2016,commemorating our revolutionary future.

Imagine sitting at home, in a cafe or a pub on a cold November day, the year is 1899. You look around to find your city and country is starkly divided by wealth and class, the homeless line the side streets, men, women and children. Low pay and unemployment is rife, the man on the street says things need to change, you agree. You open your copy of a ‘Workers Republic’ and notice an article written by a writer you’re unfamiliar with, James Connolly, James who? He observed that ‘The housing accommodation of the Dublin workers is a disgrace to the City, high rents and vile sanitary arrangements are the rule, and no one in the Corporation seems to possess courage enough to avow the truth, or to face the storm of obloquy which would be directed upon the head of the councillor who would take the opportunity to expose on the floor of the City Hall the manner in which the interests of house landlords are protected, and the spirit of sanitative legislation set at naught.’ Sounds familiar?  In August 2015 it was announced that the number of homeless children in Dublin has doubled within a year. The conditions of houses in the private rented sector are atrocious across Ireland. Today’s stories of dire conditions match the dire stories of the tenements of 1916, overcrowded houses, mould, broken heating, structural problems and evictions of families. Landlords who own multiple properties, year after year increasing the rent with no explanation or investment in the property. Often landlords move more and more people into the houses they own. Students, young families the elderly and low paid and precarious workers are literally turfed out onto the street losing all hope, now forced to sleep in cars, on friends or families sofas or floors or in hostels. Hope is long long gone for the unemployed or people with substance or mental health problems who are literally dying from the cold a stones throw from the seats of power in Leinster House. In this same year of homeless families, zero hour contracts and continually worsening conditions for Ireland’s workers we are expected to commemorate the 1916 Easter rising. A momentous, anti-colonial, anti-imperial revolt that was birthed out of the mouths, fists and guns of Irelands disenfranchised people, its low paid workers, its youth and its visionaries. This year we are encouraged to ‘look to the past’, to remember dead generations and what we owe them, to stare at black and white photographs and look at them as ‘other’, as a different time, different circumstances, almost a different people to ourselves. Instead of celebrating the ‘birth of our nation’, celebrate the visions and ideas of those who dared to dream and to speak and to fight for a future. Look around and see we are almost as far away from the vision of the 1916 leaders as they themselves were. Instead of commemorating a revolutionary past and a ‘proud republican tradition’ celebrate our revolutionary future. Connolly didn’t die for record numbers of homeless children,  zero hour contracts and so corporations could exploit tax loopholes. Markievicz didn’t fight so women could die for lack of abortion legislation. Pearse would turn in his grave at the idea of Ireland’s elderly afraid to turn on taps for fear of  not being able to pay water charges. McDonagh didnt take up a gun so hospitals could be overcrowded, nurses overworked and under paid and so the terminally ill could have their medical cards revoked at the behest of foreign and domestic bond holders. Over the last few years our political leaders have driven us further away from the vision of 1916 then ever before, the political and financial elite, landlords and bondholders have created the very conditions that the 1916 uprising was born out of. 2016 should be about imagining our bright future, imagining that vision of 1916, of cherishing all the nation of the children equally and the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland. It should be about imagining that vision and seizing it, organising around it and building it. There is a world to win, and a revolutionary republic still to be built.