Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Monday marked the anniversary eve of Kieran's death and the Co. Monaghan 1981 committee, of which I'm a member, organised a concert and rally in his honour. It was an uplifting tribute. There was music and poetry. Packie McDonald sang a song he recently wrote in Kieran's honour.
There were a number of readings including one by Rose McMahon of a plea written by Kieran's mother, Margaret, back in 1981 which once again brought the harsh reality of the times to life for those of us to young to remember.
(Myself and Michael Doherty with Michael's daughter, Grainne and his wife Betty last Monday)
In 1981, much like today, the people in Cavan and Monaghan were faced with huge economic pressures, high unemployment and massive emigration. Yet over 9,000 voters gave Kieran Doherty, a lad of 25 years who as far as we know never set foot in these counties, their number 1 vote. There was no personal benefit for them. Those who voted for Kieran Doherty knew that he wouldn't be able to fast track their medical card application or get their road fixed or even raise the issues affecting their daily lives in Leinster House. All they could hope to achieve was the saving of a Belfast man's life and the recognition that his cause was just.
When I think of the gombeens and the chancers that have been elected across all constituencies in the intervening years I am proud to know that people in this constituency were willing to give their vote to what was essentially a 'big idea'. I am also proud that most of those who voted for Kieran Doherty and who are still alive now vote for me and my Sinn Féin colleagues. That is my reassurance that we are doing something right.
I won't go into the history, background and context of the Hunger Strikes. Suffice to suggest that if you don't know a whole pile about this then find out. Read the books, listen to the songs and attend talks or lectures on the subject.
The reason I write this blog is to re-print the words spoken by Kieran Doherty's brother, Michael at the event last Monday. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that anyone video recorded Michael's contribution and the words cannot convey the passion and pride in Michael's voice. His speech was short but powerful and included a quote from Kieran to his parents while he was on his hospital bed dying from Hunger Strike.
Remarks by Michael Doherty:
“I would like to thank everyone present here this evening on this the eve of the 30th anniversary of Kieran’s death after 73 days on hunger strike in the H blocks of Long Kesh, paying tribute and honouring him and his memory, and of course, remembering and honouring everyone who gave their lives for Irish freedom, especially the volunteers from this area.
“The support here this evening from the people of Monaghan/Cavan is very heartening for us and gives all our family great comfort and for this we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
"The people of Cavan/Monaghan never had the opportunity or chance to meet Kieran, but in those last days of his hunger strike he spoke to us about the great people of Cavan/Monaghan and was sorry that he never managed to meet you. You didn’t know Kieran, but he knew you.
“Kieran knew he had a final job to do. He had watched his comrades die before him and said to us a few weeks before he died
“even if I drift into a coma, promise me that you won’t take me off the hunger strike unless the five demands are met. Nothing less will do this time, they must be set in concrete. The British and Maggie Thatcher won’t break me or my comrades. We are not criminals, we are Irish Political Prisoners of War, and we will win in the end — A Defeat is unthinkable after all that has passed. It is not just the 5 demands, the Republican Movement is at stake.”
“Kieran is as proud of you all here this evening as you are of him. He would be proud of what has been achieved and of our leaders in this new political phase of the Irish Struggle. Kieran will undoubtedly continue to inspire us all and keep us on the path for a united democratic and peaceful Ireland.
“I and my family would like to take this opportunity to thank Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for inviting us here this evening and for the tremendous and unwavering support he has shown to us since 1981 and up to this present moment. I would like also to thank the organisers of this commemoration and to everyone who participated in any way. We thank everyone particularly for the kindness and courtesy extended to our family”.
Monday, July 25, 2011
I am used to having motions I propose to Carrickmacross Town Council defeated. When I first elected to that body I was a sole Sinn Féin representative and it wasn't unique for me to fail to get a seconder for some motions. During that council term Fianna Fáil had a majority and so most motions that were critical of the government of the day were doomed for defeat.
So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when a motion I placed on the agenda of the last Town Council meeting was defeated. This is the motion:
"Recognising that families in Carrickmacross are already struggling to make ends meet at present and further recognising that many local businesses have been devastated by the reduction of spending power of the people of the town through job losses, taxes increases and austerity measures; Carrickmacross Town Council notes with concern the governments' proposals to introduce water charges and property taxes. That this council recognises that such a move will deflate our local economy even further and prolong the current recession. We call on the government to desist from introducing these additional taxes at this time."
The truth is, I was surprised with the outcome. I purposefully worded the motion so that not to principally object to such charges even though that is my own position. Rather than focus solely on the fact that such charges will place a severe burden on people that cannot afford them I highlighted the impact that these charges will have on our local economy and on businesses that are already on the brink of closure. The motion simply called for these charges not to be introduced at this particular time.
The motion was defeated. And not just defeated - it was roundly rejected.
The three Fine Gael members Mark Clarke, Mary Kerr Conlon and Teresa Carolan accused me of populism and all the rest and led the charge against the motion.
Fianna Fáil's Padraig McNally and PJ O'Hanlon argued against it and especially advocated the introduction of water charges. PJ voted against the motion, Padraig abstained. The Green Party's Darcy Lonergan and Kristina Jankaitiene didn't speak to the motion but voted against it without providing a rationale.
So that left myself and Noel Keelan, as the two Sinn Féin members, to vote in favour of a motion that was defeated 6-2 with 1 abstention.
Now obviously I know that even had the motion been passed unanimously it would have little bearing on the governments' plans. Indeed since our debate the Fine Gael Labour government have announced that plans are advanced for a Household charge. Support for the proposal would simply have stood as a small message to the people of our town that their local council understood the hardship that many of them were suffering and that we were on their side.
The reason I am surprised by the decision of my fellow councillors is that I know that they know how difficult many of the families they represent are already having it. I know that they know that if such a charge is introduced that it will mean more local shops will close.
Often we hear the charge that Oireachtas members are out of touch, earning huge wages and stuck in Dublin three days a week. However, local councillors are meeting people suffering as a result of austerity measures every day.
But they could not bring themselves to make a small stand against these measures. They will not accept the argument that it is those who can afford to pay more (and they are out there) that should pay more. They will not agree that public money should not be used to pay private banking debt. Instead they agree that everyone should pay the same and if that means that there is less money to pay for groceries or utilities then so be it.
Why is this the case? Well, I have my theories but I cannot say for certain.
Maybe the next time you meet one of them you will ask them.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
It appears that there is going to be a bit of a debate on the future of the Seanad in the run up to the election and possibly (unlikely) even a referendum on election day itself. Who knows, maybe its days are numbered. Would anyone (apart from senators) even notice?
Well, in a very very very small way, I would. Because, after all, if it weren't for the Seanad and the gombeen who Bertie Ahern appointed to it I wouldn't have had one of my biggest laughs of 2010.
Happy New Year!