Turnouts for Easter commemorations throughout the country were
up this year, a measure of Sinn Féin's growing strength and
confidence. That sense of an expanding organisation was also
evidenced in the resurrection of commemorations in once dormant
areas where republicans are again organising. Here we feature reports from
commemorations throughout the country. Commemoration details
received too late for our deadline will be carried in next week's
The final of the McVerry Cup between Cullaville and Newtownhamilton at St Patrick's Gaelic Park on Easter Sunday was won by Cullaville after a very entertaining game which could have gone either way.
At approximately 4pm, one of the largest crowds to date paraded from the Gaelic football pitch to the Republican Memorial in Cullyhanna.
The oration was given by Jim McAllister (The first person to be elected to the Assembly). After the usual local notices, Amhrán na bhFiann was played by the Cullyhanna Youth Band, which was formed in 1975 and has never missed a commemoration in South Armagh over the past 25 years.
Speaking at the Lurgan Commemoration on Easter Sunday, Sinn Féin Assembly Member for Mid-Ulster Francie Molloy said: ``The courage and commitment of the leaders of 1916 were inspiration to the Irish people to throw off the shackles of British control and fight for freedom.
``The present leadership of the struggle have led from the front. They have inspired everyone by their courage and commitment. Their skills on the streets and in negotiations have brought the struggle to the point of conclusion.
``Yes we can finish the struggle successfully with your help and with unity. This movement is the only force that will make it happen. We will only get as much freedom as we take, so let's take it all and let's take it now.''
County Derry republicans gathered in large numbers at the Loup on Easter Sunday for the annual 1916 Commemoration. The colourful commemorative parade, organised by the Counties Derry and Antrim Republican Graves Association, assembled at Ballyronan Road, led by the South Derry Martyrs Flute Band.
Those in attendance heard Sinn Féin Assembly member for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, deliver the oration. Michelle provided political analysis of recent events in the peace process, while recommitting the party to the principles of the 1916 Proclamation.
Dealing with Sinn Féin's programme for building political strength, Gildernew commended the young people who involve themselves in the work of Ógra Shinn Féin.
Earlier in the day, local wreath-laying ceremonies were held at the graves of republicans in Coolcam, Kilrea, Newbridge, Bellaghy, Rasharkin and Glen. The North Derry 1916 Commemoration took place in Dungiven at noon.
Despite inclement weather, hundreds of republicans from Counties Derry and Antrim assembled for the annual Easter Monday commemoration in Swatragh.
The parade assembled in the Diamond and made its way to Granaghan churchyard for a wreath-laying ceremony before returning to the village to be addressed by Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Brown.
There was a good turnout for the annual Crumlin commemoration, which wends its way from Crumlin Shopping Centre to Eamonn Ceannt Park every Easter Saturday. The parade was led by visiting bands from Glasgow and Liverpool. Local cumann member Mick Byrne chaired the proceedings and Ard Chomhairle member Aengus Ó Snodaigh delivered the main address.
Over 200 people turned out for the Easter Monday commemoration at Dún Laoghaire, which makes its way every year from Baker's Corner, along a route that wends through Rory O'Connor Park to the republican plot at Deansgrange cemetery.
Local representative Michael Nolan chaired the proceedings, drawing particular attention to the campaign now underway in the Borough against the council's attempted introduction of refuse charges. The main address was delivered by Sinn Féin Councillor Dessie Ellis.
There was a large turnout at this year's Easter commemoration in Leitrim. Led by a local pipe-band, an estimated 400 people marched to the grave of Volunteer Patrick Gill, shot by the Black and Tans, at the cemetery in Jamestown.
The main oration was given by Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle member Gerry McGeough, who praised Leitrim and its people for the historical role they have played in Ireland's fight for freedom. He also pointed to the advances made by Sinn Féin over the years and emphasised the need for people to get actively involved in building the party at local and national level.
Earlier in the day, McGeough addressed a crowd at a wreath-laying ceremony in Arigna, County Roscommon. Approximately 100 people gathered to pay homage at the graves of Volunteers Michael and Jim Cull and Sean Tymon, who were killed during the Civil War.
The Martin Hurson/Joe McDonnell cumann held its first commemoration for many years on Easter Sunday. They commemorated Volunteer Pat Farrell, killed by British forces in 1921.
Meath County Councillor Joe Reilly gave a stirring oration to the 150-strong attendance, giving a rundown on the current impasse in the peace process. He also expressed solidarity to the republican prisoners still incarcerated and their families. Recalling that Martin Hurson stood as a candidate in the Longford general election in 1981, Joe urged everyone associated with the campaign at that time and all gathered at the commemoration to set up a 1981 Committee.
The annual Easter commemoration at the Halpin and Moran Memorial has gone from strength to strength, and this year was no exception, attracting a large attendance in glorious sunshine. The hard work and high profile of Sinn Féin in Drogheda over the past few months in the Anti-Bin Charges Campaign has been rewarded, with applications for membership of Sinn Féin and Ógra Shinn Féin reaching an all time high.
After a parade to the memorial on the Marsh Road, the commemoration was chaired by Ken O hÉiligh. Louth County Councillor Arthur Morgan spoke before the main oration was delivered by Kerry County Councillor Martin Ferris, Sinn Féin Good Friday Agreement negotiator.
Morgan spoke of the need to develop and grow Sinn Féin in Louth to achieve the necessary breakthrough in the North and to rescue the 26 Countries from the morass of corruption into which it has sunk.
Martin Ferris spoke of the difficulties now being encountered through the vacuum created by the suspension of the Assembly and the need for a strong republican voice all over Ireland, to advance the struggle, whichm he said ``is stronger than ever.
``Our vote, north and south, continues to increase. The number of young people joining our struggle is a testament to our standing as a radical, revolutionary movement whose roots can be traced back to 1798 and beyond.
``With your assistance, with your increased participation in the republican struggle, we can counter British policy, unionist intransigence, and create an irreversible dynamic for fundamental change, which is central to a durable, lasting peace.''
He also paid tribute to Maeve Healy for her dedication and hard work on the commemoration committee over the past 20 years.
There was a certain pathos that as Ferris, a seafarer, spoke, a ship sailed down the Boyne behind the monument, with men lining the deck.
The Dundalk Commemoration Committee commenced on Easter Saturday with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Watters Brothers Memorial at Mill Street, Dundalk. The proceedings were chaired by Councillor Kevin Meenan.
The parade in Dundalk to the Republican Plot on the Newry Road on Easter Sunday was well attended. The ceremonies were chaired by Councillor Sean Kenna. Arthur Morgan gave an overview of the present position and blasted those politicians responsible for corruption in high places. The main speaker was Councillor Martin Ferris from Kerry.
On Sunday night at a well attended function, a presentation was made to veteran republicans Eithne and Colum Hegarty by Arthur Morgan.
A crowd of over 200 assembled at Sligo City Hall on Easter Sunday afternoon to take part in the Sligo Easter Commemoration. The march to Sligo Cemetery was led by a well drilled colour party who paused and paid their respects at the graveside of Volunteer Joe MacManus before parading to the main ceremony at the Republican Plot.
The graveside ceremonies were chaired by Councillor Chris MacManus and the main oration was given by Dublin Councillor Sean Crowe.
He said:''We know Ireland's Celtic Tiger does not cherish all the children of the nation equally. It does not pursue the happiness and the prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts.
``Republicans are working towards change, positive change. It is only when ordinary people begin to see an improvement in their daily lives then and only then can we say our work is succeeding.''
On the issue of arms, he said:
``We are constantly told that unionists have a huge concern about arms. The people whom Sinn Féin represents also have a huge concern about arms. The Six Counties, since its foundation, has been an armed sectarian state upheld by armed militias and British guns. The unionist community are the most heavily armed people in Western Europe.
``The British government cannot be allowed to portray itself as honest brokers or referees in all of this. They are and remain the chief protagonist in a conflict which is yet to be resolved.
``Indeed, the behaviour of British Crown Forces and the RUC in recent months quite clearly shows that the British are still on a war footing.
``All of this at a time when the British government is supposed to be honouring the commitments it made under the Good Friday Agreement to demilitarisation and a new beginning to policing.''
Earlier that morning, a wreath-laying ceremony took place in Ballisodare at the graveside of Martin Savage, killed at Ashtown Road in 1919.
There was a good crowd in Banba Square, Nenagh, at the memorial to North Tipperary Voluntreers who died in the Tan and Civil Wars and dedicated also to the Ten 1981 Hunger Strikers. Proceedings were chaired by local Sinn Féin representative Jimmy Nolan and the main speaker was Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Ard Chomhairle member and prospective Dáil candidate for Dublin South Central.
He hit out at politicians embroiled in corruption scandals, saying that Sinn Féin wants to establish a society which guarantees the 1916 Proclamation's pledge of ``relgious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opporunities to all its citizens''.
``We are revolutionaries. We want to radically alter the focus of Irish society. We aim to make the poor richer, to house the homeless, to protect the vulnerable and to end the corruption which has been destroying our society.
``Remember that the struggle is more than liberating the war zone that was the Six Counties. It is about liberating the people of Ireland. Freeing them from the corrupt hand of the greasy hand in the till, the gombeenism, the cronyism of mé féin politics which has been 26-County politics.
``Some politcians here used to laugh about the extent of the corruption in Italy. The leadership of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the decades could teach the Italians a thing or two about corruption. Nobody seems to remember where the cheques came from or even where they went. If that was me or you fiddling a pound or two, a prison cell would be beckoning. This society is corrupt. This society needs a change. Sinn Féin offers that change.''
Louth County Councillor Arthur Morgan spoke at this year's commemoration in Ardboe on Easter Monday, which was chaired by Councillor Pearse McAleer. The ceremony started from the Diamond Corner and paraded to the republican memorial, led by local bands from Ardboe, Kinturk, Carnan and Coalisland.
Morgan spoke of the need for equality in the Six Counties saying: ``Republicans and nationalists were part of the Good Friday Agreement, we voted for it. However Peter Mandelson thinks that he can override the wishes of the people and simply wipe away that vote with the stroke of a pen. That arrogance is unacceptable.
``The Republican people of Tyrone have not been through the last 30 years to have a British politician walk all over their votes. They have suffered, the families have suffered in many ways and there are those who do not recognise the hurt they have endured. The inequality they suffered in life also seems to be exist even in their death. This has to change.''
Also at Ardboe, the Easter Message from the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann was read out by a Volunteer.
The main County Tyrone commemoration was held in Carrickmore, where several thousand Tyrone republicans marked the 84th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Those in attendance heard calls from Sinn Féin Assembly memberGerry Kelly for the British government to accept its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement and reestablish the political institutions.
Sunday's parade was a very colourful event, with a uniformed colour party and three marching bands leading the way.
This year, a plaque in memory of the deceased members of the Tyrone National Graves Association was unveiled in the Garden of Remembrance by Honorary President of the Association, Tommy O'Neill from Cappagh.
There was a particularly large number of teenagers and young people participating. At the Garden of Remembrance, Brian Crowley, Chair of the Tyrone National Graves Association, presided. Many Sinn Fein Cumainn, and Comhairlí Ceantair throughout Tyrone, Ógra Shinn Fein, political prisoner support groups and the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign were represented at the parade.
At one point in the proceedings, a Volunteer from Óglaigh na hÉireann took his place on the platform to deliver the annual Easter message from the leadership of the Republican Movement. This was greeted with loud, sustained applause.
When it came the turn of Gerry Kelly to deliver the main oration, a low-flying British Army helicopter remained static overhead in an apparent attempt to drown out his message
Recently elected Sinn Féin councillor and serving Assembly member Barry McElduff accused the crown forces of a petty attempt to interrupt the proceedings, ``but their pettiness,'' he said, ``like their attempts to defeat republicanism, is a waste of time''.
Speaking at Coalisland on Easter Saturday, Dodie McGuinness from Derry called for equal recognition for all those who have suffered during the last 30 years of conflict.
The local commemoration followed a parade from Lower Annagher through the town to Clonoe cemetery. Wreaths were laid at the local republican plot.
A crowd of over 200 people attended the local graveside commemoration of Volunteers Gerard and Martin Harte in Loughmacrory Graveyard, County Tyrone, on Easter Sunday morning. Gerard and Martin were killed in action on Tuesday 30 August 1988 with their comrade Volunteer Brian Mullin, who is interred in Dunmoyle graveyard.
The proceedings were chaired by local man Barney Gallagher, a former POW from the area, and the Tyrone Roll of Honour was read by Vincent Donnelly from Greencastle, who spent 23 years incarcerated in English jails.
The main speaker of the day was Eugene McConnell from Clogher. In a tribute to both Volunteers, McConnell praised their courage and self-sacrifice in pursuit of their objectives, qualities which they also applied to their roles as hard-working and energetic GAA figures in the Loughmacrory area.
The Milligan/Harte Sinn Féin Cumann also held a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Alice Milligan, the famous poet and republican who is interred in Drumragh Graveyard near Omagh.
The largest crowd ever attended the 25th annual Easter commemoration organised by the McGrath/Sands Cumann from Portlaw/Carrick-On-Suir in Portlaw, County Waterford, on Easter Sunday. After a march from the square to the local parish church, Jackie Phelan introduced the main speaker, ex-POW Dennis Lahiff. Carrick-On-Suir Sinn Féin councillor Liam Walsh laid a wreath on the grave of Maurice McGrath (The Bogman), who was killed during the war of independence.
Easter commemorations in County Wexford were very successful with three held on Easter Sunday in Duncormick, Murrintown and Wexford Town, respectively. Duncormick's recently formed cumann held the first major Easter commemoration since 1956 led by a local colour party, also recently formed. Marrintown's parade went to the grave of Radford and McCarthy, killed during the Civil War. The crowd then joined pikemarchers and a colour party from Wexford Town for a well-attended march to Crosstown cemetery - the first commemoration held here since the 1980s. Councillor Anthony Kelly introduced guest speaker Pádraigín Ní Mhurchadha who had spoken at the two previous ceremonies. She spoke of the ``continuity of struggle from 1798 to the present'' and described Wexford's role since 1969 as ``magnificent''. She added that Wexford republicans are now being asked to ``put their shoulders to another wheel, the wheel of political advance''.
Enniscorthy's annual Easter Monday parade to the grave of George Keegan was also very well attended. Councillor Martin Sheehan introduced guest speaker Gerry Hanratty, who was on parole from prison. In a lengthy and inspirational address which urged Wexford republicans to work hard to gain a Leinster House seat as a means of furthering the struggle, he called for the immediate release of all political prisoners.
Approximately 250 people attended a Mass and republican
commemoration in Sydney on Easter Sunday.
The speeches focused on this year being the centenary of the opening of the 1798 memorial in the city and the conservation/restoration work on the monument that was carried out very successfully by the Irish National Association over the last two years.
Australian Aid for Ireland members carried banners, sold Easter lilies and leafleted the crowd with a flier on the upcoming Hunger Strike commemoration on 13 May and the 8 June public meeting with Sinn Féin's Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin.
The main oration was given by Father Michael O'Sullivan on the history of the 1798 monument.
The West Australian branch of Australian Aid for Ireland reemerged with new enthusiasm at its annual Easter Commemoration, held on Easter Monday. Over 100 republicans met in Perth for a full afternoon of entertainment and republican politics. One comrade from Wicklow, who had only arrived in Australia the previous day, turned up after reading an advertisement for the event in An Phoblacht! According to long term activists it was one of the most vibrant and enthusiastic commemorations held in years. Several bands played and there was a live phone link-up with Sinn Féin representatives in Dublin. Recently elected branch president Simon Adams gave the Easter speech, emphasising that every Irish-Australian who supported the republican cause could do something, however small, to support the struggle for a lasting peace in Ireland. Money was raised to support incarcerated and recently-released republican prisoners of war.