Northern Ireland

Tommy McKearney: Simon Harris reclaiming the tricolour is ‘absurd’

1916 Societies hold Easter commemoration in Bellaghy

Tommy McKearney spoke in Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Sunday
Tommy McKearney spoke in Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Sunday

The 1916 Societies gathered in Co Derry on Sunday to mark the 108th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Several bands joined those taking part in a parade through the village of Bellaghy to the graveside of IRA hunger strikers Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee.

Both men, who died during the 1981 hunger strike, are buried in the same plot at St Mary’s cemetery, on the edge of the village.

The grave of ex-INLA chief Dominic McGlinchey is also nearby.

Chair of the 1916 societies, Seán Mac Giolla Fhiondain led proceedings at the commemoration, which included republicans from across several counties.

He said it was important to remember those who had died in the pursuit of “Irish freedom”.

“We do so without apology or revision, they died for a free and united Ireland,” he said.

“Nothing less.”

The main address was delivered by Co Tyrone republican Tommy McKearney, himself a former hunger striker.

Mr McKearney spoke about the place of “resistance” in Irish history adding that “so often this resistance emanated from the fortitude of the imprisoned as they denied the oppressor the ability to criminalise the struggle for liberation”.

He later referenced the “absurdity” of Fine Gale’s new leader Simon Harris “shouting about reclaiming the flag of the Republic” and highlighted several atrocities carried out by Free State forces during the civil war.

“Perhaps it would be more appropriate if he were asked to take it down from the mast,” he added.

The veteran republican also highlighted claims made by others.

“And while many might well ask, what else would you expect from that quarter, there are those closer to home who would care to claim the mantle of our heroes,” he said.

“But only when it suits their greater ambitions.

“Those who are ambivalent about which line to take, a group of people with principles so flexible that they appear to believe in the possibility of walking both sides of the road at the same time.”

Mr McKearney suggested some republicans have abandoned their core values.

“Would-be republicans embracing and pandering in London to his newly crowned Britannic Majesty,” he said.

“So-called anti-imperialists yet who cannot be advised against wining and dining with the Imperial Emperor in his lair.

“Wannabe socialists cosying up to and giving solid reassurances to big business.

“Not so much a party for all, as a party of all things to all people.”

Some of those who attended a 1916 Societies Easter commemoration in Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Sunday
Some of those who attended a 1916 Societies Easter commemoration in Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Sunday

The Tyrone republican urged those in attendance to focus on a united Ireland.

“Before we leave this sacred spot where lies the mortal remains of our comrades, let us pay them the only and properly fitting tribute for the sacrifice they made and did so, never forget, for us and the generations to come,” he said.

“That tribute is to pledge ourselves to see the realisation of the vision they held.

“No halfway house, no damned good bargain, no steppingstone, no 32-county Free State.

“Nothing less than the establishment of an independent, sovereign, all Ireland democratic socialist republic.

“It was for this our patriots laid down their lives and until that is achieved, we shall not rest.”

Elsewhere in Co Derry a commemoration organised by the Counties Derry and Antrim Republican Graves Association was held in The Loup.