The 1916 Societies held a ‘Reclaim the Lough’ protest at the Battery in Moortown beside Lough Neagh. The protest is about the ongoing environmental issues around the Lough that come to a head over the summer with the appearance of Blue-Green algae, but comes off the back of decades of mismanagement and neglect. Whether it be the unregulated dredging, affluent overrun or the millions of tons of raw sewage pumped into it by NI water.

The event was chaired by Independent Cllr Dan Kerr and Independent Cllr Barry Monteith gave the main oration. Cllr Barry Monteith talked about Nicholas Ashley-Cooper the current Lord Shaftesbury claims ownership of Lough Neagh. This is a territorial claim that dates back to the 1600’s and Arthur Chichester following the 9 Year War and the defeat of Gaelic Ireland. 

Chichester is quoted as saying at the time after raiding across the Lough in Tyrone “We have burned and destroyed along the Lough even within four miles of Dungannon, where we killed man, woman, child, horse, beast and whatever we found.. .”, he revelled in his hatred and disdain for Ireland, as well and taking the spoils of war, Britain also took our names and our heritage, transplanting English names to our towns mountains and rivers and there was even an attempt to rename Lough Neagh as, Lough Chichester.

Cllr Monteith also spoke of the hypocrisy of Lord Shaftesbury hosting lavish events at his mansion supposedly combating climate change and promoting environmental protection, despite having financed a recent renovation of the mansion in Dorset through loans on the back of profit made from the environmental destruction of Lough Neagh. Clearly Shaftesbury’s environmental concerns do not extend to Ireland.

He went on to say how Lough Neagh was one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and asked if the Lakes of Kilarney, the Cliffs of Moher or indeed the Lake District in England would be allowed to fall into such a decrepit state. Sadly as the Lough is in British ruled Ireland, the last hundred years of partition have been devastating for it, through exploitation by absentee landlords and neglect by the British Government. 

The people around the Lough were forced off it by the B Specials while the British Army and British Empire was fueled by the fruits of the Lough. Some say the Stormont Administration of the Six Counties should buy the Lough. History has shown that various Six County Administrations have overseen the demise of the Lough, with ministers reducing fines for pollution, allowing NI water to neglect sewage infrastructure all why they broke the rules about public employment for their cronies.

The Shaftesbury Estate rather than profiting from the Lough should return it to the Irish people and be made to pay for its recovery. People should not fall for the narrative coming from the media which is trying to turn one set of people against another, that one section that lives and works around the Lough are more to blame than another. It is Britain’s misrule and mismanagement and that of its lackeys that are to blame for this problem.

The Irish people should own the Lough and should be allowed to nurture and cherish it, the failed political entity of the Six Counties will not solve this problem. The Loughs problems can only be solved in a United Ireland, where the ownership of Ireland belongs to its people, where they own everything from the plough in the ground to the stars in the sky, a Republic of the people and for the people.

The local Loughshore 1916 Society is named after O’Donavan Rossa so it is appropriate to finish of with words from the 1867 Fenian Proclamation;

“We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who, treating us as foes, usurped our lands and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty”

“We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labour.

The soil of Ireland, at present in the possession of an oligarchy, belongs to us, the Irish people, and to us it must be restored.”

Reclaim your Rights, Reclaim the Lough, Reclaim the Republic!