Comrades we are gathered here today to remember volunteer Ronan Mc Loughlin, who was tragically shot down by pro British Free State forces on the 1st May 1998.
Ronan was a political activist all his life and at a young age came to the conclusion that the only solution to the age old conflict in Ireland was the complete withdrawal of Britain’s colonial machinery from the occupied six counties and the re-establishment of the republic founded in 1919 with the full implementation of the historic 1916 proclamation and the 1919 democratic programme. Partition by its nature is anti democratic and Ronan found that the only way of successfully challenging Britain’s illegal occupation was from the ranks of the Irish Republican Army.
His commitment and drive were an inspiration to all who knew him. It was this commitment to the republican struggle that led Ronan to question the strategy then being pursued by the leadership of the Provisional movement. Although sold to the republican community as a tactic, the process of engaging the British soon took precedent over all aspects of the IRA’s campaign. Ronan and his comrades recognised that this process would have a detrimental impact on the struggle as a whole. Britain has only ever attempted to come to an arrangement with Irish republicanism as a result of a successfully waged military campaign. Firstly in the 1920s and again in a longer more drawn out process in the 1980s and 1990s. The results of both processes were the near defeat of the republican struggle. The only thing stopping the complete destruction of the republican struggle was the presence of a of core republican activists who refused to compromise their republican principles.
It has always been British imperial policy across the world, to divide and conquer. It is no different in Ireland, Britain’s first colony. The Irish Free State was a creation of the British government, a way of cementing partition and also as a mechanism for continuing the war of suppression against the republic established by the last act of Irish self determination. Britain will always put its own interests above those of the Irish people; this has always been the case and will always be.
You would imagine that the leaders of republicanism in the 1980s would have learned from the mistakes of the past, it was criminal to think that a process could be entered into with the British government that would result in anything but the defeat of the republican struggle. Through secret engagements with the British and Free State governments, while men and women were dying fighting crown forces, Adams and co undermined the very resistance movement of which they were leading members, both politically and militarily. It was this betrayal of the freedom struggle that lead to a split within the ranks of the IRA. Ronan, along with many of his comrades, made the choice, to stay true to their ideals and the republic they had been fighting to re-establish. But let us make it clear, Ronan Mc Loughlinn was no “dissident” republican, we, who stand here today, are no “dissident” republicans we have not dissented from our republican principles.
The Dissidents sit on Stormont hill administering British rule. A Provisional Sinn Fein first minister would be the crowning achievement of British policy in Ireland. Former republicans now stand shoulder to shoulder with the commanding officer of the British paramilitary police force and the political leaders of unionism in Ireland to condemn republican volunteers who are continuing to engage crown forces. Republican prisoners of war are, at this moment in time, being brutalised and criminalised, this as provisional Sinn Fein are organising events to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike during which ten brave man gave their lives so no other republican prisoner would have to suffer brutality. The image of Bobby Sands used to gain votes for a partitionist party is sickening and an insult to that brave man’s memory. The hypocrisy of the Provisional movement knows no bounds. British rule cannot be reformed, engagement in the Stormont assembly will not bring about Irish unity and participation in that other partitionist parliament Leinster House will not see our goals achieved.
The path that Ronan and his comrades chose was not the easy choice. It would have been much easier to support the so called “Peace” Process, it would have been much easier to have became political activists, part of Provisional Sinn Fein’s quest to obtain political power, rather than to remain soldiers of the republic. But for Ronan it was never about making the easy choice, it was about making the right choice. He like many others remained loyal to the oath they took as IRA volunteers, he remained true to the republic, he remained true to the IRA and its constitution. Ronan along with others could not stand idly by while a once powerful guerrilla army was sacrificed to satisfy the demands of the British government and the unionist establishment. Ronan took the view that those who subverted the IRA’s constitution to accommodate an internal settlement in the six counties ceased to be members of the Irish Republican Army, that they had split and fractured the republican movement. In the face of threats from former comrades Ronan threw himself whole heartedly into rebuilding the IRA and it‘s freedom struggle. It was this fearless commitment that found him in Ashford on that sunny day in May 1998.
The same Free State forces that executed Ronan are here today, they would like nothing better than for Ronan to be forgotten. They would like nothing more than for all the men and women who died for Irish freedom to be forgotten. But our presence here today comrades, sends a powerful message to the Free State government, to the British government and their lackeys in Stormont, that even though they may brutalise us, or try to sideline us or even try and kill us, we remain steadfast and confident that our freedom struggle will be brought to a successful conclusion.
Ronan stands apart from the quislings who killed him, as he died an active member of the IRA, an Irish patriot, dedicated to ending British occupation and interference in Irish affairs. For those of us who knew Ronan, we take inspiration from the man he was. From his dedication to the IRA and the cause of Irish freedom, from his tireless efforts to see his dream of a free united Ireland realised. Ronan, long after partition is confined to the history books, long after those who murdered you are forgotten, you will live in our memories and in our hearts, a true comrade and a brave Irish soldier, your monument will be a 32 county socialist republic.
Tiocfaidh Ar La