“Kilmichael’s road, what worth?” – The usurpation of our revolutionary past

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“Barry’s dead, does no-one hear? 
Kilmichael’s road — what worth?

While Irishmen wear rusty chains that beseth them from their birth.”

– Bobby Sands, The Sleeping Rose

Irish Republicanism is at one of its most factionalised states in its history, arguably at its lowest ebb, and a state which can be summed up with painful accuracy in the above lines from Bobby Sands’ poem. With the mainstream face of modern republicanism happy to dine with royals and openly supportive of the neo-colonial European project, and with the militarist face seemingly without strategy, direction and any significant support, it has left many disenfranchised and disillusioned republican activists caught in a limbo. In this vacume potential was ripe for a large broad-based show of unity in this the centenary year, especially following the unified resistance to the demolition of the Moore Street battle site, but unfortunately conditions dictated otherwise. Or perhaps it was purely down to a lack of will. But where republicans failed the Free Staters sought to capitalise. And the resulting pageantry and faux-admiration espoused by the ruling class of the 26 county state for the heroes of 1916 would surely fool many into believing that this partitioned state is indeed what was fought for during that fateful week. But there are some that know better.

When the men and women of the assorted Republican forces marched out on the morning of April 24th, 1916, (100 years ago today) the Republic which they had pledged their lives to was not the corrupt and failed 26-county Brown Envelope Republic that has existed for the past ninety or so years. Their aim was not to create a backwards theocratic Catholic Republic that would leave a traumatic legacy of abuse of it’s most vulnerable citizens. And they did not sacrifice their lives and liberty for a “Republic” that willingly surrenders sovereignty to international and European banking cartels, and which prioritises the needs of the privileged and wealthy. Like Tone and the heroes of 1798 they sought to establish an all-Ireland republic where all citizens were equal in all aspects, where all the nation’s children would be cherished equally and where the “men of no property” would be the very class on which the strength of the Republic would be based. This rotten and corrupt state which seeks to claim legitimacy from the blood spilled by republican revolutionaries has absolutley no claim to the legacy of 1916. And in all honesty, if it wasn’t for the fear of letting the veil slip and the resulting public outcry, you can be rest assured that Kenny et al wouldn’t even bother pretending to have any admiration for the heroes of 1916.


The 1916 Rising was fought by men and women that pledged their lives to the revolution, and sacrificed so much in defence of the thirty-two county Irish Republic. These heroes, and the countless others that came before and after, died for a dream that has not yet been achieved. A dream that will never be achieved so long as parasitic politicians and careerists are allowed to dictate to the people which aspects of our history we are allowed to remember, and how so they should be remembered. Commemorating the British occupational forces in Glasnevin, portraying quislings like John Redmond as being on par with revolutionaries like Tom Clarke, attempting to decimate our national monument at Moore Street, and, an almost complete lack of addressing of the “northern question” other than in attempts to distance the recent conflict in Ulster from the generations of conflict throughout this island – these are all methods of conditioning the people of Ireland to believe that all has been resolved, that the struggles of our ancestors have been concluded. It is in essence a usurpation of our revolutionary history by regressive forces of the ruling class.

This blatant revisionism is going to get all the more apparent as we move further into the so-called “Decade of Centenaries”. A gimic and a lie of an idea that was penned to have our people believe that the revolutionary period of 1913-1923 was the point of history when our nation was born. What in fact did emerge from the dust was the two corrupt states, both north and south, which have relied on an idea of two seperate people to maintain the staus quo and continue the exploitation of the masses after partition. This sham also portrays the labour, cultural and national struggles, which were at their height in this period, to be nothing more than problems of their times and that all has since been resolved. Unless we as a people can rise in defiance of these distortions of our history then what our martyrs died for will truly have been in vain.


Republicans, socialists, anti-imperialists and anyone that is proud of our revolutionary past should not be willing to allow this defining moment of the revolution to be re-packaged and prostituted so the rich and powerful of both states in this nation can congratulate themselves and a century of ruling by fooling. To paraphrase the great Tom Barry, those in power have gone down into the mire to sully and destroy the legacy of our ancestors, and down after them we must go to ensure their dignity can be restored. If we fail to mount a worthy mass-movement of resistance to oppose these defiant acts of revisionism then it is not only our generation we are failing, but those that came before us and those that will come after. The British establishment, and its lickspittle shoneen allies in Ireland, have for centuries attempted to crush the unyielding spirit of resistance of the Irish people. A spirit which was borne of the ancient Gaelic warriors of centuries past, and blooded again and again in every generation that has lived under the yoke of British imperialism.

But alas, they failed. They failed because people like Pearse and Connolly and those that fought with them took it upon themselves to strike a blow for the freedom of the ancient Irish nation. They failed because the people, despite the social conditioning of Anglo-Saxon rule, yearned for the chance to take control of their own destinies. They failed because every empire that crosses foreign shores to unjustly and mercilessly conquer another people will inevitably fall when met with the unified voice of a risen people! But, where they failed, many more still seek to prevail. They seek to portray the struggle for full Irish independence as a finished fight. They seek to promote historical revisionism and sell it as a token of a “renewed relationship”. And they seek to paint the forces of the British Empire, that have for centuries carried out atrocity after atrocity on the native Gael’s for the cause of Queen and country, as equal to and worthy of the same remembrance that we as freedom loving people bestow on those brave warriors that died in the name of justice, liberty and equality. Comrades, there is much work to be done.

Barry’s dead and Cork’s asleep,
McSweeney’s cause been sold.
And the blood still lies on Kerry’s roads,
Unwashed by winds of old.
The hares cross lonely, barren ways,
Where once columns tramped the night,
And but a few still whisper Tracey’s name,
By hearthened fires in dancing light.

The Rose of Munster’s dead boys,
She choked upon her blood,
And Barry’s men died in her screams,
Trampled down into her mud.
Who cares for Kerry’s lonely graves,
The King of Cashel’s gone to Clare,
And those impoverished downtrodden fold,
As ever — laid naked, poor and bare.

Barry’s dead, does no-one hear?
Kilmicheal’s road — what worth?
While Irishmen wear rusty chains,
That beset them by their birth.
Oh! Barry’s gone let Munster weep,
His pleading ghost cries in the night,
But the Munster rose will only bloom again,
When Munster men join freedom’s fight.


Lar Ó Tuama

This entry was posted in Anti-imperialism, National Issues, Rebel History and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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