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7 June 2001 Edition

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Huge turnout for Ballymurphuy Volunteers

``On both sides of every conflict there are brave people. In this conflict the bravest are on our side and the bravest of the brave are from Ballymurphy.'' So said Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams last Sunday at the unveiling of a mural to Volunteers Jim `Emerson' Bryson and Paddy Mulvenna. Over 1,000 people gathered on the Ballymurphy Road for the unveiling in memory of two of the IRA's most legendary fighters.

The mural depicts the pair armed and ready for a battle with the British Army, summing up the readiness people from the area have shown over the last 30 years as they fought the hard fight against the British Army. Sunday's ceremony saw hundreds of former POWs, both male and female from the area, march through the streets of the district dressed in white shirts and ties. Hundreds of people attended the parade while hundreds of others lined the narrow streets. It was a great display in honour of two men who are still highly thought of in the area.

The turnout was also important in the week before the elections as the establishment media attempted to undermine the struggle by claiming that support for republicanism in places like Ballymurphy, the heartlands of the struggle, is waning. It's a pity they weren't there to see this demonstration of support.

Both Bryson and Mulvenna were shot on 31 August 1973. Mulvenna died immediately while Bryson lived for another 22 days and died on 22 September. At the time of their deaths the British Army claimed they had engaged the pair in a gun battle although local people to this day say that `Official IRA'\Workers' Party gunmen played some part in their deaths.

At the time of their deaths the pair were on the run, with Bryson having just returned to the area. He had been over the border since escaping from prison. Bryson had made two daring escapes from captivity, once from Crumlin Road courthouse and the other as one of the Magnificent 7 who escaped off the Maidstone internment ship.

Gerry Adams, who carried out the unveiling, was Paddy Mulvenna's brother-in-law and a ``dear friend'' of Bryson. The Sinn Féin President spoke highly and personally of the pair, as did Gerry Kelly the main speaker and a cousin of Mulvenna.

Kelly spoke of the forthcoming election in the context of the republican peace strategy: ``None of us can speak for Jim or Paddy and say what they would think of the situation today. But at the time they were leaders of the struggle and they led with courage and imagination. There is nothing to say they wouldn't have shown the same courage today.''

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