The following orations were made collectively at the graveside of Theobald Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown on the 17th June, 2007, by three traditionalist republican groups.
32 County Sovereignty Movement - Delivered by Francis Mackey
A Chairde, Comrades, Fellow Republicans,
We are gathered here today to honour and commemorate Theobald Wolfe Tone, generally recognised as the father of Irish republicanism.
It is a privilege to be asked to address you at this hallowed spot were republicans renew their commitment to bring an end to British Parliamentary Activity in Ireland.
The core tenet of Wolfe Tone’s republicanism was to break the English connection with Ireland.
In other words he belonged to a separatist movement and I am very proud to say that the separatist tradition is very much alive today and we stand united as Irish Republicans whose core tenet is to end the British imposed partition of our country and to end the violation of Irish National Sovereignty.
We in the 32 County Sovereignty Movement recognise the importance of a United Republican forum which allows the republican base alongside the Irish people to debate, discuss and analyse the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland.
It allows us all to maintain the constitutional position of our respective organisations and through debate and discussion it allows us to make democratic decisions on areas of agreement.
Democracy and democratic accountability is the key to success as republicans move forward to ensure that the republican project is nurtured and made relevant to the Irish people today and in the years ahead.
It is an understatement to say that the undemocratic nature of the GFA and the changes to it made at St Andrews have seriously damaged the advancement of republicanism and has delayed any successful challenge to British interference in Irish affairs.
However, it is equally true to say, that the republican base has had for some time serious reservations about the direction in which they are being led by the Provisional leadership.
This was evident during the public meetings against British Policing in Ireland when hundreds turned out to air their discord at accepting such a police force.
The united voice of Concerned Republicans, Ex POW’s, The IRSP and ourselves in the 32 CSM exposed the lie that the RUC were reformable with a mere name change to the PSNI.
The PSNI are in reality a British police force, it is they who knock on our doors when arresting suspects, it is they who continue to harass and detain us on our own streets, search our cars and intimidate our families because we are Irish.
One of the most frequently asked questions today is what was achieved from the British inspired agreement from the republican point of view?
In truth what has been achieved is worse than nothing because the forces of constitutional nationalism have once again brokered an agreement which accepts that partition can be legitimately permanent.
That agreement was designed to end opposition to British Rule in Ireland.
Its aim was to update and normalise British Rule and to have Irishmen and women administering it.
Those doing so now at Stormont are of the Home Rule tradition and that is a tradition which sees British Parliamentary activity in Ireland as an intrinsic part of Irish politics.
The strategic flaw in negotiations leading up to that agreement was that the integrity and sovereignty of the Irish Nation was not protected which meant that our sovereignty was not recognised by either side. And the depth of this error is all the more compounded when we consider that our own history begged us not to repeat it as those in 1922 did. To quote from Robert Barton, one of the plenipotentiaries during the Treaty Debates,
In these preliminaries the English refused to recognise us as acting on behalf of the Irish Republic and the fact that we agreed to negotiate at all on any other basis was possibly the primary cause of our downfall. Certainly it was the first milestone on the road to disaster.
The negotiators allowed the violation of the rights of the Irish people to continue and the quislings in Dublin facilitated it by abandoning the people in the occupied area when they got rid of the territorial claim.
The Provisional Movement’s flawed analysis allowed this to happen and today the failure of their strategy is coming to fruition.
The undemocratic nature of that leadership is now proven to have had no impact in the politics of the 26 Counties and that experiment is now over. That State does not require two Fianna Fails.
In the occupied 6 counties sectarian politics is the only way those at Stormont can secure votes but in the longer term that too will fail.
In matters relating to social and economic issues it is evident that the parties have only wish lists with no sound evidence, based on research as to how they can deliver on them. They can only deliver what the British government and the civil service allow. They are Prisoners to the whims and self interest of the Queens Shilling.
There is no oppositional politics as it is all based on consensus.
There is no democratic decision making. They are all right wing parties which allow the people to suffer. Eg House prices have soared, our children and grandchildren cannot afford to purchase a home. Public sector housing has ceased being built and those people on low wages are caught in a poverty trap.
The health services are in crisis and is being further eroded to the extent that acute care is no longer accessible in many rural areas.
I could go on and on.
However I believe that by coming together with this first small step here today, Republicans United with a clear analysis, a clear strategy, a clear vision and a clear challenge we will become a force which cannot be ignored and with that unity we can ensure that the violation of the rights of the Irish people will not go unchallenged.
This is a new and inspirational time for republicans to advance the spirit of Wolfe Tone’s ideals. And in attempting to do so we can learn from his own basic belief that unity was essential in forging a liberation movement. Pearse also recognised unity as essential and we only have to look at the disparate groups which constituted the Forces Of The Irish Republic which fought in 1916. The template has been forged for us let us avail of it.
There is a lot of work to be done and the more organised republicans become the more we can achieve.
We in the 32 CSM look forward to a close working relationship with all republicans, working together to bring to fruition the republican project.
We do not underestimate the enormity of the task and we are equally aware of the forces against us from the establishment and their propaganda. The deployment of those forces on both sides of the border will have the sole aim of undermining the cause of republican unity. Our greatest defence against them is democracy within all our ranks.
Republicans United and Democratic will not allow anyone to cause such dissention and those interested in becoming part of the debate should be mindful that difficult decisions will need to be taken and that anyone claiming to be republican and sowing the seeds of dissent can only have an ulterior motive.
Lets commit ourselves today at this graveside to not only work together on areas of agreement but to reaffirm that our decisions are democratically reached and we can ensure that never again will a leadership led movement be allowed to use the republican sacrifice to further personal ambition in pursuit of self gain.
Republican Network for Unity (formerly Ex-PoWs and Concerned Republicans)
A Chairde, Comrades, Fellow Republicans
We have come here today to commemorate the life and legacy of Theobald Wolfe Tone. His life was characterised by the struggle for an Irish Republic and his continuing legacy has been the continuation of that same struggle, passed down from one generation to the next.Many of our lives have been touched in one way or another by that struggle.
Our opinions and our values have been shaped by our committment to the ideal of Irish freedom.Today we renew that commitment.
However, we must also acknowledge that the difficulties Republicans face today are enormous. The current political status quo,based on the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of Stormont have done untold damage to the prospects of establishing an Irish Republic.
On top of this, the Republican Movement has been split and fragmented beyond recognition. Many of us are disheartened. Many are disgusted by former comrades who betrayed all we fought for and all that Wolfe Tone fought for.
For those who still believe in the Republican cause, the great challenge of re-building the movement has been laid before us. The theme of todays commemoration is unity amongst Republicans.
The fact that this gathering has been jointly agreed among a range of groups and individuals is a small but positive step in the right direction. There are many thorny issues to be resolved but we are confident that these too can be resolved if we can build up goodwill among the members of the Republican community.
There are positive factors too. Vast resources of skills and experience exist within our community. These need to be tapped into and channelled into progressive political actions.
In the interests of building Republican unity, we should be careful not to fall into the trap of vilifying Sinn Féin supporters. For the most part , It is the leadership who are the villains.
It is our job to win back the ordinary Republican people and we are confident of doing this by winning the argument and by making our agenda relevant to our communities, the working class Irish Republican Community.
The recent electoral reversal suffered by Sinn Féin in the Free State has begun to show the limitations of their strategy and has served as a reality check for the more naive who actually believe the Adams-speak that the agreement and Stormont are part of a transition to a United Ireland in time for the centenary of 1916.
We know that nothing could be further from the truth. The British occupation has been cemented for the time being, although it is not politically correct to say so in certain circles.
The bottom line is that right now, some degree of unity of mind and purpose among Republicans is essential. Today, we want to send a message out to all Republicans right across the island, to the thousands of ex-prisoners and internees, to the networks of safe houses, to people who were arrested, who protested on the streets or who put a coin into the pdf box.
The message is simple: We acknowledge your contribution and we thank you but we need your help again to ensure that the flame is kept alive and have ownership of it. Never a return to any type of fascist leadership.
Ex-POW’s and Concerned Republicans against RUC/PSNI & MI5 was a pressure group that served its purpose when Sinn Féin betrayed Republicanism by endorsing the British Crown forces. Now, a broader front with a positive agenda is required.
The Ex-POW’s group has been dissolved and regrouped to form the Republicans Network for Unity. This network will undertake the tasks we have heard of today and will ensure a proper place for young Republicans who represent the future of us all.
Those of us who have experienced all types of oppression have a responsibility to reach and embrace our youth so that they may be aware of all types of danger which will lie ahead. We must guide and advise our young people so that they with our assistance can lead us to the Republic.
Go Raibh Maith Agat
IRSP Speech - Delivered by Gerrry Ruddy
Fellow Republicans, Comrades and friends,
It is indeed an honour and privilege to be asked to speak at this united commemoration for Wolfe Tone. It is also an honour to stand in this place where the founding father of Irish Republicanism is buried. Theobald Wolfe Tone was a radical for his time and one of the few who recognised the importance of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Today many people pay lip service to these ideals but rare indeed is it that they practice them. But those who gather at the grave of Tone have a duty to uphold those values no matter what difficulties and decisions we face. In upholding these universal values we stay true to the real nature of Republicanism. Not for us the artificial fostering of differences, of tribal camps, of us and them, of Catholics and protestants, and British and Irish. All who live and breathe on the island of Ireland have an entitlement to the same rights and duties as every other citizen regardless of religion, race political viewpoint or sexual orientation. That was what Tone meant when he said that he wanted to replace the artificial divisions of catholic protestant and dissenter with the common name of Irishman.
The presence here today of differing shades of republicanism is a clear sign of the times we live in. We in the Republican Socialist tradition say clearly that Irish Republicanism has suffered a grave defeat. Today we point the finger for that defeat clearly at the forces of British Imperialism. There is little to be gained by pointing an accusing finger at anyone other than the British.
Too many times in the past Republicans have allowed themselves to be manipulated into turning on our own. We say no more. No more name calling, no more feuds, no more marginalisation, and exclusion. No more bitterness and divisions. No more!!
Of course what differences we have we should clearly outline them and articulate our positions but without rancour or spite and extending respect to the views of others. Not only is that the right thing to do but it is in the overall interest of republicanism that we do so. For we need to win over the mass of the people to our view and that can’t be done by preaching only to the converted here at Bodenstown.
Where ever there is struggle, protest, strike or demonstrations the banner of Irish Republicanism must be firmly seen providing leadership. That is the way to renew republicanism in the 21st century. W e must become relevant to the lives and aspirations of the ordinary people and our demands and actions strike a cord in the heart of the ordinary men and women in the street.
In today’s world change is the only constant. Everything changes adapts or it dies. We here today must, if Republicanism is to remain relevant, adjust to changing circumstances and times. But never at the cost of our fundamental core beliefs that actually make us what we are.
We in the Irish Republican Socialist Movement are clear about our position that there cannot be independence without socialism nor socialism without independence. For us the liberation of the working class in Ireland is our primary goal. Therefore we seek to win the working class to the banner of socialism. But we clearly recognise that the major contradiction in society is the partition of the island and the continuing presence of imperialism.
Of course there are tactical differences as to how the struggle against Imperialism should be continued. Let me make it clear from this platform that regardless of any tactical differences, (and the Irish Republican Socialist Movement position has been clearly spelt out many times) we have the utmost respect and solidarity with those who take a different road from us. That is why we can work with others around issues such as solidarity with political prisoners. The Irish Republican Socialist Movement expresses our solidarity with all those worldwide who spearhead resistance to both Imperialism and reactionary nationalism. Irish republicanism should never be confused with Irish nationalism. Republicanism is internationalist radical and revolutionary or it is nothing!
Today’s show of unity is but a small step. No one has been asked to sacrifice principle. No one has been asked to compromise their beliefs. A small step. But a journey must always start with one step. Having taken this step let us all evaluate, discuss and debate today’s events and regardless of what decisions individual organisations take as to future steps let us all agree that no one of us has the monopoly or the copyright for Irish republicanism.
All of us here at the grave of Tone, are reasserting the right of our country to be freed from foreign interference. That was noble aim in Tone’s day. It is a noble aim today.
Fellow republicans, comrades and friends today we renew our republican beliefs. Walk away from here today renewed with the determination that come what may the struggle for the establishment of the Republic continues. Up the republic - forward to socialism.