Report from Easter Rising Commemorations in Cork city

Date:

James reports from the Workers Party, 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Republican Sinn Fein and Sinn Fein commemorations at the republican plot on Easter Sunday in Cork's St. Finbarrs cemetery.

This year kicked off with the Workers' party. About 60 or so people attended, Cllr Ted Tynan was the chair, and after the usual wreath laying etc. the event was addressed by Sean Garland. He made reference to several dead comrades including Dessie Swanton killed by a premature explosion in that very plot over 50 years ago. Posing the question "How far have we come?"(since 1916) he answered that the state we now have is far short of what was envisaged by the revolutionaries of 1916 or indeed by those who followed as power was increasingly ceded to a unelected elite in Europe. He outlined the republican vision of a democratic Republic with all the children of the nation treated equally and a democratic Europe.

Citing Connolly he said capitalism is the enemy. He descibed it as a "ruthless and savage system maintained by armed force". One that was prepared to defend itself by any means necessary. He outlined the tasks facing the Workers' party, the primary role of the party was to defend the interests of our class , the working class. The first to be protected were the most vunerable by price controls on food and fuel. A proposal by the WP to the Trade Union movement for the establishment of a workers bank was mentioned.

WP activists must organise our class , educate our fellow workers and outline the future we can fight for. The Trade Unions must act to unify the class for the struggle ahead. Party building is a key task and he welcomed to emergence of the new Look Left magazine of the party which would help spread the the ideas of socialism. There was along road ahead but the party has not and would not be crushed physically or politically others had tried and failed , they would fail again. He said the WP must "Wage struggle in every area of society" and raising class conciousness was the key to change.

Next came the 32 County Sovereignty Movement

The Cork Finbar Walsh cumann have a fine new banner which was on display. They were led by the Jim Larkin flute band from Liverpool. about 70 people attended and there was a heavy Garda Special Branch presence with nearly everybody's name and address being taken, include 2 young teenage girls who not only had their names and address taken but their phone numbers by these middle aged branchmen, very disturbing. (It would be worth giving out know your rights leaflets at such events to protect such innocents).

Val Lynch spoke and made reference to the two traditions in Ireland, revolutionary and the constitutionalists. He pointedly referred to the 50,000 irishmen who had died at the behest of the home rulers in the first world war as they attempted to placate Britain's ruling class. He outlined the position of the 32CSM on the Good Friday Agreement etc.

On a more locally topical issues he said that they would not be deflected by condemnations "from fighting the scourage of social ills". He said the movement needs to show people by their actions, that they "don't need to be the prisoners of drug barons, bankers and developers etc".

Next were Republican Sinn Fein

About 100 people were present for this commemoration. Cumann na mban formed part of the colour party. The statement from the leadership of the movement was read by Alfie McEvoy. Apart from a long outline of how SF had sold out and were reinforcing the Britiish occupation and how any visit by the Queen would be vigorously opposed, there were solidarity greetings for Shell to Sea and Pat O'Donnell. Reference was made to the cheek of Martin McGuiness traitor label against republicans.

There were next 2 prisoner statements one from Portlaoise CIRA POWs and another from Maghaberry CIRA POWs. Of interest from the Portlaoise statement was reference to other groups attempting to walk a tightrope between criminality and republicanism and that the two were incompatible. The Maghaberry statement again attacked the provos over the traitor thing and the following "If you continue to protect Irelands' foe you too will meet resistance."

Ruari O Bradaigh then addressed the gathering. he spoke a good deal about the history of struggle in Ireland making reference to those lying in the graves at his feet. He said there were 2 traditions one of resistance and one of reform and that the pattern of history repeats itself with the constitutionalist being absorbed into the system of British rule as was happening today. He attacked those who called the fighters traitors as they themselves served the enemy. He made long reference to a joint PSNI/Garda commemoration of the RIC and Black and Tans in Granard on the 28th of February and how this was an example of the rehabilitation of British terrorists.

He then went on to outline the nature of the current sellout through St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements. The 26 co economy was faltering as a result of corruption and republicans had to be active around the issues raised. (At this point the approaching drums of the Sinn Fein commemoration could be heard)

The Eire Nua policy was touched on as a hand of friendship to unionists protecting them in a united Ireland through federalism etc. and Saol Nua as the policy that would begin the rebirth of Ireland economically.

"We must adhere to our principles if we don't all is lost. Be worthy of these dead." Continue to support those who oppose British rule actively.
(The provos were now at the gate literally and had to wait till the end of the ceremony)

Donal Varian chairing made reference to those coming after as "desecrating the graves" of the republican dead.

Sinn Fein marched in after the RSF dispersed. About 200 at this event.
Cllr.Fiona Kerins read the SF leadership statement.
"Unity and independence are our primary aim and we have a strategy to achieve it."
"The Orange state has been dismantled".
"Irish unity is a live political issue."
Small armed gangs with no strattegy have nothing to offer. "A peaceful strategy is now available."

Then lots of talk about about how important the upcoming Westminister elections are and the inevitable 26 county ones too. Building a mass party is now a key task, everyone present should join the party before next Easter, party structure has been change at the Ard Fheis to make it easier to join and be active in your own small way.

The oration was given by Mary Lou Mac Donald
Republicans had "waged war when it had to be waged." but now we were in a "new phase", where "peaceful means offered the way forward." "British juristiction in Ireland must end." The 1916 proclamation is a call to action.

Then again Orange state gone, unionists challenged daily by confident nationalist community, "war is over, but struggle continues".
For the party "Courage, credibility and discipline."
Then a lot of anti govt. stuff and pretty bland posturing over economic issues. She said we must take advantage of the crisis to reshape Ireland and quoted Connolly that the object must be the "Reconquest of Ireland by the Irish people." To do this we must build political strength eg join SF it's easier now that the restructuring has be passed. "If you support us join us."

Thomas Gould chairing welcomed home Don Bullman recently released after serving 3 years for IRA membership, convicted in a court/policing system the party supports!!!

Conclusions

The Workers Party are showing more signs of life with about double attendance this year it is also worth noting that they have recruited a few disillusioned left wing Sinn Feiners and have a new impressive paper/magazine. There is no sign however of a reassessment of how the project arrived at it's current state and the approach of electoralism as the major outlet seems entrenched. It is easy to work with the WP these days in campaigns with no real sectarianism from them and they have several very able workers and a real base within the working class. There commemoration was certainly the most overtly politically class struggle based one.

The 32CSM had around the same turnout as last year. The recent killing of a drug pusher in Cork by the RIRA had little effect on numbers either way, but they definitely had the edge on other "dissident " republican groups in Cork in terms of youth, membership and dynamism. Politically there is very little to analyse here as the message is essentially "Brits Out" "Pushers Out". There does not appear to be a great developed political project here at all. Given the youthful working class following of the 32CSM this is depressing.

RSF continues to appear in decline, with an aging membership and many people appearing to confine activity to just attending these events. The message is consistent and unswerving that's for sure, but where they see the dynamic to change events in their favour coming from is unclear.

Sinn Fein continue to attract the biggest crowd, but the size is generally not growing and is slightly dipping I would think. The call for everyone to join the party is an interesting initiative, that will result in a 2 tier membership of leaders and led, That may already be the case as you say, but a large passive membership will actually completely marginalize whatever radical tendencies exist within the party and push the party more to the Fianna Fail model. Nothing exciting or uplifting in what Mary said, but it is interesting that they still feel the need to attack the "dissidents" evidently they are still perceived as a threat, by SF. As to Irish unity being a "live political issue" a fantastical claim based on wishful thinking and nothing else. As to a strategy for unity and independence (not to mention socialism) I don't see it and am baffled as to what it is.

Eirigi had no commemoration in Cork and are marginal here, I look forward to hearing their take on the state of the "struggle " now 

Like what you're reading?
Find out when we publish more via the
WSM Facebook
& WSM Twitter