Comrades and friends,
In the republican calendar, Easter is, of course, a time for reflection on the past; on those who have come before us, from the heroes of 1916 to the heroes of living memory. We make special mention here today of Martin O’Leary who – on the 6th of July, 1971 – died tragically, defending the rights of workers at the Mogul mines in Tipperary. Our Easter commemoration is also a time to look forward to the tasks that lie ahead of us. Not only does this offer us the opportunity to ensure that we are doing good by the legacy of our predecessors; it also reminds us of the importance of leaving our successors a strong foundation upon which to build and grow.
Our republicanism is not just a badge that we wear once a year, or a speech that we make at the graves of fallen comrades. Our republicanism is part and parcel of who we are as a revolutionary party. Our republicanism draws from the most advanced of the radical and socialist traditions. The following words of Liam Mellows capture the essence of our Republican commitment: “We are back with Tone and Connolly and the men of no property,”.
The Workers’ Party is dedicated to the establishment of a democratic, secular, socialist Republic: a unitary state on the island of Ireland. We are very clear that the unitary state we envision is not merely the 26-county state expanded to a 32-county basis. Tomás MacGiolla, as early as his presidential address to the 1968 Ard Fheis, stated: “It must be made clear however, that republicans do not ask the people of the Six Counties to come into the existing Twenty Six-county state. We would not wish that fate on anyone. We ask the people of the Six Counties to join with the people of the Twenty Six counties in abolishing both states which serve only British imperialism, and in establishing a Democratic Socialist Republic for the whole island in which the workers who create the wealth decide how and where it is used”.
As republicans and as socialists, we recognise that capitalist society is based on class divisions. Such divisions are not related to immutable human characteristics, but are a result of the current form of social and economic organisation – one based on the exploitation of labour by capital. The only route to the abolition of this exploitation is through the organisation of the only revolutionary class: the working class. The vehicle of this liberation is the mass workers’ party. To quote Tomas MacGiolla:‘The prize is freedom. Oppression is the enemy, Our weapon is the people through the Party.’
We are in the midst of a housing and homelessness emergency. A record 11,600 people are now homeless of whom almost 3,000 are children. The recent lifting of the eviction ban by the Fianna Fail – Fine Gael – Green coalition threatens to make 1000 more people homeless. The eviction ban should be reinstated immediately.House prices have again reached outrageous levels and the average cost of rent in Cork city is around 1700 euros. On the other hand, we have a city centre with an alarming number of empty premises and hundreds of derelict properties across the city. These problems are not new but they retain the capacity to shock.
The private, market-led model of housing provision has failed to deliver. It is a model that excels at filling the coffers of private developers, landlords and vulture funds but cannot be trusted to provide people with decent, affordable housing. As an antidote to this we propose state led provision of mixed-income, public housing for all. A state construction company could provide well paid, secure employment to thousands of people. Commitment to the public provision of housing will ensure a targeted, sustainable and long-term alternative to the anarchic, market-led model. The social benefits of freeing working families and future generations from the bondage of unsustainable debt, from the greed of profiteers and landlords, from the constant threat of eviction and homelessness will be immeasurable.
Again, we hold that public ownership of essential amenities and services, – energy, waste and water to name the most vital – all form part of a future politics that puts the public good before private profit. In particular, our call to take energy back into public control has been received positively by people we have interacted with on the streets of Cork.
Comrades, one cannot escape the feeling that we are living through a period of profound, geopolitical transformation. The war in Ukraine has brought to a head the long period of global U.S. dominance. For the first time since the end of World War 2 it is clear that U.S. global hegemony is under serious strain. Their stranglehold on the global economy is loosening with de-dollarisation proceeding at a rapid pace and with many countries moving towards realignment. In short, the shift from a Unipolar towards a Multipolar global order is increasingly evident. We have good reason to hope that this shift in the global order will decisively undermine the pernicious influence of United States imperialist policies across the globe. The inhumane sanctions regime pioneered by the United States has had catastrophic impacts on the development of countries across Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. These policies have retarded the economic development and caused untold misery to people in countries across the globe from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to Palestine, Syria and beyond.Today we express solidarity with all peoples who have suffered under the yoke of U.S imperialism in the form of military intervention, political interference and economic sanctions. We give special mention to the people of Cuba and our fraternal comrades in the Cuban Communist Party who have withstood an illegal and immoral blockade by the United States for over 60 years. We also express solidarity with our Comrades in the Turkish Communist Party who have been carrying out vital relief work in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Turkiye and Syria.From an Irish perspective, a vital part we can play on the international stage is through fighting for the preservation of Irish neutrality and as a voice for peace. Interference of, and co-operation of the Irish state with NATO must be opposed and firmly rejected. Furthermore, the neo-liberal and undemocratic nature of the European Union is impossible to ignore. The capitulation of the EU to the behests of NATO – US imperialism must be countered by all Communist and Workers’ Parties across Europe with the call for a democratic, European Republic.
Comrades and friends, as we remember the men and women of 1916 and acknowledge the achievements and struggles of our fallen comrades and fraternal parties across the globe we must assess our own position: What is to be done? We stay true to the vision set out by Tone and Connolly. The vision of Republican Socialism. How best can we achieve the goals set out in this vision of an egalitarian Republic? While spontaneous movements of social protest are an important element in the fight for equality they are not enough. These largely defensive actions must form a part of a broader strategy of offense: of organisation, Party building and the promotion of Socialist politics and policy. Electoral work is a necessary but not sufficient part of this. We must be prepared to do the groundwork and engage with working people on all levels; in the Trade Unions, door-to-door and on the streets. This requires that all members commit what time they can.We already know from our interactions with people that our policies of public housing and public ownership have an appeal. But we must convince people that these policies are not only desirable but that they are also possible. We must convince them of the fact that if these goals are to be realised a socialist politics is necessary.