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Martin Ferris addresses Liam Mellows Commemoration

14 December, 2004

Hundreds of people attended Sunday's annual Liam Mellows Commemoration held in Castletown, County Wexford where Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris paid tribute to Liam Mellows whom he described as a "Giant of Irish Republican history".

On June 25th, 1922 Liam Mellows, Rory O'Connor, Joseph McKelvey and Dick Barrett, along with other comrades, took over the Four Courts in Dublin. Two days later, they were forced to surrender having been bombarded by Free State forces using a British gunboat, from the river Liffey.

Mellows aged 27, who had been elected as a Sinn Féin TD for both Meath and Galway, was imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail. Six months later, following the assasination of Sean Hales, on the morning of December 8th 1922, Liam Mellows was taken from his prison cell, along with Rory O'Connor, Dick Barrett and Joe McKelvey. All four were shot dead, as reprisals, on the orders of the Free State government. Liam Mellows is buried in Castletown, Co. Wexford on his specific request, as it was here that he spent much of his youth, living with his grandmother.

Martin Ferris reminded the attendance at Sunday's Commemoration, that throughout the long history of Irish Republicanism, the political establishment have never been for the Republic and have attempted to criminalise the struggle for Irish freedom at every single stage. "Whether it was the United Irishmen in 1798, Robert Emmet in 1803, the Fenians in 1867, or the IRA from 1916 onwards. At every single stage in the history of the struggle for Irish freedom the ruling establishment has attempted to put down and to criminalise the Republican struggle."

Referring to the ongoing negotiations Martin Ferris said:

"Sinn Féin is not giving up on this process. The IRA have made a declaration of peaceful intent which should be pursued and ultimatums from Ian Paisley or anyone else will not advance the process. If the DUP are serious about reaching a deal then they should have the courage of their convictions and sit face to face with Sinn Féin and not attempt to humiliate a community that will not be humiliated."

Speaking afterwards Wexford Sinn Féin Councillor John Dwyer echoed those sentiments and referred to the incessant outrageous attacks on Sinn Féin by the present Minister for Justice remarking that: "In the case of Michael McDowell it is certainly true to say that he is carrying on an ignoble family tradition of antipathy to Irish Republicanism."

"As we commemorate one of the great heroes of Irish Republicanism, it is sadly ironic that the Emergency Powers bill under which Liam Mellows and his comrades were executed was seconded by the present Minister for Justice's Grandfather, Eoin McNeill.

"The Minister's grand-uncle, Hugo McNeill, was the officer in charge of the firing squad that executed Liam Mellows. A 20-strong firing party carried out these executions, ten standing, ten kneeling. When the firing subsided murmuring was heard from one of the men lying on the ground. It was Joe McKelvey, badly injured. Hugo McNeill fired two shots into McKelvey, one to the chest, and one to the head.

"Eoin McNeill, the Minister's grandfather, had signed a countermanding order forbidding military action by Volunteers in 1916, causing great confusion and weakening the Rising. At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in 1917 Countess Markiewicz, referring to McNeill was to declare, "The Proclamation had to be reprinted at Liberty Hall on Sunday to take his name off it."

"This is the tradition that our Minister for Justice inherits and may perhaps even explain some of his own motivation. But the legacy of Liam Mellows, and of all the Irish men and women who have given their lives for Irish freedom is that the Irish Republican struggle will never be criminalised.

"If the present Taoiseach wishes to examine his new found Socialism, he should remember Liam Mellows and remember those who attempted to criminalise him and those who executed him. Liam Mellows was a true Irish Republican and a true Socialist. His words from Mountjoy Jail in 1922 ring just as true today: "the commercial interest so-called money and gombeen men are on the side of the Treaty, because that Treaty means Imperialism and England. We are back to Tone -and it is just as well - relying on that great body, 'the men of no property'. The 'stake in the country' people were never with the Republic." ENDS

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