South Armagh remembers its heroes
South Armagh remembers its heroes



Sinn Féin MP John Finucane responded to criticism of his participation in the annual commemoration for the IRA South Armagh Volunteers with a powerful and dignified speech in which he defended “the right to remember, and the right to commemorate”.

Up to a thousand people gathered on Sunday in bright sunshine under Slieve Gullion to pay their respects at the Republican Memorial Garden in Mullaghbawn, just a few miles from the border with County Louth.

The turnout was an act of defiance against an unprecedented wave of hypocrisy from unionist politicians, all of whom have take part in countless commemorations and other events honouring members of the Crown Forces and loyalist paramilitaries over the years.

A hierarchy of victims, with nationalists as a lower rank, was regurgitated almost daily in the unionist media since the event was announced.

The hypocrisy was led by Alliance Party Assembly member Sorcha Eastwood, who has never hidden her own support for the British forces of occupation and who described the IRA Volunteers as “terrorists”.

The event itself was a respectful commemoration of those who fought for Irish freedom, and Mr Finucane was the main speaker.

During his address, the North Belfast MP cited commemorations for loyalists and the Crown Forces which he said “take place right across our society and are regularly attended by civic and political representatives”.

“And I will defend, without hesitation, their right to do so,” he said.

Mr Finucane’s father, defence lawyer Pat Finucane, was assassinated by a British death squad at his home in Belfast in 1989.

He described his father’s loss and the “brutality of it” as “something that will never leave me, just as such loss will never leave anyone who ever experienced such a thing”.

He told those gathered: “You will know that what followed for us as a family was a campaign for truth and justice.

“And over the subsequent decades we uncovered that the loyalist gunmen who entered my home, did so as part of a system alongside the police, the British army, MI5, and along with political cover and sanction, resulted in the deaths of so many, too many, for an incredibly long and sustained period of time.

“Throughout our campaign for truth and justice, I have been clear, repeatedly, that truth and justice is something which every person who has been impacted by our conflict deserves, and is entitled to, irrespective of whether those that inflicted the harm were loyalists, the British state or republicans.

“I have been consistent in this view whether it be personally as a campaigner, professionally as a lawyer, or politically as the MP for north Belfast.

“And I would like to expand on that belief for today. For just as truth and justice applies equally to everyone, so too does the right to remember, and the right to commemorate.”

He continued: ““Those commemorations take place right across our society and are regularly attended by civic and political representatives. “And I will defend, without hesitation, their right to do so. There is nothing to celebrate in conflict or in our difficult and painful past, but to commemorate those we have loved and lost is a right which everyone, including every single one of us gathered here today, is entitled to, and we do so with dignity and with pride.

“And while there are very different and often conflicting perspectives of the causes of conflict, conflict is thankfully now a thing of the past.

“So today we remember with pride the many Irish republicans who gave or lost their lives, with deep sympathy for their grieving families and also respectful of all those who continue to suffer the grief and trauma of conflict.

“As I was eight years old in 1989, I was 18 years old in 1998, voting for the first time in my life for the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement provided a peaceful and democratic pathway to constitutional change and created institutions, inclusive of all communities.

“It addressed the many causes and effects of conflict and allowed us all to consign conflict to the past and to move forward. While there is still work to be done, particularly in relation to legacy issues, the last 25 years of relative peace is a truly remarkable achievement.”

The following is the Roll of Honour of the members of the PIRA South Armagh Brigade who were honoured on Sunday:

Vol. Michael McVerry November 15th 1973
Vol. Sean Boyle February 1st 1975
Vol. Francis Jordan June 4th 1975
Vol. Gerry McKiernan October 13th 1975
Vol. James Lochrie December 6th 1975
Vol. Sean Campbell December 6th 1975
Vol. Peter Cleary April 15th 1976
Vol. Seamus Harvey January 16th 1977
Vol. Liam Farrelly November 29th 1978
Vol. Peadar McElvanna June 9th 1979
Vol. Kevin Caherty June 6th 1980
Vol. Raymond McCreesh May 21st 1981
Vol. Brendan Burns February 29th 1988
Vol. Brendan Moley February 29th 1988
Vol. Fergal Caraher December 30th 1990
Vol. Packie Duffy March 28th 1996
Vol. Eugene Martin April 8th 1996
Vol. Tim Daly May 28th 1996
Vol. Malachy Watters August 8th 1996
Vol. Gary Toner November 19th 2000
Vol. Keith Rogers March 12th 2003
Vol. Francie Caraher 17th July 2005
Vol. Gerard Fearon 28th October 2006
Vol. Pat Lynch November 7th 2008

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