RSF Ard Fheis Presidential Address

Last weekend delegates and visitors assembled in Dublin for the Ard-Fheis of [Republican] Sinn Fein.

Plenary sessions took place on Saturday afternoon and throughout Sunday but the significant event of the Ard-Fheis was the address by newly elected President, Des Dalton.

Dalton criticised (Provisional) Sinn Fein but also referred to ‘erstwhile comrades’ behind the announcement a Limerick-based breakaway ‘Real Sinn Fein’ organisation.

Below is an edited version of his address.

The nature and reality of British occupation on the ground has not changed last month it is reported British soldiers participated in house raids in Derry but we are glad to note the attitude of Irish Republicans to it has not changed either as evidenced by the increased level of acts of resistance.

Over the course of the year our movement withstood attack from a small minority of erstwhile comrades. The refusal of our members to be distracted from the primary goals and principles of our Movement is something of which you all should be proud.

On February 4 it was announced that a Hillsborough Agreement Mark II had been reached between the DUP and the Provisionals for the devolution of limited powers of British policing to the Stormont Executive. This came following a protracted carnival of reaction at Hillsborough Castle.

The historical forces of unionism and British imperialism remain at work and the return to some form of majority rule cannot be far around the corner as both the DUP and the British Tories have signalled.

The devolution of British policing and justice powers changes nothing. The Stormont Executive will administer the limited devolved responsibilities for British policing and justice as a proxy for the British government.

Political policing continues to be directed as before from London. Under the St Andrews Agreement, amended by the Hillsborough Agreement, security intelligence in the Six Occupied Counties remains the responsibility of the MI5 Security Service with the RUC/PSNI in a support role.

With an increased budget and a new HQ in Palace Barracks in Hollywood, Co Down MI5 will lead the British war machine in Ireland. MI5 is not accountable to the Stormont Policing Board for security-related matters but it will be available to brief the Board in secret on what it considers appropriate.

For their part, the Republican youth gave the RUC/PSNI their response on the streets of many towns in the occupied area. At a press conference held in Republican Sinn Feins Ulster Office on the Falls Road in Belfast on March 4 it was revealed that at least three baton rounds (plastic bullets) were fired by British Crown Forces in the Drumbeg area of Craigavon in County Armagh on February 27.

The past year has seen an increase in the number of acts of resistance directed against continued British rule in Ireland. In February alone incidents across the Six Counties pointed to a level of intensity, which the 26-County Justice Minister Dermot Ahern (RTE Radio 1 This Week February 2 acknowledged was as high as anything over the past 40 years.

A new generation of people who continue to resist British rule on the ground have been dismissed as disaffected youth without either aspiration or hope by one commentator. It is nothing new to dismiss young Republicans in such terms.

On July 12 members of Republican Sinn Fein took part in the sit down in solidarity with the local residents. Upwards of 300 members of the RUC/PSNI surrounded the peaceful protesters who sat down on the main road despite repeated attempts by armed RUC personnel to forcibly remove them.

Over 100 plastic bullets were fired during subsequent rioting with several people injured by the indiscriminate firing by the RUC. Water cannons were also deployed in an attempt to push the residents back before the loyalists were escorted through by the RUC/PSNI.

It also emerged that the Provisionals and other Stormont parties were calling on the Six-County Housing Executive and Social Services to penalise people who had protested against the forcing of the Orange/loyalist march by cutting their benefits, taking their homes and even threatening that their children could be taken into care.

The Six-County state is fundamentally undemocratic, inherently sectarian and consequently an obstacle to the creation of a New Ireland. The 1998 Stormont Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement of 2006 merely institutionalised sectarianism whilst denying the exercise of real All-Ireland democracy. Since 1921 there have been at least six agreements arising from the enforced partition of Ireland. However none of them have represented a settlement of the historic Irish question, merely an attempt to reframe it.

As an alternative EIRE NUA offers a framework within which all sections of the Irish people can make the important decisions for their communities, their regions and their nation. To the unionists and others in Stormont who complained last month about the prospect of the British government reneging on the commitment to provide #18 billion funding over the next decade (not the first time a British government has reneged on a pledge) we place EIRE NUA before them.

On Easter Sunday (April 4) the Republican prisoners in Maghaberry took direct action against the attempts of the British government and its colonial regime at Stormont to criminalise Irelands struggle for freedom. For two days they held the canteen at Maghaberry prison in a defiant stand, which gave the lie to those who claim there are no political prisoners in Ireland.

In a statement the POWs set out the conditions which necessitated their protest: Over the past number of years, we the Republican Prisoners in Maghaberry have experienced a continual decline in conditions and a steady increase in oppressive tactics being adopted against ourselves, our families and visitors.

The prison protest ended on August 12 when the Republican prisoners secured an agreement which addressed key demands, such as strip-searching and free association. The agreement if fully implemented will provide the platform for the attainment of full political status.

On Tuesday, June 15 the Saville Report on the Bloody Sunday murders by British paratroopers in Derry on January 30, 1972 was finally released, 12 years after the inquiry began. The report found that all those shot dead or injured on Bloody Sunday in the Bogside in January 1972 were innocent. Critically however it absolved the British State of all responsibility laying the blame solely on the soldiers of 1st Parachute Regiment and their commanding officer Derek Wilford.

Bloody Sunday is the true face of British rule in Ireland and the true face of imperialism as experienced today at the hands of the same army by the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Three times in the 20th century the forces of British occupation have visited a Bloody Sunday on the Irish people. While British rule remains in Ireland the possibility of yet another will always exist.

Both here in Ireland and abroad the dark forces of international capital intend to use the world economic collapse to claw back any social or political advance made by working people over the past 100 years or more.

The global markets of which we hear so much are imperialism in a modern guise, formulating and setting national economic policy with no consideration of the social, political or environmental consequences for humanity.

In the Six Counties cuts of up to 5 billion pounds in services and supports for the most vulnerable are set to take place over the next four years. Trade unions warn this will mean a loss of 40 to 50,000 jobs. The Provisionals may speak out of both sides of their mouths but the reality is that they will implement whatever budget is handed down to them by the British government at Westminster and agreed by the DUP in Stormont.

The lies told by those who forced the Lisbon Treaty on the people of the 26 Counties in the second referendum are coming home to roost now. The supposedly sacrosanct Treaty will now be amended to suit the agenda of the two big states of France and Germany.

The truth of the arguments of those who called for a NO vote in both Lisbon referenda was borne out by the comments in February of this year by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she said that the Lisbon Treaty provided a platform for deeper ties between the EU and NATO. She said the EUs energy policy in particular would benefit from closer coordination with NATO when she spoke at the French military academy in Paris on January 29.

This was followed up in February by German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle called for the EU to proceed with plans for a European army under the Lisbon Treaty. As Republican Sinn Fein argued in both referenda held in the 26 Counties in 2008 and 2009 the purpose of the Lisbon Treaty was to bring the EU project to its logical next step in the construction of an undemocratic and militarised superstate.

A new generation of wild geese will be forced to emigrate emigration, historically the safety valve of the establishment has increased by 33% year-on-year with 100,000 people being forecast to emigrate by 2012 while the elite who profited most from the so-called Celtic Tiger economy are cosseted from the effects of its collapse.

Social control of capital is essential to ensure capital serves people rather than people being the slaves of capital. By doing so you ensure balanced development and equitable distribution of wealth.

Taxes should be progressive and redistributive, levied on wealth, legacies, waste and pollution. They should encourage the fair distribution and conservation of scarce resources especially energy. A comprehensive National Health Service and an education system which overturns the Murder Machine which Pearse wrote about almost 90 years ago and is still largely with us today.

We must have new indicators of what constitutes economic success to replace the discredited indices of GNP and GDP. They merely record economic activity in terms of transaction and movement of money, commodities etc. They take no account of the voluntary sector, those who work in the home etc all of whom make a valuable contribution to the local and domestic economy. Quality of Life is a far more valid index of human development and progress. Recording adult and infant mortality, literacy, access to health services, nutrition etc.

Of course in any economy natural resources are vital and public ownership essential for the common good. We salute the continued resistance of people such as Maura Harrington and Pat The Chief O’Donnell and the Shell-to-Sea group who have been steadfast in their opposition to Shells destruction of their community and the bleeding dry of Irelands much-needed natural resources, aided and abetted by the Dublin Administration.

The struggle for a free Ireland cannot be separated from the international struggle against imperialism. Irish Republicans have consistently stretched out the hand of solidarity with peoples engaged in the work of national liberation just as we have welcomed the extension of similar solidarity to us. We take this opportunity to do so again and in particular to the people of Palestine and Gaza. The state of Israel has waged a war on an entire people whilst denying them access to adequate supplies of fresh water or medicines.

On May 31 this year Israeli forces attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which had been organised by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief in which nine activists were murdered in defiance of international law. We applaud the courage of these activists and the Irish activist on the MV Rachel Corrie for their courage in breaking this illegal blockade on the people of Gaza.

The work of our International Relations Bureau is critical in ensuring that the political situation in Ireland from a Republican perspective is explained on the world stage while also developing that network of solidarity, which is essential to all anti-imperialists.

Speaking in UCD on May 20 the head of the 26-County administration Brian Cowen accused Irish Republicans of seeking to hijack the centenary of the 1916 Rising. It is an accusation that does not stand up; Republicans cannot hijack something they have never abandoned.

Each year Irish Republicans both in Ireland and abroad have commemorated 1916 without fail. The 26-County state on the other hand has alternated between ignoring the anniversary and banning commemoration of it. 1916 commemorations throughout the 26 Counties were banned by the Dublin administration in 1937.

In 1976 Republicans were prosecuted including Fiona Plunkett sister of Joseph Mary Plunkett - and some jailed for their participation in a banned commemoration at the GPO. Each year Republicans face the prospect of prosecution for distributing Easter Lilies.

For forty years the 26-County administration ignored the anniversary of 1916 but since 2006 it has opportunistically seized on it in order to sell the big lie that history has come to an end and British rule in Ireland is now accepted. 1916 remains unfinished business while Britain holds any part of Ireland.

The message of 1916 could not be clearer; Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

The coming year is likely to see a visit to the 26-County state by the Queen of England. On June 23 our Vice-President Fergal Moore put our position on the public record once again: British rule in Ireland can never be normal nor will Ireland be pacified while partition and British rule remain.

Republican Sinn Fein will vigorously oppose any visit to Ireland by the Queen of England and calls on all Republicans to do likewise.

Irish Republicans will actively oppose such a visit and by doing so send a clear message to the world that British occupation and partition is neither normal nor acceptable. The visit by the head of the British state who holds the style and title of Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to any part of Ireland will be resisted by Republican minded people throughout Ireland.

We turn from the old year and look to the coming year as one, which presents us with many challenges. However as a unified and principled Republican organisation we are more than capable of meeting those challenges and in doing so into opportunities for growth. Armed with the title deeds of Irish Republicanism and taking our stand on the rock of the All-Ireland Republic from which flows the political, social and economic freedom of Ireland our steps must be ever onward!

An Phoblacht Abu.

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