Before the first public meeting Mr. Martin visited the Brooklyn studios of WBAI Radio, where he gave a wide-ranging interview to Radio Free Eireann hosts John McDonagh and Sandy Boyer. Describing how the Societies were formed in East Tyrone six years ago, Kevin spoke of our proposals for ‘peaceful alternative strategies to revive feelings about a United Ireland and rebuild momentum to that aim’. He remarked to the listeners how ‘current British strategy gives former republicans, now constitutional nationalists, the trappings of power at Stormont while trapping citizens with a permanent unionist veto at Stormont over any real change, much less movement to a United Ireland’.
When asked if a United Ireland was anywhere on the political horizon at present, Mr. Martin replied:
Today that ideal seems further away than ever. A recent poll in the Guardian newspaper showed that only one in five in the Occupied Six Counties believe there will be a United Ireland within 20 years and that number is half what it was in surveys after the Good Friday Agreement. Sadly there are some in the 26-Counties who seem to feel they have little or no obligation towards fellow Irish citizens living under a British administration directed by David Cameron. This cannot be allowed, therefore, the 1916 Societies are campaigning for the only alternative, which is a free and open all-Ireland referendum, to determine future constitutional arrangements for Ireland. We have a vision and a strategy for Irish freedom which is gaining traction against the existing failed establishment.
When asked what he thought of current political strategies to gain a United Ireland, he said:
Nationalist political parties in Stormont promised a United Ireland by 2003, then 2014, then 2016. They now say we are in a ‘countdown’ to freedom, while evidence shows the British are succeeding in ensuring that won’t happen as it has been written into the detail of the Good Friday Agreement under the guise of a Border Poll. NO constitutional change through a border poll as set out in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement will ever happen. In actual fact, a Border Poll completely denies the citizens in the 26-Counties their democratic right to vote on Irish Unity and is in reality designed to suit the unionist majority vote in the Six Counties, by excluding all voters in the 26-Counties.
A Border poll gives the British Secretary of State a supreme veto over Irish self-determination; it discriminates against the majority of the people of Ireland and is designed as a Triple Lock against Irish Unity. This makes no sense whatsoever for republicans pursuing a United Ireland and therefore it should be condemned outright.
Mr. Martin hurried from the WBAI studio in Brooklyn to the newly-opened Wolfe Tone’s Irish Pub in mid-town Manhattan, for the formal American public launch of the 1916 Societies. Here he was introduced by well-known republican Martin Galvin, who told how he had been ‘approached by trusted friends and family members of commemorated patriots, who said that new political initiatives were needed if we were ever to see an end to British rule in Ireland’. He spoke of a commemoration in Ardboe for Volunteer Liam Ryan late last year, at which he was briefed on the Societies and our initiative and where he was asked to ‘help get a hearing in the United States’. He went on to say, ‘today we are fortunate to have with us Kevin Martin, National Treasurer of the 1916 Societies, and to hear first-hand about the all-Ireland petition, their flagship initiative which is spreading swiftly right across Ireland’.
Kevin began his presentation with a DVD specially prepared for his American launch. The DVD gave a brief historical outline and then concluded with several personal endorsements of the One Ireland One Vote initiative. Derek Warfield of the Wolfe Tones called it ‘the most important political initiative to unite Ireland he had seen in years’.
Tyrone Councillor Barry Monteith said 'if you believe in the principles of 1916 and national freedom, you should believe in One Ireland One Vote’. Councillor Davy Hyland, noting that he was speaking in Newry, the birthplace of John Mitchel, a patriot who was exiled to America, urged the ‘exiled children in America’ to support the same aim for Irish freedom by supporting One Ireland One Vote. Councillor Bernice Swift urged Americans and everyone to ‘get behind the One Ireland One Vote and be part of an initiative which will be heard around the world by signing the petition to play your part for an independent and free Ireland’.
Kevin then gave an explanation of the 1916 Societies and its strategy. He noted:
We are approaching the centenary of the Easter Rising, and the ideals and spirit of 1916 remind us that the right to national freedom and sovereignty proclaimed at that time has not yet come for the people of six Irish counties.
The 1916 Societies are an Irish separatist movement. We believe the Irish Republic should be a sovereign, independent state as set out in the 1916 Proclamation and are committed to achieving the reunification of Ireland on that basis. We believe in the right of the Irish people to national self-determination and demand this be exercised in the form of a 32-county, inclusive and democratic ,all-Ireland referendum on Irish Unity, requiring at its end a full British withdrawal from all of Ireland.
‘We believe the potential impact of the One Ireland One Vote initiative is immeasurable in defeating current British strategy and putting us back on track to achieving the ideal of freedom proclaimed almost a century ago at the GPO in Dublin.
Briefings with journalists followed, including with Ray O’Hanlon of the Irish Echo newspaper and officers with the Ancient Order of Hibernians. After joining the AOH for a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral he was invited to address them at an event that followed the service. Here Mr. Martin thanked the American AOH for its support for Irish freedom and said the 1916 Societies were offering a crucial opportunity to support the right to freedom and the principles of 1916, through a new initiative of debates, forums and ultimately a referendum.
Before returning to Ireland, Mr. Martin conducted a series of follow-up meetings with individuals interested in the Societies and who hope to explore further our political strategy to achieve a United Ireland. All-in-all the visit was a tremendous success and we look forward to building our organisation in New York and beyond in the weeks and months ahead as we approach the centenary of the Rising, itself only six months away.
(Photo Credit Nuala Purcell)