Carthy delivers online oration to mark anniversary of Brookeborough attack
Due to Coronavirus restrictions the annual New Years Day commemoration to mark the anniversary of the deaths of IRA Volunteers Fearghal Ó hAnnluain and Seán Sabhat following an attack on Brookeborough barracks in County Fermanagh, could not proceed.
Instead of gathering as usual at the monument to the two men at Altawark, almost 15,000 people viewed an online commemoration that featured an oration by Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy.
Separately, wreaths were laid on New Years Day at the graveside of Fearghal Ó hAnnluain in Monaghan town by Cllr. Seán Conlon and at the monument at Altawark by Fermanagh Councillor, Sheamus Greene.
In his online remarks, which were recorded alongside the grave of Monaghan’s Fearghal O’Hanlon, Deputy Carthy said that ‘the tide of history is with those who seek to build a united Ireland based on social justice and equality’. He said that the Sinn Féin leadership were determined to pursue this objective in 2021.
Remarks by Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy
“A chairde; Because of Covid, as has been the case so many times over the past year, we cannot gather in commemoration together as we would traditionally.
“I am honoured to address you online today from the graveside of Fearghal O’Hanlon rather than at the monument to Fearghal and Seán Sabhat at Altawark.
“Fearghal Ó hAnnluain, an IRA Volunteer from Monaghan Town, died with his comrade Seán Sabhat from Limerick, during an attack on the RUC barracks at Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh on New Year’s Day, 1957.
“Sean and Fearghal were members of the IRA’s North Fermanagh Resistance Column, also known as the Pearse column, participating in the IRA’s Border Campaign of the late 1950s.
“When he volunteered to go on active service with the IRA Fearghal, was joined by comrades from all around Ireland. They were young activists in the main – Fearghal was not yet 21 when he was killed.
“From whatever part of Ireland they came, these Volunteers were united in their determination to fight against British occupation of their country, and to establish the right of the Irish people to unity and freedom.
“Fearghal, who played senior football for Monaghan, was an extremely popular young man, a fluent Irish speaker who grew up in a very republican household in Monaghan town where the border was a very real influence.
“At Brookeborough, the Pearse Column used an open backed lorry with a mounted machine-gun to attack the barracks, but their mines failed to explode and the column was raked with machine gun fire from the barracks.
“Several Volunteers were hit. Sean Sabhat was killed outright. Fearghal was wounded about the legs and lost consciousness.
“The column withdrew and the badly riddled lorry was abandoned at Baxter’s Cross.
“Fearghal and Seán were taken to the shelter of a byre with the hope that assistance would be forthcoming from the locals. The remainder struggled, cross-country towards the border.
“Fearghal died later and his comrades believed he was killed when RUC, B-Specials and British military came upon him where he lay with his dead section leader.
“The Brookeborough Raid is the most enduring engagement of the IRA’s Border Campaign and Fearghal and Sean were the campaign’s first IRA casualties.
“It occurred in an Ireland stunted by conservatism North and South and blighted with economic stagnation and gross inequality leading to massive unemployment and emigration.
“It showed that in spite of – or perhaps because of – the state to which Ireland had been reduced there were still young Irish men and women willing to risk their lives to achieve a truly free nation.
“In the era before the intensive censorship, and pervasive propagandising by the establishment media, Sean and Fergal were mourned across the island.
“County councils passed motions of sympathy. Fifty thousand people, including many elected officials, attended Sean Sabhat’s funeral.
“Meanwhile the Unionist government at Stormont, the British government, and the government in Dublin sought to suppress the campaign.
“Internment was imposed and there were extensive raids and arrests with the RUC and B-Specials taking a leading role. In January 1957 the Unionist government imposed a ban on Sinn Féin – a ban which was not lifted until 1974.
“In the meantime Sinn Féin contested the 26-County General Election of March 1957, electing four abstentionist TDs – Eanachán Ó hAnnluain, brother of Fearghal, in Monaghan, prisoner candidates John Joe McGirl in Sligo-Leitrim and Ruairi Ó Brádaigh in Longford-Westmeath, and veteran republican John Joe Rice in South Kerry.
“The international context was important, with several anti-colonial revolts against British rule in far flung parts of the world.
“While the IRA campaign did not come anywhere near attaining its objective of forcing British withdrawal, it placed Partition and the nature of the Six-County state onto the political agenda.
“While the conditions which led to the resurgence of republican resistance in the 1970s were different, the republican activists of the 1950s had a huge influence on the emergence of a strong Movement to fight British occupation and unionist discrimination in the early ‘70s and subsequent years.
“Today, I also want to remember, Matt Ó Mhurchada, Fearghal’s brother-in-law, who was laid to rest in this cemetery earlier this year. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilís.
“Republicans will always remember and honour those who fought and died for our shared objectives.
“The past year has witnessed the centenaries of key events in the War of Independence, which were less than 40 years old when Fearghal Ó hAnnluain died.
“This year marks the 100th anniversary of Partition – a tragedy for the people of Ireland, which men like Fearghal Ó hAnnluain and Sean Sabhat sought to correct.
“Discrimination and repression were the lived experience of nationalists in the northern state for successive generations.
“2021 will also mark the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strikers. Among the 10 Hunger Strikers to die, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty were elected as members of parliament. Those elections, alongside the widespread public support that was evident across Ireland and all over the world, clearly helped defeat the British attempts to criminalise the Irish republican struggle.
“Those in political and media establishments in Dublin, Belfast or London, who today retrospectively try to criminalise all those who fought for Irish freedom, should know that they too will not win. We have different narratives on the past, that should be respected and those families and communities who still strive for truth and justice should be supported. But, our politics needs to be about the future, about delivering a better, fairer and united Ireland.
“The 1998 Good Friday Agreement of revoked the Government of Ireland Act which brought about Partition, and we now have a peaceful, democratic path to Irish unity.
“It is time now to begin a planned transition to Irish reunification.
“The debate has already begun and the Irish government should accept its responsibility to facilitate it.
“For the people of the North, the choice now is between the narrow, inward-looking vision of Brexit Britain or an open inclusive vision of a New Ireland.
“Four and a half years ago the North voted to remain in the EU. Despite the wishes of the people it now finds itself outside it.
“There will be relief that a trade deal has now been agreed between Britain and the EU and special arrangements for Ireland, encapsulated in the Irish Protocol, will be implemented.
“The Good Friday Agreement is protected, there is no hardening of the border, protections for the all-island economy are in place and there is some certainty for businesses.
“But there is no good Brexit for Ireland, north or south, and the full consequences are yet unknown.
“This is not the end of the road. EU leaders have accepted the unique position of Ireland and have agreed that the North will automatically become part of the EU in the context of a United Ireland.
“So, we need to start planning for a future beyond Brexit and beyond Partition.
“It is time to work towards the creation of a new, United Ireland built on equality, reconciliation and respect for all.
“A chairde, the tide of history is with those who seek to build a united Ireland based on social justice and equality.
“That is the vision for which Fearghal Ó hAnnluain and Seán Sabhat gave their lives.
“And that is what the Sinn Féin leadership of 2021 is committed to achieving.
“The struggle continues.
“And we will succeed.
“Go raibh maith agaibh go léir”.