Comrades and friends,

Today we gather to remember and honour the men and women of 1916 who bravely struck a blow for Irish freedom against the might of the British empire. Easter remains an important date in the republican calendar, a time for reflection on the past, on all those who have come before us from the heroes of 1916 to our own comrades who we have lost along the way. It is also a time for us to look forward to the tasks ahead.

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 quote by Liam Mellows captures the essence of our Republican commitment: “We are back with Tone and Connolly and the men of no property,”.

If we ask ourselves what relevance has James Connolly for us today we must ask what has changed since Connolly’s killing. Has capitalism, Connolly’s sworn enemy, been defeated ? Has his aims and objectives been achieved? Has the working class achieved power? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO.

As we look back over the past 107 years since Connolly’s execution we can recall how very soon after his death De Valera made his infamous remark “Labour Must Wait” and we can state very clearly today Labour is still waiting.

One of the most difficult and essential tasks Connolly had was trying to develop class consciousness among the working class, to give them a sense of their own identity, to have them realise their own strength and the recognition that they could and should be masters of their own future. Connolly had to deal with a class unaware of its own power but also to fight ignorance, bigotry and intolerance which the Roman Catholic church in particular used to the full. 

If there are any persons today who doubt the relevance of Connolly we need only look to the North and see how sectarianism is still rampant in society. Connolly’s vision was a united working class, north and south, and he never wavered from this objective in his struggle against employers and those who sought division of workers in order to keep their power.

With the murder of Liam Mellows the possibility of any leader taking up Connolly’s policies and ideology was nil. It wasn’t until the emergence of the Republican Congress in the thirties that some effort was made to make workers aware of the nature of the enemy – Capitalism and that the road to the Republic lay through the defeat of Capitalism. For a time Congress was significant in its efforts to organise workers on class lines and attempting to expose Fianna Fail as the shallow party it was using slogans and side issues to con people and they were aided in this by a very conservative IRA leadership which rejected a proposal to adopt a radical programme concerned with workers rights and to see capitalism as the enemy. 

With the failure of the IRA to ally itself with the Republican Congress it meant there was no prospect of renewing Connolly’s policy of building a workers’ alternative to capitalism. With the combined opposition of Fianna Fail and the IRA leadership the Congress was unable to maintain its momentum and the best went on to fight in Spain against Franco‘s fascists while in Ireland the IRA under Sean Russell went on to carry out a disastrous bombing campaign in Britain and the following years saw history repeating itself with prisons being filled and the executions of republicans. 

If the Left has failed to achieve any of its objectives Capitalism has succeeded in expanding and consolidating its power worldwide. Despite having serious crises, as Marx predicted Capitalism still retains the power to enslave billions of people in Asia, Africa and also in the so-called developed countries. The Soviet Union which represented a new beginning for workers and in its early decades was a beacon of hope for the mass of humanity and which made a significant contribution to the defeat of colonialism and imperialism also fell to a combination of continuous subversion, attack and most serious of all corrupt leadership and a dominating bureaucracy. 

Today the international scene provides more than enough examples of how important Connolly’s international analysis was. He recognised that the 1st World War was a struggle for control between capitalist powers in which the working class were the main losers. He famously stated “The workers of all nations are my natural allies as the native capitalist is my natural enemy” this statement is still as relevant today as when Connolly fought against the Redmonds and the William Martin Murphy’s and all the reactionary forces which sought and still seek to maintain a system which in the words of Marx the few exploit the many. 

Connolly’s view of history and the future of society remains valid for today and tomorrow. It is the working class which constitutes the vast majority of humanity and it is the working class learning the lessons of the past which will, through the building of a class conscious organisation, set itself and the workers of the world free.

The Workers’ Party is dedicated to the establishment of a democratic, secular, socialist Republic: a unitary state on the island of Ireland. 

In recent weeks you will all have seen the celebration of the Good Friday agreement, signed 25 years ago. Amongst all the celebrations and back slapping there was no mention of the fact that not only was this agreement 30 years late, Stormont has been dissolved for over 40% of its existence since 1998, our workers are struggling to survive, to heat their homes and feed their children. Charity has become normalised along with phrases like ‘the working poor’. Our health, housing and education systems are crumbling. Sectarianism has never been addressed seriously by any of the leading parties, in fact in many ways it is even more entrenched than before. Meanwhile our elected representatives in the north continue on full pay for doing half their job. 

As republicans and 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.

The Ireland of 2023 bears little resemblance to the vision elaborated by the United Irishmen, the Fenians and the principles set down by the authors of the Easter Proclamation. We remain a world away from ‘cherishing all the children of our nation equally’. 

In the south 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 government threatens to make thousands more people homeless. The eviction ban should be reinstated immediately. House prices are at outrageously high levels, as is the cost of rent. On the other hand, we have an alarming number of empty and derelict properties across the country. 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 pockets 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. 

The first concern of everyone of us committed to building the vanguard party is the expansion and strengthening of the Workers’ Party. Never in recent history has there been a greater need for a class conscious party devoted solely to the interests of workers and their families, and indeed anyone who is mugged by capitalism. 

Second and equally important is to mobilise as many people as possible around critical issues which impinge upon the nature of our society and directly affect the working class.These obviously include using every available channel and opportunity to assert the democratic rights of workers and at the same time to seek out ways and means of enhancing class consciousness; building a strong party, defending existing jobs and demanding greater state job creation programmes; campaigning for public housing, an all Ireland NHS, secular education, achieving a zero carbon future through developing Nuclear power, defending our neutrality and the very real need to raise all our citizens out of poverty through a fair and new republic. 

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. 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, especially to the people of Cuba who have withstood an illegal and immoral blockade by the United States for over 60 years. 

We are internationalists, proudly walking in the footsteps of Tone and Connolly. Connolly, in October 1914, was one of the organisers of the Irish Neutrality League in an attempt to stop Irish people enlisting for the slaughter of World War 1. We must return to that struggle to keep Ireland out of imperialist, international military alliances as the government makes underhanded moves for us to become part of NATO against the wishes of the majority of people. NATO is not a defensive force. It is an aggressive military alliance that serves the interests of U.S. Imperialism across the globe. We will continue to campaign for Irish neutrality, against the imperialist machinations of NATO and U.S. capitalism. Our Party’s long cry of peace, work, democracy and class politics remains as important as ever.

The contribution and sacrifice made by those who have gone before us continues to inspire us. It continues to motivate us and it drives our own commitment to the Republican socialist ideology and our fight in the class struggle. It is because of them we remain focused in our belief and our commitment to a 32 County Socialist Republic on the island of Ireland, free from sectarianism, free from exploitation and free from oppression. Our ultimate goal remains a workers republic in the tradition of Tone and Connolly, of Carney and Mellows, of Goulding, Garland and MacGiolla. 

In order for us to be the revolutionary Party that we set out to be and to truly honour the memory of all those who have gone before us we must commit to the rebuilding of our Party and the fight for our class. This means sacrifice on behalf of us all, it means working together as comrades with a common purpose, being active in our communities and ensuring we are among our class in every aspect of their lives and their struggles. It is only through building a mass party of the working class that we can ensure that the sacrifice of those who have gone before us is not in vain. 

Despite the many setbacks we have faced throughout the years, and continue to face, our time is coming and we must ensure we are ready, we must be organised and disciplined. It is not possible for one or two people to build a revolutionary Party – we must do this together. 

As we honour the brave men and women of 1916 and remember the sacrifices of our own comrades we reaffirm our commitment to achieving a unitary, socialist republic on the island of Ireland and we reaffirm our commitment to building an organisation capable of fighting for and achieving that goal. 

Comrades, ‘the fight for freedom is a class struggle’. Let us leave here today with a renewed commitment to build our party and to continue the fight on behalf of the working class.