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Derry: Seán Keenan Commemoration

THE annual Seán Keenan Commemoration took place on Sunday, 1st March in the Fahan Street area of Derry City. The commemoration was organised by the John Mitchel Cumann of Republican Sinn Féin in County Derry. A large crowd attended from Derry, throughout the rest of Ulster and further afield. Proceedings were chaired by veteran Dungiven Republican and Ulster Treasurer (Cisteoir), Michael McGonigle.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Leadership of the Republican Movement by RSF Director of Publicity, Richard Walsh from Derry, and on behalf of Comhairle Uladh (Ulster RSF Executive) by An Rúnaí (Secretary) Nuala Moore. Seán Keenan's daughter, Róisín Barton, also laid a wreath on behalf of the Keenan family. A decade of the Rosary was then recited as Gaeilge by Seánín Brady from Dungiven. Richard Walsh read the 1916 Proclamation.

A very fitting oration pledging Republicans' eternal hostility to British rule in Ireland was delivered by the Vice-President of Republican Sinn Féin, Des Dalton, from Co. Kildare. Des is also standing as a local election candidate in the June 2009 local elections for Athy Town Council.

Micky McGonigle then invited those present to march behind the colour party to the Bloody Sunday memorial, where Mick Kelly from Co. Derry laid a wreath on behalf of Republican Sinn Féin in memory of the fourteen men murdered by the British Crown Forces on that fateful day.

The assembled crowd marched back to the Keenan monument where they stood to attention for the playing of the National Anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann.

Report in Derry Journal: 'Touts betray the Irsh nation'...

Des Dalton: Eternal Hostility to British Rule

Speaking at Republican Sinn Féin’s annual Sean Keenan commemoration in Derry on Sunday March 1 Republican Sinn Féin Vice President Des Dalton said:

“When asked when did he join the Republican Movement Sean Keenan’s answer would invariably be: “I didn’t I was born into it”. Sean was born into a family steeped in Republicanism, his father Seamus played an active part in the Tan war between 1919/21 and remained steadfast in his defence of the All-Republic during the Counter-Revolution of 1922/23. At a young age Sean joined Na Fianna Eireann and when he came of age he took his place in the ranks of Oglaigh na hEireann. His first of many arrests took place in 1935 and he served three months in Derry jail for carrying the National Flag at an election rally. He was deeply involved in the harsh and testing years of 1939 – 45, he was interned from 1940 to 1945, first in Derry jail and then in the prison ship Al Rawdah, which was anchored in Strangford Lough.

“He was then taken to Crumlin Road jail where he was to the forefront of protests at the terrible conditions in which Republican prisoners were held. A former comrade wrote of him in the CABHAIR Testimonial brochure of 1987: “That he was a spokesman for the prisoners in every prison he entered was the ultimate tribute that his comrades could pay him.”

“During this time Sean’s father was interned for two years in Crumlin Road jail, he died shortly after his release. Sean was not released for his father’s funeral. His wife, Nancy (nee Ward) spent three years and nine months in Armagh jail in the 1940s also. (Eamonn Boyce recalls the Omagh raid prisoners receiving a parcel from Nancy at the end of their trial in 1954 describing it as the most welcome parcel he ever received)

“Following his release Sean was part of that small band which began to painstakingly rebuild the Republican Movement from the ashes of the repression and coercion of the 1940s. Sean’s passion for his native language saw him and a small band form the Sean Dolan Craobh of Conradh na Gaelige in Derry city in 1948.

“Sean was actively involved in the build up to the launch of Operation Harvest on December 12 1956. Interned once more in Crumlin Road jail in 1957 Sean was elected OC of the prisoners until his release in 1960. Following his release he once more reported back for duty. As the nationalist people of the Six Counties began to rise again following 50 years of oppression and discrimination within the gerrymandered and sectarian Six-County state Sean Keenan realised that the nationalist people of Derry needed to be organised if they were to protect themselves from the RUC and the ‘B Specials’. He and other Republicans established the Derry City Defence Association’. Sean was elected chairman. He became the defacto leader of ‘Free Derry’.

“At the same time Sean opposed the attempt by a reformist leadership to hijack the Republican Movement and divert it down the cul-de-sac of constitutionalism. Sean was a revolutionary Fenian and as in the late 1940s this time at national leadership level he played his part in rebuilding the Republican Movement. In 1970 along with Dáithí Ó Conaill he travelled to the US where he was instrumental along with leading Republicans such as Michael Flannery and George Harrison in the formation of Irish Northern Aid (NORAID). On August 9 1971 Sean was interned, taken first of all to Ballykelly holding centre in Derry and then the Maidstone prison ship.

“Sean would endure the personal tragedy of losing his son Colm on March 14 1972 when he was killed by British Crown forces while on active service as a Staff Captain with the Derry Brigade of the IRA. Then IRA Chief-of-Staff Seán MacStiofáin in his book Revolutionary in Ireland describes meeting Sean - who was on temporary release from the Maidstone prison ship– on his arrival in Derry for Colm’s funeral: “We came to the big Creggan estate, and Sean Keenan was there. I offered him the condolences of the whole movement on Colm’s death. ‘I mourn the loss of my son,’ he said, ‘but I don’t begrudge his life for Ireland.’”

“Again in 1986 when yet another attempt was made to divert the Republican Movement away from the revolutionary path to the All-Ireland Republic Sean Keenan remained steadfast. Sean was both an Honoury life Vice-President of Sinn Féin as well as Honoury President of Derry Sinn Féin.

“Today Provos are taking the next step in logical progression from collaborating with the British to actually taking part in enforcing British rule on the ground. On the front page of the February issue of SAOIRSE it is pointed out that Gerry Adams has embraced with gusto his new role as cheer-leader for the Brits. In a series of carefully choreographed public statements and media ‘briefings’ Adams and the Provisionals have engaged in a drip feed of innuendo and lies in an attempt to criminalise Irish Republicans.

“The significance of the Adams statement was noted by journalist Brian Rowan in the Belfast Telegraph: ‘This is important as moves continue towards the devolution of policing and justice powers to a new Stormont department. There is no doubt that Adams will have thought long and hard about his words’

“What is happening is plain for all to see. The Provos are preparing the ground for a wave of coercion directed at those who refuse to collaborate with or accept British occupation. This was admitted by one of the “unnamed sources” in The Irish Times on February 2.

“In 1858 in West Cork a local newspaper editor wrote about the drilling and marching which Fenians in the Skibbereen area were engaging in. He called on the British colonial police to arrest the men. Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa described the action of the editor as “felon setting”. (The ‘Treason Felony Act of 1848’ - which remains in force in the Six Counties - was used against the Young Irelanders and the Fenian Movement). “Felon Setting” is defined The Politics of Legitimacy, Struggle in a Belfast Community by Frank Burton: ‘Irish Republicanism has a phrase – ‘felon setting’. It is used to describe the enterprise of those people, who in classifying IRA violence as ordinary criminality, attempt to deny its political essence.’

“Irish history was unkind to the ‘felon-setters’ of 1858 and all who assumed that role ever since. We believe it will be similarly unkind to Mr Adams and the Provisionals.

“The Provos are calling on people to become informers by passing information to the British colonial police of the RUC/PSNI. They try to pretend to do so now is somehow different from the past. Informing or touting remains what it has always been, treachery and a shameful betrayal of the Irish nation.

“This is not unique, Irish history provides many examples of those who have been prepared to turn on former comrades at the behest of the British. In 1922 equipped with British uniforms and arms Irishmen were prepared to kill fellow

“Irishmen in order to enforce the ‘Treaty of Surrender’ and suppress the All-Ireland Republic. In the 1930s De Valera recruited former members of the IRA into a special unit of the 26-County police under the command of Eamon Broy. The ‘Broy Harriers’ were used in a ruthless campaign of repression and coercion directed against Irish Republicans throughout the 1930s and ‘40s.

“Our message to the Provisionals and their masters in Westminster, Stormont or Leinster House, like Sean Keenan we will never accept British rule in Ireland and the only pledge we make to British rule in Ireland is our eternal hostility to it.

“For Irish Republicans our horizons stretch beyond the narrow confines of a partitioned Ireland. At a time when the capitalist economic system is in meltdown not only in Ireland but internationally never has the programme of true Republican Socialism set out in EIRE NUA and SAOL NUA been more relevant. Taken together they provide a practical vision of the Republic of which Connolly wrote would be: ‘…Of such a character that the mere mention of its name would serve as a beacon light to the oppressed of every land…the Irish Republic might be made a word to conjure with – a rallying point for the disaffected, a haven for the oppressed, a point of departure for the Socialist, enthusiastic in the cause of human freedom.’ Truly such a Republic is worthy of sacrifice and struggle.

“We can only honour Sean Keenan by continuing the task to which Sean and his family sacrificed so much and to which Sean dedicated his life. We take up the banner from the generation which passed before us just as they took it from the preceding generation. The road ahead is a difficult one but no more difficult than that travelled by Sean Keenan and his comrades. The vehicle to deliver our goal of a 32-County Federal Democratic Socialist Republic is a strong united Republican Movement committed to the programme of the 1916 Proclamation.

“There are no short cuts or quick fixes in this struggle. If Irish revolutionary history teaches us anything it is that there is no substitute for committed struggle clear vision and leadership. Taking the words spoken by Pearse at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa it is true that Sean Keenan was baptised in the Fenian faith and ‘accepted the responsibility of carrying out the Fenian programme’. That same responsibility calls to us today in our generation.”

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