22 May 1997 Edition

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Hugh Hehir remembered

Over 200 republicans from all parts of Ireland attended the Hugh Hehir commemoration on Sunday 11 May in Clarecastle, County Clare on the 9th anniversary of the 37 year old IRA Volunteer's death. He was gunned down by Garda Special Branch detectives in County Clare while on active service on 6 May 1988.

The commemoration was led by two colour parties, one made up of young people from the Shannon area and the Smith/Harford/Doherty Republican band from Dublin.

At the grave, Sinn Féin's Shannon Town Commissioner Mick McKee chaired the proceedings. He welcomed everyone, especially Hugh's partner Ann and her children. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Republican Movement and the Cathaoirleach introduced the guest speaker, Arnie O'Connell from Cork, a former republican POW who had spent 18 years in Portlaoise Jail.

O'Connell told the crowd that first and foremost, Hugh Hehir had been a dedicated family man who despite his activities as an active Volunteer never shirked in his commitment to his partner and their children. Addressing the two carloads of Special Branch who were observing the ceremony, O'Connell said, ``neither bullets nor jail will deter republicans from seeking what we want, just as they did not deter Hugh Hehir''.

He outlined Volunteer Hehir's activities as a soldier of the republic which included active service in the British-occupied Six Counties and incarceration in Long Kesh. ``In Long Kesh, Hugh Hehir did not waste his time, but spent it educating and further politicising himself, all the time examining the reasons why young men and women like himself found themselves in jail''. This period of reflection, instead of weakening his resolve, only made his commitment to the republican cause all the stronger and on release he immediately returned to active service along Britain's border in Ireland.

``Republicans today are just as committed as Hugh Hehir was and no matter what message the state may send to us, we are determined to see the struggle through''. Referring to the historic election of two Sinn Féin MPs, and the huge swell in electoral support for the party in the Six Counties O'Connell said to tumultous applause, ``We are on the march to the 32 County, democratic, socialist Republic''. He called on the incoming 26 County government to demand a British withdrawal from Ireland.

The new Labour government in Britain now has an opportunity ``to right their historic wrongs in relation to our country,'' he said. But he warned that Republcians will not be fooled again when the historic announcement of August 1994 was ``thrown back in our faces by John Major.'' The new political situation demanded an all-inclusive talks process without pre-conditions and an agreed time frame. ``And let's be realistic about decommissioning,'' he said, ``there will be none until the British have left Ireland.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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