Elisha McCallion MP speech Derry Volunteers commemoration 2017

A chairde,

 

Is onóir mór agam a bheith anseo inniú

 

It is an honour and a privilege to address this commemoration here today to remember republicans from every generation who gave their lives for Irish freedom. ddlej3oxuaek1jz

 

In particular I’d like to welcome the families of our fallen comrades here today as we remember with pride the huge contribution they made to our struggle.

 

You have played a key role, together with those who lie in this cemetery, in taking republicanism forward.

 

As we look across this cemetery we see the flags above the graves of so many Irish republicans who made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

In every generation, men and women from this city, young and old have stepped forward to work for the reunification of our country and give leadership to our community.

 

They did so at times of great danger and at great personal risk but they did so without thought for themselves.

 

Their dedication, courage and sacrifice is an inspiration to us all and lives on in their legacy.

 

Republicans in the city have been on a long journey – a hard road. We have travelled a long way on that road and we have lost a great many friends and comrades on that journey and we remember them all with pride here today.

 

We remain on that journey today but we still have a distance to go before we reach our destination and realise the society –  the Republic –  for which our brave friends and comrades died.

 

We carry their memory and their inspiration with us each and every step of the way as they continue to guide us.

 

In particular this year we remember our great friend, comrade and leader, Martin McGuinness, who passed away in March.

 

Martin remains an inspiration, not just to each of us here today, but to people in struggle across the world and he will rightly be remembered as a Colussus in the fight for freedom, justice and equality.

 

The huge crowds that attended his funeral reflect the high regard in which he is held, not just by republicans, but by everyone in this city and further afield.

 

And while he is not with us here today, his memory and legacy will be with us always, guiding us and shaping our actions in the future as we complete his vision of a new, united, reconciled and free Ireland.

 

He led the growth and development of republican in this city, guided by the legacy of his friends and comrades we commemorate here today, to the point where this is now recognised as a republican city.

 

That legacy, combined with your energy, was with us at the Assembly elections earlier this year when Sinn Féin became the largest party in this city for the first time and it was with us just weeks ago in the Westminster elections when I was honoured and proud to have been elected as the first Sinn Féin MP in this city for a century and the first woman ever to hold the post.

 

That growth would not have been possible without the commitment, dedication and efforts of those republicans we remember here today.

 

But despite our growth and strength, we continue to face challenges. And just as republicans from previous generations never shirked in the face of danger or overwhelming odds, we will meet those challenges head on.

 

There is no doubt of the challenge posed by Brexit and the prospect of a Tory/DUP axis at Westminster, as well as the challenge of delivering political institutions that deliver good government for everyone on the basis of equality, integrity and respect.

 

But we are up for that challenge. And just like the volunteers we remember here today, we will not stint in our efforts.

 

We will continue to oppose austerity, to oppose the Tory Brexit agenda, to oppose borders on this island and to work tirelessly for Irish unity.

 

In that task, I and my colleagues continue to draw inspiration from the commitment of those republicans we commemorate here today. In every meeting, in every engagement, whether in Belfast, London, Dublin or Brussels, their memory is with us as we work to deliver the Ireland they died for and the Ireland our people deserve.

 

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.