Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta

National Irish Freedom Committee


 ON January , 1980, Republicans gathered at the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin to mark the seventeenth anniversary of the death of Dáithí Ó Conaill.

 Proceedings were chaired by Des Dalton, Vice-President, Republican Sinn Féin, a decade of the Rosary was recited as Gaeilge by Peig Galligan and Cathleen Knowles McGuirk, Vice-President, Republican Sinn Féin, laid a wreath. Josephine Hayden, Ard-Rúnaí, Republican Sinn Féin delivered the oration, who said:

 “Seventeen years ago today we heard the shocking news that Dáithí Ó Conaill had died peacefully but suddenly at his home in Raheny Dublin. He was only 52 years of age. Today we feel his loss as keenly as we did on that day. Dáithí is missed for many reasons. And while I don’t intend to speak for his family I’m sure his passing left a void in their lives just as it did in the Republican Movement. 17 years ago today Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said of Dáithí: ‘He was the ablest mind in the Republican Movement for over 20 years”, almost 20 years later his personal and political presence is acutely missed.

 “His many comrades in the Republican Movement would, over the years, have liked to speak with him and sought his advice as his recognised leadership skills and strategic and clear thinking were invaluable to the Movement. He had the ability to cut to the core of an issue, cut out all the bull and go to the very heart; his presence commanded respect, when he spoke people listened, his oratory skill was captivating and he did not mince his words. (Speaking at Michael Gaughan’s funeral in 1974 representing the IRA he said that Michael Gaughan ‘had been tortured by the vampires of a discredited empire, who were joined by decrepit politicians who were a disgrace to the name of Irishmen”.)

 “Like the people with integrity here today he stayed true to the principles of the 1916 proclamation. He passionately believed in a united and free Ireland, and he went and fought the fight. He was not afraid to nail his colours to the mast and like many others he suffered for it and paid the ultimate price with his untimely death.

 “He would be disappointed, but not surprised, if he were here today to see the way in which things have changed, for the worst, politically and in may other ways also. The country has what’s euphemistically called ‘moved on and progressed’ but in some ways we are certainly going backwards. To allow the desecration of a historic national monument like Tara, and indeed the surrounds of Tara, it is hardly ‘moving on’. But it is part and parcel of the Free State strategy to bury Ireland’s historical past. This has been going on for years, since well before Dáithí died, but the speed with which our past is being bulldozed out of existence is astonishing. Someone is getting rich in the process without a thought for future generations who will have nothing of their history left to see. Those getting rich are the usual 5% who own 75% of the wealth – greed and materialism are their gods.

 “The selling off of our natural resources to multinational corporations like Shell cannot be called ‘progressive’. Again the destruction of Mayo is of no concern to those who gave the gas away and are now preparing to buy back what they gave for free to greedy capitalists. Nor are they concerned at the effect the pipeline and all that goes with it, will have on the people who live in its path. But thank God for the people of Erris and Mayo, and for those protesting at Tara, Lismullen and elsewhere who resist the destruction of our country. Protests, organised by those two campaigns, continue and we should be seen to be active in them – it is Republican Sinn Féin policy to support the Irish people in their quest to preserve their livelihood and our heritage. 

 “We need to be vigilant and active. Capitalism is tightening its grip and is the driving force behind the plan to neutralize sovereignty not just in Ireland, or indeed Europe but also throughout the world – with the exceptions of those superpowers driving capitalism. The drive to create a European State is well under way and the Free State is the only state in the EU to hold a referendum on the repackaged EU Constitution called the Lisbon Treaty – the Free State administration is however calling for a yes vote. The word Constitution is replaced by Treaty – that makes it appear a new document. But it is not a new document, it is the old one wrapped up in ‘party paper’. Sinn Féin Poblachtach will be campaigning for a NO vote in the election and we call on everyone to exercise his or her franchise and defeat the creation of another super state.

 “If Europe becomes an entity on its own, with its own constitution, individual countries will have NO say in how their countries are run. Majority voting will replace consensus voting in over 50 areas and the right to reject laws that are not in the interests of the country will not be an option. With the current erosion of civil, economic, legal and political rights by powerful governments we could end up living in a police state.  New laws that are passed, with alarming regularity, are clawing away at rights hard won – don’t lets lose those rights altogether. The militarization of the European state, working with NATO and the huge transfer of power to Brussels should cause all of us sleepless nights and are but just two of the most worrying aspects of the Treaty/constitution.

 “The attempt at normalisation of British rule in Ireland is another example of not ‘moving on’. Some former comrades may consider it ‘moving on’ but we in Sinn Féin consider it a backward step. To have worked so closely with people only for them to betray you is a hard blow. Dáithí felt this blow, not just once but twice. And still he continued, along with his good friends and comrades, to walk the path of Republicanism knowing how hard it would be to begin all over again to build a strong and dedicated Movement free now from the native traitor. That took courage and grit but he was not on his own. By his side he had his family and his comrades who believed as he did that the British had no place in Ireland, and never would.

 “The small group of people who set up a caretaker executive in the West County Hotel in 1986 (Dáithí Ó Conaill was appointed chairman and later Vice President of Sinn Féin Poblachtach, a position he held until his death) pledged to uphold the Republican position enshrined in the Sinn Féin constitution - they never had, and never will have, any intention of selling out those who gave their lives for Ireland. They never had, or will have, any intention of implementing British rule in Ireland; of accepting partition or recognizing the RUC as a legitimate police force in Ireland. They will not welcome the Commander in Chief of the British Forces, Queen Elizabeth of England, to our shores while her subjects in the British Army and police walk the streets of Occupied Ireland, raid homes, arrest, charge and imprison Republicans and indeed innocent civilians. They will never applaud Bush and agree with Shannon being used for extraordinary rendition flights or troop/munitions movement to Iraq. And we stand firmly beside them.

 “Sectarian attacks have increased in the British Occupied Six Counties while the Provisionals call for all young men and women to join the British police force - the RUC/PSNI. A force so discredited you wouldn’t even ask your enemies to join it! Report after report has been published on the collusion between all sections of the Crown forces and all the way up to the British government and the loyalist death squads, damning indictments every one of them. These are the people that Adams and Co are in league with and they want us to join them. But as the saying goes ‘it will be a cold day in hell’ before we do so.

 “We can and do sympathies with the bereaved families of Omagh (and indeed all families bereaved during British occupation), however we can never condone the attempted jailing of innocent men or women. The case of ‘any Taige will do’ is not acceptable whether they are a target for loyalist death squads or to send to jail for something they did not do. We were glad to see the acquittal of Seán Hoey before Christmas having spent four years on remand in Maghaberry jail. We welcome home Stiofan Ó Dáiligh who served an eight-year sentence in Maghaberry and we send New Year greetings to those men who are still in there and also in Portlaoise Jail.

 “Dáithí Ó Conaill was no stranger to the inside of a jail having served several sentences in Crumlin Road, Belfast, Mountjoy, Portlaoise and undertaken many hunger strikes; in 1977 he was 47 days on hunger strike in Portlaoise jail. He was also interned in the Curragh from which he escaped along with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh in 1958. His involvement with the Republican Movement spanned many decades; he was active throughout and spent many years on the run. He joined Sinn Fein in Cork in 1955 and shortly after joined the IRA. He was only 18 at the time of the Brookeborough Raid in which two of his comrades, Seán Sabhat and Fergal O’Hanlon lost their lives. Dáithí took over as commander when Seán Sabhat was injured, even then his leadership ability was recognised. After the Border Campaign he was one of the last to be released from Crumlin Road in 1963 having served an eight year sentence. While on the run in 1973 he gave the oration at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast while the British Army searched for him. And at Easter 1974 he slipped into Derry for the commemoration where the IRA shot dead a British soldier photographing him. He was active in the National H-Block/Armagh Committee and was the one who proposed Bobby Sands stand for election in 1981.

 “He resigned as Vice-President of the Provisional movement in 1983 because he could see what direction the Movement was taking, the abandonment of the ÉIRE NUA policy was a strong indication that a section of the movement was pulling in another direction. He was one of the architects of ÉIRE NUA and author of Towards a Peaceful Ireland. In both of these his influence in and on the movement can be seen. He was a founder member of Irish Northern Aid in the US; he was part of the Republican delegation that met representatives of the British government in London in 1972 and he was also one of the Republican delegation at the Feakle talks in 1974. His influence was widespread and lasting and I would keep you here all day if I were to tell you all that is known about him. While most here know his life story, there are those young members who do not, so it is important to mention even a few snippets of his life at a place like this.

 “Dáithí stood not just with the Irish people but with the many peoples around the world struggling to maintain and/or establish their independence, including the Basques [who proclaimed a Republic in 1936] and the Palestinians. Injustice was injustice no matter in what country, and it had to be addressed. As James Connolly said “We will fight for our cause when words are useful with words and with arms when arms are needed”. Dáithí showed the way with words and arms. Let us continue to do the same, and in doing so his influence will live on.

 “Giving the oration at Dáithí’s funeral Ruairí Ó Brádaigh said: ‘It is better to have a short life with honour than a long life without honour’ and he continued: ‘Dáithí Ó Conaill had honour every day of his life.’

 “Dáithí Ó Conaill viewed the Republican Movement not as a political party but as the main catalyst of progressive forces to achieve Irish Freedom.

 “It is our job now to achieve Irish freedom. The road to Irish freedom is not an easy one, but then nothing worth having is gained easily.”

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