On Saturday, 29/4/17 Saoradh and the IRPWA held the 1st-anniversary commemoration for Volunteer Micky Barr in Strabane, a colour party marched to the grave, wreaths were laid, the Tyrone Roll of Honour and the Proclamation was read. The main oration was delivered by Tyrone Republican Packy Carty.
I want to thank you for inviting me here today to this hallowed spot, to remember Volunteer Micky Barr. The first anniversary is always a special one; the thoughts and memories of Micky remain strong, the hurt and anguish at his passing no doubt still burning in the hearts of his family, friends and comrades who miss him dearly.
There is a habit among Irish Republicans of elevating our patriot dead to a status of almost sainthood, it is perhaps a carryover from catholicism. Regardless, it does a disservice to the memory of our fallen; as it strips them of their humanity, removes the traits and idiosyncrasies that made them unique and indeed human, removes the little things that the family and friends will remember vividly.
None of us is perfect and Micky wasn’t either, but he was not the man painted in the gutter press and media. Micky was a loving son and a caring father, who loved Gaelic Football and the Tyrone county team, Micky was an ex-political prisoner who worked tirelessly for the IRPWA and as we now know an ardent Volunteer in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army.
The manner in which Volunteer Micky Barr died is a familiar one for Irish Republicans. It came, however, as a terrible shock to his family, friends and comrades. I had been in Dublin with the IRPWA for the calendar anniversary of the Rising and had a few pints at the function that evening with Micky and the Dublin comrades. In the capital, the spirit of republicanism was high; successful centenary commemorations across the nation and the public announcement that Revolutionary Republicanism was forming a new party had created new momentum. As a Movement we were resurgent. No one would have believed that a short time later we would be laying Micky to rest. The blame for Micky’s death lies squarely with the southern state and its proxies.
Republicanism has had no part nor does it want any part of the criminal feuding that is tearing apart working class Dublin. Also to blame, are those former republicans who have besmirched the cause of Irish Freedom by siding with criminality and in doing so are blurring the lines between republicans and gangsters in the public’s view; providing the state with invaluable propaganda to damage the republican struggle. Let us understand, that the only ones who have benefited from the death of Micky Barr is the failed 26 county statelet that Republicans want to see overturned. The state has tried through this heinous deed to draw republicanism, at a time when it is strong and resurgent, into a counter-revolutionary trap that would set us back in our current task of rebuilding. In rising above this obvious entrapment, the discipline of the Republican Movement has been exemplary.
We stand here today in Strabane, a town scarred by Britain’s war on the Irish Nation. This town has suffered dearly at the hands of the British forces of occupation, but perhaps more acutely than most areas in the occupied six counties, Strabane, and indeed the north-west suffer a continued economic war being waged by British imperialism. Partition has cut Strabane off from its natural hinterland of Donegal. It has caused immense poverty and social deprivation. The social ills of this town and indeed the north-west is due to malignant British imperialism and capitalism. The charts for unemployment, for suicide, for substance abuse and for child poverty are high but they go hand in hand with years of social neglect and deliberate underfunding by British Rule in Ireland. A look at the transport infrastructure map is one indicator of the clear bias towards the people of this area by the powers that be; transport infrastructure isn’t just underfunded it’s non-existent.
Saoradh was formed to offer an overt political vanguard against these forms of exploitation and to link the continuing economic exploitation of the Irish nation to our people’s struggle for national liberation and self-determination. The social ills of our people and their exploitation by the oppressor cannot be alleviated without national liberation. This is the continued struggle which we face today. The emancipation of our people can not be achieved through the structures laid down by our enemies, it can not be wished away with populist slogans, nor will turning republicanism into a theology or a series of commemoration committee’s, build the movement necessary to bring to a successful conclusion the unfinished revolution – a revolution that so many have struggled, died and been incarcerated for.
Volunteer Micky Barr was an activist. When he was killed, he was raising funds for political prisoners as an active member of the IRPWA. Had he lived he would have been a Saoradh activist and was well aware that the formative talks process was under way at that time.
Today whilst not the 1st of May there will be many who will be celebrating the workers holiday May Day. I am reminded of the famous words of the union activist and singer-songwriter Joe Hill, “don’t mourn, organise!” This is an adept slogan for Republicans in west Tyrone today in regards to the legacy of Micky Barr. If we are to build a lasting monument to Micky, it will not be one of sandstone or granite. The only monument befitting Micky is a strong Republican Movement in this part of Ireland that he called home. If we are to go from this grave today let us return next year stronger, more organised and more determined than we are today. Join Saoradh, join the IRPWA and through our activism, the spirit of our fallen comrades will live on.
Thank you comrades,
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.