The Irish Republic And Nothing Less

Sean Bresnahan Speaking at a function in Scotstown to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Loughgall Martyrs, Sean Bresnahan – Chair of the Thomas Ashe Society in Omagh – called for national sovereignty to be the watchword as Brexit and demographic change brings Irish Unity into focus.

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.


  1. Glad to see you and republicans commemorating the dead. When I see SF newbies doing it I just have to switch over the TV channel or change the website, terrible beauty not, terrible bullshit more like. Fair play Sean and keep up the good work and dignified commemorations. The dead deserve that at least, rather than having reptiles standing on their graves with expenses bulging in their pockets and King Prawn salads in their fat bellies.

    As for the republic or new Ireland, whatever emerges will have to have a very strong UK/EU connection. All the farmers and business people will accept nothing less and they have the clout. The only land war now will be over EU subsidies. Take a drive around the country and have a look at the wealth. EU money is a must and the UK is where a significant percentage of the agricultural produce is sent to. Those in the SF leadership will play to that gallery and are of the same ilk as Kevin O'Higgins in my book and every bit as reptilian.

    That scumbag executed 77 republicans including the best man at his own wedding. I heard it said when O'Higgins was shot he said as he lay mortally wounded, 'There's been too much killing'. Which probably translated into THIS is one killing too many. That is the problem with republicanism in general, all down the generations. Full of people who couldn't spell friendship or comrade and with nothing but self interest and betrayal running through their veins.

    Enjoyed the read Sean as usual. Keep at it.

  2. Always pleased to see a reference to Anthony Hughes Sean, it shows the nature of the engagement that the vols met. Its also puzzling given how comprimised the mission was, they knew exactly who was in the unit, so the attack on the Hughes brothers just shows the frenzy the SAS unleashed.

  3. DaithiD,

    not just the SAS - RUC took part as well. Black Jack Hermon was determined to make a point.

  4. Sean,

    that Friday night is still so clear in my memory. We were just locked up. Shortly after we got out of jail myself and Tommy McKearney drove to the site. It was chilling.

  5. AM, I know there were some RUC giving the appearence of a normal manning of the station, were they also involved in the armed assualt?

  6. DaithiD,

    as far as I recall. One of the main players was named once. Remember E4A was trained up to SAS standards by the SAS.

  7. AM, In the Peter Taylor documentary, I think some non-SAS female was talking about how they were drinking all night in Crossmaglen barracks to celebrate it. So maybe she was part of that. I think republicans would celebrate the same, but its the moralising the Brits always make to distinguish themselves that is the issue. Maybe Iraq and Syria should of unilatterally sent their troops into the North after Loughall just to 'stablise' the situation in a neutral way.

  8. DaithiS,

    There were up to 30 members of the SAS involved, supported by RUC SPG/E4A mainly used to put in place snap VCPs after the fact. The desk cops were moved out during the week and SAS soldiers put on their uniforms and acted as if nothing had changed. The IRA scout car went by twice, then the digger with the IED crashed through the front gate and detonating, resulting in both occupants of the station becoming permanently deaf. The van containing the bulk of the ASU then followed quickly in and by accounts Pat Kelly jumped out first and opened fire at the station. This was the 'go' signal for the SAS who then opened up from their hidden spot behind the fir trees on the opposite side of the road. It was over very quickly. There is no glory on either side and it's just schadenfreude when we think there is when anybody dies. May they rest in peace.

  9. Great speech - sad subject. This disaster certainly played into the hands of GA/MMcG and I am pretty sure if today you asked GA about the speech at Jim Lynagh's funeral "Anyone who does business with the British, the SDLP or the Free State establishment are fools as they've all sold out on the Irish people." he would likely claim he never said it, never gave the speech and probably wasn't even there.

    Condolences to all the families & comrades on this sad anniversary of these brave men.

  10. Like AM I can remember clearly that Friday night, the exact moment on hearing of the Loughgall ambush. I also have a similar clarity about a Sunday lunch-time six months later; where I was, who I was with and who told me about the Enniskillen bombing.

    Now, I get things wrong all the time ... and I could be wrong on this too ... but I'm of an opinion (that) we've come to a time where acts of remembrance ought be all inclusive.
    If we could unite in our losses and our hurts, if we could grieve and mourn collectively then perhaps we could formulate agreed means and methods of living together with greater tolerance and with greater respect for difference.

    We can best honour all our dead by agreeing our collective futures which will eventually and of necessity involves relinquishing all round top-dog thinking and positioning.

    That they may all continue to rest in peace.

  11. Steve, give or take chasing down a fleeing volunteer and murdering him. I guess if Anthony Hughes had lived we there would of been an eye witness to corroberate this. Any citizen subject to the same law that governed the SAS that day should be very worried. What a bloody swamp the British decended into to protect a sovereignty claim, for a country that gave the world the framework of laws that are a model for those seeking enlightenment,(along with Diplock courts) it was a grubby practice not out of place in a Arab dictatorship. Its another example of latter generations squandering the amazing legacy bestowed to them. This process of extrajudical killings and corruption of every branch of the law will not be seen as in this tradition.

  12. This was published today in the Irish News:

  13. I visited the site myself a few years ago and wrote about it after. It was unnerving for sure - especially the drive into and through the village, along the path the Volunteers would have thread. God be good to their souls.

  14. DaithiD,

    You know the old Eastern saying, "Don't point fingers as you always have 3 pointed back at you".

    Let's hope our young don't have to go through the horror again.

  15. jgr33n

    That link was a good read. At this stage it is good to see ex volunteers having the confidence to tell it like it actually was without doing any legal damage. Certainly any loyalty to the 'brass' has long since had its day and would be seriously misplaced. It may also help future generation not to fall into the trap of believing their own propaganda.

  16. Steve, leave that coded equivalency crap off a memorial. You get a very easy ride for whatever your connections old or current, it can change quickly with mistakes such as this.

  17. Daithi,

    Not entirely sure you 'get' me. Far from equal in my book. But the past is the past and bitterness gets you nowhere in life. Like I said before, may they rest in peace. I've no malice toward the IRA and I have plenty of reason to be angry with them, but at some point you have to realise that hate does no good. I'd rather try to understand and work together than get worked up over centuries old happenings. As for getting an 'easy ride', I can easily say contentious and horrible truths but choose not to, or when asked will refrain from pointing out certain aspects of historical cases that would make life uncomfortable for some. The reason I do so is because I believe in a truth commission rather than judicial one.