On Saturday past, Fermanagh Republicans joined compatriots from Cavan and Leitrim to officially launch the One Ireland One Vote Petition for an All-Ireland Referendum on Irish Unity. Bridget Carroll, a cousin of 1916 leader Sean MacDiarmada, was the first to sign the petition at his homestead in Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim.
Independent Cllr. Bernice Swift chaired the event, where Eamon McPhillips from Newtownbutler read the Proclamation before Bernard Swift sang a song he wrote especially for Sean MacDiarmada.
Opening the day’s proceedings, Bernice stated: ‘I want to thank everyone for attending today for our One Ireland One Vote Petition launch, for an All-Ireland Referendum on Irish Unity. This is an historic and patriotic day for all of us to be standing in the very house that the great Sean MacDiarmada grew up in, and spent the early part of his life in.
‘Sean MacDiarmada was born and grew up here in Corranmore in rural Leitrim, only a few short miles from my own County Fermanagh. Growing up here he witnessed the aftermath of oppression and poverty from the famine and evictions by British landlords.
‘His role in revolutionary politics started at an early age and continued until his execution on the 12th May 1916. Sean MacDiarmada was a true leader, and was instrumental in the organising and planning of the Easter Rising in 1916. He has been rightly described as the mind of the revolution, something that most historians would agree with as without him the Rising may not have happened at that period in time.
‘Irish Republicanism started to become properly organised when Sean met the old Fenian Tom Clarke, who had just been released from a British prison, because Tom Clarke instantly recognised the passion for freedom in Sean MacDiarmada and the two became nearly inseparable, organising and recruiting over the length and breath of Ireland in preparation for the coming Rising.
‘Sean MacDiarmada knew that signing the Proclamation and organising the armed insurrection on 24th April in Dublin would mean ultimate death for himself and his fellow signatures. It did not phase him as he’s quoted saying:
‘We bleed that the Nation may live, I die that the Nation may live. Damn your concessions England, we want our Country.’
‘Sean MacDiarmada and his comrades knew the risks involved in striking against England. They were the most powerful army in the world at that time and had invaded and conquered over two thirds of it.
‘The Proclamation of 1916 declared a Republic, it was a declaration to the world that Ireland was no longer under the control of England and that we would no longer be their slaves. The exceptional Leadership of 1916 demanded full independence from England and a 32-county National Parliament for all the people of Ireland, but sadly, nearly 100 years later, we still have not achieved what Sean MacDiarmada and so many others died for. True freedom and independence seem as far away as ever.
‘But today as Irish Republicans we gather at the homestead of one of the greatest leaders Ireland has ever produced Sean MacDiarmada, we gather with the same objective and determination as he did, about achieving Irish freedom and independence. Last week the 1916 Societies in the homestead of Padraig Pearse launched our One Ireland One Vote Petition for an All-Ireland Referendum on Irish Unity. The Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke was the first to sign and officially launch our campaign for Irish Freedom.
‘Today, here in the homestead of Sean MacDiarmada, we are honoured to have his cousins join us as we officially launch this petition, and we are very privileged that nearly 100 years since his execution that the spirit of Sean MacDiarmada is still alive in Coranmore Kiltyclogher and still rising up for the cause of Irish freedom. I’m sure he’s looking down smiling knowing that Leitrim is still playing its part.
‘We in the 1916 Societies contend the popular will of the Irish people is for change in this country, and we want to establish a 32-County Republic as declared in the Proclamation of 1916. We believe our campaign for an All-Ireland referendum on Irish Unity is a means to achieve this.
‘We believe constitutional authority resides with the Irish people alone, that the British government’s veto on Irish Unity is without legitimacy and must end. Through our One Ireland One Vote campaign we intend to mobilise the Irish people into fully achieving what the exceptional leadership of 1916 fought and died for, a 32-county National Parliament.
‘For far too long the Irish people have been misruled and it’s high time all the people of Ireland had their democratic right and their say on a United Ireland. Partition has failed miserably and has divided our country for too long. Next year is the Centenary of the 1916 Rising and Ireland is still divided and partitioned by Britain. Just like the people of Scotland we demand our right to independence. Our petition will give this generation of Irish men and women their democratic right to have their say, to end partition and achieve a 32-county Republic, as declared in Easter 1916.’
Bridget Carroll, a cousin of 1916 leader Sean MacDiarmada, then came forward and was the first to sign the petition, officially launchig the campaign. The proceedings closed with Amhran Na bhFiann.