Sean Bresnahan with an oration delivered at the burial place of IRA volunteer, Brendan Seery.
The text of an oration I gave today in Rathowen, Co. Westmeath, marking the 26th Anniversary of IRA Volunteer Brendan Seery. Brendan died of a heart attack encouraged by wilful neglect in Portlaoise Prison, 19th February 1992. His friends and comrades remember him with pride.
A chairde. It is an honour and a privilege to speak here today, as we gather to mark the 26th Anniversary of IRA Volunteer Brendan Seery. I didn’t know Brendan but, judging by his friends and comrades, who I’ve come to know over recent years, I can easily imagine the man and Republican that he was.
When he passed away in Portlaoise Prison in the February of 1992 — callously let die by those who claim the mantle of the Republic but who in truth are traitors to its cause — something was lost for us all. An Irish Prisoner Of War, we are conscious that today in Ireland we still have political prisoners in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Hydebank Gaols. Our support is with them all. A mere 44 years old at the time of his death, with the martyred dead of Ireland may he know peace. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anama.
Like many others of his generation, Brendan — or ‘Cén Fáth’ as he is fondly remembered — stood up to be counted through hard times. He joined Óglaigh na hÉireann and took the oath to the Republic, which beat in his heart throughout his efforts to advance a united and free Ireland. An upstanding Patriot, we might ask just where, today, is the Republic of Brendan Seery and where are the efforts in 2018 to uphold its authority and dignity?
2018 marks not just the centenary of the historic 1918 Election, which gave form by democratic mandate to the Easter Republic proclaimed in 1916, setting in concrete its constitutional legitimacy. It marks also — significantly for the effort to see that Republic restored — an emerging constitutional crisis for the British state in Ireland and the tearing asunder of its long-running normalisation strategy.
While this is good news for the Republican endeavour, speeding the prospect of an end to British rule, it is far from enough to realise our core objectives. No. The Republic will not come about by default born of Brexit or demographic change in the North. The situation before us instead demands renewed struggle and a major stepping up of the national effort. The Republic must be taken, for history tells us it will not be given.
But continuing British rule in the North is not the only issue in the Ireland of 2018. The Partition system overall, with its undue claims to our national territory — both north and south — is a usurp of the democratic process and a violation of our national rights. Partition must be ended and new constitutional arrangements, in line with our democratic entitlements, brought forward in its stead.
In this sense, the Free State stands also in defiance of the 1918 Election — but it does so while claiming to draw its constitutional authority and line from the same. It does not. Its supposed authority derives from Britain’s 1920 Government of Ireland Act — not the 1918 Election. This deceit has been going on for almost a century and it is this, in this centenary year, which the Free State fears might yet be exposed.
Volunteer Brendan Seery, however, was not deceived. He knew and understood that this so-called ‘Republic’ was not that fought and died for by so many. He did not die for a 32-county expanded Free State. Nor did he die that we might come to live in the ‘Agreed Ireland’ peddled now as our future by the constitutional establishment, only recently spoken of by Leo Varadkar.
He died for the Irish Republic and a complete end to British rule — for complete separation between Ireland and Britain, right down to the point of constitutional succession. For the Republic of Brendan Seery proceeds from the 1916 Proclamation. His efforts were to bring an end to its usurp and we, who follow in his mould, must remain constant in that pursuit.
As much demands that a Third Dáil proceed from the people in a reconstituted Republic. This remains the Republican position and should be the bedrock of efforts to restore Irish sovereignty. With Brexit set to sharpen the worst vestiges of Partition, it is an imperative — now as ever — that we organise to ensure the northern remnant of British colonialism is finally disbanded, the Free State with it, and the All-Ireland Republic restored.
While that is the job of work before us, as we head towards the centenary of the 1918 Election much remains to be done. Republicans need to set out clear parameters as to what should constitute a United Ireland and pressure by campaign those in the political arena likely to determine upon this matter, should the time for the same arrive. As Brexit and demographic change speed a new dynamic towards Irish Unity, that is the task we must set toward in this period of seismic import.
Ultimately, for ourselves, any Republic to emerge upon Irish Unity must be in line with the 1916 Proclamation, proceeding from there and not the constitutional process employed by Britain to effect its usurp. This is set to become the key battle as the Crown and its agents set toward a revised continuum of the Good Friday Agreement, should a nationalist majority emerge in the North — a majority quite possibly already in place.
An arrangement as that they are set toward — the so-called and emerging ‘Agreed Ireland’ — will ‘agree’, if allowed, a forward British role in our country, enforcing a further violation of Irish sovereignty. For Irish Republicans, though, any United Ireland must be a sovereign Ireland — one founded on the right of the Irish people to determine their own affairs, freely and of themselves.
We must be ready for the critical ideological engagement that lies ahead, proffering a clear vision of the Ireland we say should go forward upon reunification. We must likewise set out a pathway that determines toward how this will be achieved.
Irish society at this time is fluid and open to change. But, absent the leadership and direction that traditionally has come from Republicanism, societal forces could easily be steered to service the emerging agenda. We must be alert to the dangers. We must develop a comprehensive position that sets out specifics as to how a ‘New Ireland’ will be agreed and by whom. Absent this, we are on the road to Good Friday Mk.II — the all-Ireland version.
It is then, at the finish, the sovereign Republic that we strive for — not reform of the status quo, not our seat at the table, nor a more just or humane version of Partition. Not even Irish Unity under a 32-county Free State — the spiteful state, we should remember, that let Brendan Seery die of wanton neglect. No. We are out for the Republic, the Irish Republic whose flame burned strong in the hearts of heroes — among them Volunteer Brendan Seery — and those for whom they fought and died. It burns there yet.
Brendan Seery knew and understood this when he joined the Republican Movement. As an Irish Republican, his allegiance lay with the 1916 Proclamation. We, too, seek the constitution of a Republic in the image and line of that timeless treatise. Like Brendan, it was to here we pledged allegiance when joining the Republican Movement. The same demands we remain constant.
Like the martyred Patriot before us, we maintain that Ireland, as the Proclamation declared, should be a sovereign independent state. Let us go from this graveside today and build the Republic of Brendan Seery — the only fitting tribute to the man and the cause for which he gave his life. Onwards to the Republic — An Phoblacht Abú.