Saturday, November 26, saw upwards of 150 people participate in Ard-Fheis éirígí, November 2011. The daylong event, which took place in the Teachers Club on Dublin’s Parnell Square, saw activists from across the country come together to rededicate themselves to the struggle for a free Ireland.
An Ard-Fheis opened with an organisational report for 2011 delivered by Runaí Ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnatith. Reports then followed from Daithí Mac An Mháistir, Ciaran Heaphey and Pádraig Ó Meiscill, the respective heads of éirígí’s Membership, Finance and Publicity Departments. A question and answer session then completed the organisational section of An Ard-Fheis.
Next on the clár was a discussion on the issue of abortion, which saw many members give their views on this potentially divisive issue. The hour-long discussion was particularly useful as it gave party activists the opportunity to hear the views of comrades from all parts of the country. The issue will now be discussed further within the party’s local Ciorcal (branches) before the membership will decide éirígí’s position on abortion.
The head of éirígí’s Irish language department, Ursula Ní Shionnain, then presented a comprehensive draft Irish language policy paper to An Ard-Fheis, before taking questions and comment from the floor. A number of activists took the opportunity to stress the importance of the Irish language in the wider struggle for a free and independent Ireland. As is the case with all important policy and strategy issues the draft language paper will be further discussed within local Ciorcal before a vote will be taken on the adoption of same.
The second item but one before lunch saw An Ard-Fheis discuss, and vote on, motions covering a wide spectrum of issues including International Solidarity, the British occupation of the Six Counties, the current economic crisis and the cutbacks to vital public services on both sides of Britain’s border in Ireland. The full text of all motions carried by An Ard-Fheis can be accessed here.
The final business of this morning session saw the seven national party positions filled as follows, Brian Leeson (Cathaoirleach), Rab Jackson (Leas-Chathaoirleach), Breandán Mac Cionnaith (Rúnaí Ginearálta), Ciaran Heaphey and Micheál Mac Neighill (Cisteoirí x 2), Pádraig Ó Meiscill (An tOifigeach Caidrimh Phoiblí) and Daithí Mac An Mháistir (An tOifigeach Ballraíochta).
After a short lunch break An Ard-Fheis resumed with the first of three external speakers, Hugh Corcoran of Na Croisbhealaí workers’ cooperative café in Belfast. Hugh spoke of the process of establishing a co-op, of the role played by co-ops in wider political struggles internationally, and of the importance of supporting such grassroots’ worker-led initiatives.
Daithí Mac An Mháistir then took to the stage to give a short presentation on the establishment of éirígí’s new supporters organisation, Clann éirígí. Daithí explained that Clann éirígí had been established to provide a relatively easy access point to the struggle for people in Ireland and overseas. He went on to detail how membership of Clann éirígí will targeted at four main categories of people, namely, those living outside of Ireland; students in universities and colleges across Ireland; those living in Ireland in areas as where there is no established éirígí organisation and finally those who wish to formally align themselves with éirígí but who are not in a position to commit to full party membership. More about Clann éirígí will follow on this website in the coming weeks.
The second external speaker addressing the packed hall was Phil Ferguson from New Zealand. In his contribution Phil explained his own background as a political activist who came to Ireland in the 1980s to play an active role in the Irish republican struggle. He talked about this, the developments and setbacks in republicanism over the past 30 years and how pleased he was to see a new socialist republican party emerge to carry on the struggle.
The second éirígí presentation of the afternoon saw John McCusker give the rationale behind the recent launching of a fundraising drive for an éirígí national headquarters building. He explained that the party intends to purchase a premise which will become the physical centre for a resurgent militant Irish republicanism, a base within which a wide range of administrative, campaigning, publicity and educational activities can take place. Further details of éirígí’s National Headquarters Fund will follow on this website over the coming weeks.
The third and final external speaker, Irish language activist Tomás Ó Conghaile, then spoke to An Ard-Fheis. He spoke about the work of the Irish language movement, and the importance of the language in the context of the struggle for the reconquest of Ireland.
The final speaker of the day, Cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson, was then introduced to An Ard-Fheis by éirígí Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan. In his address, Brian looked back on the local elections in the Six Counties and the state visit of Elizabeth Windsor, both of which took place in May of this year. He congratulated and thanked those who voted for éirígí and those who took to the streets of Dublin to oppose the British royal visit.
Brian then went on to talk about the current state of republicanism and the socio-economic crisis that is gripping all parts of Ireland. He asked those present to consider the possibilities that the current situation might hold for the building of a revolutionary socialist republican movement and the role that they might play in realising that potential.
When Brian’s speech completed a rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann brought a memorable and successful Ard-Fheis to a close.