An introduction was given by Former Blanketman and RNU National Chairperson, Gary McNally from Strabane, County Tyrone. McNally clarified that although Martin was not an RNU Activist at the time of his sudden death in 2007. His Party's Ard Chomhirle had wanted to commemorate the legendary IRA Volunteer and asked his son, Martin Óg who is also RNU's General Secretary.
The Republican Network for Unity's Executive asked the Meehan Family for their permission in organising a fitting event in their father's memory. After consulting with the immediate and wider Clann, the Meehans agreed. Finally, Gary also stressed that the family had wanted Representatives of Political Prisoners held in Maghaberry to speak at the Lecture. As well as, the Justice for the Craigavon Two Campaign. Given their late father's dedication to POW issues throughout his life. Particularly those suffering wrongful imprisonment. Therefore, Cogús, IRPWA and Cabhair were invited. Sadly, the IRPWA like Cabhair were not able to attend. The RNU National Chairperson then introduced the first Speaker, Martin Óg Meehan.
Martin Óg began gave the well-attended audience an emotional and education speech about his late father, from his birth until his death. He detailed his childhood, growing-up in relative poverty, where discrimination and bigotry were a daily occurrence for everyone in the Ardoyne area. How, as a ten year-old boy Martin was beaten, arrested and his Dad threatened by the RUC, After he took a sandbag that was being used to protect Rosebank Mill in Flax Street and brought it his home in Crumlin Street after it was flooded by heavy rainfall.
|Martin in 1965|
He also confirmed that his father had joined the IRA in 1965, prior to the Civil Rights Movement changed the Six County State and Unionist domination. How Martin a few local Volunteers held a large crowd of bigots from burning the Ardoyne area down with one Shotgun and a battered old-car. Martin Óg explained that the then IRA Leadership had disarmed a number of IRA Units and left Working-Class communities they represented very vunerable to attack. His Dad resigned in protest months before the Provisional IRA was born and how Martin and a fellow Docker commandeered six brand new rifles from inside a British army Ship in Belfast Port to use in defense of Ardoyne.
|Martin being arrested by the RUC, Derry, 1968|
|Martin (centre) honouring PIRA Vol. Michael Kane, 1970|
|Martin in 1971|
|Martin defending Ardoyne, 1972|
Rafferty spoke of his own friendship with Martin Meehan and how holding differing opinions did not end the respect both men had for one another. He detailed the wrongful imprisonment of Brendan McConville and J.P. Wotten. From their arrests, remand, trial and appeals. At the behest of the British and Stormont governments. The miscarriage of justice against John-Paul Wootton & Brendan McConnville began when the British State in Ireland needed political scapegoats for the Continuity IRA killing of an RUC/PSNI member in Craigavon on March 9th, 2009.
At the time, JP Wootton was but seventeen years-old, still a teenager. While, Brendan McConnville, a former Sinn Fein Councillor were both arrested within hours of the shooting and held for almost two under special legislation in Antrim Barracks. Remanded to Maghaberry Gaol for nearly three years before being tried in a Non-Jury (Diplock) Court, before being tried in a Non-Jury (Diplock) Court.
Finally, Martin Rafferty called on the people of Ardoyne to join the fight to have both men freed from gaol and do all they could to further the campaign. He received loud and sustained applause for his articulate contribution by the audience.
McNally then called on former H-Block POW and recently-released Maghaberry Political Prisoner, Tony Taylor from Derry City to speak on behalf of Cogús....
He told us about the intransigence of Stormont's so-called Justice Department, Prison Administration and Screws had caused the protracted protest by Political Prisoners which culminated in the No-Wash Campaign by Cogús and other POWs' last year. Whereby, Tony and his imprisoned comrades asserted the right of all Irish Republican Prisoners to Political Status.
After the speeches, the crowd were entertained with an hour or so with a number of Folk, Traditional, Republican and Popular songs by an acclaimed local Singer, The night was a success and RNU Organisers are already planning for next year.