In this article written for the Derry Journal, ANDREW MCCARTNEY, chairperson of Derry Sinn Féin, looks ahead to the 96th anniversary of the Easter Rising this weekend and reflects on its ongoing significance for a new generation of republicans.
These roles are varied and can change according to the political circumstances of the day. One of those roles which I personally would view as among the most important is the commemorative events that we organise each year to honour our patriot dead.
Presently Derry Comhairle Ceantair organise three major events each year to honour our Volunteers; Easter Sunday Commemoration, June Volunteers Commemoration, and Derry Volunteers Dinner Dance.
This coming weekend will see Republicans across Ireland and beyond commemorate the 96th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Irish republicans will use this time to reflect on where we are at in our struggle. We will also pay tribute to all those comrades who lost their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom.
In this phase of our struggle Derry Brigade Óglaigh na h’Éireann has lost 46 volunteers. This year marks the 40th anniversary of nine of those volunteers, the 30th anniversary of two of them, and the 25th anniversary of another three. This year, they and their families will have a special place in our thoughts as we prepare for our commemorative events which will be held throughout the city this weekend. There will be local commemorations held at our Republican Movements in Shantallow, Waterside, Creggan and Brandywell on Easter Sunday morning. Our weekend commemorative events will culminate in our main commemoration to be held on Easter Sunday afternoon, assembling at Westland Street at 2.30pm and parading to the City Cemetery where the main oration will be given by Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister for Culture, Arts, and Leisure.
As these events are being organised, we also have a team of activists working to ensure the Republican Plot and other graves are maintained to the highest standard possible. The care and attention is a fitting tribute to our patriot dead and provides for families a measure of the esteem that republicans have for their loved ones.
I want to acknowledge and comment the work of the Derry Graves Commemorative Committee and its fundraising which provides the resources to keep the plot and other graves throughout the cemetery to a standard that is befitting the sacrifice of those we remember at Easter. Its work is carried out in a quiet and unassuming way.
More than 140 graves are marked with a flagpole with the National Flag raised on Easter Sunday, all of which are maintained to the highest possible standard.
Cúchulainn stands tall as the centre piece of our remembrance, the presence of our National Flag throughout the cemetery gives recognition to the many people who have contributed to our struggle and is a powerful sight as you enter through the gates.
This Easter Sunday, April 8th, I invite all republicans to attend the commemoration which will assemble at Westland Street. We will be led by the Volunteers families who will carry portraits of their loved ones.
Over the past year, I have been heartened by the response of all republicans in the city to our call to re-engage with the wider republican family. I made a direct appeal to republicans who, for a variety of reasons, chose a different path, to come back and reinvolve themselves in the struggle in whatever way they felt most comfortable and I am pleased to see that this has happened.
I have also been pleased with the growing number of young people who have recognised the leadership being given by Sinn Féin and who have decided to join us in our task of achieving what was started at Easter 1916, Irish freedom. That remains our objective and the republicanism espoused by the signatories of the Proclamation is as relevant today as it ever was. Today we have the opportunity to pursue our objectives through peaceful and democratic means and we are almost in the end game.
Let us, through a large turnout, ensure this Easter Sunday commemoration be a fitting tribute to all those who have lost their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom.
Those attending the main commemoration should assemble on Westland Street at 2.3pm to parade to the City Cemetery.
There will also be Local area commemorations taking place on Sunday morning 11.00am at the Republican monuments across the city at Creggan, (Central Drive), Bogside, (Lecky Road), Shantallow Monument (Racecourse Road), and at 1.00pm at Waterside (Rose Court).