Costello commemoration speech
The following was the keynote speech at last Sunday’s Seamus Costello Commemoration by the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) in Bray, County Wicklow.

Due to illness, it was delivered on behalf of Eddie McGarrigle by another member of the IRSP Ard-Chomhairle, Tomas Gorman.


Comrades, today we commemorate a great man whose politics are as relevant today as they were thirty years ago. The people of Bray remember the agitator, the husband, the friend, the revolutionary, they remember well his vision and radical socialism, never have they seen again such a soldier of the working class.

Twenty-five years ago someone gave me the commemoration book detailing Seamus’s life and politics. It was a glowing testament to his vision and to his love for the working class. Whenever I read that little book its clear to me that this vision and love were the very heart of republican socialism.

Despite the passing of the years and the changes within society when you scratch the surface, nothing of substance has changed. The rich become richer whilst the poor struggle for a decent living. We still face the same situation on this island today. Business interests masquerading as political leadership administer rule in Ireland, they have their own interests, and their aim is profit. Meanwhile, health and education, decent housing, employment all fall by the wayside in the selfish pursuit of profit.

The Rossport 5 are high profile victims of the Free State government’s decision to sell off the economic sovereignty of their friends in multinational companies. We support the Rossport 5, not because it’s the latest sexy fad which has caught the public imagination, we support them because at the heart of their case is the capitalist greedy profit making agenda. The supporters of the 5 are to be welcomed but I will say this: Castlerea Prison isn’t too far from Rossport and if you’re looking to find a long term case of injustice, a case which is so cruel in its nature, you will find it there. It may not be sexy for the respectable folk but if you really are against injustice help free Dessie O’Hare.

Our island remains partitioned, the GFA is a cul de sac which will strengthen that partition, the six county state is irreformable, it is a stinking hell hole of sectarianism and it must be smashed. The Good Friday Agreement republicans accepted partition when they signed the GFA. The organisation of the rally in Dublin was pure theatre: another sneaky way of rallying the troops whilst the cement was being poured over the arms dumps. We recognise that the agreement in 1998 signalled the end of the present phase in the dispute between Britain and Ireland over the issue of sovereignty. It was and is a moment of historic importance, but republican socialists have argued and continue to argue that it is not a lasting settlement. It was a political compromise. In signing it, the GFA republicans were working based on a pan-nationalist consensus that had underpinned their whole peace process.

The Dublin government, the SDLP and the Irish American lobbies were all seen as power points to be directed against the British government in order to convince them to become persuaders of Irish unity. That is what our struggle was traded for and if you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas. The GFA republicans changed their view of the conflict following their tactical alliances with the great and the good. They began to manage the conflict and in doing so they began to reinterpret their republican principles and goals. That in itself was a victory for the British government. Did these people never stop and think that their new friends ever had their own agenda, did they allow their ego and their belief that they were the elite cloud their vision? They certainly did.

Seamus and all republicans from the past who are honoured by present day republicans had all one thing in common: their republicanism was based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Sadly that position has been undermined by what is known as the peace process. It has been argued and the IRSP agree with this point that the republicans who signed up to the GFA have now a position which is ethnically centered. In essence this accepts that the conflict in the North is as a result of a clash between two hostile and exclusive ethnic identities. The benefit of this analysis is that colonialism slips off the map, Britain gets off the hook and the struggle in which we took part in has been diminished. Instead of the question of imperialism and capitalism being the central issue of discourse we now have celebrations of differences. This multicultural approach in the North of Ireland in essence means that there are two distinctly recognised traditions, which should be seen as equally valid and legitimate.

It also removes the Southern establishment from any concerns about solving the national question. In the new GFA dispensation you will hardly hear the words like national question, anti-imperialism and self determination, nowadays the great and the good have given us new buzzwords such as parity of esteem and a Europe for the regions, balderdash. All of this distracts from the real issues such as who has power and why does oppression continue. Now that the marching season is nearly over could I be so cheeky to state the truth, the Orange Order institution is Ireland’s Ku Klux Klan and need to be challenged.

This is what this whole process is about, it was underpinned by the belief that the conflict was ethnic and so the end result the GFA institutionalised polarised communally based politics. That is not the way forward for the working class. The way forward lies within the teachings of men like Seamus Costello and within the politics of the IRSP.

At this point I want to pay tribute to the republican socialist community. For 25 years and more we have withstood the “undermine and absorb” policy of the very same people who now chase after British Secretaries of State begging for office space in Westminster, the people who used black propaganda to try and destroy this movement, the same people who tried to break our prisoners and our families, these same people are now prepared to accept a unionist veto, they are prepared and eager to administer British rule in Ireland. Shame on the lot of you.

My message is the same today as it’s always been, we are proud to be Irps -- our class analysis cannot be bartered for respectability, our politics cannot be crushed and we cannot be bought, even for 26 million pounds.

Bernadette McAliskey, a close friend and comrade of Seamus, once said, “the war is over and the good guys lost”. Since those words were spoken we have spent a long time analysing and debating the way ahead. We have spent enough time being distracted by our anger, it is time to think with our heads and not with our hearts.

All anti-GFA republicans need to take a step back and engage with each other, those not on cease-fire need to call a cessation to their campaigns. Put simply it is not working, there is no support within the working class community for armed struggle. Within the North, British intelligence are playing republican volunteers like pawns in a Kitsonian game of chess. We need to consult the prisoners and we need a united voice, we the honourable republicans undefeated, and we need to engage with each other. It is for purely tactical reasons that I make this public call for cessation of military activity. Leadership needs to be shown, retain the dignity of the republican struggle.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News