of all I would like to thank the memorial committee
for inviting me here today to the unveiling of a fitting
memorial to two fine republican socialists.
watching our slight mishaps, I am reminded that the
IRSP was never quite as good at the choreography as
the big organisations but they were always sounder
on the principles. I think that it is important to
remember in the context of republicanism, which is
a very broad church with many different tendencies
within it, the small socialist movement within that.
has always been much smaller and much more vulnerable
than the broad church itself. But its history is as
old, as honourable and as brave as that of any other
sections of the Republican movement. As I already
said before and repeat here today, the IRSP probably
made more mistakes than anybody else. I don't think
that even in the days in which I was in it we did
not leave any mistake that could be made unmade. But
we learnt from our mistakes, and as a small grouping,
the IRSP certainly had a higher percentage of good
people, of brave people, of incorruptible people,
of socialist people than any other organisations within
the independence and resistance movement. And for
a small organisation per head of its population of
members, probably suffered more than any other organisations.
listening to Paul (Little) speaking of Noel Little,
I am reminded of how many comrades went to their grave
with the red flag placed on their coffin. I am particularly
mindful of Noel and Ronnie at the time of the hunger
strike movement and many people here were maybe too
young to remember that time.
were two different characters. As Paul said, my memory
of Noel Little is precisely that of a valued critical
thinker. Noel had a great mind, and it didn't matter
what you said, he could shake it up and state it in
six different ways to make sure that you had all aspects
of your thinking covered. He was a keen organiser.
He was older than Ronnie.
was an activist. He was very active in both the political
and military movements here in Belfast. In many ways,
one was a thinker and the other a doer, but both of
them contributed to that very small and dedicated
group of socialists within the republican movement
at the crucial time of the hunger strikes.
is important to remember the contribution that was
made by people like them, because when we look back
over history now, it is almost forgotten that in terms
of organisations and prisoners, the IRSM and the INLA,
in comparison with its size within the struggle, contributed
volunteers and men sacrificed their lives on that
hunger strike. Their personal political ideology and
their organisational affiliation are now virtually
forgotten. They are just part of the ten hunger strikers.
By default, people who never knew them assume them
to have been simply members of the broad republican
movement and represented by the Irish Republican Army.
is important to make that distinction not to be politically
sectarian, not to be divisive, but because in the
days, years and months that are coming, there will
be no Irish Republican Army. We are looking at this
point at the final stage of the Peace Process, which
is the disbanding of the main organisation of military
resistance for over 100 years.
order to facilitate the development of the Good Friday
Agreement and in order to facilitate the setting up
of devolved government and local power sharing systems,
it was crucially necessary and could not have been
done, had the British not been able to enlist within
that process the leadership of the broad republican
movement, both politically and military. But equally
in order to maintain the
British position, while it was necessary to draw them
in to facilitate its creation, the maintenance of
those systems and their smooth running mean that they
must now be excluded. They were necessary to create
devolved administration. They are not necessary to
maintain it. It is as simple as that.
Fein as the leadership of the single biggest organisation
in the broad republican movement is now facing two
choices. One is to stay in the Assembly by conceding
to the demands of the other people who wish to maintain
it: disband the Army. It is as simple as that. Not
my organisation, not my army, not my choice, not my
nightmare. I didn't vote for the Good Friday Agreement
and told them this day was coming as early as 1994,
as did many other people here. That's their choice.
Their other choice is to walk away from government.
would have preferred to have seen the instinct of
the republican movement demonstrated when the police
invaded Stormont. There was a day when Gerry Kelly
would have walked out on his heel and told them where
to stick their Assembly. There was a day when Bairbre
de Brun would have walked down the steps of Stormont
pulling the door behind her and saying, "When
you are serious about democracy, call me back".
not to say that they should embark upon taking people
back to war, embark in some increase of violence or
threat to the public peace. Those are not the choices.
The choice, no matter how long they take about it,
will simply be to disband, demobilise and demilitarise
entirely their organisation, and go, as Mr Trimble
has said, wholeheartedly into constitutional government
and the constitutional running of the state or to
walk away from government.
have always had choices, and maybe part of the distinction
of this small grouping and the small number of leftists
and socialists, is that we have always known there
were choices and have always taken responsibility
for the choices that we make. Nobody ever made me
do anything. I made my own choices and stood by them,
some of them were hard choices, some of them were
bad choices, but I took responsibility for them. So
did Noel Little, so did Ronnie Bunting.
Some of the choices people took led them to their
remember the time when one after another my colleagues
and comrades were brought down, for no reason other
than they were part of the National H Block Armagh
committee was set up to create mass support for the
men and women in prison. It was a very strong committee.
Miriam Daly was crucial to it, because of her knowledge
of foreign languages. She spent timeless hours translating
documents in other languages and circulating them
for consumption in Europe before there was email.
Bunting was crucial to that because he organised and
maintained and contributed to the defence of local
people who stood out in the street in the dark campaigning
and praying for the prisoners. Noel Little was crucial
to it because of his critical mind and organisational
McMichael, the leader of the UDA, made a public statement
on television that he would take the leaders of the
National H Block Armagh Committee out. That his men
would go into the areas in which we lived and execute
- that is the word he used - one by one the leaders.
And so he did. As Noel Little and Ronnie Bunting were
both appointed to take the positions of people who
had been killed, they
too were killed in their turn.
one single loyalist was arrested. John McMichael was
never arrested or questioned about the statement that
he made. The slaughter of the leaders of the unarmed,
non-party political, openly democratic and peaceful
organisation known as the National H Block Armagh
Committee continued until it suited the British government
to arrest Mr. Smallwood, Mr. Watson, and Mr. Graham
outside my own door in the belief that I and my husband
were already dead.
Bunting was shot in front of his wife and his children,
and his wife Suzanne, good friend, colleague and comrade
of my own, has in my opinion never been recognised
not simply for her loss, but for her attempt to defend
the life of Ronnie Bunting and Noel Little with her
own life. And she did. And she suffered grievously
as a result.
things only came to an end when the British government
had another agenda. Not because anybody changed their
mind, not because the fundamental conditions of this
country had changed, not because the needs or principles
of the struggle had changed or because the people
involved in the struggle had changed. The tactics
changed because the British government needed them
to change. And many years later, the same remains
end of that hunger strike period came when the British
government decided that a better option would be to
see, since it was clear that there were people in
this country who were prepared to die hour by hour,
minute by minute, second by second during a period
of 75 days, that there were thousands of people who
would stand with them, that as they slaughtered their
leaders, people simply grew in number, it would be
a better tactic to see who could be bought, since
appeared that very few could be intimidated.
have been embarked from the 1980s until now in separating
out those who could be bought, those who could be
fooled and those who could be intimidated for the
rest. People standing here today are small in number,
but there are other people like us. We constitute
the soul of socialism in this country: we constitute
the spirit of republicanism in this country.
Noel, like Ronnie, we constitute the people who can't
be bought, who can't be fooled, who can't be intimidated.
It's time, comrades, we organised!
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