Seán Sabhat - Comóradh 2013
Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha
A chairde agus a chomrádaithe,
Is mór an onóir dom seasamh libh anseo cois uaigh Sheáin Sabhait agus uaigheanna na bpoblachtánach eile atá curtha sa reilig seo. Is cuí an rud go dtagaimíd go dtí an áit seo chuile bliain chun Seán agus a chomrádaithe uile a chomóradh agus chun féachaint romhainn ar bhliain úr le fuinneamh úr chun an streachailt ar son an Poblachta a chur chun cinn.
I am honoured to join you today at the graveside of Seán South and of the other Republicans who are laid to rest in this cemetery. It is a credit to Republicans here in Limerick that you have maintained this annual tribute to one of the bravest and best of your sons who gave his all in the struggle for Irish freedom. On this occasion we remember especially the late Paddy Quinlivan, a lifelong and totally dedicated Limerick republican, and we extend continuing sympathy and solidarity to the Quinlivan family.
In 1957, after their deaths on New Year’s Day, the names of Seán Sabhat and Fearghal O’Hanlon quickly joined those of the executed 1916 leaders and of the many who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Black and Tan War, the Civil War and in de Valera’s execution yards in the 1940s.
The Ireland in which Seán and Fearghal grew up was far from the free and united and equitable Ireland envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. They saw that reality. They were determined to struggle to end Partition and to build the Republic. That determination led them to a tragic death in the Brookeborough raid at the start of the IRA’s Operation Harvest.
We know that Seán Sabhat lived and breathed everything Irish and applied all his energies and talents to the uplifting of the Irish people. Above all he was committed to the Irish language.
Bhí Seán Sabhat díograsach mar Gaeilgeoir agus mar gníomhaí a rinne éacht chun an teanga dúchais a chur chun cinn. Mar a dúradh anseo ag a sochraid, ba chóir dúinne mar poblachtánaigh an teanga a fhoghlaim, a labhairt agus a fhorbairt mar bun-chloch den sochaí nua atá á thógáil againn.
If anyone doubted that fundamental political change was needed in this country the events of recent years have proven it beyond any doubt.
We are now back to the emigration levels of the 1950s, the era of Seán Sabhat, with over 200 people per day leaving our shores.
That is a shocking indictment of the disastrous austerity policies commenced by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government that wrecked the Irish economy, and now continued by the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition.
The Budget imposed in December by Fine Gael and the Labour Party in pursuit of the doomed austerity policy represents nothing less than an attack on the Irish people, an attack especially on those on low and middle incomes. Here in Limerick the results of austerity are all too clear with higher levels of unemployment and deprivation and the abandonment of whole communities.
While we cannot compare the current recession with the scale and horror of the Great Hunger of the 1840s, there is one important similarity. At that time men like Trevelyan, sent here by the British government, were wedded to the doctrine of Laissez Faire economics, a doctrine that basically allowed people to die in hundreds of thousands rather than have a Government interfere with the Almighty Market. Today we have the doctrine of Austerity which condemns hundreds of thousands to poverty and unemployment and emigration. And in that sense the modern equivalent of Trevelyan is Minister for Finance and Limerick Fine Gael TD Michael Noonan.
What more evidence does Minister Noonan need that austerity is not working? He need only look at his own city. Limerick has the highest unemployment rate in Ireland (28.6%) and one of the highest in Europe. There is 50% youth unemployment. There are over 3,000 on the Housing Waiting List.
In Limerick City and in Dublin City, which I represent as a Councillor, we have local authority housing estates which were totally neglected during the so-called Celtic Tiger, which were promised major regeneration but have now been abandoned yet again. We pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with these communities and with all communities throughout our country who are struggling as a result of recession brought about by corrupt bankers and corrupt politicians in Ireland, the EU and globally.
I salute the work being done by Sinn Féin in Limerick on behalf of your communities, especially the work of your City Councillor Maurice Quinlivan.
Those who looked to the Labour Party for hope in the last General Election have been cruelly betrayed. The very title of the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has become a sick joke. She and her Labour colleagues promised to protect the vulnerable and to ring-fence social welfare payments.
In Budget 2013 they slashed Child Benefit and Back to School Payments, in flagrant breach of their pre-election commitments. They cut the Respite Grant, raised PRSI and cut Jobseekers Benefit. They increased the cost of medicines and now they are preparing to take the medical card off thousands of families. They imposed the unjust Household Charge and now they are seeking to impose the even more onerous and inequitable Family Home Tax.
Shame on them!
Michael Noonan has admitted without a blush that he rejected the Labour Party’s call for a 3% increase in the Universal Social Charge for those on salaries of over €100,000 per annum because he was warned against it by the CEOs of multinational companies.
Far from cherishing all the children of the nation equally, this is the Government that cherishes all the CEOs.
At one time Fianna Fáil was known as the Legion of the Rearguard. Now we have the Labour Party – the Legion of the Mudguard – the Mudguard for Fine Gael.
For many of our people the economic and political situation is a cause of despair and hopelessness. It is our responsibility as republicans to lift their heads, to point out that there is an alternative, that a way forward is possible and achievable. Sinn Féin has presented that alternative in a series of comprehensive Alternative Budgets in recent years and in workable policy programmes to provide jobs and growth.
In 2013 we must promote those policies, campaign with communities against austerity, form alliances for change and build Sinn Féin across this island into an unstoppable political movement that will be the catalyst for real and fundamental transformation in our country.
2013 marks the centenary of the Great Lockout of 1913. The employers of Dublin, backed by the British government, tried to smash the Transport Union, but they were resisted by the workers in a mighty struggle. Out of that struggle came the Irish Citizen Army. Out of the struggle to assert Irish independence came the Irish Volunteers and Cumann an mBan – all within a few months in late 1913 and early 1914.
Today there is a new Lockout - our people are locked out of employment, locked out of liveable incomes, locked out of decent public services and, for over 200 people per day, locked out of their country through forced emigration. But just as in 1913, today there is resistance and the will to fight back. Ní saoirse go saoirse lucht oibre.
The Irish people have a tremendous tradition of resistance against national oppression and social injustice. Seán Sabhat and Fearghal O’Hanlon kept that flame alive. The struggle takes different forms now but, make no mistake, the struggle continues and will continue until we reach our goal.
The dedication of Seán and Fearhgal and their comrades stood in stark contrast to the political establishment in this State which talked about Partition but did little or nothing to remove it and paid scant attention to the unjust regime endured by nationalists in the Six Counties. That was made all too clear just a decade after the deaths of Seán and Fearghal when the Government of this State stood idly by as the Orange statelet and the British armed forces turned with viciousness against the nationalist communities of the North.
We may well ask how much death and suffering might have been avoided had the Irish Government of that time taken a firm stand for the Irish nation and against British imperialism. Instead they took the easy road of appeasement of the British government.
In the past week we had another example of how Irish governments failed dismally in their duty to the nation. After 40 years the families of those bereaved in the bombings of Dublin city and of Belturbet, Co. Cavan, in December 1972 and January 1973 are still denied truth and justice. It has emerged that the Department of Justice has refused Freedom of Information requests to release files on the Belturbet bombing of December 1972 in which teenagers Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley were killed.
It is now widely accepted that there was extensive collusion between British armed forces and loyalist paramilitaries, including in fatal bomb attacks in this jurisdiction. The Irish Government should be pro-active on this issue, especially given the international spotlight on collusion as a result of the recent report on the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane.
Patrick Stanley was from Birr, Co. Offaly, the constituency of Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan. Deputy Flanagan would better serve his constituents and his country by addressing the issue of collusion than by rehashing British propaganda from 1982 in an effort to denigrate Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Féin TD of the highest integrity.
The legacy of conflict must be addressed so that all bereaved families on all sides can have hope of truth and justice. Sinn Féin has urged the establishment of an International Truth Commission and we will maintain that call consistently in the future.
The armed conflict is over. There is no place for armed struggle in the Ireland of today. The IRA fought the British government to a standstill and forced them to the negotiating table. The time inevitably came when armed struggle had to be set aside because republicans, through their mighty efforts, had constructed a peaceful and democratic road forward. That is an achievement of which we can all be proud and the Peace Process remains one of the great achievements not alone of republicans but of the Irish people in our time.
To those who would attempt to shatter peace and to usurp the name of Irish republicanism our message is very clear. They represent no-one but themselves. They have nothing to offer and no way forward. True republicans never pursued armed struggle for its own sake. They always did so as part of a strategy agreed by a united movement and based on real engagement with a republican base throughout Ireland.
There is now a gaggle of micro-groups misusing the name of the IRA. It was put well by Pat Sheehan, Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA and former hunger striker, when he said:
“Some even say they are the IRA…There was only one IRA and the people out there can use whatever combination of letters or words they want to describe themselves but they will never be the IRA. They will never achieve what the IRA achieved and they will never have the support that the IRA had.”
Let us be very clear on another issue also. Sinn Féin will continue to call for the release of anyone unjustly imprisoned in the Six Counties and to work for their release. We will also continue to urge people, especially young people, to be wary of micro-groups using the plight of prisoners to promote futile armed actions.
None of this will distract us from the main task in hand and that is the continuing political struggle to end Partition and to build a New Republic on this island.
In 2013 Sinn Féin will renew our campaign for an end to Partition, for national reconciliation and unification.
The Peace Process and the republican peace strategy have removed many obstacles to unity.
The Orange state is no more. British military rule from London is no more and the RUC and UDR are bitter memories. The British government claim of jurisdiction in the Six Counties is reduced to a single constitutional thread and that is the vote of a simple majority in the Six Counties.
Sinn Féin will be campaigning for a referendum on Irish unity as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement, making the case for Irish unity on sound political, social and economic grounds.
But that is just one front in our campaign – because by campaigning on social and economic issues throughout the island we are pointing to and shaping the new United Ireland of Equals that we aim to achieve. The last thing we want is a replica of the failed politics of the 26-County state in 32 Counties.
We reject all forms of sectarianism and racism and we look forward, in the spirit of Wolfe Tone, to all who share this island sharing also the inclusive citizenship of a new Ireland, a new Republic.
Sín í ár gcuspóir. B’shin í an cuspóir a bhí ag Seán Sabhat. Ní fhaca sé lá na saoirse ach tá sé linn agus tá siad uile linn a fuair bás ar son na saoirse.
Bí cinnte de, a chairde, go dtiocfaidh ár lá.