SF is fastest growing force
John Joe McGirl 10th anniversary commemoration
``Sinn Féin is the fastest growing force in Irish politics'' and is
set to make significant gains in local elections in the 26
Counties next year. So said Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín O
Caoláin as he urged all republicans in the 26 Counties to focus
on the 1999 elections in order to build Sinn Féin. He was
delivering the John Joe McGirl Memorial Lecture in CountyLeitrim
The tenth anniversary of the death of Sinn Féin Vice-President
John Joe McGirl was marked in his native Ballinamore, with the
Memorial Lecture and with a commemoration ceremony at the McGirl
monument where Sligo Alderman Sean MacManus was the speaker.
John Joe died in 1988 after a lifetime of service to
republicanism, including two periods of internment without trial
North and South, and five terms of political imprisonment. He was
elected TD for Sligo-Leitrim in 1957 and was a key figure in the
rebuilding of the republican struggle in 1969.
John Joe's widow Bridie was in attendance at the lecture on 7
August and was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Owen Carron
of Leitrim Sinn Féin. Sharing the platform with the main speaker
were Commemoration Committee chair Vincent Kenny, County
Councillor Liam McGirl and Owen Carron. We carry here excerpts
from the lecture.
``It was because of John Joe and those like him that the radical,
progressive, republican tradition survived in Ireland when its
enemies were ready to consign it to the grave, the prison cell
and the history books.
``John Joe McGirl helped to ensure that not only did republicanism
survive but that it thrived. John Joe understood the need to
adopt new tactics and strategies to suit new political
circumstances. He had the foresight to realise that we must adapt
ourselves to the terrain through which we as republicans have to
travel on our long journey to our ultimate goal of a democratic
All-Ireland Republic. This was because, as Gerry Adams said in
his funeral oration ten years ago, John Joe was ``of the people
and he was with the people''. John Joe knew that if the republican
struggle was not a people's struggle it was nothing.
``Sinn Féin, the party of which John Joe McGirl was vice-president
at the time of his death has never been in a stronger position
electorally. It is regrettable that John Joe, himself a poll-
topping republican TD for Sligo-Leitrim in 1957, did not live to
see the success of our party in the Leinster House elections last
year. He would have relished too the strides we have made in the
past couple of years in greatly increasing our representation in
the Six-County area. The magnificent achievement of our party
activists in the June elections to the new Assembly is but the
latest advance which has been made.
``I would identify three reasons for the electoral successes of
recent years: firstly our central role in initiating and
sustaining the peace process; secondly the dedicated work of our
activists and elected representatives on the ground over many
years; thirdly the alternative we offer to the failed politics
which have blighted Irish society North and South since
``John Joe McGirl saw that people were ready for real leadership
and real representation and Sinn Féin was the party to provide
it. He himself was an exemplary public representative for this
party in County Leitrim, earning respect in all walks of life and
among political friends and foes alike.
``He helped to develop our party's electoral strategy with the
benefit of his long experience. Next year's local government
elections in the 26 Counties should mark a major milestone in the
advance of our electoral strategy and of Sinn Féin in this state.
I urge all republicans to set their sights on June 1999 and to
ensure that the work done thus far, and the hard work which will
be done in the next 11 months, will bear fruit with greatly
increased Sinn Féin representation in local government.
``As a border TD I am conscious of the ties that bind the Counties
of Cavan and Monaghan to Leitrim and Sligo, Donegal and Louth. As
a major political force in this region we in Sinn F?in are
foremost in raising the demand that the benefits of both the
present economic upturn and the peace process are shared on an
equal basis. For too long the border region and the West of
Ireland have been discriminated against in the economic
management - or rather mismanagement - of this state. Together
with deprived communities in the large urban areas this region
has lagged far behind. We in Sinn Féin are determined to work to
reverse this policy of discrimination.
``We have much work and struggle ahead of us but if we go to it in
the spirit of determination and good humour which characterised
John Joe McGirl then success will be ours.
``In conclusion let me say that it was my privelege to have known
John Joe McGirl. He was an inspirational man both on a personal
and on a political level. For family and friends his memory will
always be alive. For his comrades it is our duty to ensure that
his political legacy is carried on and that the All-Ireland
Republic which he so cherished is finally established.''