Easter Oration 2021
Friends and comrades,
I would like to welcome you to our online Easter commemoration for 2021.
Normally, the Republican Socialist Family gather at the gravesides of our comrades every year to honour our fallen Martyrs in the traditional republican way, but sadly, due the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, that simply isn’t possible this year. We will nonetheless pay tribute to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of an Irish Workers’ Republic, in a fitting and appropriate manner in the present circumstances.
We thank all the families of our comrades for their patience and understanding, as we again commemorate their selfless sacrifice differently this year. We will do so differently, but no less meaningful. We will never allow such circumstances to prevent us from remembering our fallen comrades.
We will always honour their memories and the political ideals for which they gave their lives, but we will do so respecting the best scientific advice in order to keep our membership and the wider community safe. Not only do we commemorate the members of the Republican Socialist family who lost their lives during the latest phase of the conflict, we remember all those brave volunteer soldiers who stepped forward on Easter Monday morning 1916 in Dublin as members of the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan or the Irish Volunteers.
They bravely took to the streets of Dublin to strike at the British in the heart of that empire’s second city. Those events were a turning point in the struggle for Irish freedom and nationhood. The joint effort by that wide range of Republicans, Nationalists, Trade Unionists, Socialists and many ordinary people could arguably be described as the first broad front in modern Irish republicanism.
Those events sparked a desire for freedom rarely seen outside of the republican and Irish cultural organisations of that time. Let us ask ourselves, why did these brave fighters decide to take on the might of the British Empire in the knowledge that they had little chance of victory, and that only death or imprisonment awaited them? They did it knowing that future generations of Irish people would take up the fight. And they succeeded in lighting the fuse that awakened the revolutionary spirit of the Irish people.
They lit the flame of freedom and opposition to British rule in Ireland that inspired future generations to continue the struggle. During the past year the Republican Socialist Movement has had to adapt to very challenging circumstances.
The global pandemic has changed the way we have operated as a revolutionary political organisation.
We have been unable to organise gatherings such as meetings, demonstrations, protests or pickets, but this has made us no less effective. The Republican Socialist Movement through Republican Socialist Aid has been to the forefront in providing front line medical facilities and their staff with vital PPE during the early stages of the pandemic.
Thousands of items such as masks, face screens and bottles of sanitizer were delivered to carers, care homes and hospitals right across Ireland when the system fell apart and was unable to offer protection to front line workers.
We also provided thousands of hot meals to isolating and vulnerable families and we continue to provide food parcels to communities that have been left behind by the agencies who were funded to provide this service.
This is real community empowerment, carried out by dedicated and committed activists, from Derry to Cork. All of this was done solely by localised funding initiatives and donations from friends and supporters.
This was simply an extension of the activism of our members. It was genuine revolutionary activity and the leadership of this organisation is extremely proud of and grateful to the many activists who stepped forward during the current crisis.
This activity stands in stark contrast to the gutter press headlines, aimed at our membership, by the PSNI & MI5.
The difference between the headlines and the reality on the ground is testament to the high calibre of young activists within the IRSP.
Genuine young men and women, of our class, who are driven to make life better for our communities. We are organised and active in dozens of working class communities right across Ireland, and the people who we helped and continue to help are our family, friends and neighbours. Ordinary working class people who have been let down by the system both here in the occupied six counties, and in the 26 county State. We send our unwavering support to the Yes for Unity campaign, which has continued to exert influence across the body politic, despite restrictions and lockdowns. Rather than filling halls at public meetings the campaign has adapted and held very successful online public meetings in a sign that despite not being able to meet, they have still been able to organise.
Also, by working quietly in the background engaging with people within our communities and beyond, and convincing them of the merits of supporting the calls for a border poll they have continued to build support for the concept of a border poll. The campaign for such a poll is gaining momentum. Hardly a day goes by without someone new coming out in favour and this, we have every confidence, will only grow as time moves.
We believe it is inevitable as the days pass, that there is more and more support for our stance. Our support for a referendum and the Yes For Unity campaign is simply one option on the long road to a republic.
Presently, this looks the most likely way that partition can be dismantled. It is merely one option that may or may not work out.
Let us be clear though, all our eggs are not in the border poll basket. If the border poll does not work out, we have other options that we will pursue.
We are a revolutionary organisation and we will continue to explore all revolutionary avenues, nothing will ever be off the table in terms of achieving our aims. But we are also clear that campaigning for a border poll at this time does not dilute our revolutionary credentials one iota, in fact it shows clearly that this movement is far sighted and adaptable.
This movement is not bound by traditions that can hinder our path to freedom, it never has been.
Rather, we are guided by the core political principles of revolutionary socialism. These broad principles have served us well over the last 47 years. 40 years ago our communities were in the midst of a real and deadly war with the British government led by Maggie Thatcher.
Sick of seeing young men and women dragged away from their families and their homes and then held in the most atrocious conditions, a mass movement of ordinary working class people rose up in defence of the prisoners.
Thousands came onto the streets across Ireland demanding better conditions for the prisoners.
Sadly, ten of our comrades died within Long Kesh due to the outright bitterness of Thatcher, with more losing their lives on the outside.
This year we remember, in particular, Volunteers Jim Power and Matt McLarnon, who died while on Active Service at the time of the Hungerstrike, and who’s 40th anniversaries fall next month.
1981 was a horrendous period of our history. There was turmoil and despair on a daily basis, but this brought about awareness and an awakening among ordinary working class people. It was a time when people were becoming more and more aware that politics had a direct effect on their daily lives.
The politics of the Thatcher led government allowed our prisoners to die on protest as their Tory killing machine privatised public services, throwing millions on the unemployment scrapheap and giving billions in profit to their supporters. Unfortunately, Thatcherism did not die with Thatcher. Privatisation is still a policy adopted by various government regimes.
One of the bodies set up in 1971 in order to prevent discrimination in housing allocations was the Housing Executive.
Historically, this body provided public housing across the 6 counties and whilst not perfect, it is one of the publicly owned institutions that fulfils it’s role to all sides of the community equally. In recent years the Housing Executive has come into the sights of privateers within government.
The Department for Communities which oversees the Housing Executive has plans to privatise the organisation.
Already, large parts of the responsibilities of the body have gone out to private housing associations. The on-going plans to break up and privatise the housing executive are against everything that our communities have stood for.
We must and we will oppose them. The first step in this process is to expose them, and that is what we are doing here.
We are signalling our intention to oppose the privatisation of the housing executive and to win back their right to build quality social housing.
That aspiration was taken away during the previous round of privatisation that brought about the private housing associations and allowed them into the social housing system in a big way.
At the same time the housing executive was barred from barrowing money to build new homes. This needs reversed as soon as possible. Private landlords across the north have been taking advantage of the current lack of social housing and the failed housing system.
Ramping up rents and exploiting loopholes in legislation that allows them to charge more than local benefit rates.
This means that local families are forced to pay out of their already limited benefits in order to keep a roof over their heads. Currently, the IRSP are the only organisation highlighting this exploitation and we have been doing so successfully.
Several large private housing landlords have come under pressure from us and have changed their policies in this regard, meaning many families do not have to pay housing costs from their benefits.
This campaign is on-going and where we find landlords exploiting vulnerable tenants, we will be there opposing their activities. Attacks on our class come in various forms. Not just those out to make a quick profit whilst exploiting our communities.
The British Occupation has been baring its teeth in an attempt to keep the people down. We’ve witnessed the heavy handed tactics of the PSNI aided and abetted by British security services such as MI5.
Highly aggressive raids and incursions have taken place in Galliagh, the Lower Falls, the Ormeau road, the Creggan estate and other areas. These have led to raids, arrests and neighbourhood lockdowns. Our people will not be intimidated; we have come through much worse and will do so again on the imperfect road to the republic. The republic envisioned by leaders such as James Connolly.
Our ideological Forefather, executed by the British establishment for his role in organising the Rising. He was first and foremost a revolutionary socialist, but within the Irish context he realised that the national freedom struggle had to take precedent at that time.
We can clearly see that rationale in his last statement to the British court marshal which sentenced him to death. In it he says: Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland.
Connolly referred to the occupation of Ireland by the British as a crime against human progress, that remains the case today as we strive to realise the ideals and objectives of that great man. The IRSP believe that the Irish working class are the sole instrument in which we can achieve our goals.
Only by working through them, by convincing them of our political programme, that our vision is their vision, that a Republican Socialist society is in their best interests, that our Republic is their Republic, that it will belong to them. Only then will we see the fruits of our labour. Comrades, polticial struggle is never easy. We must use Easter week to re-dedicate ourselves to the fight for an Irish Workers Republic, to keep the flame of resistance alive.
No matter how far away victory may seem, no matter how poorly our prospects look, never ever give up hope, never stop educating, agitating and organising. For in the end victory is achievable. Turning to the proclamation and looking at the words proclaimed by Pearse at the GPO one hundred and five years ago, we cannot be anything other than inspired and moved by the progressiveness and honesty of that proclamation.
Given the period in which it was written, that document was years ahead of it’s time, with it’s affirmation of equality for all the people of Ireland, which was unheard of in the class system fostered upon us by the British ruling classes.
Let’s take heart from the proclamation and it’s authors. Those who fought and died to make freedom a reality for the people of Ireland.
Let us take it into our daily lives and live it ourselves. For indeed, the establishment of the republic and the ideals contained in the proclamation is the only fitting epitaph to the men and women of 1916 and their contempories who we have lost in the decades since.
Let us truly treat all of the children of the nation equally, let us fight poverty, discrimination, exploitation, homelessness, homophobia, racism, unfair water charges, tax breaks for the rich.
Let us love all our children, let us help our elderly, let us welcome those fleeing persecution, let us house the homeless and provide all our people with a decent standard of living.
Let us build the republic of equals, and as James Connolly said, “Our demands most moderate are – we only want the earth!”
Onwards To Victory – Saoirse Go Deo!