A round-up of the main Easter statements, messages and orations delivered by republican groups to mark the anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy at Drumboe Easter Commemoration
I want to begin today by paying tribute to the life of the talented young writer Lyra McKee, shot dead in Derry this week. We extend our deepest condolences to her grieving partner, family and friends.
The large vigils that have taken place across Ireland to honour Lyra were an outpouring of grief – for the pointless loss of this bright young woman’s life. But they were also a demonstration of our fierce and united determination to never return to the dark days of the tragic conflict that has scarred our island and its people.
That is the true spirit of republicanism: one built on the foundations of unity, solidarity, community, equality, inclusiveness – and fearlessness.
Ireland – a country that fought an empire
A chairde, this weekend Republicans across Ireland and around the world are gathering as we do each Easter to remember those who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom in the 1916 Rising and at other periods of our history.
Here today we remember especially the Drumboe Martyrs: Charlie Daly, Seán Larkin, Tim O’Sullivan and Dan Enright; Irish freedom fighters who were executed by freestate forces on 14th March 1923 during the tragic civil war which marked a pivotal point in the counter-revolution that followed the tan war.
In 1916, Ireland was the little country that fought the most powerful empire in the world. On that Easter Monday, just 1200 men and women set out to bring an end to British rule in Ireland – in their words, to “strike a blow for freedom”. The leaders, including the seven signatories to the Proclamation, were all executed by the British in the weeks that followed.
We remember the ultimate sacrifice they made just as we remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by republicans since.
Of course, we do not just remember the individuals who led the Easter Rising, but also their vision and the ideals they died for. These ideals were best articulated by James Connolly, Pádaric Pearse and the other signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic – of national sovereignty, equality, social justice, and democratic rights for all.
A decade of centenaries
Over the past few years we have been marking a of a decade of centenaries of pivotal events in Ireland’s struggle for independence.
In 2013 we marked the Centenary of the Great Lockout when the bosses of Dublin declared war on the workers and their families.
The choice presented to the workers was stark. They could obey the bosses, resign from their union and go back to their tenement slums and their poverty with their heads down. Or they could resist. Thousands chose resistance.
Through the summer and autumn and winter of 1913 and 1914 they faced police brutality, press vilification, Church condemnation and starvation. They seemed defeated, but out of their struggle arose a revived trade union movement and a proud working class.
Again and again, in the decades since the Lockout, those whom Wolfe Tone called the people of no property were offered that same choice – resign or resist.
They were told to resign themselves to their fate when Ireland was partitioned and a sectarian Orange state established in the Six Counties. But the followers of Tone and Connolly again resisted, and stood by the Proclamation of the Republic.
Half a century after the Proclamation, the Civil Rights movement stepped forward and was met with the same choice – resign yourselves to the reality of the one-party sectarian state or resist.
They chose resistance. RUC brutality was resisted. Internment was resisted. The British Army was resisted. Criminalisation in the H-Blocks and Armagh was resisted. Collusion and censorship and the demonisation of whole communities were resisted.
The massive Irish and international commemoration of the centenary of the Rising in 2016 showed the clarion call of the Proclamation has echoed down for a full century – and continues to enthuse and motivate us today in our struggle for the unfinished freedom of our country, and for the unfinished equality of our people.
In 2018, we marked the centenary of the General Election, which saw republicans win 73 of the 105 Irish seats available – a resounding roar from the Irish people that they chose a united, independent, egalitarian republic.
That year the vote was extended to men above 21 without restriction; women had won limited franchise and could vote if they were over 30 and owned some level of property. The extension of the vote to large sections of the working class was decisive in returning the republican TDs.
As they had committed to, and were given a resounding mandate to do, the TDs abstained from the British Parliament and established an all-Ireland parliament – An Chéad Dáil Éireann.
During the first session of that Dáil, 100 years ago, TDs adopted the Democratic Programme – a document less well known than the Proclamation but even more significant in terms of it visionary content of the social and economic transformation Ireland required a century ago, and continues to require today.
One short paragraph from the Democratic Programme read:
“It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland.”
Compare those words to the brutal, cold reality of Ireland today.
Reality of housing crisis
Last month the United Nations wrote a scathingletter to the Irish government, pointing out that homelessness has increased exponentially in the Irish state between 2015 and 2018 – increasing by nearly 96% among adults and by 228% among children over the same period.
They called the denial of the right to a home an ‘egregious and damaging violation’, which is known to be devastating to the lives and wellbeing of children in particular,including to their physical and mental development.
The UN report does not limit its critique to the government’s failure to provide shelter for those experiencing homelessness. It outlines exactly how this crisis has developed and identifies the precise government policies that have caused it.
It points to cuts to the public housing budget, and land hoarding by speculators who deliberately restrict supply in order to inflate rent and prices, and most importantly, the policies that have caused the financialisation of housing in Ireland.
The First Dáil couldn’t deliver on its promises because it was immediately driven underground and the Irish people were subjected to the terror of the Black and Tans, Civil War, counter revolution and Partition.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed
But in this state, we’ve now had a centuryof two-party rule by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and the state they have created is simply a paradise for the bankers, the American vulture funds, international finance and domestic gombeens.
Ireland is now the favourite spot for the Silicon Valley billionaires to shelter their profits from tax, but we leave our own population homeless on the streets at record levels while families, even those with two incomes, struggle to meet crippling rents and have almost no hope of ever owning their own home.
While Ireland has one of the largest and most dangerous shadow banking sectors in the world we are also home to a health service in chaos where the service one receives depends on how much money is in your bank account and in which part of the country you happen to live. It is a place where those on the frontline such as our nurses have to take to the streets to fight for better healthcare for us all while private corporations make a killing on the back of our two-tier system.
This is the price for a century of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in power.
So, it is time that we choose resistance again – united, determined and fearless – and stand together to fight for a future where people’s lives and the environment are considered more important than corporate profits.
Local elections campaign
We need to do this through every means we available to us – at the local elections, at the European elections, in trade union struggles, and in progressive community campaigns.
This May, Sinn Féin will be running in election campaigns in local councils across the North and South promoting our message of radical republicanism.
Sinn Féin councillors are delivering real change for communities across Ireland. They are working hard for the people and the communities we represent, delivering social and affordable housing, community infrastructure and facilities. They are making cities, towns and village better places to live.
Today I want to especially commend the mighty team of Sinn Féin members on Donegal County Council – Gary Doherty, Liam Doherty, Marie Therese Gallagher, Gerry McMonagle, Albert Doherty, Noel Jordon, Jack Murray, John Seamais Ó Fearraigh & Aidy Glacin and to wish them and our new candidates Maria Doherty, Brian Carr, Terry Crossan and Michael McMahon all the best on 24thMay.
With every additional Sinn Féin councillor elected, the stronger is our ability to create progressive change. It’s hard work but we can take pride in the fact that we literally improve people’s lives and our local communities every single day.
I said earlier that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed us for a century – but this is nowhere made more clear than in the EU. Some voters may think the EU elections are not important. But the alarming fact is that these parties are consistently selling us short in Europe.
I have been fighting hard for Ireland as an MEP on issues such as getting the best possible deal for farmers in rural Ireland under the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy.
We have been fighting the EU tooth and nail on a new proposal that aims to give even more free rein to vulture funds and debt collectors while there hasn’t been a whimper from the other parties.
Just last week, through my work in the European Parliament, we exposed that the ECB had made profits –yes, profits! – of €73 billion from the so-called aid programmes they granted during the economic crisis. Not a single Irish media outlet has reported this huge story.
Sinn Féin MEPs are working hard, all day every day, to fight for a radical change in the economic governance of the EU’s economic structures; for social and labour rights for workers; for rights for women and the LGBT community. We are fighting for real action on climate change, such as forcing the ECB to divest the billions it hands over to the biggest polluters– instead of imposing punitive carbon taxes on the people who have done the least to cause the climate crisis.
We will resist the efforts of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to impose additional charges on working families in the guise of carbon tax hikes.
This EU election will be an all-Ireland election. It’s another opportunity to return an all-Ireland Sinn Féin team to Brussels to fight for Ireland’s interests, to oppose any hard border in Ireland, to oppose the neoliberal agenda, federalisation and the creation of an EU army.
Sinn Féin has extreme problems with the nature and direction of the EU – but having one part of our country dragged out of the EU against the expressed wishes of the people is a recipe for disaster.
Fighting for Ireland
A lot has been said about Brexit in the past two years.
And, Ireland has been, of course, central to the Brexit story. There’s a reason for that.
Actually, it’s four reasons. It was the Sinn Féin team in Brussels that brought the Irish concerns, particular concerns regarding the border and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to the heart of Brexit deliberations. While others accused us of being naïve when we first raised the notion of special status for the north, our efforts ensured that that became, essentially, the position of the Irish government and subsequently the EU.
Our work is not done, so let me make this promise,every day Sinn Féin has representation in Brussels will be a day spent working to ensure that Irish interests, the rights of Irish citizens, and particularly the border regions, are protected.
Ireland did not vote for Brexit. We do not consent to a hard border. We believe that the ‘backstop’ contained within the Withdrawal Agreement is a vital insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and must be upheld. It is the absolute bare minimum that is required.
Brexit is clearly causing people to question the constitutional future of the North and encouraging support for an all-island economic, political and social framework.
The debate on Irish Unity is now mainstream.
Opinion polls must always be taken with a pinch of salt but the overwhelming trend of those carried out in the past two years is clear. The results reflect three important trends. First, there has been a consistent rise in the proportion of people who say they would vote for a united Ireland.
Second, this trend is most pronounced among young people.
And thirdly, these trends reflect the continuing major influence of the Brexit debacle on shaping attitudes on this issue in the North.
Now is the time for all of us who believe a united Ireland will provide a better future – parties, community groups, trade unions, businesses and individuals – to work together to seize this historic opportunity.
We need to build popular support for the demand for a referendum while also working patiently to convince those who disagree that their voices will be heard and respected.
The British and Irish governments need to acknowledge theses changing attitudes and agree to hold a poll so the people can have their say.
We have the right to a referendum on reunification under the Good Friday Agreement and we will not be denied that right.
Our message to those other political parties that sometimes espouse support for Irish unity? The work must begin now!
So, to Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the SDLP and others we say – join us now in framing the conversation; let us take the conversation to the next level, let’s include all stakeholders and communities and let us map out how we can secure a referendum on unity, win it and make a united Ireland a success for all the people of our country.
We’re up for it. We’re up for working together to achieve the goal of Connolly and Pearse and the Drumboe Martyrs – it’s time for others to let it be known who is with us.
A chairde, as we leave this spot today be assured that we’re on the road towards a united Ireland. It will take a lot of work but it is going to happen sooner, I suspect, than many people realise. So concurrently we need to work to ensure that the united Ireland we deliver is one that allows us to reach our full potential as a nation, that it becomes a Republic worthy of it’s name, one that delivers on the promise of Proclamation and the Democratic Programme.
That will be the most fitting commemoration we can give to all those we honour here today.
Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.
Easter 2019 Main Oration [IRSP], by Belfast IRSP secretary Joe Matthews
Friends and Comrades,
We gather here every Easter to pay tribute to, and honour all those who gave their lives in the struggle for national liberation and socialism in Ireland and we especially remember our comrades in the Republican Socialist Movement who gave their lives in the struggle. We also remember all those who died fighting British imperialism and we salute them all.
Our theme this year is workers’ rights and there is no more appropriate act of workers emancipation than the formation of the Limerick Soviet on the 14th April 1919 when One hundred years ago workers took control of the city of Limerick.
This should give us inspiration and confidence to go forward to keep the fight for national liberation and socialism as the same struggle, just as those who formed the Limerick soviet.
The Limerick Council of Trade Unions organised a strike against the British imposition of a “Special Military Area” in the city after the death of IRA volunteer and trade unionist Robert Byrne who was killed during a prison escape. The Special Military Area meant that workers travelling into or out of Limerick had to show ID cards at British Army barricades.
Faced with hostility of local people the British abandoned the city of limerick and set up a perimeter around the city, leaving the workers in control. It was now thoughthat the workers began to organise.
One of the first tasks was to feed the people and under the slogan of “We make bread not Profits” the workers began producing bread and other items for the people.
Limerick had been a hotbed of socialist revolutionary activity as just one year earlier 10,000 people participated in the local May day rally, passing a motion in support of the Russian Revolution.
As Connolly predicted, it was the workers who took on the might of the British empire. For nearly two weeks, Limerick Trades Council took control of the city, establishing its own currency – the soviet shilling – setting prices and even running its own civilian police force.
Comrades, This is an example of what can be achieved when workers and the marginalised stand together under the flag of socialism.
The IRSP have always promoted the idea of broad front and direct political action. We are currently involved in a number of initiatives including Action Against Cuts which include a broad range of groups and activists who are concerned about their community and are prepared to take direct action to highlight injustices of austerity which are a direct result of partition.
As Connolly said “If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.”
That quote from Connolly is as apt today as it was when he wrote it. The Irish working class will always be betrayed by the bosses and political elites, and we must always be aware of that fact.
The IRSP are out for a fair and equal society based on the needs of all the people not of the few. There can be no freedom from Britain unless we have freedom from capitalism, oppression and greed, be that foreign or native.
Because of our involvement in broad front campaigns against austerity we must not lose sight of the fact that the biggest injustice to the people of Ireland is partition and Britian’s continuing presence in our country.
Comrades and Friends, 1919 was a year of political revolution across the world, but more importantly it was a year of political revolution here in Ireland. In 1919 the Irish people voted IN the first Dail Eireann. This was a truely monumental democraticpolitical uprising against the British Occupation.
Today in 2019, One hundred years after this act, we are on the brink of what could potentially be another political revolution. The possibility of ending partition on this island is becoming an ever increasing reality. The Irish people are once again indicating en masse that they want to express their democratic will in the form of a Border Poll.
In 2017, The IRSP through long debate, carefully applied our steadfast and battle hardened socialist revolutionary politics and through our ‘Yes For Unity’ Campaign we actively support the calls of the Irish People and we once again send our demand, ‘Give us a Border Poll’.
Comrades, while we all understand that initially this demand and the mere mention of a Border Poll can cause political uncertainty from some quarters, the IRSP have always understood that revolutionary politics must adapt to what is an ever changing situation. This was some of the clear lessons that were passed down to us from our founder Seamus Costello, and while some may try to hijack his teachings and use it against our political analysis, it was this movement that paid with our own blood and freedoms in defending the legacy and politics of Seamus and others, and through these sacrifices the Irish Republican Socialist Movement have ensured that Republican Socialist politics both physically and ideologically survived.
Comrades and friends, over the course of this movement’s existence our tactics have changed in order to adapt to the ever changing political environment and to facilitate the will of the Irish Working Class. Our political analysis and direction that was publicly announced ten years ago in 2009 that the objective of a 32 county socialist republic will be best achieved exclusively through political andpeaceful means still confidently stands.
The British state remains the enemy, and while our tactics have changed so have theirs. The Republican Socialist Movement is feeling the brunt of this at present, with the British PSNI mounting daily attacks on our movement through propaganda released through a subservient media. We know who the enemy is, and we will continue to oppose and expose their presence in Ireland.
Comrades today above all is about remembering our fallen comrades, their families and the sacrifices that have been made by generations opposing Britain’s presence in Ireland. We are proud of our fallen comrades and promise to strive every day to build the society for which they gave their lives, a socialist republic is the only fitting epitaph to our fallen comrades.
Revolution until victory.
32 County Sovereignty Movement Easter Message
For Irish republicans Easter is the time of year when we traditionally honour all those Irishmen and Irish women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to establish a functioning sovereignty for all the people of Ireland.
But in light of the recent and reckless events in Derry, in which those presuming to act in the name of Irish republicanism took the young life of journalist and rights activist Lyra McKee, our focus today is to once and for all strip bare the false credentials of those who offer nothing to the republican struggle except denigration and ignominy.
We reference the address delivered by Veteran IRA activist Phil Donohue on the 60th Anniversary of the death of his friend and comrade Fergal O’Hanlon as part of Operation Harvest. We urge the youth of Ireland to read carefully the pronouncements made by someone who knows what they are talking about. We further urge our youth not to be seduced by bravado imagery or drum-beating slogans.
And to those who would send Irish youth on reckless adventures to face either death or imprisonment in a dysfunctional command structure we say stop immediately because you are abusing the name Oglaigh Na hEireann. The mantle of Irish Republicanism can only be inherited by those who have ideas to advance it.
[Brookeborough Raid Anniversary, Phil Donohue]
It is important to state from the outset that the use of Armed Struggle should never be romanticised nor entered into without due consideration of a number of essential factors.
The right of the Irish people to use disciplined armed force against the violation of our National Sovereignty is beyond question. But like any fundamental right its proper use is essential because if done so irresponsibly irreparable damage can be done to that right.
It must be recognised that possessing the right to use armed force does not obligate Irish republicans to prosecute an armed campaign. And whilst armed campaigns by Irish republicans have been undertaken by every generation since Wolfe Tone we cannot view deadly force as a tradition to be blindly followed.
Of equal importance is the recognition that possessing the right to use armed force does not automatically confer an ability to carry out an armed campaign. Possessing armaments is one thing, possessing a military and political acumen is quite another.
Too often the status and raison detre of the Irish Republican Army have been misunderstood and/or abused. This misunderstanding and abuse invariably leads to a misuse of the army with disastrous political consequences.
The Irish Republican Army is the National Army of the Irish people and its sole function is to defend the national sovereignty of the Irish people. At all times its Volunteers must act in strict accordance with its Constitution and General Army Orders. No personnel in authority possess the right to issue illegal orders to Volunteers to engage in activities which would bring the National Army into disrepute.
By definition the National Army is not the military wing of a political party or group nor can it ever seek to be endorsed as such. The dangers of this approach gave us the Good Friday Agreement.
Under the Provisional leadership the Irish Republican Army was reduced to the role of a militia. This meant that the arms and knowledge acquired to end the violation of our sovereignty were now being used to enforce a party political agenda.
The strategy of that leadership was never subject to democratic scrutiny because its deep flaws would have been quickly exposed. Instead the strategy was the preserve of a majority of Army Council members who in turn used the premise of Army endorsement of their hidden agenda to force acceptance of it within the wider Republican Movement.
In a further abuse of Army Authority army structures and personnel were deployed to threaten and intimidate those who sought to challenge and expose this nefarious direction. This political and military delinquency culminated in the destruction of arms to secure the endorsement of the British occupation of our country.
In effect a military junta, built around a personality cult, was not only determining secret policy for the Republican Movement but was also negotiating with enemy security personnel to ensure the success of those policies.
The relevance of all this is observable if we choose to look out the window. Embroiling the National Army in a criminal dispute is equally delinquent and deeply damaging to the republican cause. It must be clearly understood that to act outside of the Army’s Constitution is to remove yourself from being designated as the National Army.
Irish Republicanism is at the crossroads. We need to stand back and examine our options with great care and diligence. What is required now is a political grounding of contemporary republicanism to ensure our analysis is heard above the din and clamour of partitionist politics.
The Irish people are not incidental to the republican project. As republicans we have the distinct tendency to be insular to the point of arrogantly believing that we can presume what is best for our people without seeking their engagement to determine their views.
Republicanism can only advance on a democratic premise. The Provisional mindset must remain a thing of the past. We cannot recreate past eras and fool ourselves into thinking that this represents progress.
Volunteers Séan South and Fergal O’Hanlon did not give their lives so that future generations could praise them or sing songs about them. They gave their lives in the belief that those coming after them would learn from the collective actions of the Republican Movement of their era to improve the actions of those in the here and now.
If we truly want to honour these two Volunteers, and all Volunteers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we must discard the pretence that progress will be found in yet another republican grouping for the very existence of all these groups is testament to their failure.
So let us sit down together, as equals and without labels, and forge a way forward for this struggle.
Easter Statement from the leadership of the Republican Movement [RSF]
On this the 103rd anniversary of the Easter Rising 1916 the Leadership of the Republican Movement sends greetings to Irishmen and Irishwomen at home and abroad. We further extend solidarity greetings to our prisoners in Portlaoise and Maghaberry prisons.
The Republican Movement gives its allegiance to the Irish Republic was proclaimed in arms in 1916 and was subsequently established by the majority vote of the Irish people in 1918 and ratified by the First Dáil Éireann in 1919.
The Republican Movement has never accepted the partition system of government imposed on us by England in 1921 but seeks to achieve full and complete Irish freedom, political, economic, social and cultural.
Our aim is to make the Irish people masters of their own destinies, controlling all the wealth of the nation in an independent Republic of 32 counties. We further advocate that this Republic is served by a federal government based on four provincial parliaments, each subscribing to a single national parliament, where the rights of Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters will be secured.
The free Republic we seek will not be won by recognition of and participation in the institutions which were set up by England to overthrow the Republic but by leading the Irish people in the building of an alternative 32-County parliament.
The ongoing Brexit process serves to demonstrate that the English imperialist continues the cruel domination of a small nation.
The Republican Movement confidently calls for the support of Irish people at home and abroad for its efforts to achieve Irish freedom. At the graves of our patriot dead we call for a dedication to Republican objectives and principles and for a pledge of unstinted support for our efforts in the months and years ahead.
In conclusion, the Leadership of the Republican Movement assures the Irish people that no opportunity shall pass where we shall be found wanting and at the opportune time appropriate action will be taken to achieve the independence of our nation.