An article by Saoradh Newry activist Cliodhna McCool on what being involved in republicanism means to her and the contribution women have made to the cause of Irish freedom.
Growing up in a Republican family in Derry I was always aware of the Republican struggle and the important role women played.
My mother is a former Republican POW and my father was “on the run” when I was a young child. My aunt and uncle were also former Republican prisoners so I was surrounded with Republicanism from a very young age.
Growing up I seen first hand the British Army and RUC raiding our family home and harassing my parents. All these years later that is still something that happens all too often on a regular basis.
As I got older I got involved in Republicanism myself. From attending commemorations, rallies, pickets and protests to eventually joining a revolutionary political party, Saoradh.
Now I’m a grown woman with children of my own and myself and my partner find ourselves being harassed, raided, arrested, stopped and searched... I’ve even been searched on the street when pregnant.
When I was aged just 21 I found myself seized by the British forces along with my mum and dad and held in an interrogation centre where I was questioned about Republican activities.
In more recent times I’ve had my bank account frozen by MI5 in a meek attempt to break me and my family. I’ve also been approached on several occasions by MI5 operatives who made unsuccessful attempts to recruit me... in my view it’s called “the struggle” for a reason - it isn’t supposed to be easy. This road is indeed paved with suffering and hardship.
The revolution has come full circle as my children are today watching me go through what I witnessed my own parents endure. To me this means a new generation will grow to resist the forces of oppression.
Today Republican women are in gaol and on bail, they have husbands and partners in prison and it’s the women who hold things together as part of an unseen struggle.
Some of the strongest Republicans I know are women. Sadly some of the staunchest Republican women I know are currently held captive in prison for their revolutionary beliefs. I am proud to call them my friends.
Winifred Carney, Mary Ann McCracken, Elizabeth O’Farrell, Maire Drumm, Mairead Farrell, Mandy Duffy, Sharon Jordan and Eva Shannon are just some of the Republican women who have been influential to me as a young female Republican activist.
Women have an invaluable role to play in Ireland’s freedom struggle. They have played a vital part in that fight for generations and still do today. Their contribution cannot be glossed over.
Women have played a vital role in liberation struggles across the world and for generations inspirational women have continued to play their part in the Irish Republican struggle - Providing resources, safe houses, moving weaponry, being part of the prison struggle and of course on active service fighting enemy forces alongside the men. Their commitment and dedication should always be recognised. Without the women we would have nothing - we do indeed “hold up half the sky” and because of that we should hold our heads up and be proud.
Today on international women’s day all Republicans should take a moment to acknowledge and pay tribute to all the women who assisted in, and played an active role in, the fight for social and economic liberation in Ireland
“This is not a man’s war, but a people’s war and very, very much suffering has been borne by the women be they mothers, wives, political activists or Volunteers and the men ought to remember that without the sacrifice of women there would be no struggle at all”