Comrades and Friends,
We are gathered here today to commemorate James Connolly who, one hundred and seven years ago, was murdered by the forces of British Imperialism, urged on by the Irish capitalist media, in particular the Irish Independent, who clearly understood that not only was Connolly a threat to British rule in Ireland, he was also an implacable enemy of capitalism and, alone among the signatories to the Proclamation of the Republic in 1916, he saw that the struggle for national liberation and the struggle for socialism were not separate struggles but were two sides of the same coin.
The 1916 Rising took place against the background of the 1st World War, a war in which Imperialism unleashed industrialised death and destruction in its pursuit of profit. The Irish capitalist class, both Orange and Green, along with their political representatives, urged tens of thousands of Irishmen, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, to violent death in support of British imperialism. Today, imperialism has once more unleashed war in Europe with the proxy NATO war in Ukraine, which is aimed at maintaining the hegemony of US Imperialism. Once again, the Irish capitalist class has rallied to the cause of Imperialism, once again they have chosen the side of war over that of peace. Instead of calling for a ceasefire and working towards a sustainable peace in which no state in the region is a threat to its neighbours, the Irish ruling class have thrown themselves 4 square behind NATOs war. They have yet to directly call on the sons and daughters of the Irish working class to kill and die for imperialism but, in a complete disregard for the anti-colonial traditions of our long and ongoing struggle for independence, they have used the war to further weaken Irish neutrality as a prelude to joining NATO’s war machine.
The campaign to abandon neutrality and join NATO has intensified over the past few years as NATO pushed ever further Eastwards and the US, UK and the EU, have designated Russia and the Peoples’ Republic of China as threats to their exploitation of the world. The pressure has become greater since late 2021 as the Irish ruling class has used all the power at its disposal to build up anti-Russian and anti-Chinese sentiment. RTE, and the house journals of the most pro-imperialist forces in the 26 counties, the Irish Times and the Business Post, provide a platform for military and political spokespersons from NATO and those with links to US and UK intelligence agencies and the arms industry, from which to launch continued attacks on Irish neutrality. We are constantly lectured on our duty to play our part in the defence of western civilisation, in other words the continued imperialist exploitation of the worlds resources. Michéal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, the Republican Party mar dhea, taking time off from bowing and scraping before Joe Biden, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Windsor, appointed Dame Louise Richardson, Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, to chair the Government’s Forum on International Security policy and to draft the final report on the future of the security of the state. She is a known supporter of British military and political policy in the 6 counties and of the illegal US invasion of Iraq. Yet Martin expects us to believe that she will be impartial!
Defending, and deepening Irish neutrality is probably the most urgent task facing Irish democratic and progressive forces today. Imperialism, led by the US and the UK, is preparing for a military conflict with the Peoples’ Republic of China. Seeking a pretext for war they encourage their client government in Taiwan to declare independence in the hope that the Peoples’ Republic will take military action to ensure the integrity of China. The Irish Bourgeoisie and their media have taken up the fight on behalf of imperialism and now China is portrayed as a threat to Ireland.
But what is the nature of the supposed threat? It can’t be a military threat, the Peoples’ Republic has not been involved in a war for over 40 years. Contrast that with the US, UK and EU who between them have been permanently involved in wars of aggression over the same period.
China is seen as a threat because it offers a path that doesn’t involve submitting to the diktats of imperialism. China has never threatened Ireland, any threats to Ireland have come from members of NATO. Britain, a member of NATO, maintains a military and political presence in Ireland and is the only state whose military has killed, imprisoned and tortured men, women and children in our country. Remember how a former British Home Secretary threatened to cut off our food supply during the Brexit negotiations? And it was the EU Commission, the political wing of the European section of NATO, not China, that forced the Irish state to accept liability for 42% of European banking debt, the cost of which our people are still paying. Yet our ruling class expects us to now abandon neutrality to support their wars of aggression!
Peace movements are growing throughout Europe, though you’d never know it due to the ongoing media censorship in Ireland and the rest of Europe. Their demand for a ceasefire in Ukraine is the only sane and rational response as the risk of escalation increases. It could quite easily develop into a wider European or a global war between nuclear forces. There will be no winners in such a catastrophe.
Our task in the struggle for peace, is to defend Irish neutrality. Campaigning for peace, and defending neutrality, means opposing imperialism and its plans for Ireland. As such it is a fundamental part of the struggle for national independence. Connolly hoisted the Irish Citizen Army Banner, emblazoned with the clearest ever declaration of Irish Neutrality, “We Serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland”, and it remains a core principle for those who campaign for Irish national liberation.
Abandoning Neutrality means abandoning the struggle for independence. As Connolly warned, an Irish state which is still capitalist, while it may have the trappings of political independence, will remain subject to the will of imperialism. We can see how correct he was. 100 years ago this month, the War in Defence of the Republic ended in victory for British Imperialism and the most pro-imperialist section of the Irish bourgeoisie. The Irish capitalist class accepted, and have long been content with, the economic and political settlement of 1921. They have created a state where homelessness, precarious employment, a two-tier health system and poverty is the reality. A Republic where the state religion is the pursuit of profit. It is their subservient relationship with Imperialism that secures their dominant position in the state. They have nurtured their links with imperialism and have longed to strengthen them further. Membership of the EU has allowed them to join NATO by the backdoor through PESCO and NATO’s misnamed Partnership for Peace. Now emboldened, and with their total control of the media ensuring that neutrality is portrayed in as negative a light as possible, they seek to enter NATO through the front door. And let us be clear what that entails. NATO is not a benevolent organisation. It is not an instrument of peace, its remit is not peaceful solutions to political problems. The only peace NATO offers is the peace of the graveyard. The Irish capitalist media have chosen to forget the 1999 NATO bombing of civilians in Belgrade, which lasted for 2 months, 2 weeks and 3 days as it sought to change the borders of Yugoslavia by military means. NATO is the instrument through which US imperialism exerts its political and economic control over the continent of Europe. Yet that is the future desired by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and, unfortunately, by Sinn Fein, whose deputy leader recently described Irish reunification as part of the process of European integration and whose Foreign Affairs Spokesperson said that a Sinn Fein government would not withdraw from Imperialist military structures. They seek an Ireland that will, in a tragic parody of Emmet’s speech from the dock, “Take her place among the oppressors of the Earth.”
The struggle for peace and neutrality is a difficult struggle. The Good Friday Agreement and developments within the EU have strengthened Imperialism’s grip on Ireland. Sinn Fein, have moved from an anti to pro imperialist position as it has reached out to the Irish bourgeoisie.
We must base our campaign for Peace and Neutrality on that class which will be hardest hit by imperialism, the Irish working class. Membership of NATO will directly affect the working class more than any other class in society. It will mean less resources for housing, health, education and the elimination of poverty. And of course it is mostly working class men and women who will be expected to fight and die wherever and whenever imperialism decides.
We must counter the pro-imperialist lies and propaganda being used to undermine neutrality. Here, in this hallowed place, we must take inspiration from James Connolly and the men and women of 1916 who, though a minority rose up against the strongest imperialist power of its day, created a movement that shook the Empire to its roots and inspired other oppressed peoples to rid themselves of imperialism. We must lay bare the true nature of imperialism so that once again, proudly inscribed on the banners of the Irish Working Class will be the legend, “we serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland.”
Thank you comrades.