THE 1916 PROCLAMATION is a document of its time which has echoed down the years and continues to inspire today. It is a rousing statement of a nation's right to be free from foreign oppression and a radical call for equal rights and opportunities in a sovereign independent state.
It was written at a time when Ireland was drawn into an imperialist war against its will, when Irish people were dying in their thousands on the battlefields of Europe. The Easter Rising was the response of the most progressive section of Irish society to this latest cost of British occupation. It was a cost which, counted with the shackling of Irish trade, culture and development, republicans were no longer willing to pay. And as another generation of Irish men and women confronted the British, their call to arms was greeted with applause by progressive forces throughout the world.
Today the Proclamation stands as a poetic indictment of the leaders of
the 26-County state who would sooner sneak into the economic and
military clubs of the new imperialists than
resolve to pursue the
happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts,
cherishing all the children of the nation equally. When
generations have been forced to emigrate, when poverty eats away at
the dignity of so many working class people, and when Travelling
families are daily evicted from the roadsides, the words of the
Proclamation should rightly stick in the mouths of political leaders.
The Proclamation's powerful cry for freedom and national rights could only have been written by people who had a clear sense of making history, who ventured with absolute confidence in the moral right of their cause to defeat the most powerful country on earth.
That country remains powerful but in terminal decline. In the intervening decades, while those they have oppressed around the world have taken up arms to win peace, freedom and justice, the British establishment still clings pathetically to the last days of empire. But Ireland too will slip from their grasp and then we can begin the task laid out in the Proclamation—to build a new Ireland.
For republicans it is not enough to simply read out the Proclamation at an Easter commemoration or frame it on the wall. We are determined to build a society shaped by the principles for which so many have struggled.
In their message to be read out at Easter 1916 commemorations this
weekend, the leadership of the IRA say that following their cease-fire
decision of 31 August last they
entered this new situation in a
spirit of determination, confidence and unity. The IRA says:
The republican leadership extends seasonal and fraternal greetings to its activists, supporters and friends at home and abroad.
To our imprisoned comrades in Ireland, England, Europe and America and to their families, we extend warm greetings and continued solidarity.
As we commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Easter Rising, we recall all those comrades who have given their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom. To their families and loved ones we extend heartfelt solidarity.
We also salute and pay tribute to the men and women Volunteers of Oglaigh na hEireann, who, for over a quarter of a century of armed struggle, have thwarted and frustrated every British attempt at shoring up their failed presence on this is land. On 31 August last year, Oglaigh na hEireann embarked on an initiative aimed at enhancing the climate for inclusive negotiations which would, given the political will on all sides, lead to a just and lasting resolution of this conflict.
Republicans entered into this new situation in a spirit of determination, confidence and unity, determined that the injustices which created this conflict can be removed and confident in the strength and justice of our struggle to achieve this.
This struggle, sustained by our people's desire to be free, remains confident and determined. No one, least of all our opponents, should doubt that. Nor should they delude themselves about our commitment to face whatever challenges and tasks lie ahead. Our desire for freedom has outlived every British administration in Ireland and has faced down all the powerful resources pitted against us. That desire for freedom will endure until our nation's fundamental right to national self-determination is finally exercised free from outside interference or impediment of any kind.
The last quarter century of conflict stems directly from British policy and from the unionist intransigence which the British military and political presence sustains. Britain's core responsibility logically dictates that they must face up to their role in any process aimed at finding a solution to the conflict. Britain's shouldering of its responsibilities is essential if such a process is to be meaningful or is to have any hope of success.
An historic opportunity has been created for the realisation of a just and lasting peace. It is self-evident that partition has failed and that British rule has failed. All parties must therefore resolve to leave behind the failures of the past and must seize this potential opportunity to build a new and free Ireland which removes the divisions of the past and creates in their place a peaceful and shared future where all the children of the nation will be cherished equally.
The strength and determination of Irish republicans and nationalists as we face into a new millenium is the true measure of the hope and confidence with which we view the future. Today as we stand before the graves of generations of Irish republicans, all of us personally rededicate ourselves to the struggle which remains to be completed. Let everyone leave here today determined to play their part no matter how great or small in finally bringing to fruition that for which so many have suffered and died.