The oration at the Seán Keenan commemoration on March 5 was delivered by Garrett Banks, Ard Chomhairle, Sinn Féin Poblachtach, Dublin who said:
“I would like to say what an honour it is to be asked to speak here today to commemorate the life of Seán Keenan on this the 24th anniversary.
“Seán Keenan died on March 3, 1993. Seán didn’t join the Republican Movement; he was born into it; his family was steeped in Republicanism.
“Seán’s father Séamus played an active role in the Tan War of 1919/1921 and remained true and steadfast in the defence of the Irish Republic during the Counter Revolution of 1922/1923.
“Seán joined Na Fianna at a young age and progressed into the ranks of Óglaigh na hÉireann. His first arrest and detention came in 1935 when he received three months for carrying the National Flag.
For Seán‘s uncompromising Republican beliefs he was to be interned without trial on three separate occasions totalling fifteen years throughout the 40s, the Resistance Campaign of the 50s and 60s and again in the seventies.
“During Seán’s time in Crumlin Road jail he was to the forefront on prison protests and was never found wanting in his dedication to his fellow prisoners and the task of bearing bad news to his comrades within the jails.
“He also found himself interned on the particularly brutal prison ship al-Rawdah docked in Strangford Lough.
“Seán’s father was interned in Crumlin road jail. He died shortly after his release, Seán was not allowed parole for his father’s funeral, another tool of repression still being used by the jail administration today.
“Following his release, he, along with a small group, began to rebuild the movement from the ashes of the forties. Seán’s passion for the Irish language saw him set up the Seán Dolan Craobh of Conradh na Gaeilge in Derry city in 1948.
“Whilst being involved in the organising of Operation Harvest in 1956 he once again found himself interned in Crumlin Road.
“Seán’s wife Nancy spent three years and nine months in Armagh jail in the 1940s as a result of being active in Cumann na mBan.
“Seán played a key role as chairman of the Derry Citizens Defence Association between July and October 1969 and played a prominent role in the events surrounding the creation of Free Derry throughout the 1970s. He was made Honorary Vice-President for life of Republican Sinn Féin.
“During the split of 1969 Seán alongside Dáithí Ó Conaill became one of the key organisers of the Republican Movement. in 1986 when the Provisionals opted to go down the road of constitutional politics and abandon the ideals of the men and women of 1916 and their predecessors, Seán found himself on the outside literally as he was locked out of the 1986 Ard-Fheis by former comrades, who have no shame, morals or principles and now maintain and administer British rule and law here in the Occupied Six Counties.
“Seán’s work was endless towards the Republican Movement and he was instrumental in the setting up of NORAID in America in 1971.
“Seán Keenan fought against British rule, Stormont and the unionist veto on Irish national independence all his life. He struggled for human rights, community issues and workers rights, he was a tireless volunteer.
“It is also fitting today that we remember Seán’s son Colm who was killed by British troops in 1972 and the sacrifice of the whole Keenan family
“The sacrifices of the Keenan family are still being enforced on families and Republicans throughout the 32 counties. During the previous week in Dublin three members of Republican Sinn Féin who are charged with alleged membership of Óglaigh na hÉireann once again had their case put back till May.
With yet more delays in the trial the three tireless community activists are under strict draconian bail conditions which essentially is a form of house arrest with curfews and conditions which make it impossible to associate with other Republicans. This in itself is a sentence before any outcome of any trial.
“The spirit of the Republican Movement from Derry to Dublin and all across the nation will not be broken. we will not be intimidated, we defy you, do your worst…
“The ongoing harassment of Republican Sinn Féin activists and Republicans in Derry Lurgan and Tyrone in particular are to be condemned as nothing more than intimidation, the constant threat to our members and ongoing incursions of the rusts and British Crown Forces into
Republican/Nationalist areas is nothing new but is increasing on a daily basis as the puppet state fears the Nationalist/ Republican community’s stance against Stormont and the British militia forces.
“Don’t be fooled, some people will have you believe there is no British presence on our streets; the British army are regularly seen in convoy especially here in Derry. This so-called new police force is now using more covert metods on spying and harassing Republicans, this does not go unnoticed.
“As long as there is British rule here in Ireland and until the last vestige of it is removed we shall fight for a united and peaceful Ireland as is clearly laid out in our ÉIRE NUA and SAOL NUA documents as the only way forward. These documents can be acceptable to all sections of Ireland and the Irish people, they are both inclusive and fair to all. They show to all that with devolved government comes proper democracy; not the farce that is Stormont or Leinster House.
“Homelessness, austerity, poverty, the drugs epidemic and the failure of the 26-County state to provide decent working and living conditions have brought more people out onto the streets in support of the workers and in particular the recent strikes at Tesco stores. Tesco essentially were trying to break the unions and the workforce and set a precedent down the line. This would see people employed on zero hour contracts with no security or hope for the future. We applaud all those who have taken part in demonstrations in support of the ongoing workers struggle here in Doire and throughout the 32 counties.
“I would like to draw your attention to the ongoing plight of our political Prisoners of War languishing in Maghaberry, Portlaoise and Hydebank. The conditions remain threatening and intimidating and still the 2010 Agreement has not been implemented.
“Forced strip-searching, isolation, internment by remand and the revocation of licence in the case of Tony Taylor continues, also the miscarriages of justice as in the case of the Craigavon Two and is nothing short of denying every political prisoner their basic human rights.
“The plight of the prisoners is often a forgotten one outside of Republican circles due to the media blackout on anything which goes against the status quo… the POWs would not be in prison were it not for the occupation of their land and their resistance to it. We commend the prisoners and send solidarity greetings to them.
“Everybody here today supports the same ideals and beliefs of Seán Keenan. The best way to commemorate Seán is to go back into your communities and get involved in local issues and put forward our proposals for a new and free Ireland a remain true to the ideals of Tone, Emmet and the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the Irish Republic.
“An Phoblacht Abú.”