A hugely successful Saor Éire conference was held by éirígí last weekend at the Ashling hotel in Dublin.
The gathering was held to coincide with the anniversary of James Connolly and saw up to 100 people participate in lively discussions throughout the day, with activists travelling from as far afield as the Basque Country to attend the event.
A comprehensive programme of discussions on the way forward for the national liberation and class struggles saw an impressive array of speakers address a wide range of issues.
In his opening address to the gathering, éirígí general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “The teachings of James Connolly are as relevant today as when he was alive. His socialism is ageless and we as socialists and republicans must strive to ensure that his legacy is kept alive in Ireland today and in the future… It is clear that the message of Connolly remains as true today as it was over a century ago when he concluded his pamphlet, Labour, Nationality and Religion, in the simplest and most straightforward terms: ‘The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system, it must go.’”
Mac Cionnaith added: “Ireland remains divided by imperialism. The livelihoods of the vast majority of Irish people are controlled by undemocratic capitalist forces which stretch from this island to London, to Washington and Brussels. They are no different to those same undemocratic controlling forces which Connolly and others struggled against.
“Those undemocratic forces, are supported, both North and South, by a pliant, subservient and self-serving political class. The extent of that subservience can be seen clearly in the manner of their meekness to the dictates of the EU/IMF. It can be seen in the giveaway of our natural resources – the profits from which are destined to line the pockets of Shell, Statoil and BP, not to forget the pockets of our own modern-day William Martin Murphy: Tony O’Reilly. Instead, those resources could and should be ours for the benefit of all the people.
“The extent of that subservience by the political class can be seen in the fawning welcome being given to the visit of the honorary head of the British armed forces while Britain maintains its grip on the Six Counties and engages in war elsewhere in the world. That subservience can be seen in their daily collaboration with Britain and in their lack of active opposition to repressive and draconian British laws, or to Britain’s deployment of its troops ‘in mufti’ throughout the Six Counties.
“Those self-serving and subservient political classes are the same ones that have, to quote James Connolly, ‘unceasingly strove to divert the public mind upon the lines of constitutional agitation for such reforms as might remove irritating and unnecessary officialism, while leaving untouched the basis of national and economic subjection.’”
The first topic for discussion at the gathering was the giveaway of Irish natural resources and the struggle to reclaim Irish oil and gas, which was addressed by éirígí’s Joanne McDonald and Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington. The extent of wealth that has been handed over to multinational oil corporations, which was outlined by McDonald was a revelation to many of those in attendance, while Harrington discussed the Shell to Sea struggle in north Mayo and urged everyone to get active on the issue.
The question of whether James Connolly is an idol or ideologue for Irish republicans was addressed by historians Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh and Brian Kelly. Both speakers provided a detailed exposition of the political ideas, activism and legacy of Connolly and there followed a lively discussion as to the application of Connolly’s ideas in the context of Ireland in the 21st Century.
The neoliberal assault and the savage programme of cuts imposed by the EU/IMF was discussed by éirígí’s Daithí Mac An Mháistir, Unite Union regional organiser Brendan Ogle and Chilean trade unionist and Latin America Solidarity Centre activist Pepe Gutiérrez. There followed a lively discussion about organising the fight back against the cuts and privatisation of public assets.
The final discussion of the day saw éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson and PANA’s Roger Cole debate the nature of modern day imperialism and why it is crucial to oppose the upcoming visit of the British monarch.
Following the gathering, those in attendance made the short trip to Arbour Hill cemetery where they were joined by many others to lay a wreath at the graveside of Connolly.
Proceedings at Arbour Hill were chaired by Ger Devereux and there were readings from Connolly by Philly McNally and from Máirtín Ó Cadhain by Ursula Ní Shionnain.
A haunting version of Where is our James Connolly was sung by Joe Keegan before the commemoration was addressed by éirígí’s Louise Minihan, who slammed the ongoing attacks and cuts directed against workers and urged those in attendance to organise against the upcoming British royal visit.
éirígí’s Stewart Reddin, one of the organisers of the Saor Éire gathering, thanked all of the speakers and all those who attended and said he looked forward to building on the success of this year’s inaugural gathering.
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