**Posted by Danielle Ni Dhighe

Seamus Costello Commemoration Speech

10 October 2004

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Delivered in Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland by Irish Republican Socialist
Party Political Secretary John Martin

Friends and comrades, once more we gather to pay homage to Seamus
Costello, republican, socialist, revolutionary. Seamus in life was a
giant of a man politically. He stood out among his contemporaries for
his belief, energy, ideas, and charisma. In death he stands out for us
as an icon, a hero to emulate and a leader to mourn. As founder member
of the IRSP and the INLA he played his part in ensuring that the
authentic ideas of republican socialism would endure. The ideas of
Connolly and Mellows, the radical tradition of the Republican
Congress, and the more progressive ideas of the Republican Movement
were all encapsulated in the person of Seamus Costello.

But in paying tribute to Seamus we do not make the mistake of mindless
hero-worshipping. Irish republicanism has played a progressive role in
Irish society because of its ability to renew itself in each
generation and become relevant to the lives of the people from which
it had sprung. Seamus Costello was a catalyst in renewing the
republican tradition in the latter part of the 20th century. Seamus
played a major part in convincing many in the mainstream Republican
Movement that the time for clichés, flags, and faded memories of
old men was long past.

He pointed the way by standing for elections, taking his seat, playing
a full part in the community he came from while never forgetting the
national question and the crime of partition. Seamus saw a role for an
army of the people prepared to both defend the interests of the
working class whilst also prepared to challenge imperialism and its
hold over the whole of Irish society.

That is what we must learn from the leadership of Seamus: the ability
to adapt, to renew, and to avoid becoming stuck in the old ways. After
all the world he lived in has all but disappeared. The Soviet bloc no
longer exists, there is only one super-power, the Officials have
become irrelevant while the Provos of the seventies are but a distant
memory and dreams of the year of victory have become replaced with
that 'radical' revolutionary cry: implement the Good Friday

Those who claimed to have smashed the old Stormont now want to rebuild
it and look forward to working in a coaliation with the party of Paisley.
So much for the strategy of fragmenting unionism.

I wonder what Seamus would have made of it all?

Internally he would have been disappointed at the way his movement
lost its way in the aftermath of his death, particularly in the
eighties and early nineties. Since 1995 we have painfully examined our
past failures, held our hands up to past mistakes, and have taken this
movement back to the ideals, ideas, and beliefs that first motivated
Seamus and his fellow comrades to set up this movement. We have tried
to instil confidence, self-respect, loyalty to the movement, and a
fundamental belief in the primacy of politics. These attributes go to
the very heart of our ideology. Confidence in the class, self-respect
for our values of socialism, loyalty to our own movement but not
uncritical loyalty, and of course the primacy of politics.

But Seamus would not have been satisfied with just that. There is so
much more to be done. A huge emphasis must be placed by the incoming
leadership of this movement on political education, on activity, on
discipline, on democracy, and on being revolutionary agitators.

The days of the loud mouth in the pub are gone. The days of using this
movement as a flag of convenience for personal gain are gone. The days
of bullying working class youth are gone. The days of policing working
class communities are gone.

Those things were never on the agenda of the Republican Socialist
Movement but unfortunately some scum floated towards the top of this
movement in the past aided by the British. Their day is done.

Republican socialists must be servants not masters of the working
class. That's what we are about: taking the message of liberation, of
class struggle, of republicanism to the vast majority of people on
this island.

Externally I have no doubt that Seamus would have continued to be
anti-imperialist and socialist and republican. Seamus had beliefs. Not

Seamus's advocacy of the broad front was premised on the belief that
the coming together of radical and progressive forces was in the
interests of the Irish working class. Not for him or any republican
that adhered to Connolly socialism a reactionary alliance with the
most conservative forces in Irish Society. For how else can you
categorise the pan-nationalist front of Sinn Fein (Provisional), the
SDLP, and the coaliation of Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats:
an alliance with the every people who demonised republicans, who split
with gold the Republican Movement, who supported the most repressive
laws against republicans, who framed our comrades over the Sallins
affair, and persistently and consistently demonise this movement?

What republican in the tradition of Tone can accept an agreement that
reduces the anti-imperialist conflict of over two centuries to a
sordid little sectarian war between two "communities", for by signing
the GFA the signatories accepted the internal conflict argument that
British imperialism had been promoting for years: that the conflict in
Ireland was religious. The Good Friday Agreement has led to increased
sectarianism as the working classes are pressured into identifying
with the two sectarian blocs. Partition has been solidified.

We reject the notion that there are two separate divided communities.
Republican socialists reject the two community approach. There is one
community and a divided working class and while elements of that self
same working class clash those who benefit from the divisions of the
working class pocket their profits and come July jet off to quieter
and sunnier climates.

Was that what the conflict was about? That is no victory, nor indeed
an honourable draw. That was a crushing defeat for the progressive
forces in Ireland. Was it for this that men and women sacrificed the
best years of their lives in struggle, in prison, in exile, and in

Is it not time to call a halt to the endless round of talks about
talks about talks especially when the two main groups can not even
meet in the same room?

What kind of government can work when the leading partners don't even
talk to each other? And in relation to parliamentarism Seamus had it
right when he said, "Before the Republican Movement can achieve power,
we must succeed in breaking the confidence of the people in the
existing parliamentary institutions, and I would suggest that this
should be one of the main functions of our TDs. They should also be
full time revolutionary organisers in their own areas, thereby
demonstrating to the people who elected them the fundamental
difference between ourselves and the other parties."

Don't misunderstand what we are saying. The IRSP with the full support
of the INLA are in favour of dialogue. We emphatically re-state that
armed struggle is not the way forward today. That road may lead
somewhere but most assuredly not to the Republic. Yes, dialogue is
possible, but not with those who think we are lesser human beings. Why
should republicans seek to be talked to by right wing bigots of the
DUP? They don't represent the real interests of any section of the
working class. Let's reach out to the working class on the basis of
principled political positions not for temporary expediency.

Seamus Costello, a man before his time, pointed the way forward, and I
quote, "We maintain that any co-operation with the Protestant working
class must be on the basis of a principled political position. It must
be on the basis of explaining fully to the Protestant working class
what all our policies are. We must try and politicise them,
simultaneously with conducting a political campaign to get rid of

There is no permanent solution possible that envisages the continued
existence of the sectarian six county state. Those who pretend
otherwise fool not only others but themselves.

Unless and until the six county state is either totally abolished or
totally transformed, sectarianism will dominate politics here and the
imperialists can continue to present our conflict as a religious

Well, my friends, it is not. It is a political conflict against the
imperialist imposition of foreign rule on any part of this island.

Similarly the conflict in Iraq is not about fundamentalist Muslim
terrorism but about the imperialist exploitation of the resources of
Iraq. Those who are against that war should have a simple clearly
understood slogan for the British and US invaders: "Out of Iraq, Out
of Ireland." Any other position ignores the reality of the naked
brutal power of imperialism and lets them of the hook.

To those on the left who merely raise the slogan "Stop the War," catch
yourselves on. It is only by a consistent and principled opposition to
all forms of imperialism that wars can be ended. The bounden duty of
the left is not to patronise liberal opinion with platitudes but to
stand by the anti-imperialist fighters and extend critical support to
progressive anti-imperialist fighters. And it that offends the liberal
classes, well, tough.

Nobody, especially not an administration of Brits, whose hands are
covered with the blood of thousands of innocent Iraqis, has the right
to call republicans, who oppose their claim to rule this island,
criminals. We are not and we never have been terrorists. Seamus
Costello was a freedom fighter, patriot, anti-imperialist, and

So it is only right to express our full solidarity with current
republican political prisoners in Maghaberry and reiterate our call
for the immediate release of Dessie O'Hare and the other qualifying
republican prisoners arising from the Belfast Agreement. We make no
distinction between different republican groupings when it comes to
solidarity with republican prisoners. Do not forget there would be no
republican prisoners in jails if there was a final settlement to the
national question. And so long as the national question is unsettled
then so will there be republicans who will wage a struggle to
establish a Republic on the island for all the people of the island.

But, comrades, while we right emphasise the so-called bigger picture
of the political dispensation we must never forget the day to day
struggles of working people. We need to take the ideals of socialism
out of the realms of discussion and manifestos and elections and make
them directly relevant to our underprivileged communities. Poor
health, low wages, substandard housing, class-based education
services, crime, and anti-social behaviour are neither republican nor
loyalist, Catholic or Protestant, North or South, six or 26 county
issues. They are class issues and affect us all. We need to arouse in
our class the spirit of fraternity. That's the way to take on the
symptoms of neo-liberal capitalism: sectarianism, racism, sexism,
homophobia, anti-social behaviour, alienation, poverty, drug abuse,
and self-destruction. A real movement built on the values of
fraternity, solidarity, cooperation, and democracy will crumble away
these barriers to freedom in Ireland.

Our movement to be relevant must update its republican socialism. Too
close a concentration on the national question and an unquestioning
approach to the nature of imperialism in Ireland has distorted and
held back the struggle for socialism in Ireland and also incidentally
is the antithesis of the approach that Seamus would have taken.

>From this platform today, may I appeal to all those progressive
republicans, republican socialists, or Connolly socialists to do as
Seamus did, get involved in the day-to-day activities of the class.

It's fine and useful to reminisce about the past, to write the
histories, to tell the tales of past heroic deeds, but, comrades, it
does not challenge the future.

These are glorious days to be alive and see the stirrings of class
struggle in the world. There is a growing anti-imperialism worldwide:
in Iraq, Nepal, the Phillippines, Pakistan, India, Venezuela, Bolivia,
and the former Stalinist states, the working class is moving into
battle. Now ask how you can aid this struggle. Everyone has something
to contribute no matter how small. Participate in your union branch,
join or set up a community group in your area to organise people,
protest, agitate, organise. Remember, to beat the system, you do need
comrades. From this platform we appeal to all genuine republican

Look around at the world we actually live in and I defy you not to be
angry at the injustice and inequality and not have the wish to change
things. There are enough resources in our world to feed and clothe
everyone. Yet every day thousands die from disease, famine, and
hunger. Why? Because of capitalism.

We have called in the past for the convening of a Republican Forum
where republicans and socialists of all hues can dialogue together to
map out a way forward for the future. That's in the tradition of
Seamus Costello's call for a broad front and building anti-imperialist
unity. But we recognise that many on the left think they can go it
alone and don't need to relate to any section of the republican left.

It will be part of our task to persuade not only the left but the
working class, by the things we do, by the actions we take, by the
examples we set, by the calibre of the comrades we attract to our
banner of the Starry Plough, that there is merit in working together.

For, comrades, many people still harbour illusions that Sinn Fein in
government North and South can make a difference to the social and
economic conditions in this country. They can not. They will not. At
best they may put a more human face on capitalism but it will still be
capitalism and that's a system that exploits, brutalises, and also is
destroying the world. It itself needs to be destroyed, not reformed.

Let us follow that example of Seamus Costello. Stand with the
marginalised, the downtrodden, the victims, the poor, and all who are
voiceless in the modern Ireland. Strive for equality, solidarity,
working class unity, human rights, and justice for all. Let us daily
work towards the socialist republic. In the end that's the only
fitting memorial to all our dead comrades, Seamus included.

Comrades, there is much work to be done. Let's do it.

Thank you.


Irish Republican Socialist Movement

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