The Funeral of Seamus Costello:
The Oration They Would Not Report

(originally published in An Camcheachta/The Starry Plough,
the official newspaper of the IRSP, October 1977)

Táimid anseo inniu chun Séamas O Coistealbha, an laoch is tábhachtai i nGluaiseacht na Poblachta len ár linn féin a adhlacadh. Is fear é bheith chomh cáiliúil i stair na hÉireann amach anseo is atá Séamas O Conghaile inniu. Is fear e a chaith a shaol ar fad ag iarraidh aidhmeanna an Chonghailaigh a chur i gcrích. Thuig sé freisin gúrbh cuid an-bhunúsach den choibhlint seo an troid ar son saoirse cultúrtha in Éireann. Gaeil den scoth ab ea é, fear a chaith a shaol ar fad ag obair ar son cosmhuintir na tíre seo. Sheas sé leis na feirimeoirí beaga, leis na hiascairí agus le lucht oibre na cathrach. Thuig sé a gcuid fadhbanna mar ba díobh féin é. Rinne sé gach ab fhéidir leis, d'úsaid sé gach modh oibre a raibh gá leis, chun saoirse na tíre seo a bhaint amach. Tá sé ar lár anois agus is cailliúnt gan áireamh do phobal na tíre é.


Seamus Costello exhibited a greatness of the same order as James Connolly. His energy, his intelligence, accuracy and thoroughness, his humour, quickness, and decisiveness, made him an outstanding mind and personality in this generation of Irishmen. He was both a thinker and a man of action But he was also a man of deep concern and humanity based on that affectionate nature that he shared with his wife Maeliosa and children Caoilfionn, Fionan, Aoibbin, Ronan. He saw clear and far, and dared greatly. He dared to take up the unfinished task of James Connolly.

Singlehandedly, as Republicans and Socialists all around him deviated into reformism and one sided concentration on the class or the national struggle, Seamus Costello gave clear leadership on the unity of the anti-imperialist and socialist struggle and on the need for a revolutionary approach. As Noel Browne wrote about the conference in Boston a year ago where Seamus made such an impression:

    "Seamus Costello spoke for the IRSP and gave a scintillating display of good humour, history, politics and facts.... I've never heard his brand of Republicanism before... Is it not a triumph for our radio, TV and newspapers and of the venomous Dublin political denigration machine that none of us has ever read, heard of or seen this man's remarkable dialectical skill and political ability."

Seamus did not court the establishment which promotes shallow pretentious mediocrities like Conor Cruise O'Brien. He had the socialist vision: "We are nothing and we shall be everything" which the establishment recognises and fears. The establishment responded by the State conspiracy to destroy the Republican Socialist movement by torture, frame-up and perjury. During the tortures, as the STARRY PLOUGH front page reminded readers on the day that Seamus was murdered Special Branch detectives made it clear that they wanted "something on that man Costello". The farcical trial is still dragging its repressive length along; and the same repression is now being used on the IRSP in England. Clearly Seamus Costello like James Connolly in his day was the single greatest threat to British imperialist interests in Ireland. This became clear to Noel Browne at Boston as he wrote: "They will have to shoot him, or to jail him, or get out of his way, but they certainly won't stop him. Costello the revolutionary Marxist Socialist whose ambition is a secular, pluralist united Socialist Republic, won't go away until he gets it."


Seamus's socialism was profound and practical. He came from farming background and he always championed the rights of the working farmer. The day before he was shot he was arguing at a Wicklow Agricultural meeting for the re-distribution of large ranching estates among small farmers to make their holdings viable and save them from the destruction the EEC is planning for them. He had total faith in the working class and owed allegiance only them. He spoke in the accents of the people, and the workers and small farmers of Bray and of every part of Ireland and above all the working class of Dublin knew him as one of their own.

He was militantly proud of his ITGWU badge, and of his Presidency of the Bray Trades Council. His Republicanism and his Socialism were not two competing strands, but an authentic unity. He saw the interrelationship of the class and the national struggle as no-one in Ireland since Connolly had done. He thought for a while this vision could be attained by the Official Republican Movement, until he saw them abandon the anti-imperialist national struggle and turn to social reformism.


He never allowed the national question to take up all his time, or warp his judgment, or make him soft on native capitalism or its political parties His life was motivated by a burning sense of justice and he seethed with indignation at the injustices and monumental stupidities of capitalist society in Ireland and on the world scale. He fought relentlessly, imperiously, against oppression of all forms of national oppression, wage-slavery, unemployment, slum housing, starvation, criminally inadequate social services. Like James Connolly, he was a revolutionary; which means simply that he was a fighter, relentless, intelligent, principled and skillful. He took big chances, and thoroughly utilised all resources. He fought to win, not to compromise. He could not be bought, he could not be conned, and he could not be intimidated. But he economised effort, and was not unduly discouraged by setbacks, but pressed on. He was in the tradition of Fintan Lalor, who wrote "Against robber-rights I will fight to their destruction or my own."


He was not only a political fighter. He was a great soldier. He always asserted and played his part in ensuring the right of the Irish people to use force of arms to achieve freedom from foreign domination. He could not see the British Army oppress the Irish people without attacking it decisively and tellingly. He fought, was wounded and interned in the '50's campaign, and he did not lay down his weapons. For years he was in the leadership of the Republican Movement He earned the respect and fear of his enemies, who put him on the British agent Littlejohn's assassination list. Like Connolly he had to a supreme degree the military virtue of courage. He lived openly and held his head high.


But he was a volunteer soldier of the people. He was not a military elitist, but a believer in the self liberation of the Irish people by mass political activity. As a soldier of the people he was a genuine man of peace, unlike the mercenary "Peace" Movement which exists only to encourage Irish people to be informers to their British oppressors. As he said at Crossbarry in Co. Cork in March 1976, "We want to build a society where our children can live in peace and prosperity, a society where they will control the wealth of this country."


Since his war was only against the oppressor, he was a dedicated peace-maker between anti-imperialists. At Crossbarry he said "Petty differences and recriminations must be forgotten and the necessary leadership given to the Irish people. No republican or socialist can afford to allow himself to be manipulated into creating disunity in the anti-imperialist forces." After the assassination attempt on him at Waterford in 1975 he was asked what should be done if he were ever assassinated not by the British but by fellow-lrishmen and he answered typically: "No reprisals: not one death".

He dedicated his life to anti-imperialist unity and the linking of the class and national struggles in Ireland. He never refused to talk with anyone in the principled pursuit of his goal. He never ceased to make strenuous efforts to reach agreement on joint action with the Officials, even though they had tried to violently suppress the IRSP, or to develop possible structures of anti-imperialist unity. But as he made clear in the first edition of the STARRY PLOUGH in April 1975 he would not consider unprincipled alliances or overtures. He criticised the current attempts at unity with Loyalists in opposing the Belfast Ring Road "We feel", he said,"that the approach to the Loyalists must be an honest one and that we must explain to them... that we are opposed to the British presence in Ireland... because we regard it as the principle means of dividing the Protestant and Catholic working class and because we regard the British presence in Ireland as the principle obstacle preventing the emergence of class politics in Ireland".

He compared what he called "Ring Road Socialists" who try to convince people that they are not Republicans and not Socialists, with "the people in Belfast in 1913 whom Connolly described as 'gas and water socialists' ". On such anti-imperialist and socialist grounds he rejected the idea of an independent Ulster put forward at the Boston conference, and he maintained to the end of his life that such an imperialist solution to "he Irish question" was counter to Republican Socialism.


That Seamus Costello was an international socialist whose aim was ultimately to remove the scourge of capitalism from all the suffering people of the world is movingly expressed in the many telegrams to the IRSP from socialists the world over.

D'oibrigh Séamas O'Coistealbha ar son saoirse polaitíochta, eacnamaíochta agus cultúrtha na tíre seo Anois, ant-ómós is mó gur féidir a thabhairt dó ná leanacht leis an saothar ar chaith seisean a shaol ar fad ag obair ar a shon. Dearbhaímid anseo inniu go bhfuil sé i gceist againn leannacht leis an obair seo.

Tá saoirse na tíre seo le baint amach fós. Ní éireoidh le rialtas na Breataine ná le rialtas an tSaor Stáit saoirse a cheilt ar mhuintir na hÉireann go deo. Tá laochra againn atá sásta maireachtáil nó bás a fháil ar son na saoirse sin. Ba dhuine des na laochra sin Séamas O Coisdealbha. Denaimid comhbhrón ó chroí lena mhuintir agus le popal uile na tíre ar angcailliúint uafasach seo. I measc Laochra na hEireann go raibh a ainm.


To-day we lay to rest a great Irish Republican Socialist. To know him was a privilege. To call him comrade was an honour. To be associated with him was to be inspired by his greatness, and to learn new dimensions of human possibilities. But the greatest lessons we have learned from our great leader are rationality and persistence. And in the spirit of Seamus Costello his organisation will go on striking at imperialism and preparing the Irish people to take their part in the liberation of mankind.