In response to an opinion article by Niall O'Dowd (Read the article here), Breandán Mac Cionnaith, who in May of this year was elected as general secretary to the socialist republican party, éirígi, has submitted the following article:
In a recent “Periscope” article, Niall O’Dowd referred to éirígí[i] in the following terms, “Eirigi is a curious mix of hardliners who woke up too late and found the landscape utterly changed by the peace process and a fair few Utopian dreamers who continue to plug their paramilitary driven socialist all Ireland agenda although the tide has gone out many years ago.”
The use of terms such as “hardliners” and a “paramilitary driven socialist all Ireland agenda” paints a false picture of éirígí for the Irish-American community.
Rather than factually portray éirígí for what it actually is – a legitimate, open and democratic political party which is successfully organizing throughout Ireland – the reference in that article in my view totally misrepresented éirígí.
It makes no mention of the steady growth which our party has experienced in our short existence or the far-reaching decisions taken at our recent Ard Fhéis in May of this year.
éirígi is, indeed, unapologetic in its commitment to achieving an end to the partition of Ireland, an end to continued British interference in Irish affairs and to the establishment of a new all-Ireland Republic, based upon socialist principles of social and economic equality and human solidarity. In doing so, our aims and objectives differ little from those well-known “Utopian dreamers” such as Michael Davitt, James Connolly, Peadar O’Donnell and many others.
éirígí does not believe that the present political institutions in Ireland have the potential to bring about those aims and objectives, particularly full re-unification and national independence – a point which officials and ministers of the Dublin government appear to agree with us when they referenced Irish re-unification and the “constitutional issue” as being off the agenda and on the back-burner for at least 40 years.
We believe that the political process which brought us to the present situation was driven by an exploitation and manipulation of the Irish people’s overwhelming and genuine desire for peace, justice and freedom into a process which delivered only an imperfect Pax Britannica that reinforces sectarian division and partition.
Armed British troops remain deployed in the Six Counties, and lethal plastic bullets are still used by the British police force there that has access to more weaponry and more repressive legislation than at any time during the recent armed conflict. It is our analysis that today’s imperfect political settlement in the
context of the continued partition of our country within a British framework will not advance re-unification.
This point is very apt when viewed in the context of the words of then British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, in September 2006, just prior to the St. Andrew’s negotiations. He stated that “A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interests of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.
Our voting power in the European Union would diminish. We'd slip down in the world league GDP tables.
Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN Security Council.”
That statement publicly reversed the previous British position of having no “selfish economic or strategic interest” for remaining in the North of Ireland – a reversal which those parties representing Irish nationalist interests at the St Andrew’s negotiations failed to acknowledge or challenge. Perhaps, it is they who woke up too late.
In May of this year, our party membership overwhelmingly approved a policy on elections and elected institutions which confirmed the party’s intentions to contest future elections across Ireland. Such an approach will provide a major additional platform for éirígí to challenge and expose the status quo while simultaneously representing the interests of working people and promoting our vision of a socialist republican alternative.
Contrary to the assertion made in Niall’s article, the landscape experienced by working class communities across Ireland has certainly not been utterly changed by the peace process as any examination or analysis of the levels of long-term social and economic deprivation experienced by families in those same communities across this island will reveal.
By participating in elections and elected institutions, éirígí will seek to expose the limits of and the contradictions within the current systems, both North and South, and give an effective, radical voice to those whom the advocates of those systems are consistently failing.
The bogeyman of paramilitarism was wheeled out by Niall to suggest that éirígí, by being opposed to the present political institutions, is consequentially both anti-peace and pro-violence.
Let me make clear, in terms which I and other senior members of éirígí have been publicly consistent and unequivocal – éirígí is not aligned to or supportive of any armed groups, Irish or British, which presently operate in Ireland and therefore it also logically flows from that fact that we do not support the armed agendas or strategies of those same groups. We certainly do not have any paramilitary driven agenda.
éirígí recognises the immense task ahead as we plough an alternative furrow based on an acknowledgment of the political reality that neither the existing path of constitutional nationalism, however re-branded, or that of a ritualist physical force tradition within Irish politics will deliver re-unification, independence or a new, more equal socio-economic order in Ireland.
Despite the scale of that challenge, we are committed to building a radical, credible and viable political alternative that is capable of attracting popular support.
Contrary to the wishes of our detractors, éirígí is here for the long haul. In developing strategies for our future development, éirígí has sent a clear and unambiguous signal of its intention to build and develop throughout Ireland and to become a permanent fixture on the Irish political landscape.
Perhaps, therein also lays the reason why our opponents seek to demonize us at such an early stage in our development.
[i] éirígí’s name is taken from that famous quote of Irish and international working class radicalism which is to be found on the monument to the trade unionist, James Larkin, as well as on the masthead of James Connolly’s newspaper, “The Workers Republic” – "the great only appear great because we are on our knees, let us arise."