- "In the social and economic field the struggle of the national resistance movement throughout the ages has been unequivocally for the restoration of the wealth of Ireland, both land and industry, to the dispossessed Irish nation.” – Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Restore The Means Of Production To The People, 1970.
Comrades as we meet here today and discuss this issue of Ireland’s resources and other important issues, whilst we do let us not forget at any moment, that Ireland, this small island nation of ours is rich, it is rich in its people, it is rich in economy, it is rich in its resources both natural and national. But like the Irish people have over centuries, Ireland is being exploited, depleted and destroyed. The culprit today is an unregulated and rampant global imperialism. In Ireland we have two-paritionist states, one neo-colonial and the other very much colonial effectively misrepresenting the interests of the people.
The 1841 census showed that there were 8,175,124 people living on this island. That was a historical high. The historical low came in 1926 where the figures showed a population of 4,228,553. The years in between beginning in the 1840s saw over a million of our people die due to the effects of starvation. We are told it was a famine, but history is written by the victors, in truth it was a genocide, An Górta Mór / The Great Hunger as it is known to those unwilling to accept the term ‘famine’ is a debate in itself but this is an example of how improper use of resources can have a dire effect upon society and populations. This catastrophic event began a trend of emigration which has seen many millions of people leave our shores.
Across rural Ireland today we see many hundreds of abandoned schools and houses, where once they were full with the voices of our youth and the warmth of our families, today they are a depressing site of successive Governmental failure to provide.
I’ve often in spare time took a wander around some of these old abandoned houses and schools, and it is striking as they really are a glimpse into Ireland’s past. In every house I visited on the walls there was a picture of the Sacred Heart or a Crucifix on the wall. In these old homes one gets the impression of time stalled as society broke down and witnessed no chance to evolve. But it is not just isolated schools and houses lying in abandon. Entire villages have been left to die a death.
In the book Short Circuit published in 1996 by author Richard Douthwaite, he says:
In Ireland as a whole, 670,000 people gained their main source of livelihood from the land in 1926, the majority working for themselves or for a member of their families. By 1991 the total had dropped to 150,000, only 14 per cent of the national workforce, and was falling at the rate of twelve families a day. As a result, 224 villages in County Galway were abandoned completely during the sixty-five year period; ten thousand people emigrated from Counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon in 1986 alone.
It is important to cover some of these issues of historical importance, to give a grounding of where we come from to where we are. Today, emigration is still at very high levels. According to CSO – Central Statistics Office in 2015 emigration was at 89,900 people. 30,400 of which were under 25 years of age. Regarding third level graduates in the year 2015 alone we lost 39,800. Presumably they left our shores for better employment and life opportunities abroad. Since 2008 it is estimated by the same body that 223,600 emigrated under the age of 25 years old.
I pose the questions, are the people of Ireland not Ireland’s greatest resource? And why is it so acceptable we lose so many of our youngest and ablest talent to emigration when we could have so much to offer at home?
The big word here is ‘could’. We could but we don’t encourage indigenous industries, jobs and sustainability anywhere near the level we should.
Too much emphasis is placed by successive Free State Governments on attracting foreign multinational investment. The usual underhand acts of cronyism are at hand between a political class and bosses of these multinationals who have a very financially beneficial relationship. And whilst multinationals create many jobs here, one in five being employed by a multinational, at what cost? They cannot provide enough jobs to end the outward tide of people we have witnessed. And such reliance on them undermines indigenous economic growth in tandem with loss of political sovereignty.
We hear every time before elections the empty promise of reform coming from parties with watered down policies, regardless of when they are in power they are tied politically to these seemingly unaccountable multinationals, truth is, their policies are not worth the paper they are written on! To quote Ruairí Ó Brádaigh:
What matters to them, is that they secure their ill-gotten gains for the foreseeable future. What we may see is a changing around of the scenery. But basically the position of domination, imperialism and exploitation in Ireland will remain and the Irish people would not become supreme in their own country; would not achieve the control of the wealth of their own country and would not be able to determine their own future - Ruairí Ó Brádaigh – April, 1981 interview with IRIS.
I think when this quote from Ó Brádaigh is looked at and thought about it really does sum up the position of the 26 County State regarding the musical chairs routine of Leinster House politics every five years.
Recently we seen the FF opposition back a FG led Government decision on the debacle regarding Apple and the tax issue where Apple were told by the EU to pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to the Government. How ridiculous it seemed that any Government strapped for cash as is the 26 County Government would not only go against this ruling but actually put in process the mechanisms to appeal. An appeal which in itself will further cost taxpayers potentially millions of euro.
Let us not forget that Irish taxpayers are saddled with 42% of EU debt due to the ineptitude of what is effectively a ruling class of wealthy politicians. The 26 County State more or less bailed out the European Banking system, the sad thing about this reality, is it is coupled with a massive giveaway of our natural resources and it has been met with an inertia from the ironically infamous ‘fighting Irish’.
Now, when Ruairí says, “What matters to them, is that they secure their ill-gotten gains for the foreseeable future. What we may see is a changing around of the scenery. But basically the position of domination, imperialism and exploitation in Ireland will remain” - whilst he said this in 1981 it speaks volumes today. The reason being is that the same neo-colonial institutions remain and so it is no surprise that Fianna Fáil in the unique position of “official controlled opposition” have decided to go along with the 26 County Government position to appeal the EUs decision.
Of course since 1981 when Ruairí made this statement, indeed since the enforcement of the 26 County State upon the people living here, it has been FG or FF who have grasped the power. They are effectively the Yin and Yang of Irish capitalism and in promoting their ‘small open economy’ they have not shied away from selling key resources of the people to the highest bidder.
Let’s take for example our Marine Resources. The 26 County State has a marine territory of approximately 220 million acres, ten times our land mass and bigger than many European Countries. But under the EU we are slapped with Quotas, regarding fishing for example, reducing our share of what is our own inheritance to a mere 4% landing quota. This is while ships, vessels from Portugal, Spain, France, and Belgium, for example, can come here and fish in our waters. Irish fishermen in coastal communities are living under the threat of imprisonment if they break these ridiculous quotas. The EU has said it is about management and sustainability of the sector. This is a ridiculous assertion. For centuries our people have fished in accordance with the seasons and nature’s cycle, maintaining sustainable jobs in accordance with the non-excessive demands of a regional resource based economy.
And yet, we see in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy allowing the right for Super Trawlers registered in the EU to come into Irish waters and with brutal efficiency pillage our marine habitat. The estimate of what we have lost form our fisheries since EU membership is in excess of €600 billion to date.
Along with fisheries, Oil and Gas reserves are the next big issue, but the selective media doesn’t even deem this an issue. It is estimated we have in the region of €420 billion worth of reserves. This is said by many to be a conservative estimate. Thanks to corrupt deals done by the likes of Ray Burke and Bertie Ahern, the 26 County State gets nothing. These multinationals can take from our reserves and not be expected to pay any tax for the first 20 years. At the Corrib Gas Field which is divided up between Royal Dutch Shell (45%), Statoil (36.5%), Vermilion Energy Trust (18.5%) first profits were announced earlier this year.
Vermilion Energy coming away with €7.5million in the first three months of production at just 18.5% share. Over a 20 year period, these companies will bleed Ireland dry and not even pay tax.
Others here today will speak better on the reality of the situation for the communities affected by these aggressive multinationals, who have destroyed entire environments in their wake. This is fully aided and abetted by the Government. We as revolutionary Republicans know all about political policing, but the State and An Garda Síochana have not been shy about enforcing the writ of multinational domination on ordinary working class people. Basically, they are not only robbing fully aided by so-called Irish Governments, they are willing to do it at gunpoint.
Ireland has many more natural resources, our peatlands, for centuries a way for families to heat their homes. Today the EU tells us we cannot cut turf, the Gardaí again have even been flying over bogs keeping an eye down below on people on behalf of Brussels.
Our forestry’s are underdeveloped despite the tens of thousands of acres of underworked land across the country.
Agriculture has been slapped with quotas from the EU as well, and we are curtailed which export markets we can target.
I won’t go into it at great length, we are all aware of the issue regarding our water. When one hundred thousand people walked the streets of Dublin and said No, the Government just said nothing and nothing happened. It was only by mass incompliance that we succeeded in putting ‘Irish Water’ on the rocks.
Privatisation of Water must never be allowed to happen. Clean safe drinking water is a human right, this is how we have always viewed it and must always view it.
What we have is a great mismanagement and a piecemeal approach. In the rush to privatise the state has lost all control, and as such the Irish people of their own destinies. To quote from Saol Nua:
It is surely not beyond the ingenuity of people to organise society in a way which provides for the welfare and well-being of all. Provision of work opportunities should be a primary objective of any radical programme, and radical steps are necessary.
National resources also such as Aer Lingus which was seen as a State airline, something the people could be proud of was sold off to British Airways. Our so called national lottery was sold off and actually now profits the Canadian Pension fund.
The Canadians are wiser when it comes to exploiting Irish resources than the Irish it seems. In the British occupied County Tyrone, they have been mining Gold for the last thirty odd years, profiting them and the British Government, who themselves have thieved and robbed this country for 847 years. And continue to do so.
If we are to challenge the political system which endures this outright wrong management of our resources we must bring revolutionary politics to the people, armed with the facts. As it stands we have the solid foundations of our Republican and Socialist principles to build upon, a blueprint in Éire Nua and Saol Nua to work towards, but it is up to us to work hard. Great responsibility lands also on the shoulders of the national leadership to provide direction and communication with the People.
I wish to add two quotes, one from Ruairí, and one from the Socialist Republican and Gaelic Language activist Máirtín Ó Cadhain which I hope can pull together what I am saying. Ruairí said:
The success of the imperialists so far in Ireland has been that they contained the national struggle in one watertight compartment, the social and economic struggle in another compartment and indeed the cultural struggle in a third compartment. They have managed to keep them separated, sometimes in an antagonistic manner. Whereas the strength of the whole position lies in bringing them all together. As James Connolly saw, they are not contradictory, they are complimentary.
Máirtín Ó Cadhain said:
It is the duty of Gaelic revivalists to be Socialist. The Gaelic speaking populations of the Gaeltacht make up a class that is most abandoned and the most oppressed of the Irish people. Their salvation and the salvation of the language are one and the same thing to me. But this is not possible without the re-conquest of Ireland – Ireland and its productive resources to be taken back into control of the people. To me the revolution that is necessary for the re-conquest is necessary also for the salvation of the Gaelic language. Therefore any action which raises the spirit and enthusiasm of the Gaelic-speaking public is part and an important part of the re-conquest.
I will conclude by saying that the issue of Ireland’s resources is threefold, it is the national struggle. That is the ownership of Ireland for the People of Ireland. In consequence this applies direct to the socio-economic. The cultural issue; language and resistance are intertwined, this is a core part of the de-colonialisation process, as we free our minds we begin to think differently, as we are clearer with our own identity we are more defined about our inheritance, our resources and what belongs to the commonwealth of our nation.
I want to conclude then comrades by stating that the struggle for us in the Republican Movement, in the pursuit of the Socialist Republic is a tireless one, and that we as active revolutionaries must educate ourselves and the followers of our Movement on all these issues if we are to succeed. I feel our country is at a crossroads. What direction will we take?
Will we as a People continue to stand aside while Ireland, as if she was a cake on the plate of fat cat capitalists gets sliced up and divided whilst we the People fight among ourselves for crumbs?
The choice is yours, but we in Sinn Féin Poblachtach provide the vehicle with a clear destination.
Bí linn chun Éire Aontaithe a bhunú.
Cabhrú linn Poblacht sóisialachta a thógáil.
Leanúnachas agus an Phoblacht Abú.