Speech by Roger Cole to the 2010 AGM of PANA
On Saturday November 27 members of PANA took part in the 50,000 plus strong ICTU march in Dublin against the neo-liberal economic policies being pursued by the Irish/EU/IMF political elite. At that march the 1916 Proclamation was read out at the GPO and the call was made to build a new Republic.
A week earlier on Saturday November 20, members of PANA took part in the 40,000 strong Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation’s march in favour of peace and against NATO.
By participating in these two marches which are the latest expressions of the growing resistance against the EU/US/NATO political elite and their neo-liberal militarist ideology, PANA is making it crystal clear that it has maintained its core policy that this elite can only be defeated if there is no distinction make in the resistance whether it is the military, economic or political dimension of their ideology or whether it is national or international.
This analysis was the reason why PANA called a conference on November 2004 to build a broader alliance covering the economic and democratic as well as the military dimensions, out of which grew the Campaign Against the EU Constitution-Vote No to Lisbon which played such a key role in winning the first Lisbon referendum and in achieving a high no vote in the second, despite the €millions spent by the rich and powerful EU/Irish elite.
It was this analysis that ensured that CAECU was not disbanded but renamed the Campaign for a Social Europe so that a structure would be maintained to ensure that it was available when the broad alliance of all the progressive anti-imperialist groups again went into battle. It is the reason why members of PANA play an active role on the National Executive of the CSE.
We need to ensure that in 2011 the CSE website is revamped and that it plays a more decisive role in the economic aspects of the debate in the way that the PANA site does in the anti-militarist arena.
Since its foundation in 1996 PANA has always sought to build international links with peace groups in Europe and throughout the world. While in Lisbon PANA ensured that delegates attend conference organised by the CPPC and the World Peace Council as well as the conference organised by PAGAN and the No-to-NATO-No-to-War network at which as Chair of PANA I made a presentation on a workshop the links between NATO and the EU.
While at the CPPC/WPC conference, it became absolutely clear that the analysis presented there was virtually the same as PANA’s.
I therefore strongly recommend to the incoming NEC of PANA that we proceed to building stronger links with the WPC in 2011.
PANA is of course already linked with the No-to-Nato-No-to-War European network and we are honoured by their decision to ask PANA to host their Executive AGM in Dublin in April 2011.
Thus 2011 is sent to mark a major growth in PANA’s role in the European and global peace movements. We have always made the case that PANA has no right to exist except as part of the global peace movement. Our ability to mobilise support for the US Army out of Shannon Campaign by most of the US peace movement was a good example of the goodwill and knowledge that already exists in the US towards PANA.
Thus our input into that global peace movement has steadily grown over the years and hopefully 2011 will mark an acceleration of that process.
Throughout 2010 PANA has sought to highlight the continuing use of Shannon Airport by the American Empire in its ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. We have worked very closely with Shannonwatch in that process, a group that is now affiliated to PANA and is at the vanguard of that campaign.
We also decided in 2010 to organise a Conference on an Independent Irish Foreign Policy in order to restore the concept of the right of the Irish people to have their own foreign policy back on to the political agenda and to build stronger links with a wide a range of political parties and ngo’s involved in foreign policy issues. It was a very successful conference and we certainly achieved our objective in building stronger links with the ICTU Solidarity Committee, Trocaire, the Burma Action Group and many more. In fact, virtually every group involved in foreign affairs attended including a good few embassies.
However, once more, the corporate media gave this PANA event little or no coverage. Their focus instead was on the visit to this state by the war criminal Tony Blair. The lack of coverage can be easily explained by going on the PANA website and studying the amount of money paid to Irish journalists by the EU during the “debate” on the Lisbon 2 referendum. The reality is that most of the political and economic journalists have been little more than intellectual mercenaries for the EU/US/NATO elite. Nevertheless as the economic crisis deepens and their wars expand it is possible that more than a few Irish journalists are reconsidering their position.
PANA knows that there is no justifiable reason why the media should report our AGM, but we should in fact take it as a major complement that the corporate media decided to also ignore our major conference despite the wide range and inclusive nature of the conference. The reality is it does not want the people to know that PANA already has the status and ability to organise such a conference; neither do they don’t support the ideas and values of Irish Independence, Democracy and Neutrality advocated by PANA since 1996.
The truth, of course is that PANA is essentially just an idea. With a turnover of less that €10,000 what else can we be. It is, however an idea that stretches back over 220 years when Irish Neutrality, Democracy and Independence were first advocated by Wolfe Tone in his pamphlet ‘The Spanish War’.
There is a case to be made that it is an idea whose time has come again and events are providing real evidence for it.
Only a short while ago the leaders of the ICTU and newspaper columnists in the Irish Times were campaigning to force the Irish people to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty. Yet on Nov 27 they organised a march to the GPO where once more the 1916 Proclamation was read, and this time to massive applause.
For the leaders of the ICTU and the more progressive elements in the media it is perhaps a case of Irish democracy for slow learners.
In the Donegal by-election the Sinn Fein candidate won and Thomas Pringle another supporter of PANA’s values did well, so a clear majority of the people there voted for people who are affiliated to or support PANA.
Therefore there is real evidence that we are living in historic times and
the upcoming election could be the most decisive since 1918.
A large and substantial section of the electorate could not just humiliate Fianna Fail, they could also swing past Fine Gael and Labour, and on towards Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance that were part of the Campaign Against the EU Constitution. After all, it was not that long ago that the majority of the people rejected the Lisbon Treaty and since then the campaign promises of the yes people have been exposed for the lies that they were.
PANA needs to draw up a series of questions to put to all the candidates so that is clear which of them do or no support Ireland’s integration into the EU/US/NATO military structures.
This is not guaranteed however. Even the emerging social democratic alternative led by TASC and Claiming Our Future has sought to ignore Ireland’s involvement in the imperial wars of the EU/US/NATO axis. It is a core part of our job to ensure they are not successful, and if the response to our leafleting of some of their events is anything to go by, they will not succeed. Wars like elephants in the room just cannot be ignored for long.
Finally, while all the attention has been on the economic crisis caused by our own neo-liberal militarist political/corporate media elite has focused on the EU, let me draw your attention to some other global events. Russia, China and Brazil have agreed to use each other’s currencies in bi-lateral trade, which will accelerate the decline of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.
This is happening at a time when the Commission established by President Obama is advocating the increasing of the old age pension to 69, cutting social security and reducing the tax for the rich people, all to ensure that the US Empire and its European NATO allies can continue their wars.
At their Lisbon Conference the NATO elite described the EU as a strategic (i.e. military) ally, they declared their intention to continue their imperial wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and to threaten war on Iran. They also decided to keep their nuclear weapons and on top of all that, to spend € billions on a missile shield against attack.
This is what the leaders of IBEC, the ICTU, the Fianna Fail Party, the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and the Green Party all supported when they forced the Irish people to reverse their decision on Lisbon. All they offered the Irish people is poverty and war.
PANA has opposed these warmongers since our foundation. We have sought to build an alliance that advocates Irish Independence, Irish Democracy and Irish Neutrality. If those that have opposed us in the past, like the ICTU and the Labour Party, are now changing, then we welcome that change. After all, James Connolly not only helped to found the ITGWU and the Labour Party, but he also founded the Irish Neutrality League in 1914.
In 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of foundation of the Irish Neutrality League, so let have hope that it is an event celebrated not just in the Ireland Institute by PANA, not just in Liberty Hall by SIPTU, but also by the Irish people in the New Irish Republic.