Republicans marched in Lurgan, Belfast, Coalisland and Derry over the Easter in defiance of threatened PSNI arrest operations and in stark contrast to the comfortable celebrations of independence in the 26 Counties.
One of the largest events saw the National Republican Commemoration Committee hold an Easter Rising dedication parade in Coalisland on Easter Sunday amid a heavy PSNI presence. Up to 60 men and women dressed in military-style clothing behind a colour party in an event affiliated to republican prisoners held on the Roe Four landing at Maghaberry Prison.
Road blocks were placed on several routes leading into the mainly nationalist village and a PSNI helicopter flew overhead as several thousand people accompanied by bands marched from Clonoe to St Patrick’s Hall in the town.
Undercover police also took photographs and filmed those taking part while PSNI vehicles fixed with cameras circled local roads.
Bus loads of people came from across Ireland for the event, which started almost an hour later than scheduled. During the speeches, Nuala Perry from the IRPWA blamed the delay on the PSNI, whom she said had tried to arrest a number of men in the colour party.
Wreaths were laid in honour of the Rising’s dead outside Patrick’s Hall after the wife of prominent republican Colin Duffy and IRPWA member, Mandy Duffy read a letter from prisoners.
The 1916 proclamation was read by reenactment society member Fintan Dwyer and then, addressing the crowd, Davy Jordan hit out at those now sitting at Stormont - likening them to the landlords of times gone by.
“As we stand here, we should rededicate ourselves to the cause,” he said.
“We have all made sacrifices, let us focus on the struggles of the time ahead... in memory of 1916. Victory to the political prisoners in Ireland and victory to the Irish people.”
St Patrick’s Hall holds special significance for republicans after Irish Volunteers from the north who were meant to take part in the rising gathered there in 1916.
Tricolours lined the parade route while the letters `IRA’ adorned several telephone poles. The main address was delivered by County Tyrone republican David Jordan.
In what is being viewed by as a potentially significant development he spoke of the need for a “political vehicle” to be established.
“Our overall objective must be to empower the Irish people using our revolutionary thinking to do so,” he said.
“It is of the utmost importance that a strong vehicle be built. The vehicle must be ideologically united on radical socialist republican objectives. It must be capable of formulating and implementing short term and long term objectives.”
During his speech, Mr Jordan called on Catholic, Protestants and dissenters to construct a “socialist republic”. He said any new organisation “must be a instrument beyond the influence of power and wealth”.
“We should never be able to be bought because we should not have a price,” he said.
“It is vividly clear that without a revolutionary political vehicle to have a strong clear anti imperialist, anti capitalist structure then republicanism will fail to mature and develop as a political and relevant social philosophy.”
The Tyrone republican said that “republicans can justifiably feel that the formation of a political vehicle will lead to reformism as this has been the republican experience”.
“We have to make it impossible that a political vehicle should ever become a parliamentary political party, it should never regard the Free State or six county statelet, or the combination of the two, as a legitimate governing authority of Ireland.
“It should never believe that election to these bodies would constitute the reconquest of power by the oppressed.
“A republican vehicle should give a clear anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-reformist message and this should never be diluted.”
A PSNI helicopter hovered overhead Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan on Easter Saturday as the Republican Sinn Fein 1916 commemoration took place at the weekend.
The procession made its way to nearby St Colman’s Cemetery where several wreaths were placed at the cemetery’s republican plot. During the commemoration a masked man read out a statement, which contained a message from the Continuity IRA.
“We continue our resolve to continue the struggle against British rule,” it said.
“The volunteers of the Continuity Irish Republican Army will continue to strike at will at the British forces of occupation. “That is the most fitting tribute we can make to the men and women of 1916.”
“One hundred years after the heroic 1916 Rising the continuity of Irish Republicanism remains unbroken. We pledge our allegiance to the All-Ireland Republic proclaimed in Easter Week 1916 and vow never to desist in our efforts until it has been restored to its rightful place and the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland has been vindicated before the world.”
The main oration was delivered by RSF representative Dermot Douglas. He spoke about Lurgan man Edward Costello who fought in the General Post Office in Dublin during the rising and later died of wounds received during Easter week.
During his speech the representative rejected any suggestion of a vote on a united Ireland.
“Whether a simple border poll or a broader all-Ireland vote, these go diametrically opposite to the proclamation,” he said.
“In the proclamation Ireland was proclaimed as ‘sovereign and indefeasible’ and this could only be extinguished ‘by the destruction of the Irish people’.
“No vote can undo that declaration, no poll can undo that declaration. These ideas are counter productive and counter revolutionary.”
Thousands lined the Falls Road in west Belfast on Sunday as the city marked the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising with a huge turnout for the main National Graves Association parade.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams told those present that he recalled attending the 50th anniversary of the Rising in Casement Park and said it was “an honour to come back” and deliver the main speech on the centenary of the Rising.
Mr Adams said: “We come here today with a huge pride. This group of poorly equipped Irish men and women took on the might of the largest empire the world had ever seen.”
He said partition had created “two conservative, mean-spirited, narrow-minded states instead of the 32 county republic proclaimed” at Easter 1916.
He told families of dead republicans that “like the men and women of 1916 they went out....to build a new future.”
The Sinn Fein leader said: “But there is much yet to be done. Hurts must be healed, divisions ended and the scourge of sectarianism must be tackled.
“While there have been improvements since it was first established the southern state is not the Republic proclaimed in 1916.
Mr Adams added: “Current efforts by the Dublin establishment to pretend that it is are an insult to the men and women of 1916.”
The Sinn Fein President also defended the actions of 1916 and attacked the “modern day Redmonites....who pontificate and waffle about how wrong 1916 was.”
He said: “There are those who say that honouring the 1916 leaders might retrospectively justify violence.
“But they say nothing critical of John Redmond and Edward Carson’s role in sending tens of thousands of young men to fight Germans, Austrians and Turks - with whom they and Ireland had no quarrel. 38 million people were killed in that imperial adventure. Were John Redmond and Edward Carson not ‘men of violence’?”
“Sinn Fein is crystal clear on this. 1916 was right.”
Mr Adams added: “When the centenary has come and gone there should be more left behind than a memory of a good day out.”
He told the crowd: “For our part, the 1916 Proclamation remains the mission statement for Irish republicans today.
“It is a freedom charter for all the people of this island which guarantees religious and civil liberty and promotes equal rights and opportunities for all citizens.
“The Proclamation is also a declaration of social and economic intent for a rights-based society in which the people are sovereign.”
In his Easter oration, Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly claimed the countdown to a united Ireland has begun.
Speaking at a Sinn Fein Easter Rising commemoration in Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, Mr Kelly said events of 1916 had a global effect which inspired many successful national liberation struggles around the world during the last 100 years.
“It lit a fire which is still burning bright in the hearts of all Irish republicans as we move ever closer to achieving a united Ireland,” he said.
“Across Ireland now Sinn Fein are stronger than we have ever been in our history. Irish politics is undergoing its biggest shake-up since partition. We are at the core of that change.”
Sinn Fein’s goal as Irish republicans, Mr Kelly said, was an Irish unity that was inclusive, “that unionists will feel welcome in, that they are a part of”.
“There is much work to do. But we believe that we are in the countdown to a united Ireland. We believe that together we can make huge progress and truly transform society on this island forever,” he added.
Around a hundred people, including veteran republican Gerard Hodgins, gathered to watch an unusual march as the Provisional IRA’s ‘D’ Company unit paraded from Barrack Street along the Falls Road to the republican Garden of Remembrance.
Men carrying ‘D’ Company banners and dressed in IRA-style uniforms marched in step along the road en route the commemoration service, where they remembered deceased members of the unit.
At the Garden of Remembrance, there was a rendition of Amhran na bhFiann before a decade of the rosary was said in Irish.
A D Company spokesman told the assembled crowd: “British rule was wrong in 1916 and it is still wrong in 2016. Let no-one tell you any different. We will settle for nothing less than a declaration of independence.”
A statement from republican prisoners held at Maghaberry jail was among the statements read out at an event at Derry City Cemetery by the 32 County Sovereignty Committee.
A 13-strong colour party wearing military-style clothing also led the parade from the city’s Creggan roundabout to the republican plot where former political prisoner Thomas Ashe Mellon delivered the oration.
There was a high profile security presence throughout Monday’s commemoration with PSNI vehicles patrolling the roads around the city cemetery and a helicopter it the air. But as the parade assembled close to the gates of the cemetery, a Land Rover drove through the area with a message warning that the commemoration had not been properly notified to the Parades Commission. A number of young people threw stones and three petrol bombs at other Land Rovers. No-one was injured in the disturbances.
Among the floral tributes laid at Derry’s republican monument was a wreath on behalf of the IRA while tributes were also laid by the republican prisoners’ association and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
In his address, leading republican, Mr Mellon attacked statements that the 1916 Rising led to the independence of the Irish nation.
Mr Mellon said: “This ignores the reality that six of the 32 counties which make up the Irish nation remain under military occupation by the age old oppressor.”
The Derry man described Sinn Fein representatives as former comrades and “careerist politicians” and claimed they had no right to the legacy of the 1916 leaders.
“It is our responsibility to work effectively in a focused and strategic fashion to bring about the socialist republic that republican volunteer soldiers died for. We are the unfinished revolution,” Mr Mellon said.
Bernard Fox, who spent 22 years in prison, told the eirigi 1916 centenary parade in Belfast that republicans “cannot be hypocrites and condemn those who use military methods.”
The eirigi parade began from the junction of the Whiterock and Falls Road in west Belfast yesterday and proceeded the short distance to Milltown Cemetery.
The former Provisional IRA hunger striker said Irish republicans are entitled to use “whatever means” necessary to bring about an end to partition.
Following a short wreath-laying ceremony at James Connolly’s former home on the Falls, young people paraded with portraits of the Rising leaders, while a piper provided music at the head of the march.
At Milltown, there was a rendition of Amhran na bhFiann and a minute’s silence before former republican prisoner Liam McCotter read the Proclamation.
Congregating at the plot of Fenian William Harbinson, an eirigi spokeswoman told the assembled crowd that it was “important to keep our enemies guessing as we move past this centenary.”
She said: “We have demonstrated the ability to reorganise and rise once again....throughout our history political negotiations have been used as a tactic to divide and conquer.
“The British government have attempted to project themselves as an international moral compass. We must never let the despots in 10 Downing Street present themselves as anything else.”
Delivering the keynote address, Bernard Fox said he was sure that the centenary commemorations were “confusing for the youth of today.”
Mr Fox said: “How come there are so many groups holding commemorations? It is called spin.”
“Some people would have you believe that the Rising was a mistake, that the British government were going to grant Home Rule.
“Home Rule had been on the statute books for four years. While Redmond was being promised Home Rule, the same British government was also promising Carson there would be no Home Rule.”
Mr Fox paid tribute to several former republican prisoners, including Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison, who he said was “murdered by British inspired gangsters” and Rose Dugdale, who is currently suffering from illness.
The Belfast man said “no republican can be happy” with the “current state of affairs”, and condemned republicans who supported and gave information to the PSNI, which he said was “disgraceful.”
Republican prisoner Tony Taylor delivered a recorded address to supporters during a Republican Network Unity organised Easter commemoration in north Belfast.
Taylor was interned earlier this month amid claims he ‘posed a risk’. The 48-year-old was detained at his home in Derry and returned to Maghaberry Prison on the instructions of British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers.
His voice was heard during the RNU organised Na Fianna hEireann commemoration in Ardoyne on Saturday when he read out a recorded statement from inmates in Maghaberry Prison who are aligned to the party.
It is understood the recording was made last week. Before his recent detention Mr Taylor was a senior member of the party.
The parade is organised each year to remember four local members of Na Fianna hEireann, the IRA youth wing, who died during the conflict
There was a PSNI presence in the area and a police helicopter circled overhead. The PSNI again used loud speakers to tell those taking part the parade was “illegal”.
The main oration was delivered by RNU national chairman John Heaney. He spoke about the need for republicans to analyse their position.
“While the centenary is of course a time for celebration, it must also be a time for reflection and self-analysis,” he said.
“Where did we come from, where are we now and where are we going - are three of the most important questions a Republican activist can ask themselves and they must be asked.
“I encourage you all to look back to the past but only in poignant remembrance - our march must be forward seeking at all times to advance the republican struggle.”
Meanwhile, in its Easter statement, the ‘new’ IRA has threatened to carry out attacks on the Crown forces. In the statement signed by its Army Council, the group said it will continue to carry out attacks and warned prison staff may also be targeted.
“The men and women of Easter 1916 were revolutionary activists engaging a foreign oppressor and asserted their right to national sovereignty via legitimate armed action,” it said.
“A century on and the IRA armed actions against Britain and her agents are as legitimate as they were in 1916.”
The organisation said it will continue to mount more attacks in future.
“As we look to the future Britain is stuck in their colonial past,” it said.
“While their occupation, the accompanying denial of national self determination and partition remain the IRA will continue to target any and all of those who assist in those injustices.”
The group said the 1916 Rising was “the continuation of an unfinished armed revolution that began in 1798.”
“The volunteer soldiers of the IRA are ready and determined to take the war to the age old enemy of our nation,” it said.
“This will remain so until the revolution comes to its certain conclusion, the establishment of a 32 county socialist republic.”
In its statement the group extended solidarity to republican PoWs and said “the IRA will not leave our prisoners at the mercy of Britain and will take further action as we see fit.”