2 September 1999 Edition
Exhumed after 57 years
Nationalists and republicans throughout Ireland have welcomed the news that the remains of IRA Volunteer Tom Williams have been exhumed from the grave in Crumlin Road jail, Belfast, where he was buried after his execution by the British on 2 September 1942. Now, 57 years later and after a campaign lasting many years for his removal from the Belfast jail, the IRA Volunteer will soon receive a proper burial.
Speaking to An Phoblacht, Liam Shannon of the National Graves Association, which spearheaded the campaign for Williams' reburial, said: ``While the move is welcome, it is long overdue.''
Williams' remains were disinterred on Saturday, 28 August and have been taken to the state pathologist's laboratory for examination and identification, a process which could take up to six weeks.
Republicans have campaigned for a long time to have Williams buried in the Republican plot in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery, in a grave set aside for him since his execution. Members of Williams' family, however, would prefer that he be buried in the family grave alongside his father.
Williams, although only 19, was the Officer Commanding of C Company First Battalion of the Belfast Brigade and along with five others John Oliver, James Perry, Joe Cahill, Harry Cordner, and Sean Simpson were convicted of killing RUC member Patrick Murphy on Easter Sunday of that year.
However, after a campaign to have the six reprieved, which was supported by Pope Pious XII, the U.S. administration and Eamon de Valera, five of the six were reprieved; Williams as OC, however, took responsibility for the operation and was hanged on 2 September 1942.
Joe Cahill has said of Williams: ``He was one of the bravest people I have ever met. He was only 19 years old but a man of tremendous courage and great determination. I still think about him a lot.''
The National Graves Association, which has led the campaign for the removal of Williams, had said before his death that his wish was to be buried at Milltown and Liam Shannon, spokesperson for the NGA said: ``We hope that Tom Williams' last wish will be carried out and that he will be buried with his comrades.''
Madge McConville, who took part in the operation in September 1942 with Williams, told An Phoblacht: ``Tom was a Belfast boy - let the people of Belfast bury him.''
Ten Volunteers to be reinterred
By Aengus O Snodaigh
With most attention being focused on the exhumation of Volunteer Tom Williams this week, the likelihood of a successful conclusion to a longer campaign to have the bodies of ten Volunteers reinterred along with their comrades has not received the same publicity.
The National Graves Association (NGA) has for decades, along with relatives, comrades and other republican groupings, lobbied for the exhumation and reburial of the bodies of the ten Tan War Volunteers who'd been hanged or executed by the British and buried in the grounds of Mountjoy Jail. The NGA is upbeat on progress in recent weeks and is confident the 26-County Department of Justice will authorise a move on the reburial soon.
The most famous of the Volunteers was the youthful Kevin Barry, who at the age of 18 was hanged on 1 November 1920 for his part in the ambush and shooting dead of six British soldiers in Dublin's Church Street.
Thomas Bryan was arrested after an aborted raid on an RIC tender in Drumcondra in Dublin and was hanged along with five others in Mountjoy Jail in official British government reprisals on 14 March 1921. Two other Volunteers, Frank Flood from Summerhill Parade in Dublin and another Dubliner, Bernard Ryan, were hanged for their part in that IRA operation. Three others were also hanged that day by English hangman John Ellis. One of them was Patrick Doyle, another Dubliner from St. Mary's Place. The other two were Thomas Whelan from Galway and Roscommon man Paddy Moran. Despite having an alibi, Moran, a member of the 1916 Jacob's garrison, and Whelan were sentenced to death for their role in the execution of the British Intelligence unit, the Cairo Gang in November 1920. Moran was so sure that he would be found not guilty, he refused a place on the escape from Mountjoy which occurred days before the hanging.
The next person hanged and buried in Mountjoy was Carlow man Thomas Traynor, who was tried and sentenced to death for shooting an auxiliary in Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) in Dublin on 26 April 1921. Two months later, Tipperary men Patrick Maher and Edward Foley who had been sentenced to death for the shooting of an RIC sergeant during the rescue of Sean Hogan in Knocklong in 1919 were executed on 7 June 1921.