Marian Price, 32 County Sovereigny Movement
A chairde, there are those who would say we are traitors gathered here to commemorate the actions of traitors.
Pearse and Connolly were deemed to be traitors because the British trenches in the Somme were filled with Irishmen deceived into thinking that fighting in the imperial slaughter of the First World War would lead to Home Rule.
Pearse and Connolly said it wouldn’t, and they were right, but still they were vilified and executed. Ninety three years later republicans once again state that the Home Rule strategy will not deliver Irish freedom.
Calling us traitors for saying so from the steps of Stormont, flanked by Britain’s head policeman in Ireland, proves we are also right. We are immensely proud to share the views of Pearse and Connolly.
Once again British soldiers are being killed on Irish soil.
Once again British soldiers are using Irish soil to train to kill in foreign wars.
Once again establishment nationalists have moved to support the British regime in Ireland. Nothing has changed.
Claiming that unity will be achieved by 2016 is similar to the deception employed to lure men to their deaths in the fields of Flanders in the lost hope of securing Home Rule.
Nothing has changed here either. The men and women of 1916 fought for fundamental change.
They were not reformists, but Irish separatists who articulated the basic republican message that our sovereignty is inalienable and indefeasable.
This year also marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the First Dail Eireann.
The First Dail was the Proclamation in action. It was an Irish parliament of, by and for the Irish people.
It declared our independence to the world and set about a radical social programme to cherish all of the children equally. It remains our blueprint for the future of our country and our people.
Our history is one of conflict because too often our history has been repeated.
Political arrangements which usurp Irish sovereignty cannot lead to peace or freedom. Inherent in these arrangements is the attempted suppression of those who seek to defend our sovereignty.
They murder us.
They hang us.
They intern us.
They intimidate us.
They malign us.
It represents that familiar colonial chorus, ever desperate to maintain itself. Trading civil rights in return for recognition of foreign rule condemns our children to fight for that most basic of rights, their own freedom.
The men and women of 1916 were not fooled or bought by the trappings of Home Rule nor intimidated by the forces of Westminster and her Irish lackeys. For them democracy meant more than an opinion poll rating or a gerrymandered election. The voice of the people can only be heard if it is freely expressed.
And this is the message which republicans need to articulate today. As republicans we need to put before the people our framework from within which Irish democracy can function without external impediment. We need to set our case against British occupation in a way which is relevant to our people’s needs today. Our aims cannot be solely the product of the past nor can they be a slave to that past.
British reasons for remaining in Ireland will change according to modern British interests and republican strategies opposing these interests must adapt accordingly.
But in doing so we cannot repeat the failures of history by compromising the legitimacy of our position for the appearance of short term gain. The British have no right to be here and our right to resist them is a matter for us to determine and not them.
We are constantly asked; what is your alternative? The answer depends on who is asking the question. To those who call us traitors we say; any alternative but yours. To those who call us anti democratic we say; let us negotiate without pre conditions. To those republicans who genuinely seek an alternative we say; let us construct one together.
We must be clear that the Good Friday Agreement represents a significant defeat for republicanism.
And in the face of this we need to be pragmatic and not reactionary. Recrimination is not an alternative. Working constructively together is. Along with other republican comrades the 32 County Sovereignty Movement has engaged in an initiative to forge a way forward from a unified republican position. The ideology behind it is the ideology of necessity. All republican banners are welcome because all republican banners are needed.
How we engage with the Irish people is as important as what we engage them on. From the outset the truth of what we say will be judged by the strength by which we say it. Eloquence and emotion are no substitutes to a unified voice.
The politics of conflict resolution requires clarity to ensure that any resolution is just and democratic. Armed conflict is in existence because such a resolution has not been entered into. Neither republicans nor the British government can invoke the existence of armed conflict as an excuse not to engage in a process to find a final democratic resolution to the Anglo Irish conflict.
We have to deal with reality as it is and not how we wish it to be.
Standing here in commemoration of 1916 let us invoke the clarity of the Proclamation as we now address the British government today. You must leave Ireland. If, as you say, you have no selfish, strategic or economic reasons for remaining in Ireland then there is no excuse for you not to leave. There is no problem in Ireland which demands your presence that the Irish people themselves cannot resolve. If you require a framework to allow you to disengage from our country we will construct one for you. But for this to happen you must go before the international community and renounce your claim to sovereignty over the Six Counties. A claim of sovereignty represents the bedrock of any strategic interest so let this be the basic test of your intentions.
We call on all republicans to realign ourselves around the securing of achievable aims. We have set forth a programme to rebuild the republican movement through political advancement. We have proposed that commemorating 1916 should be the annual barometer by which we measure our success especially in the run up to its centenary in 2016. Irish republicanism must be in a position on the occasion of this centenary to tell the Irish people that concrete political gains have been made toward making national reunification an unstoppable reality. The Proclamation is too important a document to condemn it to perpetual aspiration.
The Unity Initiative is the only realistic way forward. Armed struggle is a reality in our midst. We must address it for what it is, a symptom of the unwillingness of the British government to engage on the core cause of conflict, namely, its illegal claim to sovereignty over part of our country. For those who want armed struggle to cease they must come forward with proposals to address its cause. The politics of condemnation is a failed irrelevancy just as British micro Ministers are sitting in Stormont. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement have endeavoured since its formation to put such proposals into the public domain.
We sought a peaceful alternative through the auspices of the United Nations only to have that route disbarred to us when the US authorities, acting on influence from London and Dublin, banned our organisation from travelling there. But we are not deterred by this and efforts are underway to petition the Obama administration to reverse this policy. Because contrary to previous declarations made there, Ireland is not at peace.
We have sought dialogue with both governments, unionist and nationalist parties in an attempt to seek a peaceful way forward but these offers have been largely ignored. We thank all those who worked toward achieving this. And we say it again now; if you truly believe our position is so flawed come and tell us how, rather than grandstanding on media soap boxes. Our door remains open and we will not stop knocking on yours.
Comrades, the template of 1916 remains supremely relevant for us today. It was republican unity which drafted the Proclamation and allowed for the accommodation of its diverse views so magnificently. It was republican disunity which led to that fateful confusion on that day. They have given us the benefit of their foresight and the lessons of their errors. Let us leave here today all the wiser for both.