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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Kevin Lynch Commemoration Speech
Jimmy Bradley, IRSP Ard Comhairle Member • 11 August 2003

Friends and Comrades, it is an honour and a privilege to be asked to speak at this meeting. As a former prisoner in Long Kesh, I know what it was like to do time for taking the struggle to the Brits. Many fine republicans were incarcerated in the prisons of the Brits as they sought to repress the spirit of resistance. Regardless of which organisation they belonged to, all republicans imprisoned for their beliefs should be respected.

Today is a day we pay homage to Kevin Lynch, who died after 71 days on hunger strike. Kevin joined a long list of Irish martyrs who died on hunger strike or in prison protest for the recognition of the right of the Irish people for self-determination.

Republicans have gone on hunger strikes throughout our history to re-affirm their political struggle. Prison struggles have been part and parcel of republicanism since the imprisonment and death of Wolfe Tone.

It was in his prison cell 200 years ago this very year that Robert Emmett composed one of the finest speeches ever culminating in his rallying call that "until Ireland takes her place among the nations of the world then and only then let my epitaph be written."

The members of the Fenians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, imprisoned in England during the latter part of the 19th century, were treated dreadfully by the British and indeed one or two of the prisoners went mad from their treatment. But they never flinched from the struggle for political recognition of their cause. James Connolly, socialist republican founder of the Irish Citizen Army, was a hunger striker and during the war of independence many republicans went on hunger strike and indeed some died.

Since the start of the so-called 'Troubles', republicans have campaigned for political status.

It was a Belfast republican, Billy McKee, who was first to go on hunger strike for political status. The deadly struggle that took place around the '81 hunger strikers finally convinced the world of the legitimacy of our struggle. Sadly, ten brave republicans had to give their lives that the world should recognise the legitimacy of the Republican struggle.

To be treated as an ordinary criminal is to demean the struggle for a Republic. We are not and never had been ordinary criminals. It is no crime in my eyes for Irish republicans to assert in arms the right of the Irish people to self-determination.

Therefore we fully support the right of the republican prisoners in Maghaberry to segregation. We clearly recognise that they are political prisoners involved in a legitimate form of protest within the jail. I fully understand the frustrations that have driven the prisoners to undertake a dirty protest.

I call on all former prisoners to come out on demonstrations in support of the call for segregation, no matter who calls those demonstrations.

We are calling for the establishment of a broad based committee comprising representatives of all republican groups and other supporters to take up the demand for segregation. The history of the H-block mass struggles during the '81 hunger strikes show what can be achieved by a unified campaign drawing support from a wide base.

Such support for the prisoners should not be seen as an endorsement for the continuation of armed struggle by republican groups. We are very clear about the futility of the continuation of armed actions at this time. It is clear that the vast majority of republicans as well as the vast majority of the Irish people reject armed struggle as a current tactic. We urge other republicans to take the political road. It is the only way forward to progress republican objectives.

Let us be under no illusions about what the last thirty years was about ­ we did not take up armed struggle to achieve equality - we did not take up armed struggle to achieve civil rights. We took up arms, and Kevin Lynch and all his comrades who died on hunger strike, took up arms to achieve a Republic that cherished all the children of the nation equally. We were sick and tired of living under British and unionist rule for that rule was unjust, discriminatory, arbitrary, despotic, and imperialistic.

And, do you know something, I'm still sick and tired of living under British rule.

But times change and the strategy and tactics of republicans have to change as well. We in the Republican Socialist Movement have accepted the need to modify our tactics to meet the changed times we live. But the calling of the INLA ceasefire was not a declaration that our beliefs, our principles, and our politics had changed.

On the contrary, every thing that has happened since 1998 has re-confirmed us in our beliefs. We remain committed to the struggle for a Socialist Republic, are unwavering in our belief in class politics, and remain implacable opposed to the existence of the Northern Ireland state. It always was and still is a failed political entity and we believe that the smashing of the Northern state will be in the interests of all of the northern people whether they describe themselves as unionist, nationalist, or other.

The repression used by the old Stormont state with the backing of the British forced republicans to rearm and defend the nationalist areas from Orange pogroms. Then a combination of rural guerrilla warfare, civil disobedience, urban armed struggle, and street protests brought down the old Stormont regime.

Following the smashing of the old Stormont, the full force of British imperialism was brought to bear on the resistance struggle. State-directed loyalist murder gangs brutally slaying innocent Catholics in an attempt to demoralise resistance; a conveyor belt 'justice system' that denied justice; a refining of torture techniques in Castlereagh; the tainted evidence of the lowest of the low - the informer; the attempted criminalisation of freedom fighters and revolutionaries; murder gangs operating out of British Army barracks; state sanctioned bombings of Dublin and Monaghan; state files on every nationalist; housing policy and employment polices dictated primarily by military Generals; and the demonising and censoring of republicans.

Such tactics in turn provoked a response and nowhere more so than in the prisons where the blanket men and women engaged in the dirty protest to re-gain political status. Thanks to the sterling work of the Relatives Action Committees and then later the H-Block Committees, the issue became an international issue.

Kevin Lynch played his part in the resistance. He gave his intellect, his energy, and sadly his life in the struggle for political status.

His loss was not only a devastating personal blow to his family but also a major setback for the struggle. Outstanding individuals like Kevin were and still are a sad loss to the republican struggle. And, be under no misapprehensions, there is still a republican struggle.

When Kevin and his comrades went on hunger strike they had no mandate from anyone. They needed no mandate to do what they did. They saw injustice - they saw repression - they saw brutality - they saw the naked face of imperialism - and so they resisted. And they died.

Like the men and women of Easter 1916, they had no mandate. Today we need no mandate to honour these two fine republican socialists. We need no mandate to be republicans. We need no mandate to be socialists. We need no mandate to oppose imperialism wherever we find it. It is enough for injustice to exist for us to organise to oppose it.

Whether in Ireland or Iraq or wherever in the world imperialism oppresses and exploits, then so should anti-imperialists organise and resist. For so long as there is a republican still alive in Ireland, struggling for the Workers Republic, then the spirit of Kevin Lynch and all the other men and women, who died that their country and their class could be free, will live on.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

11 August 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Revenge, Not Justice
Anthony McIntyre


Statement of Michael McKevitt


Brutality in Maghaberry Extends to Visitors

Martin Mulholland, IRPWA


Federal Prisoner Becomes University Professor
Stephen C. Richards


What is the New School of Convict Criminology?
Jeffery Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards


Intellectuals and the Cold War
John Harrington


Kevin Lynch Commemoration Speech
Jimmy Bradley


Neo-Liberal Nicaragua: Neo Banana Republic
Toni Solo


5 August 2003


Spooks, Spies and Spoofers
Anthony McIntyre


Doing Something Right
Aine Fox


The Ideas of Frantz Fanon

Liam O Ruairc


Terrorism and Civil Society as Instruments of US Policy in Cuba
Philip Agee


The Letters Page has been updated.




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