Easter speech delivered in Derry by Gary Donnelly: 32 CSM Easter Commemoration

24 Apr

Friends and comrades, it is a great pleasure and a great honour to be asked to say a few words at this Commemoration today. The republican plot in Derry, like others dotted across Ireland, is a piece of hallowed ground, sacred to the memory of our revolutionary leaders and of our patriot martyrs who gave their lives for the struggle. We commemorate their heroism today.
Today is the 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising. We salute the gallant men and women who struck that blow for freedom, we salute their audacity and their spirit, their determination to sacrifice everything in pursuit of the rights of the Irish people to a 32 county Republic. Today, we rededicate ourselves to that cause and to that struggle.
The enemy has not gone away. Oppression and brutality have not gone away. In fact, republicans face increasingly draconian legislation including internment by remand and daily harassment on the streets. Our friends and our families are also subjected to continuous and vindictive targeting by crown forces. However, the British have ever failed to realize that the injustices they inflict upon us only make us stronger in our resolve to resist and to challenge the occupation of our country.
For years now, we have been bombarded with lies, spin, and propaganda from media and state agencies. We have been deliberately misrepresented, misquoted and grotesquely demonized. One-time republicans, now in the pay of the enemy, mock us with labels like ‘micro-groups’ and self-importantly ask us “what’s you strategy?” It seems that their passion revives only when there’s an opportunity to condemn us in the name of a cause in which they have ceased to believe. For us the answer is quite simple, our strategy is to build our resistance to the illegal occupation of our country but we can only do that in proportion to our support and resources.

Today, I have a question for them: What’s your strategy? Will banqueting with the Queen of England achieve Irish freedom? Will flirting with pro-Israeli American war-mongers like Richard Haass advance a socialist Republic? Will passing the Welfare Reform Act and Bedroom Tax and stripping disadvantaged communities of benefits, help build an Ireland of equals? Will it help the 400, 000 people in the six counties who are living in poverty? Let’s not forget that the economic crisis for which we are paying was caused by the greed of the bankers. Yet, today Maghaberry is full of republican prisoners when it should be full of bankers. In Westminster and in Stormont, politicians are busy tending to a herd of cash-cows; none of them have any interest in upsetting the comfortable status quo.

Under the ongoing cuts being implemented by Stormont, working families are set to lose an average of £900 per working adult – hard pressed families who are already facing heat or eat choices and whose children are being forced to emigrate in droves.

1916 was not about tuxedos and toasting the Queen of England; prisoners on dirty protest and on hunger strike did not fight against the regime of Her Majesty’s Prison so that Martin McGuiness could sell their sacrifice for a fiddler’s invite to Her Majesty’s Royal Banquet. This most recent, sorry episode puts the infamous “traitors to the people of Ireland” remark in a clearer context. People will be able to draw their own conclusions.

So, seriously, Martin, what IS your strategy? Do you have a strategy or are you a pawn in someone else’s strategy? I’ll not hold my breath waiting for a reply.

In the meantime, we must rely on our own mettle and the nobility of our cause. It’s up to us – the men and women of no property – with the little we have, to rebuild and renew the struggle. In practical terms, that means standing with the people of our communities in the everyday battle to survive. It’s truly heartening to see genuine community organisations and activists doing this already and we should all support their efforts. To this end, I welcome the 32CSM’s Social Programme and the work of our members within their communities.

With two short years to go until the centenary of the Easter Rising, it’s time for all republicans to build greater comradeship, solidarity and unity. I call upon everyone here today to go out and begin this task in any way you can, it’s the least we owe to the heroes of 1916.

It seems appropriate to end by recalling the prophetic words of Padraig Pearse at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa. His challenge to the arrogance of the “Defenders of the realm” is as relevant today as it was in the run up to the Easter Rising:

“They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

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