It is a great
honour for me to deliver the main address here today at the grave of Wolfe Tone at the Workers Party Bodenstown Commemoration.
I feel especially privileged to make this address as this year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Theobald Wolfe
Tone in 1763.
It is right
and fitting that we should come here today to honour the memory of those great revolutionaries in Society of the United Irishmen
who set out for us a vision of a new order which would place the citizen at the centre of political and social life.
A New Order
which would fundamentally change how society is organised, which would challenge and confront privileged elites, the abuse
of power and the denial of democratic rights.
Over 200 years
have passed since the founding of the Society of United Irishmen but time has not eclipsed the importance and necessity of
the basic principles of the United Irishmen and their followers.
of Man, Democracy and Independence are today very real political struggles for which we must fight, albeit in different
conditions. Arguably the notion of the citizen at the centre of political and public life is as far removed today as it was
in the day of Tone.
We may now
have Parliaments and elected Assemblies and local councils, but increasingly their relevance and capacity to effect change
must be questioned.
globalised world in which we now live, dominated as it is by the interests of powerful transnational corporations and conglomerates,
what real power do our national parliaments have in determining the social, political and economic destinies of our people?
Not only have
our national Parliaments been increasingly sidelined and rendered powerless but local government too has seen power and authority
shift from elected members to unelected managers and bureaucrats.
In all spheres
of life even those limited bourgeois democratic rights and reforms secured over the years are increasingly eroded.
and internationally democratic bodies and institutions are bypassed.
dictates our economic future and, on occasions, has even supplanted elected governments as in Greece
and Italy. It has no need to supplant
the present occupants in Merrion Square as Fine Gael
and Labour are only too happy to impose the wishes of the Troika on Irish workers.
On the world
stage - in Afghanistan, Iraq,
Libya and now in Syria
- wars are being waged without any semblance of legitimacy or authority.
too are often distant, remote, unaccountable and unresponsive to the needs of citizens. Elected councillors compete with City
and County Managers
as to who represents the interests of voters. Is it any wonder that voter turnout, and participation in public and civic life
is in decline and in a downward spiral against this backdrop of alienation from the political process?
The issue of
democracy therefore is a very real one which the Workers Party must bring to the fore of political debate.
There are two
areas where this is of immediate relevance, the attempts by the present government to abolish the Seanad, and the European
Party is opposed to the proposals to abolish the Seanad.
We are only
too well aware of the limitations of the Seanad as presently constituted.
present government, in describing the Seanad as costly and ineffectual and therefore moving for its abolition, is being absolutely
the Seanad and proposing nothing in its place is simply another nail in the coffin of democracy and accountability. This at
a time when the capacity of the Dáil to hold the government to account is in serious question. Increasingly legislation is
going through the Dáil with little or no scrutiny or means to amend or change it in any meaningful way because the government
has made it difficult, if not impossible, to do so.
What we need
is greater democracy and accountability of the Oireachtas not less. We should seek to reform and strengthen the capacity of
the Seanad to act as an effective second chamber, not to abolish it.
Party believes that this anti-democratic proposal by the government can be defeated and we will mount a vigorous campaign
to ensure that this opportunistic power-grab by the present government does not succeed.
In 1972 we
opposed Ireland’s proposed entry
to the then EEC and were to the forefront of a major campaign to defeat the referendum proposal. We also opposed every subsequent
Treaty and referendum, which has developed the Common Market into what is now the European Union.
We did so for
very good reasons.
We saw them
as being essentially detrimental to the economic wellbeing of our people.
of our shipping fleet and fisheries industry is just one proof of that.
the European Union has evolved in such a way that it has amassed powers which now surpass those of national governments themselves.
For a period this was said by some to be a good thing, as Europe was developing as a peoples’ Europe,
a Social Europe where the emphasis was on the citizen and individual.
is now something vastly different.
There is now
no pretence of democracy within the EU and the Commission operates with total disregard to the European Parliament.
It is no longer
simply a matter of addressing what has come to be described as the democratic deficit. It is the character and nature of the
European Union and its institutions themselves that should be a matter of concern.
The EU is the
chief architect of capitalism and imperialism in Europe.
pursues neo-liberal economics, promoting free enterprise, anti-state and anti-public agendas, it supports wars and is increasingly
militarised and erodes the civil and human rights of its citizens.
President Michael D. Higgins who has publicly challenged the direction and character of the EU and has questioned its claims
to be a Social or peoples’ Europe founded on principles of collectivism, solidarity
That some social
democrats recognise this is a measure of just how far the EU has shifted even in its outward appearances.
Ard Fheis next year we must produce a policy paper on the European Union which addresses these issues.
We are not
narrow nationalists and do not believe in splendid isolation but we cannot ignore the trends in the EU which are clearly anti
people and anti worker.
our understanding of Republicanism is its fundamental opposition to sectarianism.
identified the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter as a central to his project. How disappointed he would be to see
Northern Ireland today.
progress that has been made in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement
it is an undeniable fact that sectarianism and segregation are deeply embedded in Northern Ireland society.
There is no
issue more urgent in NI than ending sectarian division.
parties mouth platitudes about sectarianism but the reality is that without it they would have no reason to exist. Therefore
they seek to manage, but not to eradicate it, as that would sound their own death knell. That is why they lecture everyone
else about sectarianism but never look in their own backyard.
institutions themselves are built on sectarian division and if the major parties were serious about ending sectarianism that
is where they should start. Those parts of the Good Friday Agreement which describe how the political institutions are set
up and function should be amended as is allowed by the Agreement itself.
Nationalism have nothing to offer the people of Northern Ireland.
The way forward lies in the creation of an Integrated Society based on the common identity of citizenship. As a Party we must
step our efforts to achieve this.
We must start
by demanding an immediate bringing down of those so-called Peace Walls which are not dependent on residents’ consent.
We must demand
more provision for integrated schooling as so many parents want but are denied access to.
And let us
not forget that Northern Ireland too is
subject to the neo liberal policies which are blighting the lives of working class people.
We must make
determined efforts to reach out to those people in Northern Ireland
who do not describe themselves as unionists or nationalists, catholic or protestant.
There is a
constituency for anti-sectarian and socialist politics in NI which is not currently adequately catered for. This should be
the natural base for The Workers Party organisation and support.
remains as it has consistently been for The Workers Party our paramount task in Northern
Of course sectarianism
is not merely a problem in Northern Ireland.
The Republic, in its laws, its public discourse, its church control of education, health and large tracts of social services
reflected Roman Catholicism at its most dominant and intolerant. The 1937 constitution was, from its very conception, a sectarian
document and the 8th amendment in 1983 promoted by the Catholic Hierarchy and SPUC, promised by Fianna Fáil and introduced
by a Fine Gael Labour coalition compounded that sectarianism. In 1983 we opposed that amendment with the slogan: “For
Democracy and Tolerance – Vote NO”. As this government seems particularly trigger happy in calling referendums
we call on them now to grasp this nettle and undo the harm they did 30 years ago.
of Life during Pregnancy Bill, presently before the Oireachtas, is a very minimal step in addressing the rights of women.
We support this bill: we wish it to be introduced without delay; and we regret that it has taken 20 years for a decision of
the Supreme Court to be transposed into actual legislation.
that the present bill is the absolute minimum which this government can do to conform to the European Court ruling in the ABC case. We must repeat however that we see this legislation
as a missed opportunity in vindicating the rights of women during pregnancy. The legislation ignores the plight of women pregnant
as a result of rape or incest. It ignores the plight of women carrying a foetus which will never live outside the womb.
The hoops through
which women on the verge of suicide have to jump in order to have a termination are draconian, and possibly unworkable. In
reality it will mean that women who should have their right to life vindicated in this country will be forced to travel abroad
for a termination or, if for whatever reason this is not an option, they may be driven in desperation to take their own life.
It is important
to reiterate that it is the policy of the Workers Party that free and safe abortion should be available through the public
health service both in Northern Ireland
and the Republic.
conclusion it is very clear that we face a huge task if we are to achieve the goal first started by Tone and his comrades,
that of the building of a democratic, secular, socialist Republic.
time his political philosophy has evolved nationally and internationally and today is best encapsulated in the struggle for
Socialism and against Capitalism.
of Capitalism are certainly at this point in time in the ascendency and their values and beliefs are dominant in the world
in which we live today.
It will not
however always be this way.
We must engage
in the battle of ideas which is a necessary precursor to the defeat of capitalism. We must work to re establish the values
of the left and socialism as once again mainstream in public life.
We must demonstrate
the superiority of ideology over opportunism, of collectivism and social solidarity as against individualism, of public over
private, of socialist internationalism over imperialism, and republicanism and secularism against fundamentalism.
and determined class consciousness Party is the only means to achieve our goal of a Socialist
Republic. Building that Party is now our primary task.
To that end
we look forward to the Ard Fheis next year when we can examine how far we are on the road to achieving that goal.
Thank you for
your attention Comrades.
Click HERE for chairperson's opening address.