Dear Comrades and friends,
We are gathered here today, once again, to honour the lives, the memory,
and the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom and independence and especially those who fought in
the Easter Rebellion and the subsequent War of Independence.
2009 is a year of anniversaries. It is the 90 anniversary of the meeting
of the First Dáil in Dublin’s Mansion House. This meeting has, merely by its very convocation and happening, an enormous
historical significance. We must admire the vision and the courage of those people who came together in the Mansion House
and constituted the First Dáil. This meeting took place in the teeth of massive opposition from both the British and Irish
establishment and at a time when the vast bulk of the leadership of the independence movement was interned in British jails.
We must also remember that at its very first meeting that First Dáil
adopted three very significant documents including a political programme entitled “The Democratic Programme”.
The Democratic programme is a deceptively simple document. It is a mere
567 words. But they are a truly radical and revolutionary 567 words which, even if implemented today, would transform this
country and greatly enhance the lives of its citizens.
can argue with the statement “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 with him we reaffirm that all right to private
property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare”. These
are noble words and noble ideals. Yet they have been ignored by successive governments for the last 86 years. We have not
subordinated private property to the public right and welfare. Instead we have elevated private property onto an untouchable
pinnacle. The 1937 constitution – as interpreted by our Supreme Court – ring-fences the rights of private property
and make it safe from any assault. For the last decade the right-wing political devotion to private property has risen to
such fervour that there has been a headlong rush to dismantle the public sector. Everything from telecoms to airports, from
roads to schools; from hospitals to water supply has either been handed over to the private sector or was being primed for
such a transfer.
The 1919 Democratic programme railed against poverty and declared: “The
Irish Republic fully realises the necessity of abolishing the present odious, degrading
and foreign Poor Law System, substituting therefor a sympathetic native scheme for the care of the Nation's aged and infirm,
who shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation's gratitude and consideration.” Contrast this ideal with the cold and callous provisions of the 2009 FF/GP Budget
(introduced in October 2008) which stripped away the right of the over-70s to a Medical Card. That was a premeditated attack
on the most vulnerable section of society. It was surely one of the great victories of democracy over rampant Thatcherism
when that proposal was withdrawn.
I draw your attention
to one further sentence of the democratic programme: “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.” How ironic must this sound to thousands of people. How ironic did it feel for Maura
Harrington who spent 28 days in Mountjoy Jail for attempting to stop the robbery of the Corrib Gas field by Shell and its
cohorts. How ironic must it feel to the workers of Navan Mines, of Lisheen and Galmoy as they see their jobs end by decree
of a foreign multinational and the people of Ireland see another hole in
the ground but not one iota of infrastructure or downstream industry created? And how ironic must it feel for the thousands
of people in our coastal communities who see EU trawlers pillage our seas while Irish boats are forcibly tied up in port and
Irish fish-processing jobs vanish.
If we want to know the fate of the democratic programme we have merely
to refer to the Two Brians. Today, five days after the most savage budget in the history of the state – when citizens
were forced to bail out capitalism to the potential level of Ninety Thousand Million Euro – we know that the ideals
of the Democratic Program are buried.
Even as we honour the men and women of 1916 we know the world has altered
considerably from the battle strewn streets of Dublin of those days. The
world has seen two world wars; the nuclear bombing of Japan; the wars in Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Elsewhere, as in Latin America, American imperialism was rampant trying to starve the Cuban people
into submission and murdering President Allende in Chile and overthrowing his democratically elected government. In Europe it has seen the rise
and the collapse of the USSR and the East European socialist.
Fifteen years ago Francis Fukuyama could predict “the end of history”.
Clearly he had forgotten his history. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the start of the Great Depression
– just as modern capitalism faces its greatest ever economic depression and political challenge. History never ends.
Even as capitalism and imperialism boomed major parts of the world have
suffered serious deprivation in the midst of plenty, in particular the people of Africa. Malnutrition
and disease have taken thousands of lives and in the current economic climate even greater numbers are in danger.
Add to this the growing ecological crisis brought about by carbon emissions
and years of states’ indifference, in spite of dire warnings, and the planet itself is now in serious jeopardy.
The historical and current impact of these events has triggered widespread
despair and feelings of hopelessness. The deepening of unemployment, expected to rise to 500,000 in the Republic, and 3 million
in the UK by Christmas, plus the repossession of homes in the richer western
countries dominate the headlines.
Even the most optimistic economic forecasts expect the present situation
to persist well into 2010. The causes of the so-called credit crunch are now well-known – the voracious greed and utter
reckless criminal gambling of bankers on the financial markets coupled with almost total absence of regulation are major contributing
There is massive anger directed at the financial institutions as billions
of pounds, dollars and Euro have been poured into the banks – given to the very people who caused the depression. Furthermore
they negotiated massive bonuses for themselves as they went to governments with their begging bowls.
Nor should we forget that some of the voices now raised in calling for
national and international regulation, eg Gordon Brown, were loudest in their praise of the free market and in opposition
to legislation or regulation.
Some banks have been nationalised, but with the promise that they will
be sold back into private hands when the opportunity presents itself. How deep then is the present apparent conversion to
a more stringent system?
The meeting of the G20 group in London endeavoured to secure agreement on a number of fundamentals. The summit has been hailed as a major success by the participants.
But on the streets of London thousands protested against unemployment and the inaction on carbon
emissions and climate change. And these protests carried on to Strasburg where virtually the same gang - minus Russia and China – gathered
to glorify 60 years of NATO.
Protests of this type have taken place in hundreds of countries. The
current series began a decade ago in Seattle, at a similar meeting of the G20. Will they be successful? We believe
yes. But what we can be assured of, they will be sustained. And as such they should become a powerful influential force, just
like the wave of protests which swept the world compelled the imperialist withdrawal from Vietnam.
Here at home the Republic’s budget and the British budget underline
the fact that rampant individualism and greed are at the corrupt heart of capitalism. Workers and their families are paying
dearly for the boom and bust years. The crippled and corrupt financial system which is capitalism must be displaced. And the
beginning should be with the nationalisation of the banks as the Workers’ Party has called for many years.
The struggle ahead will be long and arduous. Comrades, we are accustomed
Forty odd years ago we led the struggle for Civil Rights and Democracy in Northern Ireland. We sought democratic revolution, not a united Ireland, for we knew that that could only come through the demand of the working class, North and South.
However reactionary sectarian nationalist forces, led by leading elements
in Fianna Fail created the monstrous provisionals, almost plunging the country into civil war. Led by Cathal Goulding we opposed
this, but nationalist and loyalist terror gangs refused to listen. You know the outcome. Today, forty years on, Northern Ireland is an even more deeply divided sectarian society. From parliament to kindergarten
we are retarded by sectarian division.
Our demands are clear. Begin the total integration of our school system.
Convene a meeting of all anti-sectarian forces from all walks of life, charged with producing a comprehensive anti-sectarian
programme which would be implemented in all our social institutions. This would provide the basis to create a truly democratic
This is a time of great opportunity for the Left, for parties such as
ours. The real question is how we are going to take advantage of the mood of anger, determination that characterises the growing
protests. There is no easy answer. Primarily it must be a question of building the Party and at the same time becoming actively
involved in the mounting opposition to any return to the politics of the past. Here in the Republic we have 8 weeks to the
local elections. We must work night and day to achieve success because we will never again have such an opportunity landed
in our lap.
But we must be there – each and every one of us, not dependent
on some mythical figure who will suddenly resolve all the problems, but as a great collective of determined citizens.
This is the way forward for us and for the party.
Thank you for your attention.