Monday, March 25, 2019

James Connolly Heron: Remarks to the City Hall Launch of Áras ÚI Chonghaile

James Connolly Heron:
Remarks to the City Hall Launch of Áras ÚI Chonghaile on Wednesday 20 March 2019:
Chairperson,  Thanks to the Committee for the invitation to this launch of a most important visitor centre in a city and in an area very close to the hearts of those of us fortunate to be related to a person still held in such high esteem at home and abroad.   One hundred years on - Edinburgh, Belfast, New York, Chicago and Dublin - still hold the footprints of a remarkable journey for its time marking what was for James Connolly and his family, in his own words - ‘a full life’.
It is a great honour to be here on what is a very special occasion - an historic day.
Lord Mayor, Members of the Áras Uí Chonghaile Project, friends and comrades,
So wrote Nora Sullivan, republican prisoner in a Kilmainham Gaol prison autograph book.
That golden generation - the men and women of 1916 - didn’t talk of themselves.  They didn’t talk themselves up. Perhaps they felt no need. They had served the cause and we are the direct beneficiaries of their struggle, courage, their bravery and sacrifice.  For those of us so privileged to have known them they didn’t appear to resent us that.  They fought to free Ireland from oppression, slavery and conquest against all odds and we are forever in their debt.  We didn’t tell them that, of course - perhaps WE felt there was no need. We trust now that they knew it. We have not seen their like since - we may never see their like again.
My grandmother Ina Connolly became visibly upset whenever she spoke of her father.  The effect of a brutal execution carried out at the dawn of a bright May morning passed on to a later generation. It was a struggle for her to write of that loss without breaking down. And so the questions that one might have asked were left unanswered for fear of causing upset.  That is a regret now - the missed opportunities.  The questions not asked yesterday sometimes come back to haunt us today.  Such is life.
Perhaps that is the case with every generation.  But we should be mindful of it - in the words of the song - teach your children well.
Driving my grandmother around Dublin and crossing the River Liffey to visit friends or family she would without fail pass comment on the skyscraper that is Liberty Hall - at the time our first and only skyscraper - the spiritual home of the trade union movement.  A much maligned building at the time as the city’s first tower she held a counter view on its appearance and merits . ‘Oh If only Daddy could see Liberty Hall now’ she would say bursting with pride ‘ the Union with the tallest building in Dublin.  He would not have believed it’.
I never had the heart to tell her that there was great opposition to it at the time. For her it was a statement - a testament to her father’s life’s work - dedicated to the cause of labour and the cause of Ireland - his towering achievement reflected for her in a glowing edifice of shining light out of  the darkness of a very different Ireland that she had known, lived, worked and grew up in. 
An Ireland of privilege over poverty, rich and poor, the haves over the have nots, the oppressor and the oppressed.
And her father set out to change all that.
He burned to end it as a self-proclaimed ‘disturber of the political peace’.
True revolutionaries dedicate themselves twice, he wrote, first in the flush of youth, then in the wisdom of maturity’.
And his family never wavered in supporting him every step of the way - from bright beginning to sad dark end.
When I first learnt of this Aras project on the occasion of the unveiling of the JC monument on the Falls Road I stood on a street corner and listened as the grand plan was explained. I admit to have being a little sceptical as to it ever coming to pass.
It was to my mind an incredible undertaking and in ways a dream that was unlikely to be realised. How wrong I was - I am pleased to say. The continuing 17 year long campaign to Save Moore Street from the developers wrecking ball has obviously left its mark on me.  Our aim is to develop a 1916 Historic Cultural Quarter there - on the very ground that our forebears made history.  But today the last HQ of the 1916 Provisional Government still lies neglected and abandoned by successive administrations and is closed to the public. 
Restoration work undertaken under pressure, plans for its future still uncertain. Described by the National Museum as’ the most important historic site in modern Irish history’ the area is is now under the ownership and control of a British based vulture capital fund - the irony of that apparently lost on those holding office.
Today I take this opportunity to salute Sinn Fein for their unstinting support for the Moore Street Campaign. In particular, the late and much missed Martin Mc Guinness, Gerry Adams,TD, and Uachtarain Shinn Fein, Mary Lou Mc Donald. Councillors Criona Ni Dalaigh and Cllr. Michael Mac Donncha also did sterling work on our behalf when holding office as successive Lord Mayor’s of Dublin.
This project, from dream to reality, puts the authorities in Dublin to shame. The success of one development stands in marked contrast to the inexplicable paralysis surrounding another.
When Joe and Harry outlined progress on the plan on a recent visit to Dublin and fittingly in the GPO, it was clear that this day would indeed come to pass. Their sterling work rewarded. A dream realised.  The story of a success.
Of course the reason this has been achieved is directly associated with the area in which it is located.  Where people appreciate and connect to their proud past, guard the memory of their heroes, preserve the record and stand up to be counted. A community bound together through great struggle is a stronger community in the long run - hurdles are to be leapt over - failure is not an option - dreams can never die.  Everyone can play a part.  And in this case where there is a will there is a way. This visitor centre celebrating the life and times of James Connolly will not only benefit tourism, education and community relations - it will change lives. Cultural centres can become the heartbeat of a community.  Where lessons are learned relationships built, friendships flourish and lives are enriched.  
Communities are under threat in an ever changing world. What were traditional hubs in the community where, news and views were exchanged and shared - the local shop or store, the post office or community hall or local pub are fast becoming a thing of the past - our lives are becoming more privatised - leaving many citizens isolated some abandoned, some lost, others lonely.  A community without conversation is a community in crisis. There is no such thing as society if we do not strive to keep it intact. Social interaction respect and understanding among all citizens are its vital ingredients. The heroes of our time will emerge from the struggles of today and not out of the comforts of tomorrow.
The value and values of times past held in trust within the community and passed to future generations will be the story of this success. 
In many ways this new centre brings James Connolly and his family home. Here in the city that marked him and his children and one that Lillie Connolly in particular did not want to leave. She left Belfast with tears in her eyes as the family made their way to Dublin for the final chapter in what was and is a remarkable family story.
This city helped shape her husband as a trade union leader and defender of workers’ rights. Their fight was his fight, their struggle his struggle, their cause his cause - to the very end. Here he stood for election as the’ determined enemy of the domination of class over class, of nation over nation, of sex over sex, who will at all times stand for the cause of the lowly-paid and oppressed’.  My grandmother and grand Aunt Nora joined the Fianna here and  Ina became secretary of the Betsy Gray Cumann with, as she puts it, ‘their headquarters in old wooden army huts on the Falls Road built to house soldiers who kept the peace as it was called when there was rioting in Belfast’.  The baton in their family had already passed to the next generation.
And It was in Belfast that they first enjoyed the stability and comfort of their first real family home.
The joining of forces behind this project is also a great testament to their father’s refusal in his time to engage in sectarianism of any kind.  To build a society based on opportunity for all, with equality in housing, health, and education - basic civil rights - rights that had to be fought for in our time - at home and abroad and still not realised.
The pillars of a real democracy where nobody is left behind, marginalised, abandoned or forgotten. My grandmother in her biography of her father wrote:  “Accused of being fanatically Nationalist on one hand and not Nationalistic on the other James Connolly found one home, one country - the hearts of the working people of the world. Sacrifice and devotion to their cause was the weather of his mind and the keystone of his work”.
How fitting therefore that this project has had widespread support from near and far.
Writing in The Irish Worker during municipal elections in 1913 he himself wrote: “A small nation such as Ireland can only become great by reason of the greatness of soul of its individual citizens. Discontent is the fulcrum upon which the lever of thought has ever moved the world to action. Ireland has two things that must make the blood run with exaltation in the veins of every lover of the Irish race - a discontented working class and the nucleus of a rebellious womanhood. I cannot separate these two things in my mind”.
Winifred Carney, Margaret Skinnider, Countess Markievicz among the great rebel women of his time. The heroes of our history.
The lesson of this success is that working together Citizens are best placed to build a future shaped by all and not designed by the few, planned for all and not to benefit the few. That ‘greatness of soul’ of the individual citizen allowed flourish so that all have the opportunity to make a contribution to society for the betterment of all.  A peoples project - evidence yet again that there is so much more to unite us than there is to divide us.
And West Belfast again showing the way forward.  
Great credit and enormous thanks is due to all who have given their time energy and talent to see it through. 
To Joe, Harry, Jim and the committee and all who helped in any way this is your day. Your work now takes tangible physical form and this visitor centre will no doubt influence, educate and inspire a new generation to strive to achieve equality and justice for all. 
And though this is your deserved day in the sun - you allow us bask in its reflective light.
By honouring the memory of my great grandfather his life and times in this way you also pay family members great tribute - undeserved but accepted with humility and gratitude.
I can only imagine what my grandmother would think of the development of this centre honouring the name, memory and sacrifice of her father within a stones throw of the family home.
I know that were she here today she would be bursting with pride.
As I am. We salute you. We are forever in your debt.
James Connolly Heron

Thursday, March 21, 2019

No Planet B???? - 12 years to save the planet

Protesting outside Leinster House

Last week tens of thousands of school pupils in Ireland, and in over 100 countries across the world, took part in an unprecedented demonstration highlighting the threat to humanity from climate change. Thousands took part in an impressive protest outside the Dáil. They were all united in their demand that governments must do more to save the planet. The extraordinary enthusiasm, commitment and determination of the young people, was inspirational.

Friday’s protests are the latest in the ‘school strike movement’ that has been inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish teenager. Thunberg has sat outside the Swedish Parliament almost every Friday since last summer demanding that her government implement the Paris agreement on climate change.

Just before Christmas she spoke at the COP24 climate talks that took place in Katowice, Poland. Her scathing criticism of the international community and of governments struck a chord with many young people – and older citizens. Thunberg told political leaders: You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like is. Even that burden you leave to us children.
But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.
She told political leaders: “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes”.

Four years ago 197 countries came together in Paris to map out an agreement to hold the rise in global average temperatures to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and to make a significant effort to keep it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Last October the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a shocking report which underlined the catastrophic risks posed to humanity by climate change. The authors of the report – the world’s leading climate scientists – warned that we have only 12 years to limit climate change before the people of the world face extreme droughts, heat, floods, increased food insecurity and water supply, and increased poverty for hundreds of millions of citizens.

The world is already one degree warmer than preindustrial levels. This might not seem a lot but the effect was very obvious last year with unprecedented heat waves, hurricanes and typhoons. Destructive human exploitation of our natural resources; damage being done by climate change; and the effect on world animal and insect populations since 1970, are all having a significant impact.

According to the 2018 Living Planet Index published by the World Wildlife Fund Central and South America have suffered an 89 per cent loss in species populations since 1970. On the island of Ireland the National Biodiversity Data Centre reports that one third of our bee species – which are essential for pollination – is either regionally extinct or vulnerable.

The current evidence suggests that without serious remedial action by governments we could see global temperatures increase to between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius. Even at 2 degrees Celsius the disappearance of Artic Sea ice threatens the jet stream which determines our weather systems. The IPCC report concludes that a 2 per cent Celsius increase in global warming will lead to more heat related deaths, smaller crop yields, more extreme weather events, and slower economic growth.

Just before Christmas delegates from states around the world gathered in Katowice in Poland for a two week conference to revive the Paris 2015 deal. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a stark warning when he said that the world “is way off course” to prevent catastrophic climate change. When the conference was over some progress had been achieved on agreeing how governments will measure and report on their efforts to cut carbon emissions. However, the USA, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia blocked the conference from accepting in full the IPCC findings on climate change. 

As if to underline the threat a review of the research of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in January in the prestigious journal Science concludes that previous estimates on the warming of the Oceans has been too low. The report states that: “multiple lines of evidence from four independent groups thus now suggest a stronger observed [ocean heat content] warming.” The Oceans are heating up 40 per cent faster than previously believed. The impact of this will be far reaching. The bleaching of coral will worsen – affecting fish stocks – and some species of fish will be forced to migrate to cooler waters.
One example of this is the fate of squid in northern Japan. A report in October last year revealed that the population of Japanese flying squid, which has been a key part of the Japanese diet, has been significantly depleted. In 2011 Japanese fishermen caught two hundred thousand tons. Last year that figure was down to 53,000 tons. While over fishing has played its part, so too has the increase in sea temperatures. The Sea of Japan has warmed by 1.7 degrees Celsius and is expected to rise by almost 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Marine life is looking for cooler waters.
The evidence is overwhelming. Humanity faces greater challenges than ever before. Without resolute action millions are at risk.
In May in the local government elections North and South, and in the European election in the South Climate Change will be a priority for Sinn Féin. But effecting real change and forcing reluctant governments and climate change deniers to implement real and effective policy changes will require a mass campaign. Last week young people showed the way. Their example must guide us in the time ahead.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Raidió Fálte takes up a new home


 D’oscail suíomh nua Raidió Fáilte ar an Aoine seo caite. Seo m’cuid foclaí ón imeacht. 

"Molaim achan duine a chuidigh le Líonra Uladh – Raidió Fáilte a bhunú.

Ach tá moladh ag dul do Fergus Í hÍr go hairithe.

Ghlac Fergus páirt i nGluaiseacht na gCeart Sibhialta. Is fear gnímh é.

D’inis sé scéal dúinn le déanaí faoi na hAontachtóirí sna seascaidí nuair a chuir siad bac ar pháirc na leanaí mar Dé Domhnaigh a bhí ann.

Is ceannródaí Gaeilge é Fergus, iar Phríomh Oide i Meánscoil Feirste, amhránai den scoth, craoltóir, bullaí fir agus scoláire.

Nuair a bhunaigh Eoin O’Néill, Fergus, Gearóid O Cearbhalláin agus Clara Ní Giolla Raidio Failte i lár na nóchaidí bhí sé ar an aer go minic agus ansin bhí sé mar bhainisteoir.

Mar a deir siad féin sin na laethanta nach raibh siad ag cloí leis an dlí!!!

These were their ‘pre-legal days.

Fuair siad an ceadíúnas in dá mhíle is a sé agus chuiagh siad ó neart go neart.

Le fiche bliain tá seirbhís iontach luachmhar curtha ar fáil ag Raidió Fáilte.

Tá an foirgnmeamh seo mar léargas ar an díogras a chuir siad isteach.

Áis iontach atá ann.

Tá sé i gcroílár Iarthar Bhéal Feirste agus An Cheathrú Gaeltachta.

Infheistíocht thábhachtach é i bhforbairt chraoltóireacht na Gaeilge sa tuaisceart sna blianta amach romhainn.

Beidh áiseanna craoltóireachta, cartlannaíochta agus oiliúna den chéad scoth anseo.

Molaim an ailtire Ciarán Mackle agus McGurks as an fhís a bhí acu chun an spás seo a úsáid.

Molaim Roinn na bPobal  agus Comhairle Cathrach Bhéal Feirste a bhfuil thart faoi million go leith punt curtha acu leis an togra seo.

Mo bhuíochas go speisialta le Ciste Infheistíochta Gaeilge a bhfuil trí chéad mile punt curtha acu leis an togra seo.

Ó bunaíodh é ocht mblianta ó shin tá breis is sé mhilliún punt curtha acu le tríocha trí togra.

Mar gheall ar seo agus trí bheith ag obair le forbairthoirí tograí tá trí mhilliún déag breise curtha ar fáil ar son áiseanna do phobal na Gaeilge.

Tá fiche ‘s a haon togra faoi lan seoil agus tá cúig cinn eile ag teacht.

Tháinig Ciste ar an saol mar gheall ar na comhchainteanna a rinne i Hillsborough in da mhíle is a deich.

Ag an tráth sin d’éirigh le Sinn Féin gealltanas a fháil go mbeadh fiche milliún punt le caitheamh ar thograí Gaeilge.

Ag an am sin dúirt mé gur beagán a bhí ann mar go raibh pobal na Gaeilge i dteideal i bhfad i bhfad níos mo airgis.

Ach tús a bhí ann.

Mar is eol dom féin, tús maith, leath na hoibre.

Agus leis an méid airgis sin d’éirigh le pobal na Gaeilge

Bhí dhá mhilliún déag le caitheamh ar Chiste Craoltóireachta na Gaeilge agus ocht milliún le haghaidh tograí caipitil.

Bunaíodh Ciste Infheistíochta Gaeilge chun an ciste seo a riaradh agus d’éirigh go han-mhaith leo an chuid is fearr a bhaint as méid airgid atá beag go leor, dar leat.

Tá an Ciste ann chun pobail Gaeilge a chothú agus cuidiú leo; chun tacú airgidis a chur ar fáil do thograí caipitil chun postanna a chruthú agus chun ceathrúnaí cultúrtha a bhunú.

Feicim go bhfuil cara liom anseo inniu, iar-Aire Caral Ni Chuilín.

Ghlac Caral agus Airí eile ar nos Michelle Gildernew, Caitriona Ruane, Bairbre de Brún agus John O’Dowd ról lárnach

Tá na mílte ógánach a fuair a gcuid oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge nó atá sa chóras faoi láthair.

Is leo féin an todhchaí agus ta dualgas orainn a chinntiú go mbeidh deiseanna fostaíochta agus áiseanna pobail ann le go mbeidh tacaíocht pobail, fostaíocht agus áiseanna oiliúna ar fáil dóibh.

Tá dualgas eile orainn fosta cinntiú go bhfuil aitheantas ann don Ghaeilge agus cosaint reachtúil aici agus go nglacfar leis an cheart do shaol a chaitheamh trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Tá bród mor orm gur féidir liom mo chuid chúnamh a dhéanamh anseo in Iarthar Bhéal Feirste go hiomlan trí mheán na Gaeilge bíodh sin nuachtan a cheannach, bearradh gruaige agus féasóige a fháil, cupán caifé a fháil nó pionta a chaitheamh siar.

Agus is feidir liom éisteacht le Raidió Fáilte fosta.

As sin amháin tá me fíor bhuíoch do achan duine anseo inniu. Maith sibh.

Lá Féile Padraig faoi mhaise daoibhse.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Britain waives the rules. Arís

As this column goes to print the British Prime Minister has lost two key votes this week in the British Parliament on the Brexit issue. It is pointless speculating at this time on the outcome of these machinations. But there is one certainty. Irish interests will have little influence. When Britain leaves the EU – the North of Ireland will be dragged with them, and no matter about assurances, real or illusory, that is bad for Ireland. So what’s new? British rule has always been bad for Ireland. Take Karen Bradley for example.

Whatever the future holds for Karen Bradley, the British Secretary of State said last week what she and her government really believe. She set out in two short sentences the premise on which the British government’s legacy strategy is built. Bradley said: “The fewer than ten per cent (of deaths) that was at the hands of the military and police were not crimes. They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”

The outrage from victims’ families and support groups, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party, the Irish government and a range of media and political commentators, including some in Britain, forced Bradley to apologise. But the fact is that Bradley was expressing British government policy. This policy is about defending members of the British Army, RUC, UDR and the range of British intelligence agencies, and politicians who ran Britain’s dirty war in the North.

A recent example of this policy was the arrest last August of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, two investigative journalists, who were part of the team that produced ‘No Stone Unturned.’ This is a documentary film about RUC collusion and the Loughinisland murders in 1994. They were arrested over the alleged theft from the Police Ombudsman’s office of a confidential document relating to the murder of the six men in the County Down village. The Ombudsman’s office says it never made a complaint of a theft.

This attempt to gag two reporters follows a long tradition of media control and manipulation by British governments and their security agencies. The broadcasting restrictions of the Thatcher years, when my voice and that of other Sinn Féin representatives were banned from the broadcast media, are probably the best known. But censorship existed almost from the time the first British soldier stepped foot on the streets of the North in 1969. In the years that followed, the RUC, British Army and Northern Ireland Office became expert at black propaganda, spinning lines and at covering up the criminal actions of the RUC, British Army, and of their agents operating within the unionist death squads.

There are countless examples of this including media coverage of the Falls Curfew, the introduction of internment, the Ballymurphy Massacre, the McGurk’s Pub bombing, Bloody Sunday, the New Lodge killings, the Springhill murders and many more. British Army and RUC briefings, usually used verbatim by many newspapers and broadcasters, often described innocent victims as ‘gunmen’ ‘gun women’ ‘known terrorists’and ‘bombers.’

This strategy of manipulating elements of the media is a long established part of Britain’s counter-insurgency strategies. It was especially effective in creating distractions, confusion and misunderstanding around British actions, including the deliberate killing of citizens by the British state using agents and informers.

But psyops – psychological warfare - black propaganda - also has an important secondary role. In the battle for ‘hearts and minds’ a key objective is to present the British forces as always operating within the law. This allowed Tory and Labour governments, especially internationally, to pose as ‘working within the law’ and ‘obeying the rule of law’. The fact that they changed the law to suit their needs is often lost.

In this way Britain could claim a dubious and false moral superiority in fighting its war in the North. It also succeeded in frustrating the demands for truth. This strategy is evident in the long delays faced by the Bloody Sunday families, or the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre, or the Springhill families or the McGurk pub bomb families. Almost half a century has passed since these murders occurred.

Delay, delay, delay, has been fundamental to Britain’s strategic approach. Why? Because the direct responsibility for much of British policy, including state collusion, shoot-to-kill and other policies goes right to the top of the British political system. The British government wants to protect former political leaders, the generals and the spooks who authorised state murder.

This is the real context of Karen Bradley’s remarks. Last November she told the ‘Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster’ that, “I think we have got to find a way of getting our soldiers off this hook. I think it's up to political people like ourselves to sort it and change the law if necessary”.

Finally, it should be remembered that the British Army and its counter-insurgency strategy is still at work in other places. According to General Sir Mike Jackson, who was second in command of the Parachute Battalion which killed 14 people on Bloody Sunday, writing in the foreword to‘Operation Banner – An Analysis of Military Operations in Northern Ireland 1969-2006’: “The immediate tactical lessons of Operation BANNER have already been exported elsewhere, with considerable success.  Operations in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq have already demonstrated both the particular techniques and the levels of expertise learnt through hard experience, both on the streets and in the fields of Northern Ireland”.

The reality of Jackson’s boast is much different. The myth of British superiority in fighting counter-insurgency wars is just that – a myth. It failed to protect the British Empire. Those who fought for and demanded freedom and independence from Britain didn’t give up. As a consequence, in the 30 years after World War Two, Britain was forced to leave over 20 countries. So Brit Secretaries of State like Ms Bradley’s will come and go. So will Brexit. So we need a long view of history. And the future. That is the real lesson for those seeking Irish freedom and independence – never give up. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Eamonn McCaughley: a courageous, thoughtful republican and comrade

Big Eamonn, Mise agus Cleaky Clarke

These are my remarks at the funeral of Eamonn McCaughley - Big Eamonn - in Twinbrook on Wednesday:

This is our families second funeral in the last few days.

Last Friday we buried my brother Liam.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire air.  Tá Claire agus Bronagh anseo inniu. Tá fáilte romhaibh.

On his way to the funeral Eamonn died suddenly from a heart attack.

I want to thank everyone who has supported us or who sent messages of support during this difficult time.

Tá muid buioch daoibhse go leir.

This is also my sister Margaret’s birthday so lá breithe shona duit Maggie. I gave PaddyA a few quid to get you a drink later on.

Tá muid anseo inniu chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar saol Eamonn ceann de na fir láidir Eamonn Mór, fear, athair, seánathar, deartháir; ár gcomrádaí, ár gcara, ár dheathár, ár gceannaire.

Eamonn would be scundered at all the fuss we have been making of him.

He would be scundered but he would also be chuffed. That was his way. He was a modest shy man.

He first came into my life when he started chasing my sister Anne away back in the days when we went to ceilis in An Ard Scoil and later in the 43 Club.

Eamon was a mod. With an Elvis Presley hair style.

He was born into a staunchly republican family sixteen years earlier.

His mother Nelly and father Dan were republican activists in their own time.

Nelly was from Bombay Street.

She was a volunteer in Cumann na mBan and later its OC in Belfast

Eamonn’s father Dan was originally from Lurgan before moving to Ballymacarrett in East Belfast.

He was interned in the 1940s and again in the fifties.

Eamonn was born in Ballymacarrett in 1949.

The family moved in the 1950s to Kenard Avenue in Andytown.

Dan and Nellie McCaughley

In the mid 1960’s republicans were reorganizing.

Across the world progressive people were on the rise.

In South Africa, Cuba, across Europe and in the USA.

The demand was for rights and for freedom.

So too here in Ireland, particularly in the North where – surprise, surprise there was resistance to the modest demands of the civil rights struggle.

There was also time for fun.

Bhí craic ann. Ag ceol. Uaireannta maith.

For scorieachts. Singing sessions. Bus trips to Tyrella. Excursions to Edentubber and Bodenstown.

And all time Eamonn was courting Anne.

By now he was a regular feature in our house where he often entertained us with Elvis songs or a Roy Orbison number and his own peculiar form of jiving.

Eamonn first joined Na Fianna and then the Army.

During the pogroms of August 1969 Eamonn was in the front line helping to evacuate his Granny and others from Bombay Street, and then from other districts under attack from RUC, B Special and loyalist mobs.

In the immediate aftermath of the pogroms there was a split in the Army in December 1969 and in Sinn Féin in 1970.

And in the long lens of history this represented a significant set-back for the struggle.

For a short time Eamonn stayed with the Official IRA but he quickly shifted his support to the Provisional Army Council.

He and Anne were married on 5 April 1971.

Bhí ceathar paistí acu: Eamon agus Fionnuala, Seán agus Bronagh.

During the 1970’s Eamonn was arrested and interned twice.

His sister Briege Anne was in Armagh Women’s Prison.

Today, is for all of us who had the joy and honour to know Big Eamonn a day to remember with affection and pride a man of enormous courage.

He was a quiet thoughtful republican.

He never said a sectarian word in my presence in his life who rarely talked about his time as an Oglach.

A faithful loyal comrade who dedicated years of his life to the cause of Irish freedom and to the Irish people.

Fear croaga Eamonn – Mo Laoch. Mo Giolle mhear.

Big Eamonn loved Ireland – he loved the people of Ireland.

It was in his DNA.

He was also a loving and attentive son and brother, a devoted husband, father and grandfather.

So, on my own behalf and that of Colette.

Colette always sent Eamonn a bottle of Bacardi every Christmas and he always received it as if it was the only bottle of Bacardi in the entire world and as if he was surprised by it.

So on my own family, and on behalf of Republicans everywhere, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to Anne, Eamonn, Fionnuala, Sean and Bronagh, to Patricia, to Gemma, and to Charlie and to the grandchildren and great grand-daughter.

Condolences also to Maire, Fionnuala, Briege Anne, and Ciaran and remembering also Big Eamonn’s brother Donal who died four years ago to the day that Eamonn passed.

You are all in our prayers and our thoughts.

My chomhbhrón also, to Eamonn’s comrades and to the former prisoners who did time with him.

He would be very proud and pleased with the geriatric Guard of Honour. All the aul timers.

My commiserations and thanks also to Eamonn’s workmates in Healy’s Undertakers and to the paramedics and doctors and nurses who minded him when he took sick last Friday.

Me and Eamonn surrounded by the RUC on the Ormeau Bridge

After I was shot in 1984 the late Tom Cahill decided that I needed a driver.

Up until then there were about a dozen people at different times who I could get lifts from.

Eamonn was always reliable when I needed transport.

So Tom asked him to drive me on a fulltime, unwaged and voluntary basis.

Eamonn agreed and together for over seventeen years we travelled the length and breadth of this island and further afield.

Eamonn was Sinn Féin’s first security team.

It was a dangerous time and a dangerous job.

As well as the constant threat of assassination there was the daily gauntlet of RUC and British Army harassment.

The arrogant viciousness of RUC officers, UDR and British Army soldiers who at every opportunity and at every checkpoint, made threats and tried to intimidate us.

Sometimes we were three or four hours on the side of the road.

The arrival of Peter Hartley into our team increased the danger and many times Eamonn and I had to protect poor wee Brits from Peter.

Our adventures and our misadventures, were numerous.

Mise agus Martin Ferris and Martin McGuinness in London with Eamonn looking after us

I have limited myself today to a few examples.

The first was when Eamonn was joined by Cleaky, Chink and Moke, Big Austin, Jamesy, Bernie, Murph, JimmyM, Mousey, Chico, and Gerard and others in providing security around the Sinn Féin negotiating team.

Cleaky had just been released from prison, he was under treatment for cancer, was asked to take charge of this.

He had few resources and almost no money.

Sinn Féin which was growing in strength was under constant attack, in our homes and offices.

Our members and family members were being killed.

And many were injured.

Cleaky’s skill as a scrounger was legendary.

Working with Big Eamonn and their small security team they liberated security doors, outside lights, inter-coms, security grills, toughened glass, bullet-proof vests and anything else that could save lives.

Big Eamonn keeping an eye on things as I spoke to US National Security Adviser Tony Lake, and Nancy Soderberg as we waited on the Falls for President Clinton in 1995

On one occasion, just before the first public engagement between Sinn Féin and the Brits, Cleaky secured ear pieces and microphones for personal radios for the security team.

There was only one problem Cleaky told Eamonn, before briefing the rest of the team.

The radios didn’t work.  There were no transmitters.

But Cleaky explained to Eamonn that the appearance of having a very efficient security team could put off any would be attackers.

‘Ok’ said Eamonn.

So they pulled the rest of the team together and handed out the ear pieces and the microphones.

‘Put these down the sleeve of your coats’ Cleaky told them, and then speak into the microphone.

‘But there’s no transmitters,’ said Moke.

‘They don’t know that,’ said Eamonn.

‘But the radios aren’t working,’ said Moke.

Cleaky interrupted; ‘We’re going to have a visible presence at the meeting tomorrow. We will be a deterrent@.

So said Eamonn; ‘We have to look as if we know what we are doing. So, just let on the radios are working.’

‘Ok’ said Moke. ‘‘What’s my code name?’

‘What do you need a code name for’ said Cleaky. ‘The radios aren’t working’.

‘But we’re letting on they are. So we need code names.’

‘Ok said Eamonn. ‘Chucky number 1, Chucky number 2, Chucky number 3. Chucky number 4, Chucky number 5 …’

So, the next day when our delegation arrived at Parliament Buildings for negotiations with the British, Big Eamonn and the rest took up their positions, for all the world looking like US secret service agents talking to their sleeves.

The media and everyone else was hugely impressed.

There is old television footage of Cleaky talking into his sleeve.

But they didn’t know what he was saying.

‘Come in Chucky number 1 this is Up the Ra. Over and out mo chara’.

On another occasion, in November 1987 Eamonn was driving me and Danny Morrison back to Belfast.

We heard on the news that one of the H Block escapees Paul Kane was under siege by the Garda Special Branch in Cavan Town.

They were waiting for an extradition warrant.

Eamonn, Danny and I immediately headed for Cavan.

We picked up Paul and brought him to Brian McKeown’s home followed by the Garda Special Branch.

Then we decided to head for the border with Paul.

Now with hindsight that now seems a bit strange given that the state wanted to extradite Paul to the North.

However, our plan was that Danny Morrison would put on Paul’s coat.

Paul would put on my jacket.

And while Danny acted as a decoy and sprinted across the fields, Paul would sneak off.

That was the plan.

We clambered into the car.

Then Eamonn drove like a formula one racing driver down into Cavan Town chased by Garda cars, with lights blazing and sirens blaring.

It was like the Dukes of Hazzard.

Round and round we went before breaking for the border.

Eventually Eamonn screeched the car to a halt.

Danny the decoy jumped out.

He jumped over a hedge on the opposite side of the road and disappeared into a 15-foot deep sheough.

Paul exited left only to be wrestled to the ground by several Garda.

I lost my coat. Danny lost his shoes.

And Eamonn lost his driving licence after he and Paul were taken to Mountjoy Prison.

Paul was extradited to the North.

If he’s here today I would be really glad to get my jacket back.

My last story is a more tragic one.

After Mairead Farrell, Dan McCann and Sean Savage were executed by the SAS in Gibraltar Eamonn was part of the long journey home from Dublin airport to Belfast.

It took six and a half hours to reach the border where the RUC stopped us.

They wanted to hyjack the hearses. We wouldn’t let them.

There was standoff, during which we formed a convoy with our cars interspersed with the hearses.

Martin McGuinness was there and members of the McCann, Savage and Farrell families, along with other comrades.

Eventually we moved off again through Newry Town toward the MI.

The funeral cortege was attacked a number of times enroute.

But small groups of supporters also gathered at the crossroads to salute the Gibraltar martyrs.

And as we sped towards Belfast the RUC landrovers tried to force our cars out of the cortege.

We were surrounded on all sides by landrovers.

Inches separated Eamonn’s car from the armoured vehicles.

Eamonn drove mightily that night as he prevented the RUC from isolating the three hearses.

Eventually however we were forced off the road at Kennedy Way.

And what was the point in that exercise?

It was a futile effort by the RUC to pretend that they were in charge.

Because once they separated us from the hearses they allowed the hearses to proceed to the respective family homes.

Finally, one last story.

The roundabout beyond Sprucefield is known to us as Eamonn’s Roundabout.

One fateful night, very late as we were coming from Kerry, as we approached it I noticed that Eamonn wasn’t slowing down.

I knew we were in trouble when I heard him snoring.

‘Eamonn,’ I screamed.

And he woke up just as the car hit the roundabout and took off.

It was like an Evel Knievel stunt.

We almost cleared the roundabout and landed safely.

That was before mobile phones so my brother Dominic went off to get help.

The RUC arrived. They saw who we were and went off again.

I looked at Eamonn.

Eamonn looked at me.

 ‘Well’ he said. ‘I think I landed that very well.’

That was Eamonn.

Eamonn and Gerry Kelly and Bik McFarlane in the Hospital cell in which Bobby died.

Our family, like most families, are doing our best to live lives rooted in decency, fairness and justice.

Eamonn and my lovely thoughtful sister Anne embodies that.

In their love for each other.

Their loyalty. Their love for family and community and Ireland.

In their humanity and compassion.

Their children, Eamonn, Fionnuala, Sean, and Bronagh are a credit to them.

I want to address my concluding remarks to their children  to Anne and Eamonn’s grandchildren – to the future -; Eamonn óg, Ferghal – Ferghal has a big fight on Saturday night Eamonn will be in your corner - Áine, Conchur, the twins Caitlin and Tierna, the other twins Miceál and Deághlan, Cathal, Eimhear, Fiadh, Cormac, Sean Pearse, Oisín and their great -granddaughter Rionach.

You are Eamonn’s legacy.

When I see all you fine handsome young men and much smarter beautiful young women, I know the future is bright.

Those of you who are old enough will remember Eamonn.

He changed your nappies, cleaned your bums, wiped up after you.

He taught you to walk.

Did your homework with you.

Watched you playing sport.

He minded you when you were sick.

Scolded you when you needed scolding.

He lectured you when you messed up.

Then gave you the pocket money – when he had it – to allow you to mess up again.

And he defended you if your parents took exception to your occasional teenage misadventures.

Eamonn was quite rightly proud of you all.

Now some of the younger ones may not remember him.

Tell them about him.

Rionach is only nine months old. She won’t remember him.

So tell her and the other weans about their Daideo.

Let them know who he was.

What he and Granny Anne did for you all in your own personal lives, in that lovely subversive relationship, that good grandparents enjoy with their grandchildren.

All children need iconic figures who they can depend on.

Eamonn McCaughley was very dependable.

Tell them all of this and tell them before they were born that he fought for them and their future.

So that they will grow old in a free and united Ireland.

Tell them their Granda was in the Ra.

Tell them that he and Granny Anne were fighters for freedom.

Champions for rights.

Activists for equality.

So thank you Eamonn for your friendship; for your comradeship.

For all the adventures.

For all the miles on the road.

Thank you for minding me but especially thank you for minding my sister Anne and for leaving her so many wee McCaughley’s to mind her for you in the time ahead.

Go raibh mile maith aft Eamonn.

Slán Eamonn Mór.