24 November 2017
RIP Jean Bryce of Albany, USA – a committed Irish republican from east Belfast
She was an articulate and passionate advocate for the prisoners, particularly the women prisoners
WE LEARNED with great regret that Jean Bryce died on 20 November in Albany, New York.
Jean was first and foremost a proud Belfast woman, a mother and a committed Irish republican.
She was a Ryan – a family steeped in republicanism from east Belfast – who married a Belfast man, John Bryce.
The sectarianism that dominated life in the unionist Orange state of the Six Counties not only denied opportunities for work but threatened the lives of families like them because of their religion and their political beliefs.
Jean and her husband decided to seek a new life in America for their family and emigrated to America in the 1960s, settling in the New York State capital of Albany.
The strong Irish-American community there welcomed them and Jean, John and their children quickly became involved in and a part of that community.
But they never forgot where they came from and kept close ties with home. And Belfast was always home, especially to Jean.
It was when the conflict erupted in the late 1960s that Jean and John decided that they had to do something to inform America of the truth of what was happening in the North of Ireland.They founded the local chapter of Irish Northern Aid in Albany.
John ran the Starry Plough Bar in Albany and it became the focal point for gatherings of republicans and the organisation of protests .
Jean was the driving force and led meetings with New York State legislators, refuting the hugely-resourced and well-financed British Government propaganda machine that was so active at the time.
She was an articulate and passionate advocate for the prisoners, particularly the women prisoners.
Jean was the recipient of the Irish Northern Aid Maud Gonne Award for service to the republican cause, a recognition well deserved.
Jean loved to hear news of Belfast and the progress of Sinn Féin.
I phoned her every so often. Her Belfast accent was as sound as the day she left Ireland – so was her commitment to Irish freedom.
Jean was a strong, dynamic woman, a great loss to her community and family but someone who has left a lasting legacy.
Our deepest sympathy to her family, to our friend Paul who has contributed so much to Sinn Féin’s progress, and to all her family .
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures