The launch of a new republican party ‘Saoradh’ last weekend could bring disaffected nationalist voters back to the polls in the north of Ireland.
The new party, whose name means ‘liberation’ in Irish, held its first ard fheis in Newry, County Down on Saturday, 24 September. Republicans from across Ireland attended the event, during which County Tyrone ex-prisoner David Jordan was selected as the party’s first chairman.
The new chairman described it as an “unashamed revolutionary party”. Without naming them, he attacked Sinn Fein and the SDLP, who he said had been “defeated and consumed by the very system they claim to oppose”, and insisted that Saoradh do not intend to follow their journey into the political establishment.
“Our history is littered with the failures of successive ventures into constitutional nationalism, as they were subsumed into the very systems they set out to overthrow,” he said.
Around 150 people, including a number of prominent republicans, attended the event, at which a 12-strong executive was installed. The party’s constitution says it may contest elections, but only on an abstentionist basis.
Messages of support were read out from political prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons by Derry republican Thomas Ashe Mellon. A message was also read out from veteran Belfast republican Billy McKee, a founding member of the Provisional IRA. The audience also heard from speakers from the Free Tony Taylor campaign and the Craigavon Two campaign.
Other high-profile republicans at the launch at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry included Colin Duffy and his brother Paul, Dee Fennell, Nuala Perry and Mandy Duffy.
In his address to members, the new chairman said the leadership will be regularly rotated: “I have no desire to sit as your chair for longer than is necessary,” he said. “The Irish habit of following the personality rather than principles has been disastrous in the past for political movements and I am sure that as a collective we can rise above that.”
Mr Jordan described the current political institutions as “the harness for the horse; they are designed to prevent the Irish people regaining their national sovereignty.”
Elections, he said, do not advance the party’s strategic objectives, but would be “a weapon in our arsenal when fought on an abstentionist basis with regards to foreign parliaments and partitionist assemblies”.
Mr Jordan said the new party would be rooted in socialist politics and be controlled from the “ground up”. It would be radical, revolutionary, party that would “increase the relevance” of republicanism across society and “show our enemies that we can match our faith with forceful articulation, growth, participation and, most importantly of all, genuine activism”.
Saoradh says it has no links to other political groups or organisations. Talks aimed at its formation have taken place for years, it says, and branches are already set up on both sides of the border.
Mr Jordan added that nationalist working-class areas were plagued by deprivation, which Sinn Fein was failing to tackle. Those “who claim the legacy of Bobby Sands” were helping to administer a poverty programme “at the behest of the very Tory party responsible for his death”, he said.
He also denounced the PSNI and intelligence services for enforcing British rule: “We won’t be brow-beaten. The croppies will not lie down, and we will not back down. Saoradh is up for the fight, up for challenging those agencies and their apologists within our communities.”
In response, a Sinn Fein spokesman said it had hundreds of elected representatives across the island of Ireland.
“We have placed our republican vision and analysis before the electorate and half a million people across the 32 counties have supported us,” the spokesman said. “We encourage genuine political debate within republicanism. We will continue to provide effective republican representation all over Ireland.”
The following is the full text of a statement issued by Saoradh at its launch:
Today, Saturday the 24th of September 2016, we a significant collective of Irish Republican activists, who for a number of years have acted autonomously, have after a number of years of debate, consultation and organisation today in Ard Fheis organised, constituted and launched a Revolutionary Irish Republican Party, the Party’s name is Saoradh.
Saoradh believes that Ireland should be governed by the Irish People with the wealth and wealth producing mechanisms in the ownership of the Irish People. This can not happen while British imperialism undemocratically retains control of Irish destinies and partitions our nation, this cannot happen while a neocolonial elite in a subservient supposed indigenous administration sell’s the nation’s labour and natural resources to international capital.
Saoradh does not believe that British imperialism or capitalist exploitation can be confronted in the structures they have created to consolidate their undemocratic control of the Irish nation. As such we believe any assembly claiming to speak for the Irish People without being elected by the united people of the Irish nation to be illegal. Saoradh will seek to organise and work with the Irish People rather than be consumed and usurped by the structures of Ireland’s enemy’s
Standing on a long and proud revolutionary Irish Republican history of resistance, inspired by the actions and words of Tone of Connolly of Mellow’s of Costello and of Sand’s, upholding the founding documents of our forefathers - the 1916 proclamation, the declaration of independence and the democratic programme of the first Dail, Saoradh hereby declares its commitment to the unfinished revolution, the liberation of Ireland and the social emancipation of the Irish People.