by new President of Republican Sinn Fein, Des Dalton to
Sunday November 15, 2009
A Chathaoirleach, a theachtaí
I stand before you humbled by the great honour which you my
fellow Irish Republicans have bestowed on me. I am conscious
also of the grave responsibility which has also been placed
One has only to look to the names of those who have occupied
this office to realise that the office to which you the
delegates of Sinn Féin have elected me is a sacred trust and
one which is not to be taken up lightly.
Those names ring down the ages to us today, Seán Ó Ceallaigh
(Sceilg), Brian O’Higgins, Fr Michael O’Flanagan Cathal Ó
Murchadha, Margaret Buckley, Padraig McLogan, Tomás Ó
Dubhghaill. They are names and people bound together by a
common thread of unswerving loyalty, commitment and an
overriding sense of duty to the All-Ireland Republic. One
also bound by that same thread and imbued with the same
qualities of loyalty, commitment and duty is Ruairí Ó
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh is a pillar of this movement. His
contribution to Irish Republicanism is immense and singular.
Over the course of almost 60 years of involvement in the
Republican Movement he has never shirked responsibility or
leadership when it has been thrust on him. Serving as Chief
of Staff of the Irish Republican Army, elected a Teachta
Dala (serving the people of Longford/Westmeath) and as
President of Sinn Féin.
In the past forty years this movement has faced two critical
junctures when the fate of revolutionary Irish Republicanism
lay in the balance. On both occasions – in 1969/70 and 1986
- Ruairí Ó Brádaigh along with his close friend and comrade
Dáithí Ó Conaill provided the leadership which stemmed the
tide of reformism which threatened to engulf our movement.
Both men tower over any history of Irish Republicanism in
the latter half of the 20th Century. EIRE NUA - which was
the fruit of their labour - was the first time that a
serious effort was made to reach out to all sections of the
Irish nation. It lays the basis as it still does today for
an All-Ireland Republic. A Republic which would unite
Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in a common allegiance to
the historic Irish nation. Making a reality of the dream of
Tone, Emmet and Davis.
Today Ruairí Ó Brádaigh’s gifts of leadership, intellect and
eloquence are a prized asset of Sinn Féin and the Republican
Movement. In the introduction to his scholarly biography of
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Professor Robert W. White writes: “ Ó
Brádaigh’s life is a window for understanding his generation
of Irish Republicans and how they received the values of a
previous generation and are transmitting those values to the
next generation.” Ruairí Ó Brádaigh is not last Irish
Republican, or one of the last but rather by his life’s work
has ensured that the spirit and values of revolutionary
Irish Republicanism live on into the 21st Century.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to
the other person who allowed his name to go forward for
nomination as Uachtarán of Sinn Féin. Like Ruairí Ó Bradaigh,
Des Long is a person who has for the past 50 years played a
central role in the Republican Movement. Also like Ruairí Ó
Brádaigh on the two occasions this Movement was in danger of
being hijacked by a reformist leadership Des Long did not
shirk his responsibility to safeguard the ideals of our
As Irish Republicans we are rightly proud of our history of
unbroken resistance to British rule in Ireland. We are
inheritors of a revolutionary tradition which stretches back
through 218 years of Irish history. We are members of the
oldest revolutionary movement in the world. We have every
right to be proud! A true continuity of struggle.
But it is not enough to know all of this. As inheritors of
such a tradition, it brings with duties and
responsibilities. Our duty is to bring about the realisation
of the ideals which inspired all those who have gone before
us. Ideals and a sense of duty which have inspired
succeeding generations of Republicans to sacrifice their
The responsibility falls on each succeeding generation to
take up and carry forward the torch of Irish freedom. It is
not enough to say we are right but we must show it by our
actions, our work and our commitment.
Speaking at Bodenstown in 1989 Dáithí Ó Conaill defined the
role a cohesive Republican Movement can play: “The Movement
then fulfilled its true role; it was the catalyst for the
progressive forces of this country and abroad who desired
the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, socialist
Today we must live up to this role – the Republican Movement
must become the catalyst for all the progressive forces in
Ireland; political, social and economic.
Today more than ever clear thinking, leadership and a
programme of action are required, providing a focal point of
resistance to that section of the Irish people who will
never accept British rule in Ireland.
The attacks on British Crown forces this year tell us that
the iron law of Irish history has not changed. While there
is a British presence in Ireland it will be met with
We in Sinn Féin are the only political organisation capable
of providing the leadership and direction which is demanded
by the conditions of today. Our platform is one of solid and
unequivocal Irish Republicanism. Other groups and
organisations outside of the Republican Movement may claim
to hold this ground but Republican Sinn Féin is the only
political organisation to uphold the right of Irish people
–acting as a unit –to national independence.
Sinn Féin is the only political organisation which rejects
both partitionist states in Ireland and their respective
assemblies. Sinn Féin is the only political organisation
with policies capable of delivering a New Ireland for all of
the Irish people. EIRE NUA and SAOL NUA.
Yesterday we passed a motion directing that a review of our
organisation is carried out in the coming year to ensure
Sinn Féin is capable of taking on the challenges which face
us and seizing the opportunities which lie ahead.
As President I intend to drive this process forward. But the
task of building and developing our movement is not one for
the leadership alone. On the contrary it is the duty and
responsibility of each and every member of Sinn Féin to play
their part to the full in carrying out this essential work.
Over the coming year as was discussed in the seminar
yesterday morning, we must look at how our organisation
functions on the ground, we must look at how we carry out
our work from cumainn level up to the Ard Chomhairle.
We must ask basic questions of ourselves, as an organisation
and as members. How effective are we in building and
promoting Sinn Féin not only at national level but in our
own cities, our towns, villages and communities? Do people
in the area in which I live know that we exist? That we have
a functioning cumann? Do we utilise to the full all the
forms of media available to us such as the internet, local
media etc? Are we reluctant to face the public?
Sinn Féin’s strength has always been that we are of the
people, that we have involved ourselves in the struggles of
ordinary working people. Yesterday we passed a motion which
calls on our members to “join and fully participate in the
community, voluntary and trade union organisations in their
local area, advancing wherever appropriate the principles of
Our constitution sets this out as one of the means by which
we achieve our objects: “Through local Sinn Féin members
establishing themselves in their local community on local
issues, thereby gaining the confidence of those involved in
local affairs.” It is only by doing this, going out among
the Irish people can we become relevant and can we make
Irish Republicanism relevant to the mass of the people.
Membership of Sinn Fein is an honour, we are part of
something which is greater than each and every one us. But
it is not enough to take pride in who are and what we
represent, we must also bring to our task, hard work,
commitment, discipline, and a sense of purpose and even more
hard work The very qualities which have ensured the unbroken
continuity of Republicanism for over 200 years.
This is what is required if we are serious about our goal of
“organising the Irish people into a united and disciplined
movement for the restoration of the Republic”.
Today Ruairí gave his usual excellent and comprehensive
review and analysis of the past 12 months and the challenges
which face us in the coming year. In the Six Counties we see
the institutions of British rule being bedded down. The DUP
have stated clearly that they along with a new British Tory
government intend to return to Unionist majority rule in
In the recent debate on the transfer of British policing
powers to Stormont they have loaded yet further
preconditions, setting further hurdles that the Provos willl
have to jump to be given the privilege of administering
British rule in Ireland. This includes the imposition of
sectarian and triumphilist Orange marches on the nationalist
people of the Six Counties.
Following the attacks on British Crown forces the
Provisionals experienced what the journalist Ed Maloney
described as their “Four Courts” moment. In other words
reality caught up with them. Posturing and weasel words
could no longer hide the fact that they had now thrown in
their lot with the British government – lining up against
that section of the Irish people who refuse to accept
British occupation of their country.
Irish history is a cycle of armed resistance followed by
coercion and attempts constitutionally to square the circle
of British occupation and Irish democracy. It is a circle
which can never be squared because British rule denies the
exercise of true All-Ireland democracy. That is the right of
the people of Ireland acting as a unit to national
The only way to break the cycle of Irish history is to end
British rule in Ireland once and for all. A public
declaration of intent by the British government to withdraw
from Ireland would create the dynamic for all of the Irish
people to build a New Ireland. Our proposals EIRE NUA
provide the blueprint to make this a reality.
The agenda of normalising British rule in Ireland goes on
and Republican Sinn Féin must remain at the forefront in
resisting all attempts to normalise what is the illegal
partition and occupation of our country. Any attempt to
bring the Queen of England to any part of Ireland will be
met with opposition led by Republican Sinn Féin.
James Connolly famously declared that “Ireland without her
people means nothing to me”. Whilst ending British rule in
Ireland is our core objective we also recognise that merely
opposing British military occupation of our nation is not
enough. We must oppose imperialism in all its forms.
For that reason Republicans are to be found in the Trade
Union movement defending and fighting for proper pay and
conditions for all workers, opposing the use of Irish
airports or airspace by US warplanes, waging a war of
conquest on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Opposing the
creation of an undemocratic and militarised EU superstate -
as we have done in the two referenda on Lisbon and each
referenda since original decision to join the then EEC.
The Czech Republic’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty on
November 3, paving the way for its adoption as EU law does
not mark the end of history. The principles of upon which
the campaign against the Lisbon Treaty was fought are
timeless and will hold true as long as the human race
The fight for real political and economic democracy both
within and between states must go on. The struggle against
imperialism in Ireland is part of the wider international
struggle for human progress, freedom and democracy.
Almost 100 years after the First World War, is yet another
generation of Irish people to be sacrificed on foreign
battlefields in the interests of European capitalism and
imperialism? Connolly defined participation in that war as
“to slaughter our comrades abroad at the dictate of our
enemies at home”. To those who wished to fight he urged: “
If ever you shoulder a rifle, let it be for Ireland”. Like
so much of what Connolly had to say, both statements hold
true today as they did almost a century ago.
The struggle for a free Ireland also involves standing
shoulder to shoulder with the people of Rosspost and Erris
in opposing the theft of our natural resources by global
capitalism, with the active collusion of the Dublin
administration. We applaud the actions of Maura Harington
and her community in defending the rights of all of the
Irish people to the ownership of our natural resources.
The struggle for a free Ireland also means joining battle on
the side of the working people of Ireland against the
political and financial elite who are intent to use the
current economic collapse to roll back the hard fought for
rights of working men and women. It is a war which is being
fought on a global scale –the same forces attacking workers
in Ireland murder trade unionists and political activists in
Columbia, use child labour to maximise profits in India and
the Far East. Globalisation is the new imperialism of the
Its goal is the control of resources and markets, the
maximisation of profits by the wealthy northern hemisphere,
whatever the cost in terms of people or the environment. Its
logic is to build a world where the most vulnerable are
exploited and used to set one section of the working class
against the other.
Our struggle against British imperialism is part of the
international struggle against the same enemy. This is
evidenced by the greetings read to us yesterday from
solidarity groups and national liberation movements. Irish
Republicans have for long forged solidarity links abroad.
In the Basque Country, links were established from the early
1970s, Catalonia, Corsica amongst others. Of course
relations were also established with our sister Celtic
countries in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany, the
goal of a league of free and independent Celtic nations is
one which Irish Republicans would aspire to.
Our solidarity with the people of Palestine in the long
fight for national freedom remains strong and we salute the
bravery of the people of Palestine and particularly Gaza who
are interned by the Israeli state, deprived of essential
medicines and even clean drinking water.
The work of developing such contacts remains vital and the
work of our International Relations Bureau is to be
commended. This work must be maintained and indeed stepped
up. Just as imperialism is a global enemy an international
network of solidarity is essential in opposing it.
So entering our second century the tasks and forces facing
us are daunting. Building a strong vibrant revolutionary
political organisation to meet those challenges is the task
which must be taken up by the incoming leadership and by
each and every member.
A strong disciplined and united Republican Movement is the
only vehicle which can deliver on the historic goal of a
free Ireland. It must and can only be a unity based on the
principles of Irish Republicanism. In 1983 when Ruairí Ó
Brádaigh stood down as Uachtarán he warned “During my 14
years as head of Sinn Féin there were no splits or splinters
– long may it remain so, as it will provided we stick to
They are words which we would do well to heed.
We have much to be proud of – a noble tradition has been
handed to us. We can only honour that tradition by
endeavouring to fan the flame of Irish nationality. Ensuring
it is not extinguished but rather in the words of Terence
MacSwiney it can become a living flame ‘scorching up
hypocrisy, deceit, meanness, and lighting all brave hearts
to high hope and achievement’.
Onwards to the Republic
An Poblacht Abú
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