Twelfth Desmond Greaves Summer School
Irish Labour History Museum, Dublin
`Irish Republicanism in the New Century'
by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan/Monaghan)
This weekend marked the occasion of the 12th Desmond Greaves Summer School at the Irish Labour History Museum in Dublin - ``Ireland's only critical political summer school.''
C. Desmond Greaves (1913 - 1988) was an Irish civil rights activist in London and editor of the Connolly Association newspaper, The Irish Democrat, from 1948 until his death 40 years later. A prolific writer as well as a political activist, his works include `The Life and Times of James Connolly', `Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution', `Seán O'Casey - Politics and Art', Wolfe Tone and the Irish Nation', and `History of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union'.
The Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, gave one of the keynote addresses entitled `Irish Republicanism in the New Century', after which there was a lively two-hour question and answer session. Edited extracts of Ó Caoláin's remarks are reproduced here:
``Irish republicanism is based on a number of core principles which are as relevant today as they ever were:
i) The commitment to the sovereignty of the people, to democracy in its fullest sense;
ii) The commitment to the unity of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter and the rejection of sectarianism of any kind; and
iii) The commitment to the unity of this island and its people, national self-determination, an end to partition and the establishment of a sovereign 32-county republic.
The term `republicans' is often used in a narrow sense to describe members and supporters of Sinn Féin. I think a broader definition is required which embraces all who share our commitment to the complete freedom of the Irish people.
Through building political alliances, though dialogue and debate, through engagement with our political opponents and with our political enemies, republicans helped to chart a course out of armed conflict and towards the peaceful resolution of the causes of conflict. That is the basis of the peace process and of the Good Friday Agreement.
The Agreement is an historic compromise between nationalists, unionists, republicans, the British and Irish governments. It is surely not the Republic. But it is based on the principle of equality and it thus provides a route to further progress towards our republican objectives.
For the first time, unionists have begun to work with nationalists and republicans on the basis of equality. That is a hugely positive development which needs to be nurtured and progressed. The institutions established under the Agreement create an all-Ireland framework within which the common interests of all who share this country can be addressed. This too needs to be developed.
We must ensure that the Agreement does indeed provide the vehicle for real change.
The most immediate task in relation to the Agreement is to ensure that the RUC is consigned to the pages of history and that a new police service is established. The British Government must face down its securocrats and implement the Agreement. The RUC must go and it must be replaced with a police service that can have the support of all sections of the community.
The British army must dismantle its posts and barracks and leave Ireland for good.
Coalition in the 26 Counties
Successive governments in the 26 Counties have ignored the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil and have presided over an economy where profit comes before people and where the people's sovereignty over the wealth of the nation has been surrendered to multinational capital and to the European Union.
The challenge for `Irish Republicanism in the New Century' is to offer the alternative to the paralysis and the corruption among sections of the political elite in this state which has its roots in the cosy relationship between big business and the two major parties.
Given the record of this Fianna Fáil-dominated administration, it is very difficult to envisage circumstances in which the activists of Sinn Féin would vote to enter a coalition with them after the next general election.
d in many ways the speculation about coalition is a distraction. The greater task is to build Sinn Féin as a party which can provide the catalyst to end the domination of politics in this state by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael who, at the end of the day, are the most natural coalition partners.
The real coalition we need to build is between republicans in the broadest sense of the term and all those campaigning for real and lasting change in our country. We need a coalition of all those seeking an end to poverty and inequality through the sharing of the wealth in our economy. We need a coalition of people across sectarian and racial divisions and an end to racism and sectarianism in all their forms.
We need a coalition of those in rural and urban communities who have not been allowed to take full advantage of increased prosperity. We need a coalition of environmentalists who will make the aim of a green, clean Ireland a reality. We need a coalition of those who cherish Irish neutrality and the sovereignty of the Irish people and wish to see them enhanced and not eroded through the gradual creation of an EU super-state.
`Republicanism in the New Century' needs to embrace these diverse but progressive forces. It also needs to have a clear view of our place in the world. Are we to completely submerge Irish foreign policy within a giant EU state? Will we pursue an independent course, meeting as equals the poorer, formerly colonised nations with whom we have so much in common? Or will we help to exploit them as part of one of the world's economic and political power blocs?
To Irish republicans, the Republic has always meant more than a form of political administration. The vision of the Irish Republic that we seek encompasses all of Ireland and all of its people. It involves social and economic equality as well as political freedom. It values the Irish language and Irish culture and embraces cultural diversity in Ireland and internationally. Many people have sacrificed much to make this vision and this ideal a reality. Can we succeed? I believe we can. Pádraig Mac Piarias asked in his poem `The Fool':
``O wise men riddle me this: what if the dream come true? What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?''
I believe that our children shall dwell in that Republic - your children, my children and, for the first time, all the children of the nation equally.''