Posted by Jim on February 3, 2018
A diverse gathering of republicans took place this week at St Mary’s
Cemetery Navan to commemorate the 6th anniversary of Volunteer Martin
Rattigan and his brother Joe, whose 4th anniversary
occurs later this year. North Armagh republican Cait Trainor delivered
the following oration.
Firstly let me say how honoured I am to have been asked by the Family
and Friends of Martin and Joe to come and here today and speak. The
fondness in which Martin & Joe’s friends speak of them is touching, they
speak of warm, witty and determined people, men who loved their country
immensely, two men who touched the lives of so many in their community.
For many Martin Rattigan is the epitome of old school Republican, he
travelled the length and breadth of Ireland campaigning, on his travels
he picked up many friends and acquaintances and nowhere outside of his
home town was Martin so well-known and loved as in County Armagh.
Martin operated as an IRA volunteer in South Armagh for many years,
during his time spent there on behalf of his country, Martin developed a
great affection for the place, he referred to Slieve Guillion as “my
little mountain”. At the beginning of whats referred to as the troubles,
Martin was part of an active service unit, made up of mainly Navan
Volunteers, he was billeted in Iniskeen when the unit heard word that
British Soldiers had blew up the road at Courtbane, the unit took up
position on the road and an ambush followed, it was here that the first
British Soldier of the campaign in South Armagh was killed.
Martin was involved in many IRA operations in subsequent years, based
mainly around Portadown and Lurgan. After ending active service Martin
was to continue his Republican activism, throughout his life he
campaigned for Republican prisoners and was involved in the Cuban 5
campaign, a keen internationalist Martin also made important links with
the Basque Separatists.
Joe was equally as active in campaigning on Republican issues, his
friends describe him as “Martin’s right hand man”, Joe sold Republican
papers religiously to try and get the word out, and he did whatever was
The esteem in which these two men are held is evidenced here today, the
very many of their friends who have come out to commemorate them, and
their family will never allow their memory to be forgotten.
If Martin and Joe where alive today, I have no doubt that they would be
to the forefront of the very many campaigns Republicans are currently
fighting. One of those very serious issues is Internment.
Internment or Licence revocation as the Brits are calling it, has become
a very worrying trend in Irish Republican circles, at present we have 3
men, all in Maghaberry Jail who are subject to this. In the case of Tony
Taylor who has now been in Jail for nearly 2 years, no acceptable reason
has been forthcoming, citing a generic “risk to security” is not a
reason, it is an assumption and not a fact, it is not a strong enough
assumption to take away someone’s liberty. The same goes for Gabriel
Mackle released only a matter of weeks and thrown back in Jail, once
again a mantra of being a “security risk” is all we know. Having secret
reasons given by a secret police in order to deprive someone of their
liberty is the stuff of tyrannical despotic states that decent society
is allegedly supposed to oppose.
The most shocking of these 3 cases though it has to be said is that of
Neil Hegarty, Neil was released from Jail in December after serving a
5-year sentence; Neil was welcomed home by his family and friends and
was undoubtedly looking forward to reconnecting. With Christmas only a
matter of weeks away, his friends and family were elated about having
him back at home, the first time in 5 years they would socialise
together, enjoy a meal and have quality time with their loved one. Just
over 24 hours after his release the Police arrived at Neil’s door, told
him his licence had been revoked and carted him off.
In the 26 counties we have an onslaught of IRA membership charges being
brought against Republican activists in an attempt to censor them, to
hamper the good work they are doing. Any Republican can be arrested and
charged with IRA membership, all it takes is the “belief” of a Chief
Superintendent. No evidence need be provided just simply the “belief” of
one person. And we all know that these Chief Superintendents are hardly
the most reliable of witnesses, given the atrocious track record of the
Gardai of telling lies and setting people up. When the charged person
eventually gets to court; and the Superintendent is questioned on their
“belief” they have in the past used privilege, in other words, secret
information. Essentially you can be arrested, charged and convicted of
IRA membership without having any specific allegation or evidence ever
given to justify it.
All this is supported by the Governments and a willing media. The
propaganda and media bias against the Republican people of Ireland means
that the Public are completely apathetic about these human rights
abuses, so it is our duty to inform them at every opportunity.
In recent years we hear people constantly talking about how to make
republicanism relevant, how we as “alternative” republicans must somehow
change ourselves and our ideology along with it, to those people we
state clearly that we are not alternative Republicans, there is no
alternative Republicanism, we stand by the Republic as laid out in the
One hundred years ago Irish Republicans took part in the first sitting
of an all Ireland Dail Eireann. On the same day volunteers of Oglaigh na
hEireann struck the first blow against the crown in the Tan War. Both
are seminal moments in Irish history and both are still an example and
inspiration to Irish Republicans.
Attempts are currently underway once again to try and deny the
legitimacy of the republican struggle and undermine resistance to
British rule. Let there be no doubt in people’s minds, the republican
struggle is and always has been legitimate. The illegitimacy lies in the
British occupation and those who seek to normalise it. It lies with
those who seek to equate resistance to the occupation with the savagery
meted out by the forces of the occupation. Republican resistance to
British rule was legitimate in 1798, it was legitimate in 1916 and it
remains legitimate today. As long as the British occupation remains and
the Irish people as a whole are denied self determination free from
foreign interference then to quote Padraig Pearse “the only honourable
attitude for Irishmen and Irishwomen is an attitude of revolt.”
The Irish Republic is the embodiment of the sovereignty of the Irish
people past, present and future. It is what countless generations gave
their lives and liberty for. It cannot simply be a passing piece of
rhetoric, we as republicans must act towards its re-establishment.
What we must also do however is face reality, we are at a critical time
in our history, The challenges we face are real and the British and
Freestaters are certainly winning the war of “hearts and minds”.
Martin Rattigan knew only too well when it was time to face reality, as
a member of the Provisional movement for many years, he gave them his
all, and he worked tirelessly believing that their plan was a new way, a
chance. However Martin like so many others realised, that PSF had went
down the path of reformism and revisionism, a testament of Martin’s
character was his courage and strength, his ability to put ego to one
side and say enough is enough, he walked away from the movement he had
dedicated his life to. He put his Country before pride.
Martin demonstrated a political maturity that surpasses what many people
are capable of, it would have been easy for Martin to stay with them, to
see out his days quietly, to not rock the boat, but Martin was a man of
integrity and honour and when he realised that PSF had actually become
part of the problem, that they were in fact propping up British rule
instead of trying to end it, his mind was only on the cause of the
Republic and nothing else.
The lesson that we can all take from Martin and Joe is that it is never
too late, you are never too old to do service for your country, that as
Republicans we must always follow the cause and never the man.
In leaving here today, let us take that lesson with us and act upon it.