‘We are within striking distance of unity’ - Derry SF chairperson

Former republican prisoners march towards the republican plot, in the city cemetery, during Satyrday's annual volunteer commemoration organized by the Derry Republican Graves Association.
Former republican prisoners march towards the republican plot, in the city cemetery, during Satyrday's annual volunteer commemoration organized by the Derry Republican Graves Association.
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More than 500 Derry republicans attended a commemoration in the City Cemetery on Sunday to remember local IRA members who died during the Troubles.

The event began with a march from Creggan Shops to the republican plot in the City Cemetery, where wreaths were laid at the Cuchulain monument.

The commemoration was chaired by Creggan republican Sean McMonagle and the main oration was given by Andrew McCartney, chairperson of Sinn Féin in Derry.

Mr McMonagle paid tribute to the families of dead IRA volunteers and praised what he described as their “dignity and courage, often in very difficult circumstances”.

Marie Benson, a sister of IRA volunteer Jim Gallagher, read the Derry ‘roll of honour’ - the names of local IRA members killed during the Troubles - while Kelly McBrearty, a daughter of IRA volunteer George McBrearty, read the ‘roll of remembrance,’ which commemorates other republicans who have died. Members of Ógra Shinn Féin laid wreaths on behalf of Óglaigh na h’Éireann, Derry Sinn Féin, and the Derry Republican Graves Association.

In the main oration, Mr McCartney called on all republicans to focus their attention on the task of promoting and building the republic.

He also appealed to former republican activists to re-engage with Sinn Féin. “In the course of these decades of struggle many challenges were placed in our way, many decisions had to be made. We acknowledge that these challenges and decisions posed great difficulties and indeed misunderstanding and pain for some people.

“As a result some may have felt disconnected from the struggle or that they were no longer part of it. Perhaps there were times when republicans did not reach out to each other or communicate with each other in the spirit required.

“However, now is the time for us all to ask of each other the question - how best do we deliver our objective of Uniting Ireland, and what contribution will be required to make it happen,” he said.

He also said the opportunity now exists to complete the work previous generations of republicans died for. “We are within striking distance of achieving what our fallen comrades gave their lives for. The IRA created this circumstance. The opportunity it there and we must grab it.

“The most fitting tribute to the fallen volunteers is achieving their objectives,” he said.

The commemoration ended with Sara Griffen singing the National Anthem.