On behalf of the Ard Comhairle / CEC of the Workers Party, I would like to welcome you all to The Workers Party Annual Wolf Tone Commemoration.
Let us take a moment to look at how little has changed for the working class in our society since the United Irish Men came into existence, and Tone and his comrades were guided by three fundamental principles -
* That the weight of English influence on the Government of this country is so great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce.
* That the sole constitutional mode by which this influence can be opposed is by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament.
* That no reform is practicable, efficacious, or just, which shall not include Irishmen of every religious persuasion.
Our perceived inferiority, economic disadvantage and subservience to England as seen at that time has simply been replaced by Ireland being economically disadvantaged and subservient to the EU/IMF – a gift bequeathed to the Irish people by the cronyism, corruption and criminality that was nurtured under the guardianship of successive Fianna Fail governments.
The unrelenting drive for ever increasing wealth and power caused the ruling class to gorge themselves at the table of profit – but are the working class not entitled to attend the banquet of opportunity?
It seems not! Just one stark and frightening example of this is evident; as the new school year begins, we see children with learning difficulties sacrificed by the State. SNA hours in schools right across the country have been slashed, children with special needs are being forced into classrooms with 30 or more pupils or in some cases they cannot even attend school and have to stay at home – all of this in order to ensure there are millions of our tax euro available to subsidize the fee paying / for profit education sector, where the children of the wealthy sit in their well-equipped classrooms, with no more than a dozen of their classmates.
Tone said that “our independence must be had at all hazards, if the men of property will not support us, they must fall. We can support ourselves by the aid of that numerous and respectable class of the community, the men of no property”
As the daily attacks on workers and their families continue, and those who were only spectators at the Celtic Tiger festival are weighed down with the burden of repaying the debts of the elite in our society, Tone’s assertions are as relevant today as they were then.
As we glance over our shoulder into history, we know it is working class families who pay the highest price for the fragmentation of the Left. Now more than ever there is a need for a unity of the Left – as in Tone’s time – with guiding fundamental principles that put the interests of the working class to the fore we must build on the basis of what unites us.
Those on the Left, who portray the Trade Union Movement as the enemy, betray the interests of workers – the place for every worker in
Ireland – regardless of their religion, nationality or gender is in their Union. Workers are not weak – too many of them are unorganised. The working class are not weak – we too are unorganised – now is the time to change that.
As we stand here in the shadow of Wolfe Tone, let us inhale the inspiration to follow in his footsteps and continue the struggle to unite catholic, protestant and dissenter in the defense of working class families.
I now invite our main speaker, comrade Ultan Gillen, to the podium.