Attached below is the oration delivered by Seán Ó Dubhláin, Sinn Féin Poblachtach PRO at the 60th Anniversary Commemoration in remembrance of Feargal Ó hAnnluain, Monaghan. The event was chaired by Ard Chomhairle member, Martin Duffy. A full report will be issued in the February issue of SAOIRSE. Republican Sinn Féin would like to extend our thanks to all who traveled from many parts of the country for what was a very fitting and dignified event to remember this brave Volunteer of the Republican Army.
When asked to speak here and it became possible, it was an honour. The names of Fergal O’Hanlon and Seán South have become immortalised in the folklore of Irish Republicanism.
I’m sure it may be the same for many of you here today as for myself that they were some of the first republicans I ever heard of. The power of music and poetry has been powerful always in Ireland, and when Fergal and Seán were killed in action fighting for Ireland’s freedom many poems and songs were written. Two songs however ‘Seán South from Garryowen’ and ‘The Patriot Game’ stand out in popular discourse, the latter declares,
“My name is O’Hanlon, and I’ve just turned sixteen.
My home is in Monaghan, it’s there I was weaned
I learned all my life cruel England’s to blame,
So now I am part of the patriot game.”
Those of Fergal’s generation, being from Monaghan, Britain’s imposed border of partition had a very real impact on the people living here.
These songs stand out and are regularly sung across Ireland even today. They are even sung by people with no knowledge of who the songs are about. I recall one time out selling SAOIRSE in a pub, and there were quite a few Free State soldiers in there, all singing away Seán South of Garryowen, I wonder how many of them realised he and Fergal were soldiers of a 32 County Republican Army, the true Ógliagh na hÉireann.
Fergal and Seán were soldiers of one allegiance only, to the Republic Proclaimed in 1916. They lived for it, they died for it. The result, they sustain it. Last weekend we heard our comrade Martin, chairing here today give a strong oration in memory of Seán.
Óglach Fergal O Hanlon, he is the focus of our attention here today. I remember a few years ago sitting next to Matt Conway after a commemoration and speaking with him. Matt was a veteran volunteer who sadly passed away last year, but he served with Seán and Fergal and knew them personally, he recollected Seán as very serious and Fergal somewhat the opposite, being full of devilment, perhaps this reflected best how young Fergal was, he was only 20 years when he fell for Ireland and spilt his blood upon the sacred of our ancient nation.
As I mentioned the partition of Ireland had a very real impact upon peoples life, it still does. For Fergal growing up as he did in a strong republican family it was something both inconsistent with their republicanism and in terms of acceptability for any long term solution. For them partition must end. Indeed it still must. We share this goal still sadly it must be said, 60 years on.
Republican Ireland was to go back to war. The counter revolution and bloody victory of the Free State had damaged undoubtedly the moral of the IRA and Sinn Féin, a new generation would need to be found, and subsequently a raid upon a republican meeting on March 9th 1946 was to be the catalyst for the republican leadership to gather the public’s opinion and enthusiasm towards a possible reorganisation. The Free State police had uncovered what was only a discussion of feasibility about bring the army executive up to full strength. They published it and public opinion interpreted it as an actual organisation, this happened in the same year as the death of Hunger Strike Martyr Seán McCaughey, there was a new found determination to get the ball rolling again and so it happened running into the early 50s.
As a period of activism grew so did the drills, the United Irishman newspaper came on the scene and volunteers hungry for knowledge joined Gaelic language classes and involved themselves in all aspects of Irish heritage. Fergal was a fluent speaker of our Gaelic language and by all accounts a talented Gaelic footballer.
All of this activism was met with planning and preparation. A new campaign specifically to be contained in the occupied 6 counties with the aim of weakening partition through a guerrilla war, the objective to create vast areas of liberated zones. On December 12, 1956 after years of arms procurement, “Operation Harvest”, also known as the Resistance campaign was launched with attacks at various points along the border by over a 150 IRA volunteers. Another phase in the national liberation struggle had begun.
It became a very busy time for volunteers full time involved. A sister of Fergal’s recalled him leaving the house for the last time; “I remember the lads leaving the house to go to the North. The late Dáithí Ó Conaill was there. Dáithí was one of the senior ones on the operation. He was there when we were all saying goodbye to Fergal that night.”
The Brookeborough Raid took place on January 1st 1957, led by Seán Garland and second in command Dáithí Ó Conaill. It has been recorded that this day, the snow was deep on the ground. A lorry carried 14 Volunteers armed with a variety of weapons, including two Bren guns, Thomson machine guns and .303 calibre rifles, to the Barracks. There were a number of mines and grenades to be used during the raid. But the mines failed to explode which were placed at the door of the barracks and a gun battle came about. Six Volunteers were wounded, two died. Fergal and Seán.
The order to retreat had been issued by Seán Garland, himself wounded, the lorry was loaded up and they made the retreat as far the Altawark crossroads, here the lorry gave-up due to damage. Dáithí Ó Conaill took over command, Fergal and Seán’s bodies were brought to a nearby farmhouse as the rest of the Volunteers made their way across the border, over rough snow covered terrain and pursued by up to 400 British.
During the funerals, over 50,000 people came to show their respect to the fallen volunteers. Noel Kavanagh from Dublin gave the oration at Fergal’s graveside during which he said;
“Any person here today who does not understand why Fergal fought and died is standing here insulting Volunteer Fergal O’Hanlon. Having educated himself in the history of his country and the present situation, he decided to join his fellow countrymen in remedying the wrongs that have happened…”
He went onto say;
“If you wish to erect a monument to this volunteer I ask you to erect a monument which can be seen all over the world. I have in mind a monument which Fergal would like and that is the Irish Republic.”
Fergal made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of an Independent, Gaelic and Free Ireland. The Ireland of today is neither Gaelic, Independent nor Free. The Republic envisioned by Pearse and Connolly in 1916 is a far flung reality from the two partitionist states still imposed on the People where our language, culture and identity is still shunned, undermined and discriminated against. We still endure partition. Exploitation and discrimination. Our people are second class citizens in their own land as international imperialists divide and conquer our country, thieving our resources and wealth and it’s our people suffering. We hear a lot about austerity, austerity means nothing, it is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. It’s a word bandied about by opportunist politicians as a stick to beat the Free State Government with, but who offer no alternative.
We in Republican Sinn Féin do offer an alternative, we offer an alternative to that sham going on in Stormont, to the corruption of Leinster House. We offer Éire Nua – a New Ireland, a Federal Democratic and Socialist Republic.
How long must we endure until the people organise and fight again? We must make them realise the manner of imperialist work and how imperialists and capitalists have worked to carve up Ireland….
We remember and salute our POWs and commend all who have come out in defence of the Irish language and those suffering the injustice of homelessness in recent weeks. We must pull all these issues together into one Movement and strike a blow against the institutions responsible. This is our duty, our time, to bring to account the enemies of the People and end the carnival of reaction and bad governance sustained by partition.”
Onwards to Éire Nua – A New Ireland.
An Phoblacht Abú
– Seán Ó Dubhláin, Sinn Féin, January 14, 2017