I was listening tonight to a song by Glasgow Irish rebel band "The Wakes". They have a song called "These Hands". It was written about Vol James Maley, of the Scottish section of the 15th International Brigade. The song tells the story of Maley's exploits and how he is now old and reflecting on the battle at Jaramma.
The song starts with the line "Look at you old man sitting in your chair". This really got me thinking. I thought of how this is so relevant to aged republicans today.
The majority of the youth of today do not respect veteran republicans or look up to them. Much of this is down to ignorance of the dedication and sacrifice these heroes gave in pursuit of their republican goals. The war is over and the youth are quick to disregard the actions of our forefathers. It is disgusting.
They look on the old as a burden that should be seen and not heard, never mind taking time to reflect on the services republican veterans have given to the cause. All they see are old men and women and are oblivious to the price these people paid for their republican beliefs. This is a disgrace and a disservice to our unsung heroes. Personally I love being regaled with the tales of republican veterans. Indeed our struggle would be nothing without them and their commitment!
Personally I held veterans like Joe Cahill, John Joe McGirl and Owen Mc McCaughey in the highest regard. On the surface they may have appeared to be frail old men, but the history behind these men is remarkable. It really hammers home the sentiments of the old adage looks can be deceiving!
In my own area veteran republican Hugh Kennon was honoured for his services to the republican movement. Indeed Hugh epitomises the unassuming nature and modesty of that generation of freedom fighter. Hugh remarked that he felt he was not worthy of being honoured and that he felt that he was just an ordinary Irish man doing what anyone would have done in his position. Today’s republican youth can learn a valuable lesson from republicans like Hugh.
In an age where it is easy for some republicans to take their eye off the ball and get led astray by those with their own ulterior motives, we should look at the sacrifice of our veterans. We should look to return to the principles they endorsed and led by example with. We should use their example to rededicate ourselves to bringing our struggle to a successful conclusion!