The Past & Future Meet
A Letter from Ireland
a Chara, This week, the past and the future met. I suppose that is the case every day, but this week was marked by two significant commemorations and a new poll in the North of Ireland. On Sunday the leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael jointly spoke at the 100th Anniversary of the ambush and killing of Michael Collins. The major parties in the current Irish Government share a common interest in excluding Sinn Féin. Both have attacked Sinn Féin in recent weeks for commemorating the Republican Dead. Both stood shoulder to shoulder to commemorate Michael Collins who had been a leading IRA member. He fought in the GPO in 1916, was jailed and when freed became one of the leaders of the resurgent and re-organized IRA. Following the truce in the Tan war with the British, he was part of the negotiations and passionately advocated for the treaty. He would claim that it provided, “the freedom to win freedom”. He was killed by the IRA in the subsequent civil war. The Michael Collin Commemoration was afforded the pomp and ceremony of a state occasion. A platform for the two parties that have governed the state for the best part of 100 years and yet failed to honor his legacy of “the freedom to achieve freedom”. Commemorating the past while refusing to honour its legacy is a hollow gesture. A performance for cameras devoid of substance. On the same day in Belfast, thousands lined the streets to remember the 1981 Hunger Strike that claimed the lives of 10 Republican Prisoners. While the killing of Michael Collins would herald a new and brutal phase of the Civil War, the Hunger Strikes would change the course of history. Activists from across Ireland gathered to not only honour their memory but to commit to achieving freedom. A freedom that would be celebrated as Bobby Sands said, “by the laughter of our children”.
The following day a new poll was published that showed a tightening of the gap between those who wanted Irish Unity tomorrow and those for continued partition. The same poll found majority support for unity over a 15-20 year time frame. No one is advocating for an immediate referendum on Irish Unity. Sinn Féin has called for an inclusive, informed, and respectful discussion and to then let the people have their say. Meanwhile, the leaders that commemorated Michael Collins refuse to plan for and advocate for Irish unity. The hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was clear for all to see. Our history is not solely about commemorating the past. It should inspire and inform the present and shape the future. We will see a united Ireland and we will hear the laughter of our children. That is the most fitting tribute to all who came before. Have a great weekend. Is mise, Ciarán
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.