by Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair
FFAI ISSUES UPDATE
A-Valentine’s Day break-up at Stormont Assembly talks- Talks between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein to end the 13 month Stormont stalemate broke off, with Arlene Foster claiming “no current prospect” of any deal, and Michelle O’Neill saying the DUP collapsed the talks. The breakup came after British Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar traveled to Belfast for an expected signing.
Between an understanding reached Friday, and the arranged signing on Monday, unionist hysteria over leaked proposals of an Irish language act made Foster and the DUP back out, later denying any draft agreement.
The thirteen page draft agreement was then published by journalist Eamon Mallie and can be read on his website. Sinn Fein would accept Foster as First Minister, despite the ‘money to burn’ heating scandal that caused Martin McGuinness’ resignation. An Irish language act would have been included as one of three language bills, alongside an overriding “Respecting Language and Diversity Bill” and Ulster-Scots Bill. Legacy inquest funding and legacy mechanism funding would be covered separately by the British government. The DUP now denies agreeing to anything and called on the British to implement direct rule. Eileen Paisley, widow of DUP founder Ian Paisley blamed current party leaders for “creating this mess.”
B-Time for Truth March in Belfast-Thousands of victims’ families and campaigners converged on Belfast City Hall, demanding truth about murders of their loved ones. Many of the marchers carried crosses or large pictures with the names of murdered loved ones. Marchers from a number of victims’ campaigns joined together to slam the British government for giving the DUP a veto on legacy justice. John Teggart of the Ballymurphy Massacre families said the rally was about “telling the Government that people’s right to the truth is not some bargaining chip for political talks.” He called on the crown to release inquest funding requested by Chief Justice Declan Morgan. Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, said it was wrong for the British government to say “if you guys can get a deal we will give victims their rights… these rights are obligations under the European Convention and Human Rights Act.”
C-Brexit border plan rejected by May and DUP- Legal proposals by the European Union to avoid customs and immigration barriers across the six counties after Brexit, were rejected by Theresa May and denounced by the DUP. The proposal by EU negotiator Michael Barnier in Brussels, was based on a December agreement between May and the European Commission President. The EU and Irish government want a common regulatory area with no internal borders and free movement of goods as a ‘backstop’ or ‘default’ arrangement, if a full trade deal or technological solution to the border could not be devised. May said no British “Prime Minister could ever agree to it” and Arlene Foster called it “economically catastrophic”. Ireland and the EU noted that the British still have no real alternative to a hard border.
D–Newry parade battle for Irish flag-Following the successful fight against St. Patrick’s Day Parade bans on the Irish flag in Strabane and Derry, Newry has taken up the battle. Councillor Stephen Murney called the ban an “attempt to suppress and erode any display of Irish culture and heritage on a day of worldwide recognition of Irish culture”. In this heavily nationalist town marchers have been told that they are forbidden to carry the Irish national flag or even a flag with four provinces. Marchers are now threatening to defy the ban or boycott unless this ban is lifted.
ENGLAND GET OUT OF IRELAND BANNERS
Rules of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade allow only two banners between the Irish and American flags. The only banners allowed are those identifying marching units and “England Get Out of Ireland”. These banners are a key theme of our parades. Once “Erin go Bragh” flags were used and were revolutionary. “Ireland forever” meant an Irish nation would exist and one day be free, outlasting British rule. This idea, often outlawed in Ireland, was carried proudly in American parades, where patriots among them Tom Clarke, John Devoy, O’Donovan Rossa etc would pledge to make it so and did.
Today the words “England Get Out of Ireland” signal our support for those still denied freedom for all Ireland. The words note that British rule serves English interests. Brexit, the DUP veto, and the denial of legacy truth for those murdered by British crown forces or their agents are prime examples.
IRELAND’S 1918 FREEDOM MANDATE
The 1916 Easter Rising and Proclamation of an Irish Republic on April 24,1916 was a historic event. This year Ireland will celebrate another centenary without which 1916 would have lost much of its meaning.
The British, joined by the Irish papers and establishment politicians of the day denied any popular support for the Rising or an Irish Republic. The Irish party leader at the time John Redmond even told Westminster that the Irish people regarded 1916 “with utter detestation and horror”. They hoped to make 1916 one more unsuccessful rising, to be forgotten. Over the next two years all of that changed utterly.
Events like the executions, brutal treatment of those interned, death of Thomas Ashe, campaigns for prisoner candidates, ballads, and poets would awaken Ireland to the true meaning of 1916 and the Proclamation. At the 1918 British General Election, Ireland voted a mandate for freedom, by choosing representatives who pledged to go a free Irish parliament or Dail Eireann instead of Westminster.
At our New York State Convention the AOH resolved to remember and commemorate Ireland’s 1918 mandate for freedom. FFAI encourages this theme for speakers at Easter Commemorations or other appropriate occasions. Under the leadership of our worthy New York State President Vic Vogel we are even hoping to get a formal recognition at the State Legislature.
HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!!
Please contact me at MGALVINESQ@AOL.COM.