by Party President Michael Finnegan at the Northern Ireland
Wellington Park Hotel, Saturday 4th October 2008
I am honoured to
have being asked to open the 2008 Northern Ireland Conference of the Workers Party.
This year marks
the fortieth anniversary of the start of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The aim of that organisation was to
end discrimination in housing, fair employment legislation, one man one vote and an end to gerrymandering. The demands were
clear and in a short space of time won widespread support across the island of Ireland and among
progressive people in Britain and elsewhere.
Civil rights marchers
faced police brutality on every march. This violence culminated in the murder of 13 innocent marchers in Derry by British paratroopers. However, it became clear to the establishment
that repression could never defeat the civil rights movement and many of the demands were conceded The B Specials were disbanded,
the R.U.C. disarmed, discrimination in housing was ended, fair employment legislation was introduced and every citizen was
granted an equal right to vote.
The Northern Ireland
Civil Rights movement was a powerful mass organisation and was instrumental in raising awareness both North and South. Progress
was being made. It was an organisation that provoked fear both in the Northern, Southern and British establishments. There
was a move among some Nationalists in the North and senior Ministers in the Fianna Fail government m the South to turn the
situation into a campaign for a united Ireland.
The last thing that
Mr Haughey, Blaney and Boland wanted was to see socialists coming to the forefront in any part of Ireland. And they were quite willing to fund and arm those
Nationalists. They went on to form what is known as the Provisional IRA who went on to wreak violence and destruction and
destroy so many lives for three decades.
Northern Ireland was plunged into a vicious sectarian
war. Both Loyalist and Nationalist sectarian forces competed with one another in the murder of innocent people. Veterans of
this savage sectarianism now like to present their so-called war as one of heroic gun battles with the British army and daring
jail-breaks. They would want us to forget the Kingsmill massacre, the La Mons fire-bombing, the Bloody Fridays, Enniskillen
and the Teebane murder of building labourers. All for what? Sunningdale Mark
Two? Certainly not the Republic where all people regardless of religion, class, race or sex are treated equally.
Comrades, we must
not forget the past. It is crucial to understand the horror that is unleashed when Nationalist and Loyalist sectarian forces
are not guarded against. It is an equally important lesson to know the lengths the capitalist establishment will go to in
order to undermine legitimate organisations they see as a threat.
We should not forget
the past but we have to fight in the here and now for a decent life for workers and to secure the well being of future generations
of workers and their families.
Greed and corruption
has flourished in the new Ireland, A society devoid of values has robbed public debate of any sense of the common good. The
individual and the endless pursuit of more and more luxury goods are promoted in its place. What is being reaped now in Ireland, north and south is the brainchild of the Thatcher,
Reagan and Haughey era. Every service that is essential to a decent life - health, education, fundamental rights of workers
- has been steadily eroded. The huge wealth created was on the backs of the workers who were told they must sacrifice in order
that the economy prospers. The economy prospered resulting in obscene displays of wealth by a greedy minority and prominent
among them were the wealthy speculators and bankers. These are the people whose actions now are bringing the economy to its
knees. There is international recognition that the Irish banks are fundamentally flawed. The jobs and wellbeing of every citizen
in the state is under threat as a result. On the other hand those who have run the banks will
walk away with millions
from massive salaries and bonuses they have received over the years - many millions in some cases.
In the good times
the call of the ultra conservative, political establishment was for cutting tax and cutting government. Less government was
good government. No provision could be made in this climate for improving health, education and other necessary services,
politicians are now propping up the bankers dodgy practices to the tune of an astounding €400 billion - more than half
of what the US
government is considering.
Because of greed
and corruption in the banking sector the living standards of millions of workers world wide will be cut. Thousands of workers
will lose their jobs. Health services will be reduced and education will be cut. The unemployed will see their income reduced.
In the South a wage agreement is being imposed on a worker which in reality is a wage cut. Families who can’t pay their
mortgages because of unemployment or illness will be evicted from their homes. We should fight for measures that will prevent
banks from evicting those families.
Here in the North
we have a government which refuses to meet while food, gas and electricity prices soar. Thousands of workers are losing their
jobs. Yet Sinn Fein and DUP Ministers and M.L.A.s draw very generous salaries and allowances. They are quite happy to bicker
among themselves over policing and justice. There is no concern for the senior citizens who cannot heat their homes. What
is being done to provide social housing? Do McGuinness and Robinson believe that families do not need homes? Mr, Adams was elected to represent the people of West
Belfast as their MP. His principles will not allow him attend Westminster. How can he justify that position? Sinn Fein is in a
British Parliament at Stormont, they draw salaries and serve as Ministers.
Adams seems more interested in appearing on TV or radio promoting his latest book than standing up for workers’
rights in Westminster. Is it that
he is afraid that he will be shown up as someone with little to offer and even less knowledge as happened on the television
debates in the run up to the general election in the south? It is time for workers in Northern Ireland to reject the sectarian politics of Adams,
McGuinness and Robinson and put their own interests first.
people are challenging the way society is operated in the South and there is a growing interest in the Workers’ Party.
Membership is growing. Our magazine Look Left is bringing the socialist ideal to more and more people. Its left wing views
and analysis is welcomed now more than ever in the challenging times that we live in. We need to ensure that it is distributed
in every part of the country. We are in the process of organising public meetings for various centres throughout Ireland. I am confident that we will rebuild the Party
to a strong force that will challenge the establishment North and South.
the membership in the Party here in the North have over many years stood firmly by the ideology of Tone and Connolly. When
in 1992 there was an attempt by those who had abandoned socialism to destroy the Party it was Marian Donnelly and later Tom
French who stepped forward to leadership positions. There is also another person who I want to single out and who has been
to the forefront of our struggle for many years. He is well known by all members and supporters from Cork to Antrim. It is determination, such as Dessie O’Hagan
has in abundance, which has kept us going in the darker days. His contribution
to the development of the Party and of socialism cannot be measured. And while the rest of us grieved the loss of Marie, who
was a true comrade, Dessie lost a friend and partner. I am confident that Dessie will continue to contribute to the Party
in the coming years in similar fashion.
The Northern Ireland conference is usually a vibrant and interesting
event where the issues affecting the Northern Ireland community are debated and I look forward to hearing the various views.
Thank you for your