Independent Derry City and Strabane District Councillor Gary Donnelly addressed an Easter commemoration at the republican plot in Derry City Cemetery on Monday, April 6. This is the full content of his speech.
“Irish republicanism must abandon its obsession with parochial control and adopt with urgency a national concept of winning this struggle. As it stands, on the precipice of the Centenary of the 1916 Rising, republicans are united in failure.
“No matter which monument you stand at in 2016, no matter which banner or flag you gather under, the answer to the sole question emanating from our patriot graves, as to whether the ideals of the Proclamation are yet realised, the collective answer will be a resounding no.
“There is no point in seeking refuge for this failure in the failures of others. There is no credibility in criticising the actions of others whilst our own actions remain fragmented. If we choose to stand as Irish republicans then we must address with complete honesty our contributions or not to its advancement.
“Parochial obsessions feed into the frenzy of organisational dominance in the contemptible illusion that this in some way progresses our objectives. It does not. That mentality demotes the needs of the objectives below the needs for local dominance. This lies at the heart of our current failures.
“Irish republicanism can only advance if it develops a mechanism through which it can communicate both to itself and to our people. At its most fundamental Irish republicanism must have at its core an internal narrative where the better argument always prevails.
“As we approach the Centenary of 1916 our first priority must be to re-establish within Irish republicanism a national conversation that allows us to articulate our basic message. The fragmented nature of the republican base at present is testament to the fact that we have lost this ability to communicate.
“We cannot advance with a parochial mindset. Irish republicanism is both blessed with a rich copy of political analysis throughout our long struggle but also cursed with our unfailing ability not to pay heed to it. Every generation has yielded such figures who have guided us forward precisely because such guidance was for the benefits of republicanism and not any given organisation.
Writing almost 180 years ago James Fintan Lalor observed that the struggle between tenant and landlord was a microcosm of the struggle between Ireland and the then British Empire. Here we were given, from the point of a quill, a clarity which influenced Pearse and Connolly to put in place an unbreakable foundation for Irish republicanism to reason its way forward no matter which generation it finds itself in.
“Writing some 180 years later Ta Power observed that there is no parliamentary road to socialism. What links the two concepts is the inherent need for a national dimension to every local act of struggle we engage in. What is the point in fighting for our right to water but not recognising that partition impinges on our sovereign rights to all our natural resources?
“A denial of one right is injurious to all rights. Yet daily, despite the repeated clarity afforded to us, we deny our local struggles the national dimension that republicanism and socialism demands. Republicans fighting for partitionist reforms is the same as socialists fighting for fairer capitalism. They are contradictions in terms.
“The Easter Rising was more than an ideal, more than a vision. The violent insurrection, an armed expression of Irish sovereignty, was a definitive political act in pursuit of that vision. Without this combination 1916 would be an obscure event in Irish history. And this is the salient point for republicans today: what is our definitive political act in pursuit of the same goals?
“It is redundant to claim loyalty to a political objective without a credible means to pursue that objective. Empathy to historical acts is mere rhetoric in the absence of contemporary acts in support of them.
“The Easter Rising was an act of political clarity strategically designed to put clear water between the Home Rule argument and the separatist position. And whilst it was an independent act it was not ignorant of the political environment in which it took place. It wasn’t isolationist. It did not retreat into clichés and slogans.
“It established the national objective with a forward moving dynamic which meant that any claims of loyalty to it could only be properly expressed by political actions in its pursuit. The Proclamation does not belong over the mantelpiece.
“And this is the template we must build upon today. Republicanism first. Republicanism moving forward. Republicanism with a concept of winning.
“The Centenary of 1916 offers all republicans a powerful focal point to rid ourselves of the parochial mindset. It affords us an unprecedented opportunity to forge a political strategy which has the dynamic and insight to once and for all liberate our people.
“Let us get to work and make that happen!”