24 April 2003 Edition
Marking the unbroken struggle
A drum rolls and the flags lower, earnest faces of a colour party focused on moving in unison, wreaths solemnly laid and the Proclamation read with purpose, all framed by the gentle applause of the hushed crowd. This was a scene repeated across Ireland this week as republicans gathered to mark the 87th anniversary of the Easter Rising and to honour all of those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom.
There is no doubting the solemnity and importance of these commemorations but in a rapidly changing Ireland they have become much more important and provide us with a link between our pasts and the uncertain, unknown future.
The Ireland of today is a vastly different backdrop for the Easter commemorations. This is not just in terms of the changes from the past but also in terms of the experiences of those living right now in different parts of the island. Some of the events may be only miles apart, but for those who have gathered for Easter commemorations, the factors that make them republican and the experience of developing republican politics is often hugely different. So who were the republicans who gathered last weekend across Ireland to mark the Easter rising?
LeitrimThe walk to Bornacoola cemetery and the grave of Jimmy Joe Reynolds was at an easy pace, partially because the local colour party and Kiltubrid pipe band were setting a firm but unchanging pace but also because of the amount of buggies being pushed with small children skipping alongside as adults mingled some chatting quietly.
When just two hours before you were rushing through Dublin's suburbs, landing in Leitrim is a sea change and a refreshing one at that.
The pace of life in rural Ireland seems to have its own internal clock and what was at one minute a lonely T-junction with a front room pub became in a matter of minutes a busy hive filled with cars, a band tuning up and a relaxed colour party expectantly shuffling from foot to foot.
Everyone seemed to know each other, judging from the amount of nods, waves and nick named greetings.
The familiarity of republicans in Dublin, while having the same depth, is more quietly acknowledged and a lot less city republicans have cars than our rural comrades!
Jimmy Joe Reynolds died in 1938 when a mine he was working on prematurely exploded. And it was by his family grave with some of his descendents present that we marked the Easter rising. Leitrim also claims, in Sean MacDiarmada, its own Proclamation signatory.
Maybe it's just a Dublin fixation with the difference between city and country, but the landscape of Leitrim draws your attention. Partially it's the way it has been bypassed by much of the industry of farming. Rush-filled fields were scattered among the more lush pastures in a patchwork of small meadows. Few hedgerows are ripped from the soil here to make way for intensive farming.
Then there were my travelling companions, only too willing to indulge questions about cattle and sheep, who pointed out the suckler cows in the fields. Again, this is a rare sight in modern rural Ireland, as most calves are given milk replacement feeds, the milk of the mothers being deemed more valuable in the creamery than in the stomach of a newborn calf.
Nearby Roosky is dominated by its hotels and pubs, leaving the piggery, once the largest employer in the town, in the shade.
Sligo/Leitrim just missed out on delivering Sinn Féin another TD in 2002 and there is no doubt that the party organisation in both counties can see the seat becoming a reality next time around. One of the messages from this commemoration was the need to pull together for the forthcoming Assembly elections. In Leitrim, there seemed to be no reticence to gearing up once again for busy weeks knocking on the doors of Fermanagh. There is no doubt that they, in their sure but unhurried way, will get the job done.
BrayBray is a town in transition and so is the Sinn Féin organisation there.
This commemoration is one of the newest, having only begun last year. The route begins at the town hall and goes through the town's main street over the Dargle into little Bray to a new-built 1798 monument at a place the locals call Bloody Bank, because of the loss of life there during that rebellion.
The rain on Easter Monday didn't seem to deter the 70 marchers who gathered behind a lone piper and colour party. The commemoration was chaired by Marie Gavaghan and the talk before proceedings was of quotas and wards in not just Bray UDC but also Wicklow County Council, all aimed at building towards next year's local and EU elections. Bray republicans have a much higher mountain to climb than their Leitrim companions.
Here was a local party that is trying to demonstrate its relevance in a much more focused way. Bray is still very much a local town but benefits from the resource rich east coast in comparison to which Leitrim is starved. Where Leitrim is developing a tourist economy, Bray is a town supplanting its tourist image with a more international one. Now the largest employer is not the B&Bs, amusements and dodgems, but computer giant Dell, and the town hall where we gathered is also home to the local McDonald's.
It seems that in Bray the seat of local democracy sits easily with international business. It doesn't explain, though, the unmet housing need, with over 500 households on waiting lists or the lack of a full-time fire service.
The mock gothic monuments, statues, crypts and aged evergreens give Deansgrange cemetery an eerie atmosphere lost in many modern graveyards.
The 250 people who crowded around the republican plot could have been from any previous republican generation, especially when you saw some of the
marchers wearing medals from the Tan War and the Civil War.
But then there were others, one waving a Palestinian flag, others taking snaps with digital cameras and again the young activists, with the children asking the inevitable 'are we there yet?' Deansgrange is the resting place not just for Volunteers from 1916, the Tan War and the Civil War but also to Sinn Féin member Noel Jenkinson, who died in Leicestershire Prison in 1973.
The Republican Plot was last opened in 1967 to inter Reginald Dunne and Joseph O'Sullivan. The two had been executed in Wandsworth prison over 40 years earlier for the killing of Henry Wilson, commander of British Forces in Ireland, who had among many things instigated the first Belfast Pogroms.
As the Hugh Hehir/Lisa Bell band played the national anthem, it was clear that though it was once again the Easter weekend, and yes like 1916 the races at Fairyhouse were still drawing crowds, something else was evolving. Here was a local commemoration that had within its attendance future councillors and even TDs.
The nature of the republican struggle for peace with justice differs across time and across the island but in every case it is unbroken and unbowed.
Belfast honours Ireland's fallen
Led by the pipe band of Píobairí na Meirleach and one of the largest colour parties in years, the main Belfast commemoration got underway on Easter Sunday under bright sunny skies. Thousands took part as the procession moved along the Falls Road to Milltown Cemetery.
This year, a special invitation to attend had been extended to the families of all deceased IRA Volunteers, and they received a warm welcome from the massive crowd. The main speaker was Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey, who took the opportunity to comment on the ongoing political negotiations.
"Last week, both governments acknowledged yet again that the IRA's desire and commitment is unprecedented, and I believe that coupled with the tireless efforts of our leadership, this will ensure that second-class citizenship will become a thing of the past and that the unionist stranglehold on the peace process will be brought to an end," said Maskey.
"We have never allowed our rights or expectations to be lowered by those who are unable to accept the kind of fundemental change that the agreement promised. This party will not lie down. This party will not let you down, because you won't allow us to.
"We will not accept a second rate police force. We will not accept some equality, we will not accept that our mandate will ever become the subject of the whim of Ian Paisley or Jeffery Donaldson, or David Trimble or Tony Blair or even an Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
"Acts of completion have become the flavour of the month for the last number of months, both publically and privately. The freedom to live free of sectarian harassment which was agreed on Good Friday five years ago, is one of those acts of completion which we have not yet seen."
Maskey closed by telling the crowd that he believed a united Ireland was closer now than at any other time since partition.
Although there were serious attacks by loyalists last Easter, this year's parade passed off on Easter Saturday without incident and Sinn Féin's Joe O'Donnell addressed an enthusiastic crowd.
O'Donnell called for the release of Irish political prisoners at home and abroad, and paid tribute to the Volunteers of óglaigh na héireann.
He went on to say that republicans must make it clear to unionists that there is no desire to see anyone move into the space being vacated by nationalists.
O'Donnell encouraged the crowd to exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming election.
"Every vote really does count," he said, and he added: "The message I want you to take away from today's commemoration is - prepare for re-unification - because this party, this movement, this leadership, will take you there."
Newington/New Lodge Road
Belfast Mayor Alex Maskey addressed crowds in the Newington and New Lodge areas of North Belfast on Easter Monday.
Though the weather had turned to rain it did not dampen the spirits of the hundreds of republicans who turned out on the New Lodge Road. Both parades were led by a colour party and followed by pipe band and members of local ex-prisoners associations. Special mention was made of the late Paul (Pa) Kane, who passed away suddenly this past week. Pa was a founding member of the Newington Sinn Féin cumann and a lifelong friend of the republican family.
The Roll of Honour for the area was particularly poignant, with more than 120 people being remembered by the gathered crowd, including those killed in the McGurks pub bombing, the New Lodge Six, Peter McBride and lawyer Patrick Finucane.
"Walking around these streets, it was quite emotional for all of us I'm sure, and certainly for myself," said Mayor Maskey, "I am truly honored to be here - back to my own roots, back to the area where I was born and reared, back to the area which shaped me to be a republican in this city.
"From the murder of the McMahon family to the murder of Pat Finucane - what a price this area has paid for Britain's interference in our affairs."
Maskey paid tribute to all those who had worked to bring about the demand for an inquiry into the shooting deaths of the New Lodge Six.
"This is a proud community. This area stood firm against all of the opposition," said Maskey, "They have to be applauded and they will go down in Irish history as one of those communities that made sure we got ourselves closer to an Irish independent republic."
A local turn out of about 150 people paid their respects on Tuesday as Sinn Féin's Michael Ferguson gave the oration on Easter Tuesday. Marie Moore was also in attendance.
Speaking of the upcoming election, he reminded the crowd, "We are three percent of the vote away from being not the second largest party in the north of Ireland, but 3% of the vote away from being the second largest party as a whole. We are preparing for re-unification."
More than a thousand people gathered in Ardoyne on Easter Tuesday to pay tribute to Ireland's dead and listen to an address by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. A large colour party led the parade with crowd joining in enthusiastically. Here too, the reading of the role of honor was particularly striking, with more than a hundred people's names being read aloud as a lament was played.
James Connolly was the ongoing theme throughout Dublin's Easter Commemoration last Sunday. Due to continuing roadworks outside the GPO on O'Connell Street, events this year kicked off outside Liberty Hall, once headquarters of the Irish Citizen Army.
Facing the Statue of Connolly, Mary Lou MacDonald, EU election candidate for Dublin, welcomed the thousand or so present, and reminded them of the historical significance of the Irish Citizen Army's headquarters and of James Connolly.
Derek Warfield and the Sons of Erin Band opened up the entertainment with 'The Foggy Dew', and songs about Connolly.
ógra Shinn Féin members, Caoimhe Ní Allabhróin and Vicky Ní Dhuláin read out the Proclamation in Irish and English, and were followed by Jack Moylett, who read out the history of Roger Casement. Jer O'Leary read an extract from Connolly's Irish Worker.
The crowd then marched to Glasnevin, led by a colour party, the Jim Larkin Republican Flute Band from Liverpool and the local Hugh Hehir/Lisa Bell RFB.
At the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, ógra member Joe McCabe read out the Dublin Roll of Honour, and was followed by Eva O'Carroll, who read out a message from Dublin Youth.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín ó Caoláin was the main speaker. The deputy began by praising the heroes of 1916, and Volunteers from óglaigh na héireann who have died since.
"Republicans have always said that if a viable path of struggle for Irish freedom, not involving armed action, became available, then they were obliged to employ that route," he said. "They have been true to their word. The IRA demonstrated initiative and innovation and ever since their first cessation in 1994 they have taken courageous decisions that have caused real and soul-searching difficulties for many republicans. Too often these efforts have been taken for granted by some, who were themselves hostile to the peace process at its inception. So to those who would point the finger at the IRA for the current difficulties in the peace process, I say: Get your own house in order."
He then slammed the recent war on Iraq.
"Sinn Féin stands in that proud Irish republican tradition, when we oppose the current aggressive international policies of the US and British governments. Their invasion of Iraq was wrong. The military occupation of that country is wrong and the latest threats to neighbouring countries are wrong also.
"No Irish government can claim the mantle of 1916 when it has abandoned Irish independent foreign policy and violated Irish neutrality by allowing our airports and seaports to be used for the illegal invasion of Iraq."
Caoimhghín ó Caoláin proceeded to talk about the current impasse in the peace process.
"For the past five years repeated efforts have been made to prevent the implementation of the Agreement. What is being blocked is the implementation of basic rights that should be the norm in any society, rights that will benefit all citizens, regardless of political affiliation or religious persuasion,
ó Caoláin criticised Fianna Fáil and the PDs' policy on the Six Counties.
"Five years ago at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, the Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern asked the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution to consider how the people of the Six Counties might play a "more active role in national political life. It took the Committee from 1998 to last year to report on the issue. The time for action is now and it is long overdue.
"Sinn Féin is seeking: right of attendance at the Dáil for the 18 Westminster MPs elected in the Six Counties; reform of the Seanad to include election by a national list system with people in the Six Counties having the right to vote; the right to vote in Presidential elections for citizens in the Six Counties."
He also called upon the government to act decisively on the Castlerea Five and Colombia Three. He paid tribute to the Sinn Féin negotiating team, saying that the leadership has "done republican Ireland proud".
He concluded by saying,"In the local government and EU elections next year Sinn Féin will be presenting its largest ever number of candidates. We are resolved to send strong teams of Sinn Féin councillors onto all four local authorities in the greater Dublin area. And we are also determined to elect the first ever Sinn Féin MEP when we secure the seat for our Dublin candidate, Mary Lou MacDonald.
The fight against Empire
BY ROISIN DE ROSA
The Easter events in Dublin began with a meeting on Thursday evening in Liberty Hall, appropriately on "The Fight against Empire".
Aengus ó Snodaigh TD spoke of the flouting, by the Dublin government of international law governing the rights of neutral countries; the need to reform the UN; the need to define our neutrality in the face of the monstrous store of weapons of mass destruction held by the US, Britain and Israel.
Ali Halimeh, the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland, spoke forcefully and with anguish of the war on Iraq, highlighting "the killing and murder of old, young, women and children, the aimless destruction of infrastructure upon which all depend for livelihoods, and the wanton despoiliation of hundreds of years of history and its monuments".
"Are the oilfields being looted?" he asked. "They have never shown the world the armed robbery of the wealth of Iraq. When the first US troops arrived they went first to the oil ministry. They allowed all of the other ministries to be burned.
"They could have come to liberate the Palestinian people. Instead they have supported the fascist state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine. Iraq is another Palestine. And now they are talking of Syria - though Syria was never a friend of Iraq. Some people may celebrate now and think the war is over, until they wake up and see what the new colonial powers will do."
It was a theme taken up by Ella O'Dwyer, author of recently published The Rising of the Moon. "The British say they want us to say the war is over. Does the empire ever say the war is over?"
"It may be thought", she went on, "that we are going through a process of decolonisation. Watch out for the process of recolonisation, which happens through the colonisation of the mind, the spirit, the word - recolonisation through revisionism."
The County Cavan Sinn Féin Easter Commemoration took place this year in Killoughter Cemetery, Redhills. Chairing the proceedings, Councillor Charlie Boylan paid tribute to the memory of local man, Michael O'Reilly, who died on 17 December 1921 at the age of 22
Giving the oration at Killoughter Cemetery was Louth TD Arthur Morgan. Addressing the current crisis in the Peace Process, Deputy Morgan reaffirmed Sinn Féin's commitment to remaining with this process.
Echoing the recent words of Gerry Adams, Arthur Morgan said that the spirit of people like Michael O'Reilly and all those who have died are with us in the daily battles and in every advance of our struggle. He urged all present to get out over the next four weeks and help make the upcoming Assembly election the best ever election for Sinn Féin, to help increase our strength in the negotiations and help take us further down the road to Irish unity.
The commemoration at the Republican Plot at Bandon Cemetery was well attended this year. A very fine oration was given by Daithí Mac an Bhaird. The chairperson of Charlie Hurley Cumman, DJ O'Driscoll thanked everybody for the huge effort made by the members once again.
Paul Hayes, Cathaoirleach of the Vol. Martin Doherty Cumann, welcomed everyone to the Clonakilty commemoration on Sunday, especially the family of the late Paddy Harte, who died recently. Paddy's daughter, Laoise Harte, laid the wreath at the Tadhg an Astna Monument, which was followed by a lament on the pipes by Diarmuid Milner. The main oration was delivered by local councillor Cionnaith ó Súilleabháin.
He praised the contribution of the IRA to the struggle for freedom and peace in Ireland over the last three decades, calling them "The successors of the men and women of 1916".
Quoting James Connolly, he said "Never had man or woman a grander cause. Never was a cause more grandly served", Cllr. ó Súilleabháin encouraged more people to get involved in the Sinn Féin party.
He asked people to reflect on the "betrayal of Pearse and Connolly" by politicians of other parties, in particular the current government who have treated their people with contempt since the election. "It is a betrayal of those who made the supreme sacrifice that Governments jets and Mercs are more important than hospital beds and cancer services. It is a scandal that children and teachers still work in schools that should have been demolished 50 years ago."
The city commemoration was chaired by Henry Cremin and led by the Youghal RFB.
Addressing a large crowd, Martin Ferris TD, the main speaker said: "Unionism's inability to come to terms with change is at the heart of this crisis in the peace process.
"We in Sinn Féin have done our utmost to see the Agreement implemented. As we stand here in Cork, contacts are still continuing with the two governments. Sinn Féin is attempting to build on the significant gains made over the past few weeks and the opportunity presented by the clear and unambiguous IRA statement presented to both governments.
"In the light of all this it is particularly inappropriate that Bertie Ahern should use the 87th anniversary of the 1916 rising to focus attention on republicans rather than the root cause of the problem, the unionist inability to face change and the British government's acquiescence to a unionist veto."
A big crowd attended the Easter Rising Commemoration in Youghal, and was joined by the Youghal Republican Flute Band. The proceedings were chaired by Eileen Griffin and Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle member David Cullinane gave the oration.
He remembered all those who had given their lives for Irish freedom and contrasted the idealism of 1916 with the cynicism of some of our modern day politicians.
The Proclamation was read by Cllr Martin Hallinan.
Over 1,500 republicans from West Tyrone and Donegal attended the annual Easter Commemoration at Drumboe on Sunday.
This year's events marked the 80th Anniversary of the execution by Free State Forces of IRA Volunteers Charlie Daly, Dan Enright and Tim O Sullivan, from County Kerry, and Seán Larkin from South Derry in the woods of Drumboe.
The parade, lead by a republican colour party and four bands, made its way from Johnston's Corner through Stranorlar and Ballybofey, and after a wreathlaying ceremony at the Republican Monument, the large crowd proceeded to the execution site at the woods of Drumboe.
Veronica Molloy, chairperson of the Tirconaill Commemoration Committee, chaired the day's event.
At the beginning of a wide-ranging oration, Bairbre de Brún paid tribute to the memory of the Drumboe Martyrs and all those who have given their lives for Irish freedom in this and previous generations:
"The Drumboe Martyrs lost their lives opposing the partition of Ireland and the injustice, inequality and instability that this prolonged for a further two generations. In our generation too, Irishmen and women have given their lives for freedom. Many of us here will have our own memories of them as we stand here today."
In reference to the current difficulties in the Peace Process Bairbre de Brún said: "Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams again met with the two governments last weekend. They met with Bertie Ahern, and Gerry Adams spoke again at length with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The final copy of the IRA statement was passed to the two governments.
"The following day Martin and Gerry travelled to Belfast where they met David Trimble and the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party, who were shown a copy of the IRA statement. Gerry Adams has re-iterated again and again that this statement is clear and unambiguous."
Bairbre concluded by saying, "Our peace strategy has delivered the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. It has been republicans who have driven the changes we have witnessed in recent years, and it is republicans who will continue to drive the process of change. Sinn Fein will continue to challenge those elements within the British system and within unionism who are opposed to change. Our message on the doorsteps is one of equality, justice, peace and freedom."
Large numbers of local republicans also attended graveside ceremonies in Strabane, Cranagh and Aghyaran on Sunday to commemorate their republican dead.
With a light rain falling on and off, a colour party, accompanied by the Felons pipe band and a local flute band from Kilkeel, led the procession. Sinn Féin's Pat McNamee addressed the gathered crowd, welcoming everyone and paying tribute to the fallen heros of the area.
McNamee also extended solidarity greetings to republican prisoners in Castlereagh and Colombia.
"Niall Connolly, Martin McAuley and Jim Monaghan will be spending Easter in a jail in a country under a repressive regime far away from their homes and families," he said, as the crowd erupted into supportive applause. "We should let them know that they are not forgotten."
Speaking of the current political situation, McNamee said: "It is clear that the two governments have delayed their response because the Ulster Unionists have yet to make their minds up on what they are prepared to do. Any one political party cannot veto the future of this process."
He spoke of the upcoming election and acknowledged the contributions of councellor Mick Murphy who won a seat for Sinn Féin in the elections to negotiations in 1996. He also pointed out that South Down now has three candidates selected to contest the Assembly election.
On Sunday, a large crowd assembled outside the Sinn Féin Centre in Patrick Street to attend the annual Easter Commemoration Parade in Newry.
The parade was led by a 15-person Colour Party and accompanied by two bands, The Martin Doherty Flute Band from Scotland and the Banna Fliúit Naoimh Phádraig band from Kilkeel. Many people commented on the large numbers of young people and children in attendance, which gave the parade a very family-friendly atmosphere.
At the graveside, Councillor Brendan Curran chaired the proceedings and Councillor Charlie Casey read the annual Easter massage.
The main speaker was delivered by Sinn Féin Assembly candidate, Councillor Davy Hyland.
This Easter saw the biggest ever Sinn Féin Easter Commemoration in Galway City and County. Two hundred people gathered on Sunday at the Liam Mellows monument in Eyre Square for the proceedings which were chaired by Daniel Callanan of Galway Sinn Féin. He condemned the failure of the Dublin government to promote a national day of celebration to honour the men and women of 1916 and successive generations who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to achieve independence.
The main oration was given by Pat Doherty, the Vice-President of Sinn Féin and MP for West Tyrone. He called for the immediate publication of the Joint Declaration prepared by the two governments.
A march to Bohermore Cemetary followed, where a wreath was laid at the grave of Míchéal Breathnach, fittingly by his grand daughter, Maura Walsh. The proceedings came to an end with the playing by a piper of Amhrán na bhFiann.
On Easter Monday a crowd of a hundred gathered in Ballinasloe cemetery at the grave of Volunteer Noel MacCann, where the oration was given by ex-POW Ella O'Dwyer. Also an Easter Monday there were wreath-laying ceremonies in North Connamara, including at the monument to Thomas Whelan, who was executed in Mountjoy Jail. Daniel Callanan gave the main oration and a wreath was laid by Tommy Whelan, a nephew of the martyr.
Around 100 people attended the annual Sinn Féin 1916 commemoration in Limerick last Sunday. The march assembled outside the main gates of Mount St. Laurence Cemetery and proceeded to the Republican Plot, where the Vice-Chair of Limerick Sinn Féin, Maurice Quinlivan, chaired proceedings.
The main speaker was Sinn Féin Councillor Pat Treanor, chairperson of Clones Town Council in County Monaghan and National Organiser of Sinn Féin.
Pat paid tribute to the men and women of 1916 and also to Limerick republican Sean Sabhat. He praised the Volunteers of óglaigh na héireann and called for the release of political prisoners in Castlerea, and of the Colombia Three.
Pat said there will be a united Ireland but republicans recognise their responsibility to guarantee the rights of unionists also. He said "it is the people who must bring about change. Sinn Féin is nothing without each individual activist member of our party and without each individual cumann".
He told the crowd that Sinn Féin needed its activists from the south to travel to the Six Counties to ensure a successful Assembly Election.
He urged people to attend the Hunger Strike rally in Belfast on 4 May, and to get involved in the upcoming elections.
Over 50 people attended the West Limerick Commemoration in Athea on Sunday, which was chaired by Coireal MacCurtain. Pat Treanor, was the main orator.
The first republican commemoration to be held in this area for many years took place at the grave of Volunteer Paddy Clancy in Molua Cemetery and was attended by over 70 people.
Wreath laying ceremonies were held at Republican graves in Rath Liuirc and Colmanswell.
Drogheda's biggest Easter Commemoration parade in recent years was headed by the largest colour party since 1966. A 22-person colour party led the march down the Mornington Road.
Chairing the proceedings at the Halpin/Moran Monument was Drogheda Sinn Féin Chairperson Matthew Coogan.
In his speech, Aengus ó Snodaigh TD congratulated the people of Drogheda and Louth for achieving a spectacular goal in the election of Arthur Morgan last year. "As republicans we don't sit on our laurels, we set ourselves goals, achieve them and then set the next target.
"When have you heard a discussion about a United Ireland amongst Fine Gaelers or Fianna Fáilers? When have they ever planned the road map to a United Ireland? Never." He also paid tribute to Volunteer Keith Rogers who died at the hands of criminals recently, and said his dedication and commitment was an example to us all.
County Roscommon republicans gathered in the North of the County at Loughglynn on Easter Sunday. Volunteers Michael Carty, James Mulrennan and Patrick Glynn, who died in the Tan War, and Eugene Kelly and Pat Mulrennan, who died in the Civil War, were remembered during the ceremony chaired by Michael Mulligan of Roscommon Sinn Féin Comhairle Ceantair.
The main speaker was Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Mícheál MacDonncha. Responding to the remarks of Bertie Ahern in Dublin that morning, MacDonncha said the Taoiseach had "used the gravesides of the executed leaders of 1916 to falsely accuse republicans of responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process".
Sligo republicans assembled at Sligo City Hall on Easter Sunday afternoon for the county commemoration. The march to Sligo Cemetery was led by a well-drilled colour party who paused and paid their respects at the graveside of Volunteer Joe MacManus before parading to the main ceremony at the Republican Plot.
The main oration was delivered by former POW and recently elected Ard Comhairle member Martina Anderson.
Chairing the ceremony, Ard Comhairle member Cllr Chris MacManus urged those present 'to become involved in the forthcoming Assembly elections in the Six Counties".
Earlier in the day wreath laying ceremony took place in Ballisodare at the graveside of Martin Savage, killed at Ashtown Road in 1919.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams gave the main oration at the Easter commemoration at Carrickmore, County Tyrone, on Sunday.
Adams last spoke at Carrickmore five years ago, a few days after the Good Friday Agreement was achieved.
Speaking to the large crowd, he said that Ireland's struggle for freedom had produced many heroes, men and women of enormous courage and self-sacrifice who were and 'are prepared to give everything in the cause of Irish freedom'.
"As we honour the men and women of 1916, let us also remember all of those republicans who in this and previous generations gave their lives for Irish freedom. We remember in particular republican patriots from County Tyrone and pay tribute to them.
Speaking about republicanism, Adams said that Sinn Féin, as a republican party wants, "a society in which there is a redistribution of wealth for the wellbeing of the aged, for the advancement of youth, for the liberation of women and the protection of our children.
"Our republicanism is about change, fundamental, deep-rooted change. It's about empowering people to make that change. That means we have to be agents of change."
The Sinn Féin president then moved on to talk about the party's electoral strategy.
"Sinn Féin has grown through hard work, determination and strategic planning.
We are closer now than ever to delivering our goals because we have increased our political strength election after election.
"The introduction of the new registration system is designed to stem the growth of our political strength and our capacity to deliver a united Ireland. Don't let them away with this in May. With this in mind make every vote count.
Adams also dealt with the issue on everyone's mind this week, the peace process.
"As everyone knows Sinn Féin and the two governments have been involved in intensive discussions in an effort to find a resolution to the current impasse. Sinn Féin has stated our opposition to sanctions, which are outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
"And while we have criticised the Irish government on this issue, I have to acknowledge that the Irish government, the Taoiseach and some of the senior officials, have played a particularly active role over the recent period. They have persisted when others were less resilient.But one of the principal difficulties is the way that unionists have left the main negotiations to the British. This brings a fault line into the process.
"Unionists need to stand on their own feet. We want to do a deal with them.
The big question is do they want to do a deal with us at this time?
"Unionists say they want clarity and certainty from republicans. Let me tell you that what the IRA is saying to them is very clear indeed. It is unprecedented, to the point that perhaps some of you may think the Army has gone too far. What unionists actually want is a surrender. What we want is for everyone to keep to their commitments and for a negotiated process of conflict resolution to be brought to completion. And that includes certainty and clarity about future UUP intentions.
"The SDLP have also been absent from the negotiation. Instead, for short-term party political advantage, they have engaged in attacks on Sinn Féin, replicating the UUP demands while making no similar call for the UUP to make its position clear. Some of the comments of senior SDLP spokespersons would make Jeffrey Donaldson look like a moderate.
The Sinn Féin leader also spoke on the issue of collusion and the publication of the Stevens' Report.
"The publication of the Stevens' Report brought a media focus again to the issue of collusion. Watching it being reported, it was as if the media and other political representatives were hearing about this for the first time.
"Their words of shock and horror that the state was involved in killing citizens, through the use of agents within unionist death squads, will have offended many nationalists and republicans. Across this island there are countless families who have suffered at first hand from the activities of these agents, and the agencies who were responsible for their actions.
"Collusion was planned, organised and politically cleared at the highest levels. It was widespread in the 1970s with a variety of British agencies including the Military Reaction Force, the 39th Brigade Intelligence, as well as the Special Branch, all engaged in providing information, training and weapons to kill citizens.
Those who carried out the Dublin and Monaghan bomb attacks, or who killed Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton in Donegal were part of this web of collusion that British agencies began constructing in the north from 1970. And here in County Tyrone we saw some of the most brutal and brazen examples of collusion. Pensioner Roseanne Mallon, Patrick Shanahan, Kathleen O'Hagan, Dermott Hackett and the four men from Cappagh, John Quinn, Dwayne O'Donnell, Malcolm Nugent, whose names are on the Tyrone Roll of Honour, and Thomas Armstrong.
"And Stevens is only the tip of the iceberg. So, we want to know, and the families of the victims have a right to know;
Who authorised this policy of assassination?
How many died as a result of it?
Where are those who authorised this now?
Will they be held accountable?
And what steps are being taken to stop it?
Because the reality is that collusion is still going on.
Adams also used a section of his speech to specifically address the fears and concerns of unionism.
"There will be a united Ireland. And our task, and that of all sensible Irish political leaders, should be to prepare for reunification. I am not saying this to frighten or destabilise unionism but because I believe that many unionists also recognise the change that is taking place. Consequently, their fears and worries of the future must be addressed in a comprehensive manner.
"Many unionists are already very conscious of the way in which successive British governments and unionist leaderships used and abused and exploited them. Many look around at their unionist working class areas, which face enormous social and economic problems."
"We have to show them by our words and our actions, or our non actions, that Sinn Féin - that Irish republicanism, always a generous philosophy - is their future. That together we can build a future of equals on this island that empowers, and enriches and cherishes all the children of the nation equally."
Hundreds were able to enjoy the sunshine in Coalisland as they paid tribute to Ireland's fallen heroes on Easter Saturday.
The Easter procession was headed up by a lone piper and colour party who led the assembled crowd up the Brackaville Road to the local cemetery. The procession paused briefly to lay wreaths at the graves of several IRA volunteers before continuing on to the republican monument, which overlooks the town and the rolling green hills which surround it.
Event organizers read out the 1916 Proclaimation and the local Roll of Honour. Brian Keenan gave the oration, telling the crowd: "Easter comes to Ireland every year and I find I'm almost forced to think about the origins and the duration of this struggle for Irish freedom."
Keenan paid tribute to the decades of Irish men, women, and children who lost their lives in the fight for freedom, and remarked: "Today, here in Tyrone, we are very conscious of the Red Hand county having given over 50 of their best in this struggle."
And he commented on the current policing debate, saying: "Of course society needs a policing service, but that service has to be accountable to the people. At the moment for me it is a non-event because the threshold of acceptability and accountability is not there.
"People who don't know republicans think that we glory in war, but we don't believe in permanent war. What we believe in is permanent struggle - until we achieve the objectives of the Proclaimation.
"The Ireland we want is an Ireland of equals, where we will cherish all of the children. We will give civil and religious liberties to all of our people, and the wealth of the nation will be shared equally."
This year saw one of the largest turnouts for the annual Easter commemoration at the graveside of Volunteers Gerard and Martin Harte in Loughmacrory. Local republican, Martin Donaghy chaired the proceedings while Sean Donnelly read the Tyrone Roll of Honour. Wreaths were laid and extracts of Pearse's oration at the funeral of O'Donovan Rossa were recited, accompanied by Mise éire played on the mandolin.
The 300-strong crowd was addressed by Cormac McAleer from Creggan, who paid tribute to the two Volunteers, reflecting on their lives and placing their contribution and sacrifice in the historical context of 800 years of continuous struggle against British rule in Ireland.
The commemoration was concluded with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann on the accordion by Kate Donnelly.
Martin McGuinness spoke at the commemoration at Loup in Co Tyrone this year.
He began his speech by paying tribute to hunger striker Kevin Lynch, Volunteers of óglaigh na héireann, and the men and women of 1916.
"The division of our people and our country was achieved through violence and the threat of what the British Prime Minister of the time called immediate and terrible war," he said. "War in those days was an instrument of first resort. 82 years on, many are wondering how much has changed. Our community, that is the republicans and unionists, nationalists and loyalists that make up our community, have been the victims of that terrible historical mistake that is the partitioning of Ireland.
"Plunged into and condemned to live in the rotten little sectarian construct that was the Northern State, we the people of that state and indeed the people of Ireland have been denied equality, justice and democracy. All of us, unionists and republicans, have been denied peace.
"Be aware of those who conspire to maintain the unjust status quo in our country and don't be fooled into believing that they are all in the unionist or British establishment. Understand if under partition, all vestiges of inequality were eradicated and every person of working age had secure employment, if every person had proper living conditions, the basic injustice would still remain. The Irish people would still be denied that absolute right of all nations - the right to national self-determination. It was because the 1916 leaders understood this that the British executed them and it is because republicans understand this basic truth that we have been faithful to the vision that was passed on to us."
He concluded, "Speaking at the Tírghrá event in Dublin this time last year, Gerry Adams said that the spirit of all those who have died are with us in the daily battles and in every advance of our struggle.
"These words should guide all of us in the time ahead because we owe them, their families and their communities, a debt that can only be repaid through the success of our struggle for the liberation of the Irish people. So get out there over the next four weeks - help make this the best ever election for Sinn Féin, help increase our strength in the negotiations and help take us further down the road to Irish unity."
On Easter Sunday, over 150 republicans gathered in the Toronto suburb of Brampton to commemorate the 1916 Uprising. The annual commemoration was organized by the Emerald Isle Social Club.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Francie Molloy addressed the audience. He explained how inspirational it was for him to see the sacrifice of Irish republicans honoured and remembered in Canada. In his remarks, Molloy updated those in attendance on the state of the peace process. He highlighted the failure of the British government to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement. Molloy emphasised that Sinn Féin remained focused on the struggle to win peace, justice and freedom in Ireland.
Reliving Easter 1916 in Dublin
BY ROISIN DE ROSA
In the glorious sunshine of Good Friday, Aengus ó Snodaigh TD and Mícheál Mac Donncha took a few hours off from Leinster House to bring alive the days of Dublin City in Easter Week 1916.
For a few hours, Dublin's streets came alive: O'Connell Street was teeming with the workers locked out in 1913, crowding under the Imperial Hotel (what is now Clery's) to hear Jim Larkin speak, when thousands of police baton charged and shot down several workers.
Then it was down to the river, where those bringing in the weapons from Howth were met by the King's Own Scottish Borderers Regiment at Bachelor's Walk, where three were shot dead. After that it was on to Liberty Hall, the Citizen Army base, where James Connolly, revolver in hand, had greeted the RIC raiding party who had come to confiscate his newspaper with the words "drop them, or I'll drop you". The RIC didn't come back.
It was then back to the GPO and the Moore Street area, tunnelling through the houses to escape and then to the surrender by Pearse and Nurse O'Farrell at the end of Moore Lane; where the O'Rahilly, who had opposed the Rising but took part because "I have helped to wind the clock - I want to see it strike", had stepped out, only to be shot down from the barricade below. We walked past the spot where his body lay for a day, and where he, dying, wrote a last message in his own blood on the pavement to his wife.
It was a tale of a people starved into submission, of glorious deeds, of British savagery, of terrible defeat but also victory in its aftermath; it was the story of an uprising that set a fire alight, to be followed through the century by those who struck out in armed revolt against oppression, who learned that victory could be had, power could be seized - no matter the firepower of the oppressor.
From Dublin 1916 we came back up to Parnell Square and Dublin 2003, where the tour ended to great applause and a flurry of purchases of Easter Lilies.
OLD DEV SPEAKS AT GALWAY EASTER COMMEMORATION
De Valera came back from the grave on Easter Sunday, when the Galway Alliance Against War staged a counter-Fianna Fáil Easter Commemoration in Eyre Square. The actor Brendan Murray, formerly of Ros na Rún, played the part of Dev, while an original soundtrack of one of de Valera's pro-neutrality speeches was played over loud speaking equipment.
There was an added bit of drama when the Gardaí threatened to tow away the car containing the speakers because it was parked on a double yellow line. As Dev's speech progressed, more and more Gardaí, uniformed and plain clothed, suddenly appeared, with the latter openly filming the hundred or more people participating in the event. Unable to tow the car away, the uniformed Gardaí slapped a parking ticket on the car's windscreen.
Niall Farrell, the chairman of the commemoration, explained why this alternative Fianna Fáil 1916 commemoration had been held
"It was to highlight the fact that Fianna Fáil have not only discarded their policy of maintaining Irish neutrality but have no longer any links to the aims and ideals of those men and women who took part in the Rising.
"The 1916 Rising had to do with Irish independence and an independent foreign policy, in particular it was to prevent the use of conscription in Ireland during World War I. This stands in stark contrast to present Fianna Fáil policy, which has been assisting the US in its invasion of Iraq."