Condolences were sent to the family of former volunteer Gerard (Darcy) Dargan who passed away on Friday evening and also acknowledgement of the upcoming 28th anniversary of Gino Gallagher.
Friends and comrades,
Forty one years have passed since Neil McMonagle was lured to his death at this spot by a British army death squad, a death squad which was sent here by those at the very top of the British government. They were sent with a clear message. To kill any Irish person who has the gall to stand against the occupation of Ireland and the subjugation of the Irish people.
As our communities struggled with the day to day issues that affected their lives and worried about paying the next bill in the background and unbeknownst to the majority of people within the community these death squads operated in the darkness and in the shadows as they stalked their prey. Most were totally unaware of the danger that stalked these streets. They skulked around this city armed to the teeth ready and prepared to neutralize any person who challenged their presence. Hiding in the shadows, immune from any norms of law and order, these trained killers operated with impunity in our communities. Their prey was usually young men who had previously shown leadership during times of turmoil and these were often marked out as targets.
One young man who fitted this profile was the volunteer who we gather here today to commemorate, Neil McMonagle. He stood out as a leader in this area proving himself to be more than capable of resisting the regular British Army and RUC incursions into this community. Neil stood out as a young man energised with revolutionary ideals prepared to show leadership on the streets and whilst known for his bravery and military prowess he was also politically very well aware.
As a follower of Connolly and Costello he understood that the military and political movements could not be divorced from each other. True freedom arises when the working class take control of all sections of society. When workers are in control of every aspect of their lives, economically, socially and culturally.
It was for these reasons that Neil was lured to his death by the SAS that night. This was a time of war and Neil understood more than most the potential consequences of becoming a volunteer in the Irish National Liberation Army.
People from this area remember Neil, with rifle in hand, tackling head-on the RUC or British Army every time they tried to enter Shantallow during that period. Neil McMonagle did not ask anyone to do anything that he himself was not prepared to do. Neil was a leader who led from the front and his exploits are well known to the people from this area. Everyone has a story or two to tell about Neil.
This weekend also marks the anniversary of the massacre in this city known as Bloody Sunday. As a young teenager Neil McMonagle was on that civil rights march. He failed to return home that evening and rumours quickly circulated around the Creggan estate that he had been shot in the Bogside. Thankfully Neil turned up later safe and well. But he was a witness to those events and this had a huge impact on him and many other young men in Derry. Witnessing the events of Bloody Sunday helped shape Neil’s politics and were a factor in him joining the Irish National Liberation Army a number of years later. He seen the occupation forces using a shoot first policy on his friends and neighbours and rightfully believed that that’s the only language that Britain understood.
I would like to pay tribute to Neil’s family for their commitment to his memory and his ideals and I’m sure Neil’s family would like to pay tribute to the people of Leafair and Greater Shantallow who have never forgotten Neil and what he stood for. As a revolutionary socialist Neil sided with the working class people, he was a working class lad and a volunteer who was not afraid to tackle injustice, eventually paying for his activism with his young life. Neil’s killing was carried out by an undercover British SAS soldier who had no business being in Ireland. He had no right to be here working for the Crown never mind having the right to take life in Ireland at the behest of his political masters who Neil had fought bravely to bring down.
For us in the IRSP there’s no point just turning up here and remembering Neil if you do nothing to further his political dream. Neil was a champion of the poor and the oppressed but he also fought for the Republic free from British interference.
If alive today I have no doubt that Neil would be standing in solidarity with those in Palestine who are currently under the most brutal assault from a truly evil Zionist Israeli regime in Gaza and the West Bank. 30,000 are now dead, half of them children. Israel is destroying every school, university, mosque, church, shopping center and housing blocks in a clear attempt at destroying the life, culture and social fabric of an entire people. They are systematically committing genocide in front of our eyes with the full support of the rotten and corrupt governments in Britain and the United States. Neil always understood colonialism and occupation and without fail sided with the oppressed. He would be urging his friends in Sinn Fein to persuade their leadership to stand with those in Palestine by refusing to attend the St Patrick’s day celebrations in the White House. It is truly shocking that any Irish Republican would be contemplating standing with Genocide Joe Biden at this time. We also urge the Sinn Fein leadership to show real and meaningful solidarity with the Palestinians by not attending this event. Their absence would have a much stronger impact and might actually provoke a pause for thought in the White House. It is clear that any Irish politician or famous personality who attends during this time will be staining their reputation for years to come.
We in the IRSP will continue to campaign for the destruction of colonialism whether here in Ireland or in Palestine. We are out to destroy the rotten northern state and for the unification of our people. This state cannot be reformed. It is nearing it’s end and we intend to continue advocating for a just and fair society based on the political ideals of Connolly, Costello and McMonagle. The political road is a difficult one but one in which we are facing with determination and energy. We ask you to join us and help us make Neil’s dream a reality because it is only with the full participation of all the people that real change can occur and capitalism and imperialism can be smashed. Let me finish by paying tribute to Neil and all those who died fighting for a 32 county socialist republic. We salute your memory and pledge to continue the fight for a truly free and democratic Ireland.
Go raibh maith agat.