Chairman of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Francie Mackay’s Address at the GPO in Dublin last Sunday

29 Apr

“The relevance of the events in 1916 for Ireland today is how relevant republicans of today can make them. No one else will do it for us. Indeed with the approach of the centenary in 2016 a massive state effort is underway to ensure that the core message of 1916 will be deeply buried under the rubble of revisionism.

Ingrained on the minds of republicans will be the
grotesque images emanating from the bosom of British

Imperialism. Here we were witness to the inevitable consequence of accepting British Rule in Ireland. Here was ‘Paddy in his place’, the ghost of John Redmond, dressed to please his masters, thanking them for a modicum of Home Rule.

And worse still, in this the Centenary of the founding of Cumann NaBán, a so called republican toasting the English Queen, the Commander in Chief of British Occupying forces in Ireland. Standing here today, and wherever Irish republicans stand and at whatever time, we wholeheartedly salute the courage, dedication and sacrifice made to this struggle by Irish women.

We salute all those who struggled for the rights of women, for the dignity of women and for the equality of women. We reiterate what their struggle was for, the struggle of Irishmen and Irishwomen, the struggle of Cumann Na mBán, a sovereign Irish Republic cherishing
all of the children of Ireland equally.

But for all their faults the political forces which seek to dilute the centenary milestone have recognised that they can only accomplish this if they combine with likewise revisionists. They have concluded that political and ideological diversities amongst them should not rob
them of an opportunity to once and for all remove The Proclamation from the discourse on Irish sovereignty.

Leinster House, Stormont, Westminster, Áras an Uachtaráin and Buckingham Palace are all as one in proclaiming that the Anglo Irish conflict is over, the constitutional question is settled and that Irish national sovereignty stops at the border.

And who are to say they are wrong if those who claim to say it cannot say it together? 2016 is a milestone for republicans: it will define whether republicanism is a discordant voice of rhetoric
or a disciplined movement of political action.

The most salient lesson of the Easter Rising is that without the political act of the armed rebellion the Proclamation would remain an obscure document. For republicanism to progress it needs republican actions to progress it. For socialism to progress it also
needs socialist acts to progress it. It’s not enough to be
historically true or ideologically pure, we need to be relevant through political action which makes our aims relevant to the people.

James Connolly perceptively observed:

“In Ireland at the present time there are at work a variety of agencies seeking to preserve the national sentiment in the hearts of the people.
These agencies, whether Irish Language movements, Literary Societies or Commemoration Committees, are undoubtedly doing a work of lasting benefit to this country in helping to save from extinction the precious racial and national history, language and characteristics of our people.

Nevertheless, there is a danger that by too strict an adherence to their present methods of propaganda, and consequent neglect of vital living issues, they may only succeed in stereotyping our historical studies into a worship of the past, or crystallising nationalism into a
tradition – glorious and heroic indeed, but still only a tradition.”

At the beginning of this year the 32 County Sovereignty Movement observed:
“Our people had the honest expectation that peace and justice would flow from Good Friday. They are entitled to this, but yet republicanism finds itself cast as the enemy of their peace and no matter how astute our political analysis was in predicting the failure of that process what we have to offer in providing that peace is still viewed as a violent negative.

This is largely due to republicans being seen as perpetual critics, obstructionists to any efforts that fail to satisfy the ghosts of republican history. In our people’s minds our definition of progress is a simple homage to historic events as opposed to a dynamic to shape events yet to come.

The answer to this negativity cannot be found in the past. The very act of seeking it there reinforces the people’s belief in this negativity. The simple truth is that our vision and proposals for a sovereign united Ireland are deemed irrelevant by the very people we hold this vision for.”

The ‘vital living issues’ which Connolly warned us not to neglect are those issues which rhetoric alone cannot resolve. They can only be addressed through socialist interaction within our communities. Connolly knew that the poverty and exploitation of the Irish people
could not be alleviated by pious ideology or the tinkering
with capitalism.

His active defence of workers rights was a means to removing the system which exploited those workers in the first place. One was not a pre-condition for the other but rather a mutual necessity to achieve both. His participation in the 1916 Rising, alongside those who were not at his level of socialist thinking, was indicative of his pragmatic political approach. He didn’t abandon his socialist beliefs; he augmented them with political action.

And this formed the basis of the challenges which the Sovereignty Movement posed to republicans and socialists at the beginning of the year. In the shadow of Good Friday and under the canopy of the capitalist crisis where was our pragmatism and where were our political actions to augment our beliefs?

If Connolly could elevate his socialism beyond tradition why can’t we? Why can’t we define our socialism beyond protest and into disciplined political action with a defined national objective? Can we
honestly say that the greatest tribute we can pay to James Connolly is to stand at the centenary of his execution and declare ourselves gloriously isolated?

Wouldn’t we have advanced the aims of Connolly far greater if we had gone into our communities, and having addressed their ‘vital living issues’, secured even one citizen to support us in our national objectives? This is the socialism that matters.

We cannot allow our socialism to be merely a critique of capitalism no more than we can allow our republicanism to be merely a critique of partition. We are not a protest movement, we are not a debating society, we are not a commemoration committee, we are a movement who must be defined by the changes we bring about.

The great period in our history between 1913 and 1922, and the great events of that time which shaped our struggle, were living expressions of Irish sovereignty. Our identity as a people, distinct in culture and language, was asserted in as broad a spectrum as possible. But the common thread which bound these expressions together was summed up in the Proclamation:

“The sovereignty of the Irish people is inalienable and indefeasible.”

This declaration is not a passive observation but a realisation that national sovereignty can only be preserved and nurtured by contemporary expressions of it. This is why the Proclamation is relevant today because it speaks to all generations. The Proclamation does not belong over the mantelpiece; it does not belong to the past, it is the guiding call on how and why a socialist
Republic must be built.

Republican unity can only be based on political pragmatism. The leaders of Easter Week have shown us this. We cannot put in place more pre-conditions on fighting for Irish unity than British pre-conditions for resisting us. The politics of the armed conflict demands a specific politics to end it.

There is only one issue between Irish republicans and the British Government and that is the issue of sovereignty. Our visions for a sovereign Ireland, valid and diverse, are irrelevant to them as they will have no part of it. Where is the logic in invoking ideological or
historical semantics as cause not to be unified in our fight against the British when such semantics are not relevant to them?

Only matters pertinent to a true negotiations process need form the basis for pragmatic republican unity.

We cannot overstate the importance of the 1916 Centenary. We cannot say to republican bereaved and republican prisoners that those dining at the Royal Banquet are the true voice of Irish nationalism. Redmond will never be right. How we mark this event will be a true reflection of our ability to secure our aims. So I say
this here today, in stark and direct terms, we either come
together for this occasion or we proclaim our failure for the century to come.

This cannot be an option for us.

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One Response to “Chairman of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Francie Mackay’s Address at the GPO in Dublin last Sunday”

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