28 February 2008 Edition
Tragic period of history to be recalled in series of events
SINN FÉIN President Gerry Adams has launched a programme of events to mark the 20th Anniversary of a tragic period in Irish history in March 1988 which witnessed a series of tragic events including the summary execution of IRA Volunteers Mairéad Farrell, Dan McCann and Seán Savage in Gibraltar and the murderous attack on mourners at their funerals.
Adams welcomed the families of many of those who died to the launch on Tuesday, 26 February.
“All of us live very busy lives but there are things which remain with us in our memories and I remember when the rumours started around the West of the city that some people had been killed in Gibraltar and then rumours about who they would be and eventually the names came out”, Adams said.
The Sinn Féin President also said that he remembered visiting the families of Seán, Maireád and Dan, and then “the long work to get the remains home began, and inbetween times Kevin McCracken was killed in Turf Lodge and I remember when we were talking to the families earlier on it struck me that people must be sensitive as the emotions do come flooding back.
“I remember that the families wanted the lids of the coffins opened and myself, Martin Mc Guinness and others did that. It was a very very sad and awful time.”
Adams said that it was his strong view that the killings in Gibralter were authorised by Margaret Thatcher, and that the Irish Government of the day passed information to the authorities about the movements of those killed.
“I cannot prove that but that is my conviction”, he said.
Adams said that people showed huge bravery and courage when the funerals in Milltown Cemetery, were subjected to grenade and gun attack and pointed out that there had yet to be inquests into the murders at Milltown, that the man who did the killing boasted that he was ferried back and forth through roadblocks by serving members of the RUC and reminded people of the RUC van that had been parked on the M1 at the edge of the graveyard when the attack took place.
“We are very mindful of the fact that at Caoimhín’s funeral two British soldiers were killed and we do not believe in any hierarchy of victims and we are mindful that the families will also be grieving. The truth is yet to come on this also”, he said.
Adams continued: “I also recall that this was referred to as the ‘battle of the funerals’ and mysteriously the RUC/British Army disappeared from the usual role of occupying estates, peoples homes and wake houses.
“That was then, this is now, we are in a better place but there is still much to do in terms of the continuing process of change that is required.
“We are unashamedly Irish republicans and we want to see an end to the causes of conflict in our country, we want to see Ireland united. We have a strategy to do that and we will prevail and get an Ireland where people can live in harmony together.
“It is remarkable to see the turnout this morning and it is testament to the feeling within the republican community still.
“We are here to launch the events remembering Gibraltar today but I would also like to speak about the Stormont event celebrating International Women’s day.
“As this fell upon the Gibraltar/Milltown anniversary we decided to mark this around Maireád Farrell who was my friend and the friend of many here just as Sheena Campbell and Máire Drumm have already been honoured.
“Maireád was a brave, lovely and wonderful Irish woman.
“There is no intention to offend anyone by this event and certainly no intention to see Maireád’s good name embroiled in a row which has more to do with the sense of unionism than anything else. And it is gravely insensitive that a counter event to commemorate the work of the SAS has been talked about by unionists. We all know the role of the SAS.
“I think we must all calm down around this. I hear unionist politicians talking tough on this and they must know how hurtful it is to the families to hear their relatives being called terrorists.
“We must all have empathy on this and reflect where we have came from and there must be political will to resolve this. These events are to remember, to find the truth and always to point towards the future. The past must not repeat itself.
“Mo bhuíochas d’achan clann, do Danny Devenney agus do na daoine a chur na himeachtaí le chéile.”