John Lavin Memorial Unveiling
September 8, 1901 — Unveiling of the John Lavin Memorial, St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Castlerea, Roscommon, Ireland
The men and women of Ireland are coming to believe, as John Lavin believed, for they have seen the failure of thirty years constitutional agitation. Taxation is rising, rising, rising, always in Ireland, and our people are flying away. The last quarter saw 17,000 Irishmen and women emigrating from this country. You know very well, fellow countrymen, that if emigration continues at this rate, in thirty years there will no longer be a Nationalist or a Catholic majority in Ireland.
Fellow countrymen, is not this situation serious, indeed, after thirty years constitutional agitation? This is the fact which you have to face. Our members of Parliament must know, and they do know, the importance, the vital importance, of checking the advance — of stopping this over-taxation of the country which is ruining, ruining, the country, and the ruin of the country is translated by the emigration of the people — the flying away of the nation. They know the importance of this, and that they have not succeeded in checking emigration, or in stopping the over-taxation of the country, only proves that they are powerless to do so.
After thirty years wasted National time, after £20,000 of Irish National money subscribed by Irish men and women the world over, they are face to face with this fact, that they cannot reduce over-taxation, and cannot stop emigration, which is growing and growing, and draining a Nation’s life blood away. Fellow countrymen, I do not want you to be harsh with those men for their failure. I think that they have done their best, they have tried to do their best, but it is the principle, it is the system that is wrong. What is the use of our appealing for justice to England? England is the last country in the whole world to which you should be looking and appealing. The freedom of Ireland will have to be wrought out by Irishmen, and in Ireland. Don’t waste any more time, don’t’ waste any more National money in sending men over to London, or in looking to London for help.
Help yourselves in this country by encouraging your own industries, by wearing Irish material, by refusing to buy anything that is manufactured in England. By taking Irish goods you will be doing more to check emigration, by giving employment to the people at home, than those eighty members of Parliament, though they spent their whole lives at Westminster. . .
Then many people say, “There is no alternative for us, we may as well support the Constitutional movement.” But I think there is an alternative while England is at peace in the world. But an opportunity will be coming when you will have a chance of winning your freedom. Do you suppose that, if during the last thirty years, awe had spend our time and the National money that has bene subscribed in ORGANIZING REBELLION in Ireland, as in the times of the Fenians, do you think that last year, when England, in her terror of Boer victories, withdrew all her troops from Ireland, do you think we should have been powerless, as we were, to take advantage of that great opportunity? another, and a greater opportunity may be coming, and may be coming very soon, when England will be engaged in a war with one or other of the great Powers of Europe. But if we are unprepared, as we were last year, what will be the good of it for Ireland? . . . ]
Fellow countrymen, this is what I tell you, and what I ask you to do — prepare! so that the next opportunity which is coming shall not be wasted, and while you are waiting for that opportunity, there is plenty of National work for you to do — there is your language to revive and support; then you have to encourage home manufactures; buy nothing English; buy goods made in Ireland; burn everything that is English. build up your nation yourselves without assistance from England; refuse its protection to build up industries which she has ruined, and if the Irish people are determined, they can boycott English goods, and persevere in the revival of Irish manufactures. Thus, instead of sending eighty gentlemen over to Westminster, if we sent one, or two, or three intelligent Irishmen into the different centres of Europe to represent Ireland, to be ambassadors for Ireland, snd to keep the name of Ireland before the world as in the time of the United Irishmen, that those gentlemen might act as consuls for Ireland, and find markets for Irish trade, and stop the tide of emigration If we would but look away from England, and go out to her rivals, we should find plenty of friends able and willing to help Ireland. But what we want is more individual independence and initiative amongst us all. But you must remember that the freedom of Ireland you will never get unless you are ready to fight for it. Never rest until Ireland is free. There is one more thing that I want to speak to you about . . . because it is a question vitally important to Ireland, and that is to stop the enlistment of Irishmen in the English army or in the English navy. You don’d know the terrible harm that it has done to the National cause. It has brought disgrace on the pure name of our countrymen, to see so many of them wearing the red uniform of shame, standing in the ranks of the oppressor of their motherland, to fight against freedom in the Transvaal. Fellow countrymen, you don’t know the harm that those Irish soldiers in England’s pay have done to the cause of Ireland. but thank God we have John McBride in the Irish Regiment. we have John McBride in the Irish Brigade to save Ireland’s honour, and but for that Irish Transvaal Brigade, I don’t think we Irishmen should have the liberty to raise our heads, when we thought that all those Irish soldiers and cowards were fighting for England. I know it is starvation, often, very often, that makes young Irishmen enlist, but we must not do it. The people have not done their duty, they have not spoken out against this crying evil.
But thank God, now, through the efforts of the Cummann na n Gaedhael, and our only National newspaper, The United Irishman, which, by the way, I hope you all read . . . because it is the only National newspaper in Ireland to-day — it is the only newspaper that is supporting the principles of John Lavin. It is by the efforts of that newspaper and the Cummann na n Gaedhael recruiting has so much diminished. The other day an English officer said that although recruiting was going on well in England and in Scotland, there was very little going on in Ireland. But still there are 4,000 recruits got from Ireland after all this. But while there are 2,000 Irishmen got from Ireland to join England’s army last year, and although they are getting recruits for the English navy, recruiting is almost stopped in Ireland. That shows that there is something for you to do in stopping recruiting. The recruiting sergeant should be chased out of any town he dares raise his head in. Any foolish or drunken boy who might be tempeted to join them should be reasoned with, and stopped. The recruiting sergeant should be chased out of every town. Fellow countrymen, it is indeed a pleasing and inspiring sight to see so many here to-day to honour the memory ofJohn Lavin. But remember that the best way to honour the memory of that noble Irishman — yes — and the memories of those patriotic Irishmen who fought and died in the past for the cause of Ireland is to cary on their work, and never rest until we have a free and independent Nation.
Source: “Lavin Memorial: Unveiling of the Monument,” Westmeath Independent, 14 September 1901.