Several hundred people braved wet and windy conditions to attend the 40th anniversary march and commemoration of Comrade Hugh Ferguson, chairperson of Whiterock IRSP and Volunteer in the Peoples Liberation Army. The first fallen martyr of the INLA.
Led by a colour party (made up of his old comrades and Belfast RSM veterans) Hugh Ferguson’s family kindly participated as wreath bearers, closely followed by the James Connolly Republican Socialist flute band from Derry City.
Following a march around the narrow streets of the Whiterock estate, those assembled came to a halt at the Ferguson/O’Niell memorial plaque, where under the misty slopes of the black mountain, a commemoration service was held by the Irish Republican Socialist Party.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Ferguson family, Staff & Volunteers of the INLA, the IRSP Ard Comhairle and Whiterock/Ballymurphy IRSP.
Following a memorial speech and tribute from Gerard Foster of Befast IRSP, the lowering of the flags commenced in line with a lament.
The commemoration concluded with the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann.
Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Gerry Foster of Belfast IRSP.
Friends and Comrades, first of all I would like to thank everybody who has gathered here today to remember our Friend and Comrade Volunteer Hugh Ferguson.
I would also wish to extend a special welcome to Hugh’s family who are also here as I am sure this is a difficult time for them. It has been forty long years since that fateful day in February 1975 when Hugh was murdered, and I am sure occasions like these can bring back sad and painful memories for them all.
Standing here today I am sure that each and every one of you who knew Hugh have your own sad but good memories of our comrade before he met his untimely death as he was a person whose personality was infectious.
Fergie was a young man in his prime, vibrant and full of life, but with ideals and beliefs that others looked up to. Ideals that with his untimely death, only spurred others on to believe in and to further ostracise those who ended his short life so callously.
Growing up at his home in Whiterock Parade, Hugh joined Na Fianna Éireann in the first years of the conflict aged only 14. Possessing what was both a rare and keen insight into the root causes of the Irish freedom struggle, he also developed a passion for community work, assisting and organising initiatives aimed at empowering local people and engineering a sense of self-worth amongst the disadvantaged youths of West Belfast.
A hard worker, Hugh Ferguson could turn his hand at construction as well as a mechanic; he often worked at the nearby Maguires garage as well as from home and in the streets around which he grew up.
Recognising the link between the struggle for Irish Freedom and the struggle for Working Class emancipation, Hugh became both a committed Socialist and a Volunteer in the IRA. He soon gained confidence and skills as both an activist and as an orator within the early Republican Clubs and at street level.
And following the now well documented and vital debate within the Official Republican Movement, Hugh Ferguson sided firmly with the tendency that recognised an urgent need to physically confront British imperialism in Ireland. Standing by this belief – and along with fellow comrades – he helped to form the Irish Republican Socialist Party with Seamus Costello in 1974.
He soon became the chairperson of Whiterock IRSP, and an unapologetic member of the ‘Peoples Liberation Army’, the forerunner to the Irish National Liberation Army pledged to defend the party of Connolly from physical attack.
Hugh Ferguson was a young man of vision when he was gunned down by his former comrades in the Official IRA. He was murdered simply because of his membership of the Republican Socialist Movement. There is no way of knowing what the future would have brought for Hugh but at the time in 1975 he was a firm believer in the values and beliefs of Seamus Costello, the founder of the RSM who himself was to be assassinated a few short years later by that same group that murdered Hugh. Little did the RSM know that in the following few months they would lose another two comrades in circumstances similar to that of Volunteer Hugh Ferguson simply because they were members of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement.
For the people who did not know Hugh, he was a young man of values and a credit to his local community.
Because of his beliefs and that of the sacrifice he made, his memory will always live on.
As I have mentioned previously Hugh died forty years ago simply because of his membership of The IRSP. His death was part of a pogrom that was intended to stifle, hinder and ultimately destroy any progress that Party was to make in the Political Arena. The very fact that we are standing here today proves that the RSM is still here so therefore that pogrom failed.
Hugh was a prodigious worker for the local community but he also lived, dreamed and worked for the establishment of a Socialist Republic.
Through times may change, and others may change to adapt, may wear the clothes they once rejected or my grace the corridors of power, I think it would be true to say that Hugh would not have deviated from the Revolutionary path. Today may require different tactics but not different principles.
Hugh epitomised the revolutionary spirit of the Irish Working Class from selling papers, organising, talking, persuading and cajoling comrades into giving even more to the Revolution.
It is particularly right and fitting that local people have come out to honour Comrade Hugh Ferguson, who stands as an example to all radical thinkers and in particular to the youths of the Whiterock area here, who can be rightfully proud of one of their own, who, in the unselfish tradition of Revolutionary Irish Republicanism, gave up his life for a higher ideal.
I am proud to say that even after all these years the name and memory of Hugh Ferguson is still proudly remembered by everyone here today, and long may it be so.
Before I finish with the National Anthem I would just like to thank the James Connolly Band who travelled down from Derry, The Colour Party, Wreath Layers and to Hugh’s old comrades from this area who organised today’s event. Thanks to the family of Hugh and to the people who kindly allow us to commemorate Hugh’s memory at this plaque. Again thank you all for attending here today to honour a brave comrade as the sacrifice he made shall never be forgotten. Thank You