Christmas Eve saw the 45th anniversary of IRA volunteers Eddie Grant and Brendan Quinn commemorated by Saoradh in Newry.
In the weeks leading up to the event Unionist hysteria went into overdrive with sectarian bigots calling for the event to be banned.
These threats were defied as Republican activists, community workers and former Republican Prisoners joined with family members of the IRA volunteers. The youngest children to the respected veterans all played a part in the event.
The event was chaired by Saoradh An Iúir chairperson Anthony Coyle.
Anthony welcomed everyone to the commemoration, in particular the families of the volunteers who gave their blessing to the event taking place.
Oliver White laid a wreath on behalf of Saoradh and Brendan Quinn’s sister, Deirdre, laid a wreath of behalf of the family.
A poem found on the grave of Vol Brendan Quinn shortly after his funeral was read by Eadaoin Uí HEidhin.
Brendan’s family have never found out who wrote the poem which goes as follows:
My Friend You Were
To you I was more than a girl
To you I was a soldier
You loved me as I loved you
And together we loved the land
We made the bread, we worked hard
We fought for our rights
Through hours and days and years
You loved life as I did
We saw things in a different light, my friend
Then in our fight for freedom for our land
Your life was taken away
I miss you friend and I cry
But when the glory comes you’ll be remembered as
A hero who fought and died
Anthony then introduced the main speaker, Saoradh representative Stephen Murney. Below is the full text of Stephens speech:
On behalf of Saoradh, I’d like to welcome you all here today to commemorate the 45th anniversary of IRA volunteers Eddie Grant and Brendan Quinn.
Both men were dedicated and active IRA volunteers of the Newry brigade.
Before I begin I just want to address the Unionist hysteria that preceded this event. This commemoration is organised by Saoradh with the blessing of the families of IRA volunteers Eddie Grant and Brendan Quinn. Today we have faced down and defied calls from sectarian bigots for this event to be banned. This event was always going to take place no matter what. This community holds in the highest regard the memory of these volunteers and we will always remember them and their sacrifice.
On Christmas Eve 1973, Brendan and Eddie were on active service on behalf of the Irish Republican Army.
The operation they were on took place in Monaghan St, where the Armaghdown is situated. Tragically the device they were carrying exploded prematurely killing both volunteers and a civilian.
On the day that it is, most people are spending time with their families and loved ones, making preparations for Christmas day. Eddie and Brendan were making preparations for freedom. So that future generations would avail of a better society, a true republic with true liberation.
The reason they gave their lives that day was because of foreign occupation and partition, the sole reasons for war in this country. Eddie, Brendan and so many others wouldn’t lie down and accept the injustices forced upon them by a foreign government. Men and women from this area went to prison, gave their lives or went on the run for involving themselves in the freedom struggle.
The freedom struggle isn’t over. The reason that these volunteers sacrificed their lives remains in place, partition and British occupation, all of which is enforced and upheld by the RUC/PSNI, MI5 and British Army.
It has been said that it is more difficult now to be a republican than ever before. This is due to an acceptance of partition, occupation, normalisation and support by former comrades, for the forces who enforce it.
In the occupied six counties our activists are having their front doors sledgehammered, and sawed open by the RUC/PSNI raiding our homes. Christmas presents have been ripped apart during these raids and activists, are seized and taken to interrorgation centres. Stop and searches are a daily occurrence with republicans being held, spreadeagled and cars ripped apart by armed mercenaries searching for items they know fine well they will never find.
In the Free State our comrades are directly challenging evictions, occupying the banks, opposing extradition and the Special political courts.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that the rebuilding and regrowth of militant Irish Republicanism continues, to help build a republican movement capable of helping to bring this fight to a finish.
We in Saoradh are determined to play our part in that fight. The legacy that heroes like Eddie and Brendan left behind is one of determination and commitment.
As we leave here today to spend time with our families and loved ones, spare a thought for those who sacrificed that opportunity for Irish Freedom.
No better way to honour the memory of both these heroes than to actively pursue the goal they set out to achieve on this day 45 years ago.