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19 April 2001 Edition

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Easter 2001

Due to fears of a fresh resurgence in the Foot and Mouth disease crisis, many republican commemorations in rural areas of the North were cancelled or curtailed. However, at those that did take place, a buoyant, defiant spirit and increased attendance marked Easter 2001, marking the 85th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.


Approximately 300 people attended the annual Easter Sunday Mass and republican commemoration at Sydney's Waverley Cemetery. Waverley is the site of the tomb of Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow chief, and also hosts a huge monument to the heroes of 1798, 1916 and 1981.

Mass was officiated over by Bishop David Cremin, whose homily focused on the significance of the 1981 hunger strike and an oration was given by AAI (NSW) president Paddy Gorman. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Irish National Association, the caretaker of the 1798 memorial and organiser of the annual event, and Australian Aid for Ireland (NSW).

Antrim (Belfast)

Thousands of republicans gathered on Belfast's Falls Road for this year's Easter Commemoration to Milltown Cemetery, held in warm spring sunshine.

The main speaker was Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey, who called on those gathered at the County Antrim plot to,''honour generations of Ireland's patriot dead. As we do so let us also remember their families and loved ones who have endured their loss with dignity and strength. Their pain is our pain and we never shall forget''.

Maskey paid ``a special and fitting tribute to the Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann. Let us salute those men and women who have continued to defend the Republic as proclaimed in 1916. In this phase of conflict, as never before in the history of Ireland's long freedom struggle, so many have fought for so long - let no one call them fools or traitors.

``Regrettably the continued denial of our self-determination, the maintenance of partition, the social, economic and cultural inequalities that persist all ensure that we remain locked in conflict and struggle.

``Despite these things the IRA has continued to play a central role in advancing the cause of peace. I commend their determination, vision and initiative. I commend them on their Easter message''.

Maskey called on people to take part in the events planned to mark the anniversaries of those who died on hunger strike.

He also cautioned against complacency or disunity: ``I have heard the voices of those who are uncertain of or disagree with our strategy. They are of course entitled to expressed those views'', but he pointed out, ``the overwhelming body of republican opinion is behind a leadership which has been there, done it and never gone away.

``As Belfast republicans it is important that we reflect on our history of British rule and Orange Domination. When my generation witnessed the pogroms of 1969 the people vowed 'never again'.

``David Trimble once described the Northern state as a cold house for Catholics. Well from the burning of our homes in Ardoyne and the Falls, the siege of St Matthews, the evil of sectarian killings, internment and the harassment of Orange marches we have resisted and stood our ground. Let us be proud of that and the fact that David Trimble's cold house is tumbling down''.


The only parade to go ahead in the Armagh City area was the Easter Monday commemoration in Armagh City itself. Commemorations in the nearby Ballymacnab and An Port Mor area were cancelled because of the escalating Foot and Mouth crisis in favour of wreath-laying ceremonies.

At Ballymacnab, over 200 republicans gathered at the Republican Plot following mass on Easter Sunday. An oration was delivered by local Sinn Féin councillor, Noel Sheridan, who called on supporters to assist Sinn Féin in the build up to both the local and general elections.

In Armagh City on Easter Monday, after a brief wreathlaying ceremony at a memorial in Culdee, the parade made its way through the city centre to the Republican Plot at St Patrick's Cemetery. There was a higher than usual RUC presence, including riot clad RUC men at various points along the route. It was estimated that the RUC had over 20 Land Rovers and a number of transit vans. The parade organisers made every effort to ensure that the event passed off without incident, which by and large was successful, although local councillor Sean McGirr was nearly struck by a Land Rover when the RUC tried to get too close to the parade.

At the republican plot, the commemoration was chaired by Assembly member Pat McNamee. Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin's Westminster candidate, delivered the main oration. Addressing the forthcoming elections, he said:

``We are confident that those elections will see a substantial rise in support for Sinn Féin, right across the country. But whether we reach our electoral goals locally is entirely in our own hands. The challenge for all of us here is not just to get out and vote for Sinn Féin, but ask yourself;

How many of your families, friends and neighbours can you convince to show double Sinn Féins representation on Armagh District Council.

How many of your families, friends and neighbours can you convince to not just give Seamus Mallon a run for his money, but to take the Newry/Armagh seat for a republican for the first time ever. It is there for the taking.

How many of your families, friends and neighbours can you convince to join with the only all-lreland party in moving rapidly towards the creation of a new Ireland.

If you set yourself those goals and achieve them over the coming weeks, then you will have significantly advanced this struggle.''


The County Cavan Easter commemoration ceremonies were held in the ancient graveyard of Killann in the high hills of East Cavan.

Some 200 people marched from the Shercock on Baileborough Road to the graveside of IRA Volunteer and former QMG Jack McCabe, who died in an accidental explosion on 30 December 1971.

Roslea Sinn Féin Councillor Brian McCaffrey paid tribute to McCabe and recounted the suffering he endured for his beliefs: ``A man whose life personified dedication to the struggle for freedom, he (McCabe) joined the IRA in Shercock in the 1930s, was OC for Manchester, was captured and given 20 years penal servitude.'' McCabe was released from Parkhurst in 1948 and returned to Ireland to continue his service with Óglaigh na hÉireann. In the autumn of 1954 he was captured again after a raid in Omagh for arms and imprisoned in Crumlin Road Jail. Released in the early 1960s, McCabe again returned to the ranks of the IRA and was active until his untimely death.


In Derry City the 85th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising was commemorated by thousands of republicans, who marched from the Bogside to the City Cemetery.

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin addressed the rally, which was chaired by Maeve McLaughlin, one of the party's candidates in next month's local government elections.

McLaughlin praised the sacrifice of the 1981 hunger strikers and remembered how, through their actions, they inspired a whole generation of Irish people.

Pointing towards the future, he stressed that ``the challenge we must rise to is to convince the electorate of the benefits of all-Ireland political and economic unity and of our commitment to achieving it through our peace strategy.

``It is only through increased political strength that we will successfully meet that challenge. The challenge for every republican activist and supporter in the next few weeks is to convince as many voters as possible of the benefits and achievability of our analysis.

``The SDLP must also rise to the challenge. It needs to clarify to the electorate just what it means by post-nationalism. What do some of its representatives mean by describing themselves as non-unionists? Do they mean that they now identify with the unionist tradition? Do they no longer see the need to proactively pursue the aspiration to Irish unity of that section of the population from which they seek a mandate - ie. nationalists?

``If the SDLP has a strategy to achieve Irish unity then it needs to explain it to the electorate. Unionists of all shades are unapologetic about their allegiance to the union with Britain. Republicans are unambiguously pro-United Ireland. Where does the SDLP stand? That is the challenge for the SDLP.''

Frank O'Doaráin from the Waterside addressed the local area commemoration event.

O'Doaráin, who is standing for the party in May's local government elections, told the crowd that as ``the votes of thousands of Irish people strengthened the demands of the Hunger Strikers, so too the votes cast in these upcoming elections can strengthen the efforts being made by Sinn Féin to carry on the struggle against inequality and injustice''.


Around 70 people attended the Inishowen Easter Commemoration in Cockhill cemetery just outside Buncrana. The main speaker was Sinn Féin Councillor Gerry MacLochlainn from Derry. In his address, MacLochlainn called on those present to rededicate themslves to the task of building upon the legacy of the hunger strikers and of local Sinn Féin Councillor Eddie Fullerton.

Wreaths were laid at the graves of Eddie Fullerton, Vol Patrick O'Hagan, Vol Reamonn MacLochlainn, Jimmy Quinn, John McFadden and Danny McLaughlin. Earler Buncrana UDC Cllr Jim Ferry laid a wreath on the grave of Martin Doherty in Clonmany Cemetery.


Easter commemoration ceremonies started in Newry on Saturday night with a local parade from St. Bridgid's chapel to the monument in Derrybeg Park. Local republican Seán Mathers chaired the proceedings and an oration was given by Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy.

Large numbers of people gathered to take part in the main Newry Easter commemoration parade on Sunday morning. After laying a wreath at the monument in Barcroft Park a 23-person colour party led the march from the Sinn Féin centre to the Republican plot in St. Mary's cemetery. They were followed by a section of 25 people carrying wreaths. People then filed into the parade behind the four bands in attendance.

The RUC dressed in fire-proof riot gear, positioned themselves in a very provocative manner and attempted to cause a riot situation by goading and catcalling at people taking part in the parade. The stewards managed to defuse the situation but not without taking some verbal abuse themselves from one particular patrol of RUC personnel. A formal complaint will be made by the organising committee.

At the graveside, proceedings were chaired by Sinn Féin Councillor Davy Hyland, while Conor Murphy delivered the main address.

On Easter Monday, local people gathered at Abbey Yard to parade to St. Mary's Cross. Addressing the crowd, Sinn Féin local election candidate Charlie Casey said: ``Eighty-five years ago in Dublin, seven men with a dream led out a small army of Irishmen and women that Ireland might be free. Today we commemorate those men and women from this area, remembered by this beautiful monument beside me. These men and women fought, died or gave up their liberty to uphold the Proclamation. It is incumbent on all of us here today to carry on a struggle that will take many twists and turns and will test all of our resolve and confidence at times.''


Up to 2,000 people took part in the main Dublin commemoration on Easter Sunday, gathering to celebrate in music and song at the GPO to mark the 85th anniversary of the 1916 Rising before marching to the republican plot at Glasnevin cemetery.

The marchers braved intermittent but heavy April showers, but their perseverence was rewarded with a fascinating and emotive address by former hunger striker Bernard Fox and a rousing address by Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle member Gerry Kelly.

Dublin South Central candidate Aengus Ó Snodaigh chaired the proceedings. Introducing Bernard Fox, he spoke of how his 16th birthday had fallen in the midst of the 1981 hunger strike and how the events of that year had politicised him.

Bernard Fox explained that it is only over the past year that he has been able tomtalk about the events of 1981. The stimulus for him to address meetings was tht the facts have to be told. ``We can't allow others to tell our history for us,'' he told those gathered.

``Travelling throughout the country this year,'' said Fox, ``after spending nearly 22 years in jail, one of the questions I'm most frequently asked is 'was it worth it'?'' I can't answer that question. History will answer that. The question is phrased in the past tense. It's not over. The struggle continues and will continue until the British are out of Ireland.''

Gerry Kelly delivered the main address. The following are some edited highlights:

``I am here to pay tribute to fallen comrades but let me make it clear, crystal clear, I do not pretend or presume to know what their thoughts or attitudes would be on the present situation or indeed any of the developments in our struggle over the last number of years. I make only this claim with certitude. The objectives for which they gave their lives, remains the objective we as republicans will continue to struggle for until we are successful. Until the British army in its entirety leaves Ireland and we achieve an end to partition and the establishment of a 32 county Irish republic the struggle goes on.

``The present situation is not complicated. Some three years on since that contract was signed and agreed only the Assembly - the institution favoured by the unionists is working without interference. Unionism is still trying to refuse to allow republicans and nationalists access to the All-Ireland institutions. David Trimble has attempted to introduce a precondition that the IRA should agree to surrender arms before Sinn Féin can participate in the All-Ireland Ministerial Council.

``This is not part of the Good Friday Agreement. This is unionism and the British government reneging on the agreement. What David Trimble is doing is not just illegal; it is undemocratic; it is unjust; it is discrimination against republican voters.

``The All-Ireland institutions remain blocked. A political vacuum created by David Trimble's unwillingness to move is deepening. The political vacuum is being filled by loyalist violence. The reality and result of unionist intransigence is that there have been daily attacks on Catholics. It means that Catholics are being bombed and burnt out of their homes in North Belfast; It means that loyalists are attempting sectarian and bigoted purges of Catholics from Antrim, Larne, Randalstown, Ballymoney and many other places. Is it any wonder that nationalists are tired, angry and frustrated with the way things are at present.

``Sinn Féin has been working tirelessly to make the peace process work. However there are a number of serious and deepening crises, which have engulfed the peace process. In May of last year, after an intensive round of negotiations, the British Government and the IRA made a deal. The British Government promised to deliver a new beginning to policing, demilitarise their war machine and implement the Good Friday Agreement.

``The British Government's failure to deliver has created this current crisis and led to intensive talks, which took place earlier this year. These talks ended last month without substantial movement and without the closing of the gaps on the main issues - policing, demilitarisation and the permanency of the institutions - issues, which can only be resolved by the British Governmen.

``The only player that made a move for the good of the process was the IRA. The IRA unilaterally decided, in a genuine bid to create political space, to re-engage with the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning. This move once again showed that the IRA is honouring its commitments. Others must now follow this lead and honour their commitments and their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.

``The onus is on the British Government. They know what needs to be done. Republicans have honoured every commitment made under the Good Friday Agreement and we now demand that others do the same.''

``In the coming weeks and months the people of the 26 Counties are going to be pressurised into agreeing to the Treaty of Nice by way of referendum. The Treaty of Nice is detrimental to Ireland's interests. It will undermine Irish sovereignty, politically and economically and bring us closer into a European military alliance. With every day that passes the Irish government is marching us into a European Army and further away from neutrality. Sinn Féin is vigorously campaigning for a NO vote in the referendum.

``I would also like to send our solidarity to POWs still incarcerated and their families. A special mention needs to be made of the Castlerea political prisoners. They are an integral part of our struggle and they should be released immediately to return to their loved ones and play their part in the unfolding situation.''

Dún Laoghaire

This year's Easter Monday parade to Deansgrange Cemetery was the biggest yet, with several hundred people taking part. The parade was the final part of a weekend of commemorative events organised by local republicans. These events included a guided tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a kick-fada competition for children and the erection of an information display panel at the assembly point of the parade. Local resident Rita O'Hare, who is also Sinn Féin's representative in Washington DC, delivered the main oration at Deansgrange.


Large crowds enjoyed the favourable weather at commemorations in Tralee and Listowel on Easter Sunday. The Listowel commemoration was addressed at the Republican Plot in Listowel Cemetery, by Sinn Féin North Kerry county councillor, Martin Ferris, who also spoke at the Tralee commemoration later that day.

It had been intended that Ferris would speak in Waterford, while Tyrone Assembly representative Francie Molloy spoke in Kerry. However, due to the outbreak of FMD in Tyrone, Molloy made a late decision not to travel south.

Tralee attracted approximately 300 people, who marched from the Pikeman Memorial in the town to the Republican Plot at Rath Cemetery. Wreath layers on the day included one Mrs Collins - 84 years young and a former member of Cumann na mBan.

Martin Ferris said that the struggle of the Volunteers of 1916 is continued by the IRA of today. He said that the 1981 Hunger Strikes will be remebered in the same light as the 1916 Rising. ``Until we achieve our ultimate objective of an end to partition and British jurisdiction, and Irish unity and independence, our struggle continues.''


Republican former prisoner Ella O'Dwyer addressed the crowd attending the Limerick City Easter commemoration in Mount Street on Sunday.

Proceedings were chaired by Pádraig Malone, cathaoirleach of the Clancy/O'Callaghan Sinn Féin Cumann, and a wreath was laid at the Republican Plot by former POW Eddie Butler. A wreath was also laid at the graveside of Volunteer Seán Glynn, an IRA member not buried in the Republican Plot.

Throughout the commemoration, the Special Branch spied on the crowd and later stopped and questioned a number of Limerick republicans. Limerick Sinn Féin PRO, Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, speaking afterwards, questioned the use of taxpayers' money to harass republicans.



To much disappointment, the annual Drogheda Easter 1916 commemoration was cancelled due to news of further FMD outbreaks across the Six Counties.

However, a commemorative mass went ahead in the Parish Church and the Lourdes Brass Band, which normally leads the commemoration procession, instead accompanied St Peter's Male Voice Choir at the service.

A small gathering was held at the Halpen and Moran Monument in the town, where wreaths were laid. Of note, say local republicans, was the continuation of a steady increase in the number of young people attending the commemoration each year.


A commemoration to mark the 80th anniversary of the deaths of brothers John and Patrick Watters took place on Easter Saturday.

The brothers were shot by Auxiliaries, outside their home in Quay Street, Dundalk, in June 1921. Wreaths were laid at the scene of their assassination, on behalf of Sinn Féin and Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Sinn Féin Dundalk Urban District Councillor Seán Kenna addressed the crowd. He said that the sacrifice of the Watters brothers, that of the 1916 Rising soldiers and of their successors in the Hunger Strike of 1981, was being commemorated by more and more people today. ``Today we see more people becoming republicans. Our political strength is growing and our ability to achieve Irish unity and independence increases every year.''

The annual Easter Commemoration in Dundalk was cancelled this year due to the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) crisis.

A wreathlaying ceremony took place instead at the republican plot in St Patrick's Cemetery on Easter Sunday. Louth County Councillor, Arthur Morgan said that he regretted that the commemoration had been greatly curtailed due to the FMD crisis. However, he said that republicans must, like others, act responsibly.


Mayo Sinn Féin held Easter commemorations in Ballycastle, Ballina, Islandeady and Kilkelly this year to mark the 85th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. Sinn Féin National Executive member and the party's candidate for Mayo in the next general election, Vincent Wood, was the speaker at these events.

``Those who came out in 1916 and subsequently were men and women of principle,'' he said. ``When we look around at the current political landscape, principle is in short enough supply. The most recent revelations of dirty dealing and political chicanery around the time of the so-called arms crisis outline in stark terms that many of the leadership of Fianna Fáil at that time held no more that a rhetorical support for the concept of unity. Jack Lynch's claim that they would not stand by while northern nationalists were being attacked by loyalist mobs led by the RUC was just such rhetoric. The rabid anti-republicanism of the likes of Des O'Malley triumped, alas, and this conflict was prolonged as a result.''


The annual Easter 1916 Commemoration in County Monaghan was scaled down this year in response to the Foot and Mouth emergency. The Easter Sunday commemoration began with the laying of a wreath at the Fearghal O'Hanlon memorial on the Clones Road by Cllr. Brian McKenna, Cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council.

Speaking in Latlurcan Cemetery, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, reacting to current revelations, said: ``This week's new information about the Arms Trial of 1970 shows a government which at first dithered, then authorised armed aid to nationalists in the Six Counties, and then drew back again and scapegoated its own members and servants who carried out its wishes.

``Yet again, as the controversy was renewed this week, many commentators deliberately ignored the reason arms were sought in the first place, which was to defend the nationalist community as it endured pogrom and murder and the largest movement of a civilian population in Western Europe since the end of the Second World War. Those who stood idly by in 1970 also stood idly by in 1981.

``As the only All-Ireland party Sinn Féin is at the cutting edge of political change in our country today. A general election approaches in the Six Counties in June, with one to follow at some time within a year in the 26 Counties, and the old familiar anti-Sinn Féin chorus is being heard throughout the land once again. The Irish Independent expresses concern at our growth. In the Dáil deputies from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour share a megaphone to taunt our solitary TD. As electionitis sets in there is no doubt that the chorus will grow louder. But we take comfort from that. It is a sign of our growing strength and of the worry among the leaderships of the larger parties at the political alternative and electoral challenge which we now pose. I am confident that after the next general election they will require an even louder chorus to try to shout us down because they will be confronted by a team of Sinn Féin TDs in Leinster House.

``A general election in the 26 Counties may come at any juncture between now and June 2002. Whenever it comes we are ready. The Sinn Féin organisation in Counties Monaghan and Cavan is on an election footing. I believe that the general election will be the most significant for our party in this State since partition. I am confident that here in Cavan/Monaghan and in other key constituencies the people will give us a strong mandate and ensure a major advance for Sinn Féin. By your work you will make that happen.''

On Easter Sunday morning wreath-laying ceremonies took place at Clara, Carrickroe, Clontibret, Brian MacUaid, Corcaghan, Raferagh, Trinity (Rockcorry), Tyholland, Castleblayney and. On Easter Saturday there was a ceremony at Inniskeen.


This year's Drumboe Commemoration on Easter Sunday had to be moved indoors to the Holiday Inn in Letterkenny, County Donegal, because of the Foot and Mouth crisis. The proceedings were led by Jim Dignam, who told the crowd of 300 that the wreath laying at the Drumbe execution site would go ahead in private after the public gathering in the Holiday Inn so that the unbroken tradition from 1924 at the site of the killing of the four IRA volunteers would remain intact.

The main speaker was Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who told the audience ``we are not here to merely pay homage,but to publicly state that we all need to do more to realise our republic''.

Since 1916, he said, countless nations have won their freedom, many of them from Britain's grip. Many of them cite Ireland as their inspiration,their catalyst, he said, yet here we were in 2001 and we had not realised the ideals of 1916.

The evidence was huge that ``we've been doing something wrong'', he said. ``People must decide to do something more.'' He asked: `` Is there anywhere in this island where the vision of 1916 is realised? Only in Sinn Fein is the vision of 1916 held true.''

The key tenet of Republicanism is in the word itself he said. That is 'public'. ``The people are sovereign - that is the core of Republicanism - that is what makes us republicans.'' Describing the hunger strike year of 1981 as ``our 1916'', he counselled not to see Bobby Sands and his comrades as extraordinary men on a pedestal. ``They were ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances. If we do that then we can emulate their commitment. If we deify them then we think that we can't be like them.''

He said that the message of the Hunger Strikers was that ``the human spirit can rise above itself for an ideal''. He added that ``today isn't about reminiscences, this is about building for the future. It is about clearly outlining the kind of republic we want.''

He called on everyone had to take ownership of the negotiations. He also called for the release of all Republican prisoners, including the men currently held in Castlereagh. He saluted this generation of republicans who had struggled for longer than any previous generation of republicans. ``Has the British government defeated the Republican struggle? No! But it isn't enough not to be beaten. We have to win. The people of this island have to win. Are you doing enough? Well, do a wee bit more. Liberate our struggle.'' The ovation was long and warm.


Sinn Féin Árd Comhairle member Jim Gibney and local cumann chairperson Gerry Hanratty spoke at the Wexford Easter Sunday commemoration, which culminated at the Republican Plot in Crosstown Cemetery.

Wreaths were laid at the plot and also at the graves of Philip Kelly and Jack Dunne. A wreath-laying ceremony was also held in Rathangan at the graves of Volunteers James Byrne and Michael Gleeson, who died in the Saltmills explosion, and in Murrintown at the Radford and McCarthy graves of volunteers who lost their lives during the Civil War. This year, for the first time, there was also a wreathlaying ceremony at the grave of Joseph Whitty in Ballymore, the only Wexford man to die on hunger strike. His sacrifice was made in the Curragh Camp at the end of the Civil War.

On Monday, Enniscorthy town held its annual commemoration, parading from Rafter Bridge to St Mary's Cathederal. Addressing the gathering, local councillor John O'Dwyer spoke of the organisation and future direction of Sinn Féin in Wexford and the potential for electoral success in the area. Former POW Gerry Hanratty said that this potential would only be realised through teamwork and dedication.

Jim Gibney recalled the 1981 Hunger Strike and said that we should educate our younger generation on the horror of that time, so that it can never be repeated.

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