Up to 200 people gathered at Arbour Hill in Dublin on Saturday (May 10) to pay tribute to James Connolly one of the founding fathers of Irish socialist republicanism.* A lone piper and three person colour party led the crowd through the gates and onwards towards the final resting place of James Connolly, Pádraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke and many of the other leaders of the 1916 Rising.
éirígí activists and supporters from all four provinces converged on one the most hallowed of republican sites to pay their respects and re-commit themselves to the objective of an Irish socialist republic. Two activists, who had made the journey from south Derry, read out excerpts of Connolly’s writings on the importance of the revolutionary party and the need for the unification of the aspirations of national independence and socialism.
Between the readings, Brian Leeson, who had earlier in the day been re-elected as éirígí chairperson, gave an oration dealing with the current state of the struggle against the British occupation. Brian was brutally honest in his assessment:
“Radical, revolutionary, separatist, republicanism is far weaker now than what it was a decade ago – in both political and organisational terms. Acceptance of this fact is the first necessary step in the process of reorganising and re-building a diverse social movement for the combined objectives of British withdrawal and social and economic justice.
“From our foundation, we in éirígí have believed that very little good can come from dwelling on the past and that the only long term-beneficiaries of inter-republican recriminations will be the ruling classes in both Britain and Ireland. Instead of such recrimination we need to make a cold, accurate, objective assessment of where republicanism now stands and from there plot a course for expansion, popularisation and ultimately for victory.”
He continued: “Within that process there are difficult personal choices for us all to make. Individually, we each must choose to draw a line under the betrayals and disappointments of the past. Individually, we each must choose to recommit ourselves to the objective of an Irish socialist republic. Individually, we must again begin to believe that we can achieve that objective through a movement of ordinary Irish women and men working together in political struggle and, individually, we must choose to commit of our time and energy through certain hard times in the months and years ahead.
“Then, finally and collectively, we must choose to act.
“Our actions and our tactics must be appropriate to their time – recognising that, while republicanism has been weakened over recent years, the enemies of republicanism have grown proportionately stronger. We should neither overstretch nor undersell ourselves, but instead set about taking realistic steps to incrementally strengthen republicanism across the island.”
Next to speak was former H-Block hunger-striker and current Independent Workers’ Union organiser Tommy McKearney.**
Tommy gave an overview as to why the ideas of Connolly are still vitally important to the Ireland of today, and why organised labour is an essential component of any national liberation struggle.
Speaking after the commemoration, incoming éirígí general secretary Rab Jackson said the party was delighted with the turnout.
“This is the third year in a row that éirígí has organised the James Connolly Commemoration – and the numbers in attendance have risen steadily each year.
“What we want to do is promote not just a knowledge and understanding of what James Connolly did during his short life, but, also, promote a knowledge and understanding of how his writings are still relevant in modern Ireland. The beliefs of James Connolly are no good when left abstract, we need to make them living breathing ideas and initiatives.”
Rab continued: “I would like to commend people for refusing to be intimidated by the presence of the Garda Special Branch here today and for giving these goons a worthy response – a dignified commemoration for a revolutionary hero.
** View Full Speech here. http://eirigi.org/ArdFheis08/comm_mckearney.html