Oration at the grave of Fergal O’Hanlon, January 13, 2013 by Róisín Hayden, Ard Chomhairle.
We are here today to remember the life of Volunteer Fergal O’Hanlon who alongside his friend and comrade Volunteer Seán Sabhat paid the ultimate sacrifice in the fight for Irish freedom and independence on New Years’ Day 1957.
Fergal was born in Ballybay, Co Monaghan into a staunchly Republican family. He was a draughtsman employed by Monaghan Co Council, a GAA footballer and like Seán Sabhat had a love of all things Irish. He was an Irish speaker and like many other young men at the time wanted to see an end to the occupation of his country. The British presence in Ireland has always been a blight on the country and has claimed millions of lives, not all while fighting a war against the British - hunger caused the population of Ireland to half in the mid-1800 hundreds during An Gorta Mór.
At the age of just 20 Fergal was killed alongside Sean Sabhat from Limerick while part of a 14-man IRA unit, taking part in an attack on the RUC barracks in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh during Operation Harvest, otherwise known as the Border Campaign, in which several other Volunteers were injured - including Dáithí Ó Conaill from Cork who was second in Command of the Pearse Column. Dáithí led the rest of the column across the Border to Co Cavan. Other members of the column came from Dublin, Wexford and Galway.
Unfortunately Fergal never lived to fulfil his full potential, like many a lad who loved his country. He realised the risks he was taking and the ultimate price he could pay, but was willing to pay that price for the freedom of his country from foreign occupation. He was a brave soldier of the Irish Republican Army and we remember him here today with pride.
There are other things happening around us today that we are not proud of. This year the people of Derry will have to put up with the shameful title of “UK City of Culture”. Derry is not a British City – it is as Irish as Cork and Dublin, Sligo, Wexford or Galway. Republican Sinn Féin will vigorously oppose any attempts to promote and celebrate such an insulting and disgusting title. We will be among the hundreds to attend the Bloody Sunday march in Derry at the end of the month and ask people here to join us there to remember the fourteen men murdered by the British Army as they took part in a protest demanding their civil rights as Irish citizens.
Over the last number of weeks we have seen sectarian loyalists wreck havoc in Belfast and other town across the Occupied Six Counties, over the removal of the Union Jack from Belfast City Hall except on 17 designated days. That self-seeking Willie Frazer announced last week that he was bringing loyalists to Dublin to demand the removal of the Tricolour from Leinster House. Now, we have no love for the current inhabitants of Leinster House – our allegiance is to the subverted Second Dáil Éireann – or indeed those who have inhabited it for many the long year. However Frazer’s decision is another testing of the waters, to see how far can those loyal to Britain go to make British rule acceptable in Ireland.
We have seen British gun-boats in Dublin and Cork ports; a commemoration to the murderous Black-and-Tans in Glasnevin; the unveiling of a plaque to Carson in Dublin; a visit from the Queen of England, her daughter, her sons and her sister. All these visits/events low key in themselves, with the exception of the visit by Elizabeth Windsor, making them an almost everyday occurrence, as if these were the most normal things in the world. Well, they are not normal, and the British presence is not normal or indeed acceptable. The Union Jack should be permanently removed from flying in any part of our country, north, south, east and west.
While there has always been co-operation between the British Colonial Police and the Gardaí, we now see unprecedented levels of co-operation between them. They are working as one for the British government and the 26 County Administration. These are dangerous times for Republicans, and we need to be careful of who we trust, especially those who purport to be republicans.
The latest report on the murder of Pat Finucane, (and it is only a report, a far cry from the independent inquiry his family are looking for), proved conclusively the collusion between the loyalist death-squads, the British so-called security forces and the British Government, and indeed the informers used by both.
2013 will mark the 3rd year that Martin Corey has been held hostage in Maghaberry Prison. Martin spent 19 years in prison for his political beliefs and despite being released, the former British Minister in the Six Counties, revoked Martin’s licence for no reason whatsoever. He was taken back into custody on April 16, 2010, on the basis of "closed material". On July 9, 2012, Justice Treacy ruled that Martin Corey's human rights had been breached and he should be released immediately on unconditional bail. This was overruled by Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward. Several court appearances later Martin is still in jail, no charge against him, he was never interrogated, and no reason was ever given to him for his rearrest. The latest on Martin, and indeed the situation in the jail, can be read in this month’s SAOIRSE.
Republican Sinn Fein calls for Martin’s immediate release and also the release of Marion Price who is seriously ill in hospital. We remember also all the POW’s incarcerated in jails in Ireland and across the world held in appalling conditions under unjust and foreign rule.
During 2013 several Centenaries occur. The Dublin Lock Out which began in August 1913 is but one when William Martin Murphy was among those who locked out thousands of union members in an attempt to break the ITGWU. James Connolly and Jim Larkin were to the fore in trying to protect the workers. By mid-September more than 25,000 workers were locked out. The families of these men, numbering up to 100,000, faced starvation. In Mountjoy Jail, Connolly went on hunger strike, one of the first Irish political prisoner to use the hunger strike as a weapon of protest. After a week he was released and later wrote that “the great ‘lock out’ in 1913–14 was an apprenticeship in brutality, a hardening of the heart of the Irish employing class”. This led directly to the founding of the Irish Citizen Army, who took up arms against the British, with the Irish Volunteers in 1916.
The lock-out lasted for eight months. At the end of this time the workers were forced back to work; but despite this setback, the union went from strength to strength. The unions of today would do well to remember and follow men like Connolly, Larkin and the men who battled against the capitalist bosses.
We need to prepare for the Centenary of the 1916 Rising in the coming months before its hijacked by people trying to steal our name and many others purporting to be Republicans. Get active in your area to commemorate some event to mark one of the most important Centenaries in the history of Irish Republicanism.
We must promote SAOL NUA and ÉIRE NUA which are the way forward to bring about a just and lasting peace in Ireland. We call here today on the British Government to give a declaration of intent to withdraw from the Occupied Six Counties, because until they do there will never be peace in Ireland. And that is what we ultimately want for this country, peace, but peace with justice and the right to self-government without outside interference from Britain or anyplace else.
An Poblacht Abú