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Reality Radio

The Irish Neutrality League and the Imperialist War 1914-18

The introductory speech by Roger Cole

The first person in Irish history to advocate the right of the Irish people to have their own independent foreign policy with neutrality as its key component was Theobald Wolfe Tone in his political pamphlet, The Spanish War published in 1790. In recognition of this deeply rooted tradition, Cumann Na mBan, one of the organisations that supported the Irish Neutrality League, republished it in 1915.

The Irish Neutrality League founded in September 1914 brought together a broad coalition of trade unionists, socialists, Republicans, pacifists and suffragettes that held a major public meeting in Dublin in October to oppose the 1914-18 imperialist war.

PANA with the help, in particular of SIPTU and SF
has organised this meeting to mark this historic event and the speakers reflect that coalition.

Arthur Griffith, the then of President of Sinn Fein was a member of the INL so PANA is pleased to have Gerry Adams its President speaking this evening

Francis & Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, were then leading pacifists and supporters of the suffragettes. Their values that will be reflected by Mary Carolan of the Sheehy Skeffington School of Human Rights & Social Justice.

James Connolly, then General Secretary of the T&GWU was President of the INL. That union is now SIPTU and Jack O’Connor, its General President will speak on its behalf.

The Dublin Trades Council also supported the INL and it is represented by its ex President Michael O’Reilly.

Countess de Markievicz was also a leading INL activist and Dr. Margaret Ward, feminist historian
will reflect on her contribution.

However, the values of imperialism and colonialism that inspired the 1914-18 war have not gone away you know. They are values that are still very powerful, particularly when focused on the people of Palestine; in fact, they grew out a skewed version of the Balfour Declaration of the British Empire made in the middle of that war.

So PANA is very pleased that Freda Hughes of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign has agreed to Chair the meeting and to speak on Palestine today.

But PANA is not a history society. We seeks to build a broad alliance of groups and individuals that like the INL advocates the right of the Irish people to live in a United Irish Republic with their own independent foreign policy with positive neutrality as its key component.

Not too easy, with six Irish counties of Ireland are part of NATO, and all of them being a member of the EU, a strategic partner of NATO.

Not too easy when the FG/Labour government’s aviation policy actively seeks additional military aircraft to use Shannon Airport, and Irish troops continue to serve in the Afghan War.

Not easy when the Irish Government supports Ireland’s deeper integration into the US/EU/NATO military axis which is committed to the doctrine of perpetual war, not only by destroying the states of Iraq, Syria and Libya, but engineered a major conflict with another nuclear armed state, Russia, by supporting the illegal overthrow of the democratically elected President of the Ukraine.

Finally, while virtually all the focus in recent times has been on opposing austerity, PANA makes the case that doctrine of austerity and the doctrine of perpetual war are opposite sides of the same coin, a coin that is rapidly losing its value as the recent European, local and by election results show.

We seek to rebuild the INL alliance, but PANA can only act as a catalyst in that process. If it is to be successful it is up to the leaders of the trade unions, the Socialists and the Republicans to do so.

 The INL one hundred years ago built an alliance that transformed Ireland.

The challenge to create a United Irish Republic with its own independent foreign policy remains.

Roger Cole
Peace & Neutrality Alliance


Other Speakers:

» Gerry Adams, President, Sinn Fein
» Mary Carlon, Sheehy Skeffington School of Human Rights and Social Justice
» Jack O'Connor, General President, SIPTU
» Michael O'Reilly, Dublin Council of Trade Unions
» Dr Margaret Ward, Feminist Historian
» Chair: Freda Hughes, Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign


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