Former hunger striker calls on Republicans to ‘rally the forces’ at Tyrone commemoration

PACEMAKER BELFAST  02/10/2016 Family members of republican prisoners who died on hunger strike join former 'Blanketmen' for a large commemoration in Galbally on Sunday.  The 1916 Societies have selected the East Tyrone village as the venue for its national hunger strike march this weekend. Around 500 pictured walking behind five bands that assembled at Galbally Community Centre before proceeding to the graveside of Martin Hurson in the local church grounds, where former Hunger Striker Tommy McKearney offered  the main reflection. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 02/10/2016 Family members of republican prisoners who died on hunger strike join former 'Blanketmen' for a large commemoration in Galbally on Sunday. The 1916 Societies have selected the East Tyrone village as the venue for its national hunger strike march this weekend. Around 500 pictured walking behind five bands that assembled at Galbally Community Centre before proceeding to the graveside of Martin Hurson in the local church grounds, where former Hunger Striker Tommy McKearney offered the main reflection. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Former hunger striker Tommy McKearney attacked both Stormont and the Irish parliament when he spoke at a commemoration in Co Tyrone today (Sunday).

Addressing around 800 republicans, who had travelled from all across the island for the 1916 Societies event, he told them to “rally the forces” against British imperialism.

The 1916 Societies selected the East Tyrone village as the venue for its national hunger strike march this weekend.
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

The 1916 Societies selected the East Tyrone village as the venue for its national hunger strike march this weekend. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

The Tyrone man spent 53 days on the first H-Block hunger strike while serving a life sentence for the murder of UDR man Stanley Adams, 29, in 1980.

Branding Stormont a “venial, futile, powerless institution”, he also hit out at the Dail, which he said was “devoid of character” and “trading on the sovereignty of its people”.

In a not-so-veiled attack on republican politicians he told the men, women and children gathered that republicanism is a cause “that stands above and beyond the selfish pursuit of self aggrandisement”.

Adding that a “genuine republican” would “give what they have without concern for personal safety, personal advancement or personal career”.

Around 800 pictured walking behind five bands that assembled at Galbally Community Centre before proceeding to the graveside of Martin Hurson in the local church grounds, where former Hunger Striker Tommy McKearney offered  the main reflection.
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

Around 800 pictured walking behind five bands that assembled at Galbally Community Centre before proceeding to the graveside of Martin Hurson in the local church grounds, where former Hunger Striker Tommy McKearney offered the main reflection. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

“We are challenged to find the unity of purpose and bring together the currents, forces and streams of people,” he added. “We have to rally the forces. Rally the people that will break the chains that bind us.”

The annual commemoration, now in its fourth year, was marked with a parade from Galbally Community Centre to St Joseph’s Chapel.

Families and ‘blanket men’ followed a colour party and five bands to the grave of hunger striker Martin Hurson, where between songs and speakers, wreaths were laid and the names of dead hunger strikers and the 1916 Proclamation read out.