On behalf of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU), I’d like to welcome you all here today, on the 95th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, to commemorate all those Irish Republican Patriots who died in Active Service and those who dedicated their lives to the struggle for Irish freedom. RNU is proud to hold its National Commemoration in Dundalk today and we honour all of those who lie in graveyards all over this Ireland who have given their lives to the Republican struggle.
County Louth has a long and noble history. The Megalith Monument at Ballymascanlan dates back thousands of years to the Ui Meith Clann who ruled this area and even defeated the Danes in 672. The legendary Cu Chulainn was born here and it is where St. Brigid is also buried.
During the Conquest of Ireland, the English Pale was created to protect invaders and their plans to extend their control over Irish life. As part of that expansion, Dundalk was fortified by high walls, castles and moats in a bid to protect English settlers from rebel Ulster. Scottish King, Edward The Bruce was killed in battle by the English at Faughart in 1318. English mass murderer, Crownwell used Dundalk as a base to attack the town of Drogheda and Ulster where his army massacared tens of thousands of Irish citizens across the country.
For the next few centuries, the town held a strategic position and controlled the passage north. However, Ulster’s Chiefs like Eoghan Roe O’Neill and his army fought a successful guerrilla campaigns against English invaders. During the Confederate and Williamite Wars, the same tactics were also used by Irish rebels.
One hundred years later, the first Irish Republican Rising took place under the United Irish Society. Their aims were radical and new, over 100,000 rose to break the connection with England. It was a short-lived and brutal Rising. Although, it began a series of events that would change Irish history. Scores of Republicans mobilised in Dundalk in preparation for the 1916 Rising.
After the Partition of Ireland, the new Free State Army took hundreds of Volunteers prisoner until they were freed by the IRA, who also took control of the town before moving south to Dublin. During the thirties and forties, the Port of Dundalk was used extensively by Volunteers travelling to England to take part in the bombing Campaign. In the fifties, people in County Louth experienced the tragedy of Edentubber where four Volunteers and a householder lost their lives. Dundalk, Ardee and Omeath hosted hundreds of Belfast families who were forced to flee their homes after the Unionist Pogroms of August, 1969. As they did throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, whenever Volunteers had no choice but leave the Six Counties. One such Republican was my late Father, who enjoyed great support and solidarity in this county after his escape from Crumlin Road Gaol in 1971. He was captured by the Free State Army after a lengthy gun-battle in early 1972, with British Troops at Drumgooley. The only casualty that day was a prize pig from South Armagh! He and his comrades were aquitted of involvement by a Dundalk Judge who fought on the Republican side during the Civil War. I can recall visiting Dundalk every weekend with my siblings and mother for over a year and have fond memories.
Although the past plays an important part in Republicism and informs us of our roots in the struggle, we also need a firm footing for our future role in the battles that lie ahead. Every Easter, Republicans march to graveyards throughout the country to commemorate our Volunteers. This was pivotal time in history, when Irish men and women asserted their right to sovereignty in arms, for national freedom and who gallantly faced the might of the British Empire in pursuit of an Irish Republic.
For the past two centuries, Republicans have been to the forefront of progressive change on this island. We have been the people who drove the goals forward of Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, James Stephens, Constance Markievcz, James Connolly, Bobby Sands and Mairead Farrell. In spite of executions, imprisonment, harassment and intimidation, Republicans have carried the flame of Irish freedom from one generation to the next.
Why do we commemorate the Rising? We do so to honour the sacrifice of those Volunteers because it revived the necessity to restore Irish soverignty. The brutal executions that followed the Easter Rising proved to everyone that Britain ruled Ireland with an iron fist which needed crushed. Those rebels captured went onto redesign the Republican Movement and in particular the IRA. Thousands of POWs’ were held in various prisons in Ireland, England and Wales. They and their supporters outside became the conscience which drove the Movement onward.
British Royal Visit
The visit next month by the Commander-in-Chief of the British Crown Forces to Ireland while six Irish counties are still occupied is nothing but provocative. It must be opposed by all right thinking citizens and we should join with other Republicans, Socialists and Democrats in organised protests to show our disgust.
Irish Republicans should travel to Dublin on the 17th May, where we can illustrate our opposition to the Dublin Government spending over 9 million Euros of tax payers hard-earned money on a Sectarian Head of State! While ordinary people are worried about where the money for their next mortgage payment or rent is coming from!
Although RNU is relatively young, we are rooted in history with equality as it’s very core. We are an entity in our own right. Our Network doesn’t claim to have all the answers, nor a blueprint for the future. However, we are determined to design our own contribution to Irish freedom, unity and socialism as defined by the 1916 Proclamation & 1919 Declaration of Independence. During the past year, RNU has made significant progress despite intense harassment from Free State and British Forces. Surprisingly, a few Republican organisations who should know better, have also attempted to discredit our Network through a series of slander and lies. We have proven them wrong at every turn, robustly defended our integrity and continued our project uninterrupted. Since then, we have formed Cumainn in Counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Donegal. We now have a presence in America and a large branch in Scotland. All our Cumainn from Derry, Belfast, Newry, Longford, Dublin and of course Dundalk have grown in confidence and comradeship.
RNU advocate political resistance to the British occupation and imperialism in Ireland. We renounce the Stormont and Leinster House Assemblies because they attempt to give Partition the veneer of democracy. We also reject the Unionist Veto over Irish reunification. The Belfast, St. Andrews and Hillsborough Agreements have not advanced social & economic justice nor freedom in Ireland. We reiterate our commitment to the 32 County Socialist Democratic Republic outlined on Easter Monday 1916. Our Network propose a return to core Republican values and principles. The Irish people have the right to national self-determination and RNU defend that right.
Response to Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein Leaders recently said that they couldn’t find the Republican Network for Unity and accused RNU and others of hiding away. Well according to Gerry Adams’ election papers, he now lives in Dundalk and here we are in the same town holding our Easter Commemoration.
How many times did Adams and McGuinness stand beside IRA Volunteers graves and invoke the rights of Irish people to resist British rule? Praised the sacrifice and patriotism of those Republicans who made that resistance possible. Those young Republicans who stood and listened to their lead, believed and were inspired to heed their words. As the case of Gerry McGeough proves those same Republican Activists can now be arrested and sent to British Prisons for actions that took place decades ago. Now, Adams and McGuinness praise those who make the arrests and send them to gaol in the name of the English Crown and encourage others to inform on them.
POWs’ & Cogús
At present there are over 80 POWs’ behind bars, who need support as do their families. Some like Louth POW, Micheal Campbell are held in atrocious conditions in a foreign gaol, we call for his repatriation back to Ireland and demand his brother Liam not to be extradited to Lithuania. RNU also demand that Lurgan POW, Martin Corey be released immediately. Martin had already served 19 years in Long Kesh and had his licence revoked at the behest of MI5. Just because Martin had attended Volunteer. John Brady’s funeral. The recent sentencing of Tyrone Republican, Gerry McGeough to 20 years was nothing short of the British State and the Stormont Elite exacting revenge for him publicaly daring to question the so-called ‘Peace Process’. There is also the case of Belfastman, Brendan Lillis a former IRA Lifer who was arrested two years ago in connection with a robbery and the British Secretary of State immediately revoked his licence. Since then, the Courts have said he’s not fit to stand trial due to his medical condition. Despite these facts, he is still incarcerated in the British gaol. Stormont and Westminster Politicians can change the name from Internment to revoking a licence, 28 day detentions but it is still Internment!
In Portlaoise, Political Prisoners are treated with a degree of respect, where they have a limited amount of freedom to organise themselves with the common goal of dignity. We send the POWs’ in Portlaoise our solidarity and support to their hard-pressed families.
In Maghaberry, POWs’ are still treated as common criminals despite the Special Police, Special Laws and Special Courts used to imprison them. They refuse to be strip-searched or humiliated in anyway. Until the POWs’ are treated with dignity they will continue to challenge British and Stormont attempts to criminalise them. RNU share the prisoners and their families concerns and are in daily contact with them, other Political Groups, Parties and Independent Facilitators to ensure that last August’s Agreement is implemented in full!
Today, Republican Prisoners will not be allowed to wear their Easter Lillies with pride outside of their cells. The Prison Regime has ordered a crackdown on POWs’ wearing a National Irish emblem which recognises the huge sacrifice our comrades made in defence of the Republic. Any visitors wearing a Lilly will also be refused a visit to the Gaol today. A typical example of the disrespect they treat honourable POWs’ and Republican families.
Recently, our POW Department adopted the Irish title; ‘Cogus’ which means ‘conscience’. It is the intention of Cogus to highlight the injustice suffered by Irish Political Prisoners, wherever they are incarcerated.This year is the 30th Anniversary of the H-Block-Martyrs and as such we should do our upmost to honour the selfless sacrifice of the ten Hunger-Strikers and ensure that all POWs’ achieve Political Status that these brave men sacrificed their lives for. The Republican Network for Unity ask everyone to redouble their efforts in supporting these men and their families.
At the time of the Easter Rising, imperialism controlled most of the world including Ireland. Now in 2011, our economy is directed by the Brussels and Westminster Parliaments. The assumption that you can squeeze health and education do almost nothing to create employment, lock the economy into a downward spiral and there will be be no social or political consequences is a fallacy. Instead of benefiting economically from the Celtic Tiger, working-class communities still endure high unemployment, growing deprivation and forced emigration. While corrupt bankers, failed Politicians and greedy developers continue to live in luxury. The assumption that RNU’s role is to unite the social and national struggle again, to expose the superficial political changes which have taken place. Our job is shed light on what is wrong in Irish society. Republicans cannot accept making the young, workers fighting for decent wages, those without adequate housing, students who cannot afford third-level education and the senior citizens who deserve proper pensions foot the bill! Our Network won’t keep quiet about the British occupation, oppressive laws to subjugate us, non-jury Courts, internment by remand, Plastic Bullets, Political Policing and the existence of MI5 on Irish soil. The only proper monument deserving of our fallen patriots is the realisation of the dream for which they died; a Republic, free, unfettered and independent from the centre to the sea.
As Padraig Pearse once said; “If you strike us down now, we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland, you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficiant to win freedom, then our children will win it with a better deed!”