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Matt Carthy speech at Drumboe Easter Commemoration

21 April, 2019 - by Matt Carthy MEP


Sinn Féin Midlands North West MEP Matt Carthy has extended condolences to the family of Lyra McKee at today’s Easter Commemoration at Drumboe, County Donegal.

In a speech delivered at the Drumboe Easter Commemoration this afternoon Carthy addressed the issues of Brexit, Irish reunification and the housing crisis.

Full speech follows:

1916 Easter Rising Commemoration, Drumboe, Co. Donegal – Easter Sunday 2019, Matt Carthy

I want to begin today by paying tribute to the life of the talented young writer Lyra McKee, shot dead in Derry this week.  We extend our deepest condolences to her grieving partner, family and friends. 

The large vigils that have taken place across Ireland to honour Lyra were an outpouring of grief – for the pointless loss of this bright young woman’s life. But they were also a demonstration of our fierce and united determination to never return to the dark days of the tragic conflict that has scarred our island and its people.

That is the true spirit of republicanism: one built on the foundations of unity, solidarity, community, equality, inclusiveness – and fearlessness.

Ireland – a country that fought an empire

A chairde, this weekend Republicans across Ireland and around the world are gathering as we do each Easter to remember those who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom in the 1916 Rising and at other periods of our history.

Here today we remember especially the Drumboe Martyrs: Charlie Daly, Seán Larkin, Tim O’Sullivan and Dan Enright; Irish freedom fighters who were executed by freestate forces on 14th March 1923 during the tragic civil war which marked a pivotal point in the counter-revolution that followed the tan war.

In 1916, Ireland was the little country that fought the most powerful empire in the world.  On that Easter Monday, just 1200 men and women set out to bring an end to British rule in Ireland – in their words, to “strike a blow for freedom”.  The leaders, including the seven signatories to the Proclamation, were all executed by the British in the weeks that followed.

We remember the ultimate sacrifice they made just as we remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by republicans since. 

Of course, we do not just remember the individuals who led the Easter Rising, but also their vision and the ideals they died for. These ideals were best articulated by James Connolly, Pádaric Pearse and the other signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic – of national sovereignty, equality, social justice, and democratic rights for all.

A decade of centenaries 

Over the past few years we have been marking a of a decade of centenaries of pivotal events in Ireland’s struggle for independence.

In 2013 we marked the Centenary of the Great Lockout when the bosses of Dublin declared war on the workers and their families.

The choice presented to the workers was stark. They could obey the bosses, resign from their union and go back to their tenement slums and their poverty with their heads down. Or they could resist. Thousands chose resistance.

Through the summer and autumn and winter of 1913 and 1914 they faced police brutality, press vilification, Church condemnation and starvation. They seemed defeated, but out of their struggle arose a revived trade union movement and a proud working class.

Again and again, in the decades since the Lockout, those whom Wolfe Tone called the people of no property were offered that same choice – resign or resist.

They were told to resign themselves to their fate when Ireland was partitioned and a sectarian Orange state established in the Six Counties. But the followers of Tone and Connolly again resisted, and stood by the Proclamation of the Republic.

Half a century after the Proclamation, the Civil Rights movement stepped forward and was met with the same choice – resign yourselves to the reality of the one-party sectarian state or resist.

They chose resistance. RUC brutality was resisted. Internment was resisted. The British Army was resisted. Criminalisation in the H-Blocks and Armagh was resisted. Collusion and censorship and the demonisation of whole communities were resisted.

The massive Irish and international commemoration of the centenary of the Rising in 2016 showed the clarion call of the Proclamation has echoed down for a full century – and continues to enthuse and motivate us today in our struggle for the unfinished freedom of our country, and for the unfinished equality of our people.

In 2018, we marked the centenary of the General Election, which saw republicans win 73 of the 105 Irish seats available – a resounding roar from the Irish people that they chose a united, independent, egalitarian republic. 

That year the vote was extended to men above 21 without restriction; women had won limited franchise and could vote if they were over 30 and owned some level of property. The extension of the vote to large sections of the working class was decisive in returning the republican TDs.

As they had committed to, and were given a resounding mandate to do, the TDs abstained from the British Parliament and established an all-Ireland parliament – An Chéad Dáil Éireann.

Democratic Programme

During the first session of that Dáil, 100 years ago, TDs adopted the Democratic Programme – a document less well known than the Proclamation but even more significant in terms of it visionary content of the social and economic transformation Ireland required a century ago, and continues to require today. 

One short paragraph from the Democratic Programme read: 

"It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland.”

Compare those words to the brutal, cold reality of Ireland today. 

Reality of housing crisis

Last month the United Nations wrote a scathingletter to the Irish government, pointing out that homelessness has increased exponentially in the Irish state between 2015 and 2018 – increasing by nearly 96% among adults and by 228% among children over the same period. 

They called the denial of the right to a home an ‘egregious and damaging violation’, which is known to be devastating to the lives and wellbeing of children in particular,including to their physical and mental development. 

The UN report does not limit its critique to the government’s failure to provide shelter for those experiencing homelessness. It outlines exactly how this crisis has developed and identifies the precise government policies that have caused it. 

It points to cuts to the public housing budget, and land hoarding by speculators who deliberately restrict supply in order to inflate rent and prices, and most importantly, the policies that have caused the financialisation of housing in Ireland.

The First Dáil couldn’t deliver on its promises because it was immediately driven underground and  the Irish people were subjected to the terror of the Black and Tans, Civil War, counter revolution and Partition.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed

But in this state, we’ve now had a centuryof two-party rule by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and the state they have created is simply a paradise for the bankers, the American vulture funds, international finance and domestic gombeens. 

Ireland is now the favourite spot for the Silicon Valley billionaires to shelter their profits from tax, but we leave our own population homeless on the streets at record levels while families, even those with two incomes, struggle to meet crippling rents and have almost no hope of ever owning their own home.

While Ireland has one of the largest and most dangerous shadow banking sectors in the world we are also home to a health service in chaos where the service one receives depends on how much money is in your bank account and in which part of the country you happen to live.  It is a place where those on the frontline such as our nurses have to take to the streets to fight for better healthcare for us all while private corporations make a killing on the back of our two-tier system. 

This is the price for a century of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in power. 

So, it is time that we choose resistance again – united, determined and fearless – and stand together to fight for a future where people’s lives and the environment are considered more important than corporate profits.

Local elections campaign

We need to do this through every means we available to us – at the local elections, at the European elections, in trade union struggles, and in progressive community campaigns. 

This May, Sinn Féin will be running in election campaigns in local councils across the North and South promoting our message of radical republicanism.

Sinn Féin councillors are delivering real change for communities across Ireland.  They are working hard for the people and the communities we represent, delivering social and affordable housing, community infrastructure and facilities. They are making cities, towns and village better places to live.

Today I want to especially commend the mighty team of Sinn Féin members on Donegal County Council – Gary Doherty, Liam Doherty, Marie Therese Gallagher, Gerry McMonagle, Albert Doherty, Noel Jordon, Jack Murray, John Seamais Ó Fearraigh & Aidy Glacin and to wish them and our new candidates Maria Doherty, Brian Carr, Terry Crossan and Michael McMahon all the best on 24thMay. 

With every additional Sinn Féin councillor elected, the stronger is our ability to create progressive change.  It’s hard work but we can take pride in the fact that we literally improve people’s lives and our local communities every single day.

EU elections 

I said earlier that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed us for a century – but this is nowhere made more clear than in the EU.  Some voters may think the EU elections are not important.  But the alarming fact is that these parties are consistently selling us short in Europe.

I have been fighting hard for Ireland as an MEP on issues such as getting the best possible deal for farmers in rural Ireland under the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy. 

We have been fighting the EU tooth and nail on a new proposal that aims to give even more free rein to vulture funds and debt collectors while there hasn’t been a whimper from the other parties. 

Just last week, through my work in the European Parliament, we exposed that the ECB had made profits –yes, profits! – of €73 billion from the so-called aid programmes they granted during the economic crisis.  Not a single Irish media outlet has reported this huge story.

Sinn Féin MEPs are working hard, all day every day, to fight for a radical change in the economic governance of the EU’s economic structures; for social and labour rights for workers; for rights for women and the LGBT community.  We are fighting for real action on climate change, such as forcing the ECB to divest the billions it hands over to the biggest polluters– instead of imposing punitive carbon taxes on the people who have done the least to cause the climate crisis.

We will resist the efforts of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to impose additional charges on working families in the guise of carbon tax hikes.

This EU election will be an all-Ireland election. It’s another opportunity to return an all-Ireland Sinn Féin team to Brussels to fight for Ireland’s interests, to oppose any hard border in Ireland, to oppose the neoliberal agenda, federalisation and the creation of an EU army. 

Sinn Féin has extreme problems with the nature and direction of the EU – but having one part of our country dragged out of the EU against the expressed wishes of the people is a recipe for disaster.

Fighting for Ireland

A lot has been said about Brexit in the past two years.  

And, Ireland has been, of course, central to the Brexit story.  There’s a reason for that.

Actually, it’s four reasons.  It was the Sinn Féin team in Brussels that brought the Irish concerns, particular concerns regarding the border and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to the heart of Brexit deliberations.  While others accused us of being naïve when we first raised the notion of special status for the north, our efforts ensured that that became, essentially, the position of the Irish government and subsequently the EU.

Our work is not done, so let me make this promise,every day Sinn Féin has representation in Brussels will be a day spent working to ensure that Irish interests, the rights of Irish citizens, and particularly the border regions, are protected.

Ireland did not vote for Brexit.  We do not consent to a hard border.  We believe that the ‘backstop’ contained within the Withdrawal Agreement is a vital insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and must be upheld.  It is the absolute bare minimum that is required.

Brexit is clearly causing people to question the constitutional future of the North and encouraging support for an all-island economic, political and social framework. 

The debate on Irish Unity is now mainstream.

Opinion polls must always be taken with a pinch of salt but the overwhelming trend of those carried out in the past two years is clear. The results reflect three important trends. First, there has been a consistent rise in the proportion of people who say they would vote for a united Ireland. 

Second, this trend is most pronounced among young people. 

And thirdly, these trends reflect the continuing major influence of the Brexit debacle on shaping attitudes on this issue in the North.

Now is the time for all of us who believe a united Ireland will provide a better future – parties, community groups, trade unions, businesses and individuals – to work together to seize this historic opportunity. 

We need to build popular support for the demand for a referendum while also working patiently to convince those who disagree that their voices will be heard and respected.

The British and Irish governments need to acknowledge theses changing attitudes and agree to hold a poll so the people can have their say.

We have the right to a referendum on reunification under the Good Friday Agreement and we will not be denied that right.

Our message to those other political parties that sometimes espouse support for Irish unity?  The work must begin now!

So, to Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the SDLP and others we say – join us now in framing the conversation; let us take the conversation to the next level, let’s include all stakeholders and communities and let us map out how we can secure a referendum on unity, win it and make a united Ireland a success for all the people of our country.

We’re up for it.  We’re up for working together to achieve the goal of Connolly and Pearse and the Drumboe Martyrs – it’s time for others to let it be known who is with us.

A chairde, as we leave this spot today be assured that we’re on the road towards a united Ireland.  It will take a lot of work but it is going to happen sooner, I suspect, than many people realise.  So concurrently we need to work to ensure that the united Ireland we deliver is one that allows us to reach our full potential as a nation, that it becomes a Republic worthy of it’s name, one that delivers on the promise of Proclamation and the Democratic Programme. 

That will be the most fitting commemoration we can give to all those we honour here today.

 Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.

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