The following is the text of an address by Ruairi O Bradaigh, President of Republican Sinn Féin at the Ireland Institute, Pearse Centre, Dublin on April 17.
Ian Paisley is retiring with his mission accomplished. He has strengthened British rule in Ireland.
Interviewed on BBC radio One “Andrew Marr Show” on March 9, Mr Paisley said: ‘I did smash them [the Provos] because I took away their main plank. Their main plank was that they would not recognise the British government [in Ireland].
‘Now they are in part of the British government. They can’t be true Republicans when they now accept the right of Britain to govern this country and take part in that government.’
Vincent Browne in his ‘Nightly News’ on TV3 last week put it clearly. He said in effect that the nationalist view had been rejected and the unionist position had been accepted. The nationalist standpoint was that the people of Ireland as a whole should determine the future of Ireland.
He continued: ‘The Unionist position was that the majority in the Six Counties should decide the future. We have all become unionists,’ he added.
Bertie Ahern, for his part, put it quite blatantly on RTE Radio One on Sunday, April 6, when he said that Stormont was in position for the foreseeable future; that English rule would remain so long as the unionists desired it.
He said that this would be for a very long time and if in the end it did not change, then we must put up with it. His words were: ‘people will just have to be tolerant of that’.
Meanwhile a tide of Anglicisation was sweeping through the country in support of the new and strengthened institutions of English rule. Our culture and civilisation, to which the Irish language was central, must be accessible to all our people. Yet in Stormont, in spite of the St Andrew’s Agreement, An Ghaeilge is officially derided and condemned.
“British forces and 26-County forces are increasingly involved in joint commemorations and celebrations. Croke Park is now the venue for England teams and the English National Anthem is played in an unfree Ireland.
British Royals are made welcome even as they claim the right to rule part of our country. Politicians cannot wait for the Crowned head of England to be officially received in Dublin for the first time in 100 years. Nationally-minded people must protest at such an intrusion if they are to be faithful and true to the spirit of 1916.
In the wider world we must continue opposition to the landing and re-fuelling of American warplanes at Shannon Airport and the use of Irish airspace in furtherance of an Imperialist war in Iraq.
These breaches of Irish neutrality are clearly against the wishes of the Irish people. They are in support of an illegal war undertaken in defiance of the United Nations.
Also we are being asked to accept the Lisbon Treaty which is 95-96% of the EU Constitution rejected by the people of France and Holland. This tightening of the EU grip must be opposed as must the EU “battlegroups” which have been described as a “standing army for Europe”.
Robert Fisk in his interview with Vincent Browne on April 8 described the 26 Counties joining the partnership for Peace without a referendum as “slipping into NATO”. This was done by Fianna Fail in defiance of their own Election Manifesto. So much for triple locks to safeguard neutrality!
In the matter of the referenda in 1998 on the Stormont Agreement and the amendment of Articles 2 and 3, both Mo Mowlam and Patrick Mayhew said that ‘the vote in the Six Counties would be decisive’.
On both sides of the Border the choice put to the people was ‘a vote for war or for peace’. Liam Mellows speaking on the Treaty of Surrender in 1922 put it well: ‘This is not the will of the people. It is the fear of the people.’
The great unanswered question before history of why did not Paisley on the one hand and the present Provo leadership on the other accept and work the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 which offered more and for which less was to be paid than the 1998 Belfast Agreement?
Did we, as a people, have to endure 25 years more of sacrifice and suffering until both elements were poised to divide the major share of the spoils of office between them?
How do we move from here to the position of Ireland’s national independence with the essential unity of the country and its people achieved? How do we combat the threat to our separate identity so that we survive as a distinct people to cooperate with the former colonised nations and advance the cause of humankind in general? How do we progress towards building the Democratic Socialist Republic?
First we must admit to ourselves that Paisley and the British have succeeded in the Six Counties and are working at extending their influence in the 26 Counties.
Secondly, we must acknowledge and realise the lesson of history that in spite of the betrayals Irish people will always be found to resist English rule here and inevitably the British government will be compelled to leave Ireland. The spirit of 1916 will finally triumph.
But none of these objectives will be achieved without the support of the people. Therefore we must organise among the people and build a mass movement. Imperialism in all its forms must be recognised and opposed at every turn.
Above all we must educate our people politically. This is a massive task but it must be faced and undertaken. Contrary to what many sincere people would like there is no short cut in this matter. And the power of the mass media in modern times makes it so much more difficult.
The lines must be kept open to the people of unionist orientation. At all times it is necessary to convey to them that it is not proposed or intended that they should be a permanent political minority in an independent Ireland. We cannot allow the notion to prevail that we seek to back them on to a cliff edge politically. If we do they will oppose us all the more vehemently, making our task all the more difficult.
During the 1970s the EIRE NUA proposals were put to representatives of all shades of unionism at meetings which were on the basis of confidentiality and discretion. When it was put to them as to what would be their option if the English government decided to leave Ireland in spite of their wishes, they invariably replied that the ‘Ireland of the four provinces’ would be their second choice.
Their first preference would be, of course, an independent Six-County state, but we countered that this would not be viable. It is necessary to make clear that the new four-province federal Ireland proposed would include a nine-County Ulster in which - on present voting patterns - the unionists would have a working majority, but that the nationalists would be right behind them within reach of power.
With optimum devolution of power and decision-making within the provinces, strong regional boards and powerful district councils would be organised according to the principle of subsidiarity of function - that the services would be administered at the lowest level possible consistent with efficiency. In Ulster this would make for a patchwork quilt of control in accordance with local majorities.
Of course, the idea would be to get away eventually from the unionist versus nationalist situation and have a class-based politics where the distribution of wealth in the community would be the priority.
In this connection every effort should be made even now to bridge the gap on the basis of social, economic and local issues, however difficult this may be. Even in the past year some local unionist community leaders have shown an interest in “provincial government” as they termed it as an alternative to the present Stormont set-up.
The way forward is clear as to how EIRE NUA could be implemented following a British government Declaration of Intent to quit Ireland: the election of an all-Ireland Constituent Assembly with the sole task of drafting a new constitution; this constitution to be put to the people in a single 32-County referendum; following its adoption new elections to the various levels of power in the New Ireland would take place.
Such steps are just commonsense. The real and enormous task is to campaign, agitate and build support for such a programme based on Republican, socialist and environmental principles. To show the inadequacies and failures of the existing system, to present an alternative and above all to avoid misrepresentation of our position, these are our duties.