(Cllr. Pearse McGeough & myself at the O'Carroll/
Tierney monument in Ardee)
Earlier today I had the honour of addressing the annual Commemoration of IRA Volunteers Seán O'Carroll and Patrick Tierney who were murdered by the Black & Tans on November 30th 1920. The event took place in Ardee, Co. Louth and was proceeded by a march through the town to the monument erected in memory of the two men.
Local Councillor Pearse McGeough chaired the proceedings. Because everyone was freezing I kept my contribution relatively short. Here are my remarks for anyone who may be interested:
Today, like every year, republicans gather to remember and commemorate 2 heroes:
Seán O’Carroll, a native of Celbridge in Co. Kildare who had moved to Belfast at a young age and found himself here in Ardee, County Louth, where he was teaching Gaeilge and Patrick Tierney, a local man rooted in the Ardee community.
In November 1920 Seán O’Carroll was 25; Patrick Tierney was 26.
Reading reports on their lives it was clear that they were relatively ordinary young men enjoying the same pastimes as their peers. But, they were different in one respect – they were IRA volunteers, having recognised the injustice perpetrated on their country by foreign occupation they decided they were going to do something about it. That is what made them heroes.
On the evening of 30th November British forces murdered both men, in separate instances, here in the town of Ardee.
Similar stories are to be found in almost every town in this country and in far too many cases we don’t have to go back 90 years to find the story.
In 6 counties, up until recently, similar methods were used continually by RUC, British army and their agents in unionist death squads in attempts to silence the heroes of the day.
And while we have not yet succeeded in bringing about the objectives for which Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney gave their lives we must be confident that we are on course for that victory which has alluded the Irish people for so many generations.
The last 15 years have been difficult. The Peace Process, has in many ways shown the determination of our enemies and opponents. It has tested our resolve. It has sometimes caused difficulties for us personally. But, these difficulties have been nothing compared to what has been caused for our enemies.
Take the issue of policing, for example. A tough decision for many republicans, myself included, was taken. But witnessing the crisis caused with unionism and elements of the British establishment it is clear that the republican leadership (made up of the same calibre of people as Seán O Carroll and Patrick Tierney) took an initiative which has the potential to undermine the solidity of the 6 county state.
Who knows how this current dilemma will be resolved. One thing we know for certain is that if republicans remain united and committed then we will come out stronger than we went in.
Another certainty is that the endgame for partition must be put in place.
Consider the economic crisis that this state is in. And consider the perceived wisdom among so many of those who actually caused the crisis that a major obstacle to recovery is the fact that hard strapped families sometimes decide to do their shopping in an Irish town 40 miles down the road from where we are standing.
Of course, Sinn Féin representatives should be encouraging people to support local businesses where appropriate. But in my own town of Carrickmacross, I know that for years there was never so much as a whisper when busloads of people travelled to Dublin to spend their hard earned cash. But when they make the shorter journey into a neighbouring county in search of value for money their patriotism is questioned.
We know what our patriotic duty is, in economic terms and in every other way. It is to do all within our power to end partition and unite our country once and for all.
Sinn Féin has a plan to achieve this. Other parties tell us that they too want to see reunification. Well, let us see their plans. We have no desire to have a monopoly of the Irish Republican tradition. But likewise we will not listen to election time republicans, who mention the names of the likes of Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney only when it’s in their political interests to do so, without exposing their hypocrisy.
The hardest battles for Irish Republicanism are yet to come. We know the resolve of our opponents. They were at the home of Seán Hughes and his family recently. They united in force to deliver the Lisbon treaty. They are at one in forcing the lowest paid and the less well off to pay the cost of an economic bubble that delivered no benefit to those targeted for cuts.
And they are united in their fear, their hatred and their contempt for Irish Republicanism. They comprise of course of the most reactionary elements of Unionism and the British political and military establishment. But they also include the political, media, big business establishment in this state, just like they did during the tan war when the same elements turned a blind eye to the murders of Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney.
And just like the comrades of Seán Carroll and Patrick Tierney did all those years ago we need to take our opponents on with even more resolve than they have themselves.
That means becoming stronger. It means being rooted in our communities and leading from the front. It means presenting the Irish people with radical yet achievable short and medium term solutions as well as having a broader vision for a new and united Ireland.
Our elected representatives have been carrying out this work. Arthur Morgan and his staff should be especially congratulated for their work in producing comprehensive policy documents including a pre-budget submission and an employment creation strategy document that proves the lie behind government assertions that there is no alternative to cuts in public services and the targeting of the low paid and unemployed.
With the commitment of party members and supporters we need to by-pass the establishment media and get our policies into local communities. We need to create the debate about what kind of Ireland the Irish people want.
It is my firm belief that, at the basest level, the Irish people don’t want a partitioned, conservative, right wing, uncompassionate, corrupt country. Yet many of them continually elect partitionist, right-wing, uncompassionate, corrupt politicians. Maybe its because they haven’t been convinced that there’s an alternative.
Well, that’s our job. Lets show them. Lets make sure that County Louth, just like my own constituency re-elects our Sinn Féin TD's. Lets set the example for other constituencies to do likewise. Lets take power in this state and use that power to demolish the border that is the source of so many of this country’s ills.
Let do this together. Lets create a real, living commemoration to Seán O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney and to the thousands of others who gave their lives to the great cause to which we still aspire.