Republican politics must be relevant


The following is the text of the oration delivered by Francis Mackey of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement at the graveside of Alan Ryan earlier this month.


In these changed times we must invoke the courage and commitment of Volunteer Alan Ryan and his brother Vincent to help us grasp the nettle of change that is now required of Irish republicanism.

In these changed times we must recognise that unless there is a fundamental reclamation of Irish republicanism from reckless elements Irish republicanism will be reduced to the state of perpetual tabloid fodder.

In these changed times if the understanding of the totality of sovereignty and self-determination is not at the heart of the republican struggle the marginalisation of Irish republicans will be irreversible.

We are where we have allowed ourselves to be. And it is only ourselves that can address this predicament. In recent times an insidious cloud has descended on the Republican Movement. Specific events of outright criminality have brought this entire struggle into disrepute.

These acts cannot be dismissed as anomalies. They are a distinct pattern of a reckless and deeply flawed political and military acumen and must cease forthwith. They are the epitome of betrayal to the volunteer we honour here today. Furthermore, the onus is now on the broader republican family to reclaim the core of Irish republicanism and place it within a secure framework of progressive and revolutionary politics.

The right of the Irish people to use disciplined armed force to end the violation of our sovereignty is beyond question. What is in question however is the negligent belief that being in possession of that right somehow confers an automatic ability to discharge that right in a responsible and effective fashion. As it stands neither of these criteria are being met.

The national army has only one function; the defence of the sovereignty of the people in whose name it has risen. It has no political wing nor can it ever be utilised as a military wing of a political group. That was the way of the Provisionals and their legacy is plain for all to see.

At all times the national army must be fully cognisant of the political environment in which it exists. At all times it must seek out genuine political alternatives to advance its goals. Armed struggle is an option of last resort. Reckless and undisciplined actions are no option at all.

The legitimate position of the national army and armed struggle was correctly and publicly articulated by the leadership of the national army in 1997. In a parallel action the cause of armed conflict and what was required to end it was articulated in international law before the United Nations. This dual expression remains the contemporary legal foundation for the republican struggle.

The question that republicans now face is not a simplistic one of being for or against armed struggle but rather can we build a strategic political movement that is not predicated on armed struggle being a prerequisite? To win this struggle we cannot simply offer our people war.

A political movement by its very definition must be fluid and adaptable. But it also must be relevant. The republican vision for a sovereign Ireland must come hand in glove with a strategy to achieve it. The insular nature of Irish republicanism has developed within us a mindset that sees our people as incidental to our struggle. We need to cease struggling for them and begin to struggle with them.

Fortunately there are republicans who have grasped this nettle. For some time now republicans throughout Ireland have met in unity and comradeship and begun the task of putting in place a radical policy platform which brings the logic and language of sovereignty to the everyday struggles of our people.

Its purpose is not to bring a new group into existence but to establish a new republican narrative that groups and individual republicans alike can adopt and develop. The challenges of contemporary times demand a contemporary pragmatism to meet them. Slogans on a bodhran, masks and sunglasses or references to historic loyalties are not enough.

The importance of this new republican narrative in the face of constitutional developments after Brexit cannot be over emphasised. At present the republican position has no bearing on these developments. And this is evident by the recent brash comments by Free State leaders concerning Irish unity and the border.

These comments do not represent a shift in Free State thinking toward republican demands. They are in fact a most dangerous departure from any concept of Irish unity that entails national sovereignty. What we are witnessing now is the horse-trading of Irish unity in return for the surrender of Irish sovereignty to Westminster, Brussels or international corporate entities

And this is where a republican understanding of the totality of sovereignty and self-determination is essential. The term Irish unity is no longer sufficient. We must demand political sovereignty, economic sovereignty and sovereignty over our natural resources as the national fundamental rights of a sovereign Irish Republic.

The door is now open to establish a political movement to advance these aims. I urge all republicans to step through it.

Beir Bua.

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