Thursday, 25 November 2010

Belfast Honours Volunteers Black & Ryan

Around 150 people gathered in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery on Saturday afternoon [November 20] to mark the 19th anniversary of the deaths of IRA volunteers Patricia Black and Frank Ryan on active service.

Patricia and Frank were killed in an accidental explosion in England on November 15 1991.

Lenadoon woman and former St Genevieve’s Secondary School student Patricia was just 18 at the time of her death. Frank Ryan, who was born in England of Irish parents but later moved to Belfast, lived in Poleglass. Both are buried in Milltown Cemetery.

Saturday’s commemoration, which was organised by the Patricia Black Memorial Flute Band from Glasgow in conjunction with the Black family, included a wreath laying ceremony at the graves of both Patricia and Frank. éirígí’s Rab Jackson gave the oration.

Peter Black, Patricia’s brother, said the family was glad to see his sister being remembered nearly 20 years after her death.

“We as a family are immensely proud of Patricia’s contribution to the freedom struggle and we are honoured that so many republicans came out to commemorate both my sister and her comrade Frank Ryan.”

Peter added: “Patricia was an uncompromising opponent of British rule in Ireland and it is important that the younger generation are informed of the reasons why she and many others like her chose to become involved in struggle.”

Below is the speech which Rab Jackson delivered at the commemoration.

“Nearly 20 years have passed since the deaths of volunteers Patricia Black and Frank Ryan on active service.

“In that time, republicans have experienced much disappointment and turbulence, but those here at this commemoration today and many more people around Ireland have emerged from this period as committed to the struggle for the Socialist Republic as they ever were.

“Indeed, a new generation of young people has become attracted to republicanism. There is little doubt that many more will join the struggle in the time ahead as the economic meltdown wrecks the lives of working class people across the country.

“And it isn’t simply the traditional avenues of republicanism that people are becoming involved in. Through the language revival, sporting and other cultural activities, trade unionism, projects like the Volunteer Patricia Black Memorial Flute Band, many different community initiatives and éirígí, people are again building community pride and cohesion in working class republican areas.

“Our aim at this time must be to build support for the republican struggle in Belfast and further afield, to encourage people, young and old, to get involved in socialist republican politics and, just as importantly, to educate people about the sacrifice that Patricia, Frank and many, many people like them made in pursuance of their beliefs.

“It takes a special type of courage, diligence and ingenuity to be able to take the fight against oppression right into the power base of the oppressor. These are qualities which Patricia and Frank obviously possessed in abundance.

“This is why people like Patricia and Frank are perfect role models for young people in working class communities today. When their community was under attack, their country occupied and their neighbours exploited, oppressed and imprisoned, they didn’t look the other way or keep their heads down. They decided to take risks, to become involved in struggle because they valued the place where they were from and the people who they loved more than anything else.

“This is why it has been such an honour for me to be asked to speak at this commemoration today. I know I am not alone in extending solidarity to the Black and Ryan families and in pledging that the names of Frank and Patricia and the courage they displayed will never be forgotten. But in remembering our fallen volunteers, we must always keep our eyes fixed on what they died for and what remains to be struggled for and achieved.

“People in our communities today, whether that be in Belfast, Dublin, Derry or Cork are still told they are worthless by the great and the good, they are still seen as, at best, expendable and, at worst, suspect, by the people in power. Exploitation and poverty are still the fate of far too many people in working class areas of Belfast and elsewhere.

“However, if we can instill the pride that Patricia and Frank showed in their community, their class and their country then the struggle for national independence and socialism will reach a successful conclusion. Ar aghaidh linn le chéile.”

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