Councillor Martin Browne of Sinn Féin Tiobraid Árann has expressed his delight at the news that his intervention last night in the case of the 7 year old medical refugee Ava Barry has yielded a successful result. Cllr Browne cautions however that there are many, many more children and families that need similar treatment.
Cllr Browne said: “I am delighted to report that Minister Simon Harris has signed a licence for medicinal cannabis for Ava Barry. This is very, very, good news for this Cork family. We’re absolutely ecstatic that this Christmas that the Barry/Twomey family can be home together in West Cork.”
“Sinn Féin in Tipperary have followed the plight of Ava and her absolutely indomitable mother Vera Twomey since the start. I myself am glad to be able to say that starting in this county we connected the dots from Tipperary to Dublin to make the task of walking easier for Vera, and I thank all the Sinn Féin volunteers who helped out along the way then, and have helped up until now.”
“There were and are such a large number of people that came out to support Vera from all parties and none, both on that walk and since, that it should never have been the case that Ava had to go abroad. But she did, and the worry about that family being split up haunted us.”
“I hope that Vera is pleased at this point. Her achievement is immense. The work done by Gino Kenny TD in supporting her aim to care for her child cannot be overstated. His bill remains live, for as long as this Dáil remains, courtesy of Jonathan O’Brien and Louise O’Reilly among others.”
“But let’s not forget that Ava, special and wonderful as she is, isn’t unique in benefitting from medicinal cannabis. There are still so many more people who need access to this completely natural herb to live a normal life.”
“That we came as close as we did to the game of political Chicken between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil bringing down the Government, to be followed by a dissolution of the Dáil, remains a problem that the political systems of the Southern State seem unable to resolve. That those parties would even play their games before first looking after a 7 year old medical refugee all the way out in The Hague in Holland, from the little village of Aghabullogue in West Cork is worrying.”
“As a minor matter that should never have had to be debated about, the departure of former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald from the position of Táiniste is also to be welcomed.”
“But today, our thoughts are with Vera, Paul, Ava, Sophie, Michael, and Elvera and the extended Barry family and the prospect of them being at home in West Cork together for Christmas.”
Cllr Martin Browne of Sinn Féin Tipperary has called for immediate action on the part of the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to address the needs of 7-year old Ava Barry, whose Mum Vera Twomey is walking from Cork to Dublin to highlight the need for medicinal cannabis and to protest at her poor treatment at the hands of the HSE and officialdom generally, including at the hands of those Ministers.
Cllr Browne said: “I was moved when I heard of the plight of Vera Twomey and her family. When she started her walk the first time I was sure that common sense and decency would see a speedy resolution. So I was pleased when I heard that Minister for Health Simon Harris contacted her directly, and expected that she would be helped in every way possible.”
“That hasn’t happened, and instead Minister Harris seems to have been playing politics with Vera Twomey. But Vera wasn’t playing, she was being a Mum, and a very determined one at that.”
“When we heard that Vera was forced to walk again, we felt that we should help. I’d like to think that any parent who prioritises their child would do what Vera is doing; but if the State was living up to the 1916 promise to “cherish the children of the nation equally” she wouldn’t have to.”
“On Friday 25th February our PRO (Fachtna Roe) sent emails privately to Simon Harris and to Catherine Zappone calling upon them to either fix the problem now or resign. Both Ministers have failed in their primary duties, and cannot be counted upon to defend the interests of a 7-year old child. They have broken the bond with the founding document upon which the Republic lays it’s claim to legitimacy, the 1916 Proclamation. By so visibly failing to honour the commitment to children of the proclamation these Ministers are encouraging others to re-evaluate their relationship with the State.”
“I support that call for action or for their resignations and re-iterate it now. Our PRO subsequently sent those letters by registered post, with the same content, to both Ministers. Many thousands of people have since emailed those Ministers and I have not heard of anyone receiving a reply. Our PRO equally has not.”
“The situation is actually quite simple: a young child is ill, with a life-limiting illness. There’s a bunch of people in Dublin who can improve that life at the stroke of a pen. But they won’t.”
“As a parent I can empathise with what Vera is going through, and I am amazed at her determination. But I am equally amazed that these two Ministers don’t appear to have that same empathy or concern.”
“The first duty of society is to it’s next generation. If the Dublin Government won’t take responsibility, then they should resign, starting with the Ministers for Health and for Children. This is an issue around the health of a child, pure and simple.”
“The choice is easy: help this child, or step aside and let someone else help this child.”
The letters sent are attached, and their delivery status can be checked here (Simon Harris:
“The criminals weren’t in prison. They were in Westminster”.
So said Cllr Malachy McCreesh on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Clonmel. He was speaking at the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes, which saw 10 men die – including his brother – through starvation in order to regain their status as political prisoners. The May sunshine stood as a stark contrast to the dark days of 1981, when British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher tried and failed to criminalise the prisoners in the H-Blocks.
The toll in human suffering was immense.
Apart from the men who died, there were hundreds of affected relatives, and many more dead and injured as a result of the widespread rioting which erupted in protest at the treatment of the prisoners.
One of the relatives who was affected was Malachy McCreesh, who is now a councillor in Limerick. His brother Raymond was among those who died.
The 1981 hunger strikes made international news as one by one the men died rather than submit to being criminalised by the British prison system. But it was the death of Bobby Sands which drew the most attention, and it is his name that is first on most persons lips when they speak of 1981.
Bobby Sands stood as candidate in a by-election for Westminster while he was on hunger strike. The nationalist community rallied to the cause and he was elected. He died less than a month later, after 66 days without food, aged only 27.
The treatment of Sands was international news of the most embarrassing kind for the British, and drew enormous media attention, as Thatcher allowed an elected Member of her Parliament to die. It is for this reason that Sands’ name is the first remembered, as the first of 10 to make such a painful sacrifice.
But Sands was not the only H-Block martyr. Among those that followed was young Raymond McCreesh, who was just 24 when he died. His brother Malachy spoke in Clonmel on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday’s commemoration was organised by the Clonmel cumann of Sinn Féin. It progressed from Convent Bridge to the Manchester Martyrs monument on the Clonmel Quays. People in Clonmel have rarely seen Republicans march through their town in such a fashion, and many will never have heard a Republican marching band.
Speaking after the laying of wreaths at the monument, Cllr McCreesh said “The international media were able to see that the criminals weren’t in the H-Blocks, and they weren’t in Armagh prison. They were in Westminster, and in all the other political establishments that allowed this situation”.
“At the funeral of Bobby Sands, everywhere we passed an RUC man, they turned their back. There was no respect whatsoever for the Republican community. There never was. We’re still struggling.”
“At the funeral of Francis Hughes the RUC would have hijacked the hearse, but the driver wouldn’t let them in, and his brother put the keys of the hearse in his mouth.”
“There are problems in Maghaberry prison even now. I hope that all sides will work together to make sure there is never a need for another hunger strike.”
Secretary of Clonmel Sinn Féin Paddy O’Donoghue said “we’re immensely pleased with the turn out today. That so many of our comrades came to commemorate these brave men in our town is very gratifying. We had TDs and councillors and many long-serving activists attend and take part in the march, which was led by the Carrick-on-Suir Republican Flute Band. To hear their proud and echoing drumbeat going through Irishtown was a memorable experience”.
Keynote speaker was Sinn Féin Vice-President Mary Lou MacDonald, who said “the human courage of the hunger strikers was immense and the courage of their families is beyond description. They endured sectarianism, harassment, discrimination, house raids, internment, and collusion between the establishment and unionist paramilitaries.”
“Some things don’t change. 35 years on and some in the media carry on where Thatcher failed. They still try to criminalise our struggle. But it is not they who can inflict the most, but they who can endure the most who will conquer.”
“Bobby Sands said he took the advice of a sound man, who said that everyone – Republican or otherwise – has their own particular part to play. No part is too great or too small. No one is too old or too young, to do something.”
“Our job now is for each to play their part to finish the job that Bobby and his comrades died for.”
“Sinn Féin is the undisputed voice of Republicanism in the North. In the South we are the only credible Republican voice fighting the cronyism, corruption, and the mé féinism of a failed political establishment. An establishment that has failed you, failed Ireland, and failed the Republic. All of us have our part to play. Republicanism is now stronger than ever, and Republicanism is more organised. We still strive to achieve the ideal of the 1916 Proclamation.”
“100 years on, and 35 years on, one thing is clear: you can kill the revolutionary, but you cannot kill the revolution.”
“You cannot kill a dream.”
“We continue that fight, to the bitter end. To Irish unity, and to Irish freedom.”
The table below lists the hunger strikers who died; clicking on the name will bring you to the Wikipedia page for each martyr.
Since the prospect of commemorating the 1916 rising arrived in the public consciousness, there has been renewed examination of the operation of southern State, and renewed conversations about unity of the island.
Sinn Féin county PRO Fachtna Roe said: “In November RTE held a Prime Time Special in conjunction with BBC NI. As part of that programme a survey was carried out to determine what levels of public support there are for re-uniting the island.”
“RTE and BBC NI linked the question of re-unification with taxation levels, which necessarily skewed the results of the survey. Most people feel that we don’t get enough good quality service for our taxes anyway, so the prospect of increased taxation was always going to reduce support levels.”
“What wasn’t properly analysed in that programme was the benefits that might accrue from such unity. Thankfully, others have provided some information in this regard, and just as Sinn Féin has said for some time, there are benefits and efficiencies that would arise. Below is quote from the article.”
“However, if one would try to calculate counterfactual costs, it is probably an excellent investment.”
The advantages of unification would be seen on both sides of the border but mainly felt in the North of Ireland, according to Prof Huebner.
“The Republic of Ireland would benefit quite a lot, but the benefits would be mainly accrued by Northern Ireland,” he said.
“And that’s not really a surprise, because if you compare the two entities, then Northern Ireland is obviously the less developed economy.”
“Apart from the aspiration for a whole-island for cultural reasons, there are obvious advantages to not having two Governments, two police forces, two civil services etc.”
Cllr David Doran said: “There’s no logic to justify the continued separation of this island. Both parts have to provide the same basic supports. In addition Belfast is beholden to London for finance.”
“Because there is duplication of effort on both parts of the island, there is money spent twice on the one thing. That money can’t be spent elsewhere. We can see the harm of that in the levels of Austerity that have been applied.”
“Austerity hits the poorest the most, but there is more Austerity when there is recklessness spending. What can be more reckless than having two separate Governments on one small island – along with all the costs that entails?”
“At some point we are going to have to examine closely what our intention as a Nation is. Certainly in the south there has not been enough conversation around this question.”
Fachtna Roe added:”The RTE survey results in November 2015 may have answered the re-unification question to the satisfaction of some. But clearly, not so for all.”
“There is mounting evidence that the changes brought about by peaceful re-unification will be positive on the whole. There will be costs, no one can deny that. But Europe must stand ready to help us, just as we supported Germany when it had the opportunity to re-unify.”
“It is better for the southern State to start examining this question more closely now, rather than later. If Brexit does occur, the opportunity for careful planning will be gone. At that point gone also will be the attention or interest of whatever Government sits in London.”
“Deciding to re-examine the border and it’s meaning may also provide an opportunity to redesign both the southern and northern States from the ground up. Doing so may remove the last inequalities that stand between us and being a Republic, by using the best ideas from both sides of the border to create a State even the women and men of 1916 would be proud of, while yet being a State that Unionists can feel at home in.”