Remembering the fallen

It is important to remember the past.

The 11th of November has a special place in my heart.

I recall people who, without and regard to their own safety or wellbeing, were willing to put themselves in danger to secure the liberties I enjoy today.

If you cannot or will not share that feeling with me then I have no issue with that, but allow me to commemorate those who wore a uniform to secure my freedom.

On the 11th day of the 11th month I remember them.

This day is especially poignant as it is exactly one hundred years to the day that a fine body of men publicly formed up ready to serve their country.

Some of them would die in the service of their nation and we must remember them.

On the 11th November 1913 in Wynn’s Hotel in Abbey Street the Irish Volunteers told the world of their existence.

The name of the organisation as Gaelige would have a special resonance throughout the rest of the 20th century– Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Some of those meeting in Wynn’s hotel that day had a Pollyannaesque faith that the British would be good to their word on Home Rule.

However at the core of the volunteers was a stiff corps of Fenians.

They knew that in the long struggle against British conquest that Britain only listened to the argument of force and not the force of argument.

At the meeting in Wynn’s the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was represented by the likes of Seán Mac Diarmada and Eamonn Ceannt.

Both of these men would be signatories to the Easter Proclamation in 1916 and would die by firing squad in Kilmainham after the Rising.

It was clear since the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force that Home Rule would be blocked by an Orange militia in the North and that powerful elements in the British establishment would assist them by act or omission.

The “Curragh Mutiny” of March 1914 was a clear message to the Ulster militiamen that the British Army in Ireland could not be relied upon to enforce the King’s law upon them if they bore arms against the Crown.

The die was cast and many indeed would die.

When the British government did not move against the openly armed and treasonable UVF the Irish Volunteers had little choice but to arm.

That organisation met publicly or the first time today 100 years ago in Dublin.

I sometimes have had reason to be in the very room where that meeting was held.

It is the regular venue for meetings the Irish Executive Council of the National Union of Journalists.

However, It is not chosen for that reason, it just a central location and convenient for our conclaves.

1913 was also a huge year in the growth of trade unionism in Ireland.

It was the time of the Dublin Lock Out and members of the working class movement saw the glee with which the bosses hired thugs to augment the brutality of the police in breaking the strike.

Some of them decided that the Irish working class would need their own army in future.

Class politics and the demand for national sovereignty were on parallel tracks and were not fully connecting to each other, but an Irishman from Edinburgh fixed that and three years later in the GPO the man who helped to form the Irish Citizen Army also commanded Irish Volunteers.

James Connolly knew that national independence without social justice was meaningless.

He also understood that the only route to creating the kind of society that valued humans above profit would be achieved in Ireland if it broke the connection with England.

Together the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army formed the Irish Republican Army and asserted the right of the Irish people to self-determination in arms in Easter Week and in every week since.

Actually there isn’t any other way to really tell the world of your existence as a nation.

The Pollyanna faction of the Irish Volunteers had listened to John Redmond and 90 % of the manpower of an organisation that had been formed to assert the rights of the Irish nation to self-determination was fooled into dying for England on the Western Front.

It was Perfidious Albion at her Machiavellian worst.

Their deaths in the mud of Flanders only weakened Ireland’s ability to assert her rights against England.

Those who stayed behind to keep the flame alive were the Fenian cadre who had been at the centre of the project from the start.

My paternal grandfather joined the Irish Volunteers  in the days after the first meeting at Wynn’s and he decided that dying for England wasn’t really the way to secure the independence of his country from the colonial power.

Most of his comrades ,who would turn West Mayo into a very unhealthy place for the Crown forces in 1920 and 1921, first thought of themselves as Irish soldiers in the ranks of the Irish Volunteers.

Some of them would die serving the Republic and we remember them.

The defence force of this state claims their lineage from Óglaigh na hÉireann as does the Republican Movement that emerged after the Treaty and the formation of the Free State.

Subsequently the 11th November is an important date in the Irish calendar for many of us here in Ireland and in the diaspora.

Óglaigh na hÉireann abú!

Lest we forget.

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion