28 August 2008 Edition
James Crossan : 50th Anniversary
Republicans pledge to honour the memory of James Crossan
FIFTY years ago, on the Cavan/Fermanagh border, near Swanlinbar, James Crossan was shot and killed by members of the RUC. At the time of his death, Crossan was Sinn Féin’s Cavan organiser. He also worked as an IRA intelligence officer. Unarmed at the time of his death, Crossan was the last Volunteer to be killed in the IRA’s 1956-62 campaign.
Born on 24 February 1932, in Aughavas, County Leitrim, the Crossan family moved to Cloneary, Bawnboy after the death of James’s father in 1947. Active in the IRA’s Border Campaign, he was involved in an attack on the RUC barracks at Derrylin during which a fierce gun battle took place and an RUC man was killed.
James Crossan’s murder in 1958 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.
On the exact anniversary of his death last Sunday, 24 August, republicans gathered in County Cavan to commemorate James Crossan. A parade led by a lone piper and a republican colour party and featuring the Belfast Martyrs Memorial Flute Band made its way from Templeport Community Centre to the graveside of James Crossan in Kilnavart Churchyard. Ceremonies were chaired by Sinn Féin Leitrim County Councillor Martin Kenny.
Wreaths were laid by Councillor Pauline McCauley on behalf of Cavan Comhairle Ceantair Sinn Féin, by Pádraig McLoughlin on behalf of Leitrim Comhairle Ceantair Sinn Féin, and by Cavan County Councillor Charlie Boylan on behalf of the Republican Movement. A wreath was laid on behalf of the family by Oliver Brady.
Eddie Fitzpatrick, chairperson of Cavan Comhairle Ceantair Sinn Féin, read the 1950s campaign Roll of Honour.
The main speaker was Sinn Féin Dáil leader and TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
Pointing out that James Crossan was killed “within the jurisdiction of a Dublin government that cared little for the most direct victims of partition”, he said
“The RUC lied about the circumstances of James Crossan’s death but local people and the Republican Movement soon exposed the truth.
“We need not detail the events of that night here. Suffice to say that James Crossan was lured to the border in an attempt to abduct him and either intern him or convict him on trumped-up charges. It seems that when he refused to allow himself to be abducted he was shot in cold blood by the RUC.”
Ó Caoláin paid tribute to an Coiste Caogú Chuimhneacháin Mhic Manais/Mhic an Chrosáin, which set out these facts in a recent commemorative booklet. He paid special tribute to James’s comrade on that night, Ben McHugh, who, despite the trauma, which is vivid still, had recounted the events with great clarity.
He also acknowledged Seán Reilly and wished Ben and Seán “good health and every blessing”.
He thanked the support given to the commemoration by James Crossan’s nephews, Seán and Peter Crossan, and wished them and their brothers Michael and Gerard in England well.
The presence of representatives of James Crossan’s sister’s family, Oliver Brady and his sister Mary McCleary, was noted and good wishes extended to their brother Seamus in San Francisco.
The Cavan/Monghan TD acknowledged what he said was “the important contribution” to not only the organisation of the 50th anniversary event but to the struggle for Irish freedom throughout his own lifetime of Oliver Brady of Cloneary, Bawnboy.
“I have no doubt that James Crossan would be proud of Oliver’s commitment and service to the same struggle that James had devoted his all-too-short adult life.”
Ó Caoláin said internment and assassination failed to break the will of Irish republicans in the 1950s. The unionist regime at Stormont and the British Government refused to learn the lesson of this failure and, a decade after James Crossan’s murder, tried iron-fist tactics to crush demands for civil rights and national self-determination. Exactly ten years to the day after Crossan’s death, on 24 August 1968, the first Civil Rights march was held. Nothing would ever be the same again in the Six Counties.
Unionist leaders and the British Government once again thought internment and repression would force nationalists to retreat. Instead, it intensified the cycle of repression and resistance which was to last for nearly three decades.
The nationalist people thwarted all efforts to crush them and, when the time came for peace-making, republicans provided the leadership for the transition from armed conflict to conflict resolution.
He said no one should underestimate the enormity of the achievement of republicans in implementing the Peace Strategy and initiating a Peace Process.
He stressed, however, the urgent need for further political progress and the full implementation of all the outstanding political issues since the St Andrew’s negotiations.
Addressing those who have left republican ranks in recent years, Ó Caoláin said that each departure represents a self-inflicted wound on the struggle itself.
“We can win this struggle, that I firmly believe, but we can only win it from a position of strength. If good republicans walk away or we lose others, for whatever reason, we are weakening our struggle and setting back the achievement of our aims and objectives. If people disagree with our strategy or tactics or any aspect of policy, the place to debate and to seek change is within Sinn Féin.”
He appealed to republicans across Ireland to stay focused and not allow “the bigger picture become blurred by local or personal difficulties, to always hold to the certain belief that only together, in union with each other, can we hope to realise the all-Ireland Republic that we have pledged to achieve”.
He said republicans owe it to the memory of James Crossan and countless others to carry forward the struggle for Irish unity and independence.
“Our commitment is as strong as ever and our movement is stronger now than at any time since the treachery of 1921. Our goal is the same and we are, my friends, closer to that goal than ever before. On with the struggle and onwards to the Irish Republic!
“Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.”
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