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Notions that 1916 Leaders would have settled for a 26-county state “Ludicrous & Laughable” – Matt Carthy

26 March, 2016 - by Matt Carthy MEP


The Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, today said that we have not yet achieved the Republic declared on Easter Monday 1916.  Speaking at the Easter Rising commemoration in the South Monaghan village of Inniskeen, Carthy said that the objective of a United Irish Republic remained the goal of all Irish Republicans.

He said:  “The very notions that the leaders of 1916 would have been satisfied with a partitioned island - That Thomas Clarke, the first signatory of the proclamation, would have accepted his native Tyrone being annexed into a sectarian state - that the large numbers of northern volunteers involved in the rising were fighting for other people’s freedom – that the provisional government would chose the strongest symbol of Irish Unity, the tricolour of Green, White and Orange, as the National flag yet have settled for a divided Ireland - are notions as ludicrous as they are laughable”.

Full text of Matt Carthy address to Inniskeen 1916 Rising Commemoration, Easter Saturday 2016:

It has probably been said by every speaker at every Easter commemoration event over the past 100 years that it is an honour to be asked to address the gathering.

In each case, I have no doubt, that it was the truth.  But, I genuinely have to say today that it is indeed a privilege for me to have been asked to address this commemoration – in this place - in this year.

Inniskeen is a special place in every sense.  It is an historical, almost mythical place that has become part of the national folklore as a result of the writings of Patrick Kavanagh and the stories of many exiles who have travelled the globe over the centuries.

This is a place with a rich heritage and a community as proud as you will find anywhere in the world.  It is a uniquely Irish village that has enriched everyone who has lived here but also everyone who has had reason to be connected to it even at a peripheral level.

Inniskeen is also a deeply republican parish, a small proof of which is this annual gathering here each Easter Saturday.  It is the final resting place of great republicans such as Packie Duffy, Tim Daly, Pat Lynch & Tom Fitzpatrick who we remember fondly here today.

Since the earliest recordings of Irish resistance to British rule, over hundreds of years, Inniskeen has made its mark at every juncture.

As a result of a cruel twist of faith, or rather as a result of a cruel act of bad faith of the part of a British government and Irish collaborators, Inniskeen was cut apart from its natural hinterland of South Armagh when partition was imposed on the Irish nation.

Despite the artificial border the people of Inniskeen refused to do what their political masters in Dublin did – they refused to abandon their neighbours.  And whenever the republican people of South Armagh and the wider six counties rose up against British oppression, Inniskeen became an integral part, once again, of Irish resistance to foreign rule.  From 1969 to the cessations of the 1990s the fighting spirit of the people of South Armagh became a poignant symbol, a beacon light, an inspiration to not only the Irish people but to those who cherish freedom and justice on every continent. 

But, and I know there are people here today who could attest to this fact, the resistance of South Armagh would simply not have been possible were it not for the active support of the people of Inniskeen and the refuge, resources and personnel that this parish provided at vital times of struggle.

And, when phases of struggle changed Inniskeen has always proved willing and able to adapt as required.

Since 1981 when, as part of the Cavan Monaghan constituency, Inniskeen played a part in the election of the Hunger Striker Kieran Doherty as TD this community has become what can fairly be described as a Sinn Féin heartland.

From the breakthrough in 1997 the vote our party has achieved in Inniskeen has been solid and has increased, both in numerical and percentage terms on every single electoral contest.  It was my great honour to represent this parish, alongside Noel Keelan, as county councillor from 2004 to 2014.  In that 2014 election this area played a significant role in securing the election of myself, Noel and Jackie Crowe taking 3 of the 6 seats for the Castleblayney-Carrickmacross Municipal District of Monaghan County Council.  On that day, Inniskeen also played a major part in helping me become the first Monaghan based candidate to be elected as a member of the European Parliament.

It is for all these reasons that I am humbled to join you all and to address you, the great republican people of Inniskeen and adjoining parishes on any occasion.  But, to be asked to be here on this centenary 1916 Easter Rising weekend is indeed a very special thing for me.

This weekend will see thousands of events marking the centenary all over the country and indeed in many parts of the world.

But, lets not cod ourselves that everyone will mark it with the same honest or genuine intentions that we would like.

It is, perhaps, ironic, that it is in the run-up to the centenary that the revisionist elements of our country, the new-born Redmonites of this generation have become most vocal.  But, it is surprising, at least it should be, that they have found succour in places like a so-called ‘national’ broadcaster which finds it apt to host a multitude of debates on prime time radio and television in the days leading up to the 100th anniversary of the declaration of the republic on the question of ‘Was the Rising justified?’ – Can you imagine any other public broadcaster in the world having the audacity to put such a question on such a seminal moment in a nations’ history to its viewers.  But, to answer the question – Yes, yes and yes again – the rising and the subsequent struggles for independence was and were easily justified.

There will also be many people attending, participating and in fact, organising some commemoration events this weekend who will try to convince, who may even actually themselves believe, that we are living in the Republic declared on Easter Monday 1916.

Let me be clear - this state is not the Republic envisaged by the leaders of 1916.

And, how do I know that?  Because the leaders of 1916 knew that they would likely not live long beyond the rising.  So, they left future generations a massive gift.  That gift was the Proclamation of the Republic which was read here today.

That proclamation set out in clear terms what the authors were fighting for and were willing to give their lives for.

They fought and died for ‘the whole nation and all its parts’ – not 26 counties.  The very notions that the leaders of 1916 would have been satisfied with a partitioned island - That Thomas Clarke, the first signatory, would have accepted his native Tyrone being annexed into a sectarian state - that the large numbers of northern volunteers involved in the rising were fighting for other people’s freedom – that the provisional government would chose the strongest symbol of Irish Unity, the tricolour of Green, White and Orange, as the National flag yet have settled for a divided Ireland - are notions as ludicrous as they are laughable.

They fought and died for ‘the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible’ – not for lackies to sell off our natural resources to multi-national oil companies at bargain basement prices or for NAMA firesales of property to  vulture capital funds while thousands of Irish families languish on housing waiting lists or who wait for the sheriffs knock on the door because when they got into mortgage arrears their political representatives made it easier for the banks to take their homes.

The 1916 leaders fought and died for ‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities’ for ‘the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation’ – not for a society that allows those in need of health services to languish on hospital trollies while those who can afford it can get fast tracked to the care they need.

This is not the Republic.

But, despite the best efforts of British governments and their Irish counterparts the Irish Republic lives on, although not yet realised. 

They have tried everything to quench the spirit of 1916.  At different points they have imprisoned, executed, harassed, intimidated, censored, vilified, criminalised and ridiculed those who remained loyal to the Republic.

And yet, here we are.

Sinn Féin is the largest political party on the island of Ireland.  The six-county assembly elections in May could bring further advances, we all have to do what we can to make that the case.

Last month we saw the election of 23 Sinn Féin TDs.  Some have tried to diminish that achievement and I know some here today would have liked an even better return – how’s that for a sign of how far we have come?  But while Fianna Fáil had their second worst election result ever, while Fine Gael lost a third of its vote and while the Labour party struggled to attain speaking rights in the Dáil, Sinn Féin had our best General Election performance since 1923.

We have smashed the old, stale, corrupt game-playing that has passed for politics in this state since partition.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, two parties absolutely identical on any level that actually matters, are now in turmoil because they know the numbers mean that they will be forced together either now or at some stage in the not so distant future. 

After almost a century of acting, interchangeably as government and opposition both parties, who have each been equally committed to the status quo and that maintenance of the state ahead of the people who live in it, are terrified of coalescing, not for any reason of policy but because – they say – it will leave Sinn Féin as the largest opposition party.  Once again they underestimate our ambition.

We want Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together – but not in government – Sinn Féin wants those two regressive, conservative, partitionist parties together in opposition so that we can lead a government intent on delivering the Republic that lives in our hearts.  We want the Republic to live in the lives of every single family on this island.

And, our challenge this weekend and throughout the period of commemoration in this centenary year is to rededicate ourselves to its realisation.

For us, these events are not about the past – although we remember with pride and learn from those who came before us – this is about the future.

We are involved in political struggle not because we long for the past, for the time of the rising or the tan war but because we long for the future that they dreamed off.  I, like all of you want more than anything to see a United Irish Republic.  Like you all here today and so many others who will participate in events throughout this year I commit myself to doing whatever small bit I can to see it delivered in my lifetime.

And when our political opponents or media detractors question why I, and we, remain loyal to and proud of leaders like Gerry Adams I give them one simple answer, although there are many.  It is because Gerry Adams and the leadership of Sinn Féin and the volunteers of the IRA have created the conditions in which I, and my generation, and my children and their generation if need be, can strive for the Republic without putting our lives on the line; without the fear of spending years or decades in prison away from our families.  We can struggle for the Republic without making the sacrifices of the 1916 leaders and the IRA volunteers in the generations since. 

It is because of their sacrifices that we can be confident in saying that conditions are now here that we can deliver the Republic by peaceful means.  For that I thank them and salute them and their families.

Before he was executed Patrick H. Pearse told the British:

“You cannot conquer Ireland and you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom; if our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom then our children will win it with a better deed”.

Today in this place, in this year – at the gravesides of IRA volunteers, in the proud republican village of Inniskeen, on the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, we cry out to Pearse and to all our patriot dead to let them know, to let our own children know, that that our passion for freedom has never been extinguished and we intend to win that Freedom.

Beirigi Bua!  Up the Republic!

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