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16 April 1998 Edition

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Strong and determined

Large turnouts at Easter commemorations



  We have come through a quarter of a century of the most prolonged and intense period of struggle ever in Ireland's history. And we have come through it strengthened and more determined than ever  
Martin Ferris

 

Antrim


Belfast

Spirits and numbers were high as the threat of snow gave way to unexpected sunshine as Belfast's Easter parade made its way from Beechmount to Milltown Cemetery. Apart from a diminished gathering of RUC jeeps outside Andersonstown Barracks, British crown forces' personnel stayed away while the people of West Belfast honoured Ireland's dead free from interference. It was very much a family affair, with children dressed in their Easter best, sporting the traditional bonnets and carrying egg-filled baskets. Bunting, flags, pipes, flutes and drums, it was as much a celebration as a commemoration.

``On Good Friday 1916 a Belfast Volunteer, Charlie Monaghan, came to my county of Kerry to further our quest for freedom. Tragically he died there on active service,'' Sinn Féin negotiator Martin Ferris told the crowd at the County Antrim Memorial. ``Today I come here to Milltown to pay respects to him and all the other Oglaigh who have given their lives for this great cause.''

With a tremendous turnout, speakers at the Republican Plot had to wait for almost 20 minutes as the parade continued to file into the cemetery. Despite the onset of snow, the crowd listened attentively as Martin Ferris gave the oration.

``There has been much talk of endgames and final settlements,'' said Ferris, ``[but] be assured that for us the only final settlement between Britain and Ireland, and among the people who share this island, can be on the basis of national self-determination for the Irish people. We have come through a quarter of a century of the most prolonged and intense period of struggle ever in Ireland's history. And we have come through it strengthened and more determined than ever. We have placed the failure of partition and British jurisdiction at the centre stage of Irish politics and high on the international agenda.

``The old system of unionist control imposed and sustained through discrimination, bigotry and intimidation has been exposed to the world and is damned forever,'' said Ferris. ``Playing the Orange Card and the exercise of the unionist veto cannot any longer be used to influence or intimidate political outcomes. An agreement that will bring lasting peace and justice must move us beyond partition.''

An impassioned plea by Belfast veteran republican Martin Meehan was made for the release of Tom Williams's remains from ``the dungeons of Crumlin Road Jail. It was the earnest wish of Tom Williams to be buried as an Irish republican. The National Graves have been at the forefront in negotiating the release of Tom Williams' remains. The continued incarceration of Tom Williams' body engenders anguish and heartache within the broader Republican Movement. Let's bring him home sooner rather than later.''

Lagan Valley


Several hundred people gathered beside the Bobby Sands Memorial in Twinbrook to commemorate local fallen Volunteers before joining the main Belfast parade. ``There are difficult days ahead,'' Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Ferguson told the crowd, ``our prisoners are still in jail, the Brits are still here, the RUC and Orange Order still want to march down Garvaghy Road and inequality remains the order of the day. We have a struggle to fight and this phase is no different from any other.'' The proceedings were chaired by former Councillor Annie Armstrong and accompanied by Lagan Valley Flute Band.

Short Strand


Rain, sleet and hail didn't put people off coming out to the historic first ever Easter commemoration parade in the Short Strand. A few-hundred people turned up to march around the district accompanied by the Short Strand Republican Flute Band. Tension was low despite the presence of the RUC .

After the march the crowd, which had grown, gathered at the local Sinn Féin Centre were the local representative Dominic Corr chaired the proceedings.

The national anthem was played then local girl, Laura Keenan, read the Proclamation. Another local girl, Caoimhe Arnold, read out the Roll of Honour from the area. Many people were seen to be wiping a tear as memories came flooding back. A piper played Memory of the Dead.

Sinn Féin Councillor Pat McNamee from South Armagh gave the main oration, saying: ``You here in the Short Strand are almost in the same position as us in South Armagh. Although the Short Strand is known for its isolation in the predominantly loyalist East Belfast, you are also known for the way you've defended yourselves. You are congratulated by everyone in Ireland.''

Armagh



Armagh City

One of the largest crowds ever attended the Easter Commemoration in Armagh City on Easter Monday.

Led by a 26 strong colour party, the parade made its way through the town centre to the Shambles and then on to the Republican plot at the cemetery. There were bands from Scotland, Newry, Lurgan and South Armagh in attendance.

The Commemoration was chaired by Sean McGinn and local Sinn Fein Councillors Noel Sheridan and Sean McGirr participated. The assembly was also addressed by a Volunteer from the North Armagh Brigade of Oglaigh na hEireann who read out the Easter statement. He reaffirmed the IRA's confidence in the leadership and dismissed the ``actions of detractors as mischief making''. He added that the IRA were determined to see this process through to its conclusion. The oration was given by Councillor Tom Hartley, leader of the Sinn Fein group in Belfast City Council.

Portadown

Several-hundred people marched along the Garvaghy Road to the grave of Volunteer Julie Dougan for the annual Easter commemoration in Portadown. The ceremony was chaired by Craigavon Sinn Féin Councillor Francie Murray. The Easter Message was read by Bernadette O'Hagan and the oration by Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Brown.

Derrymacash

Led by the Lurgan Martyrs Republican Flute Band, several hundred people marched to the grave of Volunteer Michael Crossey. The Proclamation was read by Sinn Féin councillor John O'Dowd. Bernadette O'Hagan read the Easter Message and the oration was delivered by republican veteran Joe Cahill.

Lurgan

Portraits of the Proclamation signatories were carried by a colour party of Sinn Féin Youth as several thousand people marched in Lurgan's annual Easter Parade. Led by Lurgan Martyrs Republican flute band the parade marched from Francis Street to the Republican Plot in St Colman's Cemetery. The graveside proceedings were chaired by Sinn Féin Councillor John O'Dowd. The Roll Of Honour was read by the brother of Volunteer Michael Crossey. Thunderous applause greeted a Volunteer who stepped out of the crowd to deliver the Easter message. The oration was given by Joe Cahill.

Cavan



Three hundred people took part in the County Cavan commemoration on Easter Monday. It took place at the impressive republican memorial outside Cavan Courthhouse which commemorates, amongst others, former IRA Quartermaster General Jack McCabe and hunger-striker and Cavan/Monaghan TD Kieran Doherty.

County Cavan Sinn Féin organiser Tina Tully chaired the proceedings and Sinn Féin Vice-President Pat Doherty gave the oration. He said that people in Cavan/Monaghan had set an example which others throughout the 26 Counties were now following. The party was growing and the republican message was spreading but much greater efforts would be needed for republicans to fill their full potential and that was to make as much of a political impact in the 26 Counties as they had done in the Six Counties. 16 local wreath- laying ceremonies were held throughout County Cavan on Easter Sunday.

Cork



One of the largest crowds in recent years attended the annual Clonakilty Easter 1916 commemoration held at the 1798 Tadhg an Astna Monument on Easter Sunday.

The ceremony was chaired by Sinn Féin Councillor Cionnaith O Súilleabháin, who welcomed the large attendance and expressed special encouragement at the large contingent of young people present. The Easter commemoration, he said, was in memory of all those who died in the struggle for independence from Wolfe Tone to Volunteer Diarmuid O Neill who was killed in England in 1996.

A wreath was laid by Leo Flynn and following a minute's silence Séamus De Búrca read the Proclamation.

Six-County chairperson Gearóid O hEara was the guest speaker at the commemoration. He drew analogies between the aspirations and convictions expressed in the 1916 Proclamation and those held today by republicans. Quoting from the words of the signatories he said: ``We demand equality, justice and freedom, and we will settle for nothing less.''

Derry



Derry City


A 20 ton dolmen of Donegal granite now stands sentinel over the Bogside and Brandywell, its powerful form a tribute the Volunteers of the Derry Brigade's 1st Batt which it commemorates. Hundreds of families, friends and local republicans overflowed the commemorative garden for the dedication. Every generation was represented, including parents of fallen Volunteers. It was sobering to see many Volunteers who ran about in the early `70s standing beside grown sons and daughters.

Moya Duffy, widow of Volunteer Patsy Duffy, whose 20th anniversary occurs this year, unveiled the Roll of Honour. Martin McGuinness, dedicating the huge dolmen, paid tribute to the steadfast courage of the Volunteers' families over the years. He also praised the dedication, hard work and imagination of a small band of local republicans responsible for creating a memorial unique in all Ireland. He singled out the contribution of Patrick Coyle, whose idea the dolmen and garden was.

``Dedicating this memorial to Volunteers whose initiative, courage, and determination began and saw through this key phase of struggle is particularly meaningful on this particular Easter Sunday,'' McGuinness said.

Easter Sunday's march in Derry was led to the Republican Plot in the City Cemetery from the Bogside by a republican colour party, relatives carrying large photo-posters of fallen Volunteers followed, then Sinn Féin cumainn with colourful banners and The Spirit of Freedom Flute Band.

At the Cuchulainn Monument, Chairperson Paul Fleming coordinated wreath-laying, then introduced Carmel Halpenney to read the Roll of Honour. Raymond Griffin read the Proclamation. As clear haunting notes of a lament played by Eric McGinley recalled fallen comrades, flags were lowered in silent tribute. Rosemary O'Kane read the Easter Message.

Recalling those who died seeking democracy in Ireland, Martin McGuinness stressed: ``Our commemorations are not a look back at the past but a spur to the future free and united Ireland which we are going to create.''

Referring to current events, he said: ``The republican struggle will go on until we achieve full democratic and national rights for all the people on this island.

``Our objective is to see an end to British rule in any part of this country. As was anticipated, this has not come out of this phase of the negotiations. But what is abundantly clear is that whatever arrangements emerge must be founded on justice and equality as part of a transitional process towards a sovereign and independent Ireland. That remains the focus of all our efforts.

``We have created the conditions for real change. It can be achieved now but only if we keep our nerve and maintain a strong cohesive nationalist consensus... Because we have kept the spotlight of the world on Britain's human rights abuses here and unionist intransigence, it is impossible for the British government to countenance an internal Six-County settlement.

``Anti-republican elements have had to face up to the reality that peace requires change. Any new arrangements which result from this phase of negotiations must be part of our collective journey from the failures of the past and towards a future of equals.

``Every effort must be made to get the agreement of northern Protestants and unionists in the constitutional, financial and political arrangements needed to replace partition; and the civil and religious liberties of northern Protestants must be guaranteed and protected.''

Acknowledging the ``huge gap of distrust between nationalists and unionists'' McGuinness stressed it ``must be bridged on the basis of equality. Unionists work on the basis that if you give nationalists equality, the Union is finished. I believe they are right. No process that excludes any section of society can hope to be successful. That is why the equality agenda has been one of our priority objectives in this process.''

Thanking those present (``the backbone of the republican struggle for almost 30 years'') for their ``courage, intelligence, determination, and support'', McGuinness concluded: ``There is much to be done. Let's go and do it.''

• The traditional march from Galliagh Co-op to the Shantallow Memorial took place on Easter Monday, and wreath-laying took place at the republican monuments in the Waterside and Creggan on Easter Sunday.

County Derry and Antrim



``The largest ever'' was how local people described the attendance at the Counties Derry and Antrim commemoration at the Loup. Over 1,500 people assembled at Ballyronan Road to make their way to the graveside of Brigadier Seán Larkin. The parade was led by the recently formed Dan Darragh Flute Band from Ballycastle. Spectators admired the new banner belonging to the Thomas McElwee Sinn Féin Cumann, Greenlough.

In her oration Sinn Féin Director of International Affairs, Bairbre De Brun said: ``As was done in 1916, we re-assert the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of her destiny.''

Earlier, North Derry republicans held their Easter commemoration in Dungiven. Local wreath-laying ceremonies took place at Coolcalm, Rasharkin, Dunloy, Kilrea, Glen, Lavey, Loughguile, Bellaghy and Cargan.

Swatragh


The annual Easter Monday parade in Swatragh was addressed by Belfast republican Martin Meehan and participants included South Derry Martyrs Flute Band and Dan Darragh Flute Band from Ballycastle.

Down



Castlewellan


Addressing the largest crowd at a local Easter parade in living memory, guest speaker, Sinn Féin talks delegate for East Tyrone, Barry McElduff paid tribute to those who had died in their pursuit of republicanism in South Down. The rally was also addressed by local Sinn Féin Councillors Frank McDowell, Paddy McGreevy and South Down's talks delegate Mick Murphy.

Earlier Barry McElduff had attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Downpatrick at the cross marking the site where Volunteer Colum Marks was fatally shot by undercover British forces. The short, dignified ceremony was attended by the parents and sisters of Colum Marks. Barry McElduff extended his sympathy to the Marks family and briefly spoke of his own grief at the loss of his wife's brother Volunteer Paddy Kelly, who died during the IRA attack on Loughgall barracks.

The parade at Castlewellan attracted almost 1,000 participants. Bands travelled from as far as Scotland and Belfast to attend but special tribute was given to Longstone band who attended despite the recent bereavement of one of their members. McElduff said in his oration: ``I remain confident that Britain's days of interference in Irish affairs are numbered. Until that glorious day arrives, the republican struggle goes on. Sinn Féin remains resolutely committed to full national and democratic rights for all the people of this island.

``All republican activists should examine this week's document in great detail and within the context of our strategy. The republican struggle has a tremendous history in South Down, spanning the centuries from the 1798 uprising, the civil rights campaigns, the mass and popular uprisings of the early `70 through intense periods of armed struggle and the prison struggles including the Hunger Strikes into electoralism and the Sinn Féin peace strategy. The struggle goes on,'' concluded McElduff.

Newry


In atrocious weather 2,000 republicans attended the Newry Easter Commemoration.

Among the banners was one depicting the 1798 martyrs Lowans and Cochrane

The oration was delivered by Derry Sinn Féin Councillor Cathal Crumley and the proceedings were chaired by Newry Councillor Davy Hyland.

Dublin



Easter Sunday saw a turnout of over 1,000 people at the main Dublin commemoration. A pageant, music and speeches were held in O'Connell Street at the start of the events. Frank O Laocha of Sinn Féin Youth read the culminating address, pledging the commitment of young republicans to continue the struggle for national self-determination.

The Volunteers Smith/Harford/Doherty Republican Flute Band led the assembled crowd to Glasnevin cemetery where the Easter message of Oglaigh na hÉireann was read followed by the Dublin Brigade Roll of Honour.

Caoimhghín O Caoláin TD gave the main address. He asserted that the proposed agreement would be considered by republicans subject to its ability to provide a ``definite transition'' to Irish unity. He said, ``be assured that for us the only settlement between Britain and Ireland, and among the people that share this island, can be on the basis of national self-determination for the Irish people.''

On Good Friday nine teams competed for the Joe Clarke trophy at a five-a-side football tournament organised by Dublin South Central Sinn Féin .

The victors of the day were the Oliver Bond team from the South Inner City who received the trophy and 1798 commemorative pins from Sinn Féin South Central representative Martina Kenna.

Kenna thanked all those who contributed. However, she slammed the surveillance of the matches by four Garda Special Branch officers. It is particularly aggravating considering that Gardaí have claimed they do not have the resources to hold drug patrols in the area, she said.

On Saturday the annual Easter commemoration held by Sinn Féin Dublin South Central was led by the Pollok Thornliebank Republican Flute Band from Glasgow and Dublin's Volunteers Smith/Harford/Doherty Band. Almost 300 people attended the march to Eamonn Ceannt Park.

The main address was made by Sinn Féin's Ard Chomhairle member, Councillor Joe Reilly who said: ``The present peace agreement must not block or delay the achievement of the national objective.''

Leitrim



Several hundred people lined up behind the Kiltubrid Pipe Band on the route to the cemetery at Cloonmorris, where the County Leitrim commemoration was held on Easter Sunday. Wreaths were laid at the graveside of Volunteer Jimmy Joe Reynolds on behalf of Sinn Féin, the Republican Movement and the family of the deceased.

The main address was delivered by Sinn Féin negotiator, Sligo Alderman Seán MacManus. He cautioned those present not to be swayed by the prevalent hype at the talks and stated that ``one of the major questions which must be addressed as we consider recent developments is whether these developments can transcend partition''.

Louth



Drogheda


For the first time in 25 years a member of the corporation, Alderman Tommy Murphy, attended the Easter commemoration at the Halpin/Moran Memorial on the Marsh Road.

Main speaker and Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly urged people to take the talks document as a whole and make a reasoned judgement.

Dundalk

Republican commemorations were held on Easter Saturday and Sunday.

On Easter Saturday wreaths were laid on behalf of Sinn Féin and the Dundalk commemoration committee at the Watters Brothers Memorial in Quay Street.

A colour party led republicans to the Republican Plot in St Patrick's Cemetery on the Newry road. The proceedings were chaired by Louth Sinn Féin spokesperson Malachy Foots. Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly paid tribute to republicans in Louth for their support in the cause of attaining a just and lasting peace.

Meath



On Easter Sunday a commemorative ceremony was held at Ardbraccen in Navan, attended by nearly 100 people. The chair was Lydia Cumiskey and wreaths were laid on behalf of the Republican Movement, Meath Chomhairle Ceantair, Sinn Féin and the Doherty/Delaney Sinn Féin Cumann. Séamus O Maithiúna read the Proclamation and Councillor Joe Reilly read the statement on behalf of the leadership of the Republican Movement. The main speaker was Brendan Curran from Lurgan, County Armagh.

On Easter Monday a wreath laying ceremony took place in Ashbourne. A wreath was laid by Mr Jimmy Lynch on behalf of Sinn Féin.

Monaghan



The annual County Monaghan Easter Sunday commemoration began with a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to IRA Volunteer Fearghal O'Hanlon in Monaghan town. The wreath was laid by Ballybay Sinn Féin Councillor Eugene Duffy. A 16-person colour party led two bands and a crowd of over 500 to Latlurcan Cemetery where the proceedings were chaired by Sinn Féin Councillor Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha. Sinn Féin General Secretary Lucilita Bhreatnach gave the oration during the course of which she said:

``I commend the tremendous work of republicans in Cavan/Monaghan in securing the election of Caoimhghín O Caoláin TD. The people of this constituency have given invaluable support to the Sinn Féin peace strategy. The team of Sinn Féin elected representatives here have led advances of truly historic importance for peace and justice in Ireland.''

In Latlurcan wreath were laid on the graves Volunteers Bernard Macartan Ward, Michael Kelly, Fearghal O'Hanlon and Jim Lynagh. Earlier 11 local commemorations were held at venues throughout County Monaghan. Orations were delivered at Clara by Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha, Carrickroe by Councillor Owen Smyth, Tyholland by Councillor Brian McKenna, and at Clontibret by Councillor Jackie Crowe. Newry and Mourne Sinn Féin Councillor Pat McNamee spoke at the Clones commemoration.

Sligo



A well-drilled colour party led republicans to the graves of Sligo's Noble Six. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Republican Movement and Sinn Féin by Philomena Smyllie, a niece of Joe Banks, and Dermot McNally who is currently fighting an extradition charge.

The main oration was delivered by Ard Chomhairle member Francie Molloy, who implored those present ``to do everything in our power to bring about a lasting peace. This is why Sinn Féin will read this document carefully and I ask you to do the same before you reach your decision.''

Tyrone



Carrickmore

``Ireland is Ireland. The Irish people are the nation and the national territory is all 32 counties, our islands and territorial seas.'' That was the message Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams brought to Carrickmore's Easter Commemoration: ``No section of the Irish nation can have a veto on the political destiny of the whole nation. The Irish nation has never voluntarily recognised the claim of the British government to sovereignty over any part of Ireland. Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh or the people of County Tyrone are Irish. Nothing can change that. And nothing ever will.''

Icy winds could not deter over 4,000 people who gathered at Carrickmore's Republican Memorial to honour those who have died in the struggle for Irish freedom. The annual proceedings attracted unusual media attention with the world's press hopeful of gleaning Sinn Féin's response to the talks document from Adams' Easter address. It was even carried live by CNN.

Praising the County Tyrone IRA, Adams said: ``Some may think that this is a provocative statement.. [but] when I pay tribute to the IRA soldiers, I pay tribute not just to their role when they make war but also to their role when they provide the opportunity of making peace.''

``The struggle for freedom and independence for Ireland has gone through many phases. We have experienced high points and low points... In 1998 we are at a high point where republicans are now a pivotal and growing force in Irish politics,'' Adams told an attentive crowd. ``The conclusion of the multi-party talks last Friday brought another phase of our struggle to an end. The next is one which will present many challenges for Irish Republicans, but I believe the impetus which we have generated will see us make further significant advances towards our goal of a free and independent Ireland.''

Appealing to everyone to study the talks document, Adams said the responsibility for assessing the document is on every republican. ``It needs to be considered, not through a unionist filter or an exaggerated hype by others, but in the context of our future strategy, policy and objectives. In other words, has the struggle been advanced. How can it be advanced further?''

The Sinn Féin president called on supporters to prepare for the June elections. It was a `disgrace', Adams said, that the nationalist constituency of West Tyrone was represented by a unionist. ``There will be many difficult times ahead,'' concluded Adams, ``but Irish republicans have demonstrated time and time again our capacity to overcome adversity and advance our struggle. Our task is to turn the vision of 1798 and 1916 into a reality. I believe this generation of Irish republicans will do just that.''

Loughmacrory


Three-hundred people attended the Loughmacrory Easter commemoration which was held at the gravesides of IRA Volunteers Gerard and Martin Harte on Sunday afternoon.

Proceedings were chaired by local Sinn Féin Councillor Mickey McAnespie and the main oration was delivered by chairperson of Sinn Féin Mid-Tyrone Chomhairle Ceantair Frank Ward.

Ward assured the assembled crowd that although the tactics of the Republican Movement had altered, the ideals and objectives for which so many Irish men and women lost their lives were still the dynamics at the core of Sinn Féin policies.

Waterford



A large crowd gathered at the graveside of IRA Volunteer John Cummins at Stradbally, County Waterford on Easter Sunday. Cummins was killed in an engagement with the British Army just a few weeks before the 1921 Truce and the West Waterford IRA Memorial Association has kept alive his memory and that of the other local Volunteers who died in the fight for freedom.

Pipe bands from Youghal and Portlaw took part in the parade and the flag of the Decies Brigade of the IRA was carried. Speaking at the graveside Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Mícheál Mac Donncha said:

``Everyone should should very carefully assess the talks document and the new political scenario. Judge on the basis of the ideals for which those like John Cummins gave their lives, on the needs of the present and on the interests of the future. This is not a final settlement; we must judge if it can be a vehicle to bring us to complete freedom, justice and peace.''
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