“Whereas the Irish people is by right a free people”
The opening assertion of the Declaration of Independence, issued by the democratically elected government of the Irish people, is the bedrock of Irish republican philosophy and the guiding principle behind every strategy we employ.
It gave clarity and direction to the teachings of Wolfe Tone. It inspired the revolutionary thinking of Fintan Lalor and gave birth to the great Fenian Movement. And on January 21st, 1919, it reached its zenith when the sovereign democratic voice of the Irish people declared it to the world.
That declaration can neither be diluted nor undone. It can only be advanced as a means both to enact its lawful premise and to develop its depth and scope for the benefit of the Irish people.
We stand by the democratically endorsed 1919 Declaration of Independence, issued by the duly elected First Dáil Eireann, to the free nations of the world.
We reaffirm that in this, the centenary year of that seminal event, complete recognition of the validity and vision of that Declaration remains the only solution to the Anglo-Irish conflict.
The current constitutional arrangement under the Good Friday Agreement is a complete negation of that declaration. This is even more pronounced considering that the entry fee into the negotiations which led to it was a prior recognition that only the British Governments claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties was to be recognised.
And to demean the integrity of our national sovereignty even further the Good Friday Agreement states that the power to allow any vote on constitutional matters resides with a British Minister, democratically unaccountable to anyone in Ireland. For whatever died the sons and daughters of Roisin it certainly wasn’t this.
Irish national sovereignty is not predicated on, or determined by, any vote, but rather represents the sovereign and lawful basis upon which the Irish people exercise their perennial right to vote.
As Irish Republicans we can only advance our goals by ensuring that the political, legal and ideological ground we stand upon is firm, pragmatic and rooted in the separatist tradition.
These next few years affords Irish republicanism an unprecedented opportunity to reinvigorate the republican project. The Centenaries of the most seminal events in republican history will place into the national narrative the core issues which are at the heart of Irish republicanism.
As witnessed with the Centenary of 1916 the State and the revisionists were desperate to dilute the central tenets of what the Proclamation represents. But ultimately this was a distraction for republicans. Arguing with revisionists is not providing political alternatives or delivering radical solutions.
When republicans work together, we can achieve together. We marched proudly in 2016. We could not be ignored in 2016. The lessons of that cooperative commemoration must be carried forward.
The Easter Monday March was always to be viewed as a starting point, a watershed. Republicans marked the event with a display of unity, a clear message in itself and an immensely fitting and important first step. The oncoming Centenaries can act as focal points around which a corpus of political and social alternatives can be formulated.
We need to speak to the Irish people with a message that resonates with their needs. If we can make them realise the value of their sovereignty, they will be willing allies in helping us to restore it.
The totality of Irish sovereignty and self-determination can only be truly realised in a sovereign republic which enjoys autonomy in choosing its government and practices economic democracy to ensure equality and social justice for all its citizens.
Any meaningful concept of Irish independence must view British withdrawal from Ireland as a necessary first step only, to be followed by a process which decolonises the servile mindset that centuries of imperial occupation has generated.
That servile mindset developed a political psyche which became the greatest stumbling block to Irish freedom. At its core is a tacit acceptance that the Westminster Parliament has sovereign authority in Ireland and that the constitutional relationship between Ireland and that Parliament relegates all forms of Irish administrations to a subservient role.
From Grattan’s Parliament to Stormont; from Home Rule to Leinster House, all share the common function of denying Irish national sovereignty and perpetuating class divisions to protect the interests of the few above the many.
It is of fundamental importance to recognise the deep-rooted counter revolutionary nature of Constitutional Nationalism. It is equally essential to recognise its disposition to extreme violence when confronted with the logic of Irish republicanism.
Tens of thousands of Irishmen were sacrificed in the imperial slaughter of the First World War to bolster the cause of Home Rule. Republican Volunteers were strapped to landmines in defence of the Free State. And in Portlaoise Prison men were let die on hunger and thirst strike in horrific circumstances, and executed by an English hangman, so that former Republicans could build political empires on the Southern side of the border. And they continue to represent the very antithesis of republican separatist thinking.
There is a wealth of republican and socialist thinking at our disposal. At times we have allowed this resource to be stagnated by slogans and misappropriated to justify sides in schisms. There exists a rich tapestry of revolutionary thought from which the republican base can devise exceptional and distinctive alternatives. Recognising the primacy of revolutionary politics returns to the Republican Movement a political ability which cannot be ignored.
In these changed times Irish republicanism must have the courage and foresight to adapt to the political environment we find ourselves in. A fundamental recognition of these changed times is an essential prerequisite to political advancement. Our objectives remain the same. It is our strategic approach to their pursuit which must change.
The potential for political and constitutional change is all around us, yet republicans have been redundant as regards influencing these changes. Despite our objections, despite our take on history the voice of Irish republicanism is fragmented and weak.
The challenge facing republicans is to integrate our objectives with the daily objectives of our people’s lives. As we hold the people to be the nation their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the nation are one.
National self-determination and national sovereignty are the fundamental rights of the Irish people, but they only hold value if they themselves facilitate the functioning of other national and individual rights essential for social equality and social justice.
This is the Republic we must map out for our people. And as noted from the previous speaker the Republic we need to forge will not be an easy path.