The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

"Breaking the connection with England, the never ending source of all our political evils"

"The Life and Legacy of the Bold Robert Emmet",
Speech at The Eighth Annual Michael Flannery Testimonial Award Dinner held by the National Irish Freedom Committee
Mary Ward RSF

A Chairlaocht is a chairde,

On behalf of the leadership and Ard Comhairle of R.S.F, I would like to thank the I.F.C for inviting me to speak here tonight. On a personal basis I consider it a great honour and privilege to be associated with any function or commemoration that honours and salutes the memory of Michael Flannery, Irish soldier and patriot. Michael was born in knockshegowna, County Tipperary in 1902. Michaels' older brothers were all members of the Gaelic League. Only a few weeks before the Easter Rising of 1916, and at the tender age of fourteen, Michael was sworn into 'C' company,7th Battalion, north Tipperary Brigade, Irish Republican Brotherhood. His unit saw no action in the Rising itself due to the countermanding of orders by Eoin McNeil of the Irish volunteers; but active service did not elude the young Michael Flannery for long. Serving as a teenager in the newly formed I.R.A he took part in actions against Lloyd Georges' Black and Tans - Britain's terrorist machine in Ireland.

He was captured and imprisoned, but was active again during the Civil war. Fighting with the I.R.A against the pro-Treaty forces he was again captured and imprisoned, and took part in a lengthy hunger strike. He was not released until May 1924. The Leadership of the Republican movement at that time decided it was essential to organise support amongst those volunteers who had been forced to immigrate to America after the Civil war. Michael and several others were sent to New York and soon joined Clan na Gael and the rest is already history. He remained a tireless advocate of freedom and justice for all the people of Ireland until his death. In the words of a New York paper on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday he was a "Rebel without a pause". At the time of his death in 1994 his friend and comrade for almost half a century, George Harrison said of him and I quote, "He sought no easy roads, he remained unbought, unconquered and uncompromising to the end". Michael Flannery was a true Republican.

The true Republicans of today are those who actively struggle to end English rule in Ireland and establish the sovereignty, democracy and rights of the Irish nation. Patrick Pearse reminded us in 1915 that whenever Irish leaders abandoned Tone's aim of "breaking the connection with England", abandoning what Pearse called the national position; they were repudiated by the next generation.

A rising generation of Irish people will similarly repudiate the Provisional leadership who have in the past years conspired against Irish Republicanism by the voluntary destruction of arms given to them for the freedom of Ireland.

This betrayal at the behest of the British government, unprecedented in Irish history, saw weapons being used to secure, maintain and expand their heavily-subsidised offices in Westminster, Stormont and Leinster House. The choice for the Provisionals' military machine is stark; disband now or sink to the level of a party militia trying to control sections of the nationalist people in the six Counties in the interests of British rule and ultimately actually enforcing that rule.

Despite the fog of media misrepresentation and spin doctoring it is becoming clearer to ordinary Irish people that they have been betrayed by the Provisional leadership and that a section of those who fought to break the connection with England now accept that rule and administer it in the six Occupied Counties.

Sinn Fein was founded almost a century ago to withdraw the Irish representation from Westminster and set up an All-Ireland parliament here at home. This they did when they formed the 32 County Dail following the action of the Irish people, voting as a unit, when they self-determined themselves in the 1918 general election.

On January 21st 2002 they accepted the British parliament as the centre of gravity in Irish affairs, rather than "denying the right and opposing the will of the British Parliament and British Crown or any other foreign government to legislate for Ireland" (Preamble to Constitution of Sinn Fein 1917).

They should give up all claims to the name "Sinn Fein" as Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Clann na Poblachta and the Workers' Party had the honesty and decency to do when they departed from the basic principles of Sinn Fein. The Provos should leave that historic title to those who still uphold these essential propositions.

These arms were given for the freedom of Ireland and not as a bargaining counter for securing, maintaining and expanding office in Stormont, Westminster and Leinster House, thus copper-fastening English rule in Ireland.

To date no arms held by British-backed loyalists have been destroyed - although these are continually in use against nationalists - nor have arms in the possession of the British forces themselves been verifiably 'decommissioned'. Never before in Irish history has such treachery to the All-Ireland Republic at the behest of the British government been engaged in, and now for the second time.

They have gone on logically to do public homage to British soldiers who died in two world wars and in colonial campaigns across the globe from Africa and Asia to the Falklands and Ireland. A private graveside ceremony by family and/or friends is understandable, but to do formal and public honour at a British cenotaph is to send a definite political message to the world.

While British occupation forces remain in Ireland such a move can only indicate that British soldiers who died here in the service of the Crown were in the right and that Irish Republican soldiers who gave their lives opposing them down the years were in the wrong. This we do not and cannot acknowledge; and we speak with all due respect.

Leaks from the Stevens inquiry that there was 'institutionalised collusion' between the British Crown forces and loyalist death squads, creating a climate in which nationalists could be 'murdered with near impunity' is a major blow to those who pretend that the renaming of the RUC as the PSNI is anything other than a public relations exercise. It will also not surprise Republicans that Stevens concluded that loyalists were incapable of carrying out targeted assassinations without significant help from the Crown forces. In the past the B-specials became the UDR who became the RIR but they remained part of the British Crown forces. The RUC/PSNI is still a British police force in Ireland and Republicans and Nationalists can see by the ongoing attacks on nationalists and their homes in North Belfast the Short Strand over recent weeks and months that nothing has changed.

Republicans and especially the sons and daughters of activists must realise that the first duty of British police forces in Ireland has always been to maintain British rule. The British government still recruits, trains, motivates, arms, pays and directs the RUC/PSNI, and Republicans will continue to oppose it and appeal to nationalists throughout Ireland not to join it.

Republican Sinn Fein is convinced that the Provisionals will join the renamed RUC. It is only a matter of time. Their role in the RUC/PSNI is obvious. Like all those parties who abandoned the 32 County Republic and embrace constitutionalism - poachers turned gamekeepers - they will be more bitterly opposed to the Republican Movement than the original establishment parties.

Martin Mc Guinness said on RTE Radio One on October 4th: "We need to be on the Police Board.we need to control our own policing." They cannot wait to get into British uniform - or even more dangerously to serve the Crown in plain clothes. And what of the B-specials, renamed UDR, renamed RIR? Will they enrol there - and in the British Army itself? Of course history has taught us that the prime targets of such "poachers turned gamekeepers" will be their former comrades in the Republican Movement - to be harassed, hunted down and even worse.

Meanwhile in Maghaberry Prison, County Antrim Tommy Crossan has continued to organise prisoners in support of political status and separation from loyalist and ordinary prisoners. The success he has achieved in this regard can be measured from the fact that immediately Stephen Daly from Tyrone was sentenced to 12 years in September and moved from the remand wing to join Crossan and others, Tommy Crossan was removed to Magilligan Prison, County Derry.

The object is to isolate Republican prisoners from each other, to break their morale and enforce criminalisation. Provisional spokespersons have not spoken out against this policy and such of their representatives as have visited the prisoners have been reprimanded for their action.

Republicans POWs find themselves in a very volatile situation. They are the victims of a hidden agenda of the Stormont Agreement of 1998. This was to remove political status for anyone sentenced for a political offence after the date of the Agreement. The most dangerous aspect of this is the enforced integration of Republicans, Loyalists and ordinary prisoners. Republican prisoners are forced to share cells and landings with loyalists who outnumber them, and also with drug dealers and sex offenders.

A number of Republican POWs have been attacked by loyalists and some have been hospitalised as a result. If the issue of enforced integration continues to be pushed, it may be only a matter of time until a Republican loses his life. Therefore the demands are (1) Segregation; (2) Recognition as a group: (3) the right to a spokesperson and (4) a separate wing or landing for Republican prisoners.

Strip searches are constant. Prisoners are locked up 22 hours per day. Cells are raided and wrecked by warders in riot gear. The weekly parcel is no longer allowed in and newspapers have to go by recorded post to ensure prisoners receive them. This puts additional cost on the families. Political papers such as SAOIRSE are not permitted at all. Visiting families have to submit to the indignity of the attentions of a sniffer dog whose handler decides whether the visit is allowed or not.

Republican POWs live under constant threat from prison staff that do not conceal their loyalism. Besides many of the prisoners and some of their families have received visits from the colonial police to inform them that their lives are in danger from a group calling itself the Loyalist Prisoners Reaction Force.

To highlight the plight of the Republican prisoners a white line picket has been held every Saturday outside our office on Belfast's' Falls Road from 12 to 1pm. Our Belfast comrades and Comhairle Chuige Uladh wish to have this picket extended to public places throughout the country for an hour on one Saturday per month.

In view of the present state of melt down of the new Stormont, it is right to review the national position. Neither the unionist nor the nationalist communities can feel their interests are safeguarded under the Stormont Agreement. That arrangement is dishonest because it was sold to the nationalists on the basis that it would lead to a united and free Ireland while the unionists were told it would strengthen British rule. It has raised contradictory and conflicting expectations.

The result has been constant uncertainty, unrest and violence on the streets. Sectarianism is now much worse than at any time since 1968. It has touched new low levels with people going to Mass at Harryville, Ballymena being physically set upon, little children on their way to school at Holy Cross, Ardoyne being assailed both physically and mentally, the residents of the Garvaghy Road and other local areas being put under siege and terror and this summer the people of the Short Strand in East Belfast being denied access to the local doctor, chemist and other public services.

The unionist community lives in apprehension and insecurity as the certainties of the past appear to decline and wither away, leaving them in confusion and bewilderment. No wonder unionist support for the 1998 Agreement is dwindling. As uncertainty worries everybody, continued conflict seems likely.

The Provisionals have a fundamental problem. While acting constitutionally - i.e. accepting and working the partition institutions, north and south, set up here by England in 1921 - they have not been honest with their followers. They still pretend to be revolutionary. THEY CANNOT BE BOTH. Republican Sinn Fein has said so since 1986. The unionists are right not to trust them until they decide what they are.

Republican Sinn Fein seeks a nine - county Ulster in a new four - province federation which would safeguard the interests of all. Meanwhile Comhairle Uladh is promoting EIRE NUA to a broader and more diverse readership. More will be heard of this move in the near future.

While it is admitted, even by a senior RUC source that the great majority of street violence is coming from the loyalists, and some nationalist observers put it at 90%, David Trimble is attempting yet again to play the orange card. He seeks another "Border Poll", the outcome of which is already well known.

The Six-County state let was carved out of Ireland more than 80 years ago by the British government to secure a local majority in favour of British rule at a time when the overwhelming preponderance in all of Ireland had voted for separation from England. Thus was Irish democracy subverted. Mr.Trimble wants to demonstrate a foregone conclusion once more in a pointless referendum.

No such exercise can take place, of course, without the authorisation of the British government which set up the Six-County state let in the first place in order to continue English rule here. The Irish nation with its essential right to national independence has existed for more than 2,000 years. It cannot so easily be set aside by such machinations. Irish Republicans and thinking people generally will not be deceived.

We do not simply continue our activities for their own sake. We have a message to bear to the Irish people at home and in exile - and to all of humankind. That message is that the Irish nation still exists, that there are people here who have never surrendered to British imperialism - and never will. That is our solemn trust, towards which we must work to make it a living reality. That is the debt we owe to Michael Flannery and his generation.

This year we will commemorate and celebrate the bicentenary of Robert Emmet's gallant Rising. When all seemed lost after 1798 and the Act of Union, this young man of 25 years stepped into the breach once more and his noble endeavour made him the most beloved of Irish patriots. The ballad-makers sang of him and his picture adorned many a humble cottage in even the most remote parts of Ireland down the years. Even the poet Shelley, when he came to Ireland, wrote a poem: On Robert Emmet's Tomb (that is, where he was supposed to have been buried).

As an Irish Republican, Emmet cannot be misrepresented for he penned a Proclamation "The Provisional Government to the People of Ireland" as well as setting out 30 Decrees as the new law of the lands until a government could be elected by the people. These documents were radical in nature and showed his maturity of thought and how fitted he was to lead the people out of bondage.

His trial and protestation of Irish patriotism took place in Green Street Courthouse, Dublin, where Young Irelanders and Fenians were later condemned, and where Irish Republicans are still being condemned, for the crime of wanting to see Ireland free. However, there are those who say that Emmet's epitaph should now be written. What other interpretation can be put on the words of Mr. Bertie Ahern as reported in the Irish Times of September 21st last?

"He said that our position in the EU and UN today are visible demonstrations of our place 'among the nations of the world', as alluded to by Emmet in his speech from the dock".

Robert Emmet said in words quoted ever since by Irish people around the globe: "Let no man write my epitaph.When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, AND NOT TILL THEN, let my epitaph be written".

This year in September, let us remember Emmet and all his comrades, Michael Dwyer of Wicklow, Miles Byrne of Wexford, Jimmy Hope of Antrim and Anne Devlin who never spoke under torture and let us honour them on the streets of Dublin. And in October let us do similar honour in Downpatrick, County Down to "The Man from God Knows where", Thomas Russell who died there for Ireland at the end of an English rope.

In the meantime, and afterwards, let us work to ensure that Emmet's epitaph can indeed be written!




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

9 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Orange Terror in America
Karen Lyden Cox


Street Traders
Anthony McIntyre


West Belfast: Memories of a childhood voyage of conflict
Davy Carlin


Planned Nationhood
Brian Mór


Breaking the Connection With England

Mary Ward


When I hear the word "gun", I reach for my culture

Jimmy Sands


Where Are The Incubators?
Paul de Rooij


6 February 2003


If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them
Breandán Ó Muirthile


The Spire
Anthony McIntyre


Brian Mór


The Holidays and Joyce
Sean OTorain


Life Story of the Olives
Annie Higgins


The Letters page has been updated.




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