I want to thank the Party for inviting me to give the main oration here today, it’s a huge honour for me to be asked to speak and for that event to be at the graveside of Theobald Wolfe Tone the founder of Irish Republicanism is a special privilege.
For Irish Republicans, Bodenstown is about re-committing oneself to the Republican struggle and is the one event that this corrupt state has always tried to curtail.
A couple of weeks ago I was sent a passage from a book about the Bodenstown commemoration of 1931 when the then Cumman Na Gael Free State establishment tried in vain to stop people attending Bodenstown to honour Wolfe Tone. They went as far as to ban trains and buses going to Sallins, but it didn’t stop thousands attending in defiance.
In recent times Garda Special Branch has singled out this event and Republican activists for special attention, even going as far as bringing it up in the special courts to use against political activists to railroad them into gaol, shame on the Irish Gestapo involved in this state-sponsored political oppression.
I want to take this opportunity to send fraternal greetings to all our incarcerated comrades in British and neo-colonial Gaols, I also send solidarity greetings to all political prisoners across the globe who find themselves incarcerated in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and capitalism, a special mention must go to our incarcerated Palestinian comrades who continue to face the Zionist Israeli aggressor with every ounce of their existence, they remain an inspiration.
Internment against Irish Republicans continues today unabated, while the 26 county & six-county states try to sell the narrative that we’ve moved on, that everything is normal, we know all too well that that is a lie, which the failed states try to cover up at every given opportunity. There is nothing normal about the tens of thousands of stop & searches, home invasions, MI5, SAS, Special Branch, Special Powers, and Special & Diplock courts.
People are told we are insignificant, yet they have all of the aforementioned at their discretion which they use against us at every opportunity, yet here we stand in defiance saying do your worst. In relation to the special courts I believe slowly but surely more and more people are seeing this corrupt court for what it is. I urge everyone to back the campaign to make the special political courts history.
Today I ask why does this state and the British before them fear Wolfe Tone & The United Irishmen so much, why do they want to suppress and revise Wolfe Tone’s legacy?
The reason is simple it’s because they stood for unity they stood for revolution. The United Irishmen were founded in Belfast in 1791, they called for Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter to come together as Irishmen and strive to break the connection with England. This call for unity was truly revolutionary and shook British imperialism to its core. Britain ruled its vast ill-gotten empire by divide & conquer, by putting a minority into power and oppressing the majority, this was something first done in Ireland and then tried and tested around the world.
Theobald Wolfe Tone and other leaders of the United Irishmen inspired by the French revolution of 1789 knew the only way for the Irish people to gain real independence from British rule was by armed revolution, but they were clever enough to know that by announcing this at their founding in 1791 would have brought about immediate annihilation, so they conspired and built in secret.
At the time of the United Irishmen there was a considerable nationalist movement of conformists who believed that by engaging with the establishment and acting as loyal serfs to the British Monarchy they would bring about better ‘rights’ for the Catholic majority who were still suffering under the penal laws, Tone detested these conformists.
I wonder what Tone would have thought of today’s conformists falling over themselves to meet and greet members of the parasitic British Monarchy, as they travel about Ireland in a well-choreographed stunt, as British imperialism eyes all of Ireland back in the so-called Commonwealth post Brexit, history has a funny way of repeating itself and if we are not vigilant all the gains of our nations struggle against British imperialism could be undone by the stroke of a sycophants pen!
There are many who will stand at this graveside and claim to be Republican, but actions speak louder than words and kissing the arse of the British Monarchy speaks volumes. It is the antithesis of all that is Republican.
Unfortunately for the United Irishmen French help came too late and the 1798 rebellion was a military failure, but the freedom flame they lit still burns today. It burned at the GPO on Easter week, It burned at Soloheadbeg a few years later, it burned on a dreary New Years Eve in Brookeborough, It burned as Bombay street burned, it burned in the H-Blocks, it continues to burn in Portlaoise and Maghaberry and in every struggle between the ruling classes and the Irish people.
Irish Republicans are constantly accused of living in the past and common phrases like move on are regularly thrown at us when we commemorate our patriot dead. The same people who accuse us of this are usually cheerleaders for British imperialism, our message to them is clear, what Tone and others fought and died for has yet to be achieved, we say to our detractors we very much live in the present and hope to create a just Republic for the future, while also remembering with pride those who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom and the sovereign nation envisaged by Tone .
So how does the current situation regarding Brexit and border polls fit in with Irish Republican philosophy and objectives? It has really been interesting to see how Brexit has pushed the British border in Ireland to the core of discussions. It’s very amusing to see the DUP bluster, calling for a hard border, something which if implemented could bring about the breakup of the union they love so dear.
People are talking about Irish unity like never before and that is always a good thing, but we must not become complacent. It seems to some that it’s a given it’s a formality that Brexit will bring about an end to partition and they have the attitude that says, sure let’s just sit back and let it happen and do nothing! This is a very dangerous mindset to have, for how long are we willing to let events around us chaotically progress without planning, preparing and strategically seizing the moment , Brexit will not bring about the Republic we envisage if people just sit on their hands and wait, in the immortal words of Che Guevara; “the revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe, you have to make it fall”
Saoradh can see the opportunity in Brexit to dismantle partition, end the carnival of reaction and build the Socialist Republic, however, the forces of capital can envisage a united Irish Republic that serves their interests and this outcome is as far from our objectives as is the current partitionist arrangement. If the establishment comes to the conclusion that an ending of partition is coming sooner rather than later then you can be sure they will come to some sort of agreement that will be to the benefit of the wealthy few and their gombeen elite, but to the detriment of the majority of the Irish people.
One only has to look at South Africa in the late 80s, when it became clear that apartheid was coming to an end, the leaders of capital, the corrupt businessmen, the mine owners, the politicians all sat down with the ANC and came to an agreement, Mandela would be freed, apartheid would end, South Africa would have so-called free elections but the same corrupt economic and political system would remain and that is exactly what happened and the people of South Africa still suffer terrible poverty today because the wealth of the nation remained in the hands of a national minority. If you do not have economic equality and democracy then you do not have freedom.
James Connolly once said; “If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”
That is why we cannot be complacent, that is why we as socialist Republicans must continue with the strategic objectives of realising our goals regardless of what Brexit does or does not do.
There are those who have pinned all their hopes on a so-called border poll and some of the language being used by goes against the values of the United Irishmen and the principles of Irish Republicanism. I think Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen would be aghast that some so-called Republicans have pinned their hopes on a sectarian headcount, sure we’ll breed them out in ten years is the sectarian mantra I’ve heard on numerous occasions recently. I think it’s very sad that for some that the struggle has come down to that.
In recent times in relation to Brexit and a possible border poll, we’ve heard the likes of Enda Kenny, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar, Michael Martin and Mary Lou mute the possibility of a united Ireland. We have to be careful that the Irish people don’t get duped into thinking that we are of the same thinking of these people, as what sort of united Ireland are they talking about.
Would it be a United Ireland where two draconian failed states join as one all Ireland failed state? involved in the exploitation of the Irish people and the hegemony of capital at all costs,
- A united Ireland with the same corrupt political system
A united Ireland where the people pay through the nose for healthcare, for water, for education
A united Ireland where banks and speculators continue to control housing provision driving up prices, driving up rents and driving thousands to a life of homelessness
A united Ireland where we continue to pay unsecured bondholders hundreds of millions of euro while our people live in poverty?
A united Ireland where the Irish taxpayer continues to be burdened with 42% of the total European bank debt?
A united Ireland with a corrupt justice system that rewards the wealthy but punishes the ordinary citizens and maintains special courts to railroad political opposition into gaol?
A united Ireland that is subservient to the EU. that hands over our economic sovereignty to unelected technocrats in Brussels, an EU that takes much much more than it has ever given to the Irish people.
A united Ireland where British imperialism still dictates and interferes with the right of the people to self-determine their own destinies
So let’s be clear, an all Ireland Republic that does not put political and economic democracy in the hands of the Irish people is the antithesis of all we continue to struggle for, but a 32 county Irish Socialist Republic envisaged by Mellows by O’Donnell by Sands is worth a lifetime of struggle.
- A Republic where the ownership of Ireland is for the People of Ireland
A Republic that guarantees civil and religious liberty to all.
A Republic where housing, healthcare, education and water are a human right.
A Republic where political and economic sovereignty flows from the Irish people not from London, not from Brussels and not from the pockets of multinational corporations.
A Republic where the people are the ‘establishment’. That is the difference between socialist Republicans and this new home rule movement willing to beg and accept the scraps from the tables of both imperialism and capitalism.
To this end, we must build a mass movement of people engaged in civil disobedience that stand up and forces change, not one that tries to appeal to the moral conscience of the oppressor. A mass movement for the people that do not let false prophets use it for their own selfish ends or as a catalyst to advance into the current constitutional apparatus of the failed states.
In regards to Leinster house I hope SF go into power after the next Leinster house elections as then and only then do I believe the Irish people will finally see that no matter who gets into the so-called seat of power nothing will change, the same corrupt political establishment will remain and that only street politics, people politics and revolution will bring about the necessary change this country desperately needs.
Leinster House & Stormont are nothing more than puppet shows as the real power continues to be with London & Brussels, the banks, the O’Briens, the multi-nationals.
The Irish people know the system is broken but they just don’t know how to fix it we must be there to show them how, but to do that we must be active with the people, advocating for and empowering them, leading the way forward until the movement is the people and the people are the movement. The lessons from Right to Water and Apollo House are clear, there can be no compromise with the gombeen elite, no compromise with the failed states, no compromise with Capital.
This means becoming active in grassroots campaigns and movements and working with them in confronting the system in a revolutionary manner always guarding against revision and compromise, we must be in the Unions, in the residents groups, in the social and sporting groups, we must be on the front line wherever injustice and oppression is to be found, we must never side directly or indirectly with the peoples enemies.
As we approach the anniversaries of some iconic moments in the history of Ireland’s freedom struggle and if the 26 county state’s actions in relation to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising is anything to go by we will have much revisionism to fight in the coming year.
December this year will see the 100th anniversary of the 1918 general election and January 2019, 100 years since the establishment of the first 32 County Dail Eireann and the outbreak of the Tan War, when the Irish people voted overwhelmingly for independence and defended it in arms, only a few short weeks before that election Irishmen were dying in their thousands in foreign fields for British imperialism under the lie “that small nations might be free”, yet here was Ireland a small nation democratically declaring independence an independence that has been violently suppressed to this very day by the forces of British imperialism, the same British imperialism that Tone fought in his day.
There can be no doubt that the neo-colonial free state administration and their lackeys will be out in force to counter these important events, so we must counter their revisionism at every given opportunity. These important anniversaries give us a platform as they did in 2016 to smash the attempts by both failed states and their constitutional surrogates to lay claim to our revolutionary history. for the Irish People, the Republic declared by the First Dail has yet to be achieved, the Tan war and all the subsequent campaigns that followed remain an Unfinished Revolution.
Going back to Wolfe Tone and his comrades in the leadership of the United Irishmen where some sense unlikely rebels. They came from a wealthy privileged protestant background but they saw the ills of what British rule was dong to their country and wanted to bring about a just Ireland.
I’m sure if the words and phrases like a terrorist, dissident republicans etc had of been around in the 1790s the United Irishmen would surely have been called that as they were condemned by the establishment, condemned by the Catholic church suppressed and executed for their Republican beliefs.
The United Irishmen were proud political dissidents.
It’s very important that we take back the word dissident from the media and political establishment in Ireland, being a political dissident is something to be proud of.
Two years ago at this commemoration, a member of the branch tried to tell me a dissident was a terrorist. I don’t know what dictionary he uses but, I’m proud to be a political dissident and I’m sure everyone here is also.
- We dissent against British rule in Ireland.
We dissent against imperialism and occupation around the world.
We dissent against capitalist austerity.
We dissent against corruption.
We dissent against sectarianism, racism and homophobia.
The list goes on and on so yes let’s throw this phrase back into their faces and show them up for the hypocrites that they all are. So what we do we do?
I urge everyone here today to go back into their communities, workplaces, families etc and instil the ideals of a 32 county Irish Socialist Republic. Tell them that if we are ever going to fix this country it can only be done through the creation of what was proclaimed in the 1916 proclamation and in the 1919 declaration of independence.
We are entering some very interesting times but we must not take the eye off the ball.
So let us enjoy our ballads and our drinks later on, but tomorrow it’s onwards to the Republic
Gura maith agat a chairde agus na comrádaithe, agus Tiocfaidh Ar La.
Ger Devereux is a Saoradh Activist based in Dublin.