The recent decision of the Central Societies Committee (CSC) executive to deny the right of Éirígí to form and organise as a society was one which should have been of keen interest to all political enthusiasts in college. The official reason given was that on balance the CSC felt that Éirígí’s aims were catered for by existing societies, and furthermore, they did not believe Éirígí were capable of making a valuable contribution to college life.
Éirígí states on its website that it is an Irish, Socialist Republican, political party committed to ending the British occupation of the six counties and the establishment of a 32 county Democratic Socialist Republic. The association was founded as a Dublin based Socialist Republican Campaigns group in April 2006, coinciding with the ninetieth anniversary of the 1916 rising. Was it on foot of these aims that the association was denied the right to form a society? One suspects not. Éirígí have been consistent in claiming that they are not involved with any armed organisation, however, a closer look exposes some worrying links.
Éirígí in response to the recent shootings of two British Army soldiers and Constable Stephen Carroll of the PSNI issued a statement claiming,
“While supporting the right of any people to defend themselves from imperial aggression, Éirígí does not believe that the conditions exist at this time for a successful armed struggle against British occupation.”
One can carefully groom the entire statement issued by Éirígí on this occasion, but nowhere will you find a condemnation of the recent upsurge of violence. Furthermore, the man charged with the murder of the two British soldiers Colin Duffy was a prominent Éirígí member. It must be pointed out that the party have distanced themselves from Mr Duffy, claiming he left the party; however, a quick search of the name Colin Duffy into Google will still bring up live links on Éirígí’s own website describing him as a “prominent activist.” Several other former Éirígí activists have recently been arrested in connection with dissident republican activity. Whilst, it must be stressed that no current Éirígí members have been arrested in connection with paramilitary violence, there does appear to be a worrying cross-over of personnel.
There are those who would claim that any group that is prepared to sanction violence of any form should be barred from organising in any meaningful fashion, especially in such a well respected establishment such as Trinity, however, one needs to think carefully about the consequences of such a stance. Éirígí have collected over 100 potential members within Trinity, should we merely cast these fellow students, and their viewpoints aside? Should we deride them as extremists, and continue to deny them the ‘oxygen of publicity’ that allowing them to form would necessarily entail?
John Laws, a respected jurist, commented that in
his view an extremist opinion “is one that admits of no exceptions. Its hallmark is the claim to a monopoly of the truth. Extremism may be found in the substance of a base opinion, but it may consist as surely in a preparedness to suppress views at variance with an opinion which is in of itself essentially decent. In both cases, a monopoly of the truth is urged.” Who then are the real extremists? We the morally outraged political moderates or those like Éirígí scrapping for survival on the fringes of the political spectrum? Whether some people like it or not, the facts speak for themselves Éirígí is a political party with elected representatives, and if they are refused the opportunity to organise in college this has serious implications for free speech. In the view of this writer free speech is not something that can be compromised, if it is not to be denied, then it is to be permitted. The college authorities may shirk in horror in their politically correct cocoon at the thought of an organisation like Éirígí organising and contributing to college life, however, as a recent visitor to Trinity Noam Chomsky so eloquently put it, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
If one considers that the CSC has managed to find room for a Socialist Party and a Socialist Workers Party, their claim that Éirígí’s views are sufficiently well represented is likely to ring a bit hollow. The current writer like many reading this article is no friend of Éirígí’s, however, the time has come for the College authorities to decide whether they are in favour of free speech, or whether they are happy to engage in this continued censorship. For all democrats, there is surely only one answer.