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Date Posted: Sat, Aug 26 2006, 19:02:28 PDT
Author: By Request from NYC WATCHers
Subject: Oration- Late Michael Montgomery-died-1984
In reply to: Civil Rights Veterans 's message, "Photo of llate Vol. Neil McMonagle" on Sat, Aug 26 2006, 17:55:57 PDT

From original document drafted in mid-December 1984

In Memoriam to Michael Montgomery – RIP

On Tuesday, December 4th, in the forenoon, the funeral of Michael Montgomery took place in his native Derry City. Michael had for more than three decades dedicated his life to the cause of national liberation and socialism, and the sudden demise of this former City Councillor and ex-internee was occasioned by a sense of deep shock throughout the working-class areas of the city. The funeral service at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in the Bogside was attended by many comrades from all over Ireland. Local prominent figures included the Mayor of Derry, Assemblymen, His Lordship Bishop Edward Daly, and John Hume, MP, MEP. They mingled with hundreds of ordinary people who had good reason to remember the services of this gallant defender of their communities. The funeral march to the Republican Socialist Plot in Derry’s cemetery, where are laid volunteers of the I.N.L.A., including the city’s two hunger-strikers, Patsy O’Hara & Michael Devine, was headed by a colour party, dressed in black, provided by the Neil McMonagle Memorial Flute Band.

After religious rites were observed at the grave-side, the platform tribute was chaired by his left-long friend and political associate, Mr. Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh, who served time with Michael in 1966. He also wrote the oration. The oration was delivered, at its author request, by Mr. Paul Whorskey, the chairman of the local I.R.S.P.

THE FOLLOWING WREATHS AND FLORAL TRIBUTES WERE RESPECTFULLY LAID ON THE PATRIOT’S GRAVESIDE:

The Mayor, Aldermen & Councillors of Derry City Council/ From All His Loving Family/ Denis & Annette & Family/ General Headquarters Staff of the I.N.L.A. / Ard Comhairle of the I.R.S.P/ Belfast Brigade, I.N.L.A. / Belfast Comhairle Ceantair, IRSP. / Derry Brigade, I.N.L.A./ Derry Comhairle Ceantair I.R.S.P./ South Derry I.R.S.P./ Irish Republican Socialist PoWs, Long Kesh, Magilligan, Crumlin Road Jail, Armagh Women’s Prison, Portlaoise, Arbour Hill and Limerick Jails.

From the neighbours, Iniscarn Road/ Fionnbarra agus Clann/ Treasa & Bridie, Cromore Grds./ Denis & Annette & Family/ Michael Devine Memorial Flute Band/The Staff & Patrons, Dungloe Bar/ Management & Patrons, Crescent Bar/ Ann Sharkey & Clare/ Dermott Liddy & Family/ Always Remembered by ‘Big Eddie’ / From Ann & Lorne/ From John McCourt & Family/ Jan & Eileen O’Connor, New York/ Liam & Sheila O’Comainn & Family/Creggan Taxi Drivers Associaton/ Brian & Lilly Boyle & Family/ Paddy & Family/ Staff & Patrons of the Beech Tree Bar/ The Crockett Family/ Collette & Baby/ Eddie & Sadie McLaughlin/ Shantallow Volunteer Flute Band/ The Montgomery Family, Westway, Creggan/ Blanche & Reg, Newcastle, England.

Other floral tributes were laid but unfortunately could not be listed because of the large numbers involved and limitations of time.

The following are only a few of many messages of sympathy which where delivered to the chairperson on the day:

From Jim Lane, National Chairperson of the Irish Republican Socialist parry:

“Derry buries to-day its first Republican councillor, elected since the 1920s’. Cork comrades salute his life-time service and will remember with pride the man we called “Comrade”. His energy knew few bounds. We extend deepest sympathy to his family circle, relatives, comrades and friends.”

Message for Seamus ‘Chang’ Coyle, POW, Portlaoise Jail,:

“All the lads here send their deepest sympathy to the family circle, comrades and friends. We may be behind bars and high walls but our spirit is with you in Derry on this sad day”.

Michael Quinn, Irish Republican Socialist Committees, North America:

“Our comrades in North America share your sorrow and express our deepest sympathy to the family circle, comrades and friends. In life he struggles, and in death we shall never forget his service. An ocean can never divide us at times like these.”


Message from HMP Armagh Women’s Prison:

“The sisters in Armagh know we have lost a true comrade and friend, who did much to assist Prisoner Welfare efforts. We will sadly miss his warm personality. Michael had the unique honour to speak at the graveside of Wolfe Tone at Bodenstown, an honour indeed which he fully deserved. Many ex-internees will remember that he remained faithful to his electoral boycott pledge and did not occupy his public office until all were freed, yet worked day in and day out for his electors in Creggan. Condolences to his family, his comrades and his friends gathered here to-day at the Republican Socialist Plot”.

Oration:

The following oration was delivered by the Derry City chairperson of the Irish Republican Socialist Party:

Today, we are gathered to pay tribute to the memory of a comrade who stood almost alone in his day. We assemble here as friends and comrades. Those of us who were his comrade have feelings of close association; these are linked to having faced a common adversity down through the years. Those of us who were his friend know only too well the outstanding contribution this man made over this past three decades. His untimely death has shocked us all and indeed we have reached the end of an era. His dedication to the cause of Connolly became a legend in his own day. Such is reflected by the many messages and floral tributes that have been received these past few days by his comrades, family and friends. He dreamed of Ireland as we would surely have her. Not free merely but Gaelic as well, not Gaelic merely but socialist as well.

Michael began his political involvement as a youth. It’s many a year now since he placed his left hand on the flag and raised his right hand to pledge to serve his country and people. That pledge he carried out until the last hours of his life and what better tribute can any comrade make to another than by saying, we shared a common dream and dared to struggle to make it a living reality.

In the 1956-62 Resistance Campaign Michael was among the few, and soon was occupying the highest ranks amongst the resistance fighters. As a member of an Active Service Unit he was associated with men like Seamus Costello, who was later to found the Irish Republican Socialist Party. Michael held the highest positions possible, both as a political activist and as a republican soldier. As a result of his efforts he was forced to leave the city he loved in 1960 and after some time in the Twenty-Six Counties, he travelled travelled to England where he was active establishing and expanding the exile movement, Clann na h-Eireann.

In 1965 Michael returned to Derry in the midst of growing agitation for jobs, equal voting rights and housing. Where there was a struggle Michael was there. Where there was some poor family facing eviction he was there to expose and oppose the Rachmanist landlords, police and bailiffs. During his life he helped establish advice centres and assisted literally thousands of working-class people in their everyday problems. In those early years his sister, Breege, sadly no longer with us, was by his side, be it in the office or on the picket line.

In 1966, when the Minister of Home Affairs, William Craig, issued a proclamation outlawing all public demonstrations to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1916 Rising in Dublin, Michael, with a few brave souls stepped forward to meet the unionist challenge. He was determined that those who fell in action or where executed by the British, would be commemorated throughout the North, and particularly in his own native Derry. With the late Paddy Kirk, and another comrade who is with us today, he refused to pay fines later imposed by the courts, and they were jailed for some weeks in Crumlin Road, Belfast. Six in all were sentenced to hard labour, three of them from Belfast.

In the same year he assisted the War for Independence veteran, the late Neil Gillespie, to contest the Westminster elections. During and following that election campaign many young people formed themselves into the Young republican Association (YRA), which immediately became involved in the struggles of ordinary people, whom Michael considered the basis of any revolutionary movement. He assisted countless families to obtain better accommodation, and with a small band laid the foundation of what was later to emerge as the Civil Rights movement.

The reaction of the state was one of continual harassment, involving early morning raids, with beatings and arrests being common place. When the Civil Rights movement was established he again threw his heart into organising and became a well-known leader of hundreds of stewards, which played an essential role at meetings and mass demonstrations. Those years he felt were the most worthwhile of his whole life, simply because he witnessed unity in action, which at all times he called for, seeing the necessity to build a Broad Front of all democratic and socialist forces. When “The Battle of the Bogside” erupted in August 1969, Michael’s invaluable experience was often called upon. By this time he was a Brigade Staff Officer in the North-West region – like an ancient Celtic chieftain, there to lead, guide and advise.

After years of activity Michael’s card was, as we say, well and truly marked. It was to be no surprise to his comrades that he would be high on the list of suspects for internment which occurred on August 9th 1971. It is a salute to his memory that some men and women still walked the streets of Derry, fully conscious that no matter what the establishment threw at him; Michael would somehow outflank their every effort. Little did they know what foul physical and psychological maltreatment Michael and another eleven selected Irish republicans were going through. All of these twelve men would later be referred to as “The Hooded Men”, because they were subjected to denial of toilet facilities for days on end, held spread-eagled against walls for unknown periods, heads covered with cloth, while being enveloped by constant “White Noise” throughout their ordeals. The effects of all this had its cost, haunting them for many years afterwards. These twelve men would speak for all when they took the British Government to the dock of the European Court of Human Rights to expose their methods of brutality in Ireland. They were rewarded, years later, by British being found guilty before the eyes of the world for “inhumane and degrading treatment” against arrested persons.

For those of us who knew better, their treatment amounted to nothing less than sheer torture, and all of those who suffered subsequently carried the scars. This was Britain’s latest crime against the long-suffering Irish population and those who took to the streets on January 30th 1972 in defence of the internees were ruthlessly shot to death and wounded in what became known as Derry’s Bloody Sunday. Michael, like the civil rights martyrs will be remembered for generations to come. Above all he will be remembered as a man who was a socialist when few even dared to use such a title, let alone fight for its aims. He was also a true internationalist in every sense of the word, seeing liberation struggles in Africa, Vietnam or Latin America as the same common struggle for freedom and equality that he most strongly upheld at home. Often he represented the republican socialist movement when foreign visitors came to Derry and on more than one occasion spent weeks on the road travelling throughout Britain to alert the Labour and Trade Union Movement to what was actually happening here in the name of ordinary people in England, Scotland and Wales. Such lectures also informed hundreds of students and leading academics in Britain. Union branches, labour clubs and universities were given high priority during such outreach tours, mainly organised by an expanding Troops Out Movement.

It is difficult to convey, in a few hundred words, a fitting tribute to this
outstanding man. There is much which must be left unsaid until the dawn of freedom.
If life springs from death, and if from the graves of patriot men and women spring
living nations, then surely, none of us can have any doubt that we lay to rest one of
the finest of our generation, who truly lived for Ireland and its down-trodden people.
We have our tears and our memories, but also we shared the warmth of a generous
personality. To his family circle and close friends we extend our deepest sympathy.
To his memory we pledge to work towards his dream which we collectively shared.


Finally, when summing up his own dedication to the cause, no words seem more fitting than those of his favourite song:

Let ‘friends’ all turn against me,
Let foes say what they will,
For my heart is with my country,
And I love old Ireland still.

MICHAEL MONTGOMERY-IRISH REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST- WE LOVED YOU AND WE SALUE YOU!

End of oration.

Chairperson: “Here was a man whom I struggled alongside for over quarter of a century. I feel there is nothing more to be said, except, it will take a long time for many of you to meet the likes of him again”.

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