The 1916 Societies held our Autumn Conference on Sunday past in Galbally, Co. Tyrone, with activists and supporters from all over Ireland descending on the rural heartland to discuss tactics and strategy as the Centenary of the 1916 Rising closes in. A significant day for the Societies, much was achieved and from the same we have great hope moving into the New Year, stronger than at any time in our short though eventful history.
A packed McCaughey Suite in the local community centre played host to an invigorating occasion, where republicans of all ages gathered to configure best means to broaden out the One Ireland One Vote campaign, as we head into a critical period in the effort to resurrect a viable republican project to end partition and restore the Sovereign All-Ireland Republic.
One Ireland One Vote itself formed the centrepiece of debate and discussion, with National Organiser Paul Scannell giving a run-down on the state of the campaign, describing how ‘huge numbers across Ireland are being attracted to our analysis, with more and more realising the cherished goal of a United Ireland is simply not on the agenda of the political establishment North or South’.
Continuing, he spoke of how ‘new Societies are springing up from Cork to Donegal, with Tipperary, Offaly and Westmeath having recently put down structures to complement the wide-ranging and diverse ensemble of local cumainn already in place, touching every province in the country’. Referring to a recent 10-day ‘meet and greet’ in New York City, by our National Treasurer Kevin Martin, he went on to describe a process, still in its infancy, where an ‘associate membership scheme’, to harness the influx of those in the Diaspora seeking to assist both our development and wider political initiative, will soon be up and running.
Indeed Kevin, joining the top table to make a presentation on his recent efforts, himself spoke of the ‘huge progress already made on this front, with a Society in New York itself to be up and running in the immediate future, a public meeting to further this having been set for 28th November in Manhattan and to which sympathisers on the East Coast and beyond are invited to attend’. He went on to speak of the ‘incredible goodwill’ among Irish communities stateside towards our emerging project and strategy. All-in-all these developments represent a critical breakthrough for our organisation, which bodes well as we move into the Centenary year.
With as much in mind, the 1916 Societies could fairly be described as the fastest growing political grouping in Ireland, whose demand for a national debate and referendum, to secure a new Irish Republic tasked with meeting the needs of its people – in a time when the existing establishment does anything but – finds resonance with an awakened public, sick of the lie that life for ordinary men and women can get no better than the crisis-torn society currently on offer from the elite-serving, corruption-riddled puppet assemblies at Leinster House and Stormont.
One Ireland One Vote offers the means to assert a new beginning for all citizens in Ireland, regardless of artificial divisions fostered by successive London governments, supported throughout by the Dublin establishment, who remain steadfast in their determination to retain a neo-colonial presence in Ireland at the expense of her people – a point touched on repeatedly by Paul Scannell in his keynote address and given further credence in a contribution from Seamus Crawley, who with Derry 1916 Societies has been on the ground taking the One Ireland One Vote campaign to the doorsteps in the city.
Seamus described the model employed by the cumann in Derry as ‘getting out among the people and bringing the message to the heart of the communities in which we live, encouraging the belief that real change is within our grasp if we dare to realise our own strength’. Going forward, the strategy employed by the Derry Society, as set out by Seamus for those in attendance and to be forwarded and explained to those members who were not, is considered a template for the wider initiative, an example for those who hope to build their structures at a local level through similar campaigning, using One Ireland One Vote as the anchor-point of their political strategy.
With the evening nearing an end, Eudald Vilamajó, an activist with the Catalan movement for independence, addressed the room, offering a comprehensive overview of emerging developments in his homeland, all with an eye on drawing useful parallels with and for our own campaign and strategy. While for sure the Catalans are much further down the road of instituting a progressive political alternative than ourselves at this moment, the ideas and concepts teased out in the course of Eudald’s address, with a useful question and answer session from the floor adding to his contribution, will prove invaluable to our own political thinking as we carry forward efforts to secure a national referendum for the Irish people and an independent republic forthwith.
A useful day’s work in total with a clear route charted for the Societies, the strategy going forward mapped out for all to see: hard work on the ground and hard work again. Concluding the day’s events, Vice Chair Frankie Quinn set out a vision of a vibrant republican strategy where Irish republicanism ‘might finally realise its unique potential to coalesce with various sections of society, who as ourselves are demanding political change, encouraging the realisation among those with whom we share common goals that the path to achieving their objectives lies in embracing the All-Ireland Republic and the notion of Irish Unity’. One Ireland One Vote can be the vehicle to secure that end and together we must work to empower it.
Credit must go to our Education Department for putting in place a fantastic, exceptionally well-organised event, as well as to the PH Pearse Society Galbally-Cappagh, who organised the venue, set up the room and provided refreshments for the many in attendance. Thanks also to Galbally Community Centre for use of their premises and the McCaughey Suite therein, and also to Shannon and Saoirse Duggan from Newtowncunningham, who provided traditional music on the day. A final word of thanks to local singer/musician Caren Brannigan, who brought proceedings to an end with a beautiful rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann.
All-in-all, the Societies go forward into 2016 confident that significant change is on the horizon, that old ways of doing politics are no longer capable of ‘managing’ pressures from below, pressures confronting the political establishment like never before – particularly in the South, where strong currents of hostility to the state structure are being reinforced by a perpetual debt-loop. The Irish people cannot escape this situation while the existing, servile establishment remains in place.
Our hope and belief is that by rowing in behind our initiative, drawing the various threads of state opposition together into a horizontal ‘grassroots’ movement, itself intent on securing fundamental change to the structure of wider society, we can bring about new political arrangements across and throughout this country, where the sovereign will of the people is realised and a New Republic – which works for its citizens and not neo-colonial masters – whether from London or Berlin – is made real on the strength of such an alliance.