I would like to welcome you all, especially the comrades family and friends of the volunteers from the last and previous campaigns, to remember some of greatest Irishmen to ever grace our beloved county, into the garden of remembrance in Carrickmore on this fine Easter Monday. 107 years ago, great Irish men and women declared for an independent socialist 32 county Irish republic. But 107 years later Ireland is not free. 107 years later, the lives of Irish men, women and children are crippled by the manacles of oppression and partition. 107 years later, many Irish men and women live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material property. 107 years later Irish men and women are still subjugated by an unjust and corrupt Saxon feudal system and find themselves in exile in their own land. So here today, as we commemorate the immeasurable sacrifice many people have paid through the colossal and complex history of Ireland, we pledge ourselves to the ideals set out and proclaimed on Easter Monday 1916 and aim to achieve that 32 county Socialist Independent Republic in our lifetime.
To the Irish mind for more than a thousand years, freedom has had but one definition. It has meant not a limited freedom, a freedom conditioned by the interests of another nation, a freedom compatible with the suzerain authority of a foreign parliament, but absolute freedom, the sovereign control of Irish destinies. It has meant not the freedom of a class but the freedom of a people. It has meant not the freedom of a geographical fragment of Ireland but the freedom of all Ireland, of every sod of Ireland, from the plough to the stars.
Is the idea of a new Ireland, shared island or an Ireland that is subjected to an English brokered agreement what led the great Tyrone man Thomas Clarke to take that defiant stand on Easter Monday 1916? I don’t think it was and your presence here today at this commemoration is a strong condemnation of the narrative of the establishment parties on this issue.
We are not alone in this belief, many great republicans have expressed their opinions on this subject but none is as powerful and vivid than when Liam Mellows said in 1919, “Now either the republic exists, or it does not.”
In fact, more than 100 years later, James Connolly’s analysis of Redmond’s home rule bill can be used as near carbon copy on how we critique and condemn the “shared island” approach increasingly pushed by Rishi and Leo’s lackeys.“How would you like to live in a house if the keys of all the doors of that house were in the pockets of a rival of yours who had often robbed you in the past? Would you be satisfied if he told you that he and you were going to be friends for ever more, but, insisted upon you signing an agreement to leave him control of all your doors, and custody of all your keys?” The men and women from this astounding county and further afield, who freely relinquished their desire for fame and money and who spilled the last drop of their blood for you and I did not fight for an Ireland that would be enveloped into the fold of Charlie Windsor’s commonwealth. Nor did they fight for an Ireland, who has already bled thousands of times over to be ushered into the arms of the barbaric and war ready offshoot of the USA, NATO. General Liam Lynch said in respect of the 1923 treaty ‘It is too degrading and dishonourable for the Irish people to accept a treaty which brings them within the British Empire, even if it were only for a short period of time.’ In fact it was because of this sentiment that free state Mercenaries saw it fit to execute him 100 years ago today. Including in a 12 month period, 80 other anti-treaty volunteers. General Lynch and the men we commemorate here today, were intent on establishing the true Republic, an independent socialist Republic that would only be governed by its masses and would not be used as a bargaining chip in the perverted, merciless and blood hungry game of colonial chess.
The men and women fought and died for an independent, socialist republic that would only be governed by its masses and not to be used as a bargaining chip in the perverted, merciless and blood hungry game of colonial chess.
The soul of Ireland has preached revolution time and time again, the Irish people have risen up to fight against the imperialist oppressor and as we recall the times our ancestors fought the Saxon invader especially here in the heart of Tyrone, we will listen intently to arguably the most important document in which inspired a whole new generation of Irish republicans and still inspires us today.
Anois léifidh Marian Vincent, déirfiúir Patrick Vincent, Órdfhogra na Phoblachta. I will now ask Marian Vincent, to read the proclamation of the republic. Marian is a sister of one of our bravest volunteers Patrick Vincent, who died alongside Peter Clancy, Seán O’Farrell and Barry O’Donnell fighting the foe in East Tyrone in order to establish the Republic for you and I. Míle buíochas a Marian.
Thank you, Marian for a very emotive and meaningful reading. Never has such a document so eloquently summarised the main principles of Irish republicanism and we are grateful to be able to hear it recited in Carrickmore today.
“I have sacrificed all my values in life, I have courted poverty, I have left a beloved wife unprotected and children whom I adore fatherless. After such a sacrifice, in a cause which I have always considered – conscientiously considered- as the cause of justice and freedom, it is no great effort, at this day to add the sacrifice of my life.” These solemn words declared by Wolfe Tone 225 years ago are a stark reminder of the pain and suffering inflicted upon our volunteers of Óglach na hEireann. We place our utmost thanks to these volunteers above everything else. We proudly remember their supreme sacrifice, as they set out to achieve the glorious republic declared in 1916. Ireland has known many sorrows, but nowhere has it been felt greater than here in the green hills and valleys of Tyrone. We only have to look at the extensive roll of honour in front of me to see that through the generations, Tyrone’s brave volunteers have always answered the call to resist the English foe. Padraig Pearse in his final letter to his mother before he faced the English firing squad stated that he, “Was ready to die and shall die cheerfully and proudly.” Robert Emmet speaking from the dock before he was executed said that he wished to join the martyrs who, “shed their blood on the scaffold, and in the field” and Kevin Barry, before he was to come face to face with death itself at the gallows, said that he was willing to die for Ireland and he “wouldn’t be the first and definitely not the last.”
The invisible yet inseparable bond that ties all volunteers of the republic together is the belief that to fight and die for Ireland is the noblest cause for which to be called upon. Anois, iarrfaidh mé ar Seán McAlinden Rolla Onóra a léamh. As we now recall the names of those who selflessly and gallantly embraced the eternal sleep of death in the hills, mountains and valleys of Tyrone, throughout Ireland and on the shores of foreign lands. I will now ask Seán McAlinden, to read the Tyrone roll of honour and John Daly from the Thomas Clarke band will play a lament as the Roll of Honour is read aloud.
Go raibh maith agat a Shean agus Shean. The names that have just been recited will be forever enshrined in the annals of history as they take their righteous place alongside the great martyrs of Irish republicanism, Tone, Clarke and Connolly. The brave volunteers from Tyrone who died will be the first people that we will thank whenever we establish our 32 county Irish socialist republic. Never forget as we head towards the establishment of a new country that our march to freedom was assisted by the dreams and ambitions of these brave volunteers.
Anois, beidh bomaite ciúnas again. As we take a minutes silence we think of all the outstanding men and women who died fighting against the English oppressor. At this time we will also think of the comrades, friends and family members of our much revered volunteers who have now departed this life and have joined their beloved and will forever more be cradled in Eire’s breast.
175 years ago Thomas Francis Meagher unfurled the green, white and gold of the Irish flag In Waterford. That flag was raised over the GPO in Dublin in 1916 as the IRA fought back against the British Empire. A flag that Terence MacSwiney said must be lifted when down, waved when challenged and saluted and glorified.
Anois, iarrfaidh mé ar Martin Mullin brát na Phoblachta a islú agua a árdú. I ask Martin Mullin, the vice chair of Tyrone National Graves to lower and raise the flag of the Irish republic while John Daly plays a lament.
Thank you Martin and John. This magnificent flag belongs to every Irish man, woman and child. It must never be appropriated by one narrow minded section of society or any one political party. It is the flag that represents everyone on this island. It is the flag that our brave volunteers took an oath to protect and uphold. Therefore to honour the brave men and women who died we must ensure it remains that way.
Anois, cuirfidh muid na bláthanna amach. Now comrades, family and friends will lay floral tributes in respect to our patriot dead.
Tommy McKearney will lay the Comrades and Friends wreath.
John McGlinchey will lay the wreath on behalf of the Tyrone National Graves Association.
Pat McKeown will lay the wreath on behalf of the 1916 societies.
Gary Hurson will lay the Hungerstrike wreath.
If there are any other wreaths, they can be laid now.
(The Thomas Clarke Band, Dungannon also laid a wreath)
I wish to thank everyone who made today’s event possible. The grounds people, the bands, the stewards, the participants here today and every person standing in front of me for attending.
We must reflect on the harsh conditions in which countless men and women, were and are subjected to at the hands of what’s left of the English empire. We remember those who were brave and unyielding enough to fight back against the cruel oppressive nature of our neighbour and paid the greatest sacrifice possible. But we must not falter. We must still achieve the republic that was declared in 1916. We are eternally grateful to the brave warriors of Tyrone, who we so proudly and fondly remember today.
We are now closer than ever to the establishment of a 32 county socialist republic because of these great soldiers. Only when the republic, declared 107 years ago, is established will we be able to fully honour them. Then and only then will it be acceptable that their epitaph be written.
We do not simply want a change of master for that is not to be truly free. A mockery of Irish independence is not what we want. We reaffirm the belief set out in the meeting of the first dail in 1919 that a foreign government in Ireland is an invasion of our national right which we will never tolerate, and we demand the evacuation of our country by the English Garrison. Over 100 years later the English presence is still felt in Ireland. Their armoured patrols may have disappeared from our streets but they have left behind an even more sinister thing in the form of their yeomen and lackys who implement the law and customs of a foreign land. They sell vast swathes of Ireland to the highest bidder. They do not cherish all of the children of the nation equally.
So we say NO MORE. Ireland is arising from its slumber and we must continue to organise to establish the 32 county socialist republic.
Before I conclude today’s ceremony and ask Róisin McErlain to sing the national anthem, I will finish with a fine quote from Thomas Davis, “And now, Englishmen, listen to us! Though you were tomorrow to give us the best tenures on earth – though you were to equalise Presbyterian, Catholic, and Episcopalian – though you were to give us the amplest representation in your Senate – though you were to restore our absentees, disencumber us of your debt, and redress every one of our fiscal wrongs – and though, in addition to all this, you plundered the treasuries of the world to lay gold at our feet, and exhausted the resources of your genius to do us worship and honour – still we tell you – we tell you, in the names of liberty and country – we tell you, in the name of enthusiastic hearts, thoughtful souls, and fearless spirits – we tell you, by the past, the present, and the future, we would spurn your gifts, if the condition were that Ireland should remain a province…
We tell you, and all whom it may concern, come what may – bribery or deceit, justice, policy, or war – we tell you, in the name of Ireland, that Ireland shall be a Nation!” Remember our glorious dead, fight like hell for the living and onwards to the republic!