Des Dalton Speaks at O Conaill
RSF give leadership to a new generation 1ú
Speaking at the annual Dáithí Ó Conaill commemoration in
Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin on January 1 the President of
Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton set out the challenges and
opportunities, which face Republican Sinn Féin in the New
The following is the full text of his oration:
“The forces of history as they work themselves out tend to
throw up people capable not only of recognising but more
importantly seizing the moment. Such people are not content
to merely witness history as it unfolds. Rather they are
determined to take their place on the stage of history and
play their part to the full. Dáithí Ó Conaill was such a
“Ó Conaill in 1969/70 was a key member of a leadership who
realised: ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which,
taken at the flood, leads on to fortune’. With his lifelong
friend and comrade Ruairí Ó Brádaigh he ensured that the
Republican Movement was prepared to take the tide of
revolution at full flood.
“By their actions they ensured the historic Republican
Movement was not diverted from the path of revolutionary
Irish Republicanism. For despite his youth he knew from his
profound knowledge of Irish history that any diversion from
this path led only to division and final absorption into the
apparatus of British rule in Ireland.
“Dáithí Ó Conaill came from a strong Cork Republican family.
His uncle Michael O’Sullivan (17) along with five of his
comrades was bayoneted to death by British Crown forces in
March 1921. Dáithí’s first active involvement in the
Republican Movement came during the 26-County Local
Elections in 1955 when at the age of 17 he joined Sinn Féin.
By the end of the following year he was on active service as
a Volunteer in the Irish Republican Army serving as an
organiser under GHQ staff in Co Fermanagh.
“On January 1 1957 he was Second-in Command of the Pearse
Column during the attack on Brookeborough RUC barracks which
resulted in the deaths of two of his comrades Fearghal Ó
hAnluáin, Co Monaghan and Seán Sabhat, Co Limerick. Four
others were wounded including the column commander. This
young man of 18 years took command and led a successful
withdrawal back across the border – evading 400 RUC,
B-Specials, two helicopters and the British army - where
they were forced to retire. But as the historian Bowyer Bell
pointed out: ‘not before the arms had been safely dumped’.
From there he found himself in Mountjoy and the Curragh
Concentration camp from where he escaped with his friend and
comrade Ruairí Ó Brádaigh in September 1958.
“He returned to active service and for a period was Director
of Operations. He was critically wounded in an ambush by the
RUC and B-Specials in Arboe, Co Tyrone on the shores of
Lough Neagh in November 1959. He made his escape but was
forced to seek help because of loss of blood and his
weakened condition. Captured, he was sentenced to eight
years which he served in Belfast’s Crumlin Road Jail.
Following his release in 1963 he reported back to active
“In 1969/70 again made his talents available to the
Republican Movement. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said of him he
possessed the ‘ablest mind in the Republican Movement for
over 20 years’. The sheer breadth of his ability and
intellect was evidenced by his service to the All-Ireland
Republic both militarily and politically. A lasting monument
to his contribution to the freedom struggle is ÉIRE NUA. He
had a central role in framing this historic document and
remained a tireless advocate of ÉIRE NUA right up to his
death in 1991.
“Dáithí Ó Conaill never equivocated on what was the cause of
the war in Ireland or what was required to deliver a just
and lasting peace for all of the Irish people. Speaking in
Belfast at Easter 1973 he said: ‘Today, the central issue in
the war is one of conflict between Ireland’s right to
freedom and England’s determination to keep us in
subjection. All other issues are subordinate to this basic
point. There can be no compromise on the fundamental issue
as to who should rule Ireland: the British Parliament or the
Irish people. We have had 800 years of British ineptitude in
ruling Ireland; we have never known rule by the Irish, of
the Irish, for the Irish. Until we do, we shall never enjoy
peace and stability in our land.’
“The coming year presents us all with huge challenges but
also opportunities. The two fronts on which it is essential
that we engage in 2010 are political and economic.
“Last year and in recent days events on the ground in the
Six Counties testified to the fact that British rule in
Ireland will be met with resistance. The attacks on British
crown forces and the wave of repression and resistance,
which followed are evidence to the reality that the nature
of British occupation in Ireland has not changed but neither
has the attitude of a section of the Irish people.
“The young people in the Six Counties who took on the forces
of the British Crown were dismissed as ‘ A-political thugs’
or merely representing an ‘anti-social’ sub youth culture.
We know what the truth is. These young people represent a
new undefeated generation prepared to take on British rule
in Ireland. They are young people simply taking their place
in the latest phase of the historic struggle for Irish
“It is our duty in Sinn Féin –the only political
organisation representing the revolutionary Irish Republican
tradition - to give political expression and leadership to
this new generation.
“The coming year is also likely to see an intensification of
the normalisation of British rule and partition. Speaking on
RTÉ television on Monday night (December 28) the 26-County
President Mary McAleese signalled the possibility of a visit
to the 26 Counties by the Queen of England. We in Sinn Féin
equally signal our intention to oppose such a visit.
“Mary McAleese’s use of the word ‘collegial’ in describing
26-County relations with the British state is worthy of
note. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary 11th revised
edition 2006 defines collegial as meaning: ‘belonging to or
relating to shared responsibility.’ Or alternatively as one
of a number of colleges belonging to the same university.
This use of such language is a significant pointer as to the
thinking of the political establishment in the 26-County
State and how they view their relationship with Britain.
“At this time we are also conscious of the Republican
prisoners in both Portlaoise and Maghaberry. We extend them
our greetings and pledge them our solidarity. Support for
the Republican prisoners in Maghaberry in their fight for
political status is vital in the coming year. By denying
British attempts to ‘criminalise’ them the prisoners in
Maghaberry are engaged in a battle to deny the British
Government’s criminalisation of the Irish people’s historic
struggle for national independence.
“We must recognise like James Connolly: ‘If you remove the
English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin
Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the
Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.’
“A war is being waged on working people globally. Here the
26-County administration faced with a choice between taxing
the rich or taking from the marginalised and vulnerable,
have chosen to put their hands in the pockets of the
poorest. Employers and the state are intent on rolling back
any advance made by workers over the course of the last
“In the face of all this a weak and reformist trade union
leadership were deliberately humiliated and wrong-footed by
the Dublin administration in their vain attempts to lay the
basis for yet another so-called ‘Partnership Agreement’.
“Tinkering at the edges of a discredited and failed social
and economic system is not enough. Real revolutionary
political and economic change is demanded. In its obituary
of Dáithí Ó Conaill SAOIRSE pointed out he ‘viewed the
Republican Movement not as a political party, but as the
main catalyst of progressive forces to achieve Irish
Freedom.’ It is the role, which we must live up to.
“We would do well to heed the advice of Connolly given to
those intent on building a national movement over a century
ago: ‘It must demonstrate to the people of Ireland that our
nationalism is not merely a morbid idealising of the past,
but is also capable of formulating a distinct and definite
answer to the problems of the present and a political and
economic creed capable of adjustment to the wants of the
“Armed as we are with clearly thought out and radical
programme for real political and economic democracy EIRE NUA
and SAOL NUA we can take our rightful place in the vanguard
of the struggle.
“The All-Republic for which we struggle has to be –
returning to Connolly again – of such a character that: ‘the
mere mention of its name would at all times serve as a
beacon-light to the oppressed of every land.’
“Just as imperialism is not confined to one country the
solidarity in the fight against it must also be
international. Over the coming year we must continue to
develop our role in the international struggle against
“We extend our greetings to all engaged in the noble quest
for national liberation. We face a common enemy but also
share the common goal of securing and defending the
inalienable rights common to all peoples and nations.
“Our work is clearly marked out for us. It is our duty to
bring to the task all our energies and abilities. This is
the most fitting tribute we can pay Dáithí Ó Conaill and all
those who lie in this pantheon of our patriot dead. ‘Life
springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and
women spring living nations.’”
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