We have come here today to commemorate the life and legacy of Theobald Wolfe Tone. His life was characterised by the struggle for an Irish Republic and his continuing legacy has been the continuation of that same struggle passed down from one generation to the next. Many of our lives have been touched in one way or another by that struggle. Our opinions and our values have been shaped by our commitment to the ideal of Irish freedom. Today we renew that commitment.
However, we must also acknowledge that the difficulties Republicans face today are enormous. The current political status quo, based on the Belfast Agreement and the restoration of Stormont have done untold damage to the prospects of establishing an Irish Republic. On top of this, the Republican movement has been split and fragmented beyond recognition. Many of us are disheartened. Many are disgusted by former comrades who betrayed all we fought for and all that Wolfe Tone fought for.
For those who still believe in the Republican cause, the great challenge of re-building the movement has been laid before us. The theme of today’s commemoration is unity among Republicans. The fact that this gathering has been jointly agreed among a range of groups and individuals is a small but positive step in the right direction. There are many thorny issues to be resolved but we are confident that these too can be resolved if we can build up good will among the members the republican community. There are positive factors too. Vast resources of skills and experience exist within our community, these need to be tapped in to and channelled into progressive political actions.
In the interests of building Republican unity we should be careful not to fall into the trap of vilifying Sinn Fein supporters, for the most part, it is the Sinn Fein leadership who are the culprits. It is our job to win back the ordinary Republican people and we are confident of doing this by winning the argument and by making our agenda relevant to our community: the working class Irish Republican community.
The recent electoral reversal suffered by Sinn Fein in the Free State has begun to show the limitations of their strategy and has served as a reality check for the more naïve who actually believe the Adams-speak that the Agreement and Stormont are part of a transition to a united Ireland in time for the centenary of 1916. We know that nothing could be further from the truth, the British occupation has been cemented for the time being – although it is not politically correct to say so in certain circles.
The bottom line is that right now, some degree of unity of mind and purpose among Republicans is essential. Today, we want to send a message out to all Republicans right across the island, to the thousands of ex-prisoners and internees, to the networks of safe houses, to people who were arrested, who protested on the streets or who put a coin into the PDF box. The message is simple: we acknowledge your contribution and we thank you, but we need your help again to ensure that the flame is kept alive and that all Republicans have ownership of it and it can never again fall into the hands of a fascist leadership.
Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans Against RUC/PSNI & MI5 was a pressure group that served its purpose when Sinn Fein betrayed Republicanism by endorsing the British Crown Forces. Now, a broader front with a positive agenda is required. The Ex-POWs group has been dissolved and re-grouped to form the Republicans Network for Unity. This Network will undertake the tasks we have heard of today and will ensure a proper place for young Republicans who represent the future of us all.
Those of us who have directly experienced the oppression of the British establishment in Ireland have a responsibility to reach out to the Republican youth of today and to make them aware of the dangers that lie ahead. Our experiences have put us in a position to offer advice and guidance to our young people who, we trust, will take the lead on the path to the Irish Republic Tone envisaged: one island where Catholic, Protestant and dissenter can live in harmony and, to strike a modern note, where immigrants from all nations are welcome. Irish Republicans have an opportunity to learn from these peoples, many coming out of struggle in their own countries, and to create new alliances with progressive movements on an international level.
Let’s do it!
Go raibh maith agaibh.
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives