On Thursday 30th October just past, the Sean Dolan Society Derry, in conjunction with the family of Volunteer Michael Meenan – Derry Brigade Oglaigh na hEireann – held a 40th anniversary commemoration at the Shantallow monument in memory of Michael, who died on Active Service in 1974.
Hundreds gathered to pay tribute to his sacrifice, with his niece Niamh Meenan reading aloud the Proclamation and the Derry Brigade Roll of Honour being read by his nephew, Declan Meenan. All republican groups in the city were present, with wreath’s laid on their behalf, as well as from the family themselves and the John Brady Memorial Flute Band, who rounded off proceedings with a rendition of Amhrann na bhFiann, flanked by a colour party provided by the Joseph Plunkett Society Clady-Glebe.
On what was a poignant occasion we are humbled to have played our part and to see the people of Derry turn out in such numbers gives great hope for the future. We take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated with a special word of mention to the Bogside Republican Youth, who we hope to work with going forward as a new generation of Irish republicans carve out their role in the continuing struggle against British rule in Ireland.
Below is the text of a speech given by Michael’s brother Joe on what was a hugely successful night and hopefully the first of many more just like it.
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I would like to thank you all for coming here tonight, the 40th anniversary of our brother and your friend and comrade, Volunteer Michael Meenan.
Many of you here tonight knew Michael, many others were not even born in 1974. At the age of 16 he was the youngest Volunteer of the Derry Brigade to die on Active Service.
At the time of his death, The 3rd Battalion was one of the most active in the city with attacks planned on a daily basis on the forces of occupation.
Sadly only four months before Michael’s death, Gerry Craig and David Russell died in similar circumstances to Michael, when the bomb they were planting also went off prematurely.
This tragedy did not deter Michael or his comrades. If anything it made them more determined to take on the fight to end an 800 year old war to end British rule in Ireland.
Michael was a relentless Volunteer in the Shantallow area, who along with his comrades showed not only military capability but also community action.
During the 1974 Ulster Workers Strike, Michael or Ben as most people knew him, along with the likes of Bronco, big Pete, Dixie, Dout and SA to name but a few, collected water from an old spring well at Steelstown village and delivered it to all areas of Shantallow and Carnhill.
This was the kind of community that helped one another. The favour was repaid two fold by the community of Shantallow, who when the Volunteers were on the run and needed to get their heads down or a meal or a shower were never short of an open door. To this day those Volunteers and their families are eternally grateful.
Many of the people who provided food, shelter and help in any way they could, to this day do not want recognition for their assistance they gave these Volunteers just in-case they may need it again in the future.
But on behalf of the the Volunteers you helped I would like to say, thank you.
So in finishing I would like to give you a quote by James Connolly; ‘Do not be misled by the promises of politicians. Remember that the whole history of Ireland is a record of betrayals by politicians and statesmen, and remembering this, spurn their lying promises and stand up for a united Ireland, an Ireland based on the union of labour and nationality’.
On behalf of the entire Meenan family I would like to thank you all for attending this commemoration on the 40th anniversary of my brother and our fallen comrade Michael.
I would also like to thank the 1916 Society for all their help in preparation for this event and the good republican community of Shantallow for their unwavering support and solidarity.