Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Want to get a picture on our Christmas Card?

I don't like talking about Christmas prior to December 21st but some things need to be organised a bit in advance. In fact I'm probably leaving this a bit late.

Each year I, on behalf of Sinn Féin in Carrickmacross, send out about 300 Christmas Cards to long time supporters and constituents who we think would appreciate the gesture. Don't worry - we pay for the printing and postage ourselves and don't use state funding or Oireachtas envelopes.

Anyway, we usually use a drawing or photo of a County Monaghan landmark on the Christmas card and this is where you come in:

If you or someone you know is (or wants to be) a budding artist or photographer and would like to be on our Christmas card then send a piece of work and we might use it. You can e-mail it to me at

As I say we usually go for a landmark of some description and that is what we have in mind for this year also. BUT - we're willing to be convinced otherwise - so if you have a better suggestion send it into us and we'll take it on board. We will, of course, credit the artist/ photographer on the card and although we don't have a pile of money we will make a little token gesture of thanks to whoever's work we use.

So, get cracking and send me in your ideas, drawings, photos, whatever you think might like good on our card. We'll be sending the cards for print in the first week of November so we'll need them by Oiche Samhain/ October 31st if possible.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kieran Doherty remembered

Kieran Doherty's Brother, Michael, addressed Monaghan event

On Monday evening last we had a fantastic event in Monaghan Town to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Kieran Doherty, the eight Hunger Striker to die in Long Kesh in 1981.

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)

Of course, numerous mentions were made of the fact that the people of Cavan/ Monaghan elected Kieran Doherty as their TD while he was on Hunger Strike. This always amazes me and makes me incredibly proud to be from this constituency.

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.”

“The prisoners did win in the end, but made the ultimate sacrifice.

“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”.

On Monday there were shivers down my spine as I listened to Michael and all I could think was "Tiocfaidh Ár Lá!"

Monday, July 25, 2011

Carrickmacross Councillors Refuse to Make a Stand

FG, FF & Greens vote down Sinn Féin motion

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

It's Time for Ireland to Mature

She's the commander in chief of an army that has, and continues to, illegally occupy other people's countries.

She personally honours those who have illegally murdered innocent civilians - the most notable being the soldiers who murdered 14 Derry people on Bloody Sunday.

She believes she has a God given right to rule.

She is the head of a sectarian organisation - no Catholic can ever hold her position.

She, or any of her predecessors, have never ever given up a power - any they lost had to be taken by oppressed people.

Yet, it is those of us who oppose her visit to Ireland that are described as backward, immature, living in the past. When Elizabeth Windsor comes to Ireland next month she will witness a slavish knee-bending Irish establishment.

This is not a new departure. When British monarchs visited in the past they were greeted by the same types. This won't be a sign that we have moved on. Rather it will be a sign that within our political system there remains the same backward lackeys that there has always been.

However, there are some of us who are mature enough, forward looking enough and progressive enough to know that there are better ways to spend millions of taxpayers euro in these recessionary times. Some of us will protest at the visit, some will attend alternative events. Most of those who will oppose the visit, I believe a silent majority, will stay at home wondering how to meet next months bills and concerned that at the time when Irish destinies are being sold to International institutions our establishment will have the nerve to bend the knee to someone who still believes she is our supreme ruler in a Garden of Remembrance created to honour the legacy of real leaders who, we know by their words and deeds, despised everything that the British monarchy represented.

It's time for Ireland to mature - It's time we stopped bowing to outdated, regressive regimes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ivor Callely sends me Christmas Joy

One of the most bizarre aspects of being a Sinn Féin Councillor is the Christmas cards and gifts you receive from Senators from opposing political parties. In years past I have received books, ties, pens, DVDs, diaries and chocolates from senators whose parties are in bitter battles with us in a crazy bid for a senate vote. I think the only party from which I never received a senatorial gift was my own. Pearse Doherty, the cheapskate, never sent me so much as An Phoblacht souvenir keyring during his time in An Seanad.

This year (or do I say last year?), I have to say, the numbers of cards and gifts reduced dramatically from previous times.

However I am happy to report that one Ivor Callely didn't forget me (even though he has never met me)! Ivor duly sent me a wee Christmas card in which I think he describes himself as the Holy One of Israel (which may or may not be his current place of residence).

Ivor went a step further in his quest to bid me all the merriment of the Christmas season by giving me a little help with those awkward dates that will arise in 2011 by also enclosing a little calendar. I particularly like his reference to himself as having "Unwavering Energy & Dedication Born of a True Passion for Public Service". It was easier believing he was the Holy One of Israel.

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!