Round Cappagh's Braes


On Sunday past, 25th May, the 1916 Societies gathered in the heart of East Tyrone, with the McCaughey Suite in Galbally Community Centre playing host to our inaugural Spring Conference. Invited guests including D-Company Lower Falls Belfast and several independent community activists and republicans joined over 100 delegates from all across Ireland to debate the theme 'Self-determination and Sovereignty - 2014 and Beyond' and how our One Ireland-One Vote campaign can take sustenance from other struggles for independence currently ongoing in Western Europe and the wider world.

In what proved a highly instructive event all in attendance came away with a renewed conviction that the Irish struggle, while having suffered a serious set-back under the revisionist consensus carved out since 1998, was still an ongoing matter for the people of Ireland to carry through to its ultimate conclusion. We in the 1916 Societies go to see that struggle re-born and re-energised, to build the structures and arguments required to finally bring about a full British withdrawal from Ireland and the reunification of our country. The sovereign republic remains our bottom line and we will not rest until it is established.

Jim Slaven from the Connolly Society Scotland took the audience through the Scottish referendum campaign, its highs and lows and the limitations placed on the referendum itself by the controlling hand of Westminster and its agents of influence. At pains to point out that the 'Yes' campaign was far from the perfect example of how to approach the idea of secession he outlined how great care should be taken when constructing a referenda-based strategy in that state strategies to negate any revolutionary potential there-in will be employed to control outcomes as far as possible, even to the extent of facilitating an entirely new set of political arrangements, themselves open to continued manipulation and control by the British state in other forms and guises.

There is much to take from this, not least a need to ensure republicans at all times retain control of the political process, at least to the extent they are prepared to participate in it. Any proposed referendum must be the property of and answerable to the sovereign people alone, as opposed to any external agency, government or state - particularly Britain or those allied to it. For us to succeed we must be self-sufficient and only form alliances with those willing to reject the controlling hand of the British state and its proxies. Who controls any proposed referendum is key to any such project.

Eudald Vilanajo, a Barcelona-based activist for Catalan independence, offered advice on building the One Ireland-One Vote proposal, drawing extensively on his own experiences with the separatist movement in Catalonia. Outlining the various strategies and campaigns employed in the region's long struggle for independence a persistent point of reference was the need to become a community-based entity and to return Irish republicanism to the people it purports to represent. This concept was pressed home again and again and again.

Many of those present hold such a strategy as necessary to any effort going forward to rebuild republicanism and view the Catalan example as the benchmark for any attempt on our own part to bring about a credible referendum on Irish reunification. For the republican movement to achieve success it must return to its roots and those without whom it could never have survived through the hard years it has come through - the Irish people. For One Ireland-One Vote to become a meaningful avenue to pursue the republican struggle it must be an expression of the people and their political demands and ideals at the local, national and international level.

Rounding off the contributions Galbally man and local republican stalwart Plunkett Nugent gave a descriptive analysis of how the mechanisms for constitutional change contained in the 1998 Agreement locked-in partition while creating the type of revised dispensation capable of reconciling once-resistant elements to the state with the architecture of the state itself in new form, a concept Jim Slaven had referenced earlier. That we must vigorously oppose this and any claim of such a dispensation to possess the legitimate template for constitutional change in Ireland must surely be the mainstay of our efforts to build One Ireland-One Vote. We must be beyond that state and never beholden to it, in whatever form it might take.

The idea that British laws passed in 1998 somehow have any more authority over the Irish people than those that went before them should be rejected and the demand for the right to determine our own sovereign destiny instituted in their stead. Any law based on the suppression of democracy is no law. Echoing much of that already suggested, an incumbent need to rebuild and re-energise the republican struggle through resort to the people was identified as the key to moving forward, with One Ireland-One Vote offering a vehicle to achieve that end. Such a template is viable and it is there for us to hammer out together.

Moving forward much can be learned from what was a highly successful event, with those present coming away with vibrant optimism that republicanism can still have an important role to play in the struggle of the Irish people to find a better way for themselves and the generations to come. Returning republicanism to the people is central to that. Creating a grass-roots movement beyond the reaches of the state and capable of re-mapping our struggle demands of us all a re-engagement with the key tenets of republicanism as understood in both the Irish context and by the international philosophy in which it finds its origins. A republicanism centered on its people.

We contend that One Ireland-One Vote and the campaign for an all-Ireland referendum can offer a positive force to speed that end. Such a campaign would give voice to the legitimate demands of the sovereign Irish people for a British withdrawal and the reunification of our country. This is and always has been the republican position and the democratic wish of the Irish people is on record and should be respected. One Ireland-One Vote can give renewed voice to that demand and help build the necessary dynamic required to finally achieve freedom and independence for our country in all its parts. An all-Ireland referendum now! Let the people have their say!


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  2. Think a referendum now would be extremely premature because I don't believe a 32 county one will ever be granted. A 6 county one will lead to nothing better than repartition. As far back as 1938 De Valera was against repartition. Unionisms recent loss of the ability to utilise discrimination and forced emigration leaves them vulnerable demographically in the longer term. Keep your powder dry for now I'd suggest, build your alternative movement first.

  3. yeah sorry put that on wrong post

  4. Thanks as always for carrying this Tony. Just in terms of what you're saying Larry for sure we have to first ORGANISE towards a referendum, we need to build the structures and arguments capable of making it viable - that goes without saying. It's a process rather than an overnight thing and one that must be grounded in reality. Reality might suggest it won't be easy but it can certainly be done as has already been demonstrated elsewhere, not least in Catalonia who have organised their own independent plebiscite for later this year. The Catalan example is worth looking at in detail and can provide a template for Ireland going forward. Like everything this proposal needs teased out then built on - that's kind of what the Conference was set up to do and we feel it was a huge success and gives us a platform to begin rolling this thing out. If handled in the right way I think there's massive potential in One Ireland-One Vote, it can offer a credible way forward for not only the Irish republican movement but all those with an interest in finally chucking the Brits out of our country and building a better tomorrow. If nothing else it gives us something round which to gravitate, something to work towards, to agitate around, to keep the argument for British withdrawal on the table. That to me is as important as anything and given all that was sacrificed in the last phase of struggle it's the least we owe. 'Our children will win it by a better deed' said Pearse - with that in mind so it continues... British withdrawal and a sovereign republic, nothing less will do

  5. Well the 'boul' Dev tinkered with the idea of Tyrone, Derry, S. Armagh and Fermanagh being acquired by the Free State but came to the conclusion a large minority in the north would be the better situation as it would take things toward a 32 reunification in good time. 'Whole duck or no dinner' kind of attitude. And may I suggest duck is delicious.... ESPECIALLY with a wee drop of Orange sauce.

  6. The possibility of a referendum on unity, partition etc has already been rejected by the British, Dublin and Northern Parties including the Shinners...Therefore, is the planned objective of the Societies realistic to garner widespread support across the country? I'm not disagreeing with the plan but am somewhat confused as there are so many crucial issues that merit equal attention such as, austerity, water meters, unemployment and the explotation of the majority of our fellow citizens.

  7. Ardoyne Republican

    And now SF are safely re-elected in Stormont O'Dowd closes a school in Derry. Immediately after the election! Anyone who voted for SF talking of fighting austerity, water charges, property tax etc etc in the Free State here will be in for a shock. When people complain about SF implementing cuts and taxes in abundance when in coalition in the Dail will be called traitors to Ireland and touts and anti the 'new political dispensation' We wont be going back to those dark days of the past, coz SF will be in government now.

  8. It's important not to get fixated on what the governments will or won't do, as the Catalans have shown it can be achieved on our own steam providing a capable political movement is built. Social agitation around the type of issues you identify Martin can help speed that process. A wee man from the Bogside in Derry I know has been arguing for years that republicans need to return to our communities, put in the hard yards and by doing so build support for our national objectives. While of course there's nothing new in that it's still worth stating and it still offers a clear route to the republic. One Ireland-One Vote can be the national expression of the people's struggle but to achieve that end it needs rooted in the everyday issues that impact on their lives. We need to be able to tie that together by demonstrating how the British presence itself is what leads to many of the ills that effect our communities and our way of life here. In short a campaign for a national referendum, given that it most likely will need built independently of state power - probably the better option anyway as it allows republicans to control the process and limit Brit manipulation - requires participation from the ordinary 5' 8" on the street. To get to that point requires interaction with the people and, as has been shown in Derry, Dungannon, Dunloy and elsewhere the last few weeks, there will be a political return for such effort. From our perspective we'd hope to see that return take the form of physical support for Irish reunification in the form of participation - at whatever level may be practical - in our campaign. This can range from getting involved directly with the project, to offering the type of tacit support we've always required to function effectively, to simply participating in an extralegal referendum we may happen to organise at some point in the future. Participation though, at whatever level, is going to be required to achieve a level of success so, as you alluded to in your comment, there has to be a quid pro quo. That surely has to be our activism on the ground and elsewhere in defence of the people, their needs and their wants

  9. Sean bres

    I absolutely agree, the argument or persuasion can't consist of one objective alone, it has to cover all areas that effect each and everyone throughout the whole island. There needs to be a removal of the mistrust between communities because whether it is liked or acknowledged there is a huge white elephant in the room whatever your ultimate goal.
    To achieve an all Ireland it requires the buy in of all of its citizens and to gain that, the same worries, issues and aspirations need to be mutually recognised and addressed before this is ever likely to succeed.

  10. Sean Bres

    SF aided the Madrid government indirectly in drawing the ETA campaign to a close. Though in fairness like the Provos ETA was at the end of its tether. Don't be surprised if Gerry and Marty end up in Barcelona doing their routine there. I don't think they have been there yet. Be a nice change for them they have been everywhere else.