Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A few words sorted

February 18th 2008

It is Sinn Féin Ard Fheis time this weekend and I am closeted away speech writing with my good friend Richard, my ipod and my trusty laptop. The Ard Fheis assembles on Friday afternoon through to Saturday night so yours truly is under pressure to get my few words sorted out. The Ard Fheis is being broadcast live for the first time by BBC and UTV as well as RTE. If you are interested check it out.


I should let you know of some events I attended in recent days. One was the conference in Trinity College to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the murder of human rights lawyer, Pat Finucane.

It was a very good event with an awesome line up of very impressive speakers including, Michael Mansfield, Peter Madden, Clara Reilly, Inez McCormack, Judge Peter Corey, Dato Param Cumaraswamy and many, many others.

Everyone concerned about human rights owes a great debt to the Finucane family. Pat’s clann are a credit to him. Catherine , John and Michael his children and Geraldine their mother and his wife, as well as the wider family circle have campaigned now for two decades against an obstinate British system which refuses to acknowledge publicly what it concedes privately.

That is that Pat Finucane was murdered by its agencies and as part of the policy of collusion between the British state and its surrogates in the unionist paramilitaries.

Geraldine has borne her loss with tremendous fortitude and campaigned with determination and tenacity. She has remarkable grace and great dignity. She is an example to us all.


I slipped out during the lunch break at Trinity to attend an event in honour of Bob Doyle. Bob who died, aged 92, at the end of January was the last remaining member of the International Brigade and a veteran of the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil war. I met Bob a good few times in recent years. He was a life long Irish republican, an unrepentant Communist, seller of An Phoblacht and all round decent human. He wrote a very good book, Brigadista – An Irishman’s Fight Against Fascism, published by Currach Press.

Bob lived in London and his family brought his ashes back to Dublin to Liberty Hall last Saturday. Hundreds of people turned out. It was great. The traffic was jammed in O Connell Street by throngs of flag waving companeros and amigos. Bob would have been delighted. At the time of the Spanish Civil War the Irish volunteers who fought against Franco were demonised in Ireland, especially by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and other right wing elements. But Bob and his comrades prevailed. There was music and speechifying and craic and singing in Liberty Hall in his honour. And not a bishop about the place.

Salud Bob.


Monday night saw me in Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast. There were lots of bishops. Decent men I’m sure. The occasion was a concert for Trócaire to launch the Lenten campaign for displaced people around the world.

do great work and Saint Peter's (pictured) is a beautiful church and a very fitting setting for a musical evening.

It starred The London Oratory School Scola and Saint Peter’s Cathedral Scola along with Neil Martin master piper and composer. But the big stars were The Priests. My guess is they brought out most of the audience. Boy Bands have that effect. I say that as a fan. I bought their debut CD for Christmas and it is brilliant.

Of course the concert had a serious purpose. This year Trócaire aims to highlight the plight of people who have been forced to flee their homes and focuses on the millions of families who live in the poorest and most marginalised parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Former Police Ombudsman, Nuala O Loan gave a very good keynote address focussing particularly on Somalia which she visited recently. As she quite rightly reflected Somalia is the world’s neglected crisis area. It is rarely in the news and yet people there continue to suffer greatly. They deserve our help.


Anonymous said...

"Everyone concerned about human rights owes a great debt to the Finucane family. Pat’s clann are a credit to him"
Very well said Gerry I think if republicans today are looking for positive things that people did to help NI out of the troubles into a new future they should be looking at Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson as well as yourself. Pat and his Family have brought great honor to NI and is a reflection of him and on their families own merits.


Concubhar said...

I suppose you'll have a token 'cúpla focal' as Gaeilge, to illustrate your party's tokenistic support for the language....

Linda Coleman said...

Best wishes for a successful Ard Fheis! You're speaking at a really good time for supporters in the States, 9:30 am - 12: 30pm in our time zones. I'm rounding up the usual suspects to log in and cheer you on.

By the way, your fave "boy band," The Priests, is doing well in the States; they were on the morning talk shows around Christmas time, and did a special for our public television. They sold a lot of CDs over here!

Linda Coleman said...

Wow. Great speech, Gerry. There were so many things you said that are just as true in the U.S., like private companies getting tax breaks to build for-profit hospitals, and the rich doing phenomenally well while workers struggle to make ends meet.

Sadly, we have very few politicians who are willing to speak up on behalf of the working class as straight-forwardly as you do.

Great work, Gerry. Hope you can relax now and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Anonymous said...

Sinn Féin Ard Fheis
I recall something that you said Gerry about all party’s coming together to make a United Ireland. This week in the Sunday Journal a staff journalist quotes SDLP cllr Conway SDLP accuse Unionists of putting border before food safety. It gave me great assurance that even in a time of hardship when it would be easy to complain about the South and ride the rail of Northern partisanship there might be some continuity of purpose shown by SDLP. It is a Great privilege to review the stellar work and commitment to NI that Agriculture minister Gildernew has done just on one topic, the Dioxin scare.