Gerry McGough's Easter Message read at the Nassau Co. NY AOH Easter Commemoration on Monday, April 6, 2015. Gerry McGeough is a former republican prisoner who served time in British US and German jails.
Dia dhaoibh a chairde,
A very Happy Easter to one and all and may I begin by extending special fraternal greetings from Co Tyrone in British Occupied Ireland to our American Hibernian Brethren.
I consider it a great honour to be asked to send a message of solidarity to this year’s Nassau County Easter Rising celebrations. This area of New York has been synonymous with the Irish independence struggle for many generations and reflects the importance of the Irish Diaspora, especially Irish America, in the long struggle for freedom in Ireland.
At various stages in Irish history when the weight of English misrule crushed down hard upon Ireland, the cause of Irish freedom often depended almost exclusively upon the exiled Irish and their descendants overseas. This was the case throughout the 17th and 18th centuries when the Gaelic chiefs, friars and soldiers on the European Continent plotted, supported, instigated and often took part in insurgency against the English in Ireland.
In later centuries, that role fell to the huge Irish population in the United States. It’s not necessary for me to remind you of the legacy of the Fenians, Clan na Gael and great figures like John Devoy and O’Donovan Rossa, suffice it to say that they represent the vibrant Irish-American energy and input that was crucially important to the struggle in the Irish homeland. It’s also worth mentioning that it was to the United States that countless Irish patriots came for support, sustenance and advice when planning Irish freedom.
Many of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation had either spent time in America or were familiar with the political intricacies and workings of Irish America. Pearse had travelled along the eastern seaboard and often engaged in long discussions with influential Irish Republican stalwarts, such as my fellow Tyrone man Joseph McGarrity, in the run-up to the Rising.
Tom Clarke who hailed originally from Dungannon, close to where I live, knew the United States extremely well and it’s a source of tremendous pride for me to know that this old Fenian was one of the two key figures behind the Uprising of Easter Week 1916. The other, Seán MacDiarmada, was originally a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and it is said that his remarkable capacity for plotting, secrecy and intrigue was perfected through his experience with and exposure to the Byzantine inner politics of the A.O.H.
Nor can we overlook the strong Irish American influence that lay behind the Hibernian Rifles, one of the most courageous elements to fight for Irish freedom during that fateful week in central Dublin almost a century ago. Theirs is a story and legacy deserving of much greater attention by historians and Patriots.
Now, in the twenty-first century, our need for a focused, pro-Irish freedom American Diaspora is greater than ever. A United Ireland remains little more than a pipe-dream and never have I seen the fires of nationalist fervour in Ireland as low as they are today. In the twenty-six counties Patriotism in its proper sense is practically a dirty word. In the six-counties young people, even the children of former militant republicans, know virtually nothing about our rich Irish history and tradition of resistance to foreign misrule. It is, sadly, not uncommon to hear young (and not-so-young) people from nationalist/republican backgrounds refer to “here in the United Kingdom” when speaking about the North of Ireland. Incredibly, others openly talk about a place they call “Londonderry”, the ultimate blasphemy for any decent Irish man or woman.
Yet Irish patriots do remain on Irish soil and despite the threats, silence and censorship that have been imposed upon them they are becoming increasingly vocal and critical of the circumstances that allow for the continued, illegal British presence in our country.
Sooner or later these people will find a political voice and it will be to Irish America that they will look for solidarity, guidance and sympathy, just as generations of true Irish Patriots have done for centuries. Once again, mo chairde, it is your duty to close ranks and stand watch in order to insure that the home fires of the ancient Irish Nation are kept burning for future generations. May God Bless you all.
Éirinn go Brách.