Guest writer Helen McClafferty with her take on the return home from prison of republican activist Gerry McGeough
A great night was had by all at the welcome home function for Gerry McGeough. The venue was packed. Several hundred people from East Tyrone, across Ireland and overseas gathered for what was a truly upbeat and energy packed night. The craic, as they say, was absolutely fantastic.
The band, The Irish Brigade, kept us all on our toes with lively rebel music and everyone appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves. I was really impressed by the turnout and especially the number of young people there.
Damian Herron, northern Chair of the Free Gerry McGeough Campaign and Chairman of the Gerry McGeough Welcome Home Function, emceed the event.
The speeches went over extremely well. I was a little nervous in delivering my speech at first, but the crowd made me feel extremely welcome. I thanked all those who worked so hard on the campaign and for the generous support we received from the AOH in the United States and other supporters across the country and afar.
We had an array of flags displayed around the room which included the Irish Tricolor, the Stars and Stripes, the Catalan (Senyera) flag, the flag of the state of New Jersey and a Hibernian flag.
Everyone was delighted that Eamon O’Cuiv made it up to the event and delivered a rousing speech.
Martin Galvin’s oratory once again rose to the occasion and was well received by the enthusastic audience present.
Moya St. Leger’s speech was brilliant in its analysis of the injustices perpetrated on Gerry.
Jordi San Jose, Mayor of San Fileu in Catalonia, stole the hearts of the people with his praise for the courage of the Irish people.
Luz Retuerta, Maria’s sister, pointed out how they have adopted Ireland as their second country.
Una McGeough excelled herself as always and prompted Eamon O’Cuiv to say “that she was a future politician in the making”.
Gerry McGeough’s speech received a standing ovation and the crowd howled with laughter when he poked fun at his “old friend” DUP MLA Morris Morrow.
Grown men were moved to tears when Gerry touched upon the suffering of the Irish people over the centuries under English rule. At the end of Gerry’s speech he called for the English establishment “to get out of Ireland and for the country to be united and free”. He finished up by invoking the old saying
Ireland was Ireland when England was a pup
Ireland will be Ireland when England’s buggered up.
At the close of the venue, spirits were high when a young lady approached me and said she was the cousin of the late hunger striker Martin Hurson. She told me she hadn’t been to such a positive venue like this in a long time and what a good time she had. She said “I wish there could be more “do’s” like this again, so positive and so upbeat”.