Women of the Revolution: ‘A Cordial Union’
Coinciding with the Fleadh in Cavan in 2012, an exhibition “Women of the Revolution” was organised by Sinn Fein from 16 to 21 August at the former Eagle Bar, Bridge Street, Cavan. It chronicled the role of women in Irish history and the struggle for Irish freedom, starting from the 1916 Easter Rising. Visual displays included extensive archival photographs, images, press and other material including a selection of memorabilia.
Guest speaker for the launch was Eibhlin Glenholmes, Belfast republican, once Britain’s “most wanted woman”, accused of IRA attacks in the 1980s who avoided extradition warrants. She has most recently been appointed onto the new Forum for Victims and Survivors as one of 25 unpaid members stretching across a wide range of people and activities. Each evening, female speakers discussed the various experiences of women through the republican struggle. Along with the exhibition, there was an Irish language information stall run by Liadh Ni Riada, Irish Language officer with Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein, meaning Ourselves, is the Irish nationalist party organized by journalist and politician Arthur Griffith (1871-1922) in 1905. In 1918 under Eamon de Valera (1882-1975) the party won a majority of seats in the British parliament and achieved the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. It exists today as the political wing of the republican movement. With the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Sinn Fein politicians are elected members of the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast.
‘A Cordial Union’
Irish republicans come from that long and honourable republican and internationalist tradition that began with the United Irish Society 200 years ago, most of whose leaders were Presbyterians. The Society sought to unite Irish citizens and break the connection with England. United Irishman Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798) captured its spirit when he wrote that “the weight of English influence in the Government of this country is so great as to require a cordial union among all the people of Ireland, to maintain that balance which is essential to the preservation of our liberties and the extension of our commerce”. Uniting Ireland is a project, www.unitingireland.ie, with its starting point as a belief in a new union and a cordial union of all the people of Ireland.
Republicans remain confident that with full implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, an end to institutionalised sectarianism and discrimination and the creation of a level political playing field, it is possible to persuade a section of unionism to dare to imagine a united Ireland which would be to their advantage, a shared Ireland not simply shaped by republicans and nationalists but by unionists too. It would be an accessible and responsive democracy, recognising and upholding basic human, civil and political rights.
The International Dimension
Sinn Fein recognised during the development of the peace process there is significant potential and a positive role for the international community. The Irish diaspora, particularly in the USA, played a pivotal role during that time. This is even more so the situation in respect of Irish reunification. There are tens of millions of people across the globe who can proudly trace their lineage back to Ireland. There are millions of Irish in Britain, Canada, United States, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, the Middle East, and all across Europe and in Africa.
As part of Sinn Fein’s United Ireland project four successful international conferences have been held in New York, San Francisco, Toronto and lastly in London.
Ita Marguet, October 2012
Note: Acknowledgement is given to the sources used in preparation of this text. It follows a visit to the Fleadh in Cavan and the exhibition on Women of the Revolution (August 2012).