Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seamus Costello 2008 Oration

Delivered by Paul Little, IRSP Ard Comhairle member


It is an honour and a privilege to be asked to speak here today at this commemoration to remember our comrade Seamus Costello, who in the words of Nora Connolly O'Brien, daughter of James Connolly, Seamus was "the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people." No better tribute could have been paid to Seamus and indeed sums up Seamus as an outstanding revolutionary who believed as Connolly did that there could be no national liberation struggle without the class struggle. And that stands true today. Comrades, for us in the Republican Socialist Movement passionately believe that the class and liberation struggle are one. And we should all follow the example laid before us by James Connolly and Seamus Costello of making the goals of national liberation and socialism a reality. It is important for us as republican socialists to keep the memory of the man alive and indeed carry his vision of a better Ireland forward, for ourselves, and future generations.
In 1974 Seamus and other republican socialists formed the Irish Republican Socialist Party in an attempt to build a party of the Irish working class and with the formation of the Irish National Liberation Army, he saw this as the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle to end British rule in Ireland once and for all. Seamus seen capitalism, whether native or foreign, as much the enemy of the working class as British imperialism. Comrades, we must oppose capitalism with as much vigour as we oppose British rule. That means organising a proper revolutionary party, involving ourselves in our communities, our trade unions and embracing all the people of this island under the banner of class unity. As in Seamus' time our movement has come under attack from our enemies in the Dublin regime through draconian laws which are no more than internment on the word of a single garda. We send greetings to our comrades in Portlaoise and indeed to all republican prisoners.
We also condemn the mistreatment of Aidan Hulme, a republican prisoner in Portlaoise and demand that he gets proper medical attention. He is currently in Portlaoise and is suffering from very severe injuries to his lower legs which have basically confined him to bed 24 hours a day. Last week a doctor advised that Aidan get immediate medical treatment in a specialised unit, so far this has not happened. We demand that it does happen and we send Aidan our best wishes. Seamus Costello, along with others, established the Republican Socialist Movement in 1974 at the height of the struggle against British imperialism and severe economic hardship across the island. The Ireland that Seamus grew up in enjoyed none of the democratic rights envisioned by republicans in the Easter proclamation the democratic program. So Seamus joined the IRA and Sinn Fein at an early age and devoted his life to achieving national self-determination and democracy for the people of Ireland. It was when he entered the Curragh as an internee that Seamus and others defined the way forward for the Irish Republican struggle.
He instigated and developed the resurgence in "Connolyite" republicanism and pulled republicanism not only to the left, but directly into the everyday lives of the people of Ireland. When Seamus, as Connolly had done, made the connections between the struggle for independence and social issues, he made the Irish republican struggle relevant for the working class in Ireland. Seamus had a powerful gift of analysing the problems that the people of Ireland faced and offered attractive and radical alternatives to them. Comrades, if we look at the political landscape of Ireland today, can we honestly say that the lot of the Irish people has improved? Of course not. Recent economic reports deliver conflicting accounts of where Ireland stands. Last year, the United Nations published its Human Development Report for 2006 and Ireland ranked 17th in the human poverty index. Last year also marked the publication of another report: Bank of Ireland Private Banking published its annual Wealth of the Nation report -- and the picture painted was rather different. We were told that, in terms of net wealth per capita, Ireland was the world's second-richest country after Japan. After the few years of unfettered free market boom of the "Celtic Tiger," huge wealth was generated into a few hands here in the 26 Counties. There was a spending spree in the private housing sector.
Unfortunately, this huge generation of private wealth and its accompanying spending spree largely bypassed the essential public services on which we all depend, particularly health and education. The building boom in the private sector was not matched by public housing output, and we ended the boom with more than 43,000 households on local authority waiting lists -- an increase of nearly 60 per cent since 1996. When one includes those who cannot afford to buy or rent on the private market, the total number of people in housing need is 250,000. And while the country's top chief executives could look forward to salary packages topping €1 million annually. How can this be justified? How can the welfare and education systems fail so many people here due to lack funding? We have a situation where our natural resources are sold to the highest bidder, Shell, as in the case of the Corrib Gas Field off the coast of Mayo.
These resources are the property of the people of Ireland and they should not be sold off for short term political and economic gain. We are facing an inevitable capitalist crash with rising unemployment and huge demand for stable homes and communities. Then nationalise the construction industry to employ people to build more homes for those who need them. Don't nationalise the debt created by greedy fat executives who won't be freezing in there homes this winter. Ireland today suffers from all the problems that the Ireland of Seamus Costello suffered. The answers can be found in the radical thinking and analysis of Seamus Costello and if we apply his analysis we can't go far wrong. Seamus had a passion for the Irish struggle, which he saw as inseparable from the struggle for working class emancipation. He was able to inspire those around him to devote their time and energy to the struggle with this passion.
Comrades, we know the problems that we face. Capitalism is again on the ropes and this will affect us all but we must use this situation to benefit the working class. We must be ready to take advantage and to promote socialism as a real and viable alternation to the boom and bust of capitalism. Seamus has left us with the radical politics that can solve them. He has left us a vehicle with which to carry those ideas. It is up to us to show some of Seamus´ passion for change and start to put things right.
Fall in behind the party of the Irish working class, the IRSP.
Smash imperialism and smash capitalism!
Onwards to victory, comrades!

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