Easter 1916 Dublin

The annual Workers' Party 1916 commemoration in Dublin took place at Kilmainham Jail.  The 2008 oration was delivered by Conor O'Gorman, Chair of Workers' Party Youth.


Dear Comrades and Friends,


We gather here in Kilmainham this morning to celebrate not only those who died in the 1916 Rising and in the war of Independence, but also all those, including members of our own party, who subsequently fought and died to create a socialist Ireland. 


It is difficult for us now to visualise how a small band of volunteers must have felt as they took on the might of one of the most powerful empires that the world had ever seen. What we can visualise however is the hope, the enthusiasm, the ambition that these people had for a better Ireland.  This ambition, in so far as it can be stated in writing, is stated in the 1916 proclamation and the 1919 Programme of the First Dail. Neither of these documents were socialist manifestoes in the sense that we understand socialism but they were both profoundly progressive, all-embracing manifestoes that showed care and concern for all the people of Ireland - especially the poor and downtrodden.    


Who could find fault with their declaration:

“We declare in the words of the Irish Republican Proclamation the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies……….we declare that the Nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation, and we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare”.


If, even now, 90 years later those aspirations were the law of the land would we not have an incredibly better society?


The men and women of 1916 and of the war of independence had their faults - as we all have. But one fault they did not have was personal greed or avarice. None of that generation partook of the fight for freedom to line their own pockets. They would not have looked on  people who launder cash, palm brown envelopes, use false identities to secrete cash and property as ‘patriots’ or ‘great Irishmen’. They would have rightly regarded that segment of society as craven, as baseless, as beneath contempt. And it is sickening that we are now into the third generation of political leaders who have used office for personal gain. Today some of those people will stand at the graves of the patriot dead and declare their allegiance to the ideals of 1916 proclamation. Not only have they debased themselves but, because of their position in society, they have debased politics.   


This year, friends and comrades, is the 10th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement. We welcomed that agreement as a major step forward. It ended Direct Rule and created a democratically elected devolved government. We therefore campaigned hard for the acceptance of the agreement both north and south.


However we were never uncritical of the agreement. We always stated, quite categorically, that the agreement failed to tackle the cancer of sectarianism. We went further, and stated that the arrangements in the Assembly itself bolstered and institutionalised sectarianism. We have, sadly, been proved right. of course those who flourish under sectarianism were and are quite happy with the arrangements. We now have a situation where society in Northern Ireland is more divided that ever and where the dominant political faction in each sector is the most extremist faction. For almost 40 years the Provisionals and the DUP have fed off each other in a macabre ritual that has left 4,000 people dead and countless thousands scarred for life.


 Let us be clear. We are not interested in parallel development of an artificially created “two communities”. We are not interested in divisive peace walls, in more sectarian education, in the Balkanisation of Northern Ireland. In this, the 40th anniversary of the first major public actions of Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), in which our members and organisation took a leading role, we reiterate the need for a re-alignment of political forces. As we have said so often our view of the division in society is the class divide and our view of the working class is a class united whether they be Protestant, Catholic, or Dissenter. As we were in 1967-69, and have been since, we must again be to the forefront in bringing together all the different forces that believe in that ideal into a stronger and more co-ordinated alliance.


Later this year we will commemorate in a fitting way the events of 1969.


A central tenet of our socialism is our internationalism. It is striking, that right through the history of progressive republicanism, there is also that same spirit of internationalism. The United Irishmen, in an era where mass media as we know it was unimaginable were internationalists. They drew inspiration from both the American and French revolutions and from the writings of Thomas Paine. Connolly and Larkin saw no boundary between the working class of Dublin, Liverpool, Belfast, New York or Chicago. They moved freely across these cities, and worked with equal fervour in each of them. Larkin’s enthusiasm for the 1917 Great October Revolution landed him in severe trouble on both sides of the Atlantic.


Seventy years ago the war in Spain still raged and we can be proud of the role of IRA volunteers in defence of democracy and against fascism. At the present time internationalism is still of vital importance. The people of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia who have dared resist the mighty US in its own backyard face daily threats of an overt and covert nature. We know of the 600 attempts to assassinate Fidel and the failed CIA coup against Chavez. However every day the CIA and the EU are pumping millions of dollars into right wing groups across Latin America to undermine socialist Cuba and the Bolivarian revolution of Chavez.  It is our duty to expose and oppose this activity; to offer practical support to Cuba and Venezuela; to campaign for the release of the Miami Five and the jailing of the mass murderer Louis Posada. It is also our duty to ensure, by whatever means we can, that Shannon is no longer a haven for the US military in their wars of occupation or the CIA and their torture flights.


On April 8th 1916, a few weeks before the Easter Rising, James Connolly wrote the following simple statement:

“We are out for Ireland for the Irish. But who are the Irish? Not the rack-renting, slum-owning landlord; not the sweating, profit grinding capitalist, not the sleek and oily lawyer; not the prostitute pressman, the hired liars of the enemy. No, these are not the Irish on whom the future depends. Not these but the Irish working class, the only secure foundations upon which a free nation can be reared.”


James Connolly obviously saw the 1916 Rising as a fight for an independent Republic, and an economy dominated by the Irish working class.


We are very far from that vision of James Connolly today. Having partly fought our way out of the monstrous British empire, and been a beacon of hope for many other colonised nations throughout the world, we have now negotiated ourselves into the New European Empire which is dominated and ruled by the major colonial countries of France, Belgium, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Italy. They now control our economic and fiscal affairs and in the new Lisbon Treaty they will control our foreign relations with other countries and our internal security and military affairs.


Writing in the 1940s, the late George Gilmore predicted that we were returning to ‘Redmondism’, which he described as “having a recognised national identity accepting subservience to the British economy and committed to the political and military defence of that economy”. This is precisely what Taoiseach  Ahern, with the full support of the Redmondites in Fine Gael and Labour, want us to do in Europe. He wants us today, in 2008, to accept subservience to the European economy and to commit ourselves to the political and military defence of that economy. That’s what the Lisbon Treaty is all about.


We are opposed to the Lisbon Treaty and we have already started our campaign against this treaty to secure a resounding NO vote in the referendum - whenever it is held. The Lisbon Treaty is profoundly undemocratic. Once again it draws power to the centre and increases the democratic deficit amongst 400 million people. A measure of the lack of democracy, indeed the contempt for democracy, is that only 1% of the 400 million people who live in the 27 countries of the EU will get to vote on the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. We, the Republic of Ireland, with our 4,000,000 people is all that stands against the European Elite. WE can strike a blow for democracy in Europe, even if the majority of MEPs only last week voted that they would not respect a “NO” vote by the Irish electorate. WE can block this Treaty and no amount of scaremongering or bluster by the Aherns or their frontman Roche should stop us. Just as 1916 and the War of Independence was a beacon of hope for oppressed and colonised people throughout the world, we can now be a beacon of hope for 400 million people in Europe and we must take this responsibility seriously.


It is important to remember that there is widespread opposition to the Lisbon Treaty right across the EU. The serious Left are united in their opposition to this treaty. As recently as last weekend, at a conference organised by the Communist Party of Greece in Athens, we were given unanimous solidarity in our campaign. Equally, if not more important, many of the parties promised practical support during the referendum campaign and this will be manifested in the weeks ahead.


Ninety years ago the programme of the first Dáil stated: “It shall be our duty to promote the development of the Nation's resources, to increase the productivity of its soil, to exploit its mineral deposits, peat bogs, and fisheries, its waterways and harbours, in the interests and for the benefit of the Irish people”.  Sadly neither the first Dáil or any of the subsequent Dáils has achieved that objective. Indeed these are no longer the objectives of the Irish Government interested only in speculators, bankers, and the approval of George Bush. It is our job, as socialists, as The Workers Party to ensure that politics returns to those core values which have carried our tradition from the foundation of the United Irishmen in 1791 to the present day, and will carry us forward in the future.


Thank you comrades for your attention.
24th March 2008

Peace, Work, Democracy & Class Politics