Friends, comrades, people of Donegal, of the Rosses and Gweedore. When I was first asked and given this enormous honour, to be here today to pay tribute to the women of Ireland and Cumann na mBan. At first, I said to myself perhaps it is not appropriate for a man to do this, that it would be best perhaps for a woman, to deliver this oration. Then I started to think that is very important, that it is incredibly necessary for the men of this country to acknowledge, to pay tribute, to the women. Not only that but to acknowledge that, for far too long, the part, the incredibly important part, the vital part that they have played, has been ignored and has been overlooked. It has not earned the tribute that it has so richly deserved, because history tells us, ‘when women march, the world changes’.

Not only in Ireland but throughout history, When the woman of Paris decided to march on Versailles, the monarchy that held France and Europe in its grip, shook trembled and fell. When the impoverished, girls selling matches, in London, decided to take industrial action at the end of the 19th century, organised labour on these islands began to change for the better.

Change happened similarly when the factory women, in what then was called Petrograd, One Hundred years ago decided that they would take action and initiate action against a despotic monarchy. A monarchy that was based in Russia, that was holding its people in bondage. It was demanding a blood sacrifice when they marched they put in motion a revolution that was to shake the world.

Here in Ireland, it was the women that organised, first in Belfast, in Gallahers Factory, that gives us the 1907 strike. Also, the woman who played a vital part in 1913 in the lockout, not to mention the heroic woman that took part in The Rising of 1916.

It is to the credit of this district, where there was such incredible organisation by Cumann na mBan, to pull together and bring together and organise. To ensure as the previous speaker said, that today we can go under the Republican flag, and that the Republican flag flies all across the Island. Not only, was it a contribution in 1916, let’s not forget the contribution, made by Cumann na mban and the woman of Ireland, through the dark years of the black and tan war.

Not only that, but it was Cumamn na mBan that, that stood unapologetically without equivocation, when counter-revolution broke  in 1922 and 1923, Mna na h’Eireann, Cumamn na mban, that refused to concede, to give ground, to the forces of reaction, the forces that were to do so much damage, and that done so much damage in this state ever since.

Let’s say it is not enough, necessary though it is, to acknowledge the enormous contribution of the past. It is imperative, not just to recognise and attempt to correct the injustices that have been perpetrated by ignoring, by sidelining,  and by discounting the contribution of the woman of Ireland and the woman of this world.
There is a great danger, by not affording total and absolute equality, to the woman. James Connolly, one of whose inscription, one of whose words, are inscribed on this fine monument, Talked once and described the woman of Ireland, as the slaves of slaves. That is an incredibly important phrase. To talk about and to think about, because as long as that persists, we are in grave danger and nor will we make the progress that it is imperative for humanity to make. As Republicans, as Socialists, we find it obnoxious, we find it intolerable that someone will be selected by accident of birth to become head of state. We are profoundly opposed to the idea of monarchy and to the concept of monarchy, to the idea that by accident of birth someone can be selected to have a position of importance.
It is equally and profoundly risky, dangerous, and unacceptable that an accident of birth decides gender. That will decide that 50% of the world’s population by accident of birth can be discriminated against, by any way or another. That in itself creates a mentality that tolerates, that exacerbate, that allows to persist, a notion that birth, an accident will give value or authority to someone.
On that basis the inequality that undermines society and humanity by some ‘accident’, you have a right to a greater share of the world’s wealth, to the world’s privileges. That inequality begins when you discriminate between genders and something that lies at the heart of so many of our difficulties, of so many of our problems. So many of the inequalities that lie in this society.
That is we aspire to that ‘Sovereign and Democratic Republic’ proclaimed on that Monday morning in Dublin 101 years ago, We have got to recognise, that sovereignty in a Republic, equality in that Republic is based on a recognition that there can be no discrimination, and there can be no entitlement by accident, by inheritance, And that begins when we understand there can be no difference between gender.
We have gathered here, to pay tribute, to recognise and to honour, the huge contribution of the woman of Ireland, the woman of the world, and Cumamn na mBan. When we fail to recognise that, we’re failing to recognise the essential part of a democratic independent Sovereign Republic.
It is around those issues that we must progress, where we find ourselves accepting and If we do not challenge the misconception, that Neo-liberalism, this evil that pertains today. That greed believes that some few have an entitlement to a majority of a greater portion of the world’s wealth, of its culture and it’s well being.  On that rests their entitlement, that has to be challenged, or we face incredible conflict.


It is relevant and it is pertinent and it must be challenged at its very basic, at the absolute outset. The oldest division in the world, between the genders. It is for that we pay tribute, for those who have stood up, who have stood in favour and solidarity against an ancient and most ancient of all discrimination. I will conclude by saying again congratulations to those we have organised today, who have decided in their wisdom to pay honour, long overdue,  a tribute so well deserved to Mná Na hÉirean agus Cumamn na mBan.