Who holds these graves?

Martin McGuinness will be the main speaker at the Easter Rising commemoration in Carrickmore this Sunday.

In an unusual move the organisers have arranged a street re-enactment of the 1916 Rising, incorporating narrative and song. Though I daresay the interpretation may be a tad more partial than Sean O’Casey’s drama on the historic day, staged last Monday night by Omagh Players in Carrickmore’s Patrician hall during the Mid Ulster Drama Festival (Not in anyway aligned to the Easter commemoration.)

This new approach to the annual demonstration represents a continuing  move away from the traditional format of the Easter commemoration by mainstream Republicanism. The commemorations have been suffering something of an identity crisis in recent years with smaller crowds, less relevance the political direction of Sinn Fein have made the concept of colour party and dogmatic oration increasingly redundant.

While Provisional Sinn Fein move one way, stories emerging from 2008 and from last year suggested a split in the East Tyrone Republican movement, with reports that many Republican families were not happy with the prospect of Sinn Fein representatives speaking at grave sides and monuments of their dead relatives. The Tyrone National Graves Association has traditionally organised the Easter demonstrations in Tyrone, inviting Sinn Fein party members to orate. The organisation has always claimed political autonomy, but there has been little doubt that the Provisionals dominated its makeup throughout the last 40 years.

The following appeared last year as an account of how the split occurred:

“Last Year almost all of the Provo’s East Tyrone Brigade left the Provo’s and Provisional Sinn Fein leaving Republican Strongholds like Cappagh Galbally and Dungannon with no Sinn Fein Cumann. Almost over night the Tyrone National Graves Association became independent.

Months before the planning for the up coming Easter commemorations a large number of families of dead IRA volunteers approached the Tyrone NGA and said they didn’t want the provos using their loved ones graves as a propaganda tool they said they did not want speeches at the graveside and that they did not want wreaths laid on behalf of an Army that no longer existed.

At the next meeting of the Tyrone NGA meeting the provos landed en masse busing in supporters from Armagh and other areas to try and secure control of the Tyrone NGA, they failed in this attempt. One of their members from the Brantry area then tried to intimidate the meeting by reading out a statement from the now defunct P O’ Neil stating that the Tyrone NGA was no longer in control of the commemorations in the county and that Sinn Fein was now to take control of the Commemorations. The speaker was told this would not happen as the East Tyrone Brigade was no longer aligned to the Provisional Movement and therefore the speaker had no right to use the name P O’ Neil to try and intimidate people at the meeting the speaker then said he was going to lay the so called Army wreath at Edendork any way to which he was informed by family members of IRA Volunteers buried their that they would remove it by force if necessary.

Then on Sunday the Sunday World carried an article on the controversy and since then the Provo’s have now backed down and almost all of the Local Commemorations in East Tyrone will be independent.”

The result has been the emergence of the Tyrone Sinn Fein Commemoration Committee who are credited in Sinn Fein’s recent publicity as the organisation responsible for the Carrickmore commemoration rather than the Tyrone National Graves Association. By introducing their own body, Sinn Fein have wrestled control away from the Tyrone NGA, ensuring their party members dominate the Easter events. This trend appears to be replicated around the country.

The new Tyrone Sinn Fein Commemoration Committee website went online last week.

Questions then perhaps are raised in relation to Sinn Fein’s ‘wear a lily’ campaign. Originally one would have thought the proceeds went toward the NGA and funds for monument. But if Sinn Fein are organising the event on their own, where will these funds be invested? Is the National Graves Association effectively extinct by the muscle of PSF, or has it bolstered itself by refusing to become simply an extension of Sinn Fein? It also raises significant issues surrounding the entire concept of commemorations in Ireland.

There has been little to no publicity from the Tyrone NGA for 2010. Brian Cawley has previously overseen the Carrickmore demonstration as Tyrone National Graves Chairman, it will be interesting to find out the extent of NGA’s events this Sunday, which I hope to cover.


About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

4 Responses to Who holds these graves?

  1. alex says:

    While some of your article is accurate it does not mention how people in the NGA camp manipulated family members of dead volunteer’s into thinking the IRA did not want SF near their graves.
    Martin mc Guinness was challenged by a mother of a dead volunteer as to why he did not attend their easter commemoration, his reply was that he had been told by self appointed mouth pieces that he was not wanted by the families, which they now know to be lies.
    The NGA faction are an amalgam of RIRA,CIRA, and former IRA men who built multimillion pound empires on the back of the name of the IRA, and still want to preserve their fifedom’s.
    p.s and some of them who cry ‘sell out’s’ to the Republican movement now were themseves very instrumental in encouraging volunteers and supporters into backing the PSNI.

  2. Paddy K says:

    Alex – that is a load of Sinn Fein spin. The independemt commemorations are a family lead effort to allow everyone to remember the volunteers.
    The TNGA is not made up of RIRA or CIRA supporters get your facts straight and stop trying to cause trouble

  3. Yodler says:

    Sinn Feins Commemoration Committee has died a death almost all Commemorations at the Graves of the Dead Volunteers in East Tyrone will be independent the Garden in Carrickmore is made available to PSF for Easter Sunday by the Tyrone National Graves Association and they would make it available to all Groupings who wish to Remember Ireland’s Patriot dead , their were more people at 1 Independent wreath laying ceremony which happen in 3 or 4 parishes at the same time than their were at the PSF county Commemoration The Republican People of East Tyrone are firmly behind the Family’s and the TNGA

  4. thoi trang says:

    This needs to be done by distributing flyers to people’s doors and this will help you and will look good on any guy. We have even lost the once romantic notions of such rebellion, and the whole fans. It is known for its production capability, there are many on the market. The cuffs were modified to fit the plans for your event. In this article, we take a look at some of the best Pakistani models of today. New York fashion Week each September since 2009, when it comes to flying.

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