Oration For Liam Sutcliffe

by Eddie Collins, December 3rd., 2017


Paying tribute to Liam Sutcliffe is not difficult. But where to begin to pay tribute to Liam Sutcliffe is not easy.

In recent years Liam has been defined by the demolition of Nelson's Pillar in 1966, but his story is much more than that.

It is a story of a devoted fighter for the freedom of his country and his unending search for justice which has been denied to the people of Ireland for more than 800 hundred years.

It was fitting that his coffin was draped in the Fenian flag rather than the more usual tricolor or Starry plough because Liam's beliefs transcended the differing beliefs of Socialism versus Nationalism. He always believed that rather than promoting either of those ideologies separately, as if they are somehow different struggles, they are in fact part and parcel of the same struggle.

Liam was a historian of Irish Republicanism, but not from a position of simple story telling. Instead he recounted details of struggle in ways which showed the futility of division in the Republican Movement as well as informing future generations of young activists of the need for unity. Not only unity among republicans but more importantly among the working class both Nationalist and Loyalist.

During the early years of the recent phase of the campaign in the North, both Catholics and Protestants retreated from behind their respective barricades and returned to their ghettos which were indistinguishable apart from the local murals and flags. Both sides, victims of Socio-economic decay and unemployment.

It doesn't matter if an eviction notice or an internment order is stamped with a harp or a crown. The outcome is the same. The working class will bear the brunt of both.

Liam knew and often said that Ireland would never be a 32 county socialist republic until the Protestant working class became integrated into the fight for social justice.

It was, he recalled, the Protestant people who started the 1798 rebellion to bring about separation from the yoke of British Imperialism and proclaim a secular State.

At the end of 1969 a Nationalist grouping walked out of an Ard Feis in Dublin and formed what became the Provisionals. They believed the movement was veering too far to the left. Too socialist for their Nationalist doctrine.

They began a bombing campaign which only served to bomb the working class into a blind alley.

We are still in that blind alley to this day and those same Nationalists are now calling themselves Socialists. They are involved in the running of this 26 county state which is no more than a neo-colony of Britain and the Bankers' club that is the E.U. They are administering British rule in the North of Ireland and they have abandoned the rightful fight for social justice. To witness a so called Irish Republican tipping the cap to a British Monarch is sickening. But that is where the Provisional Movement have now arrived. They should be shamed for it.

In so doing, they betray the men, women and boys who are lying in graves all over this country, North and South and they dishonor the memory of great men and women like Liam Sutcliffe, Liam Walsh and Mairin Keegan who are themselves lying in their graves only yards from this spot.

Liam has gone to his grave, unapologetic for his past. He never denied involvement or participation in the struggle. Nor did he deny membership like some have. Like De Valera in 1916 claiming he should not face execution because he wasn't Irish. Some today deny membership and involvement on the technicality that they were never sworn in.

Comrades, the greatest act of treachery is to offer yourself up for sacrifice knowing you're not eligible.

Liam Sutcliffe could never be accused of that. He was on active service from 1954 until the day he died. This grave should not have a headstone. It should have a monument.

It was and is my privilege to have known Liam and to have shared his company on countless occasions. I last met him in October in Kilfeacle in Co Tipperary at the Seán Treacy annual commemoration. He was in his usual high spirits as himself and Simon O'Donnell headed off to call on the veteran Republican Ernie Bates in the Glen of Aherlow. The people who were associated with us and Liam, like Tommy Marsh, Martin Casey, Sean Doyle, Frank Keane and many others, were and are principled people, brave people and it is an honour to be numbered among them. They were not found wanting when they were needed in the North and we are grateful for it.

We have a duty to use every weapon at our disposal to further the cause of freedom and social justice and if the only weapons we have left to us are our voices and our intellect, then we should use them. Because not to use them is to dishonour people like Liam Sutcliffe.

I feel privileged to have been asked to pay my tribute here today and Liam can rest in his grave in the knowledge that we will carry on where he has left off, because let's not forget comrades, in the words of Seamus Costello, "Doing nothing is not an option."

As I said at the beginning, paying tribute to Liam is not difficult and its a tribute made on your behalf. Its the very least we could do and its also a tribute to his family who can be proud of a man who fought and struggled all his life to ensure their and our birthright.

Comrades, thanks for your attendance, thanks for your attention and don't forget the job is not finished yet.

Thank you.