Workers’ Party President Micky McCorry spoke at the grave of Thomas Russell, founding member of the United Irishmen, in the graveyard of Down Cathedral today. Have a read of his speech below:
Today, we have come to the grave of Thomas Russell, a founding member and leading organiser of the United Irishmen, who was executed for his role in the 1803 uprising, which intended to create an independent and secular Irish republic.
Russell, alongside his comrades Theobald Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and Jemmy Hope, were the forefathers of Irish republicanism. Their vision of an Irish Republic was one in which Catholic, Protestant and dissenter could live and work together for the common good. It is a message which still resonates today in the face of sectarianism. Segregated education, the tribal nature of our politics and the partition of our nation are just some of the issues that could be a thing of the past if we adhere to their message of unity.
We gather here today not as a token gesture but to honour the sacrifice of Russell and the United Irishmen, to learn and to think again about the relevance of their secular, anti-sectarian ideas in the modern era, and to reaffirm our commitment as a Party to the republican tradition.
We in the Workers’ Party are proud to trace our ideology back to the founding fathers of Irish republicanism, the United Irishmen, who left us with such a rich legacy of ideas.
While fighting for separation from England, they were not simply Irish nationalists – they were radical egalitarian democrats who saw that freedom would not be handed down from on high. It would have to be fought for by the men and women of no property. The Workers’ Party, as a party of class politics, recognises like Tone, Russell and Jemmy Hope that the men and women of no property are the class upon which a new republic can and will be built.
We will also continue to build a party that can bridge the sectarian divide and unite workers across the island of Ireland.
We say that there is no greater cause than that of the Socialist Republic, built by the working class. There is no more effective way of fighting for that cause than by combining together as a disciplined political organisation openly declaring its intention to transform society – the people united through the Party – there is no other path to freedom and equality.
Our socialism is not in opposition to republicanism: it is the extension of republicanism; it completes it. We will not surrender the title of republican to movements motivated by religious and tribal loyalty, or to ones marked by their craven bowing to Wall Street or Westminster.
The party of the working class must not isolate itself from the people. It cannot prioritise a purity of vision over contact with the people.
Living standards for the majority are falling. Housing, access to quality and well paid employment, access to education and health are all increasingly harder to reach for the working class and young people.
It is our responsibility as socialists, and as members of the Workers’ Party, to help lead the struggles that will inevitably arise in the coming years as the people fight for a better life and a better society. We in the Workers’ Party will continue to fight on behalf of the working class and a socialist republic.
Thank you comrades.