Monday, August 24, 2015

1981 Hunger Strike - inflicted a historic defeat on the Thatcher government

A section of the huge crowd

For a brief period the rain eased as we walked through Dundalk on Sunday but for most of the time it lashed. Thousands of brave souls, many soaked to the skin despite all kinds and sizes of umbrellas and coats, and led by relatives of the hunger strikers, walked the two miles from the assembly point to the centre of Dundalk where this year’s National Hunger Strike march and rally where held.
The talk of many was of similar marches in the past, often in similar cold and inclement weather, during the long years of the blanket protest in the H-Blocks and in Armagh Women’s prison.
Along the route the County Louth organisers of the event had arranged for some street theatre to remind us of other days. At one place there were women holding posters shouting slogans in support of the blanket men and the Armagh women prisoners; at another spot a group was shouting slogans against strip searching; at yet another a group of women were vigorously bashing the footpath with the cleanest bin-lids I have ever seen; others were dressed as Brits and RUC; and there were  still others holding posters in support of Paddy Agnew from Dundalk who famously won a Dáil seat along with Ciaran Doherty in the summer of 1981.

The Louth Sinn Féin team did a brilliant job of planning and organising and participating in all aspects of the event – although Flash McVeigh failed to arrange better weather. Well done to everyone who played their part.
Councillor Imelda Munster agus mise

Councillor Tómas Sharkey welcomed everyone to the car park where the event was being held and Councillor Imelda Munster was an excellent chair for the proceedings. Laments were played by Patrick Martin and the last post by Harry Bellew Jr echoed across Dundalk. The Roll of Honour of all of those who died on hunger strike in the last century was read out by Shauna McKee and Niamh Morrow and Donna Lawless and Aoife Archibald read two poems by Bobby Sands.
Ellen Maguire’s haunting voice carried across the huge space as she sang ‘Forever in my mind’ a song written by Christy Moore and based on a poem by Pierce McLoughlin. Ellen closed the proceedings with Amhrán na bhFiann.
When I stepped forward to speak I was looking down on a sea of umbrellas. This year there were more media than usual because of the controversy around the murders of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan and claims by the PSNI about the IRA.
Below is a transcript of my speech. While it had to address other matters it is primarily about the hunger strikers, their courage and legacy.

Remembering the Hunger Strikers:
“I want to commend and to thank the organisers of today’s event.
I also want to welcome all of you here to county Louth for this very special celebration of the lives of Bobby, Francie, Raymond, Patsy, Joe, Martin, Kevin, Kieran, Tom and Mickey.
Déanann muid cuimhneachán ar Frank Stagg agus Michael Gaughan fosta.
The men and women of Armagh Women’s Prison and the H Blocks, and especially the 10 men who died, hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Irish republicans.
Many of us today have known other friends and comrades who were killed during the course of the conflict.
Brave men and women who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom and justice and independence.
We remember them all.
Déanann muid cuimhneachán orthu uilig inniu. 
We are proud of them all.
Tá muid bródúil astu ar fad.
But the 10 hunger strikers are exceptional.
Perhaps it is because of the very public manner of their deaths.
Perhaps it’s because as human beings we are inevitably drawn to and inspired by those who are willing to sacrifice their lives, often in desperate circumstances, to save the lives of others and in pursuit of a noble goal.
Perhaps it is because we shared in the trauma and grief of the families who demonstrated enormous endurance and tenacity during those long difficult months.
Their indomitable spirit and selflessness stand out as an inspiration to us all.
The generosity and self-sacrifice of the hunger strikers, and the hard work and support of thousands of people across this island, inflicted a historic defeat on the Thatcher government.
Like the Easter Rising of 1916, it was a watershed in Ireland’s long struggle for freedom and against British rule.
The momentous election of Bobby Sands in Fermanagh South Tyrone gave the lie to the claim that the political prisoners did not enjoy popular support.
Several months later in June 1981 the criminalisation policy of the British government, enthusiastically supported and implemented by successive Irish governments, suffered another body blow with the election to the Dáil of Kieran Doherty in Cavan Monaghan and the election of Paddy Agnew here in Louth.
As well as the election of Kieran and Paddy, Joe McDonnell came close to taking a seat in Sligo and Mairead Farrell and others won credible votes.
All of this was achieved with little real organisation and no great electoral experience.
I remember the first poster I saw in Dundalk during that election.
It said: “Support the Prisoners, Vote Paddy Agnew No 1.” 
In every town and small village and sraid bhaile across Louth, there was Paddy’s face smiling down from telegraph poles, hoardings and tree trunks.
I have to say he hasn’t changed a bit.
Fianna Fáil and Charlie Haughey, who had thought they were on their way to another election victory, and who had treated the hunger strikers and their families so appallingly, were punished by the electorate.
No party has been able to form a majority single government in this state since then.
On Thursday we remembered Mickey Devine who died on that date in 1981 after 60 days on hunger strike. 
Mickey was the last of the ten to die.
Three decades later it is clear that the 1981 hunger strike, and its electoral successes transformed the struggle.
It is our responsibility to finish the work commenced by previous generations, and by the men and women of 1916 and the men and women of 1981.

Several weeks ago Sinn Féin’s hugely successful and popular re-enactment of the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa showed what can be achieved to further popularise the struggle for freedom, as well as to celebrate the lives of national heroes.
The Sinn Féin event also exposed the shallowness of the approach of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil and of their policies.
Léirigh ócáid Shinn Féin nach bhfuil Fine Gael Páirtí an Lucht Oibre nó Fianna Fáil dáiríre faoi seo.
Fine Gael and Labour can rightly be blamed for the implementation of austerity policies and the dire social and economic consequences they have created.
But there is no difference in policy between Fine Gael and Labour, and Fianna Fail.
They will not deliver a fair recovery but more of the same old cronyism and clientelism. 
A general election is only months, perhaps weeks away.
The Government says that a recovery is underway. 
If it is, it isn’t a fair recovery.
It is a two tier recovery that benefits them and their friends at the top, not the majority of hard-working, fair-minded Irish citizens.
Fine Gael and Labour will make one last desperate effort in October to buy the next election.
We cannot and should never take the electorate for granted but I am confident that citizens will not be fooled.
Sinn Féin offers a different way – a better way – to build a fair recovery.
It is our responsibility to win the largest mandate possible for our party and for a fair recovery.
The reality is that the leaderships of Fine Gael and Labour and Fianna Fáil long ago abandoned any real belief in the principles of equality and of rights contained in the Proclamation, or any commitment to a united, free and independent Ireland. 
Partitionism dominates and defines their politics. 
For them the struggle for Irish freedom ended with the Treaty and the Civil War. 
It ended with partition.
But Ireland divided never can be free.
So for us the struggle continues.
And Sinn Féin is in the vanguard.
Inniu tá an streachailt ag leanúint ar aghaidh agus tá Sinn Féin chun tosaigh.
For that reason our enemies seek at every opportunity to attack our mandate, to undermine the rights and entitlements of our electorate, and to undermine the peace process.
Like the men and women of Armagh and the H Blocks they seek to criminalise us.
They didn’t succeed in 1981 and they won’t succeed today.
The recent killings of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan have been opportunistically and cynically seized upon for this purpose.
Let me be very clear.
The killings of Jock Davison and of Kevin McGuigan were wrong.
Those involved do not represent republicanism. 
They are not the IRA.
The IRA has gone away.
That organisation, undefeated, took the momentous step in 2005 and ordered an end to its armed campaign.
It instructed its representatives to “engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use” and ordered its volunteers to take part only in “purely political and democratic programmes” and no “other activities whatsoever”.
None of the many alphabet groups that now claim the proud name of the Irish Republican Army have a right to that title. 
They have no connection whatsoever with the men and women who bravely resisted British militarism in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and who defeated Thatcher in Armagh women’s prison and the H Blocks of Long Kesh.
As we approach the centenary of 1916 there is no need, rationale, or reason for any armed groups whatsoever.
It’s time they called an end to their sham campaigns.
I have a similar blunt message for those who engage in a sham fight at Stormont on this issue in order to slow down or dilute the necessary process of change.
Those who threaten to take action against Sinn Féin in the political institutions have no basis whatsoever for this.
Sinn Féin’s mandate and the rights and entitlements of our electorate deserve exactly the same respect and protection as anyone else’s’.
And Sinn Féin will defend that assertively and robustly.
We will not be lectured to by those who have failed to honour their obligations time and again.
For our part Sinn Féin has kept every commitment we have made.
But today is about the hunger strikers.
On July 29th 1981 along with Owen Carron and Seamus Ruddy of the IRSP I visited the H Block Hospital in Long Kesh.
By this time Bobby, Francie, Raymond, Patsy, Martin and Joe were dead.
We met Thomas McElwee, Laurence McKeown, Matt Devlin, Pat McGeown, Paddy Quinn and Mickey Devine and Bik McFarlane in the prison hospital.
They all looked rough, prison-pale skin stretched across young skull-like faces, legs and arms indescribably thin, eyes with that penetrating look that I had often noticed among fellow prisoners in the past, and that Bobby Sands had described as "that awful stare, of the pierced or glazed eyes, the tell-tale sign of the rigours of torture."
As they smiled across the table at us we relaxed and were soon deep on conversation about the stailc, the campaign, the BGs position and the well-being of their friends and families.
After this meeting Bik arranged for us to go and see Kieran Doherty.
Doc was propped up on one elbow on his prison bed: his eyes, unseeing, scanned the cell as he heard us entering.
I sat on the side of the bed. Doc, whom I hadn’t seen in years, looked massive in his gauntness, as his eyes, fierce in their quiet defiance, scanned my face.
I spoke to him quietly and slowly, somewhat awed by the man’s dignity and resolve.
"You know the score yourself," he said. "I’ve a week in me yet"
He paused momentarily and reflected: "We haven’t got our five demands and that’s the only way I’m coming off. Too much suffered for too long, too many good men dead. Thatcher can’t break us. Lean ar aghaidh. I’m not a criminal."
"For too long our people have been broken. The Free Staters, the church, the SDLP. We won't be broken. We'll get our five demands. If I’m dead well, the others will have them.
I don't want to die, but that's up to the Brits. They think they can break us. Well they can’t."
"Tiocfaidh ár lá."
I never saw Thomas McElwee, Mickey Devine, Kevin Lynch or Big Doc alive again.
How do you explain the Hunger strikes? 
How do you come to terms with what happened? 
It can be understood only if we appreciate the incorruptibility and generosity of the human spirit when that spirit is motivated by an ideal or an objective which is greater than itself.
People are not born as heroes. 
The hunger strikers were ordinary people who in extraordinary circumstances brought our struggle to a moral platform which became a battle between them and the entire might of the British state.
We Irish, all 70 million of us across this globe are no petty people.
If our opponents, if our detractors, if our enemies want to understand us, if they want to understand our struggle, if they want to understand our commitment and our vision for the future, then let them come to understand the hunger strikers.
For the rest of us there is peace to be made, elections to be fought and freedom to be won.
As Brendan McFarlane sings in his song:
We're stronger now.
You showed us how.
Freedom's fight can be won.
If we all stand as one.
Comrades, let us always remember the Armagh Woman and the Blanket men and especially the hunger strikers with pride.
And let us move forward together as one. 
Ar aghaigh linn
Councillor Tómas Sharkey addressing the huge crowd
Former Hunger Striker Pat Sheehan with Paddy Agnew




Saturday, August 22, 2015

Remembering the Hunger Strikers - National Commemoration Sunday August 23rd

National Hunger strike March is on Sunday August 23rd. Assemble 2.15pm Bailigh at 2.15 to walk to New Inn, Newry Road at 3pm
1981 was a tumultuous period in modern Irish history and the 1981 hunger strike was a watershed moment from which all changed.
Thursday was the 34th anniversary of the death of Mickey Devine, the last of the ten republican hunger strikers to die that year. The following day marked the 34th anniversary of the election of Owen Carron in the by-election in Fermanagh South Tyrone which followed the death of Bobby Sands.
Tomorrow August 23rd Sinn Féin will hold the annual hunger strike march and rally in Dundalk. It is an occasion for remembering the 10 hunger strikers – as well as Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan - and reflecting on their courage and selflessness.
The elections which took place in 1981, including the June general election in the south which saw Kieran Doherty elected as a TD for Cavan Monaghan and Paddy Agnew elected for Louth - changed the shape of Irish politics. It also accelerated the debate within Sinn Féin on electoralism.
The intervention of H Block and Armagh women candidates, in those and other constituencies, and the refusal of the Haughey government to support the prisoners, contributed at that time to the worst result for Fianna Fáil in 20 years. Subsequently, Fine Gael and Labour entered into a coalition. From that point until this there has never been a single party government again.
34 years ago none of us knewany of  this. We were conscious of the history of hunger strike in Ireland and of the names of Thomas Ashe… Terence MacSwiney… Sean McCaughey... Michael Gaughan... Frank Stagg and others who had died on hunger strike. Bobby Sands and and his comrades knew that history also.
In his prison diary on the first day of his hunger strike Bobby set the context for it all. He wrote: ‘I am dying not just to attempt to end the barbarity of H Block, or to gain the rightful recognition of a political prisoner, but primarily because what is lost in here is lost for the republic ...’
Though the hunger strikers lost their lives, the British government lost the battle of criminalisation.  In the years since then Sinn Féin has succeeded in increasing popular support and political strength for our political objectives, including ending partition. We are about achieving fundamental political change and promoting the principles of equality and inclusiveness, and of a rights based society that are the heart of the Proclamation.
Sinn Féin is for building the republic that guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.
Bobby Sands and Francie, Raymond, Patsy, Joe, Martin, Kevin, Kieran, Tom and Mickey were inspired by these words. They resonate through the poems and songs and writings of Bobby Sands. They are a promise to every citizen on this island that they will be treated as equals; will be free; can chose their representatives; educate their children; enjoy prosperity and provide for each other on the basis of equality.
Writing on scraps of paper, with an infill of a biro pen he hid in his body, Bobby used the power of his words to rail against those who ignore injustice, and exploit and oppress working people.
Writing in his prison diary on the 11th day of his hunger strike, and paraphrasing one of his heroes James Connolly, Bobby condemned those who ‘bubbling over with enthusiasm (or patriotism) for his country, who walks through the streets among his people, their degradation, poverty, and suffering, and who (for want of the right words) does nothing, is, in my mind, a fraud’.
Bobby was right. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and to its shame Labour, have been in government in one guise or another for decades. Their tweedledee and tweedledum politics have failed. The political corruption and conservative politics that have dominated the southern political system have ensured, as the current homeless crisis highlights, the inability of the state to house all of it is citizens, or educate them adequately or equitably. In fact, in nearly every measure, in almost every facet of life and society – from healthcare, transport, economic development - the state has failed its citizens.  
Our collective responsibility as we are about to celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising is to finish the work that the men and women of 1916 and of 1981. That means working to build the republic envisioned by the Proclamation and the leaders of that time but suited to the needs of the 21st century.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Well done Féile


Féile an Phobail is the largest community festival on these islands – and the best in the world. This year it celebrated its 27th birthday. It was born in 1988 at a time of great hurt and conflict. It was one response by the people of west Belfast to efforts by the British government, and others to demonise this community.

It was evidence of our collective determination to demonstrate to the world that the people of west Belfast are a generous, humourous, talented, gifted and inclusive community.

Notwithstanding the concerns raised about the Frankie Boyle event the Féile was a huge success. For 11 days west Belfast resounded to the sound of ceol and comedy and craic. There were plays, exhibitions, sport, walks, and debates and discussions. West Belfast Talks Back in St Louise’s saw British Labour leader contender Jeremy Corbyn take part. The Ballymurphy Massacre families again organised a series of events highlighting their case and this year there was a focus on the next generation – the grandchildren of those who were killed - and impact of August 1971 and the actions of the Paras, on them.
 
Once again Féile succeeded in showcasing the talent and genius of the people of this part of the city. It is has now become after almost three decades a vital part of the social fabric of Belfast with something for everyone.

Despite a painful back I managed to get to quite a few events over its ten days. I would like to thank and to extend my congratulations to all of the staff, at all of the events, and to all of the participants, past and present who have contributed to the growth of the festival from its relatively small beginnings in 1988 to the massive community and international Féile it is today.
 
Finally, one event that I spoke at and found very interesting was the unveiling last Friday of the memorial mural to Patrick O’Connell on the wall of Sean Graham’s bookies at the junction of the Whiterock and Falls Road.

I had never heard of this remarkable Irishman until a few months ago when Danny Devenny told me that he and Marty Lyons were painting the mural. Unfortunately on the day of the unveiling Danny couldn’t be present as he took ill several weeks ago but best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.

Patrick O'Connell, who captained Ireland and Manchester United in his soccer playing career and later, as a manager, famously saved ­FC Barcelona from extinction during the Spanish Civil War, was a truly extraordinary individual. 

Despite his achievements, and more than half a century after he died, O'Connell is better remembered in Spain where he earned the affectionate ­nickname Don Patricio. His remains currently rest in an unmarked grave in Kilburn, London where he died destitute in 1959 aged 72.

Patrick was born in 1887 and grew up in Drumcondra, Dublin beside Croke Park. He was one of 11 children. He secured his first professional soccer contract with Belfast Celtic in the early 1900s in the Irish League, which was then a 32-county league and included Shelbourne and Bohemians.

This was Ireland before Partition. There was one Irish national team and in February 1912, O’Connell was called up for the first time. He was a centre-half. Ireland played England – at Dalymount Park. England won 6-1. Like many Irishmen since he later went on to play professional soccer in England.
 
But it was in Spain that Patrick wrote probably the most heroic chapter in his sporting story. He guided the Real Betis club to their only title in 'La Liga' and it remains a miracle how he transformed the second-biggest team in Seville into the best side in the whole of Spain.

And when FC Barcelona's very existence was threatened, after club president Josep Sunyol was murdered by General Franco’s assassins in the descent towards civil war, O’Connell rescued the players by leading them into exile in Mexico.

The money which O’Connell’s side generated by playing exhibition matches on their extended tour was lodged in a Swiss bank account, beyond the clutches of Franco’s fascists, ensuring Barcelona would survive to become the biggest club in Europe.

Sadly, Patrick died penniless in London in 1959 and for 56 years his remains have lain in an unmarked grave there.

The mural tells Patrick's story of heroism from his time of Belfast Celtic to FC Barcelona. It features 'Celtic Park' which is now the site of the Park Centre on the  Donegal Road and shows Patrick in his Belfast Celtic kit. Importantly the mural also reflects Patrick's courage during the Spanish Civil War at FC Barcelona. So if you get a chance stop off and take a closer look.

I want to commend The Patrick O'Connell Memorial Fund Group which comprises soccer fans from Ireland, Scotland, England and Spain. It includes Mike O’Connell, Patrick’s grandson, and Mike’s wife Sue who have spent many years researching Patrick' history. I also want to thank Belfast Mayor Arder Carson, Maureen O’Sullivan TD, and Cork Mayor Chris O Leary, Brian Wilson of Celtic, Fergus Dowd of the Memorial Fund, and all of those who contributed to the event.

The main aim of the Fund is to raise money to build a memorial at the London cemetery befitting Patrick's achievements. I also want to thank them for giving Patrick's story a new life. His story in part of the history of Dublin, of Belfast, of Barcelona and indeed of soccer in Ireland and Britain. It is right and fitting that we remember and retell that story and that we honour this outstanding Irishman.

 

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Celebrating O’Donovan Rossa - A continuum of struggle



The funeral cortege for O'Donovan Rossa moves through Dublin

In February Sinn Féin launched our national campaign to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. It was and is a first class programme which included a re-enactment of the funeral of veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
In stark contrast the initial launch of the Irish government’s centenary programme last November and especially of its 80 second promotional video, was widely criticised. It failed to mention the Rising, the executed leaders, or the Proclamation but managed to include David Cameron, Bob Geldof and the English Queen. The government’s programme also neglected to mention O’Donovan Rossa. The video was withdrawn and the government was forced to go back to the drawing board.
One consequence of this was that a new improved government programme, which I welcomed, was produced. It included a government sponsored re-enactment of the funeral of ODonovan Rossa to take place on the same day as the Sinn Féin event.
Some comrades expressed concern at this but most took the view that it was right that the government honour the memory of O’Donovan Rossa and it was a challenge to Sinn Féin to make the maximum effort to make our event a memorable and different type of event from that of the state.


Two weeks ago we succeeded in doing that. The official Irish state commemoration, which was attended by hundreds, was full of the pomp one would expect from government planned events. Consequently it was a rather sterile and stuffy affair.
In marked contrast Sinn Féin's full funeral re-enactment was a popular people's event. Thousands participated and many travelled from every corner of Ireland, north, south, east and west. Many also dressed in period costume. There was great good humoured rivalry between comrades over who had the best and most authentic costume.


Huge crowds gathered inside and outside the rotunda of Dublin City Hall where Rossa's 'lying in state' was held and from where the funeral procession departed.The atmosphere was electric with everyone, young and old, getting into the spirit if the occasion.
A stirring prayer was delivered at City Hall by Sligo priest Fr Michael Flanagan, played by actor Alan Keating, as two of O'Donovan Rossa's great-grandsons, Rossa Williams Cole and Williams Rossa Cole listened.


The procession to Glasnevin cemetery, along O Connell street, was a an amazing sight with onlookers enjoying the wonderful pageantry provided by the Cabra Historical society, which included uniformed Volunteers and cavalry outriders. Four splendid black-plumed horses drew the funeral carriage through the streets of the capital to Glasnevin. The hearse was flanked by 22 members of the Cabra Historical Society in Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army uniforms.
At Glasnevin Cemetery Mary Lou McDonald introduced singer Red Hurley who gave a stirring rendition of a specially commissioned song - The Spirit of the Gael – by Pete St John.
I welcomed everyone and remarked on the historic significance of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral before Edward Cosgrave gave the now famous and powerful graveside oration of Pádraig Pearse.
Three volleys of shots were fired by the Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army and the Cabra Historical Society finished proceedings with a rousing performance of Amhrán na bhFiann.


The Sinn Féin event showed what a real commemoration of the life and death of a national hero can and should be - no corralling of people behind barriers, no elitist segregation and no policing of popular pride in Ireland's revolutionary heritage.
The media largely ignored the Sinn Féin event or used images from it to illustrate the government one. Fianna Fáil stupidly went so far as to accuse us of competing with the government which is a bit daft given that the government had clearly forgotten about O’Donovan Rossa until they saw our programme.
The Sinn Féin event also exposed the shallowness of the government’s and Fianna Fáil’s approach to commemorating the struggle for independence and sovereignty. The reality is that the leaderships of Fine Gael, of Labour and Fianna Fáil long ago abandoned any real belief in or commitment to a united, free and independent Ireland. Partitionism dominates their politics.
They have forgotten or chosen to ignore the real meaning of Pearse’s famous remarks at the graveside.
“Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
Peace is not just the absence of violence it is the presence of justice. It is the resolution of those core issues that lie at the root of conflict and division in Ireland – the denial of national self-determination, partition and the British government’s continued interference in Irish affairs.
The Proclamation, with its demand for a republic based on the island of Ireland, inclusive of all its citizens and founded on equality and civil and religious freedoms and rights, is an embarrassment to a southern political establishment which long ago decided that ‘Ireland’ and the ‘republic’ were 26 counties.
For them the struggle for Irish freedom ended with the Treaty vote and the Civil War.
Of course, it didn’t. That struggle continues today. And the centenary celebration for 1916 is a reminder of the unfinished business of the Proclamation and the Rising. 

There is a continuum of struggle which today takes a different form from that of 1916 or of the Tan War or of the three decades of recent conflict. 
Whether in the Assembly or in Local government; or in the Dáil or in Europe or Britain; Sinn Féin representatives and party activists across this island, in neigbourhoods and communities in rural and urban Ireland, are pursuing a strategy which is about ending the union with Britain and building the republic envisioned in the Proclamation.
To paraphrase the Proclamation the struggle for Irish unity and sovereignty today summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom. We are those children. I invite you to join in this great historic enterprise.



Below are my remarks at the re-enactment of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral.

Ar dtús ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a ghlac páirt san ócáid speisialta seo inniú - daoine a tháinig ó gach cuid den tír agus daoine a tháinig anseo ó thar lear.
I want to thank everyone who has taken part in this very special event.  I want to thank our organisers and reenactors.
Especially Bartle and Mick and God who organised the weather.
Who was Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa?
He was from a family of tenant farmers from Roscarberry, County Cork.
In 1856, not long after the Great Hunger, he established the Phoenix National Literary Society whose aim was the "the liberation of Ireland by force of arms”.
In 1858, he was jailed without trial for 6 months.
In 1865, he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising, and sentenced to penal servitude for life.
He served his time in Pentonville, Portland and Chatham prisons in England.
His prison conditions were horrendous.
Infamously he was manacled with his hands behind his back and had to eat his food like a dog from a dish on the prison floor.
In an 1869 by-election he was elected by 103 votes for the constituency of Tipperary, but the election was declared invalid because Rossa was a prisoner. 
In 1870 he was exiled to America with other Fenians.
There he established The United Irishman newspaper and organised a bombing campaign in England known as “the dynamite campaign”.
He also organised a fund to support the fight against British rule.
Isn’t it great that this morning the Irish government celebrated this old Fenian and his activities?
Jeremiah was married 3 times and had 18 children.
He was in many ways a very active republican.
At the time of his death, aged 83, a new generation of revolutionary republicans were organising and preparing for a Rising.
They were determined to have Rossa brought home and buried in Ireland.
Rossa’s funeral mobilised and galvanised all sides of progressive opinion.


The funeral committee included 11 of the leaders of the Rising who were executed 10 months later.
They stood where we are standing today.
This afternoon we have with us people whose parents or grand-parents or other relatives stood here exactly 100 years ago. 
Fáilte speisialta do na daoine sin. 
Like us, they were men and women who believed in Irish freedom.
They were in the IRB, the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Conradh naGaeilge and many other organisations, as well as tens of thousands of citizens.
There were trade unionists, feminists, writers and artists, labourers, the working poor, intellectural and poets.
Their common cause was the unity and independence of Ireland.
At that time Ireland had been dragged by England into an imperialist war.
Even the most limited form of autonomy had been denied to us.
Partition was being plotted and planned by the ruling class.
But those who gathered at Rossa’s graveside resolved not to accept this, to protest, to resist and, ultimately to take on the might of the British Empire.
The funeral of O’Donovan Rossa was a prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916.
Today almost a century later we have many gathered here, like O’Donovan Rossa, who spent years as political prisoners, or were on the run or were forced into exile.
Fáilte mór romhaibh.
We remember also all those who suffered and died in the most recent conflict, including our patriot dead, some of whom are laid to rest in this cemetery.
We also welcome members of O’Donovan Rossa’s family.
We have with us also many younger people who, thankfully, have not known directly the terrible reality of armed conflict in our country.
Let us be very clear that the Peace Process and the political progress we have achieved were made possible because of the sacrifices of countless republicans over the generations.
Mar thoradh ar an bPróiséas Síochána tá bealach siochánta agus daonlathach chuig Éire Aontaithe ann.
Agus tá sé mar dualgas orainn dul ar aghaidh le chéile ar an mbealach sin.
It is hugely positive and progressive that we today can pursue the complete unity and freedom of the Irish people, by peaceful means.
And we are pursuing that cause.
Today is a reminder, as the events of the Centenary of the Easter Rising in the coming months will be reminders, that the business of Pádraig Mac Piarais and James Connolly and Constance Markievicz and Bobby Sands, Maire Drumm and Máiréad Farrell is unfinished business.
Some people in high places do not like to be reminded of that unfinished business. It is a pity about them.
The fools. The fools. The fools.
Our country is still partitioned. And Ireland divided never can be free.
We do not yet have a national Republic. But republicanism is growing, as never before.
The Proclamation has yet to be implemented.
Equality has yet to be achieved.
But we are living in a time of great change and great hope, and great potential.
Níl Éire saor agus Gaelach againn, i bhfocail an Phiarsaigh ag an uaigh seo. 
Ach bí cinnte go mbeidh.
Because we are as determined to move forward and as determined to achieve complete freedom as the men and women who gathered here 100 years ago today.

Bobby Sands put it well,

“There’s an inner thing in everyone,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a million years,
And will do so to the end.

It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,
It screams in tyrants’ eyes,
It has reached the peak of mountains high,
It comes searing ‘cross the skies.

It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might
It is ‘the undauntable thought’ my friend,
That thought that says ‘I’m right!’
Thank you Bobby. Thank you Padraig MacPiarais, and James Connolly. Thank you O’Donovan Rossa.

Thank You For Being Right.

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