Monday, July 08, 2013

Remembering Joe McDonnell

Today, July 8th, marks Vol. Joe McDonnell's 32nd anniversary. He was the fifth Hunger Striker to die, having spent 61 days on Hunger Strike. 

Republicans from across the country, and indeed all over the world, remember him with pride today. Over the course of the weekend, the Lenadoon Commemoration Committee hosted a series of events, including kids football tournaments, before the main annual commemoration last night in the Roddy McCorley Club on the Glen Road where Mairéad Farrell Republican Youth chairperson Eóin McShane was honoured to have given a short speech before the main speaker, Bik McFarlane.

Below is the text to Eóins' speech - very worthwhile read for any young, or indeed not so young, Irish Republican.

'As the chairperson of Mairéad Farrell Belfast Sinn Féin Youth it gives me great honour to be standing before you all here this evening - I have never done this before, so you may need to bear with me - and that's my disclaimer!

Being born some 10 or more years after the 1980/81 hunger strikes, i never had the privilege of knowing brave Volunteer Joe McDonnell. But being born and bread in west Belfast, surrounded day & daily by the republican ethos and imagery - of which I am very proud - I feel deeply inspired by his sacrifice, and deeply angered, and motivated to pick up the fight and carry on with the struggle that Joe gave his life for.

This weekend marks the 32nd anniversary of Óglach Joe McDonnell. As a young man, like myself, Joe became politicised, and indeed Republicanised, by the injustices that surrounded him day & daily. Joe, like many of his comrades at that time, probably weren't born Republicans; but Joe quickly adopted to the circumstances of the struggle at that time by joining the republican movement.

To me, Joe, along with his Belfast comrades from 1st Battalion Oglaigh na hÉierann, Kieran & Bobby, and their comrades Francis, Raymond, Patsy, Kevin, Martin, Tom & Mickey epitomise everything that it means to be a republican. What Nelson Mandela is to the open-minded free thinkers of the world, the revolutionaries of 1980/81 are to me & the scores of other young republicans across every pocket of this island.

To me, in 2013, this is very much the same struggle - a struggle for the right to national self determination of the Irish People. Granted however that yes, the circumstances are very different, we must not let this deter us from the work that still needs done. We owe our thanks to men and women like Joe McDonnell for this reality, but for me this isn't enough. The only fitting tribute that we can give to Joe and his comrades is to see the current fight right through to the very end.

Much like Joe, we need to adopt to the circumstances that suit this stage of the struggle. It is our duty as Irishmen and Irishwomen to fulfill Joe's vision of a Republic - we can make this a reality and I have never been more confident that this generation WILL deliver Irish Unity.

In my capacity as chairperson of Belfast Sinn Féin Youth I would like to take this opportunity to urge all the like minded, republican youth to join this fight and make Irish Unity more than just a dream or a fairy-tale.

We need to use the stories of Joe McDonnell and remember his sacrifice as we tackle head on the new challenges that face us. These challenges should be embraced and as Irish Republicans we need to lead by example.

I am very proud to be here today in honour of Joe McDonnell, the same sort of pride that we all know is felt by Joe's family feel in relation to his own specific contribution.

As a young republican activist i feel it is only appropriate for me to pay tribute to Fian John Dempsey. Fian John Dempsey was murdered by the brits just hours after Joe McDonnell's passing as he set about expressing his anger at this news on July 8th 1981.

It is fitting, and somewhat coincidental that merely a fortnight ago, Belfast Sinn Féin Youth occupied a once militarised stretch of land in West Belfast and set up a "Freedom Camp" in open protest and in open defiance of the G8 summit and the injustices that the 8 leaders present represent.

Fian John Dempsey was murdered less than 50 yards just over the road from where our protest took place. He was 16 years of age. 

To me, this again illustrates very clearly the unbreakable bond of Irish Republicanism.

As Republicans we thrive the challenges that come to face us. And we win. In 1980/81, Thatchers government tried to criminalise our struggle. And they failed. In 2013, Stormont Ministers, Insignificant Nationalists & Unionist Dinosaurs tried to do the same. They will also fail.

Sue Ramsey often tells me about how we are all learning each and every day. Shes right. Each and every day brings its very own specific challenges. It is from these challenges that we use the determination & unquenchable thirst for freedom shown by brave Volunteer Joe McDonnell to conquer these and further our struggle as effectively, and as efficiently as possible.

At the graveside oration of Joe McDonnell, a very symbolic and relevent quote from P.H Pearse was used - "They may seem the fool who has given his all, by the wise men of the world; but it was the apparent fools who changed the course of Irish History"

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.'

Eóin also used the opportunity to offer condolences, on behalf of Belfast Sinn Féin, to the family, friends and comrades of Chrissy O Neill & Declan McKenna who tragically died in a car accident in the early hours of Saturday morning.

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