Due to growing interest in the One Ireland One Vote campaign for Irish Unity, Kevin Martin, National Treasurer of the 1916 Societies, returned to New York City and to Hugh O’Lunney’s Pub on Times Square for a public meeting. Irish ballad singer Derek Warfield, from the Young Wolfe Tones, was the guest speaker, delivering a history-based lecture on the continued partition of Ireland, along with singing songs of Irish freedom.
Kevin Martin provided a powerpoint presentation on the 1916 Societies One Ireland One Vote campaign, detailing our flagship initiative for an All-Ireland Referendum on Irish Unity, which affords all the people of Ireland their democratic right to freedom and independence.
Kevin stated, ‘the Centenary of the 1916 Rising is only weeks away and while all those political parties who have long since accepted British rule and the partition of Ireland attempt to use the Rising for their own political purposes, none can or will offer a credible strategy for achieving a United Ireland – they simply don’t have one.
‘Six Counties of Ireland are still occupied and controlled by British MPs at Westminster. Britain is in full control of defining and setting policies and the agenda in Ireland. In contrast, ourselves in the 1916 Societies state that only the citizens of Ireland have the right to decide the future of this island, a right that is both absolute and sovereign. It is for them alone, free from external impediment, to determine their own destiny.
‘Furthermore, we contend that national self-determination, expressed through an all-Ireland referendum, will give every Irish citizen the equal right to vote on the issue of partition and the formation of sovereign, independent state to assume its place upon its demise.
‘The 1916 Societies highlight that the proposed referenda under the Good Friday Agreement do not constitute national self-determination and would in effect be merely an internal six-county Border Poll, supervised by the British Secretary of State, with her supreme veto over wishes of the Irish people guaranteed. None of this, as those who try to sell the same as a genuine pathway to a United Ireland, is acceptable and must be refuted at every opportunity.’
Continuing, he described how the Easter Rising would not have happened without the support of Irish America, where many of Ireland’s old Fenian’s, like O’Donovan Rossa and John Devoy, had been exiled, continuing to organise for Irish freedom through Clan na Gael while there. Several of the leaders of the Rising had lived in and visited America prior to 1916. Thomas Clarke worked with John Devoy for a period before returning to Ireland, James Connolly spent many years there spreading the trade union message in upstate New York.
Others, like Padraig Pearse and Joseph Plunkett, also made the trip to America, to finalise plans for the Rising, while Roger Casement spent months in New York before heading to secure arms for the Rising. Such was the interest in the aftermath of the Rising that it made the front page of the New York Times for 8 days running.
Thus, the 1916 Societies recognise how gaining support from Irish America for the One Ireland One Vote campaign will be crucial, and as such were delighted by requests to return, having been there only weeks beforehand. The two recent visits have helped no end towards our efforts to further develop and expand our initiative to achieve a United Ireland. The campaign is gaining support as a peaceful and democratic way to achieve Irish freedom and we are encouraged by the growing response and goodwill from across the Atlantic.
After the presentation, Bernard Swift, a member of the Sean MacDiarmada Society in Fermanagh, sung the song he wrote about Sean MacDiarmada before Derek Warfied was introduced to entertain all present with ballads of Irish freedom, aptly beginning with ‘The Rising of the Moon’.
Derek spoke of how ‘history has shown that for hundreds of years British governments have consistently denied the Irish people the right to their own parliament and to be able to govern themselves. I believe that the Irish people have been denied their right to freedom and independence for far too long.
‘Britain’s legacy in Ireland is one of occupation, murder and of terrorising our people. It has no right to be in Ireland and never had any right to be in Ireland. Only 3 days ago, the 25th November, marks the day in 1783 that British troops departed from New York City and Manhattan Island. It’s known as evacuation day, something Americans rightly celebrate 232 years later. So it’s very fitting that Irish Americans and our supporters for Irish freedom gather here in Hugh O’Lunney’s pub in Manhattan to support the Societies in their campaign to remove Britain from Ireland. We want OUR evacuation day and with your help we will achieve it.
‘I am here tonight to support this wonderful idea, this initiative for an all-Ireland referendum on Irish Unity. This is something that can give this generation of Irish people the right to decide their own future through purely democratic means. I would encourage all emigrants abroad to get behind this campaign and sign the petition. Mark your name down as someone who supports Irish independence and let us fulfil what the men and women of 1916 laid the foundation for: a 32-county sovereign republic in line with the 1916 Proclamation.’