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--Oration by Fergal Moore, Ard Chomhairle, at Seán Keenan Commemoration, Derry, March 8, 2004

A chairde, poblachtani agus muintir na Doire,

I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to speak here in Free Derry at this commemoration for one of its most stalwart and loyal sons Seán Keenan. Seán's Republican credentials were without peer. At the time of his death he was honourary vice president for life of Republican Sinn Féin. His father Séamus was Quarter Master of the Irish Republican Army here in Derry. No need to tell you that no weapons were handed over to the enemy and no guns were destroyed at their behest in his day. For the Keenans were true Republicans, loyal to the All Ireland Republic and constant foes of the regime in Stormont, the seat of British power in Ireland. Other citizens of Derry should take note; Republicans are opposed to British rule in Ireland whatever guise it takes.

We believe that the seizing and destruction of arms is a treasonable offence and that those that are party to it are traitors. These weapons were acquired by the Irish people to protect themselves from British aggression and to overthrow their rule here, not to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations to update British rule. The Republican Movement cannot have any part in accepting British rule.

Seán Keenan was a member of the Republican Movement for sixty years. In this time he was imprisoned on three separate occasions for a total of fifteen years without ever standing trial. He was interned in Belfast and Derry, in Long Kesh and on the prison ships Al Rawdah and the Maidstone where my own father was held. Here Seán continued the fight for Irish freedom and was a member of the escape committee and was a mentor and father figure to the younger prisoners and volunteers.

Seán was not cowed or dismayed by Britain's treatment of him, rather he became more steadfast in his Republicanism and made preparations for when the next big push for Irish freedom would come. In 1969 he was chairman of the Derry Citizens Defence Association and organised the defence of nationalist Derry. Before long the Derry CDA was running the administration of an effective no-go area that became famous to the world as Free Derry.

How different things are now where once Britain's police force was not welcome in Derry, some of Seán's former comrades now welcome former RUC officers to join their organisation. The British police force in Ireland has never been acceptable to Republicans and never will be.

Free Derry was a beacon of hope to the beleaguered nationalist areas of the six counties. While it stood Britain would have restless nights. For Free Derry was dedicated to the All Ireland Republic. The Republican people of Derry, its young men and women were instructed and trained in the use of arms to defend their homes against the British Army and the RUC. In defending their homes they also defended the Republic and the interests of all Irish people.

These walls that look down upon us are a testament to Britain's attitude towards nationalist Ireland. Upon them sit guns that have pointed at nationalist Derry for three hundred years. Still today the new look RUC, the PSNI, sit up there pointing their guns. What Republican believes that the PSNI are any different from the RUC? They harass nationalists, they collude with Loyalists, but most importantly they enforce British rule at gunpoint. Only the name has been changed to protect the guilty. And the guilty ones are those who would con you into believing that anything has changed. The British still rule this part of Ireland, young Irish men still languish in British gaols because of them and pro-British paramilitaries still threaten, abduct, beat and kill those who dare oppose them.

Republicans will always oppose British rule in Ireland for we are revolutionaries who are dedicated to the re-establishment of the All Ireland Republic. Just as Seán Keenan and his family were. And just as Seán did we must make adequate preparations to continue the struggle against our enemy. If Ireland is to be free then Britain must be thrown out and Stormont overthrown. For that is the nature of revolution, complete change from top to bottom. Stormont will never elect to dismantle itself. Britain will not just up sticks and leave. Stormont must be torn down and Britain forced out. The revolution must continue until freedom is achieved.

Seán Keenan led the people of Derry in the struggle against British oppression. I ask the people of Derry to keep that line of continuity open. Turn away from the Provisionals and their acceptance of British rule. Instead join the Republican Movement just as Sean did. Every one of you has your own part to play in the struggle. There is a place for each of you in the Movement. Seán was a member of Republican Sinn Féin and of the Irish Republican Army. His son Colm was killed while on active service with the IRA here in Derry. His wife Nancy was a member of Cumann Na mBan. The youth of Derry should consider roles within Na Fianna Éireann, the Republican Scouts, for the scouts of today are the revolutionaries of tomorrow.

All of these organisations are a part of the Republican Movement. All of these organisations require your support. The Continuity IRA prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise require your support. There can be no revolution without the support of the Irish people. But so long as there is a body of people such as you here to support it the revolution must and will continue until Ireland is free.

An Phoblacht Abu!


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