SEVERAL hundred republicans from across Counties Derry and Antrim gathered at The Loup on Sunday to commemorate and pay tribute to the men and women who have given their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom and mark the 96th anniversary of the Easter rising.
The annual commemoration was chaired by Magherafelt Councillor Sean McPeake and the main speaker was Donegal South-West TD Pearse Doherty. Pearse Doherty has gained a reputation as a great orator and is one the leading voices of opposition to the Fine Gael/Labour government in the Dáil.
Living up to his reputation, he gave an impassioned and fluid speech reflecting on the the challenges and sacrifices undertaken by generations of Irish republicans past and of those that face republicans of today:
“I am honored to have been invited to The Loup to speak at what is the most important republican event of the year. It is fitting that I do so as we stand at the graveside of Seán Larkin one of the Drumboe Martyrs, who found a welcome among the republicans of my own native County Donegal before his capture and execution at Drumboe on 14 March 1923. Sean was one of the first victims of partition rule in our country, one of the 77 republican prisoners of war executed by the Free State government during the Civil War. He rejected the Treaty and stood by the Irish Republic.
“On Easter week 96 years ago, republicans, nationalists, socialists, suffragettes, Irish language activists, trade unionists, and Irish citizens from across the country came together with a single objective in mind. To assert the right of the Irish people to govern our own country, free from British rule, in an equal and democratic society.
“96 years ago, and in every generation since, Irish men and women have struggled, fought and died in an attempt to secure the kind of republic promised in the 1916 Proclamation. And so today, here in The Loup, across the 32 county’s, and indeed across the world, Irish republicans remember the men and women of 1916; celebrate the ideals for which they fought and died; and commemorate every subsequent generation of Irish republicans who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we, the Irish people, could be free. We all owe a great depth of gratitude to these men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of republican objectives. They stood up for justice, equality and freedom. Their vision, their determination, and their courage are to be commended and drive us onwards.
“In any other time these men and women named on the local roll of honor and roll of remembrance would have lived ordinary lives, growing up to have families of their own, rear children and grandchildren, contribute to the life of their community, their local GAA club or their local Credit Union. But they lived in far from ordinary times. And young, brave and committed men and women from this county and others took the extraordinary step of putting the well being of their community and their country before their own and in doing so paid a very heavy price. We must celebrate the contribution made by the volunteers of the IRA to the struggle and draw inspiration from that contribution.
“The progress of recent years has meant that the struggle for Irish freedom has entered a new phase where peaceful means provide the way forward. The sacrifices of our comrades in the past, those who suffered death or injury or imprisonment, have ensured that there can never be a return to a one-party Orange state, to second-class citizenship, to British militarization and institutionalised sectarianism. But there is still a significant way to go before the achievement of republican goals”.