PANA AGM 2005 speach

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- Roger Cole

National Independence

The Peace & Neutrality Alliance was established in 1996 to advocate Irish Neutrality, that Ireland should have its own Independent Irish Foreign Policy and that that policy should be pursued through a reformed United Nations rather than via the EU, which should be a partnership of independent democratic states, legal equals, without a military dimension.

We did so because we believed the Irish political elite intended to destroy Irish neutrality, independence and democracy and integrate this state into an EU which is being transformed into a centralised, militarised, neo-liberal superstate, an Empire, allied to the US Empire, in order to achieve all Ireland integration into the EU/US military structures, to ensure Ireland's full and active participation in the resource wars of the 21 st century. Very few people believed us.

Nine years later, with Irish Neutrality totally destroyed as thousands upon thousands of US troops use Shannon airport on their way to their way to consolidate their Empire in the Middle East, as the EU elite prepares to join the US in a war on Iran, and as the Irish Army is integrated into the EU Battle Groups, the shock troops regiments of the emerging EU Empire, there are few who do not.

Nine years ago in the first of a series of polls on behalf of the Irish Times, people were asked:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views?

  • Ireland should do all it can to unite fully with the EU
  • Ireland should do all it can to protect its independence

58% said they agreed Ireland should do all it can to unite fully with the EU and only 32% agreed Ireland should do all it can to protect its independence from the EU.

This year on being asked the same question, only 36% agreed that Ireland should unite fully with the EU and 45% agreed Ireland should do all it can to protect its independence from the EU.

The Empire Loyalists are losing the support of the Irish people and the values based on Irish National Independence are becoming more popular, a process that will be accelerated and consolidated next year with the 90 th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. Since James Connolly the founder of the Irish Neutrality League was executed in 1916, PANA should mark that anniversary.

PANA has played a role in this transformation of the attitude of the Irish people towards the emerging European Empire.

We were the only alliance that campaigned against the Amsterdam Treaty. The political elite deliberately held the referendum at the same time as the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement. They expected that the vast majority of the people would vote yes to the Agreement and the yes to the Amsterdam Treaty, which would also be a substantial increase in support for the Empire than that achieved in the previous referendum.

In fact the opposite occurred and the vote in favour of Independence increased from 31% to 38%.

The reason is that while the elite saw the Good Friday Agreement as a final settlement to the Irish National issue, a sizable percentage of the Irish people saw it as a stage towards national unity and independence. To the elite, the 6 counties were already integrated into the US/EU military structures and the Amsterdam Treaty was a crucial step towards the integration of the 26 counties into the same structures.

So that while both Empire Loyalists and those of us in favour of Irish Independence voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement, the real and fundamental differences in the desired objectives, a United Independent Democratic Irish in favour of the peaceful resolution of international disputes as advocated by PANA or an Ireland that had Home Rule status within a European Empire allied to the US and committed to international war as advocated by the political/media elite, remained unresolved.

PANA also demanded that Mr. Ahern hold the promised referendum on Ireland membership of Nato's PFP. He refused and Ireland joined without a referendum.

The elite were absolutely confident they would win the Nice referendum. Big mistake. Our victory in the Nice 1 referendum came as a major shock. They were forced to establish the Forum on Europe and give PANA a role in it. They were forced to pass legislation to enshrine the triple lock, which meant the Irish Army would not participate in EU military actions unless the Dail, and the Government agreed and that the Security Council of the United Nations supported the EU military action.

These concessions helped them win the second referendum on the Nice Treaty, and while we lost, 38% of the people voted no, so PANA still reflected the views of a considerable percentage of the Irish people.

PANA however always argued that it was not opposed to Europe or the US per se, but the process of the integration of Ireland into the US/EU military structures. In fact we made a point of building up links internationally especially with the European Peace & Human Rights Network and the US United for Peace & Justice organisation.

But the events of 2003 brought our campaign to totally new level.

The US invasion and conquest of Iraq in that year transformed international politics. It will transform Irish politics.

PANA was the first organisation to hold a demonstration at Shannon airport in May 2002. We decided to focus on the Nice referendum and it was only after it did we propose that PANA, the NGOPA and the Irish Anti-War Movement join forces to organise the Irish participation in the massive global demonstration against the war on the 1 th of February 2003.

Over 120,000 participated in that massive demonstration, 50,000 in Belfast and thousands of others in other demonstrations throughout the country and millions throughout the world.

Bush, Blair Ahern and others supported by virtually the entire media throughout the US and the EU including Ireland went to war despite the demonstrations. It was an illegal criminal war fought to gain control of the oil in Iraq and to consolidate US/Israeli military domination of the Middle East. The majority of the elected representatives in the Dail and showed themselves to be a collection of grovelling, forelock touching neo-Redmondite sycophants by voting to back the war and destroy Irish neutrality.

In the 6 counties, virtually all the unionists stayed loyal to their imperialist tradition and backed the war.

The Hague Convention of 1907 clearly declares that a state that wishes to be regarded in international law as neutral cannot allow its territory to be used by belligerents in a war. Yet 121,943 US troops passed through Shannon in 2003, 158,549 in 2004 and 268,963 by October 2005, US soldiers stopped off at Shannon. The policy of Irish Neutrality has been totally obliterated.

The neo-Redmonite FF/PD Government also refuses to search planes landing in Shannon to see if prisoners are on board being brought to be tortured in the secret torture chambers run by the US with the help of some EU states. It is the first time since this 26 county state was formed that it has actively and enthuastically backed an Imperialist war.

But as the war drags on an on and as the lies told by the Imperialists are exposed and the body bags keep coming back the popular support for the war sustained by media is cracking.

In the heart of the US Empire not everything is going well for the leader of this 21 st Crusade. With over 2,100 US soldiers killed and over 18,000 injured so far, 10% of the Crusader Army of occupation have been killed or injured. The war has cost the US Empire over $220 billion so far and there has been a substantial drop in the number of its citizens joining the National Guard. Popular support for Bush in the US has declined dramatically. In the UK, Blair's Imperialist, New Labour Party saw it's majority reduced substantially in their election and the Blair government recently suffered a major defeat in its efforts to destroy civil liberties.

As stated earlier, the absolute reality is the conquest of Iraq had nothing to do with the war on terrorism. Fundamentalist Muslims have always argued that the conquest of Iraq was about building an Israeli-Christian Empire stretching from Palestine to Afghanistan. Therefore the conquest of Iraq not only provided the evidence, but also removed a Baathist regime from power and gained themselves a massive number of recruits. Popular support for the Muslim fundamentalists has grown exponentially. If the US Empire together with the emerging EU Empire in a de facto alliance with Israeli continues with their efforts to gain popular support for the bombing of Iran or even its invasion, support for Muslim Fundamentalists would expand even more. Since there are 1.5 billion Muslims it is absolutely inevitable that the Christian fundamentalist leaders Bush and Blair, like the previous Crusaders will be defeated and driven out of the Middle East.

However we should be clear that both Ben Laden and Bush are opposed to democracy and justice. They are like twin angels of death, dragging us down into the gates of Hell. We must seek the end of the conflict by ensuring it is those political and social forces that advocate justice and democracy take the lead in demanding the ending of the occupation.

For the reality is that in order to end the conflict with a victory for democracy and social justice, the occupation of Iraq has to end and the sooner the better.

Israel has also to withdraw to its 1969 boundaries so that a viable state of Palestine can be established in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It is these occupations that provide the support base for the Muslim fundamentalists. End them, together with the occupation of Afghanistan and Chechnya and the possibility of a lasting democratic settlement can emerge. Only those people in favour of the ending of these occupations are really opposed to terrorism. Those like Bush and Blair and Ahern that support war and occupation are the real supporters of terrorism.

However, so far, no Irish soldier has been killed, and so far, no bomb has gone off in Ireland as a consequence of the decision of the Irish political elite to support this Imperial war. To most Irish people the military effects of supporting the imperial ambitions of the EU/US elite has been an abstract concept, not affecting their daily lives.

The same cannot be said of the economic realities of the emerging neo-liberal, centralised EU superstate.

The decision of Irish Ferries to sack Irish workers unless they work for virtually nothing, and to say they intend to bring in workers from Eastern Europe if they did not, has had a major impact on Irish workers and the organised trade union movement. The Service Directive proposed by the EU Commission, which would allow firms based in other EU states to employ workers in Ireland at the same wages and working conditions as in the country in which the firms are based would mean a massive reduction in the wages and working conditions of Irish workers. A PANA AGM is not the place to have a long analysis of the effects of the neo-liberal agenda on Irish workers. Suffice to say however that the EU elite is well aware that an ongoing war is a very good way to distract the workers from opposing attacks on their living standards. A war creates an enemy that has the effect of creating unity, and labels those who oppose the war as being people who are "soft on terrorism" or "fellow travellers".

Unfortunately for the elite, the French and Dutch people massively defeated the proposed EU Constitution that was to the crowning glory in the process of the creation of their Empire. Despite the fact that 90% of the political / media elite in France and Holland backed the proposed EU Constitution it was comprehensively rejected. Two stakes were driven through its heart. Even Ahern has temporarily given up trying to hawk it around Europe like some sort of 21 st century Dracula. It was clear however that it was the mobilisation and unity achieved by the political forces led by a resurgent left opposed to the neo-liberal agenda that led these great victories. Together with the massive anti-war demonstrations in 2003, the referendum results mark the start of the counter attack against neo-liberal ideology that has dominated the globe since the 1960's. They mark the growing belief among an increasing number of people that the neo-liberal militarists like bush, Blair and Ahern can be defeated if the unity achieved to date can be made stronger and more powerful. We need to get used to winning.

Since all the US/EU elite offers is a war in which defeat is inevitable, and a sustained attack on the living and working conditions of workers throughout Europe we should feel very confident that we would win if we continue to build and consolidate our forces.

It was that in mind that PANA organised a Conference on the EU Constitution in November 2004 with speakers not only from PANA but DAPSE and the Peoples Movement that campaigned on the neo-liberal and democracy agenda.

Out of that Conference has developed the Campaign Against the EU Constitution.

In the meantime PANA had affiliated to the European NO Campaign. As Chair of PANA I spoke at Conferences on the EU Constitution in Dublin, Manchester, London and Amsterdam. These invitations reflected the growing international role of PANA. We have always said that the Imperial objectives of the US/EU elite are global and if we were to defeat them, we had to be part of a global movement.

While the EU Constitution is dead, and killing it was a tremendous victory, the right wing neo-liberal and militarist ideology remains and its political and social forces that give it life remains strong and determined.

The next two-battle area is the appropriately named EU Battle Groups and the Service Directive.

The EU is establishing 13 Battle Groups, each with 1,500 troops capable of invading a country up to 6,000 K from the borders of the EU within 5-10 days of being given the order to do so. To allow for rotation this means a military force of 156,000 under the command of the EU whose military doctrine advocates pre-emptive war without a UN mandate. The EU Battle Groups are to be interoperable with the NATO Rapid Reaction Force, a 60,000 strong military force under NATO control, already capable of going to war with 10 days.

In a letter written in February 2005 to the House of Commons Select Committee on the European Union, Geoffrey Hoon, the British Minister for Defence described the Battle Groups as;

"mutually reinforcing with the larger NATO Response Force (NRF). ... ... and have the potential to act as a stepping-stone for countries that want to contribute to the NATO Response Force, by developing their high readiness forces to the required standard and integrating small countries' contributions into multinational units.

Wherever possible and applicable, standards, practical methods and procedures for Battlegroups are analogous to those defined within the NATO Response Force. Correctly managed, there is considerable potential for synergy between the two initiatives".

So there it is, the EU/US military structures are laid out for all to see. The whole theory that the EU is some sort of military alternative to the US is exposed as the total bullshit that it is.

PANA is in the process of writing an analysis of the EU Battle Groups and intends to campaign actively against Irish participation in the EU Battle Groups. We have been totally vindicated in our long campaign for a legally binding Protocol to exclude Ireland from the militarisation of the EU.

We will also link the militarisation of the EU with opposing the neo-liberal agenda through the CAEUC. We will certainly find the organised working class and its trade union movement more responsive as the effects of the EU sponsored Service Directive deepen.

Finally, long process towards the next election is underway. PANA should approach all candidates and ask them to agree with the following;

  • The termination of the use of Shannon by the US Empire.
  • A commitment to maintain the Triple Lock legislation.
  • A commitment to ensure that a Protocol be included in any new EU Treaty that like the Danish Protocol, would exclude Ireland from the militarisation of the EU.
  • An amendment to enshrine neutrality into the Irish Constitution.

It is a difficult task. The Fianna Fail and PD parties that have already show their active support for the Imperialist war and who also actively support the Services directive clearly hate PANA and all we stand for. The Labour Party is committed to an effective merger with Fine Gael, a party that sprung from the tradition of European Fascism and which is favour of the total abolition of Irish neutrality and Independence.

However, as the reality of what's on offer, a militarised, centralised, neo-liberal superstate becomes more and more obvious, the Irish trade union movement will force its leadership to respond and oppose the Empire Loyalists as has already happened in the British TUC. In such circumstances I am absolutely confident that the party of Connolly will in time, and perhaps sooner than later, will have to choose between the trade union movement and the Blueshirts. I am confident it will pick the trade union movement.

Because the real division in Ireland is between those Irish people that support Imperialism, that support the integration of Ireland, all 32 counties into the EU/US military structures on one side and those who seek to establish a United Independent Democratic Irish Republic on the other. These four demands are the absolute minimum that we should seek from all candidates standing for election in Ireland. They are demands that set the real benchmark.

PANA is only a very small part of a growing global alliance against Imperialism that first manifested itself on the 15 th of February 2003.

We need to continue to build on that achievement. We need to win, because if we do not all we have to look forward to is war and poverty. Building the alliance, building PANA has to remain the focus of our political campaigning for years to come. The EU/US elite offers poverty and war. We offer peace and justice. And we are going to win.

Roger Cole

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