Patsy O’Hara Commemoration
Patsy O’Hara Commemoration
The following address was given by a leading member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) Eddie McGarrigle, in Derry last week at the annual commemoration of 1981 hunger strike patriot Pasy O’Hara


Fellow republicans and friends, it is an honour and a privilege to be invited here today to address you at this simple ceremony in remembrance of Vol. Patsy O’Hara. Over these past few days I have pondered over the words which might encapsulate Patsy’s selfless dedication to the republican struggle, the truth is there are no words or speeches which would adequately explain the full extent of Patsy’s courage or determination. No fine words will be sufficient to convey the enormity of the terrible burden of grief and pain endured by the O’Hara family both during the traumatic days of the 1981 hunger strike and the long, lonely years which followed. We can only bow our heads in awe of your courage and steadfastness. Mixed with the grief and pain is a great sense of pride and today we gather here at his graveside with you to embrace you in solidarity.

Patsy was 23 years old when he died on hunger strike; during his short life he witnessed the barbaric nature of British rule. The repression and gerrymandering of the Stormont state with the backing of the British forced young men like Patsy to take up arms. He saw injustice, he resisted, he saw brutality, he resisted, he witnessed at first hand the lackeys of imperialism baton and murder peaceful protestors in this city, he resisted. Patsy was on the side of the downtrodden and oppressed, he was interned at the age of 17, he was a victim of several frame ups and internment by remand. He was a revolutionary soldier who joined the ranks of INLA and fought for the liberation of his class and his people.

The “criminalisation” policy introduced in 1976 condemned hundreds of republican prisoners to the cruelty and horrendous conditions of the H-Blocks and the blanket protest. After finding himself in prison in 1979 he was then sentenced to 8 years. Patsy joined the blanket protest, he refused to be labeled a criminal, he refused to allow the republican struggle for freedom to be criminalised, he fought back just as he did whenever and wherever he was faced with bullies. In 1981 Patsy and nine friends and comrades died in defense of the struggle for Irish freedom.

Times have changed in many ways, it is clear that we all find ourselves living in somewhat confusing times, spin doctoring seems to be the order of the day. The recent report by the so called Independent Monitoring Commission came as no surprise to any Irish republican, its independence is a sham, it is a tool of policy for both the British and Irish governments with a mandate to isolate and demonise republicans, it is yet another mechanism by which they hope to pressurize republicans into conforming to their set of rules, let me make this clear, the Republican Socialist Movement will never jump through any hoops to suit the agenda of either government.

Within the IMC report is yet another attempt at criminalising the Republican Socialist Movement, I refer to its assertion that the INLA are involved in the drug trade. Those who propagate and peddle such stories, whether within the IMC or the Sunday World, have one thing in common, all of them fear, in one way or another, the class based analysis of the Republican Socialist Movement.

The demonisation and attempted criminalisation of revolutionary republicanism is just as evident today as it was in 1981. The INLA are a principled, disciplined and noble army and I salute its volunteers.

I agree with the political analysis of the IRSP that conditions for armed struggle no longer exist, at this time, and I concur also with the INLA ceasefire, I believe that we should pursue peaceful methods of struggle at this time, however various republican organizations have chosen different tactics. Despite the differences between republican traditions it is essential for republicans never to forget that our common enemy is still British imperialism. Regardless of the strategy each of us take in pursuit of freedom, regardless of the difference of opinion, let us always treat each other with respect, dignity and comradeship. Let us promote dialogue between us, and let each of us respect our differences.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the plight of the republican prisoners in Maghaberry Prison. All republicans, regardless of differences or tactics, need to rally to their support. Today in Maghaberry Prison Irish republican prisoners face the same enemy as the prisoners faced in Long Kesh in 1981, the issues are the same, the agenda of the British is the same, their goal is the criminalisation of Irish republican prisoners. Republicans of all shades need to put their differences to one side and form a unified campaign of support. Wherever and whenever injustices are found republicans of all traditions need to stand shoulder to shoulder.

Political frame ups as experienced by Patsy in the 1970s are not a thing of the past, local republican Seamus Doherty, a principled republican from this city, is currently awaiting trial on falsified charges. He is the victim of a state stitch up and should be freed immediately. The overriding legacy which Patsy O’Hara and his comrades left to us was their strength of character, their courage, commitment, integrity, honesty, principle and the bonds of friendship and camaraderie they forged. It is our duty as republicans to aim to emulate those same characteristics, to do otherwise is unthinkable.

Comrades, there is no finer calling in this world than to stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed, with the marginalised and with the poor. It is there we will see the spirit of men like Patsy O’Hara live on. Thank you.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News