Oration at Kevin Lynch Commemoration

30th Anniversary
INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch
31st July 2011

Delivered By Paul Little, Ard Comhairle, IRSP

On this the 30th anniversary of the death on Hungerstrike of INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch, we are honoured to speak here today as we pay our respects and honour our fallen comrade.

It is hard to believe that thirty years have passed since the dark days of 1981 and all the pain, suffering and death of that period, and whilst we endured all this, we did so with a determination, a passion and a belief that what we were fighting for was just and fair.

We drew that determination down from Kevin and his nine comrades in the H Blocks, they bravely looked Thatcher straight in the eye and did not blink. The hungerstrikers were not criminals, the blanketmen and women were not criminals, our community were not criminals and the struggle for Irish freedom and the establishment of a 32 county democratic Irish republic was not criminal.

As we stand and remember Kevin here today let us not forget that Irish republican prisoners are lying incarcerated, protesting in a British Gaol in Ireland as we speak. It does not matter if we disagree with arm struggle as a tactic; the prisoners today are every bit political prisoners as all those Irish republicans who went before them.

The protest the prisoners have embarked on is to secure the implementation of an agreement that was reached last August between the prisoners and the prison administration. The agreement was negotiated and facilitated by independent facilitators from the trade union movement, community sector and an international conflict resolution activist; this panel was assembled together by the IRSP and sanctioned by the republican prisoners in Maghaberry.

The agreement reached, the prisoners believed and we believe, secured the republican prisoners two core demands, of an end to strip-searching and free association.

The ink was not dry on the agreement before the prison administration reneged on its commitments forcing republican prisoners into degrading strip searches and restricted movement, and eventually as we know on to protest. The prisoners need your support now!

We are also concerned with the inhumane and unjust treatment of republican prisoner Brendan Lillis. Brendan is languishing in a British Gaol, interned without trial and suffering from a debilitating and life limiting health condition. Brendan is nearly 60 yrs of age and has already spent sixteen years in the H Blocks, Long Kesh, including five years on the Blanket. He currently has been confined to bed for over 600 days, his weight has fallen to five and a half stone and he now has to receive injections to help him sleep. In short Brendan Lillis is dying in Maghaberry prison. He needs your help now, he needs your voice and his family need your support. Stand up and be counted, free Brendan Lillis now!

In the thirty years since Kevin’s passing, much has changed in the political climate in which Irish Republican socialists have to ply our trade. Republican Socialism is the political tradition and ideology that Kevin, Patsy and Mickey chose to join and fight for Irish national liberation and socialism.

We do not single out our volunteers from the seven IRA hungerstrikers as somehow being ‘better’ republicans, because we do not believe that. The 10 volunteers were bound together by struggle, by incarceration, by brutalisation and injustice, yes. But they were not all the same. Patsy, Kevin and Mickey were cut from the same jib as James Connolly, Liam Mellows and Seamus Costello. They believed, as the IRSP continues to believe that Irish freedom without socialism is a poisoned chalice in which the forces of reaction and counter reaction would continue to thrive and prosper in Ireland.

So what of the tradition that Patsy, Kevin and Mickey gave their lives for? Where is Republican Socialism today? The IRSP are alive and kicking, we are moving forward and confident of our political message. We will continue to struggle for a democratic, 32 county socialist republic because we believe, that it is the fairest form of governance for all the people of Ireland.

The Irish National Liberation Army has made its contribution to the current imperfect peace that we now enjoy, we believe, that as republican socialists, that we have made the right decisions at the right times and for the right reasons. We are determined to put the best interests of the Irish working class at the core of our decision making process. We are confident, that Patsy, Kevin and Mickey would approve.

What of the general state of Irish republican struggle?

Are we united in our campaign for the establishment of an Irish Republic?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. That is our cross to bear; too much water has passed under that particular bridge to make republican unity a viable option. There has been too much acrimony, too much name-calling and too much mistrust. Irish Republicanism is more divided now than at anytime in our history. That is our collective shame.

What is possible? The IRSP believe that a dialogue, a conversation, an open and honest debate needs to take place across the diversity that now represents 21st century Irish republicanism. The unfortunate reality is that we have countless incarnations of the IRA, and I mention, not in order of preference, rank, or in support of a particular strategy, we have the PIRA/SF, CIRA/RSF, 32SM/RIRA/ Eirigi or RNU/ONH and more recently the 1916 Societies. Irish republican socialism cannot be complacent either, whether it is the IRSP/INLA, ORM/IRA, or Workers Party/IRA, the divisions are there and need to be addressed.

We take this opportunity to call for open and honest dialogue among all Irish republicans; this dialogue needs to take place free from acrimony, name-calling and petty self-interest. It needs to take place in the spirit of the Irish Republican ideal, unity of purpose, unity of conviction and the determination and tenacity to rid Ireland and our people from British rule once and for all.

We all struggle for variations of the same united Ireland, free from British rule and occupation, an Ireland, its people and its resources within our own control. Is it beyond our collective ability to organise and encourage this discourse? We believe not.

Much has been written about Irelands loss when the hungerstrikers died, and as we commemorate Kevin Lynch here today in his native Dungiven, among his family and peers we want to acknowledge their loss. When Kevin died other comrades stepped up to the plate to continue his struggle, other sports men lifted his beloved caman and sliothair and continued to hurl. Thirty years on, if Kevin had chosen another path in life he most certainly would have been a husband, a father and quite possibly a grandfather by now. These are all events that sadly Paddy and Bridie and the rest of the Lynch family never got to see.
When Kevin died, a void was left the centre of the Lynch family, a void was left in this county Derry village community. A void that can never be filled. All they are left with is their memories of Kevin. We acknowledge their sad loss.
Volunteer Kevin Lynch, INLA, son and brother, Gael and revolutionary we salute you.
Go raibh maith agat.