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Sunday February 20, 2011 20:07 by Seán Ó Murchú - Republican Sinn Féin
90th Clonmult Martyrs Commemoration
Speaking at Republican Sinn Féins 90th anniversary of the Clonmult ambush on February 20 2011 the President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton said:
A Cairde agus gcomrádaithe is an onóir dom a bheith i gContae Chorcaí
In the early months of 1921 the war against British imperialism was reaching a crescendo. On March 1 Con Murphy of Millstreet was the first volunteer of the IRA to be executed under the martial law which had been imposed on Munster. If Munster can be described as the wheel of the Irish Revolution during the period of the Tan war then truly Cork was its hub.
The war fought by the various Cork Brigades of the IRA was textbook guerrilla warfare fought against the British Empire. The volunteers of the Cork Brigades brought the fight to the enemy in an efficient and effective manner, choosing their point of attack carefully, remaining on the move at all times.
The book Rebel Corks fighting Story describes the conditions which the IRA had to contend with: The IRA had to fight and learn the business of fighting at the same time; had to prefect themselves to a degree of discipline and skill that takes years to acquire in regular armies. Their volunteer spirit, zeal and their objectivity helped them to become proficient at arms in a short time and turn them into soldiers who could act with high intelligence and cool self-control in any emergency or enterprise, whether collectively or individually. Because of the effectiveness of the campaign in Cork and the losses the British had suffered there, the British response in Cork was all the more brutal such was their anxiety to send a message out to the rest of Ireland.
By the early spring of 1921 the British war machine had failed in its attempts to contain the war in Munster or Cork, despite the imposition of martial law. Under Commandant Diarmuid OHurley the East Cork flying column attached to the 4th Battalion of the First Cork Brigade IRA set up headquarters in a farmhouse close to the village of Clonmult.
Twenty men had been chosen to take part in a number of planned operations, using Clonmult as training and living quarters. However 90 years ago today on February 20, 1921 as the column under acting OC Captain Jack OConnell prepared to move out in order to attack a British military train at Cobh junction, the columns position was betrayed by an informer. A Company of the British armys Hampshire Regiment surrounded the house.
The battle which ensued and its bloody aftermath wiped out almost the entire East Cork flying Column, resulting in the deaths of 12 volunteers, the largest single loss since 1916 to date, and the capture of nine men, two of whom, Paddy OSullivan and Maurice Moore, both of Cobh were executed at Cork military barracks on May 5. The book Rebel Cork Fighting Story records the reaction of the men when called on to surrender: Intensified fire and A Soldiers Song was the answer of the Irishmen who had sworn to be free.
The majority of those killed at Clonmult were shot in cold blood following their surrender. It should also be note that the men at Clonmult threw their arms into the fire which engulfed the house rather than surrender them to the British forces.
The Column commander Diarmuid OHurley was to be killed in action by British Crown forces on May 28 1921.
The events at Clonmult as well as the Kerrypike massacre a month later - when five volunteers were bayoneted to death including Michael OSullivan, uncle of Daithi O Conaill-were war crimes.
The ideals which burned in the hearts of the Clonmult martyrs still burns bright in the hearts of a new generation of Irish people. Again young Irish Republicans are prepared to resist British rule in Ireland while defiantly pledging their allegiance to the All-Ireland Republic of Easter Week.
The fact that today in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisons young men are imprisoned because of their belief in the full freedom of Ireland gives the lie to those who would say that British rule is now accepted in Ireland. If we are to draw any lesson from the history of our nation it is this; while there remains a British army of occupation in Ireland there will always be a section of the Irish people prepared to resist it.
The internment of Martin Corry and Brendan Lillis in Maghaberry prison again exposes the true face of British occupation. A march in Lurgan, Co Armagh on January 23 also showed the true spirit of a new generation who defied the British Colonial police and their threats when they held a very successful march calling for the release of Martin Corry. Since then the RUC/PSNI have issued threats of arrest against a number of the organisers.
The presence of British soldiers on the streets of Newry this month again drives home the point that British rule remains a reality for the people of the Six Counties.
The proposed visit of the Queen of England to the 26-County state is part of the campaign being waged by Leinster House, Stormont and Westminster to normalise Britains immoral and illegal presence in our country. The message of Irish Republicans could not be any clearer: British occupation will never be either normal or acceptable, legal or moral. We will be actively opposing a visit by the head of the British State to any part of Ireland and we are calling on all who value Irelands right to nationhood to join us in the protests against this visit.
This coming week the people of the 26 Counties will be asked to vote in an election, which is meaningless. Merely exchanging one set of gombeen politicians for another changes nothing and certainly does nothing to relive the all too real economic distress being experienced by working people throughout Ireland.
We hear much from the array of political parties contesting the election about change and reform. Some even speak about building a New Republic. Irish Republicans point out that we had an All-Ireland Republic, born out of the fires of Easter Week, carved from the granite of the 1916 Proclamation. This very real All-Ireland Republic was subverted by force of British arms and the treachery of a section of the national movement.
We are calling on people to spoil their vote in this election and by doing so tell the political elites that they are not prepared to prop up a failed and discredited state. The two partitionist states have failed and are obstacles to the building of a New Ireland.
The change which the current situation demands now is radical and revolutionary change leading to a New Ireland.
Republican Sinn Féins social and economic policies Éire Nua and Saol Nua can once more make that All-Ireland Republic a reality for all of the Irish people.
As Irish Republicans our steps must be ever onward with no retreat from basic principle. I leave you now with these words of that staunch defender of the All-Ireland Republic Brian OHiggins: Our slogan will not be the defeatist cry of On to the Republic as if it never existed, as if it did not exist to-day. Our slogan will be Rally to the living Republic for which our martyrs gave their lives! Rally to the flag that has never been lowered in defeat or surrendered in dishonour! Rally to the cause that has been made holy by the blood of martyrs in every age, the cause of the unyielding, uncompromising, unconquered and indivisible Irish Nation!
An Phoblacht Abú