10 July 2008 Edition
Patrick McManus and James Crossan honoured 50 years on
HUNDREDS of people last Sunday took part in a commemoration for Irish republicans James Crossan and Patrick McManus, who were killed in 1958. The 50th anniversary was marked by a lecture, the publication of a booklet and Sunday’s commemoration which attracted people from across the border counties and beyond.
Patrick McManus, a leading member of the IRA, was killed in a premature explosion near Swanlinbar, County Cavan, on 15 July 1958. James Crossan, Sinn Féin organiser for County Cavan, was shot dead by the RUC, also near Swanlinbar, on 24 August 1958.
Last Sunday’s commemoration assembled in Swanlinbar and was led by a colour party and band to the graveside of McManus and Crossan in the old cemetery. Surviving relatives of both of the fallen republicans were present on the platform. The ceremony was chaired by newly-elected Cavan County Council Cathaoirleach Sinn Féin Councillor Charlie Boylan.
Amongst the honoured guests were family members of the Volunteers: They included Patrick McManus’s brothers Fr Seán McManus (founder of the US-based Irish National Caucus), Frank (former nationalist Unity MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone), Fr Jim and Myles, and sister Mary Kate.
From James Crossan’s family was nephews Peter Crossan and Oliver Brady, and niece Mary McCleary.
The first speaker was Cavan/Monaghan TD and Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
He said the best tribute to the fallen republicans was to continue their work for Irish unity and freedom.
The main speaker was Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister and Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew. She said in the course of her oration:
“The fact that we are gathered here today 50 years after their deaths demonstrates the honoured memory in which republicans the length and breadth of this country hold Volunteers Patrick McManus and James Crossan.
“The loss of these two young men in the struggle for liberation remains a painful legacy and has deeply affected this border community.
“Both were dedicated and committed men whose ideals of freedom and justice remain guiding lights to today’s generation in our phase of the same struggle. Indeed, their legacy extends beyond them and their actions inspired the next generation of republican freedom fighters, including the likes of Mairéad Farrell, whose mother was raised in Ballinamore, not far from where James Crossan was born, and Seamus McElwain, who emulated the guerrilla skills and leadership qualities of Patrick McManus and also held same position of O/C of South Fermanagh Brigade.
“Volunteer Patrick McManus, O/C of the IRA’s South Fermanagh Brigade, died on a lonely country road on the Cavan/Fermanagh border near Swanlinbar on 15 July 1958 when a bomb he was transporting exploded prematurely. A highly-respected guerrilla leader, his death occurred in the context of a series of IRA attacks across the Six Counties on the 15, 16 and 17 of July that year.
“James Crossan, the Sinn Féin organiser for County Cavan, was assassinated by crown forces on 24 August 1958. Crossan’s murder was the cause of some controversy, not least because he was unarmed and was killed by the RUC in the 26-County jurisdiction but also because many believed that he was lured to his death. As well as being a prominent member of Sinn Féin in Cavan, James Crossan was a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and was the last IRA Volunteer to die in the 1956-62 campaign. Like the many other Volunteers and republicans of their generation they carried our struggle, our hopes and our ideals through incredibly oppressive and difficult times. They remain for us an inspiration.
“A chairde, our people demand a united Ireland. We demand peace, justice and equality. We demand safe communities and the right to live free from fear and intimidation.”
“In the dark days of the 1950s campaign, who would have predicted the political landscape we find ourselves in today? All elements of political unionism are fully involved in, and committed to, power-sharing institutions that are locked into all-Ireland structures of governance.
“Both Ian Paisley and Bertie Ahern have left the political scene. The population of the 26 Counties, the only population in Europe to be given the opportunity to vote on the Lisbon Treaty, has rejected it decisively. Sinn Féin has undergone a significant reorganisation and renewal and republicans are facing forward with confidence.
“Sinn Féin’s vision of a united Ireland is a republic based on the recognition that peace, security and the democratic life of the nation are dependent on human rights – civil, political, economic and social rights. For Sinn Féin, ‘freedom’ isn’t worth a thing if it does not embrace these rights. Parity of esteem, equality of treatment and full human rights must be guaranteed for all.
“I want to encourage people, especially young people, to get involved. This period is a time of limitless possibilities, a time when change can be driven forward. The sacrifices of the past have unlocked the door to change and now as a people all that remains is for us to open it. All our objectives lie in front of us for achievement.
“Ní neart go chur le chéile, as the Irish proverb goes. I guess it could be translated as ‘Many hands make light work.’ Let us think about this. Those arguing against change are like King Canute trying to hold back the tide of history. Yet those of us who want a united Ireland, who want a better future for our communities, have a duty to get involved and ensure that this is the outcome.
“Bobby Sands, another patriot who followed in the footsteps of Patrick McManus and James Crossan, said: ‘Everyone, republican or otherwise, has their own part to play.’
“Irish unity is on the immediate political agenda. It is a realisable goal. Always together and with the memory of Patrick and James in our hearts, we will achieve it. Such a memorial is the only fitting tribute to their memory and their gallant sacrifice.
“Tiocfaidh ár lá!”
LECTURE AND BOOKLET
The commemoration was preceded on the previous evening by a lecture in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, attended by a capacity crowd. Special guests at the event were representatives from both the Crossan and McManus families.
The lecture was given by Professor Ruán O’Donnell, Limerick University, the foremost historian of Operation Harvest and the IRA 1950s campaign.
Ruán also launched the booklet produced by the commemorative committee, Patrick McManus, James Crossan and the Border Campaign. It is available from the Sinn Féin office in Cavan or through any party representative.