April 10, 2023
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald’s speech on the 100th anniversary of the death of Liam Lynch

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD addressed the 100th anniversary commemoration held in honour of Liam Lynch in Anglesboro, Co Limerick, today.

Her full address is below:

Bailíonnemar le chéile inniu le cuimhniú ar an ard saighdiúir cróga Liam Lynch, a sheas don Phoblacht agus a choinnigh greim daingean ar aisling neamhspleáchas na hÉireann.

Seasaimid le chéile gan éide bhróin a dhéanamh don tírghráthóir ach chun athnuachan a dhéanamh ar an ngealltanas álainn a thug sé a shaol dó. 

Éire atá saor, aontaithe le cothrom na féinne. 

A chairde,

The landscape of Ireland is imprinted with the legends and legacy of our revolutionary patriots. 

Our hills and our glens, our lane ways and our boreens, our valleys and our mountainsides chorus with the memory of our gallant volunteers. 

Those who took on the might of the British Empire and who fought with great honour for the freedom of Ireland and her people. For the Republic.

We stand at the foot of the Galtee mountains – a range steeped in the folklore of Irish Republicanism, and which often sheltered the Flying Columns.

It was in the shadow of these mountains, in the village of Barnagurraha, that one of Ireland greatest sons, Liam Lynch was born.

Just as the colonisation of Ireland drove Gaels to the West and to the safety of the mountains, so too did Liam Lynch, and volunteers loyal to the Republic, seek shelter following the fall of Dublin to the Free State.

First in the territory of the “Munster Republic”, and then, as they fell back, to their most familiar territory, the glens, and the mountains. 

It was fated the mountain ranges of Munster would bookend the life of General Liam Lynch. 

It was on the windswept slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains that Lynch made his final stand for the Republic.

One hundred years ago today, in the early hours of April 10, 1923, the farmhouse in which Liam and his comrades hid, was surrounded by a contingent of Free State Soldiers. 

To evade capture, Lynch who was by then leader of the anti-treaty forces, and his comrades took flight across the Knockmealdowns. 

Two hundred yards up the mountains, Free State soldiers opened fire. In the gun battle that ensued, Lynch fell to the ground, mortally wounded. 

He implored his friends to escape without him.

Later that evening, in the custody of the Free State, Liam Lynch, proud solider of the Irish Republic, took his final breath at St Joseph’s Hospital in Clonmel. 

His last request was to be buried in Fermoy beside his great friend, Michael Fitzgerald who had died on hunger strike in 1920.

Liam Lynch’s fight for the Republic was over. 

So too, effectively was the Civil War.

A contemporary would remark, “with Liam’s death I knew the end of the Civil War had come. Only his iron will had kept it going these last few months”.

****************

Liam Lynch was born into the heritage of Irish rebellion. His father was a Fenian. His mother was a member of the radical Land League. 

He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1915. 

It was his witnessing, in Fermoy, of the arrest and brutal treatment of Thomas Kent following the Easter Rising, and Kent’s eventual execution, which intensified Liam’s Republicanism.

As a gifted military leader, first as Officer Commanding of the Cork No.2 Brigade and then as Commander of the Southern Division, Lynch helped orchestrate some of the most daring operations of the Tan War.

His talent for coordination and strategy was evident as he travelled relentlessly between the nine brigades under his command. 

Bolstering their capacity and their arms became his raison d’etre. Lynch gave everything in the fight to overthrow British Rule in Ireland.

When he received word of the Truce in July 1921, he believed the cessation to be temporary, and ordered volunteers under his command to ready themselves to resume the fight.

Lynch ultimately viewed the Treaty, and the Dáil vote of January 7, 1922, as a betrayal of the Republic.

His refusal to trade independent Republic for dominion Free State is best captured in his words from years earlier, “We have declared for a Republic, we will not live under any other law.”

Liam worked hard to avoid a split in the Republican movement and to prevent a descent into the tragedy of a bitter Civil War. 

Sadly, he failed.

The Free State’s bombardment of the Republican Garrison in Dublin’s Four Courts sparked the Civil War.

A counter-revolution backed by British imperialists and wealthy economic interests who were determined that the nation’s future would be written by the powerful and not by the ordinary people of Ireland. 

A future in which the full freedom would be denied.

It was a future that Liam Lynch could not abide. 

So, he fought on. 

Some have sought to denigrate Lynch as a zealot who couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

But Lynch saw it all.

The dream of the Republic traded for a partitioned, conservative Ireland in which working people were kept down and impoverished, where equality would be denied, and the status quo maintained.

As he held tightly to his principles, Lynch’s heart broke for the viciousness of the conflict between former comrades, 

for the Free State’s cruel execution of republicans, 

for a war characterized by bloody reprisals, and by the incarceration of hundreds of patriots. 

Lynch lamented the turning of Irishmen against Irishmen, and all that was lost as a result. 

This was the heartbreak through which Liam soldiered-on, even in the face of looming defeat. 

Against the overwhelming military power of the Free State, the Munster Republic could not hold. 

With each backward step, so retreated Liam Lynch, his comrades, and the light of freedom. 

When Free State bullets pierced the body of Liam Lynch, on that faithful morning, 100 years ago, they pierced the heart of the resistance. 

A few short weeks later, the order was given for Republican volunteers to dump arms and to stand down. The fight for the Republic was laid low.

As Lynch lay dying, he lamented, “All this is a pity, it never should have happened. I’m glad now I’m going from it all. Poor Ireland!

The aftermath of Lynch’s death is wrapped in personal tragedy also. Liam had promised to marry his sweetheart and local girl, Birdie Keyes when the war was over. It was a promise he never got to keep. 

The Civil War is a bitter, traumatic, divisive chapter in our history for which we must now find a place of reconciliation and forgiveness. To come together to really heal the scars passed down through generations. 

It was in this spirit, that on the same weekend we remembered the volunteers massacred at Ballyseedy, I joined with the relatives of those Free State soldiers killed at Knocknagoshel to lay a wreath in their memory. 

Today, we stand together again in Anglesborough, near the birthplace of one of Ireland’s greatest patriots. 

We stand together for Irish freedom. 

For equality and unity. 

For the Republic.

We also stand for reconciliation, for a new understanding, to find common purpose. We are mindful of the past and together we seek to chart a new future.

*******************

I believe that this generation of Irish people will collapse the divisions so carefully fostered between us. 

We will achieve a real union between the Orange and the Green, and between all the communities of Ireland.

We will build a nation home for all our people.

We were fated to stand in Anglesborough today, on the centenary of Liam Lynch and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic Good Friday Agreement.

It is our presence here with hopeful hearts that connects the branches of our history. 

The Good Friday Agreement delivered peace, transformed Ireland, and shines still as beacon of hope for the future.

Thanks to courageous peacemakers, an entire generation has grown up free of conflict.

Today’s political leaders owe it to a new generation to recapture the spirit and determination of 1998. 

We owe it to our young people to make progress happen.

The true test of political leadership is to make things better for our children. It is a test to which we must all rise

By restoring the political institutions, we can move forward. We can make politics work for everyone. That is what Martin McGuinness did. That is what Ian Paisley did, and this generation must make power sharing work once more.

Together, we have built the peace. 

Now is the time to write the next chapter – the reunification of our country. 

I believe that the Unity Referendums provided for by the Good Friday Agreement will happen in this decade.

It is therefore vital that the Irish government establishes a Citizens’ Assembly to advance an inclusive, all of society national conversation, vital that government plans and prepares for peaceful, democratic constitutional change. 

To prepare for Irish Unity.

*****************

Change is unfolding before our very eyes. 

When we stood to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Liam Lynch, who would have imagined that Michelle O’Neill, a Republican woman, would today stand elected as First Minister designate in a state designed to ensure that it could never happen. 

Michelle stands ready to lead an Executive for all. The DUP must end its boycott of the political institutions and join with us around the Executive table to deliver the government and the progress the people of the north voted for and to which they are entitled.

Who would have believed when we stood here ten years ago, that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would no longer have everything their own way, and that Sinn Féin would be leading the opposition in the Dáil as Ireland’s most supported party.

Well, Irish Republicans believed and with the support of the people crying out for change, we made it happen. 

Sinn Féin is ambitious for Ireland. I believe that there is no limit to what we can achieve if we do it together. 

Those who stand against the tide of change have had their day.

The decision by this government to put thousands of working families, single people, and pensioners at risk of eviction shows that this government is not on the side of ordinary people, and it never will be.

We will continue to fight this cruel decision tooth and nail. 

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been in power for far too long. The longer they remain in office the more damage they will do. 

North and South, Sinn Féin seeks to deliver governments of change 

Governments driven by the timeless values of the Irish people – kindness, community, tolerance, and compassion. 

Governments that will lead the creation of a new, united Ireland where workers and families come first. 

An Ireland of prosperity where nobody is left behind, and where our young people can build a good future at home.

An Ireland where you can put a secure, affordable roof over your head, 

where you receive healthcare as a right, 

and where we have an economy that works for everyone fuelled by good jobs, decent wages, and the advancement of workers’ rights.

********************

Friends, in so many ways, the things our revolutionaries fought for one hundred years ago and the very things we fight for today. 

As James Connolly put it, “For our demands most moderate are, we only want the Earth.”

Today, we honour the dream for which Liam Lynch and his comrades fought on. 

Together, we rekindle the flame of freedom.

It burns brightly and lights the final length of the journey to the Republic, a road we now walk together. 

In finishing this journey, we transform the mournful lament of Liam Lynch into a song of hope and an anthem of change for a new generation. 

Friends, we have never been closer to the Republic. Never closer to uniting our country and our people.

We believe in Ireland.

We live for Ireland.

We will achieve for Ireland.

And with one last generational effort, together we will realise the Irish Republic in our time.

Go raibh míle maith agat go léir agus An Phoblacht Abú. 

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