Patriot's Oft Quoted Words Still Running Foul Of British Law

Martin Galvin with a letter in today's Irish News. A US Attorney, Martin Galvin has a long history of campaigning on behalf of Irish republicanism and the rights of nationalists in the North of Ireland. 

As we move towards centenary commemorations of 1916, the British moved against Easter Commemoration speaker Dee Fennell. My view is that conditions do not exist to support continuation of armed struggle at this time. This view will become harder to defend if the British begin a clampdown on Easter Week Commemoration speakers.

The Carrickmore Easter Commemoration was attended by relatives of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. This Fenian patriot inspired the oft quoted words “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. With six counties unfree, these words might be said to run afoul of British law. Should we fear to speak these words and others including Maura Drumm’s, even as Pearse’s oration is re-enacted in centenary commemorations elsewhere in Ireland?

What of the 1916 Proclamation itself? It says the people of Ireland hold the right to “national freedom and sovereignty.” It seems unlikely that Tom Clarke put his name to something that did not count the people of his home county Tyrone, and 5 others, amongst “the whole people of Ireland”. It says this right is “indefeasible”, meaning something that can never be bargained, sold, or bequeathed away, (even by referendum). It even makes reference to “standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms”. Surely these words suggest there have been conditions where it was ‘legitimate’ to do so.

What of the Roll of Honour? British law today regards those that resisted them during the Troubles as mere criminals. For example, Gerry McGeough and Seamus Kearney were imprisoned for IRA actions that took place in 1981. Ivor Bell faces accusations from 1972. How many Republicans carry felon licenses, employment bars or travel restrictions?

The Roll of Honour lists Republicans who were part of that same struggle and died at the hands of British and pro-British forces. Their names on a Roll of Honour say they were not criminals but patriots, whose deeds were not alone legitimate, but are remembered with respect and pride.

The Roll of Honour and Easter 1916 Proclamation are customarily read in Republican commemorations, because we identify those on the Roll of Honour with the same principles and struggle proclaimed in 1916.Must we pretend otherwise?

There are no doubt readers and friends who will be at pains to argue that Dee Fennell’s case will be the last of it. The British would never clamp down on anyone else. They will make the same arguments they made after Gerry McGeough’s arrest in 2007.

Perhaps they can convince Ivor Bell, Seamus Kearney or those holding OTR immunity certificates that the re-elected David Cameron says need no longer be honoured.


  1. Martin,

    I write this the day after the gay marriage referendum result; a day that I believe most people will come to see as yet another significant milestone in our social history. Some sixty per cent of the electorate turned out to vote and six of ten of them supported the right of gay people to marry within the state.

    Just a gentle reminder about another referendum that was held coincidently on May 22nd fifteen years ago.
    On that day nearly many of the electorate (56%) turned out and more than 9 out of 10 on that occasion agreed to drop the constitutional claim on the six northern counties and the corresponding territorial waters. They also affirmed the British - Irish Agreement that was to become enshrined in international law that there could be no change in the status of the northern state without the agreement of a majority within that state.

    Quoting an almost hundred year old aspirational document and invoking the 'roll of honour' may speak to the emotions of a minority but is lost on the vast majority who are on a greater journey of social change and are as susceptible to influence by republican shibboleth as they are to dictates from bishops.

    Continue banging your drum if it keeps you happy Martin. But maybe you're reluctant to stop because then you'd have to listen to the voice of the majority.
    If you'd listen you'd hear that Ireland is changing and fewer and fewer will march to the old tunes

  2. You are wrong Henry.
    The Irish Government is in dispute with the Brits over Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough.
    So, once again..You are trying to lull the folk into your Status quo rhetoric.
    Business in London must be doing well for you...After all been an Uncle Toms House Taig. Goes down well over there.
    The Brits couldn't do business unless you accept their (false ) narrative.