8 April 1999 Edition
Best easter turnout in years
Adams says Agreement cannot be renegotiated
The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of this phase of the peace process. All other progress is entirely dependent on that. There can be no renegotiating of the Agreement. The various provisions of the Agreement are quite clear. The multiple breaches of the Agreement in relation to the establishment of the various institutions are well known and have threatened the entire peace process for several months now.
Around 3,000 people, the largest crowd in recent memory for an Easter Commemoration, thronged the middle of Dublin's O'Connell Street opposite the GPO to mark the 83rd anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The ceremonies were chaired by Una Sloan, Sinn Féin local election candidate for Terenure/Rathfarnham, who said that it was fitting that republicans should gather in such large numbers at the Headquarters of the Rising. She criticised successive Dublin governments for their refusal to commemorate the Rising in any serious way and pledged that republicans would never abandon the objectives of those who took part in the Rising, which as yet remain unfulfilled.
The crowd listened to traditional music from the platform by Stephen Leech and friends and a re-enactment of James Connolly's final speech by Dublin actor Jer O'Leary. The huge crowd then made the journey to Glasnevin cemetery treated to tunes by Dublin's own Volunteers Smith/Harford/Doherty Band and the Jim Larkin Band, which had travelled from Liverpool.
At the 1916 plot in Glasnevin, opening addresses were made by Lynn Gallagher of Ogra Shinn Féin and Seán Crowe, Dublin's 1999 EU candidate and local election candidate for Tallaght South.
Crowe predicted major electoral breakthroughs in the local elections in Dublin, where the party is standing 14 candidates as well as ``fighting for that radical, republican-labour vote that could bring us a seat in the European election''.
The main speaker of the day was Gerry Adams, who was given a tumultuous welcome by the Dublin crowd. He paid tribute to the IRA, which he said had shown great discipline in the face of provocation: ``One of the provocations- aside from the continued British army, RUC and loyalist operations- has been the demand on the IRA to disarm. This is something which the IRA made clear it feels under no obligation to do. Indeed the unionists have attempted and have, to a large degree, succeeded in narrowing the peace process to that issue.''
Referring to Sinn Féin's commitment to the transformation of Irish society and the vision and ideals of signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, he said: ``Irish patriots were executed in this city because of their stand for Irish freedom. By their writings and idealism, their courage and selflessness, they set an example to all freedom-loving people and for our struggle.
``Those who gave us the Omagh bombing have no role in this struggle. We have made this clear.
``We share the democratric position, the republican position, the position of the 1916 Proclamation on the national question. We stand with Connolly on this issue.''
On the Good Friday Agreement, Adams pointed out that Sinn Féin had made substantial concessions in committing itself to the Agreement but that these had been largely ignored by those who repeat a propaganda line that republicans have given nothing.
``We committed ourselves to implementing the Agreement and we have participated in the process on that basis and in good faith. This party has honoured all our commitments. The unionist political leadership has not.'' He pointed out that the only institution that has been set up in shadow form is the Assembly, which was the one least desired by nationalists.
Adams said that the Agreement, which is now a year old, is clearly in crisis: ``Progress in the search for peace has been thwarted by those who have seen the peace process as a party political contest or war by other means. They refuse to recognise the significance of the IRA's role in creating and maintaining the conditions in which peace can be established. Indeed, some see the IRA cessation as the `most destabilising development' in the North since partition.
``Last week, the d'Hondt procedure should have been triggered by the British government, but instead of the transfer of powers and the institutions which the people of this island voted for, we got yet another collapsed deadline and considerable doubt when- or even if- d'Hondt will ever be triggered.''
Adams said that Sinn Fein had no weapons to decommission and that parties could only move forward on the basis of using their collective influences.
``The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of this phase of the peace process. All other progress is entirely dependent on that. There can be no renegotiating of the Agreement. The various provisions of the Agreement are quite clear. The multiple breaches of the Agreement in relation to the establishment of the various institutions are well known and have threatened the entire peace process for several months now.''
Adams said that contrary to the spins, the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister made it clear in their remarks that the declaration produced last week at Hillsborough was not an agreement between the parties but a draft position between the two governments. ``The impasse remains, the institutions are blocked and the Agreement is stalled. The governments have proposed a way forward. They say that decommissioning is no longer a precondition. But decommissioning was never a precondition. Nevertheless, it was allowed to block the Agreement. If the governments are now serious, then surely that blockage must be removed and d'Hondt must be triggered.''
He said the way forward proposed in the government's declaration, as explained to him, may have merit, but that it also may be counter productive if it amounts to an ultimatum to armed groups.
Adams went on to explain that it was a source of deep frustration that unionist political representatives do not respect the democratic mandate of Sinn Féin and the democratic imperative of the Good Friday referendums and are not prepared to embrace the provisions of the Agreement. Despite this, Sinn Féin would do its best to remove any difficulties unionists may have and to understand unionist fears and feelings: ``We will do everything we can within our ability to make this process work. We will do our best to find and to ease the way forward.
``We have no wish to discriminate against you or to dominate you or to marginalise you, or to drive you from this island or to make you second-class citizens in the land of your birth.
``We want to go forward in agreement with all sections of our people so that we can all live in peace justice and harmony. That means recognising each other's integrity and accepting each other on our own terms. but it also means change.''
Speaking directly to republicans, he said: Sinn Féin intends to manage this phase of the peace process so that we emerge with real progress in the search for a just peace. We will come out of this phase strong and united. Let no one allow confusion or the stresses and strains, the tactical manoeuvres of the moment unnerve us or divert us from our strategic view of the future. The republican position will only be advanced by clear strategic thinking and by intelligent, disciplined activists building our political strength and working alongside our people.
The Sinn Féin president concluded: This is the last Easter Sunday of this century. It is my conviction that we will establish a lasting peace in our country. We will have unity and freedom and justice in our own land. We face the new century confident in our ability, in the strength of our arguments, and in the certain knowledge that we will shape the future.'''
By Caitlin Doherty
One of the largest and best-attended Easter commemorations was held last Sunday in Belfast City. As the crowd swelled at the rally point in Beechmount, hundreds more lined the Falls Road and the corner streets leading to Milltown cemetery. Many republican veterans expressed surprise at the turnout, which they reckoned to be one of the best of these past ten years - and there was a reason behind such attendance. Sunday's commemoration was
more than a traditional ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1916 anniversary and an occasion to pay tribute to republican Volunteers. In Belfast, just as across the island, the crowds gathered to hear a political message. At a time when the nationalist community is feeling increasingly concerned and angry at the lack of political progress, that message was clear: there is no alternative to the full and immediate implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Saoirse chairperson Martin Meehan and veteran republican Liam Shannon spoke before the Proclamation was read by Rosie McCorley. Sinn Féin national chairperson and Assembly member Mitchel McLaughlin then delivered a long political message in which he said the Agreement is ``clearly in crisis''.
``The hopes and relative confidence of many people comes mostly from the continuation of the ceasefires and not from any confidence in the political process'', said Mitchel McLaughlin. ``For the vast majority of people, the fact that IRA guns are not in use is of immense significance.
``They recognise the silence of these guns as a sign of the IRA's commitment to the search for a lasting and democratic peace settlement.'' He added that the unionists ``have attempted, and to a large degree have succeeded, in narrowing the peace process to a single issue''.
In relation to the ongoing murderous attacks of loyalist death squads. McLaughlin said: ``Portadown has fast become the Alabama of this island and the killing of Rosemary Nelson is the most savage and recent evidence of that.''
A large crowd attended the Easter rally at the commemoration garden in Belfast's New Lodge area, which was addressed by Sinn Féin's North Belfast Assembly member, Gerry Kelly.
About 800 people marched through Ardoyne on Tuesday afternoon to mark the 84th anniversary of the 1916 rising. Sinn Féin Assembly member Mary Nelis said that the problems in the peace process were not over decommissioning but over removing the causes of the conflict.
Several thousand people took part in the County Tyrone Easter Commemoration at Carrickmore, which was hailed as one of the best supported in recent years. Carrickmore was a sea of green, white and orange bunting to mark the occasion, which was attended by 16 of Tyrone's 18 Sinn Féin councillors as well as Assembly member Michelle Gildernew.
At the Garden of Remembrance on Omagh Road, the proceedings were chaired by Brian Cawley from Dungannon. The Proclamation was read by Lorraine McAnespie and the Tyrone Roll of Honour was read by former political prisoner Bronwyn McGahon.
To loud applause, a masked IRA Volunteer emerged to read the Easter statement from the leadership of Oglaigh na hÉireann.
Leading Sinn Féin strategist and Belfast Assembly member Bairbre de Brún delivered the main oration, effectively dismissing claims of a ```done deal''' at last week's Hillsborough talks.
``We appeal to unionists to enter into a new relationship with republicans and nationalists,'' she said, vowing that future Sinn Fein ministers would be effective, efficient, impartial and would ensure that unionists were not discrminated against.
The fact that the institutions envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement had not been establsihed, a year on, was a matter of ``grave disappointment''. The Martin Hurson Memorial band from Gortin brought the proceedings to a close with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann.
Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member and the party's Director of International Relations, Mairéad Keane, was guest speaker at the annual 1916 commemoration in Clonakility, West Cork on Easter Sunday. The ceremony was chaired by local Sinn Féin Urban District Councillor Cionnaith O Súilleabháin.
Keane said: ``For many nationalists in the north of Ireland, not much has changed, as they are still condemned to second-class citizenship. Sectarianism is rife and the brutal murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson illustrated that very glaringly.''
Castlewellan and Downpatrick
Speaking at Easter commeorations in Castlewellan and Downpatrick on Easter Sunday, Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Ann Speed said: ``Many of those who are blocking the political process are in the employment of the British government. They are in the RUC, many of whom are also members of the Orange Order. They are the securocrats in the British army, military intelligence and parts of the civil service.
``While IRA guns have been silent, Irish nationalists have continued to lose their lives, are battered, gunned down or assasinated by sectarian bigots who are aided by elements of the so called security services.''
The annual Wexford Easter Commemoration was held in Gorey, where the main address was delivered by Sinn Féin's Leinster EU candidate, Arthur Morgan. In his address at the graveside of Volunteer George Keegan, who was killed in Morgan's native north Louth, he urged republicans to organise and mobilise to take full advantage of the groundswell of public goodwill in the June elections.
Commenting on media reports that republicans are under poressure over the Hillsborough Declaration Morgan stated: `'Republicans are under no pressure. We have learned to live with pressure every day for 30 years and whoever else is under pressure we are not.''
Thousands of people gathered outside the Bogside Inn to march behind a colour party to the Republican plot in Derry's City Cemetery on Sunday afternoon for the city's annual Easter commemoration.
Wreaths were laid by the families of fallen IRA volunteers and the main oration was delivered by Sinn Féin Vice-President and Assembly member Pat Doherty.
Doherty pointed out that republicans have taken many risks for peace. He also attacked the stalling of the peace process, saying unionists ``seek to delay, dilute and, for some, that may mean collapsing the process''.
The thousands in attendance heard Doherty say that Sinn Féin's ``participation at the talks in Hillsborough over the last week are not about renegotiating or rewriting the Agreement but to see what was agreed last year implemented''.
Doherty repeated that Sinn Féin could not deliver on IRA weapons and vented republican anger at the unionist demand, saying: ``We are disappointed and frustrated that the elevation of this unrealisable demand has led to the missing of yet another deadline for the full implementation of the Agreement.''
Derry and Antrim Counties
There was an increased attendance at the annual 1916 Rising Commemoration at Loup on Easter Sunday. Hundreds of marchers assembled at Ballyronan Road before making their way to the grave of Brigadier Seán Larkin, who executed by Free State forces during the Civil War. The parade was led by the South Derry Martyrs Flute Band.
Proceedings at the Loup were chaired by Magherafelt Sinn Féin Councillor Séamus O'Brien, who introduced party colleague and Assembly member for Newry/Armagh Pat McNamee to give the main oration. McNamee paid tribute to Seán Larkin and reaffirmed Sinn Féin's commitment to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
Earlier in the day, north Derry republicans held their annual 1916 commemoration in Dungiven and wreath-laying ceremonies were held in Coolcalm, Newbridge, Lavey, Glen, Bellaghey, Cargin, Kilrea, Loughguiele, Rasharkin and Dunloy.
On Easter Monday, several hundred people attended the annual Swatragh Commemoration. Memories of assassinated Sinn Féin councillors John Davey and Bernard O'Hagan were strong among those in attendance. The ceremonies were chaired by Sinn Féin Councillor Patsy Grogan and the main speaker was Gerry McHugh of Fermanagh, who slammed as a sham the recent RUC ``charm offensive'' in the area.
At one of the best attended Fermanagh County Easter commemorations for years, over 2,000 people marched from Derrylin Cross to the grave of Volunteer Jim Murphy in Knockninny cemetery. Volunteer Murphy, an ex-internee, was shot by undercover British soldiers in April 1974.
The parade, led by a republican colour party and the Mountain Road Pipe Band, was remarkable for the number of young people who attended. Delivering the main oration, Sinn Féin Assembly member John Kelly from South Derry, who had been a prison comrade of Jim Murphy, paid tribute to his service both as a dedicated republican leader and as a campaigning civil rights activist who like John Joe Davey, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, was killed to serve the needs of the British colonial state in Ireland. ``Twenty-five years after they killed him, republicanism is stronger here in Fermanagh than it has ever been and we should take heart from this noble legacy.''
Referring to the present impasse in the peace process, Kelly reiterated that the core objectives of the Republican movement remain the same now as ever before, namely the attainment of a free united independent Ireland. ``Many gains and advances have been made and they haven't come easily. They have been painfully extracted on the wounds of so many of our comrades, men and woman volunteers who have given their lives, spent decades in prison camps and had their family life totally disrupted. We have pushed forward relentlessly on their wounds and we will keep faith with them and the immensity of their sacrifice.''
Republicans have kept their word and honoured all the commitments to the letter of the Agreement they signed up to. ``We can tolerate no renegotiation now either by stealth or veto or fudge. Councillor Robin Martin, who chaired the proceedings, concluded by calling for maximum republican unity, solidarity and discipline in the crucial weeks and months that lie ahead. Earlier in the forenoon well attended local commemorations took place at the graves of Volunteers Louis Leonard, Pat McManus and also Tomas O'Flaitile in Donagh, Macken and Enniskillen respectively.
The 83rd anniversary of the 1916 rising was commemorated in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim on Easter Sunday when over 200 people marched through the town behind the Kiltubrid pipe band to the grave of Jim Vaughan in the local cemetery.
Vaughan died on 25 December 1931 in disputed circumstances, following alleged ill-treatment during detention in Ballinamore by the Special Branch.
The ceremonies were chaired by Hugh Gallagher. Former political prisoner and Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Eoghan Mac Cormaic delivered the main oration. He said that the two governments must honour the voters' wishes and stop appeasing unionist intransigence by any spurious dissecting of the Good Friday Agreement.
This year's main County Meath commemoration was held at the square in Navan. Proceedings were chaired by local Sinn Féin representative Tony Cantwell and the main oration was given by Tyrone Sinn Féin Assembly member Barry McElduff.
McElduff urged local republicans to ``continue building political strength by reaching out both to those who are disaffected from established parties and to those who tend to vote for other parties but whose insinctive republicanism has otherwise survived''.
He wodered if ``the new patriotsim'' recently defined by local TD and Fine Gael leader John Bruton included concern for those living in poor housing conditions or those Irish citizens living under siege in north Armagh.
On Easter Saturday, a wreath-laying ceremony took place at the Watters Brothers memorial in Dundalk. The event was chaired by Sinn Féin Councillor Seán Kenna. Wreaths were laid by veteran republicans Michael and Rose Martin.
The main commemoration in Dundalk took place on Easter Sunday and was chaired by Sinn Féin candidate Kevin Meehan. The main speaker was Sinn Féin chief negotiator and MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness, who labelled the Ulster unionist demand for a surrender of IRA weapons before Sinn Féin's entry into the Assembly executive as ``unrealisable and unrealistic''.
McGuinness told a crowd of several hundred that that last week's Hillsborough Declaration had merely muddied the waters.
Accusing the Ulster Unionists of attempting to redraft and renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement, he said: ``It's not on, because that Agreement was endorsed through the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland.''
He said that Sinn Féin would be returning to the discussions on April 13 along with the other parties - but only to seek clarity of the meaning of the Hillsborough Declaration.
``We in Sinn Féin are resolute in our determination to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented as it was negotiated. This includes the resolution of the policing issues, the lack of an impartial judiciary, human rights and equality in all their respects.''
This year's Easter Commemoration in Drogheda was the best attended in many years, as hundreds of people made their way to the Halpin and Moran memorial on the Marsh Road.
The ceremonies were chaired by Sinn Féin local election candidate Ken O hÉiligh, who pledged to win back the Drogheda Corporation seat last held for Sinn Féin by Tom Halpin, murdered at the spot by the Black and Tans in 1921.
Maeve Healy, another Sinn Féin local election candidate, gave a brief hisory of Drogheda's part in the struggle for national freedom and reminded the gathering that it was in Drogheda where Gerry Adams lauched Sinn Féin's peace initiative in 1988.
The commemoration was attended by the Mayor of Drogheda Marie O'Brien-Campbell and several mebers of Drogheda Corporation. The Mayor spoke of the need to cooperate and for people to work together to achieve a peacful solution to the conflict in Ireland.
Martin McGuiness MP delivered the main oration.
A crowd of 200 assembled at Sligo City Hall on Easter Sunday afternoon for the Sligo commemoration. The colour party paused at the grave of Volunteer Joe MacManus before parading to the main ceremony at the Republican Plot.
The ceremonies were chaired by Chris MacManus, a Sinn Féin candidate in the forthcoming local elections while Donna Casey and local election candidate Arthur Gibbons read the Proclamation and the Sligo Roll of Honour respectively.
The main oration was delivered by senior Sinn Féin negotiator and North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly. Paying tribute to IRA freedom fighters, he said that they, along with many other political activists have ``reclaimed Irish history from the wastepaper bin of book-burning revisionists''.
He continued: ``Perhaps more importantly, the freedom fighters showed their courage not only in armed struggle but in giving political leadership in 1994 and 1997 in calling their ceasefires to allow the politicians the space to work out a peaceful way forward. The magnitude of this historical act has never been properly appreciated by unionism. It led directly to loyalist ceasefires.
`'The discipline with which the leadership and Volunteers have kept to their ceasefires is phenomenal, esecially when compared to the lack of reciprocation from the British and unionists or compared to any other current area of conflict in the world.
Adressing last week's Hillsborough talks, he said: ``When the two governments called an adjournment, we were against it. D'Hondt should have been triggered and the institutions set up even at this late stage. The truth is that the impasse created by the unionists remains. The institutions are still blocked. A political vacuum created by unionists unwillingness to move is deepening. History has shown us, and the last few months in particular, that such a vacuum has always been filled by loyalist violence. The savage killing of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson is a stark reminder of the price of failure.
On the declaration made by the two governments Kelly said: ``If it is or becomes a demand for decommissioning under another name then it is doomed to failure.''
The annual 1916 Commemoration in Limerick on Easter Sunday was attended by around 100 people. The proceedings were chaired by Sinn Féin local election candidate and chairperson of Limerick Sinn Féin Pádraig Malone.
Delivering the main address, Brendan Curran of Lurgan, County Armagh, said: ``The British must right the wrongs they created trhough involvement in our country. Our view is, as it has always been, that they should withdraw.
``However, they have a responsibility in the short term to ensure the full implemetation of the Good Friday Agreement. Under the terms of that Agreement, our mandate entitles us to two ministerial positions. Unionism wants to ignore that mandate.''
The Easter commemoration in County Mayo also marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Michael Gaughan, who died as a result of force-feeding while on hunger-strike in Parkhurst Prison, England. The ceremony was held at the Republican Plot, Leigue Cemetery, Ballina, where Michael Gaughan is interred with his comrade and fellow hunger-striker Frank Stagg, who died in 1976.
The main speaker was Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin, who said he was ``greatly encouraged'' that the challenge of the local elections is being taken up by Sinn Féin in County Mayo. He commended the Sinn Féin candidates. John Clarke is contesting the election for Ballina UDC and Mayo County Council, and Joe McHale is standing for Castlebar UDC and Mayo County Council. The TD said he believed they could achieve success:
``We are contesting these elections as the only real alternative to the politically bankrupt parties who have dominated local and central government for decades. We have the policies, the work
record and the commitment to bring about real change. The need for change is felt nowhere more than here in the neglected County of Mayo.''
Over 800 people attended the County Monaghan Easter commmemoration in Monaghan Town on Easter Sunday. The parade marched from the Fearghal O'Hanlon Memorial through the town to Latlurcan Cemetery. Many townspeople turned out along the route to see the parade in which two visiting bands participated.
The proceedings were chaired by Monaghan County Councillor Brian McKenna, who paid a particular tribute to the very significant youth turnout. Wreaths were laid on the graves of Volunteers Bernard Ward, Michael Kelly, Fearghal O'Hanlon and Jim Lynagh.
The oration was delivered by Belfast republican and Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Jim Gibney. Paying tribute to the Volunteers of the IRA, he said: ``We are proud of the Volunteers of Oglaigh na hÉireann, not just today, but every day. The reality is that without the IRA, the world would not know about the injustice of partition. Indeed, without the IRA, the world would not know anything about Britain's occupation of part of our country. Without the IRA we would not be facing a real chance of a major political breakthrough which will see an end to injustice in the Six Counties and ultimately an end to Britain's involvement in our country.''
Earlier that Sunday morning, a number of local wreath-laying ceremones were conducted throughout County Monaghan with orations delivered at Clara, Carrickroe, Clontibret, Clones, Corcaghan, Annyalla and Tyholland.
On Easter Saturday, a commemoration was held in the village of Inniskeen in the south of the county, at which the oration was delivered by Belfast republican Brian Keenan.
Several hundred republicans attended the Easter Commemoration in Ballymacnab last Sunday. The ``Nab'' was the first of three commemorations in the mid-Armagh area. At the Republican plot, the commemoration was chaired by Eamon Loughran from the Padraig MacLogain Cumann and the main oration was given by Fra McCann from Belfast.
McCann called for a full, independent, and internationally-based inquiry into the the murder of Rosemary Nelson. He backed this call with statistics of loyalist activity.
``Six years prior to the South African arms shipments, [loyalists] were responsible for the deaths of 71 people. In the six years after that shipment, they have killed 229 people, mostly innocent Catholics. The British Intelligence Service dramatically increased the killing potential of the loyalist death squads with this shipment.''
The second commemoration, at the memorial marking the spot where Volunteer Sean McIlvenna was killed outside An Port Mór, was a simple gathering of about 40-50 republicans. The Roll of Honour was read by Paul Corrigan from Tullysaron Sinn Féin and the address delivered by Pat O'Rawe of the newly-formed Sean McIlvenna Cumann, Middletown. She spoke of the inspiration given to today's republicans by those who had gone before: ``We are in a process full of risks, but that should not deter us, nor should we be put off when obstacles to real progress are placed in our way''.
The weekend's third commemoration took place on Easter Monday afternoon. The parade made its way down through Armagh city centre from Irish Street en route to the Republican plot at St. Patrick's Cemetery. Proceedings were chaired by Sean McGuinness, from Mid-Armagh Comhairle Ceantair. The statement from the leadership was read out by a Volunteer of Oglaigh Na hÉireann, who was very well received by the crowd.
Jackie Crowe, a native of Armagh and now a Sinn Féin councillor in Monaghan spoke to the crowd and said how pleased he was at the improvements in the Sinn Féin structures in the area. The main address was given by Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Féin's candidate in the forthcoming European Elections.
Criticising Ken Maginnis' much used phrase, ``the table of democracy'', Mitchel pointed out that in all the time that republicans have been at Stormont, neither he nor anyone else had ever found this so-called table of democracy and that he doubted that the Unionist politicians who rant daily about protecting democracy from corruption would know where it is. He added that the Agreement was in crisis and that the hopes and relative confidence of many people in the North comes mostly from the continuation of the ceasefires and not from any confidence in the political process.
``If the British government were not going to work with the agreement, they should have the honesty to tear it up,'' he concluded.
At one of the best attended Easter commemorations in years, about 2,000 people marched along with the Lurgan Republican Flute Band and a Portadown band. The large crowd heard Lucilita Bhreatnach highlight the ongoing problems faced by the people of the Garvaghy Road. She also spoke about murdered human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.
One of the largest crowds ever to attend an Easter rally in Portadown, around 300 people, turned up to show that their spirits will not be broken by the nightly loyalist harassment faced by the nationalists of Portadown.
The crowd, joined by two bands, heard Dr. Dara O'Hagan pay a moving tribute to her close friend, Rosemary Nelson, for her work on behalf of the people of the Garvaghy Road.
Her speech was very well received, particularly her reiteration of Sinn Féin's stance on decommissioning, that they cannot deliver IRA weapons.
A larger than usual crowd of 300 people attended the Easter commemoration at Michael Croffey's graveside. The commemoration was chaired by Shane McGinty of the newly formed local Sinn Féin cumann. How spoke of the need for Sinn Fein to increase their electoral support in order to solidify Sinn Féin strength particularly at local government level.
Two thousand people attended the Crossmaglen Easter commemoration.
The speech was delivered by Conor Murphy who spoke of the significance of the 1916 rising for modern republicans. He also spoke of the siege of the Garvaghy road as being symbolic of the rotten Six-County state. He went on to praise the Volunteers of Oglaigh na hÉireann and said Sinn Féin cannot deliver IRA weapons.
Something Completely Different
You could hardly believe your eyes.
As the colour party formed up, banners were unfurled and bagpipers tuned their chanters, a policeman stepped forward looking for the organisers of this Easter Commemoration. He smiled and congratulated them on a beautiful day and a resplendent turnout. He then produced papers outlining the parade route and where his officers would be controlling traffic as they escorted the hundreds of marchers on their way to Mass.
Children in bonnets, church bells ringing, swirling pipes and lilies on lapels as old friends and comrades followed the colour party and pipers into the chapel and onto the alter. The strains of Roddy Mc Corley, like a wall of sound, filled the cloisters as a five-foot Celtic Cross bearing the names of the signatories of the Proclamation was placed beside the pulpit.
Ireland was remembering its patriot dead and national pride and emotions were etched on the faces of the congregation.
As the priests prayed for a united and peaceful country, old soldiers with their young offspring doubtless recalled darker days of clerical damnation on their souls and their cause. The symbolic gifts were of Connemara marble, a potato, and a young girl dancing a reel. An orchestral rendition of the National Anthem reached a crescendo as the Proclamation was read from the pulpit stirring the priest into a clenched fist salute of Érin go brágh.
The entire congregation joined a soloist in closing the mass with A Nation Once Again before the pipe band followed the colour party down the isle.
Republicans were celebrating and commemorating with pride and pageant as they had done for decades. It was a communal affair. It was Newark, New Jersey, and USA.
Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?