The Cathal Brugha 1916 Society, Kilbarrack/Donaghmede, held a successful debate to launch their Society based in the north-east of Dublin. The day’s events were held in memory of Tony ‘TC’ Catney, a lifelong republican and popular member of the 1916 Societies, who loved nothing better than a debate on the goings-on within republicanism. It was apt then that a Society with such a youthful membership, ranging from only 16 to 20, should honour a man who himself put great emphasis on the role and development of young republicans.
What was a well-attended meeting, in the Teachers Club in Parnell Square in Dublin’s city centre, began with the invited panel, consisting of the 1916 Societies’ Dee Fennell, ex-Vice President of Republican Sinn Féin Cait Trainor, and the Pensive Quill’s Anthony McIntyre, all giving their respective addresses to the assembled guests.
It was considered only fitting, as a life-long friend and comrade of TC, that Anthony (or ‘Mackers’ as most of us know him) would give the first talk. Evoking the memory of TC, with a legion of humorous, anecdotal tales of his legend – which anyone who knew him would have recognised as on the button time-and-time again – Mackers made many insightful points on the present state of republicanism. Key among them was his argument against the further use or need of secret armies, the case being made that when secrecy becomes norm, rot will eventually set in – no matter the movement. Known as an arch-critic of Sinn Féin needless-to-say they failed to escape his wrath, a particular point of note being how their representatives are kept subservient to the party leadership, their wage depending on not rocking the boat rather than to exercise critical thought.
Cait Trainor used much of her talk to focus on a federal solution in Ireland, arguing it would be easier to absorb the Unionist population into new constitutional arrangements by offering them meaningful power within the framework of a nine-county Ulster. Dee Fennell, a community activist and independent republican, known for his work within GARC and the stopping of the return march through Ardoyne last summer, gave a passionate address, identifying the need for work on the ground within our communities as the way forward. Defending the ‘One Ireland One Vote’ strategy of the 1916 Societies, he argued the need for realism, that there would be no change to the constitutional status of the Six Counties without a referendum – a referendum held to be undemocratic and devoid of legitimacy unless done on an all-Ireland basis.
The panel having had their say, discussion then moved to the floor. A steady stream of hands, with numerous points thrown up for debate – from the continued use of armed struggle, to the issue of criminal involvement in republican groups, to the lack of education for young people in republican circles, to the lack of females coming into republicanism – ensured a comradely debate was had by all. We hope all who came took something from the event. As was stressed on the day, to get republicans from across the spectrum into the same room was an achievement in itself.
The debate was eventually brought to an end, after two and a half hours, with hands still in the air, time constraints on the part of venue management dictating things be wrapped up forthwith. Indeed it was only proper that an event to honour TC went well into overtime, with discussion still ongoing. Anyone who’s worked with him down the years would no doubt agree he’d a roguish skill and knack of causing meetings to run well past time with his talking and debating and arguing the point – he had it down to a fine art! In a way then it was a fitting tribute. All-in-all we hope we did the name of Tony Catney justice and we’ve no doubt if he could have been there himself he would have revelled in such an atmosphere. The privilege was all ours, rest in peace a chara.