime with its new police force etc. Strip away the spin and the dross and what remains is the same discredited, sectarian undemocratic and colonial statelet with its special courts, special laws and its re-packaged colonial police force, the RUC/PSNI to enforce the writ of the British Crown. Nothing has changed in terms of the relationship of the British state towards the Irish people or indeed any other people or groups who dare to step outside the conventions set out for them by the state. Ample illustration of this is to be found in Britain where the muslim community are being subjected to a campaign of demonisation and criminalisation, where arbitary house raids and arrests coupled with detention without-trial are the norm. Again this merely echoes the experience of the the Irish community in Britain throughout the 1970s and 80s. Off course by and large the subverting of the judicial process within the Six Counties this week has largely been ignored by the media particulaly in the 26 Counties and within Britian itself. Where it has been written or spoken about in the media the emphasis has been on the background to Martin’s previous 19 year sentence in Long Kesh prison. Again to do otherwise would be to shine a light on the abnormality of the Six-County state and that is a political boat which the establishment simply will not allowed to be rocked. People need to organise around issues such as the internment without-trial of Martin Corey. One does not have to travel far to find injustice and inhumanity they are to be found right on your own doorstep.
and there was no one left to speak out for me”
and there was no one left to speak out for me”
Friday, 29 June 2012
Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the shelling of the Four Courts with borrowed British artillery by Free State forces so I thought it was timely to post this lecture I gave in 2002:
A nation sundered: Ireland's counter-revolution
The title I have chosen for my lecture tonight is ‘A Nation Sundered’, for this in effect was the consequence of the bitter Civil War, or more correctly Counter-Revolution into which Ireland was plunged 80 years ago. The sundering of Ireland not only geographically but politically, the sundering of the wonderful sense of national unity which had galvanised a Nation during some of the most momentous years in its history between 1916 and 1921.To fully understand the past 33 years of conflict in Ireland, indeed to have any understanding of political development in Ireland North or South an understanding of 1922-23 period is essential. The signing of the ‘Stormont Agreement’ in April 1998 was but the latest in a series of attempts by Britain to consolidate the political structures which it imposed on Ireland by means of the Westminster ‘Government of Ireland Act’ in 1920 and the ‘Anglo-Irish Treaty’ of 1921, and its effect was similar in yet further dividing Republican\Nationalist opposition to British Rule in Ireland.
During the 1916-21 period Ireland enjoyed an unprecedented unity of purpose, particularly following the executions of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.
The mass of the people for the first time since the Land War of the 1880s or more particularly since 1798 threw their weight behind the forces of revolution, transforming Sinn Fein from a fringe organisation with the limited of aim securing self-government within the British Empire, into a nationally organised revolutionary body, adopting at it’s Ard Fheis of October 1917 the aim of: “Securing of International recognition of Ireland as an Independent Irish Republic”, Sinn Fein had, as the historian Brian Murphy put it, “a new Republican reality” . Likewise the months and years, which followed 1916, saw the rapid development and growth of the Irish Republican Army and other national organizations such as Cumann Na mBan , Na Fianna Éireann etc. All of this culminated in the historic 1918 General Election, which must be pointed out was the last All-Ireland Election, and which was in effect a plebiscite on Irish National Self –Determination, which saw Sinn Fein sweep to a dramatic and overwhelming victory, something which had been signposted in a series of by-elections during 1917, banishing the old so-called ‘Constitutional Nationalist’ Irish Party to the annals of history.
Armed with this mandate the newly invigorated forces of Irish Republicanism set about giving substance to and making a reality of the Republic proclaimed in 1916. On January 21 1919 24 of the 73 Sinn Féin Deputies elected in December 1918 came together in Dublin’s Mansion House, formally convening the first meeting of an independent All-Ireland Parliament, Dáil Éireann, the 26 Unionist and six ‘Irish Party’ deputies refused to take their seats.
Those assembled issued a ‘Declaration of Independence’ adopted a ‘Democratic Programme’ which declared that the:” The Nation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions; the Nation’s soil and all its resources.” An “Address to the Free Nations of the World” was also read. What all of this meant was summed up by Cathal Brugha, who had just been elected acting President in place of the imprisoned Eamon De Valera, when following the reading of the ‘Declaration of Independence’ he declared: “ Deputies, you understand that from what is asserted in this Declaration that we are done with England. Let the world know it and those who are concerned bear it in mind.” Britain’s answer to this manifestation of the democratic will of the Irish people for national self-determination was even more coercion as they attempted to militarily suppress the newly declared ‘Republic’.
Over the next two and a half years Ireland was locked in a life and death struggle with what was then the world’s leading power .In fact on the same day that the Dail met for the first time, a small band of IRA volunteers led by Dan Breen and Sean Treacy, at Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary fired what were for all practical purposes the first shots of the ‘War of Independence’ or ‘Tan War’.
All the while the newly established Dail Eireann set about constructing what the historian Arthur Mitchell has described as a”counter-state”. During the ‘Treaty Debates’ and subsequently it was the contention of those who supported the ‘Treaty’ that the ‘Republic’ never really existed. In fact the ‘Republic’ established its own functioning Government departments, covering all areas of the nation’s life, such as ‘Finance’, Justice or ‘Home Affairs’, Foreign or ‘External Affairs’, which had accredited representatives in a number of countries throughout the world. Its law courts and police had supplanted the British legal system in the people’s eyes by the time of the Truce in July 1921.The Dail also created a propaganda Department and established a committee assigned with the task of formulating “a general scheme of National Education.” Whilst also enjoying the support of the vast majority of local government bodies in the country.
What is clear is that the ‘Irish Republic’ was not merely aspirational but a living and functional reality, leading Dorothy MacArdle to write in her history of the 1916-23 period The Irish Republic: “Whether the Irish Republic ever existed has been disputed not only by jurists and not only with words. For the Irish people the Republic was, for a few tense years, a living reality, which dominated every aspect of their lives. Its existence was a fact of human history, if not of logic or of law.”
Britain reacted not only militarily to this ever growing demand for Irish Nationhood but also introduced its ‘Government of Ireland Act’ in 1920 which partitioned Ireland, establishing Northern and Southern Parliaments with jurisdictition over the Six North Eastern Counties of Ulster and the remaining 26 Counties respectively, under a form of Dominion Home Rule. All of this was simply ignored by the Dail as it set about its task of supplanting the British system of Government in Ireland. By the early summer of 1921 the British Government had come to the realisation that it was not possible to pacify Ireland militarily without alienating world opinion, particularly the United States.
And so on July 11 a truce was finally agreed as a prelude to negotiations.
The complex series of talks and negotiations which led ultimately to the signing of the ‘Anglo-Irish Treaty’ or ‘Treaty of Surrender’ on December 6 1921 would be the subject of a lecture in themselves and so I do not intend to deal with them tonight.
From a British perspective the ‘Treaty’ was a masterstroke, as the historian Michael Hopkinson points out in his history of the Civil war or Counter-revolution:” The Treaty’s signing was the decisive event which led to the Civil War. No document could have more effectively brought out into the open divisions in the philosophy and leadership of the Sinn Fein Movement. If it had offered a little more or a little less, it may well have unified opinion for or against it.” As I pointed out at the beginning the effect was to sunder the nation, driving a wedge through the forces of revolution behind which the people had united since 1916, divisions which remain with us to this day.
Immediately following the Dail’s narrow ratification of the ‘Treaty’ by seven votes in
January 1922 a situation was created which was in the words of Dorothy MacArdle: “Intricate and ambiguous.” She goes on: “To do more than approve the Treaty and thus recommend its acceptance to the Electorate was not within the competence of the Dáil. No mandate had even been given to Dáil Éireann by the Irish people to abdicate or to transfer its functions or to organise any other governmental authority on Irish soil. It was obligatory upon Dáil Éireann to continue as far as possible, to function in accordance with its mandate, its oath and its Constitution, as the Government of the Republic, unless and until people should disestablish the Republic by their vote. No other government could have any democratic sanction in Ireland until a general election had been held.
“The Treaty, however made no allowance for an appeal to the electorate before the Governmental change, no acknowledgment of the democratic position of the Government of the Irish Republic: on the contrary, its terms regarded that Government as non-existent, Article 18 requiring that the Treaty should be submitted forthwith to a ‘meeting summoned for the purpose of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland.’ That assembly was, under Article 17, to elect the ‘Provisional Government’ to which the British Government should transfer certain powers and machinery. Dáil Éireann was ignored.
“In consequence of its vote, Dáil Éireann had placed itself in an impossible position; whilst continuing to function as the Government of the Republic and to safeguard the Republican position until an election could be held, it had to countenance the summoning of a rival assembly (which would mainly, in personnel, be a portion of itself); countenance the recognising of one government in the North and the setting up of another government in Dublin, both with the subversion of the Republic and the supplanting of Dáil Éireann as their immediate aim.”
What this all meant in effect was a reversal of what had occurred between 1919-21,the creation of a rival state to that of the All-Ireland Republic. Despite frantic efforts by some on both sides of the ‘Treaty’ divide to preserve some semblance of unity both politically and within the Army of the Republic, the IRA, the insistence of the British to strict adherence to the terms of the ‘Treaty’ most pointedly in the drafting of a constitution for the new 26 County State made armed conflict almost inevitable. The reluctance to face this inevitability of armed conflict was most evident with those who remained loyal to the All-Ireland Republic, writing of this period Ernie O’Malley had this to say:” there was no attempt to define a clear cut policy. Words ran into phrases, sentences followed sentences… A drifting policy discussed endlessly in a shipwrecked way.” The result of this was to allow the emerging Free State to consolidate itself, with the active assistance of the British Government, both politically and militarily. As with the ‘Stormont Agreement’ all the forces of the of the establishment from Church Hierarchy to the national and provincial media, rallied in support of the ‘Treaty’. Support for the ‘Treaty’ was most evident in the more prosperous eastern half of the country, whilst in contrast opposition to it was most marked in the West and South West. This is reflected in the strong support for the ‘Treaty’ amongst the moneyed and propertied classes. The “stake in the country people” as Liam Mellows described them. Indeed Mellows was to the fore in the Republican leadership in seizing on the importance of this. Peadar O Donnell in his book There Will Be Another Day alludes to this: “For a little while on the morning of the attack on IRA Headquarters, Four Courts, Dublin, 28th June 1922, Liam Mellows and I shared vigil at one of the barricaded, upper windows and watched the city bestir itself, within our arc of vision, to the noise of rifle and light artillery fire. We thought our thoughts. Two men, obviously workmen making their way along the quays to their jobs, started us speculating on what role the trade unions would have been guided into were James Connolly alive and the Republic under attack. It was the first time I heard Mellows on the play of social forces in the crisis of the Treaty. I was present at the Dáil Éireann session when he made his speech against the Treaty, but while what he said impressed me greatly it gave no indication of the pattern of ideas he uncovered now.” In his ‘Notes from Mountjoy’ written in the weeks leading up to his execution in December 1922, Mellows was to more fully develop these ideas.
“In our efforts now to win back public support to the Republic we are forced to recognise – whether we like it or not – that the commercial interest, so called, money and gombeen men are on the side of the Treaty, because the Treaty means imperialism and England. We are back to Tone – and it is just as well – relying on that great body ‘the men of no property’. The ‘stake in the country’ people were never with the Republic. They are not with it now – and they will always be against it – until it wins. We should recognise that definitely now and base our appeals upon the understanding and needs of those who have always borne Ireland’s fight.”
The slide into war was accelerated when Collins at the insistence of the British broke the ‘Pact’ or voting arrangement which had been agreed with De Valera in the lead up to the election called for June 16, between a panel of candidates put forward by the Pro and Anti – Treaty wings of Sinn Fein. And so on June 28 the opening shots of what was to be a savage and brutal war of brothers were fired from artillery borrowed by the Free State from the British Army, on the Four Courts in Dublin, which had been occupied and used as their Headquarters by the Forces of the Republic since the previous April. It was a war that would prove costly to Ireland on a number of levels, materially the damage caused would amount to £30 million, and on a deeper level it would rob Ireland of the brightest and best of a unique revolutionary generation.
Men such as Liam Mellows, Rory O’ Connor, Liam Lynch, Erskine Childers, Cathal Brugha and Harry Boland. On the Pro – Treaty side Michael Collins. All of them left an indelible mark on Ireland and still had so much more to contribute.
Following the surrender of the Four Courts garrison and the end of the battle for O’Connell Street, in which most notably Cathal Brugha was to lose his life, the fighting cantered on Connacht and Munster. In Munster a line from Waterford to Limerick would mark the boundary of the last bastion of Republican resistance to the Free State, the so – called ‘Munster Republic’. Following the deaths of Griffith and Collins in August 1922 the Free State under the leadership Cosgrave, Mulcahy and O’Higgins prosecuted the war in new and more ruthless fashion. Dropping all pretence of operating as a normal democratic government they set about using every and all means at their disposal to crush resistance to the Free State, including the torture and mutilation of prisoners, summary executions, in many cases without even the semblance of a trial or court martial as in the case of Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett. Despite being prisoners of war for almost six months the four men were executed on the orders of the Free State cabinet on December 8 1922, as a reprisal for the killing of a Free State TD the previous day. By May of 1923 the Free State had executed 77 Republican prisoners, Brian O’Higgins in his ‘Wolfe Tone Annual’ of 1962 lists 113 “unauthorised murders” or executions carried out by the Free State. In Kerry , at Ballyseedy, Countess Bridge and Baghas , unarmed prisoners were tied to mines and blown up. The prisons and internment camps were swelled with 12000 Republican prisoners. Following the death in action on the Knockmealdown Mountains of IRA Chief of Staff Liam Lynch on April 10 1923, the remaining IRA Executive under its new Chief of Staff Frank Aiken decided further military resistance under the prevailing conditions was impossible. And so on May 24 the order to ‘Dump Arms’ was issued. In contrast to the decision of the Provisionals to ‘Decommission Arms’ over the last number of months, the decision of the Republican leadership in 1923 was guided purely by military considerations and in no way constituted a political surrender.
The Counter – Revolution like all such wars was marked by its sheer brutality, leading
the Commander of British Forces in Ireland General Neville Macready to comment that Republican Resistance had been crushed “by means far more drastic than any which the British Government dared to impose during the worst period of the rebellion.”
Yet despite all of this in the 26 County elections of August 1923, in the face of censorship and coercion and despite the fact that the majority of its candidates and election workers were imprisoned or on the run, Sinn Fein had 44 candidates returned, polling a total of 286000 votes. As Michael Hopkinson observed : “The election results demonstrated the continuity of Republican support which had been obscured by the war’s unpopularity.”
The ‘Treaty of Surrender’ and the war of Counter-revolution which it spawned has served to retard the normal social, economic and political development of Ireland North and South. In the Six North Eastern Counties, and due to the promises made in the ‘Treaty’ about the role of a ‘Boundary Commission’ all of which served to relegate regime and the question of partition in the ‘Treaty’ debates to a side issue, it put in place a state, whose foundations were naked sectarianism, discrimination and bigotry, all of which have only been further entrenched by the ‘Stormont Agreement’ , as evidenced in the streets of Belfast, Portadown and Lurgan. Meanwhile the 26 County State in its 80 years of existence has been characterised by its endemic corruption, failing in its primary duty to provide for the mass of its citizens, for many years using , just as the British had done before, the emigrant boat and plane as its safety valve. It also fulfilled the prophecy made by Liam Mellows during the Dail ‘Treaty’ debates when he forecast the the Free State Government would become the “barrier government between the British and the Irish people.” In decades which have followed it has continued to use the gallows, the firing squad, the internment camp, political police and censorship to suppress the Irish people’s legitimate demand for National - Self Determination. Again as Mellows pointed out, the ‘State’, for those who have supported it came to surpass Nation as the ultimate expression of Irish identity, and its defence and preservation more important than Ireland’s inalienable right to unfettered Nationhood. If Irish history teaches us anything it is that a British withdrawal and the dismantling of both ‘Treaty’ states are essential stepsin the building of a New Ireland based on the All-Ireland democracy as embodied in the All – Ireland Republic.