éirígí councillor John Dwyer addresses the 90th anniversary of the Four Martyrs, republican leaders Liam Mellows, Joe McKelvey, Dick Barrett and Rory O'Connor, executed by Free State forces on 8 December 1922.
Red Salute from The Great Unrest Group in Wales to Eirigi long live Socialist Republicanism in Ireland and Wales, Scotland and Cornwall..
We publish the speech of Liam Mellows on 4t January 1922 as it resonates with todays struggles.
Dáil Éireann - 04 January, 1922
DEBATE ON TREATY
Speech of Liam Mellows
MR. MELLOWES: Yes! that is what we want. We do not want peace with surrender, and we do not want peace with dishonour. If peace was the only object why, I say, was this fight ever started? Why did we ever negotiate for what we are now told is impossible? Why should men have ever been led on the road they travelled if peace was the only object? We could have had peace, and could have been peaceful in Ireland a long time ago if we were prepared to give up the ideal for which we fought. Have we now to give it up for the sake of this so-called peace? If peace is that which is to be the pursuit of the people then this Treaty will not bring them peace because there will be restless souls in the country who will not be satisfied under this Free State to make peace in this. Free State possible. I use no threats, but you caused bring peace my compromise. You cannot being peace to a people when it does not also bring honour.
This Treaty brings neither honour nor anything else. It brings to the people certain material advantages, such, I say, as they could have had long ago if they were prepared to sink their  identity as Scotland did. Ireland has never been prepared to do that, and I do not believe she shall ever be prepared to do it. If this is a step towards the Republic how can it be contended that it means peace? Under the terms of this Free State are you going to be strong enough to say to the British Government “Hands off”? You will have an army, it is true, but it will be an army in which the incentive which kept the fight alive for the last few years will be lacking. Who will tell the British Government, when the time has come to tell it, keep its hands off? Will you be any more united then than you are now? Will all of you in favour of this Free State look forward to the time when you are going to say to the British Government: “You must not have anything more to do with us”? You will not. Human nature, even the strongest human nature, is weak, and the time will inevitably come, if this Free State comes into existence, when you will have a permanent government in the country, and permanent governments in any country have a dislike to being turned out, and they will seek to fight their own corner before anything else.
Men will get into positions, men will hold power, and men who get into positions and hold power will desire to remain undisturbed and will not want to be removed, or will not take a step that will mean removal in case of failure. I only speak my mind on this matter. But to me it is very clear there is only one road this country can travel. It is the road we tried to travel together as best we could. It is the right road, and now if there should be a parting of the ways some of us, if God gives us the strength and courage, will travel it no matter what.
Under this Treaty the Irish people are going to be committed within the British Empire. We have always in this country protested against being included within the British Empire. Now we are told that we are going into it with our heads up. The British Empire stands to me in the same relationship as the devil stands to religion.
The British Empire represents to me nothing but the concentrated tyranny of ages.
You may talk about your constitution in Canada, your united South Africa or Commonwealth of Australia, but the British Empire to me does not mean that. It means to me that terrible thing that has spread its tentacles all over the earth, that has crushed the lives out of people and exploited its own when it could not exploit anybody else.
That British Empire is the thing that has crushed this country; yet we are told that we are going into it now with our heads up.
We are going into the British Empire now to participate in the Empire's shame even though we do not actually commit the act, to participate in the shame and the crucifixion of India and the degradation of Egypt. Is that what the Irish people fought for freedom for?
We are told damn principles. Aye, if Ireland was fighting for nothing only to become as most of the other rich countries of the world have become, this fight should never have been entered upon.
We hoped to make this country something the world should be proud on and we did not enter into the fight to make this country as the other countries, where its word was not its bond, and where a treaty was something to be struggled for.
That was not the ideal that inspired men in this cause in every age, and it is not the ideal which inspires us to-day. We do not seek to make this country a materially great country at the expense of its honour in any way whatsoever. We would rather have this country poor and indigent, we would rather have the people of Ireland eking out a poor existence on the soil; as long as they possessed their souls, their minds, and their honour. This fight has been for something more than the fleshpots of Empire.
Peace! peace is the consideration. Is this Treaty going to bring you peace? No! Under Clause 7 you are going to be made a cock-pit of the next naval war in which England is engaged, because your docks and coast-line are given up, unfortunately, to the British Government to use as it sees fit.
As against that we are told if we do not accept this Treaty we are going to have war. Every argument that I heard here to-day in favour of this Treaty is the argument I heard years ago against the question of every attaining an Irish Republic. Every argument used here was the argument used by the Irish Parliamentary Party when fighting elections in this country. Every argument I heard here to-day was the argument everyone here had to answer in reply  to those who faced them years ago. War! we are told. Were the people of Ireland afraid of war when they faced conscription in this country? They were threatened with annihilation. It was a question then of whether they would fight at home or abroad and they decided to fight at home.
When the General Election came on they were threatened with war again. They were told that the corollary to acceptance of the Republican mandate or the Republican platform was war. The people of Ireland did not flinch. They accepted the issue and the issue, as we have seen since, was not war, but the people of Ireland did not flinch. This Treaty reminds me of the Treaty of Versailles, of the miserable end up to that bloody holocaust when the nations of the earth, after fighting supposedly for ideals, parcelled out amongst themselves the spoils of the young soldiers. The misguided young men who fought in that conflict were left disillusioned. Is this Treaty going to be a Treaty of Versailles? Are the Irish people to be told that when we spoke of a Republic we did not mean it? Are the Irish people to be told that when we spoke of independence we meant to be inside the British Empire and that when we spoke of ideals we meant morally? I say no! We did not mean that. You could point out to me for all time, day after day as long as you like, the material advantages to be gained under this Treaty, and it would remind me very much of what I have read about our Saviour. Having fasted for forty days He was taken by the devil to a height from which He was shown the cities, towns and fair places of the earth and told He could have all those if, bowing down, He would adore the devil. We are told to-day that we will get these things in return for the selling of our honour. I say selling of our honour; others here may not mean it; others here may not have the same view of it as I have, but my view is that we are selling the honour of Ireland for this mess of pottage contained in the Treaty. Under, the future of this Free State, if it goes through, when are we going to know when we will have sincerity in Ireland about the Republic?
After you get the Free State what will you take on hands, and what do you mean when you talk of something next? The Government of the Free State will, with those who support it now liking it or not, eventually occupy the same relationship towards the people of Ireland as Dublin Castle does to-day, because, it will be the barrier government between the British and the Irish people. And the Irish people before they can struggle on will have to do something to remove that Free State Government. That, I think, has been the history of this country most of the time, as it is the history of most countries that go the way now urged by those who support the Free State. If the Free State is accepted and put into operation it will provide the means for the British Government to get its hold back again. It could not beat Ireland with force; it did its best. No war the British Government initiated here could be worse than the terrible mental strain imposed on the people during the last eighteen months. And that war was not levelled so much against the Irish Republican Army as against the people of the Irish Republic, because the British Government had a surer view of the people than we had. They felt that if they could crush the people of Ireland that would mean the end of things in Ireland until the next necessity arose. The British Government did not, for very obvious reasons—because of what it would mean on conditions abroad, and because of what the outside world must necessarily conclude—allow this warfare, as far as it could prevent it, to become one as between the British Army and the Irish Army.
But it tried to maintain the appearance of it being a warfare conducted by no representative people, by people who counted for nothing against the forces of the civil authority, and that is why the Black-and-Tans and the Auxiliary forces were organised for special service here. The British Government still keep up the pretended show of maintaining the civil authority in Ireland, even though that civil authority had to be maintained by force of arms. And it was because the British Government saw there was a tangible government here, that the Irish Republic did exist, that it had its hirelings to murder its representatives, to murder Lord Mayor MacCurtin, to murder Mayor O'Callaghan, and to do to death Terence MacSwiney. The British Government recognised that there was a Republic, even though some of our  representatives now do not, and the British Government recognised that it must be at the representatives of the Republic that blow must be struck. It knows to-day that the people have the Republic in their minds, in their spirit, and that any act they can do cannot crush it. We placed Ireland upon a pedestal for the first time in the history of this country. For the first time in the history of this country we had a Government established by the directly declared will of the people.
That Government rested upon the surest of all foundations and placed Ireland in a position it was never in before, since its subjection. Ireland was put forth to the world as a headlight, as a beacon beginning to shine for all time to guide all those who were struggling. The whole world was looking to Ireland for a lead. This downtrodden, this miserable country, as some of you called it, was, during the last few years, the greatest country in God's earth. “Are we always going to adopt the attitude of seeking something that is a little in front of us while the world always moves on?” Ah! how little that Deputy knew of what the world is. How little that Deputy knew that here in this country of ours is contained the germ of great and wonderful things for the world. The world did not move on; it is Ireland has moved on and Ireland has left the world far behind. We can get very insular sometimes, but it is well for us sometimes to see that we are not so downtrodden and miserable as some of us think we are. This country was one of the best in the world. It has fought a fight that will ring down through the ages, and maintained itself well against all the tortures and inflictions that a foreign tyranny knows so well how to impose. It maintained its way up to this stage, and now, not through the force of the British Government, not because of the weight of the British armies, but through the guile of the British Government, and the gullibility of ours we are going to throw away the Irish Republic. Somebody talked about facts. These are facts. We are told that we must have unity. Yes, we want unity, and had unity in Ireland during the last few years, but we had it only on one basis—the basis of the Republic.
Destroy that basis and you cannot have unity. Once you take yourselves off that pedestal you place yourselves in a position to pave the way for concession after concession, for compromise after compromise. Once you begin to juggle with your mind or conscience in this matter God knows where you will end, no matter how you try to pull up later on. You can have unity by rejecting this thing; you cannot have unity by approving of it. Rejection means that the Irish Republic exists here, and that we are still the Government of the existing Irish Republic. Accept it and there is no Irish Republic existing because you have destroyed it, because you have abrogated the right of the Dáil, and this Dáil exists here as the Republican Government. It did not exist here for the purpose of changing its status. It was placed here by the people to work for the recognition and the interests of the Republic, not to take steps towards the gaining or abolition of it. The Republic is here because it is in our wills. Destroy that by accepting this Treaty and there is no Republic. And you will not have unity and you will not have peace. You can have unity, though you may not have peace, but you certainly will have unity and honour by rejecting this Treaty.
Accept it and you will destroy the Republic, and even though you gain for Ireland the material advantages—you point out control of our language, et cetera— though you gain these things you throw away that which Ireland found since 1916, that which, after all, imbued Ireland in this phase of the struggle. 1916 did not represent the will of the people; 1916 found very little support from the people, but 1916 has been supported by the people since, and it has been 1916 that based their ideal when they declared for a Republic. From 1916 down to the present day that struggle has gone on. Person after person has been induced to come in and do his or her part.
Now, if you accept this Treaty you are going to establish in this country a Government that does away with the Irish Republic. It is not a step towards the Irish Republic but a step away from it. That Treaty admits the right of the British Government to control the destiny of Ireland. Even though you have control of some of the material resources of the country you are going to put yourselves in the position of being within the British Empire,  and outside, away from the rest of the world. During the last few years we were beginning to occupy a unique position in the world. As long as we looked upon ourselves as being independent we could appeal to the outside world and so long were we certain of receiving sympathy and help.
Now you are inside the British Empire if you accept this Treaty, and, turn where you will, you will be told you are a domestic concern for the British Empire. The League of Nations—what does it mean to this country? The League of Nations—the League of Robbers! We stand, some of us, where we always stood, and despite all that has been said in favour of this Treaty we mean to continue standing where we stood in the past. Whatever may happen, whatever the road may be in front of us, we intend, with God's help, to travel it. The time will come yet—I hope it will come soon—when those who are going to depart from the straight road will come back to it. Then we will be together to the end of this fight. I am sorry to inflict such a long statement upon the Dáil. It was not my intention to do so when I stood up, but ideas keep coming to your mind, probably, when you feel so keenly on a matter which represents the ideals for which one has struggled and fought, the ideals for which one is prepared to do the same again, but for which one is not prepared to compromise or surrender no matter what the advantages may be. (Applause).