Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seán O'Carroll & Patrick Tierney Commemoration; Ardee Co. Louth

(Cllr. Pearse McGeough & myself at the O'Carroll/
Tierney monument in Ardee)
Earlier today I had the honour of addressing the annual Commemoration of IRA Volunteers Seán O'Carroll and Patrick Tierney who were murdered by the Black & Tans on November 30th 1920. The event took place in Ardee, Co. Louth and was proceeded by a march through the town to the monument erected in memory of the two men.

Local Councillor Pearse McGeough chaired the proceedings. Because everyone was freezing I kept my contribution relatively short. Here are my remarks for anyone who may be interested:

Today, like every year, republicans gather to remember and commemorate 2 heroes:
Seán O’Carroll, a native of Celbridge in Co. Kildare who had moved to Belfast at a young age and found himself here in Ardee, County Louth, where he was teaching Gaeilge and Patrick Tierney, a local man rooted in the Ardee community.

In November 1920 Seán O’Carroll was 25; Patrick Tierney was 26.

Reading reports on their lives it was clear that they were relatively ordinary young men enjoying the same pastimes as their peers. But, they were different in one respect – they were IRA volunteers, having recognised the injustice perpetrated on their country by foreign occupation they decided they were going to do something about it. That is what made them heroes.

On the evening of 30th November British forces murdered both men, in separate instances, here in the town of Ardee.

Similar stories are to be found in almost every town in this country and in far too many cases we don’t have to go back 90 years to find the story.

In 6 counties, up until recently, similar methods were used continually by RUC, British army and their agents in unionist death squads in attempts to silence the heroes of the day.

They failed.

And while we have not yet succeeded in bringing about the objectives for which Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney gave their lives we must be confident that we are on course for that victory which has alluded the Irish people for so many generations.

The last 15 years have been difficult. The Peace Process, has in many ways shown the determination of our enemies and opponents. It has tested our resolve. It has sometimes caused difficulties for us personally. But, these difficulties have been nothing compared to what has been caused for our enemies.

Take the issue of policing, for example. A tough decision for many republicans, myself included, was taken. But witnessing the crisis caused with unionism and elements of the British establishment it is clear that the republican leadership (made up of the same calibre of people as Seán O Carroll and Patrick Tierney) took an initiative which has the potential to undermine the solidity of the 6 county state.

Who knows how this current dilemma will be resolved. One thing we know for certain is that if republicans remain united and committed then we will come out stronger than we went in.

Another certainty is that the endgame for partition must be put in place.

Consider the economic crisis that this state is in. And consider the perceived wisdom among so many of those who actually caused the crisis that a major obstacle to recovery is the fact that hard strapped families sometimes decide to do their shopping in an Irish town 40 miles down the road from where we are standing.

Of course, Sinn Féin representatives should be encouraging people to support local businesses where appropriate. But in my own town of Carrickmacross, I know that for years there was never so much as a whisper when busloads of people travelled to Dublin to spend their hard earned cash. But when they make the shorter journey into a neighbouring county in search of value for money their patriotism is questioned.

We know what our patriotic duty is, in economic terms and in every other way. It is to do all within our power to end partition and unite our country once and for all.

Sinn Féin has a plan to achieve this. Other parties tell us that they too want to see reunification. Well, let us see their plans. We have no desire to have a monopoly of the Irish Republican tradition. But likewise we will not listen to election time republicans, who mention the names of the likes of Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney only when it’s in their political interests to do so, without exposing their hypocrisy.

The hardest battles for Irish Republicanism are yet to come. We know the resolve of our opponents. They were at the home of Seán Hughes and his family recently. They united in force to deliver the Lisbon treaty. They are at one in forcing the lowest paid and the less well off to pay the cost of an economic bubble that delivered no benefit to those targeted for cuts.

And they are united in their fear, their hatred and their contempt for Irish Republicanism. They comprise of course of the most reactionary elements of Unionism and the British political and military establishment. But they also include the political, media, big business establishment in this state, just like they did during the tan war when the same elements turned a blind eye to the murders of Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney.

And just like the comrades of Seán Carroll and Patrick Tierney did all those years ago we need to take our opponents on with even more resolve than they have themselves.

That means becoming stronger. It means being rooted in our communities and leading from the front. It means presenting the Irish people with radical yet achievable short and medium term solutions as well as having a broader vision for a new and united Ireland.

Our elected representatives have been carrying out this work. Arthur Morgan and his staff should be especially congratulated for their work in producing comprehensive policy documents including a pre-budget submission and an employment creation strategy document that proves the lie behind government assertions that there is no alternative to cuts in public services and the targeting of the low paid and unemployed.

With the commitment of party members and supporters we need to by-pass the establishment media and get our policies into local communities. We need to create the debate about what kind of Ireland the Irish people want.

It is my firm belief that, at the basest level, the Irish people don’t want a partitioned, conservative, right wing, uncompassionate, corrupt country. Yet many of them continually elect partitionist, right-wing, uncompassionate, corrupt politicians. Maybe its because they haven’t been convinced that there’s an alternative.

Well, that’s our job. Lets show them. Lets make sure that County Louth, just like my own constituency re-elects our Sinn Féin TD's. Lets set the example for other constituencies to do likewise. Lets take power in this state and use that power to demolish the border that is the source of so many of this country’s ills.

Let do this together. Lets create a real, living commemoration to Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney and to the thousands of others who gave their lives to the great cause to which we still aspire.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections after Lisbon

So, Lisbon has been passed and, it has to be said, by a substantial margin.

I’m not going to go down the line that advocates of the treaty did when the same proposition was rejected last year which was basically “the people were too stupid to know what they were doing”. I think all democrats must accept the result, dust ourselves off and prepare for the next battle for the hearts and minds of the Irish electorate.

Standing back I don’t think the surprise is that the Lisbon Treaty was passed; rather that is was rejected in the first place and that even on this occasion a considerable 33% of people refused to be sold by a ‘Yes’ campaign that comprised of the collective energies of the entire political, corporate, religious and media establishment. The fact that a sizable section of the trade union movement also endorsed the treaty, while unsurprising, was disappointing and undoubtedly swayed many progressive voters.

The result presents challenges for us into the future. The first, obvious one, is to be ready to expose those ‘lies’ expressed by the yes side in the course of the referendum particularly relating to the economy.

(Looking forward to all the job creation? Don't hold your breath.)

We must also accept the need for independent analysis of all directions coming from the EU and of all decisions agreed by our government at EU level. I feel that a central failing of the No side was our simple acceptance of the ‘yes’ sides’ simple assertion that “Europe has been good for us”. Of course, the EU has been the source of much positive legislation (almost all of which regarding say, women’s and workers’ rights, could have been introduced by the Dáil) and many sectors have received welcome funding. But there is no organisation or body that analyses the role that the EU has played across the board without having a particular agenda.

There are also other lessons to be learned for those of us who campaigned for a ‘No’ vote.

Certainly the Coír campaign was often embarrassing and their poster proclaiming €1.84 minimum wage played straight into the government’s hands as once they were able to disprove one claim they managed to discredit the entire No campaign. Now I know there was a question mark on the poster and I accept that Coír were simply attempting to draw attention to the anti-worker decisions of the European Court of Justice but they should have left that to those people who actually knew what they were talking about.

Libertas, again as a group I have little affinity with, ran a relatively good campaign in fairness. They highlighted those aspects of the treaty which will impact on those sections of society that we, in Sinn Féin for example, couldn’t resonate with. Declan Ganley’s late arrival added nothing to the campaign however other than to excite the chattering classes in the media.

The UNITE and TEEU trade unions deserve great credit. They stuck specifically to the contents of the treaty and made a strong case for a No vote. Unfortunately the decision of SIPTU to change its position (on the back of Fine Gael and Labour promises) meant that the public perception was that the entire trade union movement was in unison in favour of the treaty.

For Sinn Féin’s part it is clear that we simply do not have credibility among a sufficient proportion of the electorate. Clearly the anti-Sinn Féin bias in the media holds a massive sway. Similarly, other than Lisbon itself, nothing unites the establishment political parties more than their hatred for republicans. But we can’t just keep whinging about these things. We have to accept them as a given and move on. The experience in Monaghan, for example, is that when Sinn Féin get a substantial mandate the other parties are less likely to spend their time attacking us for fear of missing out on transfers.

We have to get off our high horse; the reason Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour can direct so much venom towards Sinn Féin isn’t just because we go against the cosy cartel that has existed in this state since its foundation. It’s also because they know they can. We simply aren’t strong enough to combat it.

So, we need to get stronger. That means building a better organisation. It means that some of those people who have left our party in recent years must be encouraged to come back. We also need to attract thousands of new members and accept the fact that not all members will feel comfortable in the traditional cumann structure that the party operates. We need to alter the definition of what a Sinn Féin member is and agree that it will not always be necessary for someone to attend three meetings a week and go leafleting, campaigning etc for the other four evenings to meet the criteria.

We also need to build and support an alternative media. The failure of the Daily Ireland initiative was disappointing. I sincerely hope that somebody, or a collection of individuals, will at some point in the future launch an alternative progressive national daily newspaper. In the mean-time there is a need to increase the level of other means of media such as newsletters and on-line methods such as social networking sites and you-tube.

It is only by building a strong Republican party delivering a strong Republican message can we hope to win the battle for Irish hearts and minds. This is a historic project that will take many years to achieve. It certainly cannot be measured in election cycles or election results although these will always be useful indicators as to the success, or otherwise, of our efforts.

As a first step we need all progressive political groupings and parties, whether coming primarily from a socialist or republican perspective, to work together on issues of mutual concern. They/ We should each start concentrating their/ our energies on the conservative forces in our society, of which there are many. It is draining to see progressive parties and organisations attacking Sinn Féin rather than joining us in tackling the greatest challenges facing our nation i.e. partition, poverty and inequality.

There is a large amount of work to do in the struggle for a United Democratic Irish Republic. A battle was lost last weekend; and the hard work has only started.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lisbon Treaty Re-Run campaign intensifies

Well, maybe the title is a bit misleading. But, certainly those campaigning for a Yes vote are getting their act together quickly. For those of us who dearly want to see the Irish people once again stand up for themselves and reject this bad treaty the very thought of another campaign is draining.

Prior to the last campaign I read the Lisbon treaty. And, even though I can now quote very few of the exact phrases/ sections/ paragraphs etc, you can have your shite if you think I’m going to read it again. I’ll leave that to Eoin O’Broin.

Of course I’ll read the summaries and the analysis and the opinion pieces (most of which incidentally will be written by people who didn’t read it the first time and won’t read it this time either). It just sickens me the contempt that those advocating a Yes vote have and the brass neck on them when it comes to this subject. They are oozing confidence; and perhaps they have every reason. I just hope that we can take those smug, patronising, self-serving smirks off their faces in October.

I may return to this subject again so at this stage suffice to make these short points:
1. The Lisbon Treaty was a Bad Deal last year – It’s still a Bad Deal.
2. The rejection of the Lisbon Treaty had nothing to do with the recession – the no vote didn’t create it and a yes vote won’t reverse it.
3. There is nothing patriotic, or even sensible, about a state giving even more power to a commission or a council of Ministers for which, once decisions are made and directives issued, provide no democratic mechanism for reversing them.

This will be a defining moment for the Irish People (well those in the 26 counties who’ll have a vote). I hear so much about how mature our country has become; how sophisticated we now are; how outward looking the Irish People are seen.
Well this is the opportunity to prove it.
Like any good parent can we, on this occasion, say:
No means No!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Louise Minihan Leaves Sinn Féin

Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan has left Sinn Féin to join Eirígi just five weeks after the local elections. She intends to take her seat with her.

I know Louise very well. I was at the first Sinn Féin meeting she ever attended and probably hundreds after that when we were in Ógra Shinn Féin in Dublin together about ten or twelve years ago. She is God-Mother to my daughter, Mairéad.

I can’t remember ever arguing much with Louise over politics. As I recall we agreed on almost everything. In fact the only time I remember disagreeing with her was in the run-up to the special Ard Fheis on policing. I was opposed to the Ard Comhairle motions. Louise was in favour. Indeed she spoke eloquently in support of our party joining the 6 county policing board to 2,000 plus delegates at the Ard Fheis in the RDS. (Incidentally I was queuing behind her to get up to speak against, when some fella from Cork proposed that the debate cease and a vote be taken; he got the largest applause I have ever heard from an Ard Fheis delegate. Anyway, I never got to give my tuppence worth and of course it wouldn’t have mattered – I’m not that persuasive).

I was gutted by that Ard Fheis decision; it was the only time that I’ve really considered leaving Sinn Féin.

Obviously I didn’t. But if I did I’d like to think that I would never even contemplate holding onto my council seats. They’re not mine. Of course, I’d like to think that some people vote for me because of my own track record and my own community activism but if I wanted to be judged on these alone I’d stand as an Independent. On the three occasions I’ve gone for election I’ve stood on the Sinn Féin ticket and been honoured to do so and have been more honoured to have been elected on every occasion. I have been glad of the huge support I have received from my fellow Sinn Féin members and candidates and I have never asked for assistance from the local organisation which wasn’t provided. It’s their seat as much as mine. And it belongs to the Sinn Féin members in Cork, Armagh, Dublin, wherever as much as it does to the Cumainn in my local area. Because we’re in this together!

About nine weeks ago, I, along with the other Sinn Féin candidates in Monaghan came together to sign our pre-election pledge to the party. Candidates in Dublin did likewise (as in Wexford for that matter, just like the candidates in Strabane did prior to their elections). The pledge basically states that, if elected, we will act honourably and uphold the principles and policies of Sinn Féin. It also states that if we leave Sinn Féin for whatever reason we will give our seats back to the party. Some people don’t give it much credence. Obviously councillors who have left Sinn Féin since the election and held onto their seat didn’t. But to me if I put my name to a document, it means a lot, whether it is legally binding or not. It is my word.

And, as Republicans, if we haven’t our word we have nothing. I will not fall out with anyone who leaves Sinn Féin for political, strategic or personal reasons. But I cannot have the same respect for someone who dishonours a solemn pledge they made to their fellow party members.

Louise was obviously disappointed with the some of the strategic and policy decisions that the Sinn Féin leadership made in recent years. Join the club! I firmly believe that those of us who have issues can and must try everything in our power to resolve them within the party. But I respect those who feel that they’d made the arguments, perhaps lost them all, and then want to move on.

I was at a wedding with Louise a few weeks ago. I had heard certain rumours and asked her straight out “you’re not thinking of going anywhere, are you?” - “Jaysus, no” was the response.

It is clear now that she lied to me. Who cares, no big deal. But the fact is that she more than likely had her mind made up well before the June 5th elections and that means that she also lied to party members and her constituents and I think that that is a very big deal. It also means that she signed a solemn pledge in the full knowledge that she had no intention of upholding it. Perhaps she saw it as an ‘empty formula’ – De Valera would be proud.
(Louise with SF members including Aengus O'Snodaigh just 5 weeks ago)
The people I feel angry for are the local Sinn Féin members in Ballyfermot and the wider Dublin South Central constituency. Their task of holding onto the Dáil seat has just made considerably more difficult. Don’t anyone try to tell me that contributing to the loss of a Sinn Féin Leinster House seat will do anything positive for the cause of a United Socialist Republic.

Louise text me this morning; she said: ‘Sorry I didn’t get 2 speak 2u b4 hand, always valued u as a comrade’.

Comrades don’t do this!

Louise should do the honourable thing – she should give the seat back to the party that the people of Ballyfermot, Drimnagh, Bluebell, Chapelizod & Inchicore gave it to.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ferris Hits Nail on the head

Toireasa Ferris has submitted an artictle in this weeks An Phoblacht which should be compulsory reading for all Sinn Féin activists particularly those who aspire to be leaders.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

First Blog

About four months ago I couldn't be bothered with social networking sites. Years of pestering from friends and family to setup a bebo page were resisted without a second thought.
Then for some reason I agreed. I was on bebo and I was hooked in a matter of days. Since then I joined facebook (without doubt the best in social networking sites), myspace (still haven't a clue how it works) and twitter (no good for someone like me who cannot say in one sentence what can easily be stretched to twenty).

So here, I presume, is the next step - I'm writing a blog. But don't worry; I can't see myself posting too often but I'm going to give it a go. I'm still not sure how this thing works. Does anybody even read other people's blogs unless they have a unique insight into a particular subject or can offer rare pieces of gossip from time to time? Because I can offer neither.

What I do hope to provide is:
1. An outlet for people, especially Monaghan people living away from home, to hear some of the things that are happening around here.
2. Let people know of upcoming events etc. that may be of interest.
3. A little bit of debate etc. on some of the important issues of the day i.e. will Monaghan beat Derry this Saturday; will Sinn Féin regroup and become the potent force we know Ireland needs it to be; will Ireland be a better place now that questions and answers will no longer be on telly? (yes, by the way, is the answer to these particular questions)

So, let me know what you think and especially tell me when I'm being a prick (once a month limit per person though - my ego can only take so much).

Here goes... The conversion is complete - I'm on blogger!