IRSP Political Secretary's Report
Danielle Ni Dhighe
nidhighe at irsm.org
Sat Aug 24 12:22:23 MDT 2002
Irish Republican Socialist Party
Political Secretary's Report
Delivered at 2002 Ard-Fheis
Comrades, it is just a month short of two years since the last Ard-
Fheis. Now is a good time to take stock both externally and
Internationally we have had the aggressive war on terrorism waged by
USA imperialism. This has resulted in devastation in Afghanistan with
large parts of the countryside back in the hands of drug dealing
warlord allies of the USA. There have been the vicious Zionist
efforts to crush the Palestinian people. There has been the ongoing
death fast in Turkey, the attempts to wipe out trade unionism in
Colombia. I could go on detailing country after country where right
wing forces attempt to wipe out the left or where religious
fundamentalism seeks to sway the masses from radical secular
solutions to their problems.
I'm not a good enough economist to give you the economic reasons for
what is happening in the world. It has been the stock response of
those on the left to trip out the cliché that "capitalism is in
crisis." Comrades, all my adult life, indeed all my chronological life,
capitalism has been in crisis. It may well be able to survive
extremely well but at what a cost to the world.
I don't pretend to have deep insights in the Marxist analysis of
society, but this I do know that unless there is a revolutionary
upheaval in the way in which not merely our society is run but also
how the whole world is run, then this planet is fucked.
Years ago what was called the 'hard' left looked with disdain on
environmental issues as only the concern of quiche eating vegan drop-
outs who embraced the alternative life style. Comrades, we cannot
afford such complacency in the future. Every day working class people
die from the poisons in our air, in our food, in our homes. Socialism
should be life affirming, offering a future not merely for our
children but passing on the earth to future generations to live long
healthy lives. Unless we take up all the issues that affect our
everyday lives then we will be an irrelevance. And unless we can halt
the onward march of capitalism, the earth we live on is doomed. The
survival of the human species must of necessity make us
internationalist. If nothing else ever so clearly defines the
differences between ourselves, the IRSP, and other republicans
who have capitulated to a narrow sectarian influenced nationalism, it
must be our internationalism following well in the footsteps of Wolfe
Tone and James Connolly.
The Good Friday Agreement
On the May 20th, 1998, speaking to a meeting of the IRSP in Belfast,
IRSP spokesperson at the time, Kevin McQuillan, called for a determined
no vote in the referendum.
"The IRSP are opposed to this agreement on a number of grounds.
1/The built in veto within the proposed assembly at Stormont
solidifies the existing sectarian power blocs and gives reactionary
politicians the power to prevent, within the remit of the proposed
assembly, any radical measures to deal with the economic and social
problems that exist in the Six Counties. The working classes will be
pressured into identifying with the two sectarian blocs.
2/Partition itself which was reluctantly imposed by Britain itself in
1920 because of the power of unionism in British politics and which
spawned sectarian pogroms, discrimination and death is solidified by
3/The cross border institutions, much heralded as an all-Ireland
dimension, are in reality existing practice of co-operation tarted up
as some wonderful exotic all-Ireland creature. Key issues such as
policing will be kept from their remit unless it is on the question
of suppressing the activities of those who refuse to accept the
4/Political prisoners will be released on licence and already
discrimination is directed against those prisoners who refuse to
accept the agreement. The IRSP maintain that in a conflict resolution
situation all political prisoners must be released unconditionally.
5/Britain is only reluctantly agreeing to the so-called equality
agenda so long as it is tied into the agreement. Human rights
transcend shoddy political deals and any progressive elements in the
negotiations should have kept the issue of human rights separate from
the talks on political institutions.
6/The agreement will not end the violence that has been endemic in
the Six County statelet.
Since 1994 the IRSP has been saying to those willing to listen that
the so called peace process was flawed because:
a} It was based on the false premise that the British could be
b} It was not an inclusive process. Unless all sides of the conflict
are heard then the propensity for escalating violence exists.
The reality is of course that this agreement is flawed for
republicans and socialists and a bonus for the establishments in
Ireland and Britain. It is the British effort to consolidate
stability in Ireland. Now as in the 19th century Ireland has provided
international capital with a ready supply of cheap labour. Nowadays
the labour is educated, skilled and articulate but still relatively
cheap. If in five years time:
a] The employment rate for nationalists is the same as for unionists,
b] The RUC are reformed out of all recognition from today,
c] There are no political prisoners,
d] Full human rights have been established, north and south,
e] And the nationalists of the north no longer fear the sound of
marching orange feet in their districts,
then this leadership of the IRSP will be prepared to say that there
was after all some reason for welcoming this agreement.
Now four years on this leadership was and is right. The peace
process has collapsed but the political process goes on. We see a
need for a revitalised republican agenda that takes its message to
the "people of no property".
We are adamant that the only Republic we are interested in is one
where the working class have political power and can begin the task
of building socialism.
Now let me look at some issues over the past two years.
"Those who live in loyalist areas have nothing to fear from the INLA.
We pose no threat to the ordinary Protestant working class. There
have not been nor will there be any threats to any section of
Protestant workers from the INLA.
"The INLA has in the past proposed a non-aggression pact, a grass
roots initiative that would enable working class communities to co-
exist side by side with clearly defined ways of negotiating
settlements to problems without armed groups intervening. We will
talk to anyone on this issue."
The above statements from the INLA were issued at the beginning of
the year 2002. However that had been the position of that
organisation for a number of years. The record should be put
straight. Since before the death of Gino Gallagher, the IRSP with the
support of the INLA had been trying to make contact with genuine
representatives of Protestant working class opinion with a view to
breaking down those historical barriers that divided us. Those
approaches stemmed from the IRSP's analysis that the then ongoing
peace process would either fail or ultimately benefit only the
chattering and moneyed classes.
Comrades, the republican armed struggle had not achieved its goals and
there was now a necessity to take a different road. There would
always be loyalists who because of their insecurity, racism and
sectarianism would continue killing Catholics. No armed group could
adequately defend all nationalist areas. A mobilisation of working
class communities towards conflict resolution solutions would not
only empower those communities but also lessen cross community strife.
Hence the idea of a non-aggression pact slowly emerged.
The GFA has failed to deliver peace to many working class communities
and while the flames of sectarianism have engulf many areas, the
political classes have done nothing. They have advocated nothing,
have stood aloof and allowed those already in poverty and violence to
slip further and further into despair.
With all the main armed groups on ceasefire there has been more
rather than less sectarianism on the streets. That stems in the main
from loyalism but be under no illusions it is also there in
nationalist areas. There has been a constant barrage of sectarian
attacks on the Catholic population in an attempt to make republicans
break ceasefires and so destroy the agreement.
This lie has been perpetuated over the last thirty years that
loyalist violence was only reactive to republican violence. Recently,
much of the media have tried to claim that the sectarian attacks are
tit for tat and even some of trade union leaders have claimed the
same. Recent violence proves the lie of that. 90% has been loyalist
Republicans of all hues are very clear about loyalism. It is about
denying equality, justice, and human and civil rights to those not pro-
British or unionist. It is about instilling fear into Catholics by
the random killing of Catholics.
Loyalist violence has continued despite some concessions gained from
the Belfast Agreement. The war is over. The IRA has compromised, and
surrendered guns. Republicans have apologised for the suffering they
caused. Articles Two and Three have been removed from the Irish
constitution, and Sinn Fein are participating in a Stormont assembly
as well as running Stormont departments.
But for some in the unionist/loyalist camp this is clearly not
enough. Republicans believe that loyalists want all out victory, and
a return to pre-1969 style of government a Protestant government for
a Protestant people, and second-class citizenship for everyone else.
That is what drives the ongoing loyalist violence. Yet the areas
affected most by this violence are poverty stricken and poverty does
not ask the religion or politics of its victims.
An index of poverty in affected areas shows not one section of the
Catholic or Protestant working class communities can claim to be
suffering more deprivation than another. The all-pervading influence
of the neo-liberal economic approach has driven successive
governments policies, which are even now endorsed by the Stormont
The four main parties in the Stormont Executive (UUP, DUP, SDLP, SF)
have all been lobbying Westminster to lower corporate tax from 30%
to as little as 10%, and are pushing through (PFI, PPP) deals which
means the privatising of public services, and putting profit before
The impact that the implementation of these policies in working class
areas, both Catholic and Protestant, will be devastating with poverty
levels rising and housing conditions worsening.
However there is little immediate chance of class differences
transcending our sectarian differences.
The Non-Aggression Pact is based on the belief that regardless of
the GFA there is continuing fear and distrust in the communities. The
IRSP take no pleasure in watching working class communities at each
other throats and have pushed the idea to those who were willing to
Our members are active on the ground in defending working class homes
from sectarian attack. The INLA have publicly stated that they will
use any means necessary to defend working class homes from attack
while recognising the sheer impossibility of providing 100% security
for any area.
Therefore logic dictates that rather than continue with standoff
situations and low level riots involving kids, adolescents, then grown
men and finally armed groups it is better to work out agreements at
grass roots level to establish mechanisms that will allow for the
defusing of dangerous situations.
The IRSP have talked with trade unionists from all communities,
former loyalist prisoners and community groups pushing the validity
of the concept of the NAP.
The Non-Aggression Pact is about encouraging working class dialogue,
co-operation and breaking down barriers. It is about neighbours
reaching agreement between themselves without the fear of
manipulation by armed groups.
It is a bottom up approach within the control of the people at grass
roots level. It is the beginning of working class communities taking
control of their lives and playing a part in the positive
developments of their community.
Community workers, activists and trade unionists within unionist and
nationalist areas can and should play a more active part in their
communities without having to pay homage to any group whether armed
The IRSP has a clear unequivocal view of what constitutes the Irish
working class. It is those who either labour with hand or brain to
earn a living, their dependants, those who are unemployed and all
those on the margins of economic society. All on the island of
Ireland who fit into these categories constitute for us the Irish
working class regardless of their origins. We believe in the Marxian
concept that labour produces the wealth but is denied its rightful
share of that wealth by the capitalist system we live in.
In our constitution we define in Article 3, a Socialist Republic in
the following way:
3/A Socialist Republic would be one based:
a)On democratic principles throughout all aspects of political,
social, economic and cultural life and guided by the maxim: from each
according to his/her ability to each according to his/her needs;
b)On the spirit of workers unity and internationalism; and
c)Would be non-discriminatory on the grounds of religion, race,
nationality, gender or sexual orientation.
In this spirit therefore we view those who constitute what is
referred to as the Protestant or loyalist working class as part of
the Irish working class but we recognise that, that is not their view
of themselves. They certainly do not constitute a part of what is
called 'The Historic Irish Nation'.
The main legacy of Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen was the
struggle to break the connection with England and to unite all the
peoples of the island in a Republic. They established a non-sectarian
republican tradition. Some actions taken by republicans have been
more motivated by sectarian hatred than republican ideology.
Regardless of whatever pressures, sectarianism is anti-republican and
a hindrance to the struggle for socialism.
The INLA has said: "We condemn the poor leadership within unionism
for allowing the protestant working class to be marginalized by the
political process. The rampant sectarian hatred manifested in the
attacks on school children is a monument to the gutless leadership
within unionism. We call on community leaders trade unionists and
activists within the protestant working class to mobilise within that
working class and seize the political leadership from the drug
dealing loyalists of the UDA."
Republicans and socialists must make genuine efforts to win over all
sections of the working class to a socialist agenda without at the
same time capitulating to either loyalism or nationalism. Loyalism is
a reactionary ideology and has to be politically destroyed.
Nationalism while it has progressive elements within it nevertheless
remains a barrier and a stumbling block to creating socialism.
With the coming of the peace process and the changing political and
economic situation in Ireland and indeed world wide those of us on
the left have had to take a good hard look at our own policies.
Locally, nationally and internationally there are every day clear
manifestations of class struggle. For example the anti-globalisation
movement is in reality an anti-capitalist movement.
However, no longer can the left arrogantly assert to itself the role
of "leadership". We have to recognise that class-consciousness comes
from struggle not textbooks. In those struggles themselves the left
could be the proponents of the extension of democratic principles to
all aspects of struggle whether economic, political social or
If socialism is to be the liberating experience it should be then the
left has to move from positions of elitism and leadership driven
initiatives to fully embracing democracy.
We all must re-examine what we mean by the terms we use. What is our
vision of the "Republic", what is "Socialism" and what is "Democracy"?
Modern day republicans have to learn to adapt to changing times. We
republicans must now clearly analyse what the current political
situation north and south means. This means taking account of the
validity and effectiveness of all methods of struggle including the
use of arms, at this time. It means reassessing our ideology in the
light of the new situation and re-affirming our commitment to
changing this society.
We should become the forefront of resistance to all attacks on the
working class. Only by our relevance to the lives and thoughts of our
class can any movement flourish.
James Connolly once said "...it also our duty to put our ideas,
policies and beliefs under the microscope and re-examine what we
stand for and see if we are doing things the correct way."
That quote from Ireland's greatest socialist, sums up the approach of
the Republican Socialist Movement to the politics of modern day
Ireland. That is what both the IRSP and the INLA have been doing.
Self-criticism is the life blood of any movement. This is what this
Ard-Fheis should be about. It is the opportunity for the membership
to set the path for the future, to renew the leadership with fresh
blood and to affirm our basic principles.
A healthy democratic radical and socialist movement is the best
vehicle for the liberation of the working class. It is now time to
build a working class movement in Ireland that is class conscious,
socialist, republican and prepared to take on all the vested interests
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