Reply to the President of Ireland
The following is a reply to the address by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, to the International Brigade Memorial Trust, on October 15. 2016
A Uachtaráin, a chara, Mr. President, compañero Presidente!
We are inspired by your address today. You have kept the honor of Ireland’s flag flying high, as you always have done, because, in your passing references to Bob Doyle, it was you who personally launched Bob’s memoirs here in Liberty Hall in 2009. So, you have been continually associated with us, as you have been continually associated with causes of international solidarity, including your defense of the democratically elected government of Nicaragua.
Let us be clear. There was never an International Brigade formed to overthrow General Franco. The International Brigade was not there for regime change! It was there for regime defence: the defence of the elected government of the Spanish Republic. But in the zeal for regime change that now permeates the world, we are, in fact, in a cycle of many wars. And we know the stand that you have taken for peace. We know that in the cycle of a quarter of a century that has developed out of “Operation Desert Storm” and the first Iraq war, we also know the stand that Sabina Higgins took! And I am pleased that she is present with you here today, because I remember that when she was debating “Operation Desert Storm”, and the horrors of that war, and the photographs of dead soldiers in the desert, there was an “armchair general” columnist who debated with Sabina, and said: “I had a good war, Sabina!”
Now, nobody who fought in the International Brigades talked of having had a good war. They talked about fighting the Good Fight! Reference was made by the President to Frank Edwards who, in “Even the Olives Are Bleeding”, said that his experience of war gave him an abiding hatred of war. That is why so many Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, for instance, were also active members in Veterans for Peace. So, in this atmosphere of spiralling towards greater international conflict, it is wise to remember what the International Brigades stood for. They were called “premature anti-fascists”, precisely because they sought to prevent the Second World War, by tackling the Fascist assault on a democratically elected government.
So, Mr. President, we are inspired and enhanced by your presence and your address here today. After a few small presentations to you to mark this occasion, I will invite up on stage (to join IBMT Chair Richard Baxell), our other officers, IBMT Secretary Jim Jump and IBMT Treasurer Manuel Moreno, and regional representatives, Mary Greening from Wales, Dolores Long from North-West England, Mike Arnott from Scotland, and Nancy Wallach, our fraternal delegate from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Thank you again.
Manus O’Riordan is Ireland Secretary of the International Brigades Memorial Trust.