PÓL O’SCANNAIL’S ADDRESS TO THE 1916 SOCIETIES CONVENTION 2023
A chairde, it has been an honour and a privilege to hold the position of chathaoirleach ar cumann 1916 for the past 4 years, in that time we have been through a difficult couple of years due to covid lockdowns and all of the difficulties that presented in terms of holding meetings, rallies, events and commemorations, even burying our comrades as different rules and restrictions were applied depending on your subservience to the RUC/PSNI. I want to commend our members for their commitment and hard work during that time, helping the most vulnerable in our communities and providing PPE equipment to frontline workers. The lockdown years coincided with the centenaries of some of the most seminal events of the war of independence and also the fortieth anniversary of the 1981 Hungerstrikes, but we still managed to honour our patriot dead including the deaths of Terence McSwiney, Kevin Barry, Bloody Sunday in Croke Park and each of the hungerstrikers to name but a few. During that time we took the lead in opposing the freestate establishments plans to commemorate the Black ‘n’ Tans in Dublin castle and opposed the Wall of Shame in Glasnevin cemetery where they intended to put the names of our revolutionary war dead with British army war criminals who murdered civilians during the Easter rising, to equate them with the Black ‘n’ Tans and the auxiliaries who butchered, raped and pillaged and also freestate counter- revolutionaries who murdered those who remained loyal to the Republic. Both campaigns were successful, the plan to commemorate the tans was abandoned and the Wall of Shame was removed, as a Dubliner I am extremely proud of our involvement in preventing those shameful plans by the traitors in leinster house, we could not have lived with the shame. We came out of those difficult years and began to build again, we see new societies being set up and our Irish unity rallies becoming bigger and more frequent.
The issue of Irish unity has also become front and centre due to Brexit and its protocol, they tell us that it is closer now than it’s ever been. Even Thatcherite Norman Tebbit wrote that “It looks more likely than not that in the not too distant future , the province will become part of the Republic”, but under the terms of the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements any movement towards Irish unity is totally controlled by the British. They told us that certain events would trigger a border poll, if there was a nationalist majority in the 6 counties, last year the British census revealed that people who identified as Catholics outnumber those who identify as Protestants 45.7% to 43.48%, STILL no border poll. That demographic shift was not unexpected, in fact one of the chuckle brothers Ian Paisley knew that day would come when he warned that Catholics “Breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin”. Then they told us that a nationalist majority within the political institutions would trigger the poll, but yet again the British secretary of state refused. Paisley’s son has Legislation going through the British parliament which could remove the 50% +1 majority vote in the event of the British allowing a border poll to go ahead. Even if a border poll is held the British government retains a veto whereby it would have to pass a vote in both British houses of parliament in Westminster, even after that in the event of a border poll passing through all of these stages and locks, the legislation states that the British will remain on in Ireland as guarantors of the unionists. What does that mean? We know it means a continued British presence in Ireland, a continued violation of sovereignty. Does it mean, All Ireland joining the British Commonwealth, does it mean dual sovereignty with King Charles as joint head of state. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald stated that “The idea of Ireland rejoining the commonwealth needs to be discussed “she said she is open to discussions on Ireland rejoining the commonwealth. We state here today that we believe the only discussions with Britain should be in relation to a full withdrawal of their political and military infrastructure from Ireland. We also state clearly that WE SERVE NEITHER KING NOR KAISER, BUT IRELAND. We will continue to work towards a 32 county all Ireland referendum to achieve that goal. We need each and every one of you here today to build towards that right, the right for us to determine the future of this country without interference. Let’s be very clear on what we want to achieve, we want the Ireland that Connolly and Mellows fought and died for, a workers republic, a socialist republic that puts the rights of people first, not foreign corporations. Not a 32 county free state within the British Commonwealth or controlled by the EU who’s neo-liberal policies ensure that our young people are unable to afford a home or forced to work just to pay sky-high rents while foreign vultures reap massive tax free profits. As we approach the centenary of the death of General Liam Lynch we reiterate his words. We have declared for a republic and will not live under any other law.
We have a housing and homeless emergency North and South, in the south it is orchestrated by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens to benefit big investors and vultures cashing in on extortionate rents while the state refuses to build social or public housing, the same is happening here in the 6 counties with the commodification of housing. A direct result of the housing and homeless crisis is the rise of racism in Ireland. Refugees and people seeking international protection are being scapegoated for the failures of the political establishment.
One of my proudest moments as a member of the 1916 societies was in 2015 during the anti-Irish water protests, we marched back from our national hunger strike commemoration in Glasnevin cemetery with the intention of joining up with the water protest along the quays, as it turned out when we reached the quay we ended up at the front of the water march and led over 100,000 people to the GPO with tens of thousands of people applauding from the footpaths. I believe that the victory by the people against the privatisation of our water over the government shook the establishment to the core and the state set out to ensure that the people never stood together again as one.
The Gay marriage referendum and the 8th amendment campaign saw a rise in people identifying with far right ideology on these issues, people who wanted to drag Ireland back to the dark old days of John Charles McQuaid and Catholic Church’s control of society. These people emboldened by Trumpism in America used protests against the covid lockdowns to build up their fascist parties and networks. These groups have now coalesced around anti-migrant protests, they are sowing racial hatred against refugees, migrants and people of colour. The main agitators against refugees have been British army mercenary Rowan Croft AKA Gran Torino from Dublin who served 2 tours of Afghanistan. Herman Kelly of the Irish Freedom party from Derry who acted as PRO for Nigel Farage during the brexit campaign. Justin Barrett of the Nazi Irish Freedom party form Cork who was a member of young Fine Gael and leader youth defence an ultra-conservative catholic organisation, they have now been joined by anti-social elements, drug dealers and criminals at their anti-migrant protests. These protests are escalating around the country with vocal support from British fascist agitators Tommy Robinson of the EDL, Nick Griffin formerly of the National Front and various other fascist groups and Mark Collett founder of British far right hate group Patriotic Alternative, he is a neo-nazi and was a youth leader of the BNP. These fascists all have links to loyalist paramilitaries and were very vocal in their delight at the suspended sentence handed to British army killer David Holden as he walked free for the murder of Aiden McAnespie. They are using social media to spread their white supremacists ideology and anti-immigration sentiment to willing Irish fools, these supporters and cheerleaders of British imperialism have Irish people believing their propaganda of new plantation of Ireland and other nonsense, that all migrants illegal, that they are unvetted criminals and are here to rape, take our homes and jobs and other crazy racist conspiracy theories. It is easy to see how these protests are turning anti-republican, despite them using our national flag, our republican martyrs, our icons and our songs of rebellion at their protests, they really are a confused rabble. We must be vigilant, we have faced down these fascists down in the 30s and 40s and will do so again.
The freestate establishment has aided and abetted the rise of these groups by putting migrants into accommodation centres in exclusively working class communities without any consultation with people living in the areas. Communities are already suffering from a lack of basic services.
Last week we joined an anti-racism protest organised by long standing community and political activists outside Leinster house under the banner of Dublin communities against racism to highlight and condemn the disastrous policies of successive freestate governments that have brought about conflict and division in working class communities across the country. Their policies have allowed far right agitators to gain a foothold in our communities and spread their poisonous influence, their total failure to build houses and their failure to provide a fit for purpose health care system. Their ongoing neglect of the poorest and marginalised communities ravaged by drugs and anti-social behaviour, their failure to provide youth mental health and drug rehabilitation services, their failure to address educational disadvantages and income inequality has provided a fertile breeding ground for the far right to exploit and encourage protests against migrants and asylum seekers. We call on Irish people to reject the propaganda of the far right who are happy to serve the interests of the capitalist class while fooling working class people into believing that migrants are responsible for the housing, health and cost of living crisis. Theses far right groups are not only anti migrant, they are anti-women, anti-LGBT and oppose working class organisations like trade unions while supporting a capitalist system under which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We believe that people have a right to voice their genuine concerns but they should hold the government to account not let them off the hook. We as a people know what it’s like to migrants, we know what it’s like to be hated and discriminated against. In 1908 Connolly wrote, “The record of successive hosts of foreigners who came amongst us and, find Ireland a green and pleasant land, chose to abide there, let no Irishman throw a stone at the foreigner, he may hit his own clansman”.
Reject racism and hate, onwards to the 32 county socialist republic.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh.