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31 July 2004
Irish Political Status Committee
Re: A REPORT FROM THE IPSC IN ENGLAND!
The campaign for the restoration of political status for Irish POW’s
continues unabated — with rallies in Belfast, Derry and other major
cities in the 6 Counties called by prisoners welfare groups to draw
attention to the continueing abuse of republican prisoners in Maghaberry
In Britain the campaign by the Irish Political Status Committee for the
repatriation of the seven republican prisoners (most of whom are
miscarriages of justice cases) continues also.
In April John-Paul Hannan won his transfer to Maghaberry Prison in the 6
Counties. Several other POW’s are awaiting the repatriation procedure —
which can take between 3 and 5 years
The ‘SLOVAK 3’ — Declan Rafferty, Michael McDonald and Fintan O’Farrell
— are currently appealing sentence. Until their appeals are heard they
are disqualified from applying for repatriation!
In March last these three men were informed their appeals would be heard
by Easter — but have been postponed several times since then. In their
recent communication with us they tell us the latest date for their
appeal hearing is October 2004!
Likewise James McCormack — serving 22 years in Full Sutton prison in
Yorkshire — still awaits a decision by the Home Office on his
repatriation application — made over a year ago!
Aidan Hulme — serving 20 years in Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire —
still suffers from the neglect endured during his incarceration in
Belmarsh Prison, and is still in danger of losing his leg. Like the
others he also awaits a decision on his repatriation application
The IPSC calls on all supporters of Irish freedom to remember the men in
Long Lartin, Full Sutton and Whitemoor. Cards and letters are welcomed —
and always reciprocated — by the POW’s. This also of course applies to
Maghaberry and Portlaoise
**I need some help! This is just one photo (made smaller to fit here) which appears in a .pdf download from the above web site. This site is just full of historical information downloadable in .pdf format. My question is how do you select and save an image in a standard image file from .pdf? At work I have selected and saved text from .pdf, but here at home I had to selct the image, save it to WORD, and then convert WORD to HTML before saving the pic as a standard image file. This seems a bit convoluted. There must be an easier way. If you know how, PLEASE send me a message or a comment. Thanks :-)
**Thank you to Seán at IRA2 for pointing this out
Website gives insight into old Belfast
31 July 2004
A HISTORICAL society has launched a website which tells the story of the Barrack area in the New Lodge in Belfast.
The Glenravel Local History Project’s site contains thousands of photographs of topics including the Luftwaffe Blitz and the people of the area, as well as a list of all the murals in it.
Local historical documents can be downloaded from the site for free, including the story of the McMahon family who were slaughtered in 1922 and copies of The Troubles magazine which presents a day to day account of the Northern Ireland conflict since the partition of Ireland.
It also includes historical articles about the sinking of the Titanic and local crime stories.
Joe Baker, co-ordinator of the Glenravel Project, said the site would be “fascinating” for those with an interest in local history.
The site’s address is www.thebarrack.com.
**After I read this, I found the actual link for this story by searching Google, but the link was so long it didn’t fit on the page!
By L.A. Henry
ANTI social behaviour in Ballycastle has become so bad that extra police are being brought in seven nights a week, the Times can exclusively reveal.
Officers from the Tactical Support Group in Ballymena and Portglenone are being called upon and up to four “Polar Bear” Landrovers, similar to those that patrol flashpoint areas in Belfast are being used to prevent recurring street trouble.
Rising levels of car crime, an increasing number of assaults and friction between locals and teens from Belfast are turning the sea side resort into a policing nightmare according to one of the town’s police chiefs.
Inspector Tom Crawford who was back on the beat until 4am last weekend said that local officers were “stretched to their limit and beyond,” and warned that the high level of crime could not be allowed to continue.
Last weekend police dealt with a staggering 70 incidents, a dramatic rise on the 40 for the same period last year.
“This thuggish behaviour is now happening mid week and we are finding it increasingly difficult to cope. It used to be only at weekends, but now we have to bring in extra police officers mid week. We are stretched to the limit,” said Inspector Crawford.
August is traditionally the worst month for Moyle police because the amount of crime usually doubles, however Inspector Crawford admitted that: “It has started earlier this year.”
“We are always busier during the summer months, but at the minute there is so much going on that we are having to review our crime strategy.
“This anti social behaviour and fighting has to stop and we will be clamping down and people will be brought before the courts,” he warned.
The need for such a large police presence comes after a crowd of around 40 youths attacked officers as they dealt with a stolen car at the sea front last Thursday night, July 15.
“My officers were dealing with an assault and were called to an incident of rallying at the sea front in the early hours of the morning of July 15. However when police arrived at the scene the vehicle was on fire and a large crowd of about 30 to 40 youths started stoning the police vehicle,” said Inspector Crawford.
The stolen car belonged to an Australian couple who had only been in the town for one day. They lost most of their possessions when both of their suitcases were torched along with the vehicle on the green.
“Having spoken to local young people who use the sea front I have to say they are disgusted by this act and our investigations would suggest that it was visitors to the town who were involved in this particular incident,” said the chief.
“That’s the image that these people are getting of Ballycastle. That’s the image they will take away and I would call on the entire population of Moyle to condemn this act and assist us in bringing whoever was responsible to court. There was a large crowd at the sea front and surely someone must have seen something? It is incidents like this that can sour a person’s opinion of Ballycastle. Indeed I have had visitors say to me ‘I’ll never be back in Ballycastle’ and if tourists stay away then the whole community loses out,” he added.
Another example of rising crime was on July 12 when a total of 12 cars were broken into at Silver Cliffs Caravan Park. This almost equalled the 15 thefts from April to July last year.
Inspector Crawford also suggested that animosity between local youths and those visiting from Belfast was at an all time high.
“There seems to be some sort of problem with visitors coming into the town and fighting with the young people from the area. We don’t know what the reason behind this tension is but we do not think it is sectarian. All it takes is for someone to involved in a fight to fall and hit their head and we will be dealing with a murder in the town,” he said.
The heavy police presence could not be sustained for the entire summer and the Inspector has called for community support.
“A heavy police presence gives the town a bad image and it cannot go on indefinitely. At the minute we are fortunate in that we are able to get the extra resources but if something happens elsewhere in the province we could lose them.
“I am spending a lot of my budget on additional resources and we are using up the extra man hours which are needed for November and December when the number of burglaries is generally higher,” he warned.
Inspector Crawford also called for increased community support and asked parents and licensees to take more responsibility.
“”We can’t deal with this alone. It can’t all be just left to the police. We need public support,” he concluded.
“There seems to be an element in the town continually drinking and determined to cause trouble. There are 14 and 15 year-olds roaming the streets till three and four in the morning and I would ask parents to take more responsibility for their children.
“Licensees also must take responsibility because they are feeding these people full of drink and selling carry outs then putting them out onto the street leaving us to deal with the aftermath,” said the chief.
Ballycastle representative Cllr Michael Molloy also condemned the recent trouble and said: “Again I would condemn any acts of violence and vandalism at the sea front. But it is a sad reflection that it appears to be young people from outside Ballycastle who once again come in and spoil our town and the facilities that Moyle District Council have provided.
“It also highlights the problem of additional resources particularly in Ballycastle during the summer months and this is not the first time the DPP has raised this issue with the commander. Existing officers are not to blame but I think the PSNI needs to review its allocation of officers on the seaside towns along the North Antrim coast.
“When we reflect back maybe this would reinforce the need for Moyle District Council to provide something that could act as a distraction and may reduce wanton acts of vandalism at the sea front.”
Inspector Crawford agreed that there needs to be some sort of outlet for teenagers and he called on the community to support the new sea front enhancement scheme.
Men held on suspicion of terrorist activity released by PSNI
31/07/2004 – 09:04:23
Two men arrested in South Belfast last night under charges related to terrorist legislation have been released.
The men were arrested following a number of searches carried out in the Glenmacken Street area, during which several items were removed by PSNI officers for examination.
One man has been released without charge, while the other has been released pending a report by the DPP.
Riots ‘linked to police searches’
Youths tried to block part of the Westlink during the trouble
Traffic was brought to a standstill in a part of south Belfast after violence broke out involving gangs of youths.
About 40 youths were involved in trouble at Glenmachan Street close to the Broadway roundabout on Friday night.
Stones were thrown at cars and the police, and youths tried to block part of the Westlink.
Police said the trouble was linked to searches in the area on Friday afternoon when two men were arrested. A number of items were also seized under anti-terrorist legislation.
Drivers faced delays as traffic was diverted away at the Grosvenor Road roundabout on the Westlink, Donegall Road and Boucher Road.
The police moved in and forced the youths back off the main road.
The trouble lasted for about an hour and a half. Community workers were later called in to keep the youths off the streets.
Ardoyne: The Untold Truth film is launched
A remarkable book that charts the 99 people who were killed during the conflict in Ardoyne is the subject of a newly released DVD and video.
Following the publication in 2002 of the book, Ardoyne: The Untold Truth, the Ardoyne Commemoration Project have now announced the launch of a video of the same name at an event to be held on August 15.
The launch comes as the British government has announced in principle that some form of truth process be started in the north of Ireland.
The announcement has caused concern amongst nationalists who say any process must include the recognition by the British state that it was an active combatant.
The launch will take place at Kickhams GAA. The film is a follow up to the book that detailed the lives and violent deaths of those caught up in the conflict in the district.
Tom Holland of the Ardoyne Commemoration Project said the DVD would show the night of the launch of the book that was attended by the late Joe Cahill.
“As well as containing scenes and speeches from that evening, the video includes a brief history of the conflict and how the project came into being,” he said.
“It also contains three interviews with relatives of those killed with Angela Muldoon, daughter of Harry, Ann Stewart, sister of Jackie Mailey and Mary McGarry, sister of John Finlay. We hope that like the book, the video will act as a mark of remembrance for the dead.”
Tom Holland said any truth process must involve the British State.
“First the British State has to acknowledge that it was an active combatant in the conflict. Second, any such process needs to be independent of all active combatants. Thirdly, there needs to be an international dimension in the body dealing with this issue. If the British fail to meet these minimum requirements then victims’ families and the public at large will question its motives and conclude that it is only interested in concealing their involvement in the 30- year conflict we all endured.”
Tom Holland said all victims’ families were again invited. He asked them to arrive promptly at 7pm on the night where each family will receive a copy of the DVD or if they prefer, a tape. On the night a shortened version of the video will be shown. Speakers include John Finucane, former taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Holy Cross rector Fr Aidan Troy.
The general public is asked to arrive at 7.30pm and the proceedings will begin at 8pm. Copies of the DVD and book will be on sale.
“The purpose of this event as with the book is to properly commemorate all the victims who were killed,” said Tom.
“Not only for the sake of their memory, but also for the sake of their remaining family members and the wider Ardoyne community. To reflect this we have chosen this particular launch date as it is the 35th anniversary of the first two Ardoyne victims, Sammy McLarnon and Michael Lynch who were killed by the RUC on August 15, 1969.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
“I Love You Daddy” – Ciaran O’Fearaigh Update
July 23, 2004 – Day 540 – Denver, Colorado
by Briana Learnihan
Ciaran O’Fearaigh has been in an American jail in Denver, Colorado,
for Five Hundred and Forty days, yet has not been charged with a
crime. Throughout his ordeal, Ciaran has had only one simple wish,
to be at home with his American wife, Heaven, and three-year-old
daughter, Fiona. The closest contact are their hands over-lapping
on the cold prison glass that keeps them apart. The jail cell
window is so thick it’s impossible to hear a sound through it. How
unbelievably difficult it is to see Heaven and little Fiona talking
to Ciaran using the awkward telephone headset attached to the
visitor’s wall. As Fiona scribbles in her little note pad, she
holds it up against the window saying, “I love you, Daddy” into the
heavy handset. This small family still somehow manages to laugh
out-loud and joke around, but Ciaran is finding it so much harder
to be optimistic as the time passes with no official decision in
What is the difference between Ciaran Ferry and other Irish
immigrants who helped build a strong America? Coming to this great
country looking for a better life for their families, to live in
safety, to have freedom of speech – to escape the oppression
suffered at the hands of the British government and its military
power. Today the Irish are being targeted in America and there is
absolutely no outcry. Have Irish Americans in their haste to
assimilate forgotten their heritage and the suffering endured by
their people at the hands of the British military machine? We are
told that these sentiments are outdated and Irish Americans should
forget about them. The British aren’t bad now, because, they are
our allies. The British still have their armed troops of occupation
in Ireland, yet they try to convince Americans that the Irish are
just terrorists and we lock up our own people on behalf of the
British Government and pick up the tab to boot.
In honor of the holiday, on July 4th, 2004, Ciaran’s jail cell was
searched and his property confiscated and distributed among the
general prison population. He was then strip-searched. 228 years
after our independence from Britain, American tax money is being
used to persecute Irish men and women and their American families
on behalf of the British.
Irish-Americans apparently fail to see the irony of the situation –
the only connection with our Irish heritage is St. Patrick’s Day.
We are thirty million plus strong. If only half that number showed
their concern about Ireland and her people we would have a very
powerful voice in Washington DC. We would have the power to
influence policy and change the American Government.
Please, as an American, ask yourself this question, what possible
threat is Ciaran O’Feariagh to my family or to my country? Ciaran
came to this country like so many other Irish men and women
searching for peace and justice that America offered.
By making a donation to the “Ciaran Ferry Legal Defense Fund”, your
voice will be heard loud and clear by the American and British
Governments – “We will no longer pay for your persecution of the
Irish people in America”.
Ciaran O’Fearaigh served his time in Long Kesh for political
offenses and was released under the terms of the Good Friday
IAUC National Membership Chair
Irish Deportees of America Committee
Ciaran Ferry Legal Defense Fund
P.O. Box 740071
Arvada, CO 80006-0071
Write to Ciaran and let him know that you support him and his
family. Letters may be sent to:
P.O. Box 16700
Golden CO 80402-6700
Irish language nursery ready for first term
The committee of Glengormley’s new Irish-medium nursery school have said that the building of the school is nearing completion.
At the moment the mobile classrooms are just receiving the finishing touches and are expected to be ready and waiting for the naíscoil’s first stream of budding Irish speakers.
“We are exceeding all expectations in relation to parents enrolling their children for September this year and things are looking even better for the following year judging by the numbers expressing interest in Irish-medium education,” said Dermot McCoy, chairperson of Naíscoil Naomh Éanna.
To help the school with their fundraising efforts, St Enda’s GAA will host ‘A Night at the Races’ in the team’s clubroom.
All the proceeds will go to the Naíscoil and with music provided by Baillie Folk and a late bar, the organisers are expecting a great turnout.
For details on sponsorship and how to donate to the Naíscoil please contact Niall on 0797 6070036.
Journalist:: Staff Reporter
Call For Forensic Laboratory Inquiry
Friday 30th July 2004
A member of the legal team defending Derry man Seamus Doherty, currently on remand in Maghaberry Prison on explosives charges, has called for a public inquiry into the workings of the Forensic Science laboratory.
The comments came during a press conference called to launch a campaign to secure the release of Mr. Doherty.
The Derry man is being held on the basis of DNA evidence which the prosecution allege links him to a bomb found on the Omeath Road outside Newry.
However, two other men charged in connection with the same offence were later released when it emerged that British soldiers interfered with forensic evidence and that the PSNI had asked forensic scientists to modify their statements to protect an informant.
Campaigners for Mr. Doherty have claimed that the evidence against the Derry man was planted and demanded his immediate release.
At this week’s launch Marion Price, of the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, said that the evidence against Seamus Doherty was “a blatant frame-up”.
Calling for the beginning of a camapign to highlight the case Ms Price said that they would take to the streets if necessary to secure the Derryman’s release.
A former Sinn Fein councillor from Newry, Martin Cunningham, described the case as a “human rights issue”.
Mr. Doherty, he said, remained “languishing” in prison despite “clear proof” of interference with evidence.
Mr. Aidan Carlin, a member of Mr. Doherty’s legal team, said it was not the only case in which nationalists and republicans had been framed. He cited the case of four Tyrone men recently found not guilty on weapons charges.
He further called for an inquiry into the workings of the Forensic Science Laboratory.
Seamus Doherty’s family also revealed that, in an apparent new turn of events, the PSNI now admit visiting the Brandywell man’s flat – something they previously denied.
The family allege that this visit was used by the police to collect a DNA sample that could be used to “frame” Mr. Doherty.
Meanwhile the Irish Republican Socialist Party have demanded Mr. Doherty’s immediate release.
In a statement the group said that they have in the past demonstrated along with Seamus Doherty’s family and that they wil continue to do so.
They added: “While this is undoubtedly a classic case of injustice it has always been our view that the British never had and never will have the right to imprison people no matter what the reason.”
The IRSP added: “The now well documented intrusion into the forensic lab by members of the British Army to plant evidence on clothing belonging to arrested republicans is nothing new.
“This activity has been going on for decades and does not surprise us but it will come as a surprise to those who have bought into the British pacification process and the associated propaganda that continually tells us that the Brits are honest brokers in the Irish conflict “This case alone proves they are not.”
SF hits out at Maghera march decision
30/07/2004 – 14:28:10
Sinn Féin has accused the Parades Commission of caving in to loyalist threats by allowing a contentious march to proceed through the village of Maghera in Co Derry this evening.
The village, mainly nationalist, will be cut off to traffic for around two hours because of the parade.
Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness said the commission’s decision to allow the march was disgraceful and he accused the parades body of putting a loyalist “coat-trailing” exercise ahead of the rights of nationalist residents.
He also said loyalists had recently been targeting nationalists in the area.
Dublin sets up 1974 bombs probe
Nobody has been convicted of the 1974 bomb attacks
The Irish government is setting up a commission of inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, in which 33 people and an unborn child died.
The commission is due to investigate the Garda’s handling of the investigation, and the fact that key documents have gone missing.
But relatives of the victims criticised the move and demanded a full public inquiry rather than a private one.
They are calling on Dublin to press the UK to launch a joint inquiry.
The Justice for the Forgotten Group, representing the survivors of the bomb attacks, are unhappy with the Irish government’s decision not to pursue a public inquiry into those events.
They say Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has gone back on previous commitments to set up a public inquiry to investigate possible collusions between loyalist paramilitaries and British authorities in masterminding the attack.
Many of them believe that the Ulster Volunteer Force, who admitted their responsibility ten years ago, were helped by British intelligence. “We have absolutely no confidence going into another private inquiry,” said Margaret Urwin, the secretary of the relatives’ group.
“We are very, very upset, we didn’t expect this at all.
“Why does the Irish Government persist in hiding the truth of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings?
“Why does it continuously fail to set up a public inquiry when it has the power to do so?” The group alleges British intelligence was aiming to warn the Irish government not to interfere in Northern Ireland’s affairs.
The Irish government’s announcement follows the conclusions of a parliamentary committee which studied a report by Mr Justice Barron into the bombings.
The report, presented to the Irish government in December and later made public, criticised the Irish government of the early 1970s and the original inquiry by the Garda.
It did not rule out the involvement of individual members of the Northern Ireland security forces, but found no evidence of collusion.
It said the group behind the attacks in Dublin could have carried them out without any help from the security forces.
Twenty-six people died in Dublin and seven in Monaghan in four car bomb attacks on 17 May 1974, while Protestant workers were holding a strike in Northern Ireland to bring down a power-sharing government set up under the Sunningdale Agreement.
More than 250 were injured in the attacks.
Terror at the turn of the road
BY LAURA FRIEL
Ligoniel is a small and isolated nationalist area of 600 houses on the very edge of North Belfast. Life for the residents is made all the more difficult by the fact that there is only one way in and one way out and that way is through the notoriously hostile unionist-controlled Crumlin Road.
As you drive northwards, through the red, white and blue painted kerbstones, past the British and unionist paramilitary flags, traffic lights at a sharp turn in the road mark out your destination as nationalist Ligoniel. Here, everything changes.
Not the physical nature of the roadway or housing, although you won’t see any flags. Not particularly in the level of poverty and social deprivation. Not the appearance of the people or the routine of their daily lives.
But here, at this point, you stop being a citizen, neighbour, resident, schoolchild, parent or pensioner. Here you become a ‘Taig’.
As one local writer has recorded, at the turn of the road all notions of neighbourliness and common civic decency valued and practiced within the adjacent Protestant communities become suspended.
It’s as if you’ve stepped through some kind of moral warp in space and time and although the universe looks the same, your whole relationship within it has been abruptly transformed.
At this point, schoolchildren can be attacked on their school buses, pensioners can be forced to walk through a hostile crowd, cars can be smashed up and drivers injured, electricity supplies can be vandalised and telephone wires cut while police stand idly by and see nothing and know nothing and do nothing.
Here the state and its agencies do not enforce the law or protect the vulnerable or punish criminals. You may have only travelled a few dozen yards but you’re in a different world.
During recent disputes over the possible rerouting of a number of Orange parades, including that past Ardoyne, the Orange Order and their supporters specifically targeted the nationalist community of Ligoniel.
The residents of Ligoniel weren’t involved in the decision, they had no say in the outcome, but they were vulnerable, and as such a prime target for unionist intimidation.
In the week before the Twelfth, Orange Order supporters, sometimes accompanied by known high profile loyalist gunmen, blockaded the roadway into Ligoniel for five consecutive days, including twice on Saturday 10 July.
In the two-week period before the Twelfth, vehicles travelling to Ligoniel were attacked 16 times by missile throwing unionist mobs. The attacks were consistently carried out outside the gates of Ligoniel Park close to the traffic lights at the ‘Turn of the Road’.
Windscreens and passenger windows were smashed with barrages of bricks and bottles and stones, while exterior metalwork also suffered considerable damage.
The vehicle of one Ligoniel resident suffered three smashed windscreens and a buckled wing within the space of two weeks. “At £50 for each windscreen and a £65 repair bill for the wing, it all adds up,” says the driver. But it’s not just the cost, it’s also the trauma.
One driver has already suffered hand and neck injuries. Another feared for his life when a unionist mob surrounded his car and tried to prise open the doors. But residents fear the potentially deadly consequence of drivers swerving to avoid a missile or driving through red lights to avoid the mob. “Sooner or later someone is going to get killed,” the driver says.
PSNI worse than useless
Despite the fact that the attacks are consistently launched from the same position on the road, the PSNI have refused to intervene and protect the traffic. They even refuse to acknowledge that the damage to vehicles and their passengers is a result of a sectarian attack.
“The PSNI record it simply as a traffic accident; if the same person’s car is attacked a number of times, they simply record it as a traffic accident with a pattern,” says a resident. If the attacks were officially recorded as sectarian, the PSNI might be tasked to offer protection and even arrest the perpetrators and clearly that’s something they don’t wish to do.
For those nationalist residents travelling to Ligoniel as passengers on public transport, the ordeal is different but just as traumatic. The PSNI are not only refusing to offer protection to private vehicles, they are also refusing to ensure safe passage for public transport. At the sighting of a unionist mob at the traffic lights, bus drivers routinely refuse to drive their passengers into Ligoniel.
“Passengers are forced to leave the bus at the bottom of the street and walk through the hostile crowd preventing access to Ligoniel,” says a resident. The vast majority of those using the bus service are women and children and the elderly. In other words, some of the most vulnerable sections of the community are forced to walk through a violent and abusive crowd.
On 7 July, residents travelling on the No 57 bus into Ligoniel were forced to disembark and walk through a unionist blockade. The PSNI who were present throughout the incident refused any assistance on the grounds that the blockade was a ‘legitimate protest’.
The passengers were subjected to sectarian abuse, with unionists shouting “Fenian Bastards” as they walked through their ranks. Women passing the park were pelted with stones. No one was arrested. Passengers were forced to walk through the gauntlet of sectarian abuse again the following day.
During another incident, pensioners travelling on the bus were not only forced to disembark and walk through the hostile crowd, but were also taunted by members of the mob who held their noses and complained about the “stink”.
Earlier in the year, a school bus returning children as young as eleven and twelve to Ligoniel was stopped and boarded by two unionists, both men in their 30s. Two children travelling on the bus were assaulted by the two men. The driver made no attempt to intervene.
A number of known unionist paramilitaries have also been seen during these “legitimate protests”. Andre Shoukri of the UDA is currently out on license having been convicted of possessing a gun and ammunition. Shoukri’s brother, Ihab, is on bail in relation to charges connected to the killing of loyalist Alan ‘Bucky’ McCullough. Part of his bail conditions included no contact with his brother.
During a unionist blockade of Ligoniel, Shoukri was seen less than 40 foot away from his brother, who was drinking in the nearby UDA bar. The PSNI made no attempt to enforce the bail conditions. When nationalist residents complained that the blockade was the work of the UDA, the PSNI denied there was any paramilitary involvement.
This is not the first summer that the nationalist community of Ligoniel has been subjected to unionist intimidation. In 1998, at the height of the Drumcree blockades, Ligoniel was besieged by Orange Order supporters for over a week. During this blockade, electricity supplies were cut and telephone wires were sabotaged.
“The community was almost completely cut off because at the time only one resident owned a mobile phone,” recalls a resident. During the 1998 blockade the Orange mob threatened to burn nationalist residents out and firebomb the local Catholic church.
When residents gathered to protect a row of pensioners’ houses, unionist paramilitaries opened fire, shooting two local people and injuring a third. One of those shot was only 16 years of age.
In July 2002 a 50-strong unionist mob attacked Catholic homes along the Ligoniel Road. During a 30 minute sustained attack, ten Catholic homes were targeted. Two brothers, Jonathon (23) and 24-year-old Michael Graham, fled their ground floor flat, clambering over fences to escape the machete and baton-wielding mob. Moments later, their home was engulfed by flames.
A second Catholic family narrowly escaped injury when a petrol bomb ignited but failed to smash a bedroom window. A third resident described lying against the front door in a desperate attempt to keep the unionist mob out.
“I lay on the floor in front of the door to protect the children,” he said. Moments later, two shots were fired. “I don’t know if they fired into the house. All I know is that these people wanted to kill a Catholic,” he said.
Sectarian attack dossier
Ligoniel residents recently compiled a dossier of sectarian attacks and intimidation experienced by this small community in the two week before the Twelfth this year. The dossier has been forwarded to the NIO.
“What we have is lawlessness at the turn of the road,” said the residents’ spokesperson. “The police turn a blind eye and they say they don’t have the resources to protect people who are being attacked as they drive through. The thugs know our cars and they attack with bricks and bottles. The police do nothing. They won’t even say it is sectarian.
“There are leaders of the UDA present in the background at the blockade. The UDA is running the show here, backed up by the PSNI, who look on and do nothing. We just want the attacks to end and to be allowed to get on with our lives in peace.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin said that continuous complaints to the NIO about attacks and the blockade had been ignored, despite the presence of the UDA’s ‘brigadier’, Andre Shoukri.
“We have complained to the NIO every day about the PSNI’s handling of these attacks and the blockade but the NIO and PSNI appear determined to allow them to go ahead. Can you imagine what would happen if nationalists attempted to blockade a unionist area? It’s unthinkable. It’s time attacks on nationalist areas were considered unthinkable by unionists too.”
Irish America honours Joe Cahill in New York
As the Republican Movement was being reorganised after the split in 1969, one of the first actions of the leadership was to entrust Joe Cahill with the task of mobilising Irish republicans in the United States. He travelled there in 1970 and initiated Irish Northern Aid, which played a pivotal role in solidarity with the republican struggle ever since. Joe maintained his close contact with Irish America, a link that was crucial in helping to ensure that the Irish diaspora was mobilised to great effect during the peace process.
Irish America paid tribute to Joe Cahill in New York on Wednesday, the day after he was laid to rest in Ireland. Within hours of the announcement of Joe’s death, a grouping came together under the banner of the Friends of Joe Cahill in New York. Irish Northern Aid, Clan na Gael, Friends of Sinn Féin and the Ancient Order of Hibernians organised a memorial service in St. Francis Church on West 31st Street. The Mass was celebrated by Fr Brian Jordan.
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin spoke to the congregation in tribute to Joe. He said:
“With others in this country Joe founded Irish Northern Aid and I know he would want me to pay tribute to them and to all the organisations and individuals who for the past 34 years have worked in solidarity with the Irish people in this the last phase of our long struggle for national self-determination.”
He said Joe “epitomised the enduring bond of friendship and solidarity between the people of Ireland and our exiles of every generation”. In conclusion Ó Caoláin said:
“Joe knew, as we know, that lasting peace is only possible and only tenable, on the basis of basis of justice, equality and freedom. And he kept his eyes on that prize throughout his life. Joe would want only one legacy and one memorial and that is our continued dedication and commitment to Irish freedom and our determination to achieve it.”
In his own words
Last August, An Phoblacht’s JOANNE CORCORAN interviewed Joe Cahill, lifelong republican and honorary vice-president of Sinn Féin, in his sitting room in Belfast, enjoying the warm hospitality of himself and his wife Annie. Most interviewers asked Joe about the execution of his comrade Tom Williams and his arrest on the Claudia as he tried to import arms for the IRA. Joanne, however, wanted to know about other aspects of his extraordinary life, from his earliest memories of growing up in Belfast to his fundraising adventures in the United States and his respect for his brother, Frank.
Joe answered all her questions, throwing in amusing yarns as he recalled some of the events of his extraordinary life.
As part of our tribute to Joe this week, we are re-running that interview in full, including sections left out at the time for reasons of space. What follows is a glimpse into the life of Joe Cahill, a true hero of our revolution.
An Phoblacht: What was it like growing up in Belfast right after partition had taken place?
Joe Cahill: I was born in 1920, and partition happened in 1921, so it didn’t hit me until I was about nine or ten.
What first struck me about partition was the amount of unemployment. Nobody had any work. So the government set up this scheme, unemployment relief they called it, and it involved getting people to dig up the streets. It was very heavy work and only paid about 15 shillings a week. That wasn’t too much then, I can tell you.
I also remember that housing conditions were very bad. In ordinary areas, a house like this, with three beds, would have been classed as a big house. In working class areas, most houses would be two-up, two-down and at least two families would live in them. And that would be in the unionist estates. In the Catholic estates, like the Lower Falls, the houses would be one-up, one-down. My family lived in Divis Street and we had little or nothing.
Even though we were luckier than most – my father had opened a business in 1914 – the first memory I have is of moving into a house with no windows and doors. But at least we lived on our own and were able to make it comfortable.
At that time there would have been a big problem with moneylenders and the Catholic Church at one point took a case against them. They were robbing families blind. The Church won partially, they got the interest rates reduced or something, but what occurred to me then was that politics wasn’t working for Catholic people. No matter what we tried to challenge, we only ever got a partial response.
It was at this time I became interested in socialism. And it was also at this time that I discovered it was impossible to get work, because I was a Catholic.
Anyway, Labour was very strong then, and they wanted to bring people together through work. The bitterness and sectarianism of the 1920s seemed to have disappeared by the time this was happening, although there had been some bigotry at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress. Well, Labour got active and got people motivated, got them protesting, and they were successful enough. They got the wages raised to 30 shillings a week.
The beauty of this was to see Catholics and Protestants fighting together for their rights. The problem was that when Catholics tried to improve their standards of living, then sectarianism was brought into it, and brought in mostly by the unionist government.
I joined na Fianna Éireann, when I was about 16. I couldn’t join the IRA because you had to be 18, but I wanted to.
You see, Catholics up the North felt let down by the government in the 26 Counties. They looked to them for support and help, and it wasn’t forthcoming. Then when Fianna Fáil came to power, they thought things would improve. Obviously it didn’t. So the IRA were the only support for the people.
The campaigns the IRA ran weren’t all that successful. They didn’t have any political backing, and that meant less support from the people. It was the same throughout the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. I still believe that unless you have some political backup, you will never be successful in the campaigns that you run.
AP: What was it like working in Harland and Wolffe in the early ’50s? Was the company as sectarian as it is made out to be?
JC: It was all right, but people thought I was mad to work there!
I’ll give you some background on this. I had come out of prison in October of ’49 and I went for a few weeks’ holidays before I started looking for a job. I had done a course as a joiner, and I assumed, big-headedly, of course, that because I’d served part of a life sentence, I’d get a job with any of the Catholic builders.
But none of them wanted to have me, because they said I’d be an embarrassment to them because they were all doing government work. One foreman asked me would I do a job in Cork, and I said, “No way, Joe Cahill isn’t going to work in Cork”.
So anyway, that guy went on to own his company, and he got in touch with me, and said he’d give me a job no problem as a foreman. I told him I’d skills as a joiner, but he said, “you’ll probably be a bit rusty after eight years in prison, so take this job”. He offered me a trade union card and everything, but then I heard him sacking two lads, without even giving them money they were owed, and his attitude turned me right off him. When I did talk to him, I gave out to him and said, “Paddy, I didn’t serve my time for Ireland to end up working for a so and so like you”. He said, “Joe, you’re as stubborn as you ever were,” and offered me full wages. But I stayed away from him and kept looking.
A while after that I met this friend, and he said to me why don’t you try the shipyard. I said to him “are you mad?” But he told me that it wasn’t as bad as it used to be, so I thought about it, and said, well okay, I need a job, I’ll go down.
So I went down on the Friday and they offered me a job starting on the Monday.
I was there for two periods altogether, nine months and then eleven months, and both times nobody ever said as much as boo to me. We worked in pairs then, and I worked with a Protestant and told him all about my background. He said that made no odds to him, and that we were workmates anyway.
Then one Easter I went to Milltown cemetery, and the paper carried a report about it that weekend. That Monday in work my mate heard something said at lunch and he told me that it was probably only gossip but I wasn’t to go about the ship without him, or without my hammer and belt. That was the first time anything was strange, but most of the workers were friendly. There was one other incident, when I was promoted to this job that paid an extra £3, and one day the foreman said to me, “Back to the tools, Joe”. I said “Why, are you not happy with my work?” and he said he was very happy and that it wasn’t his decision. He told me that the problem was I “kicked with the wrong foot”.
They were the only two times I had any trouble. You could do manual labour, but if you tried to rise, you’d always meet difficulty. But generally, I got on with everybody there.
AP: What led to the split in 1969?
JC: Well I wasn’t a member of the IRA then, I had resigned. It was obvious to everyone that something was going to happen. I was a member of the Civil Rights movement at the time; I did stewarding and the like, but I didn’t think it was going anywhere. It was obvious to everyone that there were never going to be many benefits to Catholics.
Terence O’Neill was the PM then, and he was probably the most forward thinking of all the unionist Prime Ministers, but even then, he’d no desire to give the Catholics too much. He did have this idea that he could pacify them, though, by giving them a little. Well, he gave a little and the unionists weren’t happy, so we knew there’d be a kickback and that came in him getting the push and Chichester Clarke being put in.
We had a feeling pogroms were about to start. You didn’t have the British Army then, but you had something worse, the B-Specials. The IRA weren’t doing anything to defend the people. They were making no preparations, because they had been getting more political and had been running down the military machine.
A lot of older hands could see what was happening, and they decided to start some training. That was doing okay but they didn’t have long enough and eventually ’69 came and there really was nobody there to stand up for the people.
Those of us who had been out of the IRA, and there were a lot of us, reported back, in the hope that we could do something. The feeling, particularly in Belfast, was that there should be a break with Dublin, and many of the rural areas thought the same.
I remember going to Lurgan and saying the North should break away and there was mostly agreement. There was a lot of opposition to the leadership in Dublin. So anyway, we decided to have this meeting on a Sunday in the International Hotel in Belfast. Representatives came from the south and the north and the purpose was to set up a separate command. We made a lot of progress at it, and shortly after we were drawing up plans, and some more people arrived from Dublin, among them Seán Mac Stiofáin. He was aware of what we were doing and supported it. He said that on the Saturday night there had been a meeting and the IRA had split, and the people who’d left Cathal Goulding’s crowd had decided to set up their own army council.
Then we discussed how things should be developed and it was agreed that there should actually be an all-island body. So another convention was held, with the Provisionals, a temporary name that had been given at the first army council meeting, and the officials. It was planned that we would go away over six months and see where people’s loyalty lay around the country, and that was the split. It was fairly bitter, but nobody was killed. And in the end the name the ‘provisionals’ stuck.
AP: Can you tell me about the reaction to Bloody Sunday in the South?
JC: Prior to Bloody Sunday, you had internment, one of the biggest mistakes of the British. I’ve often said that much of our success was down to the Brits’ mistakes, as well as our own hard work. Lots of meetings about internment had been taking place, and then on that Sunday they decided to have a massive march and meeting. What happened then is well documented. The Paras came in and got stuck into the people, and there were the murders.
Then of course there was the aftermath. Many have said that if we had had the political strength then, we could have unified the country and defeated the British. All over the South they were protesting. I never witnessed anything like the protests I saw in Dublin. Workers downed tools and came onto the streets to protest, it was amazing. People were furious. They wanted to show their sympathy for the people in the North.
The British Embassy was burned down, and I was there. Some people argued it was a bad thing, because what happened was many people felt that they had vented their anger, and then they went off satisfied. I thought it was a good thing, though.
But it was the same when Jack Lynch called a day of mourning. For many, that was the climax to the whole thing. People in the South walked away from the problem, feeling like they’d done something.
It wasn’t the same for us in the North. We were left with the bitterness. Of course, everyone knows the story then of how volunteers flocked to the IRA and it didn’t have the capacity to take them all in.
AP: You’ve been on several hunger strikes in your life. Each time, did you feel that this was the time you were going to die?
JC: Every time you went on a hunger strike, you always thought “I could die now”. There was no point on going on it if you didn’t. My first one was in Crumlin Road prison. It started off that lots of us were on it and then there were only five of us. Two of us were in the prison hospital and three in the prison itself. We had very little communication between ourselves. Then it was called off because if we all died there would have been nobody left to take over. One of the senior figures, who had been taken to the hospital wing, gave the order and the message was brought to us. We got improvements but not immediately. That was the way it was with hunger strikes – if you lived, you got your demands, but later.
AP: Having been on hunger strike yourself, how did you feel about the 1981 Hunger Strike?
Joe: I remember how the leadership felt at the time. We knew they were going to die. We didn’t want them to go on with it.
When they were conned into coming off the one in 1980, we felt that their demands were going to be met, eventually. I felt that if another one started they would die. I never anticipated that ten would die.
No amount of talking would make them come off it, though. I talked to Bobby Sands and I pointed out to him that they were going to die. Bobby said he couldn’t see a way out of it. He thought if one died, then that would be the end of it. That didn’t happen though. I’ll never forget that conversation. The worst thing about that hunger strike as well was that it was one of those where one lad goes on it, and then another, then another, and it meant it stretched out for such a long time.
AP: Joe, you’ve had a lot of involvement in the US. Can you tell our readers something about that?
JC: My involvement in the US started in 1970. There had been different groups coming over from all over the place and the organisation of it was very scattered. They wanted to help, and we were also sending individuals over to get help, but everyone was confused about who was raising funds for who, was it the Provisionals or the Officials. One or two had gone out before me, but I said there was a lot of support out there and that it needed to be organised. At an army council meeting it was decided that two would go out, Leo Martin and myself.
We went to the consul in Belfast to get our visas, and of course they asked had you been to jail. Well, Leo had been interned and I’d been sentenced to death, but we told your man it had been political. I said “I’ve never done anything criminal in my life”. He looked at us and said “Well, there’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t go”, and issued us with visas.
So we went off, legally, and we went to New York first. We met with a group called the Thursday Committee, so called because they met on Thursdays, and it was proposed at that first meeting that we start up a nationwide organisation. That was how Irish Northern Aid, or Noraid, was formed. Leo and myself travelled extensively through Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and everywhere we went we set up branches of Noraid.
That was my first involvement, and we’d get reports back and forth of how things were going.
Then internment came and the PM of the North at the time, Brian Faulkner, gave a press conference, saying that the IRA had been wrecked, internment had been a success, and that they had picked up lots of volunteers.
So the IRA decided to hold a press conference in Belfast, or at least to have people get a message out for them about what has really happened. See, we’d had prior knowledge of internment so it hadn’t worked that well for the government We’d been able to warn volunteers the night beforehand, so most of the volunteers who had been picked up were older ones or inactive ones.
What happened then at the press conference has gone down in history, but it wasn’t intended, it was never meant to happen. There were a lot of telly crews and reporters at the conference, and mostly civil rights people. Paddy Kennedy, who was an MP at the time, was there and a councillor, John Flanagan.
It was a bit of a damp squib for the best part, until one of the reporters asked the question was Faulkner right saying the IRA had been squashed. Well, Flanagan replied and said, “I can’t answer that because I’m not in the IRA, you’ll have to ask the OC of Belfast there” – and he pointed at me.
Immediately the room was electrified, and the questions were flying. I told them that we had known about internment and the rest of it. I said we had lost very few Volunteers because we had told them to stay out of their houses and that most of those arrested weren’t active. They asked would the IRA be continuing campaigns and it struck me that this was an opportunity to get a message across to all the Volunteers out there, because I probably wouldn’t be able to contact them for a while after that. I said that we would be carrying out a shooting and bombing campaign for 48 hours, and that after that we’d be going back to guerrilla training. It was a perfect way of getting the information out, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to move after that.
While this was going on, a few of those in the room had gone outside to get me arrested and I was instructed to leave Belfast very quickly and get down to Dublin.
HQ had decided the best thing I could do then for the movement was go back over to America, and I was happy to do that. I got on a plane and headed off. Then, as I was getting off the plane in America, a stewardess from the ground came up to me and said “Joe you’re wanted in one of the offices”.
I assumed it was our people and I went in, but of course it was immigration control. Your man asked for my passport, and as soon as I gave it to him he stamped it ‘null and void’, handed it back to me, and said you’re now in America illegally.
I was kept there for several hours and eventually brought to a holding centre. We got lots of publicity out of it. Noraid would be ringing me up and saying, “Stay there Joe, don’t get out, you’re worth million dollars a day to us locked up.” My name became very widespread through America then.
After that, I went many times illegally, doing tours and such. I was generally known as Joe Brown, and sometimes even Father Brown, when I travelled about the States.
I remember one time, somebody was introducing me to someone else and they said ‘You know Father Brown don’t you?’ and they said aye, and he said ‘Well this is his wife’. There was confusion, I can tell you. From then on it was a joke, we were being introduced as Fr Brown and his wife!
Between ’71 and ’94, when I officially got a visa, I was probably in America eight to ten times. Once in that period I was arrested again with Jimmy Drumm. He was deported immediately but I was brought to court. I was on remand but I got bail. I had to report to a probation officer every Monday. Luckily, he was an Irishman and he was a neighbour of the house I was staying in and also a great Gaelic man. I went to report to him and he said to me ‘Your health is not the best, is it Joe?’ And I said to him ‘no’. So he told me just to ring in on Mondays. For three months then, I travelled around the States on bail, raising money until I was eventually deported, making sure I rang in every Monday.
AP: Can you tell me about your brother Frank’s involvement?
Joe: Frank was a lot younger than me and he was first interned when he was 17 years old. That was around ’42 or ’43. He had been fairly active and he still would have been active when he got out, but he got involved in community work, particularly after he got married.
He went to live in Ballymurphy and decided he wanted to better the position of the people living there. It wasn’t just Ballymurphy either, he was using that as a pilot scheme.
Frank was very far-seeing, even though a lot of people would have disagreed with him. His community work was very successful and he set up a lot of small projects, like picture framing and knitwear. He also helped set up a petrol station. He took a lot of his ideas from Fr Dwyer in Donegal, but he had fantastic ideas of his own.
He became greatly involved in the Conway Mill in West Belfast. It was up for sale and a small committee came together to talk about it. Frank was one of the big pushers behind this. The Mill was practically in ruins and it is still a long way from the way they envisioned it. When the idea was put forward first, people thought they were mad, but he was very far-seeing. I disagreed with him on a lot of things, but I respect all the activities he became involved in. We wouldn’t have been human if we didn’t disagree.
AP: How do you see the role of An Phoblacht today?
JC: I think a lot more work needs to be put into the sales of the paper but I think it’s a great political paper and a great forum for debate. I still enjoy reading it, but I have discovered that sales aren’t what they used to be.
We depend on it, we always did, but some of our members think that they are above it. But I see the paper as incredibly important in spreading the gospel, if you like. We need to wise up and make sure it’s getting out to the public.
AP: Do you ever think that my generation is the one that will sell out?
JC: That’s something I never thought about. I’ve always been a great believer in youth. I don’t think that they’ll sell out or break. I think it was Martin McGuinness who said ‘we have the most politically educated generation ever’ and I have complete confidence in them.
I know when I speak to young people, they know everything that’s going on, they are happy to be part of the struggle and they have no intention of giving up.
AP: Any regrets?
JC: No regrets. Absolutely none. People have asked me this several times and the answer is always no, but that’s in my professional life. I have regrets in my personal life, particularly being a married man with seven children and not living constantly with them. I missed all that natural life, but I suppose the one thing that compensated was the support I received from my family, particularly from Annie. I left her to rear seven kids and she did a damn good job.
I can say that in front of her because she’s deaf! Really, she can’t hear a thing I’m saying. That’s how I can get away with everything.
My Uncle Joe – By Mairia Cahill
Lifelong republican, committed to struggle, IRA leader, supporter of the Peace Process, Honourary Vice President of Sinn Féin. I have heard Joe Cahill quoted as being all of the above, and he was, but most importantly to me, he was ‘Uncle Joe’, and I loved him. I found him to be witty, strong, yet gentle, grumpy yet hilarious, and he was loving. He was a role model as a republican to thousands, and he was a role model to me in terms of the way I want to live my life. We shared taste in music, in love for all things Irish, in commitment to empowerment for the working class, for community, for culture, and for Frances Black!
I loved going to concerts with Uncle Joe, as I was able to share in the joy expressed in his face when he heard a song that he loved, and I loved the twinkle in his eye when he would whisper a little comment to me which would literally have me in stitches. I loved listening to his stories, of which there were many, and he had a memory like no other.
He could remember back to 1942, when he and six others were arrested and sentenced to death, and he constantly talked about his close friend and comrade, Volunteer Tom Williams, who was hanged in Crumlin Road Jail. He always told me that he still talked to Tom, and firmly believed that Tom was watching over him. He would always pepper a conversation with little tidbits of memories of things that had happened throughout his life — some sad, some funny, some risky — and all fascinating. I could listen to Joe for hours on end.
Joe let me get away with murder — he challenged my thinking, listened to me, told me when I was wrong, comforted me when I knew I was wrong, slegged me, and taught and encouraged me. I remember about two years ago feeling highly embarrassed when I asked Joe if Only our rivers run free was a song about prohibition. Joe burst out laughing and tried to act serious when he told me I was an embarrassment, and to go and listen to the song again. When I explained that someone had told me that it was, he told me I was a ‘bloody fool’ for listening to them. For months afterwards, he would ask me about ‘Only our rivers’ and delight at my face rapidly turning dark purple.
I, like many others, thought that Joe would be there forever. I was used to him being there through my latter teenage years, to run to when I wasn’t sure about something. I was also used to him regaling me with stories about my granda Frank, about his own mummy and daddy, and the history of my own family, republicanism aside.
Joe spoke frankly about being ill, and although I could see him getting weaker, I didn’t believe that he was going to die. I had a conversation with him last week about things, keeping him up to date with all the gossip, etc, and he suddenly stopped me and told me that he would look after me. I told him I loved him and we both started crying. Joe wasn’t afraid to cry and this in my view showed his strength.
He will be remembered by different people for different things, and I will remember him as ‘Uncle Joe’, the human being, the man who stayed strong throughout 84 years of his life, who showed dignity, courage and level-headedness. Most of all, I think, for me personally, he showed compassion, love and respect for his family — and he was the best guide in life that I could ever have.
I know he is looking down on Annie, Tom, Steph, Maria, Trish, Dee, Nuala and Aine and all of his family. I know he was extremely proud of his family and he loved them like any husband and father, brother, grandfather and uncle would.
Uncle Joe, I hope you are at peace, that you have been reunited with your friend and comrade Tom, with your family and other friends. We are winning Joe, and you made a lot of that possible.
I love you.
From ‘your torture’, Mairia.
A giant among giants
BY JIM GIBNEY
“It’s more than just a funeral. It’s akin to burying a Fenian Chieftain. He made things happen that might never have happened.”
That’s how Mitchel McLaughlin summed up his feelings as Joe Cahill’s coffin emerged from St John’s Chapel to take the last lap to Milltown Cemetery.
It was that sort of occasion. People spoke from their heart about Joe, a man Martin McGuinness described as a “goliath” of the republican struggle.
Peter John Caraher from South Armagh, a lifelong republican himself, whose son Fergal was shot dead in 1990 by the British Army said: “It’s the end of an era.”
Eighty-six-year-old Bridget Hannon couldn’t remember a time when Joe wasn’t part of her life. She described her last moments with him: “I sat with Annie at his bedside. His eyes were closed. He was very weak. Annie said ‘Joe, Joe, it’s Bridget, it’s Bridget.’ His hand slipped from below the bedclothes and he held and stroked the back of my hand. I’ll never forget that.”
Willie John McCorry met Joe when he came out of jail in 1952. Willie had been on the run since 1938 and was interned in the South from 1940 until the end of the Second World War in 1945.
With Joe and others in Belfast, they organised the National Graves Association. “Joe was outgoing. He was a fun loving guy. He could crack a joke and take a joke.”
Leo Wilson recalled meeting Joe 67 years ago for the first time. “He played football for St Joseph’s GAA and was learning Irish at the Ard Scoil. Seán McCaughey (who later died on hunger strike in Portlaoise) was one of the teachers. They were rough times. Republicans were light on the ground, not like now. I escaped the big swoop in ’38 and I think Joe did as well. Joe was an ‘all or nothing man’, single purpose, no compromise; all the Cahills were like that.”
Madge McConville who was with Joe on that ill-fated mission which led to the hanging of Tom Williams, was also there.
These were Joe’s contemporaries. As Gerry Adams said at Joe’s graveside: “They knew him as a teenager.”
Touch their memories and you touch another time; a time when Ireland was still united; a time when partition was only an idea on paper; a time of great violence and convulsion, North and South.
Joe spanned these epoch-making times to live what Gerry Adams called “a long life, well lived, in struggle and activism”.
Martin Meehan’s abiding memory of Joe was on Internment morning, on 9 August 1971. “Ardoyne was in flames. Gun battles were raging; Paddy McAdorey (IRA Volunteer) was just shot dead. This woman came to me in the middle of the street about six times telling me that a man was in her house with a cloth cap on and wanted to see me. It was Joe. He had walked through the streets to see me. He was the Brigade OC of Belfast and wanted the Battalion Staff pulled together. He was our Phoenix that arose out of the ashes.”
Fr Des Wilson, in a fitting homily at Joe’s Mass said; “Joe was a man of action rather than words.
“In the midst of the horrors of the Second World War, when air raids were a nightly occurrence and bombs were dropping on Belfast, when the streets were not a safe place to be, Joe was an ARP Warden. He might well have been killed. When people were in danger, Joe walked into the middle of that danger to help them.”
Instead of being rewarded for such civic duty, those with power in the state insulted and isolated Joe. Fr Wilson said: “He was never given a city to live in worthy of his generosity and courage.”
Those with power and authority shunned Joe for most of his 84 years but the plain people of Ireland didn’t; his people never left his side. And they turned out in their thousands to carry him to his place of rest.
It was a day for the IRA, and particularly the IRA in Belfast, to show their appreciation to the man who, with a small group of others, gave birth to the modern IRA.
And they too turned out. They were there in uniform, fresh faced, young enough to be Joe’s great grandchildren; and others who started out with youth on their side but now carry the passage of time and the years of experience inside the IRA on their faces.
This was not a day for masks, for anonymity. Those who served with Joe at all levels of the IRA since he openly spoke at a press conference in August 1971 in Belfast shouldered his coffin.
The ‘Secret Army’ publicly escorted and protected one of their own — three generations of men and women who graced the wings and cells of prisons in Ireland, England, Europe and North America.
Men and women who followed the same path as Joe, who turned their lives upside down, set aside the call of ordinary life, heard freedom’s call and followed it.
There were those like Joe who lived their lives in exile and who shared with him a special bond. They knew well the deep pain of loneliness, separated from their families, never sure whether they would ever return home.
Such yearning took Joe many times to the Wicklow Mountains to seek solace, he told Gerry Adams. There he thought of Annie their children, of coming home, and he cried.
It was a day when Sinn Féin’s elected representatives turned out in force. It was the first formal public occasion that saw Sinn Féin MEPs, MPs, TDs, MLAs and Councillors march together along the well-trodden route to Milltown Cemetery.
The old and new faces of North American support were joined by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and a senior member of the Irish Government.
The last time I saw a funeral like Joe’s in Belfast was during the Hunger Strike of 1981 or the re-interment of Tom Williams.
It was a grand occasion, flawlessly organised, and the closest the IRA could get to a state funeral.
It was a day not to be missed. It was a day of stories about Joe’s exploits and there was no shortage of loose talk.
But above all of this, it was day to remember Joe’s family. To recall that Joe could have done nothing were it not for his partner and equally staunch republican, Annie Cahill.
Throughout their entire life together, being on the run, in jail, in exile an activist in the republican movement, not once did Annie say ‘don’t’ or ‘stop’.
It was also a day to recognise Annie’s invaluable contribution to Ireland’s freedom struggle.
Joe Cahill: A lifetime in struggle
BY LAURA FRIEL
How do you write about Joe Cahill? What words do justice to a man whose lifetime of struggle mapped the turbulent history of the island where he was born? He has already been described as an icon, a colossus of the struggle, a stalwart of republicanism and as a republican veteran, an epithet with which Joe himself was never completely comfortable.
These words might begin to capture the enormity of his contribution but they don’t begin to describe the man. For a start, there was nothing pretentious or grandiose about Joe Cahill, even down to his trademark flat cap, wide glasses and granddad cardigans.
But more importantly, words like icon and veteran suggest someone who had already played his part and was now content to draw on that legacy. Even in his 80s, Joe Cahill did not belong to the past. His republicanism was as active and relevant as it was when he first joined the Fianna at the age of 17 in 1937.
Last year, with Joe’s failing health already common knowledge amongst the Republican Movement, Dublin hosted a testimonial function in honour of Cahill. Having been diagnosed with asbestosis, a consequence of working a short time in Belfast’s shipyards, Joe knew he was living on borrowed time but his thoughts were only of the future.
“I too have a dream,” Joe told the audience. “In 2005 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin. We may not have our freedom by then but we will have paved the way. Hard work brings results,” said Joe.
Hard work and vision were the twin strengths that shaped Joe Cahill’s life.
Joe Cahill was born in Belfast on 19 May 1920, the eldest son of an independent compositor and printer, whose growing family lived above the tiny printing shop in Divis Street. In the first year of Joe’s life, over 450 people were killed and more than 2,000 wounded in Belfast.
As Brendan Anderson in his biography pointed out, “the new Cahill baby came into the world to the sound of gunfire and explosions, sounds which would echo in his ears for most of his life”. A few months earlier, the notorious Black and Tans had arrived from England to begin their brutal campaign of violent repression in Ireland.
Shortly after Joe’s birth, Britain imposed partition with the Government of Ireland Act. Throughout his life, Joe often highlighted the fact that he had been born into a united Ireland, stressing his hope to die in a re-united Ireland. It was, sadly, a wish that was not fulfilled.
In the early 1900s, Joe’s father had joined the Irish National Volunteers, later to become part of the James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army. After the Rising, Joseph Senior had applied to join the IRA but had been asked to stay at his post printing republican material.
Joe’s mother Josephine was equally republican in her outlook but as is often the case, her role was to anchor down the family, managing the meagre income and instilling a sense of history and struggle into her growing brood.
During the Hungry Thirties, Joe had been only a schoolchild, but the poverty and sectarianism of the Six Counties at the time shaped his political development. Particularly important to Joe was the brief flowering of solidarity between the Protestant and Catholic poor during the outdoor relief riots of the early ’30s.
Forced labour for a pittance was the only form of relief for the unemployed in the Six Counties. When the unionist government announced a cut in the rate of outdoor relief, Catholic and Protestant unemployed organised a strike, standing together during an increasingly violent confrontation with the state.
Joe may have only been a child but the memory of that moment of solidarity remained crucial to his political perspective throughout his life. During a speech made a few months before his death, Joe spoke passionately about the coming together of Orange and Green and unity between Catholic and Protestant.
In his late teens, Joe joined the IRA. He recalled it being very difficult to join the Republican Movement in those days, with a lengthy entrance process. The process involved study and exams and a realistic acknowledgement of the likely outcome of membership — death, imprisonment or exile.
After a brief period working in Newry, Cahill returned to Belfast to work with one of the IRA’s more unusual units. Known as the Special Unit, the squad was made up of Protestant republicans, often working in deep cover and able to more easily evade detection from the sectarian-minded Special Branch of the RUC.
But it was the events of 1942 that seem to have marked out Joe Cahill’s commitment as a lifelong republican. It also set in motion a series of events which would not be concluded for a further 55 years.
The Special Powers Act of the 1940s rendered all sign of opposition to the sectarian Six-County state illegal. This included commemorations of the Easter Rising. In 1942, it was decided to organise a parade in defiance of the ban. Joe Cahill and his commanding officer, Tom Williams, were at the centre of a plan to create diversions to draw the RUC away from the intended parade.
But the harmless diversion tactic escalated into an armed siege when an RUC patrol did not run away as anticipated but pursued the IRA unit. During the siege, Tom Williams was shot and seriously injured and the RUC man leading the assault was shot dead.
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The unit was prepared to stand its ground but when the RUC deployed civilians, including a six-year-old girl, as human shields, the IRA Volunteers surrendered to avoid civilian casualties. The summary execution of the wounded Williams by a Special Branch officer was thwarted when Joe threw himself over his injured comrade and saved his life.
And the rest is history. Convicted and condemned to death, five of the six republicans received a last minute reprieve but the authorities, hungry for their pound of flesh, went on to hang Tom Williams. The prison authorities reneged on a promise to allow his comrades to visit Williams before his execution.
Joe often recalled his last glimpse of the man he loved like a brother walking down the corridor to his death. For the next 50-odd years, Cahill campaigned to have Tom’s body released from its unmarked prison grave.
In 2000, Cahill’s abiding wish was fulfilled as he joined thousands of republican mourners attending the re-interment of Tom Williams’ remains in Milltown Cemetery. At the time, few thought that the next mass republican funeral would be that of Joe Cahill himself.
In October 1949, Joe Cahill and his four comrades were released from Crumlin Road jail. By that year the IRA’s campaign had been almost eclipsed through imprisonment and internment, but immediately republican ex-prisoners started to reorganise. It wasn’t very long before Cahill reported back.
In the 1950s, Joe combined his IRA duties with that of political organiser within Sinn Féin, working towards the party’s aim of establishing a branch in every parish, urban and rural, in Ireland. By 1956, the IRA was engaged in another campaign and within a year, Joe was back in Crumlin Road Jail as an internee. Over four years later, Joe had the dubious honour of being the last internee to be released from the Crum.
In the early 1960s, Joe Cahill threw his energy and commitment into the National Graves Association, but if he felt sidelined by the young activists of the day it was short-lived. By the late 1960s the Civil Rights Movement was tapping into the grievances of sectarian discrimination experienced by northern nationalists and the rebirth of republicanism as a popular movement was already underway.
Joe Cahill was a physical-force republican but he always recognised the importance of political work. In the 1970s, Cahill’s priorities stemmed from the necessity of defending the nationalist community from unionist mob attack, followed by the RUC and later the British Army.
It wasn’t long before Joe Cahill added to his duties in Ireland the building of a solidarity movement within the USA. He was to play a key role in the establishment and success of Irish Northern Aid and other Irish American initiatives.
It was during the early days of internment in August 1971 that a small incident set in motion a series of events that ended with Joe back in jail two years later. Footage of Joe Cahill at a Belfast press conference was broadcast internationally when he was inadvertently introduced as the OC of Belfast. Amongst the thousands of people worldwide who watched that footage was a young Libyan republican, Muammar Ghaddafi.
In May 1973, Joe was jailed in the south for his part in the Claudia gunrunning operation. In the dock, Cahill announced that if he was guilty of any crime, “it is that I did not succeed in getting the contents of the Claudia into the hands of the freedom fighters of this country”.
In Mountjoy Prison, Cahill and other republican prisoners went on hunger strike in a successful campaign to establish their political status. After 21 days, the prison authorities conceded to the prisoners’ demands and recognised their ‘special’ status.
But in 1981, the struggle for political status in the North was to lead to far more tragic consequences, with British Government intransigence leading to the death on hunger strike of ten republican prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. At the time of Bobby Sands’ death, Joe was in the USA campaigning for support amongst Irish Americans.
It was, as Joe later recalled, a time of great sorrow, but with the electoral success of Bobby Sands and the other Hunger Strikers, republicans began to build a long-term political strategy alongside the military dynamic of their struggle.
For many people of Joe’s age, the passage from physical force republicanism to the politics of the Peace Process may have seemed too difficult a step, but not for Joe Cahill. His passion for the struggle and for progressive change made no distinction between the two strategies and he played as honourable and decisive a role in the Peace Process as he did in the war.
Joe Cahill was never an old republican; he was simply a republican with 84 years of experience under his belt. He will be sadly missed.
Thousands mourn as Cahill is laid to rest
BY MARTIN SPAIN
It might seem strange to say in the context of a funeral, but last Tuesday in Belfast was a great day to be a republican. It is not often that a world famous freedom fighter is laid to rest, so it was understandably a day of pride for the many thousands who gathered to pay their respects to Joe Cahill.
True, there was great sadness for those many people whose lives have been touched by Joe Cahill, but it was also a day for his family to celebrate his extraordinary life. And when we speak of Joe’s family, we are not just talking of his immediate and extended family. Because Joe Cahill was also a valued and beloved member of the republican family and of the wider family of West Belfast.
And they came from the four corners of Ireland and from across the seas and oceans to be there to honour a man who had sacrificed so much for the cause of Irish freedom. Even a former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, was there to pay his respects.
Joe’s family, friends and comrades took turns shouldering his coffin as it was taken from his home in Andersonstown to St John’s Church at the bottom of the Whiterock for the funeral Mass. Thousands followed and lined the route, as West Belfast shut down to pay tribute to a man who had devoted his life to defending his community from attack and to spearheading the liberation struggle.
At St John’s, Fr Des Wilson spoke of the turbulent times into which Joe Cahill was born in 1920, as nationalists suffered “attacks, the refusal of basic rights and insult from almost every powerful sector in society”.
“The history of the years in which Joe lived were in one way a history of horrors,” said Fr Des. “But there is another side. Whatever the crisis, there were men and women like Joe and his comrades who would respond on behalf of people who had not created war but too often were victims of it.
“If people were in danger, Joe would not walk away from them. Instead, he would walk into the middle of that danger.”
Fr Des pointed out that Joe had never been given a city he could live in which was worthy of his generosity or his courage. Indeed, he said, “that city is still to be created”.
Joe, he said, always looked upon himself as a man of action rather than words. “His job was to create the circumstances for all our people to come together around the table and build a new Ireland.”
“And he came to believe that the powerful ones of this earth had sometimes to be met with their own weapons. For that he faced and suffered imprisonment and faced and suffered even the sentence of death.”
Fr Des recalled that over generations, “the most generous, bravest and kindest of our people have been left unrewarded, imprisoned, tortured, derided, sometimes driven to despair.
Joe “didn’t believe in pre-emptive strikes. For him war was a last resort.
“No man or woman should ever have had to believe that such a remedy for bad government was ever needed.
War, said Fr Des, was a necessity forced on people against their choice, often by governments who could bring justice and peace if they so desired.
“For him and for all the people of his tradition, war is a last resort, not a first one, a last resort which can be engaged in only when all other means to obtain justice have been tried and have failed.
“This is indeed a noble tradition among republican people in Ireland. It is also the tradition followed for centuries by faithful Christians. They all believe, if war becomes inevitable, as it may, it has to be tempered by mercy and stopped at the earliest possible moment.”
Des recalled that Joe had argued the case for a new Ireland in every country that would have him and even in some that wouldn’t, but were given no choice. He believed in reaching out to friends and foes alike.
“It is a pity Joe did not live long enough to see his vision of a new Ireland become a full reality. It is for us who are left to see to it that it does. The achievement of the peace and justice for which he worked is the most fitting memorial we can build to our friend Joe.”
Fr Des spoke of Joe’s deep spiritual commitment before paying tribute to his wife, Annie, “one of the many courageous women who have shown such courage, endurance, patience and strength when it was most needed”.
At the graveside in Milltown after Joe’s coffin was lowered, Dublin’s Deirdre Whelan chaired proceedings. Gerry Campbell of the National Graves Association led a decade of the rosary before wreaths were laid on behalf of the Cahill family, Óglaigh na hÉireann, republican prisoners, Sinn Féin, Irish Northern Aid, Clann na Gael, Friends of Sinn Féin in the United States, and many more.
Singer Frances Black, a dear friend of Joe and Annie’s, delivered a moving rendition of The Bold Fenian Men.
The main oration at Joe Cahill’s graveside was delivered by his good friend Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin. We carry it here in full.
Tá muid le chéile ag uaigh Joe Cahill. Le chéile mar chlann mór ag faire amach dá cheile. Mar chairde inár gcroíthe, inár n-anamacha, inár bhfíseanna. Le chéile le Annie agus páistí Joe agus Annie. Le chéile leis an phobal is i measc an phobail. Is ócáid mór an tórramh seo, ócáid mór inár saol agus i saol ár strácáilt. Ba mhaith liom buíochas a thabairt do gach aon duine anseo.
Is bhféidir liom a rá gan amhras go mbeadh Uncail Joe sásta scaifte mór mar seo a fheiceáil.
Everybody here and most certainly the people who know Joe Cahill will have a story to tell. Joe was a multi-dimensional person. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a comrade, and a friend. He was also a story teller and he would delight in all the stories that were told in the wake house and in homes across this island and the USA and in the corridors of the British establishment, as news of his death spread.
Joe lived a long life and it’s quite impossible to sum that life up in a few words.
I don’t believe in eulogising the dead but I do believe in celebrating life and particularly a life well lived – a life spent in struggle and in activism.
Of all of us who shared that life, one person deserves our heartfelt thanks. That person is a wonderful woman, and a republican in her own right, Annie Cahill.
I have a great grá and admiration for Annie.
On your behalf I want to thank her and her wonderful family. I also want to thank the extended Cahill clann. All the in-laws and outlaws, the older people and the young ones, all the grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. And Joe’s two surviving direct family members, his sisters May and Tess.
I first saw Joe Cahill when I was about 14 or 15 going into the Ard Scoil in Divis Street. Some of you knew him for much longer than that. I am thinking here of Madge McConville, Willie John McCorry, Maggie Adams, and Bridget Hannon.
Joe had the great capacity to work with his contemporaries while relating to much younger people. So when I said that people will have stories to tell, it could be prison stories stretching over the decades, from his time in the death cell with Tom Williams, to Mountjoy and Portlaoise, or New York. It could be stories by his comrades in the IRA, their exploits and difficulties, their trials and tribulations. It could be stories of travels through Irish America, or of Sinn Féin gatherings all over Ireland.
Quite uniquely, there will also be stories about Joe Cahill told by Albert Reynolds, by Tony Blair, by Bill Clinton, and by Colonel Ghaddafi.
I’m very mindful of the fact that in the 1970s, when Joe went back to full time Republican work he was already in his 50’s. At a time when most people would be thinking of retirement he was back into a rollercoaster of activism and the difficulties of separation from his family.
He is one, almost the last of that group of people, his contemporaries, who came forward into the bhearna bhaoil in 1969. People like Jimmy Steel, JB O’Hagan, John Joe McGirl, MacAirt, Jack McCabe, Bridie Dolan, Seamus Twomey, Jimmy and Maire Drumm, Billy McKee, Mary McGuigan, Daithí Ó Conaill, Sean Keenan, Seán MacStiofáin, Ruairí Ó Bradaigh, John O’Rawe, and many, many others.
Pain of exile
Joe hated being exiled. He was looked after by good people. But even with dear friends, such as Bob and Bridie Smith, Joe told me that on Sundays he would drive into the Wicklow Mountains and think of Annie, his son Tom and the girls. At times, he told me, he cried to be with them.
He had a great wicked sense of humour and a caustic wit. He was also withering when it came to dealing with people who he thought were failing to do their best.
Championing the peace process
When Joe became active in Sinn Féin he was one of the party’s treasurers. He was scrupulous and extremely stingy with party funds. In fact his stinginess was legendary. But his logic was impeccable. If he managed to spend a lifetime in struggle without spending a proverbial penny of republican money, he expected everyone else to spend even less.
Joe was a physical force republican. He made no apologies for that. But like all sensible people who resort to armed struggle because they feel there is no alternative, he was prepared to defend, support and promote other options when these were available. Without doubt, there would not be a peace process today without Joe Cahill. And he had no illusions about the business of building peace. Peace requires justice because peace is more than the absence of conflict.
Joe understood the necessity of building political strength and while political strength requires more than electoralism, Joe spent the recent election count glued to the TV set in his sick room and he rejoiced and marvelled at Sinn Féin’s successes right across this island. For him, the cream on the cake of the growth of our party north and south was Mary Lou and Bairbre’s election to the European Parliament.
The people’s mandate
His big fear was that the governments would not respect the people’s mandate. His concern was that the establishment, both Irish and British, would deny and not uphold citizens’ rights and entitlements.
Joe knew that for a peace process to succeed it must be nurtured, particularly by those in positions of power. He was not surprised at the explosion of nationalist anger in Ardoyne in recent weeks.
He told me to tell Tony Blair, and I did, that the British Government is failing the peace process. Joe’s generation were beaten off the streets of this city for decades by the combined might of the corporate state. In his younger days even Easter commemorations were outlawed. Any dissent from the status quo was banned.
Let those in power note that we are not ever going back to the old days of second-class citizens.
Uncle Joe knew those days were over because we were off our knees and he was proud to havey Blair has said if the process isn’t going forward it will go backwards. We have told him in recent times that elements within his own system, particularly within the NIO, are doing their best to subvert progress and to encourage the backward slide.
As September approaches, and negotiations go into a new mode, the British Government has a clear cut choice. Either it stands with the Good Friday Agreement, and builds a bridge toward democracy and equality, or it sides with the forces of reaction, as successive British governments did for decades.
There’s lots more could be said on this issue but today is a day for celebrating the life of our friend. In reflecting on what I was going to say today, I thought back on the last occasion that Joe and I and Annie and Martin McGuinness shared a public platform.
At that event in Dublin, Joe made a wonderful speech. I will finish by letting him speak for himself. I know that notion would amuse him. I have talked for long enough at his graveside. This is in part what he told us that evening. He said:
In his own words
“I have had a long life and a good life. I have had a lucky life and I have had a life that many people have helped me in. And if I started to thank everybody that it was necessary to thank throughout my life we would be here to morning and you don’t want that. You want to get on with a bit of craic.
We all have dreams and we all have desires. A few weeks ago I was being released from the Royal Victoria Hospital. As I was waiting to go down in the lift to the ground floor I happened to look out through the window and I saw the best sight ever of the Cave Hill.
I remember looking at the Cave Hill and I remember thinking that is where it all started. I thought of Tone and his comrades and what they said and what they planned to do.
What struck me most was that they wanted to change the name of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter to Irish people. That started me thinking and then I thought of the people who came after them. Emmet and what he tried to do and the message that he left us.
My mind wandered on through the years to the Fenians and one man stuck out in my mind, not a Fenian, but a man called Francis Meagher who brought the flag that we all love, our Tricolour. He said, ‘I have brought this flag from the barricades of France and I am presenting it to the Irish nation. Green represents the Catholic, the Orange the Protestant and the White the truce between them’. I hope that one day the hand of Protestant and Catholic will be united and respect that flag.
Then I thought of the Fenians and I thought of the likes of old Tom Clarke and what he had gone through in prison. I remembered that he was the first signatory to the 1916 Proclamation, which says it all as far as we are concerned. Then I thought of the ’30s, ’40s and what we went through at that time – the struggle we put up then and what we were up against, right through into the ’70s.
People have often asked me ‘what keeps you going?’ I think of Bobby Sands and Bobby said ‘it is that thing inside me that tells me I’m right’. That’s what drives me on. I know we are right.
I think also what Bobby said about revenge. There was no revenge on his part. He said that the true revenge would be the laughter of our children.
I think of Tom Williams and the last days that I spent with him in the condemned cell. I think of that letter that he wrote out to his comrades, to the then Chief of Staff, Hugh McAteer. He said the road to freedom would be hard and that many a hurdle on that road would be very difficult. It has been a hard struggle but he said ‘carry on my comrades until that certain day’. And that day that he talked about was the dawn of freedom.
Just one other remark I would like to make about Tom. It was his desire, as we all talked together when we were under sentence of death, that one day our bodies would be taken out of Crumlin Road and laid to rest in Milltown. The reason I mention this at all is this is what determination does. This is what consistency and work does. I personally thought that I would never see Tom’s remains coming out until we got rid of the British but people worked hard at that. People worked very, very hard and we got Tom’s remains out. So with hard work it shows what you can do.
I don’t want to keep you much longer but I too have a dream. In 2005 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sinn Féin.
I am not saying we are going to get our freedom by then but certainly we can pave the way by then. We can work hard. And hard work brings results.
I have been very; very lucky in the women I have met in my life. I owe a terrible lot to Annie. Never once did she say don’t, stop, I don’t want any more. She always encouraged me.
Somebody mentioned earlier on did I regret anything. I said no I didn’t, except for one thing. My family. That was tough. I often thought of Annie struggling with Tom, my son, the oldest of the family, and my six girls Maria, Stephanie, Nuala, Patricia, Aine, and the baby of the family, Deirdre. They are a credit to her, they have been a support to me and I thank God for people like my mother and Annie.
I will just finish off by saying there are so many people to be thanked for giving me help throughout my life. No matter where I was, if I was in America, in Europe, if I was down the South, I always met great people who give me support. I am asking for that continued support not for me but for Sinn Féin, for the republican movement which is going to bring about the dreams of Ireland, the dreams of the United Irishmen, the dreams of Emmet, of the Fenians, of the men of 1916, the dreams of those who have died through the ’30s, the ’40s and right into the present day. And I am asking you to continue your support. Whatever little you have done in the past do that wee bit more and we will have our freedom.”
Recommitting to struggle
Sin na focail Joe Cahill. Bígí ag éisteacht leis. Déanaigí bhúr ndícheall.
Comrades, we have lost a great republican and a true friend but his inspiration, his life, his vision of a new Ireland, a free Ireland, outlives him.
A lot has changed in Joe Cahill’s lifetime, not least because of his contribution.
So let us go from here today recommitted in our resolve to continue our struggle and to carry on until that certain day.
Black’s Philly stay extended
By Ray O’Hanlon
Hopes that Belfast man Joe Black would be allowed return to Ireland with his wife and children were dashed by a Philadelphia court late last week. Black, who was arrested at Philadelphia airport July 7 while traveling to a wedding in Pittsburgh, now faces hard time that could stretch to six months.
His wife, Geraldine, and three of his five children returned to Belfast last Friday. They were unable to speak to Black before they left.
“Geraldine is crushed, absolutely devastated” said Sean McClorey, Black’s brother-in-law.
Black, whose hands and feet were manacled, appeared in court on Friday hopeful that he would be deported back to Ireland after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to disclose his imprisonment on IRA-related charges in the late 1970s.
“It’s ironic. Here was Joe in chains only walking distance from the Liberty Bell,” McClorey said.
Hopes had risen after a previous hearing that Black’s plea would be accepted and that he would be deported quickly. However, the presiding magistrate judge in the case, Thomas Rueter, asked for a pre-sentencing report, a process that could be lengthy.
Another hearing in the case has been tentatively set for Aug. 9. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia said that sentencing could take place sometime in the first two weeks of August.
Black, who is 47, faced a potential sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment, the spokesman indicated.
Sean McClorey said that the family was concerned that more than one federal agency might take an interest in Black. He said that an immigration official had warned him that other agencies might try to “grab the stat” for themselves. McClorey said that his brother-in-law had insisted that Geraldine return to Ireland with the children. She had previously indicated that she might take leave of absence from her job and remain in the U.S. so long as her husband remained in the federal correctional facility in Philadelphia.
McClorey said that when Geraldine and the children turned up at Pittsburgh airport for their flight they were asked why Joe Black was not traveling with them. The family was rudely treated as they were being processed for the flight, McClorey said.
“It was like scarlet letters were pasted on their heads. They took a lick at them every step of the way,” he said.
Meanwhile, a fund has been set up for Black, whose home remodeling business in Belfast has been closed in his absence and whose legal bills on this side of the Atlantic have been mounting.
Donations can be sent to the Joe Black Defense Fund, 22 John St., Crafton, Pa. 15205.
Joe Black served three years in Long Kesh after being convicted of carrying out a kneecap punishment shooting for the IRA in 1977. After prison, he left the IRA and set up his home-improvement business.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that federal prosecutors had accepted that Black traveled to the U.S. solely for the wedding and not for any nefarious purpose.
This story appeared in the issue of July 28-August 3, 2004