This day last week some of us here today were in Wynns Hotel in Dublin to mark the ruthless executions of Rory O Connor, Liam Mellows, Joe McKelvey and Richard ‘Dick’ Barrett, which had occurred 90 years ago to that day.
Today, here in Grey Abbey Cemetery we are to pay homage to those now immortalised as the Grey Abbey Martyrs, their names are as follows, Patrick Bagnall and Patrick Mangan, Fairgreen, Kildare. Joseph ‘Jackie’ Johnston, Station Road, Kildare. Brian Moore and Patrick Nolan, Rathbridge, Kildare. Stephen White, Abbey Street, Kildare and James O’Connor from Bansha in County Tipperary. These seven men all volunteers in the Irish Republican Army along with Comdt. Tom Behan were members of the Rathbride Column. They were captured by enemy Free State forces on the night of December the 13th 1922, in what was thought to be a dugout at Mooresbridge, not for from the Curragh. This dugout was in actual fact an unfinished tunnel leading to a nearby railway line.
Whilst captured they were found in possession of weaponry. They were subsequently brought before Free State military tribunal’s between the 13th and 18th of December where they were sentenced to death, they were found quilty of being in possession of arms without authorisation. Their executions took place on the 19th of December in the Glasshouse in the Curragh camp in what was the biggest official execution committed by pro-treaty forces during that period. In total 77 men were to meet this end during that ill fated year of 1922.
At the time of their capture there were ten in total taken in by the Free Staters. The seven named above were executed and Comdt Thomas Behan who had acted as Intelligence Officer in the Rathbride Column was murdered at the hands of the Free State forces on the 13th of December not long after they were caught. Annie Moore who was the sister of Brian Moore, one of the executed and who was also engaged to marry Paddy Nolan, who was also executed, later revealed the circumstances surrounding the death of Comdt. Tom Behan. She claimed that when the men surrendered Tom Behan was struck with a rifle butt and had his arm broken, later when the men were ordered into the back of a truck he could not climb aboard, at this point the Free Staters struck him again, this time on the head with the rifle butt and he died at the scene.
The Free State of course denied this, they claimed Behan was shot dead while trying to escape through a window in the Glasshouse. This was highly unliky, and has since been verified as a falsehood.
Comdt. General Tom Maguire who had been the patron of Republican Sinn Féin at the time of his death in 1993 described the Free State Army after his own capture in a dug-out in the Headford area of North County Galway during that period and I quote “It was then, that I really experienced the sort of mercenaries they were, ex-British Army soldiers, tramps and misfits of every conceivable type.” That quote is taken from Dílseacht a book which was written by the current RSF Patron and former President Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and was the auto-biography of Comdt-General Tom Maguire. It went on to say that the Free State Army was over 50,000 strong at that time, armed and financed under an oath to the English crown it leaves us under no illusion to the lengths the British and their lackeys in Leinster House would go to suppress the Republic. It was through murder and coercion that the current 26 County State was founded. The morally corrupt basis of its founding has been carried through right to this day, coercion is still key to the survival of the 26 County State. This will not last forever, 90 years on we who are gathered here today are a testament that the principles and ideals which the Grey Abbey Martyrs gave up their lives for are still indeed relevant and are a source of great inspiration for a new un-purchased generation.
These men dedicated their lives to the cause of the All-Ireland Republic and died in its defence. The recent riots in Belfast and across the Six Counties as well as the latest revelations relating to the murder by a British backed loyalist death-squad of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, all point to the fact that only a full British withdrawal and the creation of a New Ireland north and south can deliver a just and lasting peace.
It does not take a genius to see the complete and utter failure partition has been, ever since England drew a line to suit its needs Ireland has in every generation seen bloodshed, even today we see how men and women continue to be locked away for years because they dare to assert their birthrights denied. A thesis could be written on any one area of negative impact that partition and occupation has brought to our shores. The great tragedy is that it is all avoidable. The great hope is that it may be avoided in the future when Ireland’s Independence is returned to the people.
Terence MacSwiney once said and I quote “Our principles are not to argue about or write about, or hold meetings about, but primarily to give us a rule of life”. So there we have it, Revolutionary Irish Socialist Republicanism is a lot more than a mere “ism” it is a way of life, ideas so revolutionary in there appeal that they seek to destroy all vestiges of domination by one class or country over another class or country. On behalf of Republican Sinn Féin here today and speaking on behalf of a new generation of republican activists I would like to make an appeal to the Irish people to rekindle in your souls the same high ideals and principles that were not a challenge but were instead second nature to that unbreakable generation of ’22. If each of us can do that then it will be a positive step towards reawakening the desire to reclaim the Irish Nation from the capitalists and the imperialists alike. It may be a long and hard road, but surely it is better to struggle for our rights than to struggly as we are lying down only to be walked all over by the beurocratic elite of the EU and the Brits in the six counties.
As far as the remnants of the British Empire are concerned the day will come when it is gone forever, and to hell with it. But we must redouble our efforts over this coming year, because when our enemies decided to make our City of Derry a so-called UK capital of culture they symbolically made it a battle ground for the hearts and minds of the Irish people. Republican Sinn Féin and the wider Republican Movement will be making our opposition heard, we will not tolerate this and we demand the support of the Irish people in opposing this disgraceful title. I encourage you support or join RSF and work towards Éire Nua; the only positive real alternative.
Continuity not Compromise.
Long live the All-Ireland Republic.