Bodenstown oration

The following is the full text of the oration by Marion Price at the grave of Wolfe Tone in the Republican Unity Initiative’s Bodenstown commemoration.

A chairde, on behalf of the National Executive of the 32CSM I would like to thank the Irish Republican Socialist Party for their kind invitation to speak here before you today. Alas due the death of their comrade Christopher ‘Crip’ McWilliams they had to forego their attendance here today to make the necessary funeral arrangements.

On behalf of the 32CSM I send our sincerest condolences to Crip, his family and all his loyal comrades. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam. Twelve months ago our National Chairperson, Francie Mackey, addressed a very significant Wolfe Tone Commemoration. That event was the result of Republican Unity in action and it gives me an even greater sense of significance to be here knowing that such unity is even more evident today. It is more significant because the Republican Unity Initiative has moved beyond its birth phase of joint commemorations and onto the streets as real political activism addressing the core issues that Irish republicanism needs to address.

The past year has seen an impressive amount of republican involvement in campaign politics. In the Six Counties republicans acting in unison, and on short notice, delivered a strong return for Peggy O’Hara in Derry, the net effect of which has been the establishment of a firm and organised republican base in that city. The Raytheon 9 Campaign galvanised solidarity between republicans and socialists protesting against the International Arms Industry here on Irish soil. Successful protests were held against the policy of Internment By Remand and further and more organised protests are planned also.

In the Twenty Six Counties republican unity was no less evident. The RUC’s Chief Policeman was left in little doubt, as where those who invited him, that his presence, and indeed his status, is an affront to Irish freedom. The political significance of these ‘normalisation visits’ will not be lost on republicans and we will not be found wanting in protesting against them. When Stormont First Minister Ian Paisley visited Cork the political symbolism could not have been clearer. For Paisley was letting Dublin know that he was visiting a foreign country, now recognised as such by those who usurped our sovereignty over the national territory by signing the Good Friday Agreement. But as with Hugh Orde republicans met this symbolism head on. Paisley was greeted by a unified republican voice stating loud and clear that we haven’t gone away and have no intention of doing so until our national sovereignty is restored.

Even this very month such ‘normalisation visits’ recurred with a disgraceful display of conferring the Freedom of Cork City upon former British Premier John Major. It was a disgrace to see the Union Jack flying from City Hall for the leader of a country whose attempts to stifle the democratic voice of the Irish people wreaked such carnage on that very city and its inhabitants. And I echo the sense of disgust and despair uttered by Cork members of the 32CSM when they said;

‘Despair for the fact that a former Lord Mayor of Cork gave his life on hunger strike in protest against the British occupation of his country and disgust that such an award is now given to the successor of Margaret Thatcher who displayed equal contempt to Irishmen resorting to hunger strike for the same objective. Has partitionist politics taken such a deep root in the affairs of Cork City that nothing is deemed wrong in offering the Freedom of Cork City to an individual who steadfastly denied the people of Cork City the freedom of their own country? Ireland can never be at peace whilst John Major’s Parliament violates our national sovereignty through its continued activity in our country.

The so called peace process has copper fastened partition and those who contributed to it are more deserving of a British Royal bauble for their efforts than they are to the freedom of an Irish city.’

I commend all the republicans of Munster for protesting so steadfastly against these insidious attempts to normalize partition. And let us be under no illusion where these ‘normalization visits’ are meant to lead. They are the precursors to a visit by the British Monarch herself, the ultimate symbol for London that the Irish are finally in their place. Comrades, we will be ready for this.

Once again we are confronted with the spectacle of a vindictive campaign against republican prisoners both north and south by the respective establishments. The POW’s have undertaken a series of measured protests in response to this treatment and it is our duty to augment their efforts with protests of our own to highlight the abuses they are suffering. On behalf of the IRPWA I can announce here today that a National Prisoner Protest will be held on O’Connell St Dublin on August 9th of this year and we issue an open invitation to all republican activists to lend their support. Full details and notifications will be issued in due course.

The Lisbon Treaty Campaign has opened up new opportunities for Irish republicanism and new lessons that we must learn from. The decisive No vote has opened up a political vacuum which the establishment cannot fill. And make no mistake that every strata of the establishment was involved in trying to scaremonger a Yes vote onto the electorate. Political leaders, Church leaders, Trade Union leaders, Employers leaders, Legal leaders and the mainstream media were all in unison calling for the acceptance of Lisbon. And it is to the eternal credit of the electorate that they exercised an individuality of thought which resisted this onslaught. The lessons to be learned and the opportunities to be gained stem from the fact that a well protested criticism coupled with a well formatted alternative can secure political gains for republicans. Of equal significance to the No vote has been the establishment’s reaction to it.

They received the vote with disdain, dismissiveness and a deep rooted distaste for the fact that the people dared to say different. It was a disgraceful response on a par with London’s disregard for the vote in 1918. But it goes to the heart of the grounds on which the 32CSM opposed Lisbon. It is a contradiction to protest against a democratic deficiency and loss of sovereignty to Brussels and not protest against the same violations which emanate from London. We cannot cherry pick which violations of our sovereignty we will oppose in order to avoid addressing uncomfortable political truths. And this now is the opportunity for republicans; that we address the inevitable rerunning of this issue as it should be addressed, in the context of our sovereignty being violated by both Brussels and London and that one cannot be resolved without the other. The political vacuum has meant that we have the electorate’s attention, let us use that attention wisely. What ideas can we bring to this opportunity? What ideas can you bring to this opportunity? We are collectively confronted by this situation because we chose to oppose where they wanted to bring us. They conspired against us, and the people also, and although they failed this time they will be back.

The 32CSM are formulating our response to this challenge. We urge all republican groups to formulate theirs and to bring their analysis before all of us so that we can all decide the most effective way forward. We must defend our sovereignty, we must defend democracy whether the attack is from London or Brussels or elsewhere.

The debate as to where former republicans have travelled to is over. You cannot welcome George Bush on the one hand and protest against his visit on the other. You cannot say that Lisbon is dead and offer amendments to resurrect it. And you cannot say that Partition is wrong yet agree that it can be legitimately permanent. The politics of condemnation is the failed politics of the past. And worse still is the politics of misrepresentation. I would like to take this opportunity to send all our condolences to the family of Emmet Shiels who was murdered in Derry earlier this week. We note with disgust the efforts of some to besmirch republicans by exploiting this tragic death. But when you are part of the British establishment such disgraceful behaviour is demanded from their masters. Opposition within the partitionist establishment is not opposition to partition. This is the basic tenet of republican separatism. This is why we return here every year: sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes betrayed, sometimes focused but always here.

Unity was central to Wolfe Tones philosophy. To unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. Unity was the cornerstone of the 1916 Rising; the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann Na mBan, Na Fianna Eireann and the Hibernian Rifles, all distinct but acting in unison. And lets not forget that most basic example of unity, inspired by the revolutionary thinking of James Connolly, and used to prophetic effect in the opening words of the Proclamation, ‘Irishmen and Irishwomen’. We stand in their shoes now, not because we want to but because we have to. The struggle is not about eulogies at Bodenstown but of sustained political activity between the annual event. Bodenstown is a podium which allows us to reflect on our efforts past and announce our efforts to come. We must be self critical and avoid wallowing in the betrayals of others. The 32CSM has put forward our proposal to advance our goals in the year to come. Our campaigns and protests are well advanced. Our strategy document Dismantling Partition is our road map for forward movement. Our organization is growing throughout the island and beyond. And most importantly our door is open to give, receive and share in the ideas of other republicans. I can state here confidently that the twelve months past have yielded gains for Irish republicans and I state here now that we all share the responsibility of insuring that whoever stands here twelve months hence can do likewise. We must away to work.

Beir Bua.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News