Mural Unveiled In Memory Of Vol. George McBrearty

From the 1916 Societies John Crawley's speech at a  Derry commemoration for Vol George McBrearty.

  • On Sunday 28th May a large crowd gathered to commemorate Vol. George McBrearty at an event which a mural was unveiled in his honour. The event was hosted by the family and supported by the Peadar ‘O’Donnell 1916 Society, other Republican groups and the community. The main speech was given by John Crawley.

We gather here to unveil a mural and honour the memory of Volunteer George McBrearty who 36 years ago today was killed in action along with his friend and comrade Volunteer Charles ‘Pop’ Maguire.

George McBrearty fought and died as a proud volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. Not the Irish ‘Equality’ Army or the Irish ‘Nationalist’ Army, not the ‘Agreed Ireland’ Army or the ‘Maximum Autonomy Britain Will Allow Us’ Army but the Republican Army. George believed, and had every right to expect, that the term ‘Republican’ was not merely a suggestion but a statement of intent.

George did not engage in armed struggle in order to slap some sense into the British government until they eventually agreed to allow nationalists to become stakeholders in a reformed Stormont. He did not fight the British army so that they would leave the streets of Derry and retire peacefully to their Irish garrisons. He did not resist the Crown Constabulary so that they would change their name and cap badge to something more benign and hire more Catholics. Don’t let anyone tell you that he did. Don’t let anyone commandeer his courage and commitment to conceal their own dishonourable agenda or hijack his strength to veil their weakness. George was an active and courageous IRA freedom fighter. He led, as only real leaders do, by example. His place was always to the fore, he stood resolutely at the tip of the spear engaging in active military operations directed toward removing the British gunman from Irish politics.

As a result of his unflinching valour he was killed in action by the British army and is consequently not alive today to explain his actions or defend his motives. No one can speak for the dead, though opportunists may try nonetheless. But George’s family, those who knew him best and loved him most, want you to know that they believe with all their hearts that George would never have wavered in his commitment to the Republic and would have never permitted his sacrifice to be marginalised or criminalised by those who ultimately proved themselves more determined to survive the struggle than to win the struggle.

George McBrearty fought to achieve the freedom and justice that could only be realised with the ending of the British occupation of Ireland and the establishment of a truly national democracy based upon popular sovereignty and social justice. He sacrificed his life in a struggle dedicated to the re-establishment of the Irish Republic declared in 1916, endorsed by a 32-County vote in 1918 and overthrown by a British armed and financed counter-revolution in 1922.

One of the outcomes of that counter-revolution was that the Irish people of the 26-Counties, who like to believe they won their freedom, actually bought whatever freedom they had by abandoning their fellow countrymen in the 6-Counties. They abandoned Irish Nationalists to second-class citizenship and they abandoned Irish Unionists to nurture the political culture of colonial squatters with its simmering supremacist, sectarian and siege mentalities. Of course, a Catholic supremacy developed in the Free State but none of this would have or could have taken place to the same extent within the context of a United Ireland. James Connolly had correctly predicted that partition would lead to ‘a carnival of reaction both North and South’.

As a result of partition, George and his comrades in the Derry Brigade had no national government to organise their resistance. In order to challenge the British occupation and to pursue Republican objectives they had no option but to volunteer as guerrilla fighters in the Irish Republican Army or Óglaigh na hÉireann. Not the Óglaigh na hÉireann of the 26-County Republic of Ireland which declared in 1949 that Ireland is Ireland without the Six-Counties, but the Óglaigh na hÉireann of the 32-County Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916 which asserted that ‘the unfettered control of Irish destinies’ must be ‘sovereign and indefeasible’. A Republic which positioned national unity and democracy as core values calling for a ‘National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland, and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women’. Words read every Easter by a Free State army officer in front of the GPO without a hint of irony. Volunteer George McBrearty joined the Óglaigh na hÉireann that did not stand idly by.

George didn’t have to volunteer for active service. In doing so he offered himself up to a life of hardship and poverty, extreme danger and enormous stress. Short of eventual victory the only things that could be looked forward to by any IRA Volunteer on active service in 1981 were death or almost certain imprisonment.

We often hear from people who refused to resist that they grew up under the same conditions as IRA Volunteers like George McBrearty and never lifted a rifle. They like to imply that their passive acquiesce, or at times outright collaboration, was the result of them inhabiting some higher moral plane or being possessed of some deeper or more nuanced insight. Everyone who lacks courage and conviction when courage and conviction are called for attempts to veil their reticence in some self-regarding posture that reflects favourably on themselves. But we’re not unveiling a mural to those people today. No country on earth unveils statues or murals to the vast majority who didn’t step up to the plate. We know why and deep in their hearts they know why. Today, we are honouring the bravery and commitment of a young Irishman who raised his head above the parapet while others chose to remain safe in its shadow. A young patriot who fought to obtain justice for his native city and who died in the national defence. A man whose actions spoke for themselves and who, 36 years after his death, continues to inspire young men and women not yet born when George paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of his country.

Courage and commitment are perishable commodities. One of the toughest aspects about being an Irish republican is that a republican has to be brave all the time. Brave enough to believe the truth, and sometimes act on it, despite all the pressure, threats and inducements to do otherwise. That truth was spoken by James Connolly at his court martial 101 years ago when he said, “…that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland…”

Excessive sacrifice, prolonged pressure and a hunger for normality can, in time, lure freedom fighters toward less dangerous and often more lucrative paths of less resistance. Some, who proved brave in the past, want to believe there is a safe and easy road to achieve their goals in the present. In time, the easy road becomes an end in itself and though the road may eventually prove to be going nowhere they can’t find it within themselves to change their direction and find it easier to change their goals. Others will eventually believe any lie that comes wrapped in a British pound note. That’s how a fight for freedom is morphed into a struggle for so called equality within the very state apparatus once resisted. Of course, the Brits are very happy to encourage, facilitate and finance the direction away from a struggle for national rights toward a struggle for exclusively civil rights. The former undermines British sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom while the latter can be managed within existing, or reformed, British state controlled institutions.

The British have a remarkable capacity for channelling Irish political trajectories in a particular direction, harnessing Irish leaderships to drive the strategy, and then making the Irish believe it was their own idea. James Connolly called it ‘ruling by fooling’.

The core principles of Irish republicanism are not difficult to understand but they are easy to forget.

While the Anglo-Irish treaty and the Good Friday Agreement are basically tribal settlements rooted in difference, Irish Republicanism is inspired by a proposition. That proposition was enunciated by Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen and further refined and articulated in the Proclamation of 1916. The proposition that Britain can be dispensed with and Irishmen and women of whatever persuasion and none could forge a common national citizenship based upon democracy, equality and fraternity.

We are told today that Ireland Unfree Shall Be At Peace because there exists a democratic way forward but one must bear in mind that even the definition of democracy is determined by the British government. For Republicans, democracy is the expression of a united and free people, fully informed and without outside interference or impediment. As far as the Brits are concerned democracy is reduced to ballot box mechanics or any exhibition of electoral theatre which, despite the use or threat of force, bribery, censorship, partition, gerrymander or sectarian interventions achieves a desired result.

In the South, under Section 31 censorship there was an attempt to ensure that there was no freedom of speech in Ireland if your speech was for Irish freedom. The Dublin government’s claim to inherit the authentic mantle of Irish republicanism is undermined by the contradictions in their attempt to claim ownership of the unmandated Easter rising as the foundation stone of their state with the contention that during the Civil War they were justified in accepting British arms to attack and destroy Republican forces as they had to defend the right of the Irish electorate to decide their own future. Notwithstanding this electorate only included Irish people in the 26-Counties voting under Britain’s threat of ‘immediate and terrible war’ if the Dáil rejected the treaty. In accepting that fact the Free State accepted they had to conform to Britain’s interpretation of the acceptable parameters of Irish democratic institutions. Today, the term ‘politically mature’ is often used by partitionists to describe Irish citizens who have internalised the British spin on Irish democracy.

Pádraig Pearse speaking at Wolfe Tone’s grave declared that Tone, ‘… has spoken for all time, and his voice resounds throughout Ireland, calling to us from this grave when we wander astray following other voices that ring less true.’

Today there are other voices that ring less true telling us that in order to respect Unionists we must respect the Union. That far from breaking the English connection we must work within it. That Irish republican objectives will be ultimately achieved through British legislation. That sectarianism, inequality and partition will gradually and eventually be tackled with the help of the government that invented them. That in order to develop a national democracy which is ‘oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government…’ we should endorse the very mechanisms invented by Britain to harness these differences to British interests by acknowledging the Unionist veto and recognising as legitimate and lawful authority the artificial British state that nurtures the sectarian dynamic in Irish politics while becoming informers for the Crown constabulary that defends it.

A reformed Stormont supported by Unionists and a loyal Nationalist opposition, in tandem with British police primacy and Dublin government collaboration, have been the cornerstones of Britain’s counter-insurgency strategy. The Brits wanted the IRA depicted, not as patriots fighting a foreign presence, but as terrorists attacking their own democratic institutions.

You cannot depoliticise policing. A policeman is one of the primary symbols of state legitimacy and that state’s right to possess a monopoly on the lawful use of force. Every facet of a PSNI constable – from the British gun swinging on his hip to the Queen’s shilling jingling in his pocket – is a political statement. A peeler’s provenance is irrelevant. His or her nationality or religion a distraction. The RIC, at 80% Catholic, were the backbone of British rule in Ireland. Their successors in the PSNI stand in British armed and paid opposition to the democratic principles of the 1916 Proclamation, the democratic outcome of the 1918 General Election, the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil and that 32-County democratically elected government’s Declaration of Independence. They oppose with British arms every republican principle that IRA Volunteers risked life, limb and liberty to uphold. Principals for which George McBrearty died.

What’s the point of boasting you’d wear no convict’s uniform while agreeing to don a Crown constable’s? You cannot legitimise Her Majesty’s constabulary in Ireland without criminalising George McBrearty and Pete Ryan and Jim Lynagh and Bobby Sands.

If the formula for turning a British police force into an Irish police force was simply stocking it with Irishmen and administering it on Irish soil from a devolved parliament at Stormont then we’d be honouring the B-Specials as Irish patriots.

Republicans respect Unionists but we do not respect the Union. Our goal is to end the Union and for Unionists to join us as free and equal citizens in a united Ireland. The fact remains, however, that no planter political culture nurtured in any colonial system anywhere on earth has ever voluntarily relinquished its contrived supremacy or gerrymandered authority. The Unionist veto remains as long as Britain politically, economically and military underwrites it. Wolfe Tone believed the key to eventual unity lay in breaking the connection with England. Republicans believe that still. You do not break that connection by giving it democratic assent and title.

A ‘New and Agreed Ireland’ is the latest happy-clappy euphemism employed in an attempt to redefine the republican project and portray defeat as a veiled victory. Under this ‘New and Agreed Ireland’ reconciliation no longer means reconciling Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter to the idea of a united national citizenship but reconciling nationalists to the prospect of the continuation of the British connection in one guise or other.

The conspiracy to nurture a permanent British redoubt imprinted with Irish democratic assent to its political or cultural legitimacy must be recognised for what it is and resisted by republicans. Clearly this so-called ‘New’ Ireland is predicated on all the old divisions.

Don’t let those who are, in the words of Martin Luther King, ‘tranquilised by the heady drug of gradualism’ or mesmerised by the trappings of office convince you to look upon our national flag as a symbol of peaceful division. The tricolour does not represent an ‘Agreed Ireland’ where the two traditions agree to disagree in peace and harmony about the constitutional source of Irish sovereignty and the legitimacy and extent of British influence in constraining Irish democracy. It is a symbol of a national community of sovereign citizens comprised of all traditions and persuasions. It represents the republican vision of a United Ireland. Any situation where some Irishmen and women are deemed citizens of the sovereign republic but others recognised as wards of some concocted Crown dependency is a major defeat for Irish republicanism and a setback to the achievement of a national democracy.

Making Ireland British is an English project, keeping Ireland British can never be a republican one. The republican project is to end the British connection, not to remodel it. Our model of reconciliation lies in reconciling all Irishmen to the democratic ideal of equality and the republican concept of majority rule tempered by a protection of minority rights. Rights as Irish citizens, not as wards of a foreign power

There exists no national mechanism to advance Irish unity. The partitionist mechanisms that do exist, within the confines of the Belfast Agreement, are comprehensively ring-fenced by British constitutional constraints and conditions. A glaring example is the proposed Six County border poll under Britain’s Northern Ireland Act 1998 which permits the Secretary of State (presently an English politician without a single vote in Ireland) to determine if and when a poll may be called, to determine the wording of the poll and to determine who qualifies to vote and who does not. And just on the off-chance England should leave a single stone unturned in safeguarding their Irish national gerrymander, the final result of that poll must be ratified by the parliament of the United Kingdom in London.

The British have disposed of two national parliaments in Ireland in the past two hundred years. In 1800 the unrepresentative 32-County Irish Parliament at College Green was bribed out of existence in order to bring in the Act of Union. The Union Flag inspired by that Act still flies on Irish soil. In 1922 the 32-County Dáil Eireann, having existed as an illegal body under British law for most of its 2 ½ year history, voted itself out of existence by a narrow margin of 7 votes upon the British government’s threat of immediate and terrible war if the terms of the Anglo-Irish treaty were not accepted. Britain continues to ensure that U.K. parliamentary sovereignty in the Six-Counties is not superseded or eclipsed by 32-County popular sovereignty. Britain remains committed to underwriting and subsiding its colonial vanguard the Unionist veto.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Protestant reformation was an enormously beneficial and progressive movement in European and Irish history. Without the reformation, which broke the fossilised and hierarchical mindset of the Dark Ages the concept of man as an individual with autonomous rights could not have flourished and evolved into the contemporary models of democracy and republicanism. It is no accident that of the 28 founding members of the United Irishmen 26 were Presbyterian and 2 were Church of Ireland. Just a decade or so earlier the Irish Catholic hierarchy had been calling for fasting and prayers for a British victory against George Washington and the American republicans.

It was Britain, a term described as an imperial euphemism for England, which injected the sectarian dynamic into the mix by declaring a Protestant kingdom in which no Catholic could be head of state or marry the head of state. It made Protestantism the test for loyalty and patronage and, as a result of the Penal Laws, it gave Catholicism a far more commanding role in Irish society than it would otherwise have achieved by making Catholic priests, for generations of Irish peasants, the only persons of authority they could identify with or trust.

Structural and institutional divisions designed to keep Ireland politically weak and vulnerable to British manipulation have been an English strategy since the Tudor conquest. Queen Elizabeth’s I counsellors advised her on the Irish people saying, ‘Let us…connive at their disorder, for a weak and disordered people can never attempt to detach themselves from the Crown of England.’

What British Prime Minister Theresa May calls her ‘precious United Kingdom’ is built, in part, upon Irish sectarian divisions England either contrived or cultivated.

The British have divided us as part of a deliberate national strategy and their armed forces are not the agency to unite us. Don’t let the false flaggers lure you further into a British orbit by convincing you to take part in the pantomime of sentimentalising joint Nationalist and Unionist service in the British war effort of 1914-18 and pretending it’s a gesture of Irish reconciliation. Don’t let them condition you into becoming Croppies with poppies. Republicans won’t be conned by the hypocritical attempts of Britain or her Irish allies to forge a noble unity in death of Irishmen they treated as expendable hirelings while alive and cynically duped into becoming ‘accomplices in their own oppression’. As long as the British government claims sovereignty in Ireland Republicans will be honouring Irishmen and women who resisted their forces, not those who joined them.

Don’t let the limitations of any leadership become your limitations. Don’t believe your mission in life is to service the private political ambitions of any individual or clique. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.’

At the beginning of the so-called Peace Process we were assured that by 2016 there would be no border in Ireland. We now have two – one British and one European. We were assured there would be no veto on Irish unity. We now have two – one Unionist and, under the Belfast Agreement, the 26-County electorate have also been awarded a veto on unity.

A genuine and ideologically moored republican should trust his or her instincts to be able to tell the difference between political right and political wrong. They should have the moral courage to believe the truth and face the consequences whatever the outcome. A lie is still a lie, even when delivered with smirking condensation or unblinking Jesuitical intensity.

Remember Volunteer George McBrearty, who he was and what he really represented. Stay loyal to the Irish Republic and organise towards its re-establishment.”

1 comment:

  1. Powerful condemnation of the path taken by the collaborators in Sinn Fein. No one went to war and risked everything for the abomination that S.F. are settling for today.