Tens of thousands of republicans took to the streets of villages, towns and cities across Ireland last weekend to pay their respects to Ireland’s fallen heroes.
One of the largest events saw several thousand people and six bands take part in a parade which marked the 101st anniversary of the 1916 Rising in Derry. A 30-strong colour party marched in formation through the Bogside to mark the beginning of the parade, which was organised by Saoradh.
Ahead of the event, Garda harassment of republican activists travelling from Dublin backfired spectacularly when activists broadcast the boarding of their bus live over the internet, where it was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.
At the city cemetery, seven children laid lilies in honour of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of the Republic, before wreaths were laid by representatives of Saoradh and the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.
The attendees heard a former prisoner say republicans have “unfinished business” and a demand for Britain to withdraw from Ireland.
The main address was given by former republican prisoner Paul Duffy, brother of prominent republican internee, Colin Duffy.
Mr Duffy spoke of those who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising whose objectives were to bring an end to British involvement in Ireland.
“These objectives have yet to be achieved,” he said. “It remains an unfinished revolution. Comrades, we still have unfinished business.”
He continued: “Now is the time to get down to business, to promote our revolutionary analysis which cuts through the false narrative and fake promises of those whose only aim is to deceive.
“They are the paid mercenaries of capitalism and imperialism. They are traitors to the island of Ireland.”
He added: Now is the time to raise our game, to impact on the cosy narrative that permeates Irish politics. The demand for an alternative republican voice, properly resourced and focused on revolutionary goals has never been more in demand.”
He told those in attendance that Ireland is still partitioned and “we cannot underestimate the importance of social agitation and political activism”.
REPUBLICAN SINN FEIN
Republican Sinn Fein also vowed to continue the struggle for Irish freedom. On Easter Saturday, a commemoration organised by the party at Lurgan’s Kilwilkie estate was told: “The only way they (the British) will be removed is by force.”
Attendees attended the community’s Garden of Remembrance before a wreath-laying ceremony at the republican plot at nearby Saint Colman’s Cemetery.
The main oration was delivered by RSF leadership member Gareth Banks.
“Our message remains the same, a new Ireland will never emerge from Leinster House or Stormont,” said Mr Banks. “The only alternative is real revolutionary change which means removing both partitionist states.”
A colour party in uniform walked in step through the estate. a masked man later read out a statement on behalf of the ‘leadership of the republican movement’, understood to mean the Continuity IRA. He paid tribute to its members who “continue to be at the forefront of removing the British presence from our land”.
An Irish Republican Socialist Party demonstration in west Belfast saw over a thousand people took part in the parade through west Belfast to Milltown Cemetery. There, IRSP leadership figure Michael McLaughlin paid tribute to “young volunteers who died in defence of the Irish Republican Socialist Party’s right to exist”.
Former Irish National Liberation Army prisoner Jimmy McCafferty read the INLA and IRSP roll of honour. Wreaths were laid on behalf of IRSP and INLA structures from across Ireland.
In a personal gesture, long term Belfast Republican Socialist activist Fra Halligan also read his own tribute to the fallen INLA martyrs of 1987 on their 30th anniversary, addressing both the personal loss of the families and friends of the fallen, but also the counter revolutionary dynamic which lay behind the events of that dark period for the movement.
At a commemoration organised by Republican Network for Unity in the Ardoyne in north Belfast on Sunday, Gary McNally, a former republican prisoner, acknowledged that the party had not been successful in the last local elections and that it was time to reflect.
“Irish republicans must provide a coherent vision of the future, what a united Ireland will look like, how it will benefit the Irish people as a whole and how we can achieve this,” he said. “The window of opportunity has been made smaller by the latest election results. Republicans must begin the change this and widen the window,” he said.
“Remaining in an isolated bubble detached from the real world and everyday struggles serves no purpose and advances no cause,” he added.
A pre-recorded statement was delivered by a republican prisoner currently being held behind bars. In it, prisoner Conor Hughes berated the anti-republican agenda of both states in Ireland and Britain, its tactics materialising in the form of house raids, falsification of evidence, politically motivated arrests and the internment and selective detention of republicans.
Thousands also gathered in west Belfast for the main National Graves Association parade to Milltown Cemetery on Easter Sunday.
Men and women dressed in 1916 uniforms led the parade, accompanied by an Irish wolfhound. Donna Dougall, a Belfast woman who is a great-granddaughter of Rising leader James Connolly, was among the participants in the main parade.
At Milltown Cemetery, Amhran na bhFiann and the Last Post was played while Annie Cahill, wife of veteran republican Joe, returned after absence last year due to illness to recite a decade of the rosary in Irish.
The Proclamation was read before wreaths were laid, including one on behalf of the Antrim GAA County Board.
Sinn Fein Donegal TD Pearse Doherty told those present that Irish unity “is now very much on the agenda” and said that the Dublin government “need to recognise that the people of the north are as much as part of the Irish nation as Kerry and Donegal”.
Mr Doherty re-iterated the party’s call for designated special status for the north within the European Union following Brexit.
He said: “Meanwhile, the Irish government is doing what Irish governments do best, they are standing idly by and watching from the sidelines, clinging to the pretence that it has a special relationship with their British counterparts.”
On the breakdown of the political talks at Stormont, Mr Doherty added: “The Irish government therefore needs to stand over its role as co-equal guarantors, instead of sitting back as the British government refuses to honour its commitments.”
Referring to the Assembly election and the Brexit referendum, Mr Doherty said that “the perpetual unionist majority has ended, while the world is in a state of flux”.
Tyrone National Graves held their annual Commemoration in Carrickmore on Easter Monday, which was chaired by Eamon Hanna.
He told the crowd: “Any use of the ideals of the Irish Republic and those who died in its defence to justify various agreements and puppet administrations must be resisted for what they are - selfish ambition for power and privilege.
It is important we stand here in support of the Republic and in support of the cause for which our Dead generations gave their lives. If we do not do this then we clear the way for those who undermine the causes of Freedom, Independence and Sovereignty. Otherwise our descendants will be told lies for eternity.”
The 1916 Proclamation was then read by a spokeswoman on behalf of NGA, which was followed by the ‘Tyrone Roll of Honour’.
At eirigi’s nationial commemoration, Breandan Mac Cionnaith said that Irish unity not a case of ‘changing one flag for another’.
An eirigi parade assembled at the entrance to Milltown Cemetery and made its way to the plot of Fenian William Harbinson, in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Rising and his death.
Mr Mac Cionnaith told the republican socialist party that a united Ireland required a complete change of the “political, social and economic order”.
The party’s vice-chair, a former IRA prisoner who represented Garvaghy Road residents during the Drumcree stand-off in the 1990s, told supporters that the “Ireland of today is one in which so-called republican parties are complicit in surrendering Irish national sovereignty to both Britain and the European Union”.
“The Ireland of today is one in which a small wealthy elite controls the bulk of wealth... an Ireland where homelessness and poverty are on the rise and where food banks exist in all our towns and cities.”
Thousands of people gathered in Derry’s City Cemetery for Sinn Fein’s main Easter commemoration, where the late Martin McGuinness was remembered as his gravestone was unveiled.
The party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald told those gathered that Mr McGuinness ‘lead from the front, took risks for freedom and risks to build the peace’.
“The only fitting tribute to his great leadership is for us to lead on, to mobilise, to organise, to take a chance, to stretch ourselves and to match our dreams with ambition,” said Ms McDonald.
“We can live in a united, free Ireland. We can live in a socially just, equal Ireland.
“I believe we will. Martin believed we would. We will prove him right. We promise to meet the challenges of our time with the grit and graciousness that were the mark of our Martin.”
She urged those present to to ‘prepare for Irish reunification now’.
“We need a debate, honest conversations about a new Ireland,” she said. “We need to listen, to understand, to accommodate all of our people, in all our diversity in the new Ireland.
“An Ireland that is Orange and Green, black and white, settled and traveller, Gay and straight.
“An Ireland that protects the many and not just the privileged few.”
She argued that the issue of Irish unity ‘has never been so openly and widely considered as it is now’.
“The constitutional earthquake of Brexit has forced the debate to new levels and with a new urgency.
“The people of the North of Ireland voted to remain in the EU. The people have not consented to Brexit.
“Ireland will not be the collateral damage in a Tory power play. We will not accept the disruption of our social and economic life or the sabotaging of the Good Friday Agreement.
“We will not tolerate a ‘hard border’ on our island. We do not accept any border in Ireland.”
The Provisional IRA’s famous ‘D’ Company unit in Belfast also held a separate commemoration march to mark the Easter Rising.
Men dressed in military style uniform and carrying flags marched in step, with music from an accompanying republican flute band.
At the Garden of Remembrance, where deceased members of the unit were remembered with wreaths, there was a rendition of Amhran na bhFiann and the Proclamation was read before a decade of the rosary was said in Irish.
Sinn Fein’s Easter Rising commemorations went ahead in Newry as planned despite a graffiti attack on the republican plot in St Mary’s cemetery.
Red spray paint was used to deface the steel tribute panel memorial sometime overnight on Saturday in what was described as an “outrageous attack” by local Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady.
“All graveyards are sacred places and should be respected,” he said.
“This attack is outrageous and does nothing other than cause distress to families whose loved ones are buried in the plot”.
Also condemning the attack Stephen Murney from Saoradh who held their first public event at the Republican Plot in St Mary’s cemetery said “Those behind this attack have absolutely nothing to offer society. Attacking graves in the middle of the night is a sickening act and one which will be condemned by all.”
“This sacred place is where we all attend and gather to remember our republican dead. Such attacks are fruitless and certainly won’t deter us from our path of revolution.”