Celebrating women in struggle
Last Friday in the Felons was a celebration of the role that republican women have played in the struggle for Irish freedom over many years.
During the day there was an exhibition, a display of photographs of women in struggle, some arts and crafts made by republican women in the jails and many newspaper articles culled and copied from the private collections of people the length and breadth of Belfast.
The exhibition represented the price that women have paid as they fought in the war of liberation. The photos of Volunteer Mairead Farrell, who was killed in 1988 on active service in Gibraltar, I'm sure, would have reminded many people of the commitment of republican woman to the cause.
Her image, staring smilingly down on the hall, served to remind us that republicanism is at its strongest and most powerful point in years because of the consistency and steadfastness of people like Mairead, who saw prison, hunger strike and active service yet never flinched.
In a corner was the photograph of Julie Livingstone. She was 13 years of age when she was shot down by the British. She was going to the shop for a pint of milk when she was killed with a plastic bullet. Her only crime was that she was an Irish nationalist. Her photo was a reminder of the repression that the British have used over many years to break our will to win.
On the platform were Rosaleen Ferris, Madge McConville and Bridget Hannon who have been part of this struggle for so many years.
Madge was jailed in the 1940s, when Tom Williams was arrested, while Bridget stood in Divis Street in 1964 when the RUC stormed in and started a riot as they went to remove the national flag from the Sinn Féin office under instruction from Ian Paisley. Many also remember the years and years of work that Rosaleen carried out on behalf of the prisoners.
While memories and the celebration of women's role in the struggle were to the fore on Friday, there was another important point. The function on Friday night was about raising funds for a planned memorial to women Volunteers who have made the supreme sacrifice. The many people who attended will have greatly helped the project and they are to be thanked for their support.