Talk delivered by RSF Vice President Des Dalton at the Alternative G8 Summit in Edinburgh On July 3, 2005.

The Irish struggle for national liberation, no more than any other national struggle, cannot be viewed in isolation. Since the foundation of the Irish Republican Movement in 1791, Irish Republicans have always been conscious of the international dimension of Ireland’s fight against British imperialism. The founders of the Society of United Irishmen, such as Theobald Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Thomas Russell all were inspired by the American War of Independence, particularly its more progressive elements, with Thomas Paine’s Rights Of Man having a significant impact. The ideals, which fired the French Revolution, provided the ideological base for the United Irishmen, its ideas of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality have remained as the political cornerstones of Irish Republicanism, and it was to revolutionary France that they automatically turned for help.

However the United Irishmen also developed links beyond France, in particular with the Society of United Scotsmen, Thomas Muir one of their leaders was an honoury United Irishman. Even at this stage they were clear that they were engaged in a common cause of human and national freedom.

Over the following 200 years in almost every phase of the Irish struggle for national independence Irish revolutionary leaders have cast an eye on international events. The Fenians were more than aware and indeed supportive of the Paris Commune in 1871. The IRB was to the fore in organising opposition to Britain’s imperialist South African Boer War at the turn of the last century. And in 1914 Irish Republicans actively opposed recruitment in Ireland for participation in the First World War. No Irish Republican was clearer about the nature of this war and Ireland’s role in the international anti-imperialist struggle than Edinburgh born James Connolly. It can be said that his slogan of We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland more than any amount of words that can be written or spoken sum up the worldview of Irish Republicans. It encapsulates the commitment of Irish Revolutionary Republicans to the freedom and liberation of the Irish people in defiance of all imperialism, British or otherwise.

In 1936 Frank Ryan led a contingent of Irishmen most if not all members or former members of the Republican Movement to Spain to fight in defence of the Spanish Republic. This international solidarity has also seen the Republican Movement closely develop its links with the national liberation movements in the various stateless nations of Europe, in particular with our sister Celtic nations of Scotland, Wales and Brittany but also with the Basque country, Sardinia, Catalonia and Corsica. Each one represents yet another front in our common cause of establishing national democracy, the only basis for a free community of nations, internationalism in its truest sense.

Informed by this historical experience Republican Sinn Fein has a very clear view of the ongoing struggle against the British occupation of Ireland in an international context. No more than the people of Iraq or Palestine, the Irish people’s right to national sovereignty and democracy is being denied to them. The enemy is the same, be it Westminster, Washington or Tel Aviv. Imperialism may have different faces but its purpose and effects are the same.

Whilst imperialism by its nature has always been a global phenomenon, in the 21st Century the powerful and wealthy industrialised states of the northern hemisphere have united in common purpose. Globalisation is about the enrichment of these states whatever the cost in terms of people or the environment. This involves of course the ruthless acquisition and exploitation of natural resources, as evidenced by the ongoing vicious and illegal war which the US and Britain are waging in Iraq in order to control that country’s vast reserves of oil, or US backed attempted overthrow of the democratically elected government of Venezuela.

Here in Europe the various stateless nations have under the EU seen only a further erosion of their national rights, the EU rather than representing a means of escaping the imperialism of Britain, France, Spain or Italy represents a new form of imperialism, with power directed from Brussels rather that, London, Paris, Madrid or Rome. The EU project from day one has been fundamentally undemocratic; its aim has always been to erode national democracy placing power in the hands of Europe’s political and economic elite. The EU constitution was about putting the framework in place for the creation of militarised EU super-state. We can but congratulate the people of France and Holland for their courage and wisdom in rejecting this.

In the world of today national liberation movements now face a powerful array of forces. In an Irish context we have witnessed a powerful array of political and financial resources deployed in support of the Stormont Agreement, from both sides of the Atlantic. This off course follows a pattern, the EU and US have also lent their weight to the Oslo accord which as well as sponsoring the so-called road map for the middle east and the numerous attempts to bring an end to the ongoing insurgency of ETA in the Basque country. All of this is done so as to placate, divide and finally draw the teeth of the various revolutionary movements. None of these initiatives including the Stormont Agreement have tackled the fundamental cause of injustice and conflict. In each case they offer limited change and reform of the status quo. Essentially it is in the interests of the US and EU to remove any disruption or obstacle which these revolutionary national liberation movements might pose to their political and economic agenda.

From the beginning Republican Sinn Fein have pointed out that the Stormont Agreement could not deliver a just and lasting peace in Ireland because it failed to deal with the root cause of conflict in Ireland, which is the British occupation of Ireland. Not only that but we also said at the time it was signed in 1998 that it would lead to an increase in sectarianism, which recent studies have shown to be the case, as it served to only to further institutionalise sectarianism within the Six Counties. The now dominant position of the ultra sectarian DUP was only made possible because of the political climate crated by this sectarian agreement.

The Stormont Agreement was about simply reforming British rule in Ireland, making the Six County state, which since its creation in 1921 was based on religious discrimination and political repression, more acceptable to nationalists. Its aim like the various attempts which preceded it, such as the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Sunningdale, was to divide and dilute resistance to British rule.

The Stormont Agreement not only sought to end resistance but also to criminalize all future resistance to the British occupation of Ireland. This has included the removal of the right to political status, which was secured because of the sacrifices of many Republican prisoners who endured hunger strikes over the years culminating in the deaths of Bobby Sands and his nine comrades in the H Blocks of Long Kesh in 1981. Today Republican prisoners in Maghaberry prison are forced to once again embark on a campaign of resistance to this criminalisation. The British state in response to this campaign have enacted legislation which can be used to transfer Republican prisoners to jails in England, Wales or indeed Scotland as a means of disrupting any active resistance.

On top of all of this former comrades, who in 1986 left the Republican Movement following their decision to accept take seats in the 26 County parliament, and who were warned at the time the logical conclusion of the direction they had embarked on was ultimately accepting British rule in Ireland, were finally absorbed by the British state. Not only did they take seats in the re-established Stormont Assembly but became ministers of the British Crown, administering British rule on the ground.

As we speak they look set to take the next step of taking seats on the Six County policing boards and going on to enforcing the writ of the British crown in Ireland.

Already they have engaged in acts of intimidation aimed against Irish Republicans, including beatings and threats, they have even attempted to deny CABHAIR, provides for the welfare of Republican prisoners and their families, access to bars and other amenity areas for use in fund raising.

Despite the best efforts of a powerful alliance comprising of the British, US and Dublin governments, the EU, the media and the churches, the Stormont Agreement has lurched from one crisis to another. This is because of the agreement’s inherent contradictions, at the time it was signed the Unionist community were told on the one hand it would strengthen the union with England whilst nationalists on the other hand were told it would lead eventually to a united Ireland. This is a circle, which cannot be squared, it can do one or the other it cannot deliver both.

The reality of course is that nationalists were given symbolic concessions the real substance was won by Unionists who secured a final acceptance by the 26 County state that the Six County state was part of the so-called United Kingdom by the removal of articles two and three of the 26 County’s 1937 Constitution, this concession was enshrined in an internationally recognised agreement.

Despite the obvious failure of the Stormont Agreement, the line from London, Dublin and Washington is that the agreement is the only show in town. This is reflected in the media, which deny space to any discussion of an alternative, particularly one that seeks to create a New Ireland free of British rule.

Republican Sinn Fein, despite the many and oft repeated claims in the media that there is no alternative, possess a clear and credible alternative. EIRE NUA (New Ireland) provides for a federation of the four provinces of Ireland, with maximum decentralisation of power from national, to provincial, to regional right down to local and community level. EIRE NUA sets out a governmental structure which involves people in the decision making process at every level. As we view both partitionist states as part of the problem the creation of a New Ireland north and south is the only viable way forward.

With a parliament for each province, in a nine county Ulster, unionists would be able to exercise real autonomy whilst nationalists would have their position strengthened, all under the direction of their own provincial parliament, Dail Uladh, within which both nationalists and unionists could make real decisions, on issues such as economic development, education, health and social welfare and employment. When the EIRE NUA proposals were first put to the leaders of unionist opinion by the leadership of the Republican Movement at the Feakle talks in 1974 they viewed them as a workable alternative to British rule.

As a means of breaking the present political deadlock Republican Sinn Fein propose the election of a Constituent Assembly, our proposals contained within Towards A Peaceful Ireland call for the election of such an assembly by the people of All-Ireland, the purpose of the Constituent Assembly would be to draft a constitution for a new Ireland, all shades of political opinion in Ireland would be free to put forward candidates. If elected, Republican Sinn Fein would put before the assembly our vision of a New Ireland contained within EIRE NUA.

The assembly would have six months to complete its task of drawing up a constitution, following which the proposed constitution would be put before the Irish people in an All-Ireland referendum. Not a two state referenda, as was the case with the Stormont Agreement in which only the people of the Six Counties voted on the agreement itself, whilst the people of the 26 Counties voted merely on the amendment of the 26 County constitution. Following the adoption of a new constitution Towards A Peaceful Ireland states that the British government must give a public declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland within a stated period. Along with this would come the release of all political prisoners and an amnesty for those on the wanted list.

Republican Sinn Fein believes that our proposals contain the blueprint for a just, lasting and sustainable peace for all of the Irish people. EIRE NUA and Towards A Peaceful Ireland can allow us to make a reality of Tone’s dream of substituting the names protestant, catholic and dissenter with those of Irish men and Irish women.

Along with our social and economic programme SAOL NUA we can set about creating real All-Ireland political and economic democracy, bringing to an end once and for all the injustice of British rule in our country.

Republican Sinn Fein comes to Edinburgh obviously highlight and the political situation in Ireland and the continued struggle against British occupation.

However we also come here as an act of solidarity with all peoples who are struggling to vindicate their right to national independence, freedom and democracy.

We are all united in a common struggle to establish in the world a community of free nations. Present as we are in the city of James Connolly’s birth I can think of no better description of the kind of world which we should be working to create than that described by Connolly himself:

The day will come, and perhaps like a bolt from the blue when the frontiers will not be sufficient to prevent the handclasp of friendship between the peoples. But that day will come only when the Kings and Kaisers, queens and czars, financiers and capitalists who now oppress humanity will be hurled from their place and power, and the emancipated workers of the earth, no longer the blind instruments of rich men’s greed will found a new society, a new civilisation, whose corner stone will be labour, whose inspiring principle will be justice, whose limits humanity alone can bound.