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97th anniversary of the Easter Rising

Thousands attend Easter parades

Taking part in the National Graves' Association commemoration on Easter Sunday Taking part in the National Graves' Association commemoration on Easter Sunday
On the one road with the National Graves' Association On the one road with the National Graves' Association
Parading up the Falls Road to the National Graves' Association commemoration at Milltown Cemetery Parading up the Falls Road to the National Graves' Association commemoration at Milltown Cemetery
The National Graves' Association The National Graves' Association
National Graves' Association commemoration at Milltown where Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald was the speaker National Graves' Association commemoration at Milltown where Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald was the speaker
The Workers' Party commemoration The Workers' Party commemoration
IRSP on the Falls Road IRSP on the Falls Road
Republican Sinn Féin Republican Sinn Féin
Official Republican Movement ceremony at Milltown Official Republican Movement ceremony at Milltown
The éirígí commemoration The éirígí commemoration
By Staff Reporter

Belfast has been a place of hope and inspiration in the story of Ireland since the days of the United Irishmen and Irishwomen who founded Irish republicanism in this city over 200 years ago.

Sinn Féin Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald, was speaking at Milltown Cemetery after thousands of republicans paraded up the Falls Road. The party’s vice-president said the principles of Irish independence, anti-sectarianism, unity, equality, fraternity and liberty have endured through the years.

“They are still our inspiration as republicans today, a vision as constant as the sight of historic Cave Hill which overlooks this city,” she said. Speaking in Milltown Cemetery to thousands of republicans at the annual National Graves’ Association commemoration, Ms McDonald said countless republicans had given their lives in defence of those principles.

“Many of them are laid to rest here,” she added. “Many of their loved ones are with us at these gravesides today. We extend to them and to the families of all our patriot dead our continuing sympathy and solidarity.

“Half a century after the Proclamation, the Civil Rights movement stepped forward and was met with the same choice – resign yourselves to the reality of this one-party sectarian state or resist.

“They chose resistance. RUC brutality was resisted. Internment was resisted. The British Army was resisted. Criminalisation in the H-Blocks and Armagh was resisted. Collusion and censorship and the demonisation of whole communities was resisted.

“And do you know what? That resistance succeeded because our oppressors failed in their plan to crush us. They could not defeat a risen people.

“They could not defeat us and they had to come to terms with us. The peace process opened that new way forward and the Irish Republican Army, with the same courage they showed during every phase of the struggle, endorsed that new strategy, that new road to our objectives, and set aside armed actions for good.

“Armed conflict is in the past. It has no place in the present. No-one has the right to inflict it on our children’s future. The splinter groups who pursue armed actions today are acting out a travesty that too often has turned to tragedy. They should desist and desist immediately. To those who are sincerely republican and who do not agree with Sinn Féin’s strategy, we have made clear that we are open to dialogue and engagement, recognising the common goal of Irish unity and independence. The peace process and the republican peace strategy have helped to transform our country. They have opened up new possibilities and unlocked the huge potential of our island and its people. They are the essential starting point for the next phase of struggle – the move towards a united Ireland, a new republic.”

The Sinn Féin Vice-President said the party fully recognise that the majority within the unionist community do not share this aim, that many fear such a future and believe their identity will be subsumed and they will become “a discriminated-against minor- ity on this island”.

“Words alone from us will not convince them otherwise. That said, we must always reaffirm our opposition to sectarianism in all its forms, our commitment to equality and parity of esteem and our respect for people’s chosen identity, whether Irish or British.

“We believe that all who share this island have a place in a new republic.

“Because we believe that a united Ireland is essential and because we recognise that the agreement of a significant section of unionists is required, we are calling for a border poll. Such a poll is a threat to no-one. It is a logical step and by making this call we are demonstrating our firm resolve to end partition peacefully and to build a new democracy. A chairde, the New Republic of Ireland is ours to achieve.”­

 

“When I hear stories about the actions and the bravery of those who we gather to remember, I can only stand in awe of their immense sacrifice,” said Aisling Nic Giolla Rua, speaking at the IRSP commemoration at Milltown Cemetery.

“And not only do we remember those brave men and women of this movement but we also remember those who took up arms in 1916 in a bid to overthrow the British establishment in Ireland.”

Ms Nic Giolla Rua said the  IRSP stand by their founding principles, which were gathered from the “insightful writings of James Connolly”.

“One quotation attributed to him is as follows, ‘We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times.’ This quote from Connolly can be applied directly to the Irish Republican Socialist Movement today.

“Comrades, the work begun then has not been completed. It is all fine and well looking back with pride and paying tribute to those men and women, but it means absolutely nothing if we cannot learn the lessons and adapt them to suit our present.

Capitalism still runs deep, exploitation is rife, workers are being punished for the excesses and greed of the rich whilst workers remain largely unmotivated and without strong leadership. Sadly, today’s workers do not have visionaries of the calibre of James Connolly and Jim Larkin to lead them but this should still not deter revolutionary organisations such as the Republican Socialist Movement from organising and building towards our ultimate goal.

“We remember with pride those volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army and their comrades in the Irish Republican Socialist Party who lie buried in this plot and in plots across Ireland. Without their courage, bravery and integrity the ideas of republican socialism would have long ago been consigned to history, but I am proud to say we are still here taking their sacrifice as inspiration and building the movement to which they gave their lives.”

 

The economic plight of Ireland was foremost in the thoughts of the Workers’ Party during their Easter commemoration.

Speaking to party members and those who lost loved ones during the conflict   the Workers’ Party Northern Regional Executive’s Justin O’ Hagan said that this year marks 100 years after the Dublin Lockout of 1913.

“We are here in another period of intense class conflict,” he said. “Once again the capitalists are waging class war on the workers. Once again the re-conquest of Ireland must mean the social as well as the political independence from servitude of every man, woman and child in Ireland.

“We must end oppression. Socialism – the assumption of political, social and economic power by the working class – is the only means to establish real freedom and genuine equality.”

Mr O’Hagan added:  “David Cameron, George Osborne and their Lib-Dem lapdogs insist that the way to establish economic recovery in the UK is through more cuts. Meanwhile, the folks on the hill in the Stormont Executive think the only answer to the massive economic problems faced by the people is to cut corporation tax.

“But austerity isn’t working. The result of austerity has been huge unemployment, a return to mass emigration and the destruction of living standards through inflation, attacks on public service and cuts to wages and conditions for those still in work.

“Austerity is not natural. It is the cold and calculated response of the bourgeoisie to the collapse of the neo-liberal model first elaborated by Friedman, Pinochet, Reagan and Thatcher.

“Unionism and nationalism have wasted the great potential of the Belfast Agreement. A strong bill of rights and the Civic Forum would have contributed greatly to creating the culture of active citizenship necessary to overcoming our divisions and developing an awareness of what we have in common. The so-called Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy offered by the big two at Stormont is a sick joke.

“The state must use its power to encourage integration in our society – in education and housing in particular – not use its resources to keep our people divided on a ‘separate but equal’ basis,” added Mr O’Hagan.

 

The Republican Network for Unity believe that Easter is a time for reflection and a time to reaffirm a commitment to effecting real and irreversible political change in Ireland, their Easter statement said this year.

“Ireland today is an entirely different place than it was 100 years ago, indeed it is has become almost unrecognisable in the last 20 years. The advance of the technology of personal isolation, the breaking down of communities and the growth of anti-social behaviour on our streets has led to a whole new set of challenges for our movement.

“This Easter not only marks the 97th anniversary of the Rising but also the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The signing of this agreement and its acceptance by a once revolutionary political grouping caused massive shockwaves amongst our community.

“A small but significant section of republicanism was absolutely opposed to any such agreement, realising that any such deal was meant to sidestep the issue of sovereignty, not resolve it.”

The statement went on to say the 1998 Belfast Agreement has been a backward step for Irish republicans.

“Its acceptance has left the revolutionary movement in a worse place than it was 15 years ago.

“The unionist veto was further strengthened with the acceptance of the consent principal and the doors of ‘Northern Ireland PLC’ were opened to international capitalism to further exploit our working class people.

“Republicans were sold the myth than any return to Stormont would be to undermine it from within. We were promised the de-politicisation of policing and justice and the end of the British army in Ireland. We were promised the retention of the revolutionary army fully intact.

“Republicans were promised a socialist alternative to the failed politics right wing of direct rule.”

 

The decades that have passed since the men and women of 1916 asserted the right in arms of the Irish people to the freedom of Ireland have witnessed the absolute betrayal of every notion of independence and social justice that inspired those who stood up against the might of empire.

That was the  damning message from éirígí’s main speaker, Councillor John Dwyer, who was speaking at Milltown Cemetery on Easter Monday.

“That betrayal of the ideals of the men and women of 1916 and of the resistance since has been repeated over and over and over by many who proclaim themselves republicans and socialists, but we don’t need to waste our time here in condemnation of those people,” he said.

“History will judge them for what they are and for what they have done in turning a blind eye to injustice and to the wholesale theft of the resources of our people.

“The names of those who came together in the Easter Rising to strike that blow against an imperialist enemy have been misused in the decades since by a variety of self-serving gombeens.”

Images of the 1916 Rising leaders were prominently featured at the head of the éirígí parade.

“The ability of grovelling politicians to invoke the names of men like Connolly and Clarke at the drop of a hat will be forever remembered as the most brazen acts of name-dropping while working to undo the work of those revolutionaries. And the shameful betrayal of the ideals of republicanism and of socialism by generations of career politicians can only be described as our decades of shame.”

The Wexford politician said Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to those who “struck that blow in 1916”, adding: “We owe that same debt of gratitude to those brave volunteers who sacrificed their all to bring about a united Ireland in the decades since. We stand in a graveyard that contains the remains of so many comrades in struggle, many of whom were murdered by those shadowy forces.

“Those shadowy forces that represent the same imperialist ambitions in Ireland today as they did in the lead-up to the Rising, that same imperialist nature that has seen them invade, plunder and destroy other nations at will, dressing up their murderous ambitions with the connivance of the mass media as if they were somehow the actions of humanitarians.

“The sacrifice of those who died in every phase of Ireland’s struggle will always be remembered.

That remembrance should not be used by any organisation as an opportunity to secure votes or announce political shifting in positions, but rather it should be one of genuine reverence and remembering of the sacrifice of comrades and the pain and suffering of the families left behind.”

 

Those who attended the Republican Sinn Féin commemoration at Milltown on Sunday were told that Belfast had borne the brunt of the recent conflict.

Fergal Moore, RSF Ard Chomhairle member, said the city is inextricably linked to Irish republicanism.

“It was in Belfast that the United Irishmen were founded in 1791 and in 1794 it was on Cave Hill that Tone, Russell, Henry Joy and other United Irishmen swore an oath ‘never to desist from our efforts until the independence of the Irish nation had been achieved and the connection with England completely severed’.

“In more recent times Belfast has borne the brunt of the sacrifice.  In this cemetery alone there lie dozens upon dozens of Volunteers, men, women, girls and boys, who have given their all in the cause of Irish freedom.  Here too lie many of those innocents murdered on behalf of the British empire.  We remember their suffering too on this Easter Sunday.

“There are those who would say that the suffering is over, that it was all worthwhile and that this sham peace is a great victory.  There will only be true peace in Ireland when there is justice and freedom for the Irish people. That can only come when Britain declares their intention to quit Ireland forever. Anything short of a British withdrawal is not victory but defeat for the Irish people.”

 

Seán Curry of the Official Republican Movement told those gathered in Milltown for their Easter Monday commemoration that  the Good Friday Agreement had shelved the national question.

He said dialogue to build cross-community trust and mutual respect has to begin soon.

“Therefore, we welcome the formation of the Irish Republican Comrades’ Association,” he said. “We welcome their plans to work for the formation of a forum that will strive to create an authentic voice for the economically dispossessed in society, whether they are Catholic, Protestant or Dissenter.

“All individuals from the Official Republican background and those who agree with their analysis are welcome in the new group.  The bitterness that in the past has plagued and stunted progressive political and social developments must be replaced with shared visions of a better life and genuine fraternity.”

Mr Curry continued: “This is not another conspiracy” but an “open and honest method” to build an alliance of left and progressive forces.

“To those that would go down the road of armed struggle, and those who adopt an ambiguous attitude to them, we ask, what is your vision for your new Ireland?  What do you hope to achieve?  How do you hope to unite a divided society by continuing to attack ordinary workers doing their jobs? Harness your energies in opposition to the devastating cuts being imposed on workers North and South.

“By our presence here today, we are showing support for the struggle started by the United Irishmen and carried on through the generations from the men and women of 1916 to the current generation.

“We honour where we stand our fallen comrades, personal friends and family members and we will continue to honour their memory through the work of the Irish Republican Comrades’ Association.”

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