The IRSP main easter oration delivered by Ciarán Cunningham.
Comrades and Friends
It is a great great honour to be asked to speak at this Republican Socialist Plot today,as we proudlymark the 102nd anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin when Republicans, socialists, revolutionaries and many ordinary Irish men and women took to the streets in order to drive British imperialism from our land. I would like to thank the ArdComhairle of the IRSP for asking me to speak as well as the families of the Republican Socialist martyrs and you the core membership for entrusting me to do so.
Easter is a time for reflection, celebration and the renewal of our collective commitment to the Irish revolutionary ideal.
It is right that we reflect upon those who have fallen, indeed it is vital that we do so. The brave fighting men and women who are buried within this plot, within nearby plots and indeed in graveyards across Ireland, these people gave their lives not only for the ideal of Irish Freedom(fighting and dying in the process of trying to make that dream a reality)but in a very real way they also gave their lives for us, personally as individuals.
Our ability in 2018, to live relatively free from state brutality, relatively free from what was once a sure and persistent threat of assassination and indeed our freedom to organise politically and with determination to carry on the struggle for Irish National Liberation and Socialism itself, can without a doubt be attributed to the fallen who we honour today.
This point is of course particularly pertinent to the Irish Republican Socialist Party, last year we made an extra effort to remember the Republican Socialist martyrs of 1987, those who died in defence of this great party and its right to exist.
Very often I have a romantic tendency (some may call it a weakness) to spot symbolic coincidences at Easter and take political and personal strength from them, usually I keep such notions to myself, but this year I will share one thought with you all.
Last year, as we stood here and honoured the Martyrs of ’87, the rain pelted down upon each one of us, it was relentless and all who spoke from the platform fought their way through that storm to deliver their message, and everybody went home soaked.
Easter 1987 itself was the same, the weather was fierce, literally fierce that day, but the speakers who took to the stand had fought their way through a much more vicious storm as had all those who had the principle and tenacity to march with them.
The IRSP had long been declared an outlaw organisation both by the British state and their dependables in Leinster House, but by 1987, it was also outlawed from elements within our own community, people who tried their very hardest to murderously put the party of Connelly and Costello out of business.
By Easter 1987, the worst of that storm had passed, and the party spokespersons that Sunday were able to declare with confidence that the program of the IRSP would carry on without any further haste or hindrance and indeed it did, with the IRSP entering the ‘90s with a renewed sense of strength, confidence and vision.
Likewise, last year (30 years later almost to the day) our party left Milltown cemetery having braved a storm – albeit of much less fierce nature – and having heard our spokespeople (themselves veterans of that period) once again declare their determination to carry on with the party program.
And indeed, the year which has passed since we last gathered here was one of great renewal, vision and determination for the IRSP. Collectively we met and debated, collectively we planned and constructed, collectively we analysed, we read, we wrote and we published.As a party we charted a path for the future struggle for Irish National Liberation and Socialism and every party activist today, young and old is sensing a time of great things for the IRSP and our ideals.
It is one thing coming out of a storm and appreciating the heat and warmth of later political progress. But we cannot not with any sense of integrity, forget those who did not survive, indeed those who fell sheltering the party and ensured its safe passage.
In every period since the very conception of the IRSP, the fallen martyrs did just that. In every period since the party’s conception attacks were mounted upon the organisers, the intellectuals, the guerrilla fighters, the spokespeople and upon activists on a street level. So afraid was the British state of the pure revolutionary ideals of Connolly and Costello, the correct assertion that the struggle for Irish Freedom and the class struggle for Socialism were in fact one in the same and must be, could be and would be pursued together.
The day to day work of those who fell victim to the assassin’s bullet, those who fell in the field of combat or within Thatcher’s prison system, built the foundations around which the IRSP of 2018 can now set about implementing this most modern stage of the party program.
No doubt the families of those fallen comrades are here with us also, and you too will remember your loved ones in your own mind in your own way. We extend our condolences and send tributes to you also.
Our dead (the fallen comrades of the Republican Socialist Movement) allowed us to gather here today, they allowed us to plan for tomorrow, and we cannot, we will not forget their sacrifice while we push ahead our program of work.
And so we again salute them today, on Easter Sunday morning, paying tribute as we do of course to the patriot dead of all organisations and from all generations who lie within this cemetery.
For Republicans and Republican Socialists, Easter should also be a time of celebration. The collective legacy of Irish resistance,its many centuries of bravery, audacity and dogged determination in the face of waves of cruel adversity is on a par with freedom struggles anywhere in the world.
Many of you have come through the trauma of combat, and through the dark seasons of despair which are forced upon soldiers of freedom when they are committed to the Britain’s prison system, many of you have no doubt felt the pain and guilt of losing comrades and the countless other negative emotions and negative impacts which inevitably come with a life spent in revolutionary struggle.
Yet every day you have gotten up and renewed yourselves in the face of that adversity, you still get up and renew your determination to finish the job, you carry on your struggle without a wage and more often than not without a single complaint, all for the betterment of your class and your country.
Show me a British imperialist who would dedicate the best part of his life for the greater good, without a wage and without complaint, you will find very, very few. Show me capitalist who will dedicate any part of his life without a wage or complaint, you will find none.
You, the republican socialists of Ireland represent the best that exists within this country. Your spirit – which says that there is more worth in pursuing the collective good than in pursuing mere personal gain and ambition – is the essence of the Irish Republican ideal. There are many on the Irish left who will claim to be the inheritors of Connolly, and who do no doubt, attempt to espouse the goals of collectivism and equality above those of capitalist gain.
Yet only a few have gone further and translated those goals into action. Only a few have put their life’s and liberty on the line attempting to make Irish Freedom and Socialism a tangible and living thing, as opposed to a faded half nostalgic notion of some future washed out paid off union official.
You, the fighting comrades of the IRSP rank high amongst the faithful few. You have not merely interpreted the world, but as Marx commanded, you went out to change it. Throughout the course of struggle, you also looked after each other, and you still do, for this is how Irish Republican Socialists behave, by caring for each other now, just as the revolutionary state that we seek to create will do so later.
‘By their fruits you shall know them’ said Jesus himself, when we see the collective spirit of solidarity that has emerged from past struggles, the generosity of effort that our party comrades display daily and their willingness to struggle and suffer for an ideal greater than themselves, then we can say without a shadow of doubt, that today’s IRSP are the true inheritors of Connolly.
James Connolly had travelled the world espousing the ideas of Revolution. He spent time in America organsing and agitating, he formed links with working class representatives across the Atlantic and he used these contacts to build solidarity within an ethos of Internationalism.
Connolly was born in 1868. One hundred and fifty years ago and his political legacy is as strong in 2018 as it ever was. There is a growing interest in his ideals and his writings and young people are eager to learn the lessons that Connolly lays down. His fundamental political ideals matter as much today as they did in the time before the Easter rebellion. That is his lasting legacy. We are proud to be part of that legacy and the founders of this movement were inspired by Connolly to such an extent that they felt the need for a truly revolutionary movement to be established in 1974 after the abandonment of revolutionary principles by others. That is why comrades that we stand beside these graves, the graves of brave men and women who also took inspiration from Connolly, they took that courageous step towards revolution and gave the ultimate sacrifice. We honour them here today as we do every year. They were the heroes of the latest stage in Ireland’s struggle for class and national freedom.
The first leader of our movement, Seamus Costello, took great inspiration from Connolly and his politics, he modelled this movement on Connolly’s ICA and ISRP. James Connolly’s daughter, once described Seamus as follows:”Of all the politicians and political people with whom I have had conversations, and whom I have had conversations, and who called themselves followers of Connolly, he was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people.”
Comrades, this says it all, what finer and more eloquent endorsement of Seamus and this movement could there be. James Connolly’s daughter seen Seamus as the one and only natural political successor to her father.
And if that alone is not cause for celebration today then I don’t know what is.
Of course, we honour and pay tribute to all the leaders of the Rising and all the volunteers who took part, whether they were military, political, medical or who played any other role in that brave strike for freedom. We honour them all equally.
Comrades, it would be remiss of us to speak of selfless dedication for the Republican Socialist cause, and remembrance of the dead without mentioning the passing last year of our Comrade Harry O’Hara who following his own long period of political struggle took great personal pride and sought no reward or recognition for the daily upkeep of this Republican Socialist plot and others within this cemetery. Harry did a great job and we do indeed recognise him for his work.
Likewise, it would be remiss of us to speak of the need to stand by each other and to support each other, without recalling the ongoing efforts of the Little and Bunting families, who this year have succeeded in dragging into the spotlight the reality of what was a Tory ordered campaign of murder against the leadership and intellectual backbone of this party in 1980.
The families of Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little have always maintained that the death squad which visited so much sadness upon them, were not the mere sectarian stooges of the UDA but were indeed well trained, well directed and well-paid triggermen of the Tory Party itself.
The decision taken by Tory Viceroy Karen Bradley a fortnight ago to snatch the power of inquest around the murders of Ronnie and Noel from the hands of an Irish based Attorney General and hand it to one of her own party colleagues in Whitehall, smacks not only of a classic colonial disregard for the basic rights of Irish people, but a desperate attempt to cover up a campaign of political murder initiated by her own government predecessors and which occurred well within living memory.
We wish the Bunting and Little families well in their ongoing respective legal struggles and pledge our future support. Indeed, we pledge support for all suchlong-suffering families in their fight for truth and justice for their loved ones.
It is also vitally important that in the course of remembering our patriot and revolutionary dead at Easter that we do not fall into the mistake of believing that their legacy of strugglecan be confined tothe past like some proud historical relic.
We have a task to complete comrades, a task which must be completed, yes on the behalf of our patriot dead, but also on behalf of ourselves and the generations which will come long after we have gone.
Let nobody suggest that the vision which spurred on every fallen Irish revolutionary resting in this cemetery and beyond is near completion. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
In 1998, the Irish Republican Socialist Party declared its sincere belief that that the logistical merit in practicing armed actions had passed and that we were entering a stage of political and street based popular struggle.
With the greatest respect to all sincere republican activists and comrades, it is increasingly clear, that the IRSP were correct in that analysis.
Their analysis came with an important caveat however, one which stressed that future political action on behalf of republican socialism could not and would not involve giving recognition to British policing structures in Ireland, holding sincerely that nothing was to be gained from such an action, and indeed only grief, loss and confusion could emerge from it.
When we see how now, twenty years later, far from morphing into a ‘normal police force’ (if there is indeed such a thing) the PSNI are in all and any meaningful ways, advised, ordered, directed and led by the nose, by British military intelligence, we can confidently conclude that the legacy of the PSNI sits not within a handful of token Irish speakers in Garnaville training centre, but with the litany of disgraceful cases of modern internment, a continuous wave of political led raids and arrests on the homes of principled republican and republican socialist activists, an ever visible presence of purple gloved thugs who stalk republican families for search operations on their way to and from school and the continued deliberate remanding into custody of republican activists on the back of little or no evidence, in an effort to distribute legitimate political party activity, not of the liking of the planners of Whitehall.
No, the IRSP does not stand with the police who on the stroke of a pen at Hollywood barracks pursue the continuation of centuries old tactics of colonial oppression. We stand with their victims.
The IRSP were right in this analysis also.
In 1998 the party also predicted that the Good Friday Agreement was not designed with the welfare of the Irish working class in mind and urged opposition from the outset. Understanding that, dripping, as that document was with sectarian outlook and riddled with opportunities for the wealthy to transform Ireland not for the good of its people but for the profits of international business, the IRSP predicted that working class people would remain utterly economically oppressed in post Good Friday Ireland.
Only last week our party activists were giving advice and counsel to working families threatened by the spectre of eviction caused by pay cuts and the false dynamics of a housing system made rotten by the presence of private landlords and opportunistic speculators.
Every day we provide advice and assistance to marginalised and desperate families forced further into economic despair, under a system which does not give a toss for the material or emotional well being of families. Few here need further reminding of the creeping spectre of poverty which looms over our working-class communities, a spectre which will only grow bigger when fresh start mitigation packages begin to evaporate, and it becomes apparent that there is no cavalry coming over the horizon.
How different is the reality from the financial dream which was promised to us by the state backed media all those years back in 1998.
Again, in this area, the IRSP was correct in stating that a ‘cross community’ capitalist backed agreement, could be no substitute for a non-sectarian campaign of socialist resistance. They were correct.
Last year, the party announced its belief that shifting demographics in six counties, and the subsequent growth of progressive nationalist sentiment there, could see potential for putting the only positive aspect of the Good Friday Agreement to the test and for the good of the national goal.
It is our belief that if potential exists to demand in the near future, a ‘border poll’ or referendum on Irish Unity, then this is our opportunity to put the Good Friday Agreement to the test for once and for all.
Our people deserve something from the last twenty years of political stagnation, our people deserve a chance to (for the first time in history) push for the independence of their nation in peace, without the fear of death or imprisonment.
Give us a border poll and let us campaign positively for it. If nothing else we will shake the political confidence of those who seek to partition Ireland indefinitely. If (as is their way) Britain refuses the wishes of the people, then we can safely drop the Good Friday Agreement into the dustbin of history. We have nothing to lose.
Again, this call comes with an important caveat. Unlike all others who are lending their support to the notion of a border poll, we are not calling for the maintenance of European Union structures in Ireland, indeed we are demanding an independent Ireland’s withdrawal from the EU.
We call the European Union out for what it is, a rotten capitalist institution which (contrary to claims of many) has not delivered workers rights, has not delivered human rights and has not delivered prosperity, but rather has taken the credit on the one hand for gains made internationally by the European workers movement, while attempting to destroy the same rights at every opportunity.
We are not stupid, we are Socialists, and Socialism is impossible within the European Union. Indeed, a basic republican economic programme which sought mere fairness and self-determination, would be outlawed under the European Union. A basic checking of political facts would demonstrate this truth.
We seek a socialist republic and solidarity with other worker’s nations. These are values which the EU was created to destroy here and elsewhere, these were the traditional values of Sinn Fein and the founding values of the IRSP. They remain the values of the IRSP and this is where we stand. Again, the IRSP will be proven correct.
Our activists are mobilising country wide to this end comrades, and we are confident in the outcome.
It goes without saying that we honour greatly and eternally the efforts and sacrifice of all of our patriot dead. But to truly honour them, is to carry on with the program of revolutionary change in Ireland.
The IRSP possesses the correct program, we will not let down our revolutionary dead.
We have endured too much, too many of our friends and comrades have suffered for that to change. Our comrades died to achieve freedom for our people in a new Ireland which cherishesall ofits children; a revolutionary Ireland built upon the pillars of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Join with us.