By Adam Murray.
I had the pleasure recently of attending the People’s Dáil conference held on 26 January in Liberty Hall, Dublin, organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum. The event, bringing together socialists, republicans, and contributors from a broad range of parties and backgrounds, was a commemoration of the first Dáil Éireann, declared 100 years ago. There were theatrical readings, lectures about the first Dáil and its founding documents, as well as poetry and song.
The event concluded with the proposal of six motions for all in attendance to sign up to. I was invited to second motion number six, entitled ‘Cherishing all the children of the nation equally’, which read as follows: “A democratic Ireland should be one in which everyone can enjoy the fruits of their labour, in which to grow and develop to their fullest potential, free from discrimination because of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, or religion. Priority would be given to enhancing the social and cultural development of every citizen equally, with economic and social development spread evenly throughout our country, to enhance the capacity of people to live sustainable lives, wherever they choose to live.”
I was very proud to second the motion: as a community worker from Belfast who serves the LGBT community I know too well the effects discrimination can have on people. We still see the impact of discrimination across this island in people living in fear of others, and people living in fear of themselves. Afraid to ask for help, and finding that when they do ask for help they are reliant on underfunded, understaffed, and under-resourced services that are doing the best with what little they can get.
We see the effects of discrimination in high levels of poor mental health, and the countless people turning to drink and drugs to numb their suffering and cope with their struggles. We see it in the number of people leaving our island, the ones who stay and self-harm, and those who choose to end it all. Discrimination, bigotry, ignorance and prejudice are diseases eating at our society. Equality, compassion, knowledge, and justice are the cure.
Discrimination comes in many guises. Our island is still plagued by sectarianism, misogyny, racism, anti-LGBT bigotry and ableism. Classism, discrimination against trade unionists, and persecution of left-wing political thought and activity are all still rife. Although social movements for equality have made great strides in recent years, with the success of the Repeal and marriage equality campaigns, there are still massive inequalities across the island caused by capitalism and its inherent economic inequality.
In the North, key civil rights are still frontline battlegrounds; marriage equality has still not been achieved despite a majority of the people desiring it. A woman’s right to choose is still outrageously denied to northern women. The Irish language is still not being promoted as a minority language the way other minority languages are across Europe, and the simple reason for this is the persistence of a pernicious sectarian mindset that still exists within political unionism and which continues to undermine cross-community development.
All in all the North is in a very sorry shape, but as long as like-minded progressive people, seeking equality and justice, band together and march onwards, we will bring about a new and better Ireland.
Ireland is nothing if it is not the people of the island of Ireland. All the people of Ireland. Whatever their gender, whatever their ethnicity, whatever their sexual orientation. Whether they are the latest in a line of Irish people going back generations, or a refugee who has found safety here and made Ireland their home, we are all equals; we are all humans who deserve dignity and respect.
If we lose our sight of compassion and humanity we will be lost. Racism and xenophobia are on the rise, and the alarm bells must be rung loudly across Ireland and Europe. Let us as socialists raise the banner ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ over this island of ours to those who seek shelter from the violence of imperialism and disaster. The Irish are no strangers to seeking shelter in a distant land, let’s not forget.
The Democratic Programme of the first Dáil aspired to these principles of equality. It reads: “We declare that we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of Liberty, Equality, and Justice for all”. It goes on: “We affirm the duty of every man and woman to give allegiance and service to the Commonwealth, and declare it is the duty of the Nation to assure that every citizen shall have opportunity to spend his or her strength and faculties in the service of the people.” In return it pledges “the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the Nation’s labour”.
The Democratic Programme stated, “It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland”.
The Central Statistics Office has found that in one in five children live below the poverty line in the southern state. In the North, a Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health report states that 23 per cent of children live in poverty. This simply isn’t good enough in 2019.
As I prepared my contribution for the first Dáil conference I was reminded of James Connolly, who lay down this challenge to the people of Ireland: “You shout for liberty, and you surrender your children to the mercies of capitalism which will seize them as soon as they leave school, and will devote their little bones, muscles and undeveloped brains to the task of grinding out profits for a boss.
“Are you doing your duty? Love Ireland! Yes, if by ‘Ireland’ you mean not only the earth and the waters, but the men and the women, the boys and the girls – the people of Ireland, in fact.
“Ireland without her people is nothing to me, and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for ‘Ireland’, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland, aye, wrought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements which he is pleased to call ‘Ireland’.”
As we go forward let us take up the mantle of Connolly, and the mantle of the first Dáil, let us fight for a Republic which puts its people first – not its landlords, not its ‘job creators’, not its foreign investors. It is people, you and I, us all together.
Adam Murray is the Northern Area Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland.