Tag Archives: Independence

This is OUR Ireland: Apollo House Occupation

Apollo House on Tara Street in Dublin has been occupied by activists since last Thursday – with 35 people sheltering in the property on Sunday night.

The group – backed by a number of high profile Irish artists and musicians – have renamed the property “Home Sweet Home” and have said they are receiving “phenomenal” support from the public.

The Irish actor and director, Terry McMahon made a strong speech in support of the occupation and against the policies of austerity that have seen a rise in homelessness, poverty and suicide.

 

“A hundred years ago brave men and women fought a bloody war for our Ireland. The most idealistic among us, the bravest among us, the best among us, from every rung of society, put everything on the line for our Ireland. They are the forefathers of our revolution and we are the sons and daughters of their sacrifice. And we have failed them.

“In this one year, the centenary of 1916, more people have died by their own hand than were killed in the entire Easter Rising. In the last eight years of austerity more people have committed suicide than died in the thirty years of the northern Irish troubles. This is our Ireland and, a hundred years after 1916, austerity is not just a lie, austerity is murder.

“This is our Ireland, which is why we have no intentions of causing any hurt. Which is why we will operate within the law as much as possible. Which why as long as a quarter of a million properties lie empty and out government continues to do nothing , we will fight to ensure nobody else dies in a doorway.

“Our freedom was fought for a hundred years ago and today we ask ourselves, what are we prepared to do for the people who need us most? We ask ourselves, if not us, who? If now now, when? And finally, we ask ourselves, when exactly did we allow a tiny coterie of controlling class scum make us forget just what a f***ing sublime nation we are?

“This is OUR Ireland.”

’66 Days’ – Richard O’Rawe’s Review Of New Bobby Sands Movie

This article was first published on  by The Broken Elbow

Former IRA blanketman, H Blocks PRO and author of Blanketmen  & ‘After Lives’, Richard O’Rawe reviews the new film about Bobby Sands, ’66 Days’.

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Drama at the absolute rawest edge it could possibly be,’ was how journalist Fintan O’Toole described the IRA/INLA hunger strike in Brendan Byrne’s new film, Bobby Sands – Sixty-Six Days. No one who was around at that time could argue with him.

I went to the premiere of this film in West Belfast along with my wife, Bernadette. Accompanying us were Dixie Elliott and his wife, Sharon. Dixie, a former cell mate of Sands’, had been interviewed for the film but his contribution did not make the final cut.

Unsurprisingly, the cinema was packed with Sinn Féin members and supporters. Equally unsurprisingly, many of those present cast their eyes into the darkest reaches of the cinema rather than in my direction. The reason why? Because I wrote a book called Blanketmen in which I said that a committee of republicans, led by Gerry Adams, had control of the hunger strike. I also said that, before the fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell died, this committee rejected an offer from the British government that the prison leadership believed to be acceptable. Consequently, six more hunger strikers died on the fast.

Richard O'Rawe - 'Was it (Sands' death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.'

Richard O’Rawe – ‘Was it (Sands’ death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.’

Notwithstanding the preponderance of Sinn Féin members in attendance at the premiere, this is far from a pro-Sinn Féin film. In fact, one viewer later said to me that he thought Byrne had gone ‘a bit too far’ by using Fintan O’Toole as linkman (O’Toole is not known for his Sinn Féin sympathies).

Byrne also afforded speaking rights to former prison officer, Dessie Butterworth, Tory Cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore. As well as that, he did not shirk from raising the despicable IRA murder of a young mother and census collector, Joanne Mathers, two days before the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone went to the polls to elect either Bobby Sands or a Unionist as their M.P. To some of us prisoners, it seemed as if someone wanted to sabotage Sands’ chances of being elected.

I have to say, I found this film challenging. For example: Sands gave an interview to reporter Brendan O’Cathaoir of The Irish Times on the third day of his hunger strike.

Commenting on the interview, O’Cathaoir told Byrne: ‘He spoke fluently about how they felt compelled to start the hunger strike. And he made it pretty clear to me he was likely to die. He talked really in terms of laying down his life for his comrades, and of course I am conscious that his protest was in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi. His most memorial phrase before we parted was: “If I die, God will understand.”’

I later gave some thought to O’Cathaoir saying that Sands’ fast was ‘in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi’. Ghandi and Sands certainly had things in common: they shared the same imperial foe, they had a great love of their people, and they had iron will.

But unlike the pacifist Ghandi, Sands was committed to armed struggle and, while both revolutionaries may have used the tactic of hunger strike to achieve a political aim, they were altogether different entities.

Another thing that struck me was Fintan O’Toole saying that, ‘Ultimately Bobby Sands’ life effectively marks the end of the tradition of armed struggle because what he said is: There is no justification or need to kill people.’

This is simply not true. The Bobby Sands with whom I lived for three years on the blanket protest was committed to the armed struggle tradition; he never, during any of his talks with his fellow-prisoners, gave the impression that he viewed constitutional politics as a viable alternative to armed struggle: he was a committed IRA man, with all its attendant violence.

He died believing that his death would enhance the armed struggle, not diminish it.

Moreover, he had absolutely no idea that his death would lead to the peace process. If he had known, I doubt if he would have given his life so freely.

Despite Byrne’s attempt to strike a balance by giving anti-republicans a wide platform, this film is about a republican who died on hunger strike and his testimony. There is skilful use of animation, historical newsreels, and an excreta-covered, H-Block prison cell, complete with two men covered with blankets and lying on dirty mattresses on the floor.

A powerful rendition of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike diary from actor, Martin McCann leaves one with a feeling of utter helplessness, as does Mrs Sands being interviewed beside a van outside Long Kesh where she tells the world that her son is dying and, holding back her tears, appeals for no violence when he dies.

This is a film that people should go and view if for no other reason than that it has very coherent insights into Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, from both sides of the argument. It is also thought-provoking.

And always, at the back of my mind as I was watching this movie, is the question: Was it worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.

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A plague on both their houses…

Leave_RemainThis article was written by a member of the Independent Working Class Association from the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford. It outlines the fundamental anti-working class nature of the EU and the historic complicity of Tory and Labour politicians from both the Remain and Leave camps in the EU’s merciless rightward drift:

EU REFERENDUM IS A RED HERRING FOR THE WORKING CLASS

A plague on both their houses…

To a working class drained and exhausted by having been made to shoulder the weight and the cost of austerity and immigration (and being called bigoted and racist for its efforts), the ruling class is offering a choice between two very bad options, both of which will make life even harder for the working class. Because whoever wins will claim a mandate to carry on with their current identical agendas of privatisations and austerity (Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as defenders of the NHS? Please!). So even a victory for the Remain campaign would not be a victory for the status quo. This is a War of the Roses, the prize being whose friends get the rich pickings of privatisations (the Land Registry anyone?), academisation and anti-trade union legislation, with the working class being asked to pay for its consequences and validate the result.

Of course the EU is a cabal run by the Council (comprised of the heads of state) and unelected commissioners (with the European Parliament playing much the same role as the House of Lords) designed to serve the interests of multinationals at the expense of the workers in each member state. Nobody in their right mind can deny that. But the truth is that successive UK governments, far from being victims of these forces of darkness, have been the main actors in bringing about the most anti-working class policies that could be concocted that were then imposed on the whole Union. Here’s how the little scam they’ve been playing on us works:

1.  We are watching the game, and suddenly there’s a scuffle, we follow the scuffle, and we don’t notice that the ball leaves the pitch;
2.  A while later a ball is kicked back into the pitch, but it’s not the same ball that left it – and by the time we notice it’s weighted, it’s too late and we are told that now there is no other ball.

WTOlogoWhen the ball is smuggled out of the pitch, it’s taken to one or more of the four main transnational institutions of political and economic control: the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the EU. None of these have an elected decision-making body (the MEP’s that we elect have consultative powers), none of these have a transparent, democratically controlled system to address grievances. For example, any case of a country being sued by another country for breaching a WTO rule will be heard by a panel of 3-5 “experts” in Geneva. Their report can only be rejected by unanimous consensus and appeals be made only on points of law. The rules do not favour one country or another as such: they favour big business, and big business will use the countries with bigger muscles to enforce their will.

bananawar1The famous “Banana Wars” of the 1990s are a case in point: the EU had given bananas from former Caribbean colonies protected access to the EU markets to stimulate their economy. Latin American producers, owned by giant US-based corporations, sued the EU because protective tariffs breach free trade principles. The WTO found against the EU, but the US were not satisfied with the changes the EU made, so they imposed retaliatory, non-WTO authorised 100% import duties (and got away with it) on a range of European products, some of which (on textiles) hit Scottish producers very hard (https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/mar/05/eu.wto3).

The rules transnational institutions make can and are broken, but only by the mightiest and in favour of the interests they serve, yet none of us gave them the power to make those rules, so we can’t vote them out to change the rules. As one anti-globalisation campaigner once said, “Free trade? What is it? Show it to me.”

The UK is a major player in all four institutions. It is true that at the WTO, IMF and WB it negotiates as an EU member, not independently, but, for example, from 2004 to 2008 the Trade Commissioner negotiating on behalf the EU at the WTO etc. was none other than Peter Mandelson.

In all four bodies, all UK governments of the last 25 years at least have aggressively pursued policies and trade deals that hugely strengthened multinationals’ interests and undermined democracy in general and the working class in particular, together with workers’ rights, the environment and the fabric of civil society. Here are some of the most pernicious and far-reaching:

Structural Adjustment Programs, that required developing countries to privatise their public services in order to qualify for the cancellation of debt they had already repaid many times over; these strengthened the hand of multinationals that could later be played at home;

GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services), that made it illegal for governments to impose “trade barriers” such as environmental and social safeguards, the obligation to train and employ local workers, the enforcement of workers’ rights including the right to organise through unions, democratic accountability, etc. – in practice, everything you would want to be protected by law, so when you hear “trade barriers”, reach for your wallet, as thieves are about – on companies interested in privatising public services. In practice, it stipulated that if a company wants to acquire a public service and run it for profit, it’s illegal for a government to stop them or favour companies that include protections amounting to “trade barriers” in their bid.

All EU directives about privatisation of public services, which are an application of GATS to EU member states, ranging from the “creation of a single market for postal services in the EU” (the operative term being market), to the Bolkenstein Directive. The Bolkenstein Directive is a diabolical and complicated piece of legislation created to ensure that a company providing a service in an EU country is automatically entitled to provide it in all other countries regardless of differences in standards and “trade barriers” between the country of origin and the host country. In its first draft it originally stated that when a company from one country provides a service in another country, the country of origin legislation applied, which would have resulted in a high-speed race to the bottom. Please note that the UK held the EU presidency at the time, and Tony Blair was pushing for the Directive to be adopted, and the Tories didn’t make a sound. However, there was some popular resistance in some countries (France, Germany, Italy, with the British trade unions spectacularly failing to campaign amongst their members and simply sending their bosses to Brussels) and the “country of origin principle” was removed. But it was not replaced with the “host country principle”, in a fudged, fiendish, final directive that therefore obfuscates the issue, doesn’t say which laws apply, and leaves it open to be battled out in courtrooms for lawyers to have a field day.

The UK negotiated an opt-out on the European Working Time Directive (the Directive meant to prevent employers from making workers work more than 48 hours a week). It is a standard clause in most UK contracts that you “agree” to opt out. The wording on www.gov.uk says, “You can choose to work more by opting out of the 48-hour week”, like it’s a freedom it negotiated for you, but doesn’t say that all overtime must be paid. It is of course true that in every country workers’ rights have been hard won by the organised working class but, truth be told, it has been EU regulations that have so far prevented successive UK governments from stripping off the last vestiges of them, and the UK employment law is the worst in Europe.

TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership), the next step from GATS being negotiated between the EU and the US, which is meant to allow multinationals to sue a government for “lost revenue” (???) if a government denies it permission or restricts its right to operate on its territory (through the imposition of “trade barriers”, of course), and CETA (which is the same as TTIP, but with Canada). Did you hear Cameron, Johnson or Gove or any of them (apart from, in fairness, the Green Party) denounce TTIP for the evil it is before it suited them for the purpose the referendum campaign?

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It is fundamental to realise that all of the above trade deals and consequent policies, that ensured the transference of power from nation states and elected governments to multinationals and banks, were pushed for by all of the UK governments in the last 25 years: they were not imposed on the UK – they were pursued by the UK and imposed on other countries (such as the developing countries).

So that’s what happens to the ball when it leaves the pitch, and that’s why the ball that is kicked back on the pitch a bit later is never the same ball – it is one heavily weighted, and weighted against the working class and in favour of multinationals. And if somebody complained every time it happened, the UK government was able to play the victim and say its hands were tied by WTO/WB/IMF/EU regulations.

It is of course tempting to think that leaving the EU would at least remove one of the fig leaves the ruling class hides behind. Yet one look at the reality of the British economy (no manufacturing worth mentioning, a parasitic banking and financial sector, and a monstrously overblown, bloated housing market) explains why bilateral deals, like the disastrous one Osborne successfully negotiated with China a few months back and which would be the rule outside the EU, mean the sell-out of the UK in order to line the pockets of Osborne’s patrons and bleed the working class to death. It is true that Norway has been doing well outside the EU, but it was never inside and it hasn’t put its public services, infrastructure, power and working class through the mangle the way the UK has.

And let us not forget that, given that the UK still retains the £ pound and the power to set its own economic policy independently from the EU and the European Central Bank, the austerity that has been choking the working class was not imposed by the EU but is entirely of Osborne’s choosing. Again: did you hear Boris Johnson or Michael Gove complain against it?

So the truth is that the ruling class, in the UK and in the rest of the EU, doesn’t need the EU, not even its cover, to carry out its class war and this very dirty work. What is happening now is that, after blaming the EU for the muck on its hands for too long, a sector of the ruling class has seized the opportunity to exploit the other sector’s political miscalculation together with the anger of so many, and make another push to further their patrons’ and their own interests. The working class will not only gain nothing from either outcome, but will be subjected to a further squeeze whatever the outcome, when the portion of the ruling class that wins takes all.

The EU offers its helping hand to the revival of Greek fascism, rescuing it from the grave made for it in 1945
The EU’s imposition of austerity on the people of Greece was also a helping hand to Greek fascism, rescuing it from the grave dug for it in 1945.

 

Rebels Should Vote To Leave The Empire

Why I’m voting to leave the evil empire and why I think every worker should do the same.

SteveLeaveRMTBy Steve Hedley, Senior Assistant General Secretary, Rail Maritime & Transport Union (RMT)

We in the RMT are a union of 80 000 workers that covers train workers, Tube workers, port workers and seafarers. We oppose racism in all its forms, we are for a peoples’ Europe and a peoples’ world; a socialist Europe and a socialist world.

You may have been forgiven for thinking that the right wing are the only people who are arguing for a British exit from the European Union. News reports concentrate almost exclusively on the Brexit campaign led in Britain by racists like Farage, and racists like Boris Johnson and the right wing of the Tory Party. We have no association with these people at all.

They are like a stopped clock which is only right twice a day,  but for all the wrong reasons. We want to come out of the European Union because we want to protect the rights of workers.

If we look at the philosophical and political reasons why the European Union was formed we can see that it a capitalist entity, a completely ruthless trading block, in competition with other trading blocks, including developing countries.

As early as 1957 the European Treaty outlined the absolute necessity of the free movement of Capital, labour services and the pre-eminence of the free market economy within the borders of the signatory states. This completely rules out two of the fundamental bases of socialism i.e. the need for a planned economy and control over the movement of capital. To change this treaty all 28 current European states would have to unanimously agree the changes.

Of course, those in Britain arguing to remain in the EU  will correctly point out that the Conservatives led by Thatcher [and after that, the Labour government under Blair] brought about privatisation in all the major utilities; gas, water, electricity, telecommunications and of course the railways. However, what the EU does is institutionalise these privatisations and does not allow nation states to reverse them.

Take the rail industry for example. The European Fourth Railway Package institutionalises privatisation and enshrines it in European law, which has precedence over the national law of member states.

The Fourth Rail Package in its own words seeks:

“Opening domestic passenger markets. The 4th railway package includes the proposal to open up domestic passenger railways to new entrants and services from December 2019. Companies would be able either to offer competing services, such as a new train service on a particular route, or to bid for public service rail contracts through tendering. The proposed changes would make competitive tendering mandatory for public service rail contracts in the EU.”

Even if we had a left-wing government elected in Britain tomorrow and Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister,  he would not be allowed to renationalise the railways and stay in the European Union.

In our Maritime industry we have seen the obscene spectacle of Portuguese workers, our brothers and sisters, working in British ships in Southampton being paid less that £3 per hour, which is less than half the national minimum wage.  This is completely legal under European law, which in the Viking Lavelle judgements stated that an employee can work in a foreign country and be paid the minimum wage of their home country [Portugal] and not the superior wage of the host country [Britain].

In essence this is what the EU is all about. It’s a bosses club, a rich capitalist institution that wants to destroy workers’ rights and workers’ terms and conditions. It seeks to open up markets to private capital that have previously been closed to it, precisely because they were state owned and run. SteveRMT

We welcome any worker from across Europe and indeed across the world. We have far more in common with workers from other European countries [and beyond Europe] than with our bosses. We want those workers paid on the same terms, conditions and pay as British workers.

Our opponents try to brand us as ‘racists’ because we demand that the workers of all nations should have equal rights. It is a slur and a lie. It’s part of the “Project Fear” campaign to intimidate workers – especially those from ethnic minorities in Britain – into voting to remain in the European Union.

The liberalisation package that the EU is demanding by 2020 is the reason that France is on strike at the minute. It is intended that this package will be applied in every European country.  As in France, the need for capitalism to maximise its profits means deregulation, lengthening the working week, cutting pensions, introducing flexible working conditions [including zero hours contracts] for workers throughout Europe.

Multinationals are already taking advantage of those European laws which prevent free trade. We have the appalling example of an American company, Uber, registered in Holland, taking the Spanish government to the European court because, they say, their trade is being restricted.

The actions of Uber will become the template for every other multinational that wants to drive down terms and conditions. If a government tries to protect its workers, companies can take governments to the European Court. This will be further enshrined in the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, which is now being negotiated in secret, behind our backs. The chief negotiator for Europe in the TTIP talks said plainly that she was not responsible to the European people, but was responsible to the unelected European commission.

I would like to end by saying that this year is an historic year for me as an Irishman.  One hundred years ago, a few thousand Irish people rose up in 1916 and shook the chains of the British Empire. It is my fervent hope that in 2016, the peoples of France, Germany, Spain, Greece – and indeed all the peoples of Europe – will rise up against the dictatorship of the European Union.

James Connolly’s Last Statement, May 12th, 1916

ConnollyVigil9James Connolly’s Last Statement

Executed by a British Army firing squad,

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, May 12th, 1916

 

“Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.”


Given to his daughter Nora Connolly on eve of his murder by the British.

To the Field General Court Martial, held at Dublin Castle, on May 9th, 1916:

I do not wish to make any defence except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners. These trifling allegations that have been made, if they record facts that really happened deal only with the almost unavoidable incidents of a hurried uprising against long established authority, and nowhere show evidence of set purpose to wantonly injure unarmed persons.

We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. We believed that the call we then issued to the people of Ireland, was a nobler call, in a holier cause, than any call issued to them during this war, having any connection with the war. We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.

Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress.

I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be.

JAMES CONNOLLY,
Commandant-General, Dublin Division,
Army of the Irish Republic

 

Who Fears To Speak of Easter Week?

The Proclamation –  declared on this day 100 years ago by Padraic Pearse on the steps of the GPO, Dublin, 24th April, 1916 – was the fuse that ignited the Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland

Pearse 1916

POBLACHT NA hÉIREANN

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:

THOMAS J. CLARKE
SEAN Mac DIARMADA   THOMAS MacDONAGH
P. H. PEARSE   EAMONN CEANNT
JAMES CONNOLLY   JOSEPH PLUNKETT

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James Connolly Remembered in Edinburgh

Pól O'Scanaill of the 1916 Societes (Ireland) address the 29th Annual James Connolly Commemoration in Edinburgh's Cowgate.
Pól O’Scanaill of the 1916 Societes (Ireland) address the 29th Annual James Connolly Commemoration in Edinburgh’s Cowgate.

250 people attended this year’s James Connolly Commemoration in Edinburgh on Saturday, 6th June at the birthplace of the Irish revolutionary leader in the Cowgate. This year marked the 29th consecutive commemoration of Connolly’s life in the city of his birth, organised by the James Connolly Society (Scotland). It also marked the 99th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which ended with the execution of Connolly and the other leaders of the insurrection by British firing squads. The Centenary anniversary next year was very much in the minds of the organisers with the announcement that next year’s commemorations of Connolly and the legacy of 1916 will take the form of a weekend of events organised by the JCS in Edinburgh. This will form part of a rolling series of commemorative events over the year in co-operation with similar 1916 Centenary Projects in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.

Cowgate5The crowd was entertained on a cold, wet and blustery day in the capital by musicians Stephen Dodds and Alan Hunter. They were welcomed by Jim Slaven, speaking on behalf of the James Connolly Society (Scotland). Pól O’Scanaill of Meath spoke on behalf of the 1916 Societies (Ireland).Cowgate1

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Mr O’Scanaill opened his comments with thanks to the JCS for their work over the last 29 years, in remaining faithful to the spirit of the working class politics of James Connolly, and he also observed their engagement in the debates over Scottish independence. “We in the 1916 societies watched with great interest… the Scottish independence referendum. We learned many lessons from your campaign. Unfortunately the scare tactics, the lies and the false promises won the day, but I believe the dark forces that defeated Scottish independence have only postponed the inevitable. SCOTLAND will be free, there is no doubt about that…

“The prophetic words of James Connolly come to mind:

ConnollyStarryPlough1“If you remove the English Army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle., unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts will be in vain. England will still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.”

“Written by James Connolly over 100 years ago, I believe these words are just as relevant today.

“For Scotland to be truly independent… you must do more than change the colour of the flag and the accent of your rulers. There is no point in exchanging Westminster rule for Frankfurt rule. You must look at the way we in Ireland have been treated by the EU and the IMF…

“The green flag may well fly over Dublin Castle but who really rules Ireland?

“Is it still the commercial institutions that Connolly spoke about?”

O’Scanaill explained that for 8 years Ireland has suffered the effects of a recession caused by the financial crash…

CowgatePol2“The people of Ireland were forced to bail out the European banking system. Ireland consists of 0.5% of the population of Europe yet we were bullied into paying 42% of the total cost of the crash. To bail out the failed banks, an odious debt was foisted onto the shoulders of future generations, a debt that is not ours.

“Each Irishman, woman and child has almost €9000 of debt on their shoulders, as opposed to the European average of €192 to pay for the banking crisis. This has caused devastation to living standards, the most vulnerable in society have suffered the most with cuts to vital services…

“Ireland is under attack. Our natural resources; our oil, our gas, our forests, our fisheries, our water, are being sold off to corporate entities… signed away by corrupt politicians with no benefit for our people….”

He went on to say that despite being bailed out by the Irish people, these very same banks are starting to evict families who have defaulted on their mortgages from their homes… To aid families in crisis, the National Land League of Ireland has been reformed. O’Scanaill stated, “The 1916 Societies are committed to helping ordinary families stay in their homes and to this end we work with the National Land League. In the 1880’s the Fenian movement provided the backbone for the Land league and Irish Republicans will once again stand against the tyranny of the banks and their agents.”

But there was also good news to report to the gathering at 107 Cowgate, “The Irish people have started to fight back… All over Ireland they rose up to stop the installation of water meters in their communities… Even the jailing of water protestors did not stop the resistance. The battle against water taxes is almost won, a campaign of mass non-compliance and non-payment when the bills arrive will kill off Irish Water and hopefully the government.

“The appetite for an alternative to the neo-liberal austerity agenda is growing, north and south. The alternative is the sovereign Republic; a Republic whose socio-economic vision is that of the revolutionary First Dail Eireann, a Republic in which the ownership of Ireland is vested in the people, a Republic which puts its people before the interests of international vulture funds and financiers.“

In a rebuttal of the position of Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments’ preference for a Border Poll, he was clear. “The Good Friday agreement will not lead to a united Ireland and Irish republicans have not benefited from it. We still have internment by remand, we still have miscarriages of justice like The Craigavon Two…

“We believe that genuine self-determination can only be realised in the form of an all-Ireland referendum, the ‘One Ireland One Vote‘ campaign. Through such a democratic process we intend to empower the Irish people to secure their sovereign destiny, a 32 county Irish Republic founded on the principles of the 1916 proclamation. A Republic worthy of the name and worthy of the sacrifices made by generations of Irishmen and women. We respectfully request from you ‘our exiled children in Scotland’ your endorsement and support for the ‘One Ireland One Vote‘ campaign.“

CowgateJimSlavenThe theme of Connolly’s humble beginnings to his leading role in the Rising was returned to in Jim Slaven’s summing up of the occasion. He stressed the need to redouble efforts to make the 100th Anniversary ( and the 30th Connolly Commemoration organised by the JCS) a commemoration worthy of the man from Edinburgh. He went on to criticise the large police presence as an unnecessary infringement on a peaceful commemoration. “It is time,” he said, “to return to the politics of Connolly and apply them to our situation today.” The 1916 Centenary Projects would, he said, be a fitting republican tribute to the heroes of the Easter Rising, not restrained in its work by the bloodstained hands of a 26 County state that is guilty of the imprisonment and state murder of republicans after 1916. “The 1916 Centenary Projects will be self-financing and will not accept state funding from any government; local or national, British or Irish.”

In a strong closing statement, Jim Slaven reiterated that the James Connolly Society rejects the idea that we should return to the old ways of marching bands and confrontational parades. He went on to advance the position that the political aims of republicans would only be achieved by engaging with the arguments for a Scottish republic and a United Ireland in our communities, not by returning to the sectarian cul-de-sac being prepared for us by the British state.

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