Monday, 24 January 2011

éirígí Ard-Fheis Jan 2011 – Full Report

éirígí’s fifth Ard-Fheis took place on Sunday [January 23] in Culturlánn McAdam Ó Fiaich on Belfast’s Falls Road. Up to 200 people from across Ireland attended the all day conference. The morning session focused on organisational and policy matters while the afternoon session saw a range of guest and éirígí speakers address the packed venue.
Organisational Reports

Following the adoption of standing orders and the election of a steering committee for An Ard-Fheis, a number of organisational reports were delivered by a the outgoing elected party officers, Runaí Ginearálta (General Secretary) Breandán Mac Cionnaith, Pádraig Ó Meiscill (Publicity), Daithí Mac An Mháistir (Membership) and Ciarán Heaphey (Finance). These reports were followed by a question and answer session.


The next item on the clár were motions on a wide range of issues including the British occupation of the Six Counties, the economic crisis, cutbacks to public services and the treatment of political prisoners. There were also motions mandating the incoming Ciorcal Náisiúnta to perform specific organisational and policy tasks as well as motions sending solidarity to struggles around the world.

A significant portion of the available time was given over to a discussion on the upcoming local elections in the Six Counties and the merits of éirígí putting forward candidates in same. This discussion was the latest stage in a process of internal debate about elections which began in earnest in the spring of 2009. At the end of the debate delegates voted in favour of éirígí running candidates in the May election. Click here to read all motions


 Election of National Officers

Before breaking for lunch An Ard-Fheis elected seven individuals to An Ciorcal Náisiúnta. These were
  • An Cathaoirleach (Chair) Brian Leeson
  • Leas-Chathaoirleach (Vice-Chair) Rab Jackson
  • An Rúnaí Ginearálta (General Secretary) Breandán Mac Cionnaith
  • Cisteoirí (Treasurers) Micheál Mac Neighill and Ciarán Heaphey
  • An tOifigeach Caidrimh Phoiblí (Public Relation Officer) Pádraig Ó Meiscill
  • An tOifigeach Ballraíochta (Membership Officer) Daithí Mac An Mháistir


Official Launch of From Socialism Alone Can the Salvation of Ireland Come

After lunch the numbers in the Culturlánn swelled as a series of speakers took to the podium to address An Ard-Fheis. The first to do so was éirígí’s Daithí Mac An Mháistir who formally launched the party’s most recent policy paper From Socialism Alone Can the Salvation of Ireland Come. Daithí not only gave a flavour of the content of the paper, he also explored the political context of its adoption and the process which was used to adopt it.



Guest Speakers

The first of four guest speakers, Patricia Campbell, President of the Independent Workers Union congratulated éirígí on the production on From Socialism Alone Can the Salvation of Ireland Come before condemning the attacks on public services on both sides of the border. Patricia singled out the cutbacks in the areas of health and education for particular attention.


Donal Fallon of the student organisation Free Education for Everyone gave the assembled crowd a brief rundown on FEE’s campaign of resistance to student fees. He explained that the recent student protests in Dublin, Belfast and Derry had led to FEE setting up new branches in a number of third level institutions across the country. Donal finished by expressing his hope that these developments may signal the emergence of a new radical student movement.


The chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign Freda Hughes impressed upon the Ard-Fheis the importance of developing an international grassroots campaign of opposition to Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. She highlighted the role that everyone has to play in boycotting Israeli goods and building pressure for divestment from Israel.

The last of the guest speakers, Pepe Gutiérrez from the Latin America Solidarity Centre, provided a unique perspective of the current economic crisis, proposing that the Latin American experience of the IMF in the 1980s and 1990s could prove useful to Irish activists today. This theme of mutual solidarity and co-operation was repeated throughout his contribution. Pepe concluded by encouraging people to have hope and belief in their ability to win through in the end. Other guests who attended the Ard-Fheis included representatives from the Communist Party of Ireland, the Workers Solidarity Movement, Kurdistan National Congress, and the Cuba Solidarity Group.


Solidarity Greetings


Following on from the guest speakers Leas-Chathaoirleach éirígí Rab Jackson read aloud a message of solidarity from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. éirígí Dublin City Councillor Louise Minihan then read out a message from the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, Teresita Trujillo. Solidarity greetings were also sent to An Ard-Fheis by the Workers Party of New Zealand, Izquierda Castellana and the Peace And Neutrality Alliance. Click here to read the full text of all solidarity greetings 


Cathaoirleach Address

Following the showing of a short éirígí video, Cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson gave the main address of the afternoon. In a wide ranging speech Brian paid tribute to the sacrifice of the republican community in Belfast, rejected sectarianism and highlighted éirígí’s achievements over the last five years. He also outlined the backdrop to the next ten years of struggle which will witness a number of centenary anniversaries including the 1913 Lockout, the 1916 Rising and the partition of Ireland. Brian went on to urge activists to emulate the examples of those who fought for Irish freedom a century ago, before telling people that the time had come for the poor to declare war on the rich and committing éirígí to playing its part in that war. When Brian finished his speech, folk singer Pól Mac Adaim brought An Ard-Fheis to a close with a rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann.




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