Dia daoibh a chairde agus go raibh maith agaibh as an deis a labhairt anseo inniu. Tá sé go hiontach a bheith anseo i measc Poblachtanach agus sóisialaithe ag pleanáil ‘Éire Nua’ a thógáil. Ar aghaidh le chéile chuig an cuspóir sin agus lig dúinn oibriú le chéile amach anseo.
The seismic event that was and is Brexit, in tandem with demographic change across Ireland, both north and south, is speeding new political realities upon which Irish Unity is emerging as a consequence. For the first time in generations, the political basis of Ireland is subject to change — change with a potential to unfold much quicker than expected.
It is the job of Irish Republicans, here, to advance the radical ‘big idea’ that Ireland, reunified, should stand as that sovereign and independent state set out under the Proclamation. We must win the idea that, for it be worthwhile, the point of Irish Unity should comprise no less. To undercut the tactics of the colonialist, we must seek out a convergence of all sections of society on that basic political premise. It is there where can be found the best contribution that we can make to the history being carved.
But while that is the context that greets us today, where things are at for ourselves, as Republicans, is that in this time long awaited, with rapidly changing events unfolding that are unsettling the status quo — prising open the prospect of political change — we are essentially absent from the picture and powerless, thus, to exert the influence demanded for the realise of Republican objects. But it is not Republicanism or its objects that are wanting. It is Irish Republicans ourselves and our approach.
We are absent from the picture because our approach, not our politics, is lacking in appeal to the people. Not without reason, it is seen by that body as anachronistic. This is often the case for movements who have been reduced to waiting on events — for the proverbial ‘worm’ to turn. For when changed events at last speed a context where their ideas are of merit, and are thus more deliverable, they fail to adjust as they ought to and need to, often having already retreated into niche projects, pushing niche ideas, in a forlorn hope of finding relevance. With the wider Left, this is the current experience of Republicanism.
The consequence here is that, with Brexit and demographic change in the North picking and pulling at the fabric of the Union, the forces we might think of as constitutional nationalism (with whom Republicans are always in contest) are those best positioned to channel these energies and dictate the parameters of what should proceed upon an end to the Union. As Britain reckons with a potentially seismic re-framing of its relationship with Ireland, this stands to safeguard its vital interests.
So while the prospect for a revolutionary transformation is there, bound up in the opening that constitutional change would present, a strategy of containment is also there with it. As the balance of forces is currently constituted, the latter is more sure of foot. But this need not remain so. Tipping the scale towards Republican offerings for political change is a strategic must if Republicans are to be anything but bystanders to the process unfolding. This requires a campaign of substance based on proposals of substance — not one built on rhetoric, as we are prone to.
We owe much more than that to our history, to all that was fought for and suffered. And we recall the sacrifices of the past along our journey, remembering in particular George McBrearty and ‘Pop’ Maguire, who died for the Republic ‘on the slopes of the Creggan’ on this day in 1981.
Given all that was faced and endured, we must utilise the events unfolding around us and bend them to our purpose — to the purpose of the Irish Republic. But to do so involves our moving with the times. While maintaining a critique of the status quo and remaining apart from its processes, we must have more to offer than the ‘politics of rejection’, on which we can tend to rely. We must speed and rally behind what we are for, as opposed to what we’re against (no matter how comforting be the latter).
But while the ‘politics of rejection’, alas, won’t cut it, nor will imitating the well-worn tactic of standing in potholes with cameras to the ready, in the hope of pocketing a future support base for campaigns still to be specified. Let there be no doubt that the war for ideas, already raging, will not be fought or won in a pothole. It must be won by securing the much bigger premise that maximum change should proceed at the point of constitutional movement. There lies the battle.
While a grass roots initiative of course needs moulded — one that directly engages the people — it must, then, be premised on the big issue of sovereignty — of national freedom and self-determination — rather than on parochial matters. While that’s not to say that local endeavour has no place in our approach, our focus must be exactly where is that of the enemy: on the ‘macro’ matter of who is to exercise sovereignty in Ireland — the British parliament or the Irish people — and how this can serve as a staging point to change all.
With the nationalist community now emerging as the majority community in the colonial gerrymander, though this is problematic and in no way a panacea, we must consider the prospect and scenario for the prospect whereby constitutional nationalism secures a ‘Yes’ in a so-called border poll. It is nowhere near good enough to just ignore the likelihood of such a scenario — to posit it as none of our business, ‘sure we’re Republicans’. Of course it is our business.
While the sovereignty of Ireland should not depend on a vote, and it is right to stand over that principle, we still need to account for political reality and how this might impact on political change. We must better influence the trajectory of such change, no matter our issues with the mechanisms that give onto it. The Irish Republic here needs positioned as the ‘Day One’ outcome of any such vote. We can do this without accepting, or internalising, the legitimacy of British constitutional constraints. Indeed the prospects for the Republic demand that we do so.
In mounting a campaign with the Republic at its masthead — as the outward expression of our demands and ideals — locally, nationally and internationally — our movement can regain its purpose. If we are serious about forging political change, in a time where change is a real and live matter, then this is the ground we must capture.
It cannot be abandoned to those now bent on a further compromise with the British state, with this to be dressed as a United Ireland. Nor can we afford to abscond into irrelevancy as these developments of critical import gather momentum. The object before us seems obvious: there must be a campaign — a Republican campaign. Friends and comrades, that campaign needs begun now today.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh arís a chairde as an deis a labhairt anseo inniu agus as éisteacht liom. Lig dúinn amach anseo an Phoblacht a bhuachan le chéile. Anois an t-am atá againn.