ONE of the largest crowds in recent years attended the annual Kilmichael Ambush commemoration last Sunday.
Proceedings began with a parade led by Bandon Pipe Band to the monument where Louis Whyte recited a decade of the rosary in Irish and, in doing so, also remembered the 1981 hunger strikers.
‘This was the biggest crowd for many a year at the mass and commemoration, and certainly a much higher proportion of young people,’ Louis told The Southern Star.
Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada, (SF), delivered the main oration, in which she remembered the IRA volunteers who shocked the empire at Kilmichael.
‘Kilmichael was quite unlike anything that had come before in the War of Independence,’ she said, ‘it was a turning point in the birth of our nation.’
She added that the ambush had been ‘an outstanding military victory for the IRA and it marked the beginning of a series of large scale encounters with the British that continued right up until the end of the War of Independence, with similar successes for IRA units at Dromkeen, Coolavokig, Crossbarry, Clonbanin and Carrowkennedy, to name but a few.’ She recalled the deaths of the three IRA volunteers who lost their lives – Jim O’Sullivan, Michael McCarthy and Pat Deasy.
‘We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people who endured such times for us,’ she said, but added: ‘They did not endure it so that we could let people sleep in doorways and alleys while entire estates of houses lie empty. They did not endure it so that working Irish families could scrape through years of austerity in order to pay off a debt that was not theirs. They did not endure it so that the country they fought for could be, in Connolly’s words, “cut to pieces as a corpse upon the dissecting table” and her sovereignty sold off.’
And she sounded a note of caution about Britain ignoring the outcome of the Brexit vote in Northern Ireland, describing any proposal to reintroduce a border as ‘utter madness’.
‘Unity is not in the gift of the British Government,’ she said. ‘ It now rests in the hands of the people north and south to be expressed in concurrent referendums. We need to secure a vote for the people and to win the vote for unity.’
She said now is the time for people of a similar opinion to join forces. ‘To those who have yet to get involved in the discussion on reunification, I say now is the time to make your voice heard,’ she told the crowd.