Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has today praised the hundreds of people who attended today’s Commemoration ceremony at Drumboe and used his speech to pay tribute to the role which Republicans in Donegal and West Tyrone have played down through the years during the various periods of struggle.
Today’s proceedings were chaired by Sinn Féin West Tyrone Assembly candidate Grace McDermott, while Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty was today’s main speaker.
The following is the full text of Deputy Pearse Doherty’s speech:
Ar dtús, ba maith liomsa fáilte mhor a chur romhaibh uilig go dtí an suíomh cuimhneacháin Droim Bó ar an lá mór speisialta seo agus céad bliain slán ó Éirí Amach na Cásca.
Ba chóir liom fáilte chroíúil faoi leith a chur roimh na daoine atá inár gcuideachta anseo inniú don chéad uair mar chuid de chomóradh an chéid.
For 100 years now Republicans the length and breadth of this island have been coming together to remember our patriot dead.
Those brave men and women who were committed and dedicated to the Republic, today we remember and pay tribute.
Indeed, Easter Sunday is not a day on which to mourn, but to remember and give reverence.
We do not therefore come to grieve, but rather to honour and pay homage to all those Republicans who’ve gone before us.
We remember their sacrifice, the heroism and the inspirational acts of courage and bravery which has set them apart as the true sons and daughters of Ireland.
Amongst them were great leaders, comrades, family members and friends.
They were visionaries who, through their sheer belief in the Republic proclaimed on the steps of the GPO, gave of themselves and – in doing so – have earned their rightful place amongst the great makers of nations.
And while they may be gone, their sacrifice has not been for nothing: their deaths have most certainly not been in vein.
We do not mourn them because they live on today.
From our rural villages and towns, to our busy cities’ streets; wherever injustice and inequality rears its ugly head, and wherever there exists a desire to defeat it, it is in that desire that our fallen comrades live on.
A chairde, we as Republicans continue to actively pursue and strive toward these very ideals for which our brothers and sisters both lived and died.
It’s important therefore that we use this occasion to take a moment to recognise the very real and worthy nature of our struggle, and all those from across Ireland who’ve played their part in advancing that very cause in the decades gone by.
Since the earliest recordings of Irish resistance to British rule, over hundreds of years, County Donegal and West Tyrone has made its mark at every juncture.
This region has seen our own periods of struggle, defining moments of exceptional bravery and remarkable resistance. Some are well known, others not so much
One such moment is that of the Drumboe Martyrs, whose recently refurbished commemoration site we gather at here this afternoon.
The heroism displayed by the martyrs is testament to the infamy by which they have become renowned and admired by Republicans both near and far.
Charlie Daly, Seán Larkin, Dan Enright and Timothy O’Sullivan, each young twenty-somethings whose idealism and unfaltering belief in the Republican cause was such that they were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of Irish liberty and the true betterment of their fellow countrymen and women.
Their execution, on the morning of 14th March 1923 in the grounds of Drumboe Castle and Woods by a Free State firing squad, coupled with the cold and callous nature with which their bodies were thrown into a ready-made grave afterwards, while both gruesome and cowardly, has only served to ignite the passionate fires of resistance which burn brightly in each of us who reject out rightly the very forces whom conspire to oppress us and that which we believe in and hold true.
For you see they are the inspiration, and their comrades that came before them, and those that followed in their footsteps, that drives this generation of Republicans forward to unite our nation and build a true Republic.
A century ago when the British executed the leaders of the Rising they were cheered on by the establishment and media in Dublin.
They believed that they could end the Republic before it was born and dismiss the ideals of the proclamation: they were wrong.
When the Freestaters executed Republicans like as happened here at Drumboe, they believed they would end the Republican struggle and cower a generation: they were wrong.
When the Fianna Fáil ordered the execution of Charlie Kearns and his comrades they believed that the demand for Irish unity and a true Republic would follow them into the grave. They were wrong.
When the British watched on by an Irish government believed that the demand for justice and equality would end with the hunger strike of 1981: they were wrong.
They were wrong because you cannot kill an ideal, and you cannot defeat a people bound by principle and acting in solidarity.
Today, as we do each Easter, tens of thousands of Republicans will gather across Ireland.
But this weekend will see thousands of events marking the centenary all over the country and indeed in many parts of the world.
But, lets not pretend to ourselves that everyone will mark it with the same honest or genuine intentions that we would like.
There will also be many people attending, participating and in fact, organising some commemoration events this weekend who will try to convince, who may even actually themselves believe, that we are living in the Republic declared on Easter Monday 1916.
Let me be clear - this state is not the Republic envisaged by the leaders of 1916.
And, how do we know that? Because the leaders of 1916 gave us the Proclamation of the Republic which was read here today.
That proclamation set out in clear terms what the authors were fighting for and were willing to give their lives for.
They fought and died for ‘the whole nation and all its parts’ – not 26 counties.
The very notions that the leaders of 1916 would have been satisfied with a partitioned island - That Thomas Clarke, the first signatory, would have accepted his native Tyrone being annexed into a sectarian state –
That the large numbers of northern volunteers involved in the rising were fighting for other people’s freedom –
That the provisional government would chose the strongest symbol of Irish Unity, the tricolour of Green, White and Orange, as the National flag yet have settled for a divided Ireland - are notions as ludicrous as they are laughable.
Today as we gather on this centenary year of the 1916 rising there is now more support for Sinn Féin and Irish Republicanism than at any other time in our history.
The promise of the Republic is in sight: it is in our hands.
At his court martial in Richmond Barracks, Thomas MacDonagh speaking to the British Military Tribunal said of the proclamation,
“You think that it is already a dead and buried letter, but it lives, it lives.
From minds alight with Ireland’s vivid intellect it sprang, in hearts aflame with Irelands’ mighty love it was conceived.
Such documents do not die.”
He was right such documents do not die. The proclamation, a revolutionary document of its time, remains the mission statement for modern day Irish Republicanism
It is our determination to deliver upon that proclamation that sets us apart from the rest.
To the political leaders who will go this weekend and wave their flags yet turn a blind eye to the partition of our country, to the crises in health and housing and to the growing inequality and poverty in our state my message to them is clear.
It is the same message delivered by Connolly years before the Rising to the Irish people when he said.
“Ireland as distinct from her people, is nothing to me: and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for Ireland, and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation brought upon the people of Ireland – aye, brought by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women, without burning to end it, is in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland.”
The British in 1916 removed the revolutionary leadership, when they executed our leaders.
The revolutionary period was followed by a counter revolution.
English colonial rule was replaced by a conservative free state version.
This new Irish establishment set aside the proclamation. For over 90 years they have presided over partition and inequality.
The rights of citizens secondary to the needs of elites.
In the north a state formed out of discrimination, repression and exclusion could not reflect the principles of the proclamation.
This is no longer 1916, 1968 or 1981. Much has been hard fought for and much has been hard won.
This generation of Republicans must work to deliver the Republic.
Through all of this change the proclamation remains a constant.
100 years on from the Rising and 35 years on from the Hunger Strikes we still need to ‘assert the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible’.
We now have a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish Unity. The agreements provided for polls north and south to end partition and the union.
It is the democratic right of all our people to have a say in the future.
We need to build support for unity and highlight the continued failure of partition and assert the right of people in the north to end the link with Britain.
Across Ireland there are those in the establishment who oppose equality, those who do not ‘cherish all of the children of the nation equally’.
Sinn Féin stands for a fair recovery, for free health care and for the right to a home. We believe in an inclusive Ireland.
The proclamation makes clear that the republic guarantees the religious and civil liberties, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens.
We oppose racism, homophobia, sectarianism and any form of inequality and discrimination.
There is an obligation on us all to build relations to overcome these differences, to reconcile with the past and build an inclusive society where we all work together for the common good. Republicans will need to be generous and patient.
The proclamation makes clear, there cannot be any place for those who dishonour the Republican cause, with criminality or by engaging in counterproductive militarism that offers nothing but suffering, imprisonment and death.
There remain those opposed to Republicanism, those opposed to unity and those opposed to equality.
This year we have made significant progress and we have increased our representation in the Dáil.
We stood on a platform of a Fair Recovery and for a new Republic. To end water charges and the property tax. To end the housing and health crisis.
We stood against the old politics and parties that delivered crisis, austerity and inequality.
The current standoff between these parties is nothing to do with the housing and health crisis, nothing to do with mass emigration and growing inequality.
It is nothing to do with uniting the country and building a Republic. It is all to do with Ministerial positions, who will get the spoils of the election.
During the election we said we would not prop up a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil-led government. Unlike the Labour party we will stand by our election pledges.
We will not support a government of the parties which created and sustained the crisis. Their policies are the problem. These parties are not the solution.
We are now the main opposition in the Dáil to the conservative and failed establishment parties of Fine Gael/ Fianna Fáil and Labour.
We are the leaders of progressive republican politics across Ireland.
And we will be in government, North and South. It is not a case of if this happens but when it will happen.
After almost a century of acting, interchangeably as government and opposition Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, who have each been equally committed to the status quo and that maintenance of the state ahead of the people who live in it, are terrified of coalescing, not for any reason of policy but because – they say – it will leave Sinn Féin as the largest opposition party. Once again they underestimate our ambition.
We want Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together – but not in government –
Sinn Féin wants those two regressive, conservative, partitionist parties together in opposition so that we can lead a government intent on delivering the Republic that lives in our hearts.
We want the Republic to live in the lives of every single family on this island.
And, our challenge this weekend and throughout the period of commemoration in this centenary year is to rededicate ourselves to its realisation.
We must build the demand for real change. For unity and for a Republic that honours the men and women of 1916 and all our patriots.
In the north, we face into an assembly election, ongoing Tory cuts and an EU referendum.
Martin McGuinness and the executive team has had a real and practical impact on the lives of our citizens there.
Sinn Féin is the driving force behind the progressive measures that the Executive has taken –blocking water charges, protecting lower student fees and free prescriptions and pensioners’ travel.
When others said no more could be achieved we continued to negotiate. In the Fresh Start Agreement we secured over half a billion pounds to protect the most vulnerable in society.
Sinn Féin achieved it in spite of governments in London and Dublin, which are wedded to the politics of cuts and austerity.
Sinn Féin delivered a deal that allows us to protect core public services, particularly in health and education.
Sinn Fein remains committed to find a resolution to the issue of the legacy of the past. The British government are continuing to block progress on this issue.
They are more interested in covering up their actions than progressing reconciliation and healing. But we will preserve and the truth will come out.
The process of change continues.
100 years on from when the British believed that they had defeated Republicanism, we now stand stronger than ever.
35 years on from when Haughey and Thatcher believed that they has defeated the hunger strikers we are now the largest party in Ireland.
We have travelled far and achieved much, but the only fitting tribute to those who came before us to build the Republic proclaimed in 1916.
We have further to travel to build that republic. It will take commitment, hard work and patience. But that is the way of struggle.
As I look around here I see the people that will deliver that change. Together we will write Robert Emmet’s epitaph. Together we will build the only fitting tribute to our patriots - a true Republic.
Before he was executed Patrick Pearse told the British:
“You cannot conquer Ireland and you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom; if our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom then our children will win it with a better deed”.
65 years later Bobby Sands on the 17th day of his hunger strike, in the last entry in his diary he wrote.
“They won’t break me because the desire for freedom and the freedom of the Irish people is in my heart”
Today in this place, in this year – the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the 35th anniversary of the Hunger strike we cry out to Pearse and Sands and to all our patriot dead to let them know, to let our own children know, that that our passion for freedom has never been extinguished and we intend to win that Freedom.
Beirígí Bua! Up the Republic!”