Speech: Clonmult Martyrs Commemoration 2023 – Midleton, Co. Cork

a chairde Gael,

ba mhaith liom ar an gcéad dul síos mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le Sinn Fein Oirthear Chorcaí as ucht an cuiridh bheith anseo libh inniu agus óráid a thabhairt ag comóradh Laochra Cluain Molt. 

It it an honour for me to have been asked to address this commemoration and to stand here in front of you at the graves of these men. 

It is an honour because of the high esteem in which these fourteen volunteers and their comrades are held not just locally, not just regionally, but indeed across the nation. The Cork No. 1 Brigade and its 4th Battalion are well known and well respected – no more so than in my own area of West Waterford.

It is also an honour to me personally because of the great fondness and respect I have for my Sinn Féin friends and comrades here in East Cork. 

Today we gather to remember fourteen young men who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for the Irish Republic. 

I was shown photographs of the 14 volunteers during the week – what struck me was their youth – these were fresh-faced young men, farm labourers, shop clerks, apprentices and worker – ordinary young me –  with their futures to look forward to. 

We think back on that turbulent time in our country’s history and we imagine that those who participated in that war against empire were titans, giants of men, battle-hardened war heroes and veteran guerrillas. 

Some were, but for the most part they were young men and women, in their late teens or early twenties – old head on young shoulders. They were fearless, determined, visionary, but they were young and they had their whole lives ahead of them. 

They were ordinary people doing extraordinary things – united in a vision for a brighter future. 

They were excited. They knew the future belonged to them, and they set about the work of shaping it. 

Their grandparent’s generation had starved under the yoke of empire. Their fathers and brothers had been mowed down at Gallipoli and the Somme as cannon fodder for the empire. Their mothers struggled under the enforced poverty that saw the wealth of their nation stripped by empire.

They knew what they were fighting for – they could see the goal of Irish freedom before them – and they were determined to achieve it – not just for the generations past but for the generations to come. 

On that fateful day in February 1921 20 IRA volunteers were preparing to vacate a house in Clonmult that they had been using as a staging post for their operations against British forces in the area. 

A party of British soldiers, Black and Tans and RIC surrounded the house, killing two sentries in the process. A gun battle ensued and a number of volunteers were shot and killed. The British set fire to the house and as volunteers escaped the fames they were shot down. Of those that were captured, three were put against a wall and shot by Black and Tans. A further two were later hanged in Cork Gaol. 

Killed that day were:

Óglach Michael Desmond, Óglach John Joe Joyce, Óglach Mick Hallihan, Captaen James Ahern, Óglach Dick Hegarty, Óglach Christopher O’Sullivan, Óglach David Desmond, Óglach Jeremiah Ahern, Óglach Liam Ahern, Óglach Donal Dennehy, Óglach Joseph Morrissey, and Óglach James Glavin.

Hanged at Cork Gaol on 28th April 1921 were:

Óglach Patrick O’Sullivan and Óglach Maurice Moore.

In remembering these men and their sacrifice we recommit ourselves to the cause of the independence, sovereignty and unity of Ireland and to a 32-County socialist republic based on liberty, equality and solidarity.

The savagery of the Tan war gave way to the savagery of the civil war and to the partition of Ireland. The republican ideal was trampled on by, one one hand, a Free State ruled by a political, financial and clerical elite, and on the other, by a sectarian Orange State that was build on sectarianism, persecution and division.

Partition not only divided our island and our people. It created two conservative states and economies, controlled and run in the interests of privileged elites, North and South. The vision of the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme as betrayed. Workers were to be exploited by new, native masters – while the wealth of the nation would be squandered not by absent British aristocrats but by a new Irish elite. 

Inequality was at the heart of the two states and we continue to live with that legacy.

In spite of all, the desire for liberty remained and the republican ideal survived.

The division of Ireland has held back our potential for too long. There is now a real opportunity to shape a better, more prosperous, more equal future.

We now have the means to achieve an economically strong, socially just United Ireland.

Unity is central to building a modern, inclusive, fair society and a country which can play its full part in the world. A nation home for all our people. 

East Cork has its part to play in delivering real political change. The message must go out loud and clear – if we want Irish unity, if we want an Irish republic worthy of the name – where workers and families come before vulture funds and speculators –  then we need to elect Sinn Féin to government. 

Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in East Cork at the next General Election. It is an ambitious plan, but we are determined to keep step with the people and with the huge demand for change. 

Success will require all shoulders at the wheel and I would appeal to everyone here to get involved. As Bobby Sands wrote  “everyone has a part to play; no part is too big or too small.”

Just like the Clonmult Martyrs and that generation of republican activists – we need to understand that we are capable of doing extraordinary things. That change has always been brought about in this way – by ordinary people stepping up to the plate and doing what’s necessary. 

Irish Republicans in 2023 are as determined as those who have gone before us to realise the vision of the 1916 Proclamation – an independent, united Ireland and a real republic built on the foundation stones of equality and social justice for all citizens.

While we take strength, courage and inspiration fro past generations – from the men buried here – like them, our eyes are fixed firmly on the future and on achieving the goal that they, and we, strive for.  

Tá uallach mór oibre le dhéanamh a chairde, agus beimíd ag braith ar a chéile chun ár dtionscadail stairiúl a chur i gcrích. 

Beir bua a chairde!

Up the Republic!

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