Denis Spriggs 2011
A chairde, Ireland remains partitioned. Our sovereignty is still violated by Westminster and the cause of the conflict has yet to be resolved. As republicans our main focus must be on conflict resolution as a precursor to nation building. All our political instincts must be geared toward imaginative solutions which brings the armed conflict to a conclusion.
We have long pursued the objective of republican unity. We view this project as essential because as pragmatists we recognise our limitations. The Good Friday Agreement has coalesced the position of establishment nationalists and pro unionists against us. In so doing they have attempted to portray the conflict as resolved. Only effective political action can expose this fallacy. Republican unity would greatly enhance our effectiveness.
We are permitted to differ in our visions of what shape a sovereign Ireland could take. But we are not permitted to differ on the basic fact that the conflict must be resolved before any vision can take root. Dennis Spriggs and his comrades realised this also. The ideals of the Proclamation cannot proceed until the roadblock of partition is removed. This is our message to our republican comrades; let our energies be focussed on dismantling the roadblock first. Let our combined focus be concentrated on securing the only viable catalyst that can break the political hegemony on this island.
The thirtieth anniversary of the Hunger Strikes is upon us. And republican prisoners are still being brutalised and criminalised in British prisons. The impotence of the Micro Ministers in Stormont is shamefully exposed. And as the truth of 1981 unravels in a way which prevents certain elements having exclusive control over writing the history of that seminal event, our attentions must be focussed on those suffering now in the same manner as Bobby Sands and his comrades did.
What’s happening in Maghaberry Gaol is a deliberate political policy designed to criminalise our struggle. But it is also a human tragedy, involving families and communities fighting for basic dignity for their loved ones, even within their captivity. And this is where our pragmatism helps us to find a balance between the two. The prisoners themselves reached such a pragmatic solution only to find the authorities more than willing to renege on their responsibilities.
We see the so called Justice Minister in the Six Counties exposed as nothing more than a willing accomplice in this deplorable policy. These are the facts, the realities of what the prisoners are suffering and which we need to address. We will not barter political principle in return for what is rightfully due nor will we allow political obstinacy prevent a humanitarian resolution to be implemented. We call on all republicans to mobilise in support of the POW’s. Wherever there are republicans there must be a visible protest. As in 1981 this issue goes to the heart of our struggle. The British know this, as do establishment nationalists, whose deafening silence on the issue indicts them.
Volunteer Dennis Spriggs fought for a new Ireland; an Ireland whose sovereignty was the corner stone of its democracy. Self determination for the Irish people is the ultimate guarantor of personal liberty for all our people. It is an obscenity that Irish citizens in their own country have their liberty controlled by a British licence. Yet this is the reality of partition under the Good Friday Agreement. Those who advocate that this agreement represents a resolution to this conflict need to explain this. How is it that a British politician can arbitrarily decide that an Irish citizen, who has opposed their authority to do so, be committed to a British prison?
Marian Price has not altered her political convictions. She is now interned. Those who advocate that this agreement represents a resolution of the conflict need to explain this? The ideals of Marian Price and Denis Spriggs will not go away by imprisoning them. What the hunger strikers died for cannot be airbrushed out of the political narrative by historical revisionism. They died opposing British rule in Ireland. They died opposing their imprisonment. They died opposing efforts to criminalise them. They died opposing the conditions under which Marian and other republicans now find themselves.
The recent unrest demonstrates the failure of the normalisation policy. A so called peace accord based on a sectarian headcount is in itself a sectarian policy. Stormont is a sectarian regime. The RUC, despite its change in name, is a sectarian police force. Community divisions can only be resolved in a political context which provides an incentive for dialogue and engagement. This is absent under the current process. The Good Friday Agreement empowered unionists to say only one word, no. Aspirations to Irish unity are merely that, aspirations which the political establishment can dismiss as red herrings. The mindset behind this reasoning also reasons that kissing the backside of a British queen is a demonstration of a states maturity. This is what awaits the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
2016 offers an opportunity for the people of Ireland to engage in a national dialogue on the future constitutional status of the island. Republicans need to be at the forefront of this debate. By bringing a conflict resolution package to those who are desperate to claim the conflict is resolved we make it impossible for them to gloss over their abject betrayal of what 1916 represents.
Denis Spriggs died for the cause which we are the custodians of today. The greatest honour we can pay Denis, and all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom, is to establish a sovereign Ireland in which its people can freely decide the shape and fabric of its society. Working together is the least we can do. Comrades let us work together now.