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“ALL men love Freedom, but it is those who are prepared to fight for their freedom who are the builders of Nations”. So began the oration given by Gerard Crilly from Meigh, Co Down and member of the Willie Stewart Cumann, Dundalk on New Years day in Glasnevin Cemetery where Republicans gathered to pay their respects to Dáithí Ó Conaill who tragically died eleven years ago to the day.
The ceremony was chaired by Des Dalton, Kildare and Ard Comhairle member who briefly outlined Dáithí’s life. A wreath was laid by Andy Connolly, Dublin, on behalf of Sinn Féin Poblachtach and decade of the rosary was recited as Gaeilge by Séan Mac An Iomaire, An Gallaimh.
A member of Na Fianna played the Last Post and Reveille for the dipping of the flags.
Gerard Crilly gave a fitting oration to the memory of the man that he said “….dedicated his life to the fight for Irish Freedom, Vice-President of Sinn Féin, Volunteer in Óglaigh na hÉireann, Dáithí was a military thinker and a political strategist”.
He pointed out that Dáithí was an “active Volunteer during the resistance campaign” and at the 1970 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis when a motion was passed to recognise Leinster House and if elected take seats within the parliament of the slave state, Dáithí Ó Conaill was one of those who walked out to reorganise under the name Provisional Sinn Féin.
“There was also a split within the Army and Dáithí of course remained with the Republican side. One of the first things the Army Council did after the split was to issue a statement pledging “all allegiance to the 32 County Irish Republic proclaimed at Easter 1916, established by the First Dáil Éireann in 1919, overthrown by force of arms in 1922 and suppressed to this day by the existing British imposed Six County and 26 County partitioned States”.
Dáithí was one of the chief architects of the ÉIRE NUA policy …which embraces all the peoples of Ireland equally and its implementation will bring about, in the words of Dáithí Ó Conaill “a new Ireland worthy of the memory of Wolfe Tone”.
At the 1983 Ard Fheis of Sinn Féin, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill stepped down as President and Vice-President of Sinn Féin after a motion was passed dropping the Federal policy within the ÉIRE NUA programme. Those who tabled the motion…not only recognise the illegal unionist veto on Irish independence but administer British rule in Ireland.
In 1986 the Provos embarked on the constitutional path by dropping the abstentionist policy towards Leinster House. Those still faithful to the All-Ireland Republic, including Dáithí, regrouped under the name Republican Sinn Féin.
He continued: “Republican Sinn Féin labelled 2001 ‘the year of the hungerstriker’…but for the Provisionals 2001 will always be ‘the year of the traitor’. The ultimate betrayal was made with the illegal surrendering of arms achieved to defend and re-establish the All-Ireland Republic. In fact the Provos did use their guns, not to defend these areas but to police the nationalist people thus doing the RUC’s job for them and taking the side of the foreign oppressor.
“The Provos now administer British rule in Ireland while continuing to hold onto the historic name of Sinn Féin. Irish Republicans do not administer British rule in Ireland. As Pearse said ‘The man who in the name of Ireland accepts …anything less by one fraction of an iota than separation from England…is guilty of so immense an infidelity, so immense a crime against the Irish nation that one can only say that it was better for that man (as it were certainly better for his country) that he had not been born.’
“It was Dáithí Ó Conaill who said, ‘There can be no compromise on the fundamental issue as to who should rule Ireland.’ Clearly the Provisionals are now of the view that it should be the British parliament as their methods cannot lead to a free Ireland as the Republican News clearly stated on 10 April 1976, saying ‘Over the centuries Britain has persuaded many…Irishmen to use peaceful political methods to attain their ends, or in other words, to play the game by her rules. What chance do you have playing against an opponent who dictates the rules? How can you beat a stacked deck? None of them ever did.’
“By sitting in Stormont they have become collaborators with the crown, acting in opposition to the Irish Republic and the Republican Forces. Inevitably they will recognise and support the armed militia of the occupied area – the RUC. Young Nationalists will now be encouraged to join the RUC, their job being to suppress the All-Ireland Republic. It is our duty to let them know that once they put on the uniform of the British colonial police force they will be seen as symbols of oppression and enemies of the people. We in the Republican Movement will treat them with the same contempt as we have always treated colonial police forces.
“Not only within occupied Ireland but within the Free State also, Republican Sinn Féin is facing increasing pressure from the political police who try to silence us and our radical alternative to the failed partitioned states . Dáithí Ó Conaill told the 197 Ard Fheis that
‘Despite the naked military terror in the north and the vicious Free State oppression in the south, the Movement has held its own and forges ahead in the struggle for freedom.’
“While Republican Sinn Féin today faces mass censorship, ex-Republicans are given ample airtime and newspaper space to spread their propaganda. The reason their masters in Downing Street allow this is because the false propaganda lends weight to the big lie – the lie that the war is over and Ireland is free.
“They expect people to believe that there is a Republic of Ireland established consisting of 26 Counties and a separate country called ‘Northern Ireland’ consisting of Six Counties. We must hit this lie on the head no matter when and where we hear it.“
“Today once again Volunteers of Óglaigh na hÉireann are being denied political status by regimes determined to crush the Republican Movement.
“We must support our prisoners, and ensure that they achieve the recognition which they deserve as POWS and members of a legitimate army.
“In this, a new year, it is our duty to ensure that the Republican Movement grows and moves closer to the ultimate goal of an Ireland Gaelic, United and Free.
“We are the inheritors of a tradition of resistance dating back, not only to 1969, 1916 or even 1798, but to the first English conquest of Ireland 850 years ago. There has always been resistance to the English Occupation of Ireland and there always will be.
“We in the Republican Movement as the vanguard of the resistance will be judged as all revolutionary movements: by our actions rather than our words. We will live up to the challenge.
“I would like to finish by quoting Thomas Davis: ‘And now Englishmen, listen to us! We tell you and all whom it may concern, come what may – bribery or deceit, justice policy or war – we tell you in the name of Ireland, Ireland shall be a nation.’ ”
PRESIDENT of Republican Sinn Féin and former IRA Chief-of-Staff, Ruairí Ó Brádáigh, sets the recent decomm-issioning of arms in a historic perspective and gives his thoughts on the subject.
General Order No 11 (Deals with the seizure of arms and dumps under Army control)
(a) Any Volunteer who seizes or is party to the seizure of arms, ammunition or explosives which are being held under Army control shall be deemed guilty of treason. A duly-constituted court martial shall try all cases. Penalty for breach this order: Death.
Note: As in all cases of the death penalty sentence must be ratified by the Army Council
(Ref. The Long War, by Brendan O’Brien, p. 296 – publ. 1993)
The first demand by British government for the surrender of IRA arms was in 1920 when the Black and Tan war was at its height. Efforts for a Truce between British and Irish Republican forces were being made through Archbishop Clune of Perth, Australia by British Prime Minister Lloyd George in December of that year.
November had been a critical month, beginning with the hanging of Kevin Barry on the first, the execution of the Connacht Ranger James Daly on the second and ending with Bloody Sunday in Dublin on the 21st and the Kilmichael Ambush on the 28th.
The Irish leaders, Griffith and Collins indicated that the truce must not involve a surrender of arms. In the British House of Commons on December 9 Lloyd George declared that while willing to meet certain members of the Dáil for negotiations, the British “would meanwhile intensify their campaign against Sinn Féin, proclaim Martial Law over large areas, make the surrender of all arms and uniforms by a certain date compulsory and render any person failing to comply with that order liable to the death penalty”.
Next day December 10, the whole of the counties of Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick were placed under Martial Law with all that that entailed. Dr Clune attempted to persuade the British to drop their demand for the surrender of arms. On December 24 he was told in London that the surrender of arms was essential. He refused to carry that demand to Dublin. On the 29/30 he was told, finally, by the British that “all prospect of a truce had been closed”. (Ref. Dorothy Macardle’s Irish Republic, pp378-371).
The Commander of the West Cork Brigade Flying Column, General Tom Barry, was very much to the point in his answer to Michael Collins who told him of the pre-Christmas Truce negotiations. Lloyd George had stipulated that an exception to the cessation of hostilities on the British side be made in the case of the Kilmichael Flying Column which must be hunted down.
Barry said that the West Cork Brigade would survive long enough “to dispatch sufficient of their numbers to Dublin to exterminate the Cabinet which concluded such a truce” and Collins “laughed heartily and expressed approval”. (Ref: Guerrilla Days in Ireland, by Tom Barry, p 191, publ. 1949).
Sceilg, in his book on Cathal Brugha, criticises negotiations with Griffith and Eoin MacNeill who were in prison at the time. (Collins was at liberty). Griffith wrote secretly to Collins: “He [Dr Clune] will be going to London tonight to see Lloyd George and he will tell him everything is at an end if it is necessary for us to give up our arms”. (Beidh sé ag dul go Lundan anocht chun Leod Seoirse d’fheicsin, agus inneosaidh sé dó go bhfuil deire le gach nidh ma’s eigin ar n-airm-na do thabhairt suas.). (Ref: Cathal Brugha le Scéilg, leath. 163, foillsithe 1942).
No more was heard from the British about a surrender of arms until the mid-1990s. Their proposal was rejected out of hand on its first airing in December 1920. The Irish were unanimous on that point then.
The next time that the arms surrender demand was raised was at the end of the Free State War (popularly known as the ‘Civil War’) in May 1923. The Free State Administration under Cosgrave said “Military actions against him [de Valera] and his followers would cease when the arms held by them were delivered into the effectual custody of the Irish Free State executive authorities” and so instructed two Senators who acted as intermediaries.
The result was: “On May 13 and 14 the Republican Cabinet and Army Council met again. The decision was taken to attempt no renewal of the civil war but not to surrender arms. The Volunteers were ordered to conceal their arms and ammunition in places as safe as possible from discovery. The order to ‘Cease fire’ and ‘Dump Arms’ was issued by the Chief-of-Staff on May 24”. (Ref: The Irish Republic by Dorothy Macardle, pp 775 and 781).
The Sabotage Campaign in England, 1939-40 and the Northern Campaign in the Six Counties 1942-44 were both declared officially to have ceased in early 1945. “One of Fleming’s first acts (as the new Chief-of-Staff) on March 10 was to order a ceasefire with Great Britain, thus cancelling the 1939 IRA declaration of war.” (Ref: The Secret Army by J Bowyer Bell, p240, publ. 1970).
Surrendering or destroying arms simply did not arise. Several hundred Thompson sub-machine guns as well as Lee-Enfield rifles, revolvers and automatic pistols were in secure dumps so as to be available when the fight for Irish freedom was resumed. The Thompson guns were the greater part of a consignment of 500 ordered in May 1921 by IRA GHQ. They had been imported in the 1920s and early 1930s.
In 1962 the orders issued at the end of the Resistance Campaign were specific. A public statement released to the media on February 26 said “instructions issued to Volunteers of the Active Service Units and of local Units in the occupied area have now been carried out. All arms and other material have been dumped and all full-time active service Volunteers have been withdrawn”.
It went on to speak of a period of consolidation, expansion and preparation” and renewed the IRA’s “pledge of eternal hostility to the British Forces of Occupation in Ireland”. It looked forward “with confidence to the final and victorious phase of the struggle for the full freedom of Ireland”.
The weapons were secure and held for a more opportune time when the fight would be renewed. An earlier “Amnesty for illegally held arms” announced by the 26-County Justice Minister Haughey for the month of January 1962 had been a total failure. All Units had been reminded of General Order No 11 and “not a round, not an ounce” moved into the military or police barracks of the 26-County State.
Neither in the preparations for the Bilateral Truces of 1972 and 1975 nor in the political discussions that took place during those truces was the question of arms surrender or arms destruction ever raised. I write advisedly when I state that all bets would be off if such had ever been raised or pressed. It never was.
But on March 15, 1995 the British Minister for the Six Counties, Patrick Mayhew, raised the matter of “decommissioning of arms” in an address in the United States which came to be known as Washington 3. This was not, repeat NOT, immediately rejected publicly. The idea was kicked around, in other words entertained, and it became an article in the Stormont Agreement of April 1998.
All parties signing up to that deal undertook to use their ‘influence’ to secure the destruction of ‘illegal’ arms by May 2000! Tom Barry and the men of the West Cork Brigade were all safely dead of course.
On May 5, 2000 – Bobby Sands’ anniversary – the Provos agreed positively to ‘decommission’ their arms. In June they actually exposed their arms dumps to the agents of the enemy.
At Weston Park, England in late July and early August 2001 they made a definite compact with the enemies of Irish freedom as to a method of destroying their arms. Sometime between then and early October they destroyed the war material in at least one large dump in the presence of agents of London and Dublin.
The deed was done and General Order No 11 was breached coldly, deliberately and publicly. William Shakespeare once asked: “When is treason not treason”? Answer: When it is successful; because then none dare call it treason”. But those who went before us would dare.
(First published in Fourthwrite magazine, Winter 2001.)
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