|Image taken from an Irish Bodhrán handcrafted by Kevin Walsh and raffled on the night,|
paying tribute to local IRA Volunteers Jim Lynagh and Seamus McElwain.
First-off, a word of thanks to the organisers, the local James Connolly Society, for inviting me to speak here this evening. It is an honour to do so as we gather to reflect on the Loughgall Martyrs. We remember also another Irish Patriot, cast in their mold and whose anniversary we marked during the week: their comrade ‘the Bold McElwain’ – likewise shot dead by paid assassins of British rule not far from where we sit tonight. We pay tribute to them all, remembering with them civilian Anthony Hughes, murdered by the British Forces at Loughgall that 8th of May in 1987.
When the story of Ireland is written – when at last she stands free before the nations of the world – writ large into the history books, alongside Tone and Emmet, Connolly and Pearse, with Barry and Mellows and South and O’Hanlon – and the many more who played their part, who lit up the pathway for Irish Freedom – will be the names of Lynagh, McKearney, Gormley and Arthurs, of Donnelly and Kelly, of Kelly again and O’Callaghan.
It is not an exaggeration to speak of these men as having been to the forefront of the resistance in Ireland. A fearless and committed group of Volunteers, on countless occasion they took the war to the British. In difficult times they stood up to be counted and for that to them we are grateful. For that they will be remembered. Their legend will echo down through the ages, long after we are gone; their sacrifice for our people carved into the hearts of generations to come, who will speak with pride of ‘the Loughgall Martyrs’. These men have earned that honour and that honour is theirs for all time.
Recent days have bore witness to the most intense campaign of vilification from those who insist the men of Loughgall were terrorists, emboldened in their hypocrisy by years of pandering and ‘sorry initiatives’ and with them the stripping down of republicanism in pursuit of a pat on the head from their betters – this by those who would claim the mantle of Loughgall for ‘themselves alone’. Suffice to say, no matter of that, the Loughgall Martyrs were no terrorists. The only terrorists that evening were the foreign, faceless mercenaries of the Crown and none will tell us different.
The men of Loughgall set out that night with the All-Ireland Republic in their hearts – not a pseudo imitation where the limits of freedom would be bound by the terms of an Agreed Ireland. Emerging talk of ‘continued devolution to Belfast’ with ‘constitutional expression for the British Monarchy’ in a so-called United Ireland is an anathema to the cause for which they took up arms and for which they fell on the streets of that Armagh village.
That such is now peddled as ‘necessary’ to the ‘New Ireland’ reveals how those advancing this nonsense have abandoned the rightful Irish Republic. An Ireland as that they are set toward, as recently spoken of by John Crawley – who is with us here tonight – is one where ‘the British get to stay while the Irish agree to it’. We have waited too long for that. Too many have gone before.
This so-called ‘Agreed Ireland’ is in reality a means not for the Irish to determine a new future but for Britain to restructure her relationship with this country – once ‘Good Friday’ no longer holds. Its intent is to ensure as far as practical, given new considerations born of Brexit and demographic change, that her position be maximised and her interests retained in whatever half-baked ‘republic’ it imposes in league with its subordinates. Republicans can have no truck with this.
The only ‘Agreed Ireland’ of interest to us is one where the British agree to a declaration of intent, from where we can build, as a nation, a future as that we deserve; a future as promised by The 1916 Proclamation – where equal rights and equal opportunity are the preserve of all, without regard to contrived divisions born of colonial rule. This is the Ireland the Loughgall Martyrs were set upon. Were it good enough for them then it remains as much for ourselves.There is nothing to fear from such a Republic and no good reason we should settle for less.
To advance that Republic we must harness the dynamism of the people, building and applying real pressure on Britain that she cannot refashion Ireland as she pleases, aided by the usual suspects. This involves setting forward the Irish Republic as the only acceptable alternative to the dying status quo – as the only Ireland that can proceed in its stead – regardless of border polls or any other vote or mechanism on the substantive of Irish Unity.
We cannot afford to waver and certainly not now, not as Brexit brings prospects for change into sight. All of this demands that we organise and this is the task now before us. There are no shortcuts and there is no panacea, only the ‘long hard grind to the Republic’ spoken of by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh in the wake of the Long Kesh Hungerstrikes.
Thirty years after Loughgall, the issue in Ireland – then as now – remains the denial of our national sovereignty. The nationalist people of the north have for too long endured the consequence. As Liam Ryan – a true Irish Patriot and comrade of the Loughgall Martyrs – once remarked, they have ‘suffered the most, waited the longest and worked the hardest’. They deserve no less and we will accept no less than the full restoration of Irish sovereignty. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. We are out for the Irish Republic and nothing less will do. As the General Liam Lynch rightly asserted, ‘we will live under no other law’.
The great American President John Kennedy once said, ‘men are not afraid to die for a life worth living’ – words that fit well with the men of Loughgall, who were not afraid to die and who laid down their lives that others might know such a life. Their sacrifice has shown us the way; their contribution to the cause of freedom helping lift the nationalist people off of their knees – their deaths on the battlefield just one more reason, if reason were needed, as to why we must finish the long struggle to end British rule in our country, to win that better life for all. Be assured, a chairde, that we will finish that struggle.
The Irish Republic, for which they died, is the only fitting tribute to the men of Loughgall. It is for us, who remain, to organise the final push, to fulfill at last our nation’s destiny and establish that Republic. That is the challenge Loughgall presents us thirty years on and counting. To those who fell on that horrific May evening, when Britain sent her terrorist killers to do murder on the street of Loughgall, we owe no less. Onwards to the Republic – together we will get there; it’s still ‘our day will come’.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh a chairde – An Phoblacht Abú.