For Irish republicans Easter is the time of year when we traditionally honour all those Irishmen and Irish women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to establish a functioning sovereignty for all the people of Ireland.
But in light of the recent and reckless events in Derry, in which those presuming to act in the name of Irish republicanism took the young life of journalist and rights activist Lyra McKee, our focus today is to once and for all strip bare the false credentials of those who offer nothing to the republican struggle except denigration and ignominy.
We reference the address delivered by Veteran IRA activist Phil Donohue on the 60th Anniversary of the death of his friend and comrade Fergal O’Hanlon as part of Operation Harvest. We urge the youth of Ireland to read carefully the pronouncements made by someone who knows what they are talking about. We further urge our youth not to be seduced by bravado imagery or drum-beating slogans.
And to those who would send Irish youth on reckless adventures to face either death or imprisonment in a dysfunctional command structure we say stop immediately because you are abusing the name Oglaigh Na hEireann. The mantle of Irish Republicanism can only be inherited by those who have ideas to advance it.
Brookeborough Raid Anniversary Phil Donohue.
It is important to state from the outset that the use of Armed Struggle should never be romanticised nor entered into without due consideration of a number of essential factors.
The right of the Irish people to use disciplined armed force against the violation of our National Sovereignty is beyond question. But like any fundamental right its proper use is essential because if done so irresponsibly irreparable damage can be done to that right.
It must be recognised that possessing the right to use armed force does not obligate Irish republicans to prosecute an armed campaign. And whilst armed campaigns by Irish republicans have been undertaken by every generation since Wolfe Tone we cannot view deadly force as a tradition to be blindly followed.
Of equal importance is the recognition that possessing the right to use armed force does not automatically confer an ability to carry out an armed campaign. Possessing armaments is one thing, possessing a military and political acumen is quite another.
Too often the status and raison detre of the Irish Republican Army have been misunderstood and/or abused. This misunderstanding and abuse invariably leads to a misuse of the army with disastrous political consequences.
The Irish Republican Army is the National Army of the Irish people and its sole function is to defend the national sovereignty of the Irish people. At all times its Volunteers must act in strict accordance with its Constitution and General Army Orders. No personnel in authority possess the right to issue illegal orders to Volunteers to engage in activities which would bring the National Army into disrepute.
By definition the National Army is not the military wing of a political party or group nor can it ever seek to be endorsed as such. The dangers of this approach gave us the Good Friday Agreement.
Under the Provisional leadership the Irish Republican Army was reduced to the role of a militia. This meant that the arms and knowledge acquired to end the violation of our sovereignty were now being used to enforce a party political agenda.
The strategy of that leadership was never subject to democratic scrutiny because its deep flaws would have been quickly exposed. Instead the strategy was the preserve of a majority of Army Council members who in turn used the premise of Army endorsement of their hidden agenda to force acceptance of it within the wider Republican Movement.
In a further abuse of Army Authority army structures and personnel were deployed to threaten and intimidate those who sought to challenge and expose this nefarious direction. This political and military delinquency culminated in the destruction of arms to secure the endorsement of the British occupation of our country.
In effect a military junta, built around a personality cult, was not only determining secret policy for the Republican Movement but was also negotiating with enemy security personnel to ensure the success of those policies.
The relevance of all this is observable if we choose to look out the window. Embroiling the National Army in a criminal dispute is equally delinquent and deeply damaging to the republican cause. It must be clearly understood that to act outside of the Army’s Constitution is to remove yourself from being designated as the National Army.
Irish Republicanism is at the crossroads. We need to stand back and examine our options with great care and diligence. What is required now is a political grounding of contemporary republicanism to ensure our analysis is heard above the din and clamour of partitionist politics.
The Irish people are not incidental to the republican project. As republicans we have the distinct tendency to be insular to the point of arrogantly believing that we can presume what is best for our people without seeking their engagement to determine their views.
Republicanism can only advance on a democratic premise. The Provisional mindset must remain a thing of the past. We cannot recreate past eras and fool ourselves into thinking that this represents progress.
Volunteers Séan South and Fergal O’Hanlon did not give their lives so that future generations could praise them or sing songs about them. They gave their lives in the belief that those coming after them would learn from the collective actions of the Republican Movement of their era to improve the actions of those in the here and now.
If we truly want to honour these two Volunteers, and all Volunteers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we must discard the pretence that progress will be found in yet another republican grouping for the very existence of all these groups is testament to their failure.
So let us sit down together, as equals and without labels, and forge a way forward for this struggle.