A large crowd turned out in tribute to the H-Block Martyrs of 1981 when the 1916 Societies held their annual National Hungerstrike Commemoration on Sunday last, October 2nd, in Galbally, County Tyrone.
Thousands travelled from across Ireland travelled to the republican heartland, where a march and commemoration to the graveside of Volunteer Martin Hurson was held for the ten men who laid down their lives on the 1981 hungerstrike, for their fellow prisoners, their ‘Five Demands’ and ultimately for Irish freedom.
Local republican Noel McKeown chaired proceedings, which opened with a song in memory of the hungerstrikers and a reading of the 1916 Proclamation in Irish.
Wreaths in memory of the hungerstrikers were then laid on the grave of Martin Hurson, with Joe McNulty from Dungannon, who shared a cell with Martin during the Blanket Protest, laying a wreath on behalf of ‘Friends and Comrades’.
Tommy McKearney, a former Blanketman who himself endured the horrors of H-Block and spent 55 days on hungerstrike in 1980, gave the main oration, speaking of a need for republicans to challenge modern imperialism, which continues to blight Irish society not only in the north but across all of Ireland’s 32 counties.
Describing the Stormont Assembly as ‘a symptom of British imperialism’, with the ‘shoneen parliament’ in the south ‘which trades on Ireland’s sovereignty for its own narrow purposes’, he appealed for republicans to ‘take inspiration from the hungerstrikers and their legacy, which continues to show for all the nobility of our cause - a cause we must see through to the end’.
He told those gathered to “rally the forces” against British imperialism.
Branding Stormont a “venial, futile, powerless institution”, he also hit out at the Dublin parliament, which he said was “devoid of character” and “trading on the sovereignty of its people”. In an attack on Sinn Fein he told the men, women and children gathered that republicanism is a cause “that stands above and beyond the selfish pursuit of self aggrandisement”, adding that a “genuine republican” would “give what they have without concern for personal safety, personal advancement or personal career”.
“We are challenged to find the unity of purpose and bring together the currents, forces and streams of people,” he added.
“We must rally the forces and rally the people that will break the chains that bind us. We can do it and we will do it. We have the ability and let there be no doubt this can be done.
“And where there is doubt let us draw inspiration from those not only buried in this graveyard but the living who stand among and beside us here today - you the republican people of Ireland, who have stood fearlessly in the face of opposition and remain determined to accomplish the Irish Republic for which so many gave of their lives, among them Martin Hurson and his comrades who died on the hungerstrike.”