by Democrat reporter
DELEGATES AT the Connolly Association's annual conference renewed the organisation's support for the Irish peace process and reaffirmed their belief that Irish unity and an end to Britain's colonial involvement in Ireland will enhance democracy on both sides of the Irish Sea.
The conference, which was held in November in London, also backed a call for the Association to consider organising a broad-based conference to examine the prospects for a united and independent Ireland and to explore ways in which friends of Ireland in Britain could assist with this process.
The event opened with a incisive contribution from Anthony Coughlan on developments within the European Union, including the introduction of the euro and importance of the Irish people's rejection of the Nice treaty.
Anthony Coughlan, the Irish Democrat’s Dublin correspondent, is also the secretary of the Irish National Platform and a longstranding friend of the Association.
Debates on conference resolutions saw delegates register their total opposition to the parliamentary oath, which forces newly-elected MP to swear allegiance to the British monarch.
Delegates agreed that the current oath was "offensive to republicans of every political persuasion and wholly inappropriate for a modern parliamentary democracy". Resolutions on the peace process, the campaign for an independent inquiry into the murder or Robert Hamill and on opposition to EU moves to create a European federal superstate also won overwhelming backing.
Reminding delegates of the Association's unique role as part of the broad republican family and the British labour movement, CA president Willie Wallis stressed that the organisation continued to see its primary role as winning the British public to the opinion that it was in the best interests of the peoples of Britain and Ireland to end partition.
"Although we are an Irish organisation and notwithstanding the setting up of the assembly in Belfast, or anything that unionist politicians do to try and frustrate, delay or halt the Irish peace process, or their attempts to rewrite the Good Friday agreement, we must recognise that laws in Northern Ireland are determined by the British government and that it is the British exchequer that finances Northern Ireland and that it is the British state that provides the forces to garrison Northern Ireland," he said.
Outlining the work carried out by the Association since the previous conference, CA general secretary Jim Redmond said that it had been a busy 18 months, during which the Association had campaigned on a wide range of issues and engaged in widespread political debate.
Successive British governments believed that they could solve the Irish crisis through security measures and force of arms, he said.
Meanwhile, British politicians and the right-wing media had demonstrated their lack of belief in solving the problems by political means and had continually sought to distort the truth about their role in Ireland.
"We, as members of the Connolly Association, must continue to tackle this distortion."
To do this effectively, the Association needed to improve its branch structure, develop new friends and contacts and win wider support in the labour movement and the Irish community in Britain.
"We need to make a serious attempt at constructing a unity of purpose among opponents of partition in Britain," he said.
Speaking to the executive committee motion, Irish Democrat editor and Connolly Association vice-president David Granville stressed that it was essentially a reaffirmation of existing CA policy on Irish unity and support for the Good Friday agreement.
While the Association accepted that, in itself, the agreement was not the basis of a republican settlement, it could be seen as the heir to the strategy, originally devised by the late Desmond Greaves and the Connolly Association, of pursuing a civil-rights agenda as a means of dividing and undermining unionism in the north.
The whole raison d'être of unionism is based on maintaining their position as 'top dog', he told delegates. "Under the terms of the agreement this is simply not possible, whatever the deficiencies of the agreement, or the way that it is implemented."
One of the most heartening aspects of the Good Friday process was the role it has played in sowing division within unionism.
Such fissures remained fundamental to the prospects for achieving a united and independent Ireland, David Granville said.
Before the close of conference delegates approved a new executive committee to serve the Association for the coming year: Stella Bond, Annie Breen, Danny Burke, Enda Finlay, David Granville, Peter Mulligan, Pat O'Donohoe, Chris O'Sullivan, Jim Redmond, Moya St Leger, Willie Wallis and Sally Richardson.
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