Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Mná Na hEireann

Siobhan O'Hanlon
by James Hume

Amongst the plethora of Irish Martyrs and heroes, few stand out as much in recent years as Siobhan O'Hanlon.
Siobhan was an Irish Republican Army Volunteer, Sinn Féin activist and assistant to Gerry Adams. She was born in 1963 to a working-class Republican family in North Belfast. Among her relatives was the
IRA hero, Joe Cahill.

While growing up in Belfast, her home was routinely attacked and her brother, Rory, was murdered by Pro-British thugs. She later became an Óglach in the IRA and was first jailed in 1983 on explosive charges.

In the late 1990s she was among the Sinn Féin delegation to Downing Street in preparation of the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. She also visited South Africa, where a memorial to the Hunger Strikers was unveiled
by Nelson Mandela.

Siobhan was a great humanitarian and in her later life she helped found the West Belfast Festival, Feile an Phobail and worked with Young people and those with Down Sydrome. After being diagnosed with Breast Cancer,
she turned her great organising skills to raising awareness about Breast Cancer.

Siobhan passed on from Cancer on April 11th 2006, a sad day in modern Irish History. An activist in the mould of Markiewicz, Drumm and Nugent had been lost. Over 1000 people attended her funeral, where amongst others
Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison paid tribute.

Gerry Adams; We could say that she went before she got to do all the things she wanted to do. But, is é sin an saol.
Maybe it isn't the length of our lives - it's what we do with our lives that counts. It's the difference we make to the lives of others that counts. Siobhan packed three or four different lives into one. She made a huge difference in the lives of many, many people. There was her life as a child and a young nationalist from a strong republican family ˆ growing up in north Belfast. There was her life in the IRA. There was her life as a political prisoner. Her life as a Sinn Féin activist. Her life as a mother and a wife.

And here is a poem that was read at her funeral:
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Óglach Billy Carson RIP

Billy Carson, from the Cliftonville Road area, was born on 19th February 1947. Originally from the Lower Falls, Billy, the third child and eldest son in a family of 11 children, was educated at St Peter’s Primary School, Raglan Street. He played hurling and Gaelic football for the school team and was a swimming enthusiast. He always retained his love for playing hurley and even after leaving school in 1962, when he went to work as a dock labourer, he still found time to turn out regularly to play for the Sarsfields hurling team.
In 1967 he married and moved to live in the Cliftonville area. Both of Billy’s parents, Margaret and Samuel were staunch Republicans, Samuel being interned between 1942 and 1945 in Crumlin Road and Derry Jail. Billy himself joined the Republican Movement in late 1970 while the IRA were reorganising in the aftermath of ‘the Split’.
Although living in the North of the city, Billy spent a great amount of his time in the Lower Falls, where he was active in ‘D’ Company, 2nd Battalion. A courageous fighter, Billy was also scrupulously security conscious, and whilst continually remaining highly active he was one of the very few who evaded internment or even arrest on suspicion of being an IRA Volunteer right up until the time of his death.
Billy died in the early hours of Wednesday, 25th April 1979, only hours after being shot by loyalist gunmen as he entered his house in Rosevale Street off the Cliftonville Road. Two assassins had called at his house earlier that evening but when his children, Stephanie and Jim, explained that their parents had gone out, they left. One hour later, they returned and sat with the children in the house until, at 11:30pm, Billy and his wife Annie returned home. The gunmen met him at the door and shot him several times before disappearing into a nearby loyalist stronghold.

Rest In Peace, Billy

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Adams Give Keynote Address In Derry

A chairde, Tá mé lán sásta seasamh anseo libh trathnona seo.

I want to welcome you all here this evening.
Sinn Féin held the first of these Town Hall meetings just before the Special Ard Fheis on Policing in 2007.
We have held them each year since.
Sinn Féin is the only party which consciously holds a democratic public dialogue with citizens.
These meetings are an important opportunity for Sinn Féin to report back to you on the work that has taken place in the previous year; to listen to your views; and to set out some of the work that lies ahead.
I am pleased to be here in Derry this evening for the first of the series of the Town Hall meetings for 2010.
Derry holds a special place in the hearts of Belfast republicans.
The stand taken in the late 1960's by citizens in this city against discrimination and injustice, and for civil rights, was an inspiration.
Duke Street and the Battle of the Bogside are just two of the events in that period which remain strong in our memories.
Those were exceptional times - unprecedented times - and then, and in the years since many ordinary people made extraordinary sacrifices and displayed great courage in pursuit of equality and justice and freedom and Irish unity.
Yesterday we had another significant step forward with the appointment by the Assembly of a Minister of Justice
Taken with agreement at Hillsborough several months ago and the transfer of powers on policing and justice, all of this marks further important progress as a result of the peace process.
Earlier this week I wrote to SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie inviting her to meet with me to discuss co-operation between our parties in the upcoming British General Election.

I proposed that the agenda should include the need to co-operate in specific constituencies to ensure as far as possible that unionism does not increase its share of Westminster seats.
It was my intention to propose that Sinn Féin would stand aside in South Belfast in return for the SDLP standing aside in Fermanagh South Tyrone.
In a letter today Margaret Ritchie rejected the approach by Sinn Féin to maximise nationalist representation.
This confused, narrow minded, ill-judged position has marked the SDLP stance in recent times.
Their approach has been dictated not by what is good for nationalists or for the peace process, but by their antipathy toward Sinn Féin.
If the Shinners are for it - the SDLP have to be against it.
And they make the most outrageous claims in order to bolster a shallow and largely ineffectual political record of achievement.

Remember Seamus Mallon's description of the Good Friday Agreement as Sunningdale for slow learners? He obviously hoped that it was so far in the past that no one would remember the truth.
The fact is that Sinn Féin's involvement in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations secured significantly more progress in the areas of policing and justice; demilitarisation and arms; discrimination and sectarianism; equality and human rights; the Irish language; and constitutional and political matters.
One revealing fact: equality is reference 21 times in the Good Friday Agreement with processes and policies to advance it.
Equality didn't rate a single mention in the Sunningdale Agreement!

Then the SDLP abandoned its pretence at being a nationalist party and became a 'post nationalist party.'
When it realised how deeply unpopular that was it tried to recast itself as a United Ireland party!
In the mid 80's, while it was involved in campaigning against the MacBride Principles campaign in the USA for Fair Employment in the north, the SDLP was bogusly claiming that discrimination had ended and that equality for all citizens was "now a reality".
At the same time the SDLP accused the people of West Belfast of being 'savages' and also denied for many years the existence of collusion.
In May 2003, the SDLP MPs simply failed to turn up to the keynote parliamentary debate on John Stevens' collusion report.
Almost 10 years ago in 2001 the SDLP gave up on trying to create a new effective policing dispensation.
It accepted the Mandelson Policing legislation; said there would be no more new legislation, and joined the Policing Board.

Sinn Féin said No. It wasn't good enough.

We kept negotiating, and demanding more and better legislation.

And over the following years, Sinn Féin delivered new policing and criminal justice legislation - including overturning the ban on former political prisoners being on policing boards; gaining increased powers for the Police Ombudsman; gaining increased powers for the Policing Board; cementing community policing as a core function of the PSNI; and securing a new judicial composition more reflective of this society.

The SDLP failed to learn the lessons and continued to fail.

In September 2003, the SDLP published its party policy on British national security in Ireland stating that - quote - "We have no difficulty, however, with a continuing MI5 role" - unquote.

In March 2004, the SDLP voted in favour of continued emergency powers including systems using Public Interest Immunity Certificates - notorious British national security gagging orders.

In November 2005, the SDLP voted in favour of 28-day detention without trial - a re-run of the old Special Powers Act.

In February 2006, the SDLP supported compulsory registration of Irish citizens on a British 'national identity register' - a database for the spooks.

In March 2006, Mark Durkan personally told the House of Commons that - quote - "there would be some issues of national security on which it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State rather than the devolved authorities, to receive reports" - thereby supporting British primacy on MI5.

In June 2006, the SDLP agreed that - quote - "it is essential that adequate provision for non-jury trials for appropriate offences in Northern is maintained" - unquote - in other words, Diplock Courts.

In January 2007 Mark Durkan personally asked how Ronnie Flanagan could be regarded as a credible Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Yet back when Flanagan was Head of the notorious Special Branch and later when he was RUC Chief Constable the SDLP praised him as one of those within that force who 'want to edge forward'.

On Monday April 12th during the debate to agree a Minister of Justice the SDLP attacked Sinn Féin for securing the devolution of policing and justice powers because the vote was taken under the cross-community protections of the Good Friday Agreement.

Yet the SDLP voted for the very arrangements which they now rail against!

In fact in May 2006, Mark Durkan told the British House of Commons that he supported - quote - "the possibility of a single [Justice] minister to be elected by cross-community support and by parallel consent" - which is exactly what the SDLP are now complaining about.

And then there is the crucial issue of Leadership!

What sort of leadership does the SDLP offer? It hasn't been the same since John Hume left.

In 2001 Mark Durkan told the Derry Journal that he had 'little interest' in succeeding John Hume as MP for Foyle.

He claimed that his real interest" was being involved in the institutions of the Good FridayAgreement.

He said: "As someone who contributed intensely to the negotiations which led to the GFA and the new institutions, it would be decidedly rich of me to commend these bodies to others yet at the same time not be wholly or solely committed to them myself."

8 years later the same Mark Durkan announced his decision to quit as leader of the SDLP in order to concentrate on Westminster!

One part of his rationale was his belief that you can't lead the party from Westminster.

He also cited his age. The fact that he is two years younger than Margaret Ritchie and 11 years younger than Alasdair McDonnell doesn't seem to have penetrated.

But then the truth is that this was a career move by Mark who wanted an easier life style away from the real politics of the north.

And that's fair enough and I wish him and his family well but then he really should tell the electorate that this is what he is about.

Did you know that the SDLP record of voting attendance at Westminster is so bad that where they attending school their parents would have been taken to court!

They are among the worst attenders of the 646 MPs.

For example: in the first year of the last British Parliament between 2005-6 the average voting/attendance for MPs was 72%.

Mark Durkan was there 28.6% of the time. Alasdair McDonnell was there for 28.9%. and Eddie McGrady was present only 14.6% of the time.

The following year it was even worse. In 2006-7 the average attendance for MPs was 64.4%. Mark Durkan was there for 14% of the time; McDonnell 15.8% and McGrady 12.2%.

Last year Mark had pulled his boot straps up - a wee bit - and with other MPs averaging a voting/attendance record of 64.1% he managed 33% - just over half. Alasdair McDonnell was on 5% - that's right 5% - and Eddie McGrady was on 18%.

So, the lesson of these records is very clear.

The SDLP MPs know how unimportant their presence at Westminster actually is.

They vote with their feet and stay away for most of the time.

The SDLP have in reality a semi-detached relationship with Westminster; they are the Semi Detached and Lost Party.

Remember when they were going to morph into Fianna Fáil; well some of them were. Others had a Fine Gael merger in mind.

Currently, they say that in the event of a hung British Parliament they will support the British Labour Party.

That means the SDLP are committed to supporting the party that invaded Iraq; invaded Afghanistan; and passed the 28 day detention legislation.

So for anyone thinking of voting to put the SDLP into Westminster look at the record - not the rhetoric.
What you get with the SDLP is a failure of leadership under a pledge of obedience to an English Queen.
Perhaps the NIO for once had it right way back in 1976.

In a secret paper now held in the British National archive at Kew the NIO records the origins of that party and in a review of the status of parties in that year said:
"The SDLP have failed to deliver. We created it and perhaps we now have to let it die."

Back in the real world Sinn Féin has got on with the business of making politics work; of making the peace process work; of delivering on our commitments.
Few envisaged the DUP in government with Sinn Féin, or a Derry man, Martin McGuinness holding the post of Joint First Minister with Peter Robinson.
Fewer still thought that the unionists would agree the transfer of powers on policing and justice.
But all of these things and much more has happened.
Sinn Féin did this by making the two governments and the DUP face up to their political responsibilities.

And by the end of this year there will also be the transfer of powers from London to Belfast to deal with the issue of parades.
More powers moving from England to Ireland.
Outstanding issues including Irish language rights will also be delivered on and there is additional funding for the language.
It is another staging post on the road to a United Ireland and it is proof that change is possible.
Sinn Féin achieved all this by being bold and by being focused.
And by mapping out a strategy and sticking at it until we succeed.
Of course, there are still significant difficulties to be overcome.
Ireland is still partitioned.

Economic recession north and south means that nearly half a million citizens are out of work.
So, I believe there is no more urgent time than this to promote our republican politics of equality and respect and dignity.
There is no better time to be demanding that citizens have the right to a home; to a safe environment; to good quality education and health care; and to a job.
There is no better time than this to campaign for a united Ireland.
That is our primary political goal.
The key to building this new Ireland, democratically shaped by the people, is to start now.

The key to achieving this is leadership.
And Sinn Fein has that leadership.
A leadership with the experience of years of struggle, and of successfully charting a way forward for the peace process.
Sinn Féin demonstrated that leadership at Hillsborough in March.

Next month there will be a Westminster election.
This will provide an opportunity to endorse our strategy for positive change; to build a better future for all our people but especially our young people.
And to advance the goal of Irish reunification.
We are determined to bring that about. To end centuries of British involvement in Ireland and to construct a republic in which citizens will be treated fairly and equitably

Eirigi Statement On British General Election

With a Westminster election due to take place on May 6, éirígí wishes to take this opportunity to place its view of these elections on the public record.

In the policy paper ‘Elections, Elected Institutions and Ireland’s Revolutionary Struggle’, éirígí has already comprehensively outlined its view of the role that elections can play in the battle for Irish national and social freedom. That document states that “éirígí believes it is possible for a revolutionary party to move closer to its objectives by tactically contesting elections and tactically participating in specified elected institutions.”

With regard to the upcoming Westminster election, the question is, therefore, a tactical one, summed up with the simple question ‘Will the contesting of these elections bring Irish republicanism closer to, or further from, its objective?’

éirígí believes that the answer to this question lies in accurately assessing the objective strength of Irish republicanism at this point in its historic struggle. Without such an assessment, it is impossible to navigate the future direction of the republican struggle and the role that elections might, or might not, play in that struggle.

Irish republicanism has suffered a major defeat over the course of the last 15 years. For tens of thousands of Irish republicans, this period has been defined by disbelief, disappointment, frustration, anger and, all too often, despair. A once strong, confident Irish republicanism is now in a state of confusion, division and fragmentation.

The demand for Irish national reunification and independence has been removed from the political centre stage, only to be replaced by a petty sectarian squabble, with the British government happily acting as the arbitrator of the ‘settlement’. While it may be unpalatable to acknowledge this reality, that does not make it any less true.

It is éirígí’s view, however, that all is not lost. As a result of the determination and selfless work of political activists around the country, Irish republicanism is slowly emerging from this bleak period of its long and noble history.

But the process of rebuilding republicanism has, in historic terms, only just begun. It is a process that must have a bottom up approach and be centred in every working class community in Ireland. That is the only way that a new, radical republican movement, one that is capable of challenging the vested interests of occupation and exploitation, can emerge. This will be a long and arduous task; one that will take place out of the glare of the media spotlight. It will be a process that will often seem thankless and painfully slow-moving. But it is one that must be undertaken if republican objectives are to be secured.

This is the objective reality against which any republican participation in the upcoming Westminster elections must be evaluated. From its current position of weakness any republican participation in this election would, in éirígí’s opinion, be unwise.

Irish republicanism cannot afford to have its political agenda set by the elections of the political establishment. Participation in elections should only be considered from a position of relative strength, where the results are likely to advance the struggle and not retard it. For this reason, éirígí will not be contesting the forthcoming election, nor will it be supporting any non-éirígí republican candidates should they choose to stand.

Now is the time for republicans to focus on the process of rebuilding the ideas, the organisations and the wider movement that will bring about the victorious conclusion of the struggle for freedom and independence. For its part, éirígí will be continuing its work to repopularise the socialist republican message in working class communities and to nurture the still fragile green shoots of a resurgent Irish republicanism.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

In Memory: Oglach Edmund O'Rawe

Edward O’Rawe from 7, Garnet Street in the Lower Falls area was born on 1st August 1945. He was educated at the nearby St Peter’s School, Raglan Street. He was nicknamed ‘Mundo’
On leaving school he found work as a docker, he became a member of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He joined Na Fianna Eireann at about the same time. His hobbies included hurling, which he played for the Michael Dwyer Gaelic Athletic Club.
Having emigrated to England to work, he returned to Belfast in 1969, as the present phase of the liberation struggle was beginning. Mundo joined the IRA in Ballymurphy and later transferred to ‘D’ Company based in the Lower Falls area.
On April 12th 1973, Mundo was shot dead by British troops. Shortly before the shooting the British Army were photographed searching Mundo and a companion, Sean Rowntree. Both men were unarmed when they were shot.

Manchester Commemoration

Mass 10.30am Saturday 24 April St. Joseph’s Chapel, Moston followed by a procession to the Manchester Martyrs’ monument.

Maghaberry Prisoners Must Be Treated With Respect

Following protests in Maghaberry Prison at the weekend, Sinn Féin Assembly member Carál Ní Chuilín has called on the prison authorities to treat republican prisoners held there with respect and dignity.
“Regardless of why anyone is in prison they are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. It is clear that the regime in place for republican prisoners in Maghaberry falls well short of this,” she said.
“Prisoners should not be held in 23-hour lock up, they should not have been denied the right to wear Easter Lilies and the decision to remove 28 men to the punishment blocks as a result of the weekend’s protest is wrong and counterproductive.
“There is a widely held belief that many of the problems in Maghaberry are directly linked to a Prison Officers’ Association which is still firmly wedded to the past. The Prison Service is one of those institutions that has to date escaped widespread scrutiny and much needed reform. This needs to be a priority for a new Justice Minister.”