and Comrades, it is an honour and a privilege to be
asked to speak at this meeting. As a former prisoner
in Long Kesh, I know what it was like to do time for
taking the struggle to the Brits. Many fine republicans
were incarcerated in the prisons of the Brits as they
sought to repress the spirit of resistance. Regardless
of which organisation they belonged to, all republicans
imprisoned for their beliefs should be respected.
is a day we pay homage to Kevin Lynch, who died after
71 days on hunger strike. Kevin joined a long list
of Irish martyrs who died on hunger strike or in prison
protest for the recognition of the right of the Irish
people for self-determination.
have gone on hunger strikes throughout our history
to re-affirm their political struggle. Prison struggles
have been part and parcel of republicanism since the
imprisonment and death of Wolfe Tone.
was in his prison cell 200 years ago this very year
that Robert Emmett composed one of the finest speeches
ever culminating in his rallying call that "until
Ireland takes her place among the nations of the world
then and only then let my epitaph be written."
members of the Fenians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood,
imprisoned in England during the latter part of the
19th century, were treated dreadfully by the British
and indeed one or two of the prisoners went mad from
their treatment. But they never flinched from the
struggle for political recognition of their cause.
James Connolly, socialist republican founder of the
Irish Citizen Army, was a hunger striker and during
the war of independence many republicans went on hunger
strike and indeed some died.
the start of the so-called 'Troubles', republicans
have campaigned for political status.
was a Belfast republican, Billy McKee, who was first
to go on hunger strike for political status. The deadly
struggle that took place around the '81 hunger strikers
finally convinced the world of the legitimacy of our
struggle. Sadly, ten brave republicans had to give
their lives that the world should recognise the legitimacy
of the Republican struggle.
be treated as an ordinary criminal is to demean the
struggle for a Republic. We are not and never had
been ordinary criminals. It is no crime in my eyes
for Irish republicans to assert in arms the right
of the Irish people to self-determination.
we fully support the right of the republican prisoners
in Maghaberry to segregation. We clearly recognise
that they are political prisoners involved in a legitimate
form of protest within the jail. I fully understand
the frustrations that have driven the prisoners to
undertake a dirty protest.
call on all former prisoners to come out on demonstrations
in support of the call for segregation, no matter
who calls those demonstrations.
are calling for the establishment of a broad based
committee comprising representatives of all republican
groups and other supporters to take up the demand
for segregation. The history of the H-block mass struggles
during the '81 hunger strikes show what can be achieved
by a unified campaign drawing support from a wide
support for the prisoners should not be seen as an
endorsement for the continuation of armed struggle
by republican groups. We are very clear about the
futility of the continuation of armed actions at this
time. It is clear that the vast majority of republicans
as well as the vast majority of the Irish people reject
armed struggle as a current tactic. We urge other
republicans to take the political road. It is the
only way forward to progress republican objectives.
us be under no illusions about what the last thirty
years was about we did not take up armed struggle
to achieve equality - we did not take up armed struggle
to achieve civil rights. We took up arms, and Kevin
Lynch and all his comrades who died on hunger strike,
took up arms to achieve a Republic that cherished
all the children of the nation equally. We were sick
and tired of living under British and unionist rule
for that rule was unjust, discriminatory, arbitrary,
despotic, and imperialistic.
do you know something, I'm still sick and tired of
living under British rule.
times change and the strategy and tactics of republicans
have to change as well. We in the Republican Socialist
Movement have accepted the need to modify our tactics
to meet the changed times we live. But the calling
of the INLA ceasefire was not a declaration that our
beliefs, our principles, and our politics had changed.
the contrary, every thing that has happened since
1998 has re-confirmed us in our beliefs. We remain
committed to the struggle for a Socialist Republic,
are unwavering in our belief in class politics, and
remain implacable opposed to the existence of the
Northern Ireland state. It always was and still is
a failed political entity and we believe that the
smashing of the Northern state will be in the interests
of all of the northern people whether they describe
themselves as unionist, nationalist, or other.
repression used by the old Stormont state with the
backing of the British forced republicans to rearm
and defend the nationalist areas from Orange pogroms.
Then a combination of rural guerrilla warfare, civil
disobedience, urban armed struggle, and street protests
brought down the old Stormont regime.
the smashing of the old Stormont, the full force of
British imperialism was brought to bear on the resistance
struggle. State-directed loyalist murder gangs brutally
slaying innocent Catholics in an attempt to demoralise
resistance; a conveyor belt 'justice system' that
denied justice; a refining of torture techniques in
Castlereagh; the tainted evidence of the lowest of
the low - the informer; the attempted criminalisation
of freedom fighters and revolutionaries; murder gangs
operating out of British Army barracks; state sanctioned
bombings of Dublin and Monaghan; state files on every
nationalist; housing policy and employment polices
dictated primarily by military Generals; and the demonising
and censoring of republicans.
tactics in turn provoked a response and nowhere more
so than in the prisons where the blanket men and women
engaged in the dirty protest to re-gain political
status. Thanks to the sterling work of the Relatives
Action Committees and then later the H-Block Committees,
the issue became an international issue.
Lynch played his part in the resistance. He gave his
intellect, his energy, and sadly his life in the struggle
for political status.
loss was not only a devastating personal blow to his
family but also a major setback for the struggle.
Outstanding individuals like Kevin were and still
are a sad loss to the republican struggle. And, be
under no misapprehensions, there is still a republican
Kevin and his comrades went on hunger strike they
had no mandate from anyone. They needed no mandate
to do what they did. They saw injustice - they saw
repression - they saw brutality - they saw the naked
face of imperialism - and so they resisted. And they
the men and women of Easter 1916, they had no mandate.
Today we need no mandate to honour these two fine
republican socialists. We need no mandate to be republicans.
We need no mandate to be socialists. We need no mandate
to oppose imperialism wherever we find it. It is enough
for injustice to exist for us to organise to oppose
in Ireland or Iraq or wherever in the world imperialism
oppresses and exploits, then so should anti-imperialists
organise and resist. For so long as there is a republican
still alive in Ireland, struggling for the Workers
Republic, then the spirit of Kevin Lynch and all the
other men and women, who died that their country and
their class could be free, will live on.
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