Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD addressed the party’s centenary commemoration today in honour of the eight Republicans massacred by Free State forces at Ballyseedy.
Her full address is below:
Inniu seasaimid ar thalamh naofa.
Bailímid le chéile ní hamháin chun comóradh a dhéanamh ar na hÓglaigh cróga a maraíodh anseo céad bliain ó shin.
Ach seasaimid le chéile chun athchóiriú a dhéanamh ar an ngeallúint ar throid siad agus a bhásaigh siad ar a shon.
An gealltanas gur dhiúltaigh siad iad fhéin a thabhairt suas in ainneoin aghaidh a thabhairt ar deireadh tragóideach.
Éire atá saor, aontaithe, le cothrom na féinne. Seasann muid le chéile ar son Phoblacht na hÉireann.
Creidim go mbeidh muid an glúin a bhainfidh an phoblacht amach, an ghlúin an gortú ón am atá caite a cneasaigh agus bogadh ar aghaidh le chéile chun tosaigh chun ár náisiún a tógáil.
Éire nua agus aontaithe.
The crossroads at which we stand, here in Ballyseedy, is sacred ground.
The monument we gather before is a poignant memorial to the eight men who had their lives so brutally taken from them one hundred years ago.
It is also a striking testament to the noble principles and ideals of those people who, with everything they held dear, drove the revolution and the struggle for a free and independent Ireland.
Those who, against enormous odds, stood by the Republic and who paid for their unwavering loyalty with their beautiful lives.
George O’ Shea,
Michael O’ Connell,
and Stephen Fuller – who miraculously survived the massacre.
They were of that gallant band of patriots who refused to surrender the promise of the proclamation of nineteen sixteen.
They refused to give up the vision for which so many Irish men and women had endured persecution, imprisonment, and death.
Here at Ballyseedy those eight volunteers, true and brave, were cruelly killed on the side of the road by the Free State army.
Prior to the massacre, the volunteers had been tortured physically and psychologically at Ballymullen Barracks in Tralee.
They were then loaded into a lorry and driven to the Killorglin Road alongside Ballyseedy Wood.
A Free State officer offered them a cigarette and told them that it would be the last smoke they would have.
The nine volunteers had their arms and legs bound by rope and electrical cord, their backs to a log, and then they were tied together in a circle around a mine.
Knowing the fate that lay in store, the men offered up their prayers to heaven.
As the Republican volunteers comforted each other, the Free State soldiers stood back, and the mine was detonated.
The lives of eight selfless patriots wiped out in the most brutal fashion.
Those left behind bore an enormous grief. They had to endure a cover-up and the lie that the men had been killed clearing explosives and obstructions that the IRA themselves had laid. The local community and the family of the men never believed the story fabricated by the Free State.
It was a lie exposed again by the Free State execution of nine more Republican prisoners – four in Killarney at Countess Bridge and five at Cahersiveen – in a similarly ruthless fashion.
Incredibly, it is a lie that remains on the record of the Dáil.
This is something we now seek to change. We now seek for the truth to be acknowledged by the state.
It is the right thing to do for families who still carry so much hurt and pain.
The Civil War saw Ireland endure a short but bloody period marked by firing squads, assassinations, widespread destruction, repression, and suffering. Ruthless acts were carried out on both sides.
The day before the massacre at Ballyseedy, five Free State soldiers were killed by a landmine laid by anti-treaty forces at Knocknagoshel.
Yet, a century on, it’s still hard to contend with the darkness of what was perpetrated here.
In the whole terrible story of a war characterised by attack and reprisal, the massacre at Ballyseedy stands apart.
The Civil War had a vicious edge. It was first and foremost a counter-revolution fostered by a British Empire that was losing its grip on rule in Ireland. An offensive carried out by reactionary forces against the Irish Republic, against the vision of equality that had motivated the fight for freedom.
At the very centre of the war was the conflict between two visions for Ireland.
A new Ireland for the working class. United. Free. Socially just.
and an Ireland that would continue to be run by those at the top, a treacherous switching of the British ruling class for one that was home grown.
This was a warning that Connolly had made time and again.
Republican revolutionaries saw the signing of the Treaty as a great betrayal of the struggle for an independent Irish Republic. Many, including Liam Mellows and Liam Lynch, foresaw the conservative, reactionary Ireland that would emerge should the Free State win-out.
And so, it came to pass.
It came to pass in the form of an Ireland in which power has rarely been wielded in the interests of ordinary people. The poor kept down and made poorer still.
In the shadow of the Magdalene Laundries and the mother and baby homes. Women treated as second class citizens in a system of strict social control.
And in the relentless conveyor belt of forced emigration. A sad rite of passage for generations of our young people.
For the sake of power, the Republic – egalitarian, united and progressive – was traded for a reactionary, conservative, partitioned Ireland from which would also emerge the Orange State in the North.
A state founded on bigotry, sectarianism, and the denial of civil rights. The seeds of a terrible conflict sown.
While partition split the territory of the country, it was also an attack on the very essence of Irish nationhood, an attempt to fracture the ties that bind us together as a people.
The vision of the Irish Republic was too strong for the powerful to allow flourish. It was a bastion of change in a world that had begun to cast off the tight shackles of empire.
The reaction from the British and the Free State they sponsored was centred on division, domination, and the holding of power by any means.
In so many ways, the tragedy at Ballyseedy foreshadowed all that was to come. A sorrowful harbinger of what would be lost to the people of Ireland at large.
Those so mercilessly executed lost their lives. The people of Ireland lost the future that was promised.
The Civil War, perhaps more than any other chapter in our history, calls on us to think about who has power, who wields it, and, in whose interests, they exercise it.
To think about how power is exercised in our country, not only in the past but also today.
Arguably, the greatest lesson it reaches us is that the people of Ireland never settle for less than full freedom.
This was the dream to which those volunteers massacred at Ballyseedy dearly held.
Friends, remembrance is a powerful thing. The act of remembrance brings to life the ideals and the principles of those who fought and died for a free Ireland.
In the past, people disagreed, and people made their choices often with heart-breaking, bitter consequences.
Nowhere was that bitterness and heartbreak more tragically felt than at this roadside one hundred years ago.
Today, we stand together at Ballyseedy to remember and honour those fallen patriots.
We stand together at Ballyseedy to chart a future that has yet to be written or realised.
We stand together at Ballyseedy for the Republic.
I believe that we are the generation that will end partition and achieve a new and united Ireland. A thirty-two-county Republic.
A nation home for all our people regardless of background, tradition, identity, and faith.
Uniting Ireland is not about reclaiming territory. We have no interest in stitching north to south and continuing as usual. We are about uniting our people in friendship, community, and common purpose.
It is a new Ireland that can only be achieved when we reconcile the hurtful legacy of the periods of terrible conflict and division.
To achieve the Republic, to build the nation anew, to realise the Ireland that can be, we must forgive each other. With open hearts, we must heal the wounds of the past, and must do it together.
The Civil War was a tragedy for Ireland. So many families, from both sides, carried with them a deep and grievous hurt.
The trauma of the Civil War was compounded because a space was never created for healing. No attempts were made to say sorry. No collective, national effort made to find a place of forgiveness.
Yet, Irish people have a huge capacity for forgiveness. To move forward. Stephen Fuller’s family said he always forgave the perpetrators of Ballyseedy. He didn’t want hatred and bitterness to win out. He didn’t want hatred to be passed on. What an incredible thing for him to do.
Generations on from the Civil War, twenty-five years on from the end of conflict in the North, the challenge for our society is to say sorry, to forgive, and to mean it.
Here in this time, we have an opportunity to reconcile, to rise above the past and work together to build a better future for all. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It can transform lives and it can transform the destiny of a nation.
Never has this been more important as positive, progressive, generational change sweeps across Ireland’s thirty-two counties. The ordinary people of Ireland, day by day, inch by inch are making change happen.
In so many ways, the things that the people fought for one hundred years ago are the very things we struggle for today.
Equality. Dignity. Togetherness. Progress.
The promise of the Republic for which we stand is an Ireland of rights where every person gets a fair chance at life.
Where every child is cherished.
Where you have roof over your head, a decent job with fair pay and access to healthcare
A nation rid of sectarian, prejudice, and poverty where nobody is left out or left behind.
This is the Ireland that Republicans are determined to achieve.
Everything we do, everything we work for is about realising this vision.
Today, in this hallowed place, we once again reach for the future. For the Republic.
A free Ireland. A nation of our own for all who call it home.
The time of the Civil War was a time when all seemed lost.
Today is a time for hope. A time for belief. A time for courage. A time when there is so much to gain.
It is by achieving the Republic that we will invoke the light that lifts the darkness of the harrowing massacre at Ballyseedy.
The volunteers who perished here were not and are not defined by the cruelty of their deaths.
They were patriots.
They were heroes.
They were proud soldiers of the Irish Republic.
They deserve a tribute that transcends the brutality that was inflicted upon them so mercilessly one hundred years ago.
These are not names to be consigned to the pages of tragic history.
Their spirit of freedom leaps from the volumes of Ireland’s story.
They call to us as living inspiration – guides to illuminate the road we travel today.
That road is the road to the Republic.
In the spotlight of history, we walk the final length of that road together.
A new day is breaking on the horizon. A new and united Ireland comes into view.
It’s within touching distance, we are closer than ever before and friends, with one final push, we will reach the Republic in our time.