Peter Daly Commemoration

Monagear, Co. Wexford
7 September 2019
Address by Gearóid Ó Machail, Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum

A chomrádaithe,

I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom buíochas a gabháil le Cumann Pheadair Uí Dhálaigh as an chuireadh labhairt libh anseo i Móin na gCaor, Contae Loch Garman, inniu mar ionadaí d’Fhóram Pheadair Uí Dhónaill agus de Chairde na hÉireann leis na Briogáidí Idirnáisiúnta.

Boy soldier of Na Fianna, anti-Free state guerrilla fighter, hunger-striker, socialist republican, Óglaigh na hÉireann training officer, Republican Congress activist, Connolly Column lieutenant—Peter Daly was the epitome of an internationalist, working-class, patriotic hero.

But Wexford’s finest was even more than that. Peter Daly’s biography is one of a fearless and a selfless revolutionary whose political analysis, loyalty to his class and living example remain an inspiration and a motivation to us all to continue that great and honourable struggle for human liberation and for an end to the barbaric system of capitalism and its fascistic and imperialistic tendencies.

Wexford has produced many fine sons and daughters of freedom down the ages. From the United men’s republic of Wexford in ’98 to the heroic resistance of Wexford republicans in the struggle against the Free State forces, this county has often been the pinnacle of the spirit of resistance and rebellion in Ireland.

Peter Daly’s republican lineage and class-consciousness brought him at an early age into conflict with British imperialism and native capitalism. That struggle shaped his short, poignant but eventful life.

Imprisoned by the counter-revolutionary forces of the Free State, his experiences at the hands of native gaimbíní brought him to a sharper realisation of the class forces at play, not merely in Ireland and Britain but also on the wider international stage.

A Liverpudlian by birth, a Wexfordian by heritage and upbringing, and a socialist republican through life experience, Peter Daly had been forced, like so many of his native countrymen and women, to take the boat to Fishguard in search of a means of survival. Comrade Daly knew the harsh adversity of living rough and hard labour, a navvy soldier who used a spell in the British army to arm his revolutionary comrades in the Republican Army back home.

When he returned to Ireland in the hungry thirties Peter took up the position of training officer of the Wexford Brigade of the IRA. In 1934 he joined the fledgling Republican Congress.

Peter longed to bring Ireland’s republicans, socialists, workers and small farmers together in their common interest, regardless of religious creed. As we know, the Republican Congress made some significant inroads and organised Protestant workers in Belfast. Peter’s activities in the Congress were proof positive of his non-sectarian republicanism. With a pedigree such as this it is no surprise to hear that Peter Daly was one of the first to volunteer for the International Brigade which went to Spain to fight for the cause of the Republic in the Civil War.

At the time of his death Peter Daly was the commander of the 15th International Brigade’s British Battalion, an anti-imperialist force that a year later, on the Ebro front, would hold a Wolfe Tone commemoration to coincide with Bodenstown Sunday.

I refer specifically to the Republican Congress in order to illustrate that the main political forces at play during Peter Daly’s lifetime were little different from what they are now. Indeed the similarities between the 1930s and the early twenty-first century are frighteningly stark.

As in the 1930s, socialist and republican forces in Ireland today are fragmented, confused, and many are demoralised and lacking in hope that the capitalist and imperialist forces that control our economy and society can be meaningfully challenged or indeed overcome. The failure of social democracy across the world to curtail the ravages of neo-liberalism and global monopoly capitalism have driven many workers into the clutches of right-wing ideologues and inevitably led to the rise of fascism across the world.

However, despite our current weakness, let us serve notice that the cowardly scum of fascism may skulk around and attack Jim Gralton’s monument in Effrinagh or Charlie Donnelly’s or Kit Conway’s monument in Jarama, but dare they show their faces and they will be met by the full force of anti-fascist and socialist republican resistance.

On the other side of the Atlantic the rise of the white supremacist and neo-liberal nationalist Donald Trump has inspired the resurrection of the extreme right across the Americas—most worryingly in Brazil, where his protégé Bolsonaro poses a huge threat not only to workers and indigenous tribes in his own country but also to the global environment and to the sustainability of the entire earth’s finite resources.

Traditionally in Ireland nationalism has been directed towards anti-colonialism, but during the last presidential election we saw a glimpse of the potential of right-wing clarion calls to mobilise reaction and fear. There have been attempts to create a far-right party (Identity Ireland, Pegida, and the National Party), but none of them got off the ground. For that we must give huge credit to our friends and comrades in Anti-Fascist Action and to the socialist republican movement.

The current weakness of the organised left in Ireland is a matter of serious concern in the context of the co-ordinated rise of the far right across Europe and the rest of the world. We are not immune from the far right. Where such parties have emerged it has tended to be quite sudden; often all it takes is a charismatic leader who succeeds in making xenophobic attitudes sound acceptable. Latent hostility among some segments of the Irish population towards immigrants and minorities may find ready expression in a new party in the future, particularly if unemployment, life insecurity, poverty and homelessness continue to rise.

Irish voters are no more tolerant than their counterparts on the Continent. In the most recent European Values Survey, 62 per cent of Irish respondents felt that there were too many immigrants living in Ireland, compared with an average of 52 per cent in other western European countries. Shocking when you consider that for centuries Ireland was a nation of emigrants; so we should have more wit than to complain about immigrants following in our ancestors’ footsteps. When the Irish went to Britain and Australia and America many were refugees fleeing hunger and poverty. They faced discrimination and suspicion and were viewed as a threat to the host cultures and societies.

But we shouldn’t expect that an Irish New Fascist party would look exactly the same as those abroad. Ireland has a different history and culture, so any new party will reflect this. It’s unlikely to be as brash and “in your face” as the Americans, and it would be far more religious than the Western Europeans. It would probably focus on Irish issues and use traditional Irish images to “make Ireland Irish again.”

The main pillars of Irish society—politicians, priests, Guards, banks—have been discredited by scandals, which would make it easier for a new party to throw out the whole system. Any party campaigning against politicians and bankers would easily find support.

Ireland even has its own version of Donald Trump, in the form of Michael O’Leary. O’Leary does have some of the same appeal as Trump. They both think of themselves as straight-talking successful businessmen who can cut through the crap. They are both known for wild accusations and colourful insults. (O’Leary called RTE a “rat-infested North Korean union shop” at a Fine Gael conference.) The thought of a flamboyant businessman running for election against the establishment shouldn’t be dismissed as unlikely. Seán Gallagher nearly became President on the basis of his business career and not being a politician.

But here in Ireland we know what works against the far right. Peter Daly knew what the answer was to the Blueshirts in his own lifetime. We saw what worked a few years back when the fascists and Nazis attempted to mobilise on the streets of Dublin. Direct action by socialist republicans and anti-fascists swiftly removed the immediate threat of a Pegida rally, and the Nazis were grateful that day for the protection of An Garda Síochána. Such honourable anti-fascist resistance followed the noble example of Frank Ryan, Peter Daly, Bob Doyle and their comrades in the Republican Congress and in the International Brigades.

In Belfast recently, where Britain First attempted to mobilise disaffected working-class unionists on the city’s streets, mass counter-protests led by republicans, socialists and trade unionists demoralised the far right by proving that they are pathetic pariahs who can’t risk showing up in public. “Fascist scum off our streets” was a delightful chant to hear echoing around the once-unionist bastion of Belfast City Hall.

So what’s to be done, comrades? What’s to be done to honour the memory of legends like Peter Daly from Loch Garman?

A hundred years ago our revolutionary predecessors and the democratically elected representatives of the people came together as An Chéad Dáil in the Mansion House to establish a free and independent Irish republic. Republicans, communists, trade unionists, socialists, elected representatives and community activists recently gathered at Liberty Hall at the behest of the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum to commemorate the centenary of the First Dáil and the Democratic Programme.

As we often remind people at our FIBI commemorative events throughout the year, the destiny of our country now lies in the hands of this generation of Irishwomen and Irishmen. It falls to us, the Irish people, to forge a renewed vision of Irish democracy, sovereignty and independence in the world today. Many of the same challenges that confronted Peter Daly’s revolutionary generation still abide with us today.

We struggle to meet the needs of all of our people, and the two partitioned jurisdictions remain marred by inequalities in power, wealth, income, and opportunity. Poverty subsists amidst plenty, even as we fail to provide some of our citizens with the basic elements of a dignified existence: housing, health care, education, and support for those with particular needs—basic, fundamental needs and rights in any republic worthy of the name.

The duty to welcome and shelter those fleeing war, persecution and famine, so often relied upon by Irish men and women throughout the ages, is now being openly disdained, even discarded, by elements in the European Union. Fortress Europe has turned the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas into a watery mass grave for thousands fleeing imperialist wars and poverty.

The current crisis of global capitalism is unprecedented. We have entered into a period of great upheavals and uncertainties, of momentous changes, fraught with dangers—if also opportunities. We truly face a crisis of humanity. The stakes have never been higher: our very survival is at risk. In this century our planet and our people face new dangers undreamed of by our revolutionary forebears; the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change present us with stark challenges—challenges that cannot wait to be addressed.

So the time is over for left sectarianism; the game is up for social democracy and reformism; the time is over for social partnership and failed cross-class collaboration; the time is over for republican factionalism and for micro-entities engaged in directionless vanity missions.

The time is now for united fronts, democratic activism, street agitation, and mass struggle. The time is now for a joint programme of action, for shared platforms of resistance, and for new creative initiatives. What happens if we don’t? Then prepare, comrades, for a rearguard action against the forces of reaction and fascism.

In Peter Daly’s time the hopes of class-conscious Irish workers rested in the Republican Congress. As so often before, and since, this well-intentioned left unity initiative faltered amidst division and rancour.

This legacy of division poses many difficult questions for socialist republicans—questions that the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum is seeking to address. As a nation we need to learn the lessons of the past century of large-scale poverty, mass emigration, division, and sectarianism. We need to consolidate the struggle for better working conditions, for the right of our children to progressive, secular education, for a fully resourced public health service and welfare state, and for the provision of universal public housing. We need to rededicate ourselves to ending sectarianism and partition on our island. We need to bring the resources of the progressive sections of the Irish trade union movement to the aid of communities and workers in struggle.

The PODSRF has drafted a new Democratic Programme for the 21st Century that we hope will form the platform and basis for discussion and development by regional dálaí across the country in the coming weeks and months, starting in Coalisland, Tír Eoghain—the birthplace of the civil rights movement and the heart of recent resistance to British imperialism. We hope that all genuine progressives across the island will engage with this initiative and build the requisite broad left platform that will be essential to threaten the forces of reaction and the cheerleaders of capital.

The Forum recognises that we have made gradual advances during the last century, thanks in no small part to working people being independently organised and to pressure from republicans, communists, and socialists. However, if we are to realise the vision of comrades like Peter Daly of Móin na gCaor, the interests of working people must be at the heart of all political, economic, social and cultural decision-making. We restate that the cause of Ireland and the cause of labour are inseparable. However, while Ireland is locked in to the present-day institutions of international imperialism, including the neo-liberal European Union, there is little possibility of advancing our democratic and social demands.

Bígí linn inár streachailt, a chomrádaithe! La lucha continúa! No pasarán, compañeros! Beidh an lá linn!