The following oration was delivered at the grave of Wolfe Tone last weekend by Francie Mackey, National Chairman, 32 County Sovereignty Movement
It is indeed an honour to stand here today at the final resting place of Wolfe Tone the father of republicanism and with that in mind I believe it opportune to address the broad republican family and the state of republicanism.
As republicans we need to develop a concept of winning. We must rid ourselves of the mindset that our role in this struggle is to merely pass it on to the next generation. If we perpetually think in terms of failure we are certain to fail. Let there be no more glorious defeats or doomed noble efforts.
To move this struggle forward we need to move forward together. There is no alternative to this course. There are no credible arguments against it nor depth of differences to justify avoiding it. We have no right to engage in this struggle in the knowledge that our efforts are deliberately deficient.
At all times we must be guided by common sense and pragmatism. Every year we stand here with our objectives unrealised is a declaration of continuing failure. That is not a fitting eulogy to Wolfe Tone. If we cannot sit down together and negotiate a way forward how can we present ourselves as a credible or worthy alternative?
Republicanism needs to re-group if republicans are to move forward. For this to happen we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with each other. Republicanism is on the ropes and no amount of recrimination against those who put it there will help in removing us from this tricky metaphor.
As republicans we are the frontline ambassadors for what republicanism represents. We are the mirrors which reflect the ideals we hold for our people. Those ideals are first and foremost evaluated by the actions of those who act in their name.
As individual republican ambassadors we have a responsibility to ensure that our individual actions do not demean or corrupt the objectives we seek to attain.
As republican organisations, as leaders, we have a duty of care to ensure that the strategies we devise and employ cause no injury to the integrity of our members or our objectives. The perception of short term gain can never be at the expense of long-term responsibilities. We cannot bring contradiction into our communities.
To this end we cannot allow into our ranks those who are not suitable or competent. We cannot allow those who are not suitable or competent retain membership. Too much has been sacrificed and too much is at stake to permit this. The responsibility for both the calibre of our members and our members actions are ours and ours alone.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement drafted Republican Unity - A Discussion Document to encourage debate on such unity and also to give a clearer insight into our own thinking. We felt this was important as the nature of Irish republicanism is prone to suspicion. Central to this whole approach was the firm belief that republican unity is an absolute necessity if republicanism is to progress.
And this is where republicanism finds itself now; addressing this very question. It cannot be ignored or side stepped. No one else can answer it for us. We either present a credible alternative or we go home. We once again call on all republican organisations to come together with concrete proposals as to how we can move this struggle forward. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement drafted comprehensive policy documents on the specific agenda of moving republicanism forward. They were not constructed from an organisational point of view but rather geared toward republicanism in general. In the first of these, Irish Democracy, A Framework For Unity, we set out what we believed are the three essential grounds for moving our objectives forward. These are a) a firm political foundation, b) a clearly defined objective and c) pragmatic political strategies.
From these evolves the broader strategy as it relates to our perception of the conflict and the perceptions of others which confront us. Its principle tool is democratic scrutiny. The policy holds that democracy is the most potent panacea for conflict resolution and no less so for the Anglo-Irish conflict. The relationship between Irish sovereign integrity and Irish democracy is indivisible. A derogation of either is a derogation of both.
We define Irish democracy as an expression of its people’s will, inclusive, accountable and unhindered by any external impediment. We reject the notion of it being a statistical headcount or a numerical mechanism by which the violation of its sovereign basis can in someway be legitimised. The British violation of Irish sovereignty is the cause of the Anglo-Irish conflict.
Engagement is the key ingredient of any successful political strategy. Being here today is part of that process. But engagement is only of merit if it is directed at those who possess a genuine desire to seek change or possess the political ability to deliver that change. Those who are prisoners of flawed treaties have rendered themselves politically and constitutionally impotent irrespective of how loud their rhetoric is. And we sound this warning to all republicans that they be acutely aware of the futility of such engagement and of the real dangers of modifying that rhetoric so that they can call it their own.
The border has no place in Irish democracy. Border Polls are British Polls in Ireland. They have no place in Irish Democracy. All Ireland Polls on the question of the border are a contradiction in terms as they seek to make the border the hub around which democracy in Ireland should revolve. The basis for Irish democracy is the integrity of our national sovereignty and the border is a fundamental violation of that sovereignty.
In our document ‘Preparing An Irish Democracy’ we set out in clear terms that the very act of republicans coming together to develop such a democracy was in itself a powerful political act towards realising it. As in all cases we hold that our espousal of republicanism must be synonymous with its pragmatic pursuit. We set no preconditions on republicans talking to each other. We do not have to agree on absolutely everything to move forward together. Republicanism cannot mire itself in the contradiction of making the details of our objective the greatest impediment to securing it. Can we not move forward on the basis of the Proclamation as those who drafted it did?
Within Irish republicanism, and other ideological movements, there were those who departed from core principles by the lure of populism. There were equally those who interpreted principles in an overly restrictive way severely restricting our ability to propagate the practical benefits for people which these principles were meant to deliver. The net result of both these activities is schism and marginalisation. The separatist politics which the 32CSM pursues is built upon achieving a balance between clear ideological guidelines in tandem with a liberated remit to allow us to practically pursue the politics of that ideology.
Preparing An Irish Democracy outlines the framework within which this process can be achieved without loss of principle or restriction of progress. With this initiative the 32CSM are in essence bringing back into effect the strategy adopted by republicans after the 1916 Rising. We need to enact our political beliefs. We need to cease the constant restating of the validity of our position and bring that position into the practical world. An unending quest for ideological purity will render our republicanism indefinitely irrelevant to the people we claim to serve.
We must think and act practically. Beir Bua!