14 June 2001 Edition
Our day is fast approaching
Up to 400 hundred people gathered in bright sunshine on Belfast's Falls Road last Sunday, 10 June, before parading to the unveiling of a mural to Joe McDonnell, Mairead Farrell and Kieran Nugent.
All three were IRA Volunteers with ties to the area and all three will live in the memory of Falls Road republicans.
Farrell, who was shot dead by the British Army while on active service in Gibraltar was born in the area as was McDonnell who died in the 1981 hunger strike.
However, it was Nugent, from the lower Falls area, had the greater local connection as he was born and lived in the area until he was arrested in 1976.
As the first republican to refuse to wear the prison uniform and so start the Blanket Protest, his status as a republican legend was born.
Sunday's unveiling was carried out by Sean MacManus, the Sinn Féin Mayor of Sligo and Sinn Féin's Fra McCann.
Praising the efforts of Sinn Féin in last week's elections MacManus said that the party's successes, including its efforts in the Nice referendum in the 26 Counties, hastened the day of freedom. ``We should change the slogan Tiocfaidh ár lá, our day will come, coined by the prisoners, to `Beidh ar lá linn go tapaigh' - our day is fast approaching,'' he said. Representatives of all three families attended the parade.
After the parade, trophys were presented to the winners of three soccer tournaments held earlier that morning in honour of the three dead Volunteers. Over 100 hundred young people from the length and breadth of Belfast took part.
Michael Gaughan honoured
Republicans from Mayo and further afield last weekend attended the 27th anniversary commemoration of the death on hunger strike of Ballina man Michael Gaughan.
The ceremony, in Liegue cemetery, Ballina, was chaired by Killala-based republican, Michael Regan. Wreaths were laid on behalf of Mayo Sinn Féin comhairle ceantar, the Gaughan/Stagg Sinn Féin cumann, Ballina, Ógra Shinn Féin and the Republican Movement.
Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member and Mayo candidiate Vincent Wood spoke about Michael Gaughan and the development of the republican struggle:
``As I am sure you all know,'' he said, ``Michael was a native of Ballina who, like many of his generation, took the boat to England. Like many before him and since, he also took the fight for freedom to the land of the oppressor. His arrest, imprisonment and hunger srtike have now been well documented and together with his comrade and fellow Mayo man Frank Stagg, he is being commemorated alongside the 10 Long Kesh martyrs. All gave their lives on hunger strike during this phase of our fight for freedom. Republicans here in Mayo and throughout the 32 counties of Ireland know the names of Gaughan and Stagg and of Seán McNeela, who died in a previous phase. There are many who can remember the circumstances of his struggle and death at the hands of a Fianna Fáil administration in the 1940s.
``The 20th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes has led to comment and speculation as to what those men would be doing today had they been alive. As Eoghan Mac Cormaic, a Long Kesh contempory of theirs, said a few short weeks ago in a hunger trike commemoration event in Doohoma, what we can say for certain is that they would have been at the forefront of struggle.
``Struggle takes many forms, but what is common to all forms of republican struggle is commitment and stamina. We will need both to carry the struggle forward in the coming weeks and months. For our part in Sinn Féin we are contesting elections and building our political strength. That is the job of Sinn Féin. The IRA created the space for this political development by forcing the British and their allies to the negotiating table. Let us not forget that. The political situation is far from stable, the crisis far from over. The IRA is continuing to facilitate the ongoing peace process but it is up to others to live up to their obligations. We will have to see.
``Comrades, the end objective is the same, whatever the tactic. It is the same goal that Michael Gaughan, Frank Stagg, Sean McNeela, Bobby Sands and his comrades of `81, Fenians, United Irishmen and others before and since have held. Liberty, equality and freedom in a 32-county Republic. Tá orainn obair le déanamh go fóill ach bígí cinnte go mbeidh lá sin ag teacht.''
Hunger Striker TD honoured in Cavan
The 20th anniversary of the election of Kieran Doherty as TD for Cavan/Monaghan was marked at a major event in Cavan town last weekend. The H-Block hunger striker was elected on 11 June 1981 and hundreds of people participated in the commemoration on Saturday 8 June organised by the County Cavan 1981 Committee.
A parade through the town was preceded by a special mass for Doherty in Cavan Cathedral. Some 600 people participated in the parade. Banners from Cavan and Monaghan dating from the H-Block and Armagh protest period were carried in the parade, which was watched by hundreds of people along the route.
In bright sunshine, an open air public meeting was held at the County Cavan Republican Memorial, which bears the name of Kieran Doherty TD. Proceedings were chaired by the Sinn Féin Leas-Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council Charlie Boylan, who acted as Election Agent for Doherty in 1981.
Cavan County Councillor Pauline Tully paid special tribute to the role of women in Armagh Prison and in the campaign in support of the prisoners in that period.
There was a moment of emotion when Kieran Doherty's mother Margaret sang a song about her son, `Kieran's Song'. She and Kieran's father Alfie were presented by Charlie Boylan with a specially inscribed Cavan Crystal plate. A friend and comrade of Kieran Doherty, John Pickering, was the final speaker.
The main address of the day was given by Sinn Féin Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who was Director of Elections for Doherty in 1981. Referring to the suffering of all sides in the conflict, he said that ``because republicans have suffered more than most in the conflict, we recognise and sympathise with the grief of those on all sides. That understanding has deepened our commitment to achieving a lasting peace based on justice and equality, a peace which will ensure that no future generation of Irish people will have to endure conflict.''
Ó Caoláin said: ``Twenty years ago, 9,121 people in Counties Cavan and Monaghan cast their number one vote for Irish Republican Army Volunteer, H-Block Political Prisoner and Hunger Striker Kieran Doherty and elected him as their Teachta Dála. We gather today to honour Kieran and his comrades who died on hunger strike. They died for Irish freedom and we are here, stronger and more confident than ever, to complete their work in our day.
``The election of political prisoners Bobby Sands in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Kieran Doherty in Cavan/Monaghan and Paddy Agnew in County Louth dealt three crushing blows against the discredited and despicable British policy of criminalisation of Irish republican prisoners.
``Despite censorship, despite harassment by the forces of the British state and the 26-County state, despite disinformation and the opposition of the political and church establishments, the sound people of these border counties gave a resounding endorsement of the prisoners' five just demands. They expressed their desire to end the division of our country and they demonstrated their respect for the men and women who strove to achieve Irish unity and independence and who were prepared to suffer imprisonment and even death for the freedom of the Irish people.
``In that year of `81, the ordinary people of these counties and the prisoners whom they had taken to their hearts were pitted against all the power of political platform, press and pulpit. Kieran's victory was a people's victory and those who cast their votes on that historic day truly helped to usher in a new phase in the struggle for Irish freedom.
``And today, on the day following the historic reconquest of the constituencies of Fermanagh/South Tyrone and West Tyrone and the consolidation of Sinn Féin's hold on Mid-Ulster and West Belfast, we stand on the threshold of a new and vigorous phase of that struggle. The coming months will see this party challenge the collective might of the political establishment in this State. Yesterday's historic rejection of the Treaty of Nice by the electorate of these 26 Counties emboldens us to the task before us. This TD has never walked alone and following the next general election I will no longer be a lone voice of our cause in Leinster House. There is nothing we cannot achieve as long as we stand together. Comrades, keep faith in this struggle, keep faith in our leadership and we will succeed. Our day has come.
``It was republicans who initiated the peace process and who have sustained it. But it cannot be sustained without real political change. The increase in the Sinn Féin mandate in the Westminster election emphasises more strongly than ever the need for the stalling tactics of the British government and the Unionist parties to be set aside.''
Following the parade and meeting there was an exhibition on the H-Block and Armagh campaign in Cavan Town Hall which was visited by many people. Kevin Reilly (Belturbet) of the Cavan 1981 Committee compiled the exhibition. The programme concluded with a well-attended function in the Farnham Arms Hotel.