“Saoirse go deo.” INLA volunteer Kevin Lynch went on hunger strike 40 years ago yesterday, May 23rd, 1981. He would die 71 days later, on August 1st. His funeral is depicted above, part of a new IRSP/IRSM board commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes. The board is flanked by two other IRSP boards, one against the PSNI (“96% of Divis residents do not support the PSNI – defund, disarm, disband”) and one dedicated to founder Seamus Costello (“He was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people.” – Nora Connolly at Costello’s funeral)
In 2019, images of Bobby Sands before his (second and final) arrest and imprisonment were rediscovered in the collection of French photographer Gérard Harlay. Sands was serving as a flag-bearer in an August 1976 march from the Busy Bee to Dunville Park to protest the withdrawal of political status. (For some of Harlay’s images, see Bobby Sands Trust.) This new mural in his home area of Twinbrook copies one of the images (though presents him as carrying a Tricolour rather than a harp) along with protesters protesting for “Public transport for Twinbrook now” and “Social housing for Twinbrook now”.
“Active service” on paramilitary plaques means death by a premature bomb explosion rather than at the hands of enemy forces. All three of the IRA volunteers named here died in this way: Paul Fox in King Street in 1975, Sean Bailey in nearby Nansen Street in 1976, and Paul Marlowe on the Ormeau Road later that same year (Sutton). The central plaque (shown below) has been in place since at least 2006 but was augmented last year with portraits. The fourth is Tony Campbell, also from the 2nd battalion, dead by natural causes in 1985.
“I ndíl chuimhne ar Óglach Paul Fox A-Coy 2 Batt Belfast Brigade, died on active service 1-12-1975, Óglach Sean Bailey A-Coy 2 Batt Belfast Brigade, died at this location on active service 13-2-1976, Óglach Paul Marlowe A-Coy 2 Batt Belfast Brigade, died on active service 16-10-1976, Óglach Tony Campbell died of natural causes 4-8-1985. I measc laochra na hÉireann atá siad. In every generation we have renewed the struggle and so it will be to the end. When England thinks she has trampled out our blood in battle, some brave men and women rise and rally us again.”
The “cowards” in this case are the members of the UDA who killed Rockett in front of his girlfriend and 18 month old child in an attack on her house in the lower Oldpark, during the feud between the UVF and UDA, sparked by Johnny Adair’s “loyalist day of culture” and removal of the UVF from the lower Shankill. In response to the purge (and attacks on the Rex bar), the UVF killed Bobby Mahood and Mr Jackie Coulter. Rockett was killed by the UDA in retaliation for their deaths; 1,000 people attended Rockett’s funeral (Irish Times). After Rockett died, the UVF killed David Greer, and the UDA then killed PUP member Bertie Rice in Tiger’s Bay on October 31st.
“In proud and loving memory of Vol. Samuel Rockett, ‘B’ Coy. 1st Belfast battalion, Young Citizens Volunteers. Murdered by cowards 23rd August 2000. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember him.””
This is a new INLA board to deceased volunteers Danny Loughran and Matt McLarnan, Paul (“Bonanza”) McCann, Martin McElkerney, and Gino Gallagher. The new addition here is Martin McElkerney, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in March last year (2019) (Guardian). Shots were fired over McElkerney’s coffin (tw). He was released under the terms of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement after 12 years for his part in a booby-trap bombing of two British soldiers, one of whom died, in which two children also died.
IRA volunteer Mickey McVerry was killed by the British Army during a bomb attack on Keady RUC station in 1973. Peadar McElvanna was killed by the British Army on June 9, 1979, outside Keady, south Armagh. The 40th anniversary commemoration this year drew criticism from the DUP as it was on the same weekend as a ‘time for truth’ rally in Belfast (BelTel). The memorial shown here is in Victoria Street.
“Off to France our boys were sent. All gave some, some gave all – In memory of the loyal 36th.” The first phrase might come from the Rangers’ song ‘We’re Coming Down The Road‘. The second phrase dates not to WWI but the Korean War in the 1950s (Reference). Kitchener Drive, the Village.
“In memory of Gary McCann (Magoo) – one of Ulster’s finest. GBNF [Gone but not forgotten].” In addition to being a Linfield supporter, McCann was also a volunteer in the Village UVF. He died in 2016. See The Battalion Of The Dead.
Kipling’s 1912 poem Ulster is not often quoted in loyalist muraling, despite it being an angry denunciation of Home Rule and the sacrifice of loyalists, as in the lines quote here: “The blood our fathers spilt/Our love, our toils, our pains/Are counted us for guilt/And only bind our chains./Before an Empire’s eyes/The traitor claims his price./What need of further lies?/We are the sacrifice. … The terror, threats, and dread/In market, hearth, and field/We know, when all is said./We perish if we yield.” Specifically, the sacrifice is six North Antrim/Londonderry UDA/UFF volunteers: Lindsay Mooney, Cecil McKnight, Ray Smallwoods, Benny Redfern, Gary Lynch, William Campbell. (See also: a RHC mural in the Shankill with a few lines from the poem.)