New effort to honour fallen martyrs

crannnapoblachta.jpg

An inclusive garden of tribute in memory of local republicans who have passed away over the past 50 years has been launched in Derry on Sunday.

The event took place at a new mural in Creggan dedicated to the memory of George McBrearty, who was aged 24 when he was shot dead by the British Army alongside his friend Charles ‘Pop’ Maguire in 1981.

The official launch was delayed as a result of COVID-19 and illness but finally took place on Sunday, October 2 at a new mural which looks over a native silver birch tree, named ‘Crann na Poblachta’ (Tree of the Republic).

The traditional republican event was chaired by former PoW John Crawley and included a reading of the Proclamation of the Republic and the IRA Roll of Honour, as well as a political speech by former Blanketman Dixie Elliott.

The new mural by local artist Kevin Hasson is painted on the gable of George’s sister’s house in the Creggan estate, and overlooks a garden which has been transformed into a memorial dedicated to republican hunger strikers.

George McBrearty has become an iconic figure for local republicans. Despite his relative youth, he was described by comrades as the “greatest soldier that Derry city ever had” before his vehicle was ambushed by the SAS and he was shot dead.

George’s brother Danny explained the reasons for the new garden.

“We are having this commemoration because we will always remember the fallen martyrs of the republican struggle. We will never shy away from remembering them, regardless of what some nationalist politicians might say.

“We as a family believe that in the future the memory of people who gave their lives, especially over the past 50 years, will be swept under the carpet and nobody will be remembered. Although that’s what some might be planning on doing, we won’t allow it,” he said.

The memorial lists all republicans from the Derry area who died, including IRA and INLA Volunteers. Other republicans who have previously been unrecognised are having their pictures and names added to the memorial, which to date includes around 130 people.

The new garden and Tree of the Republic will always be there in Creggan as a place of remembrance, Mr Brearty said.

“The hunger strikers and Volunteers and some of their comrades will be remembered through a montage around the Proclamation of the Republic. It is the same Proclamation that our 1916 leaders died for. They all died for a 32 County Republic, both our generation and their generation. They died for the same aim of a Republic, not any watered-down version of it.”

Mr McBrearty believes Derry’s Crann na Poblachta is the first of its kind but said that he hopes it is not the last.

“It is the only one in the country as of now. We hope that this commemoration can be replicated, especially across the north.

“We are remembering those of this generation, of the past 50 years, who have passed on. We hope it is replicated throughout the north,” Mr McBrearty concluded.

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