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2 July 2010

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Seando Moore - A courageous Volunteer and hard-working community activist

THIS tribute to former IRA Volunteer and republican ex-POW Seando Moore was given in an oration at Seando’s funeral in Milltown Cemetery on Tuesday, June 15th, by Danny Morrison, a fellow activist who served time in the Cages of Long Kesh alongside Seando.

Seando’s story is a story about him, his family, and the community which was crucial in supporting the IRA, making it, in the words of Danny Morrison, “a real people’s army with support on every street”.

It is a story of our struggle.

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WHEN he first came to Beechmount, all those years ago, as an immigrant from Ballymurphy, Seando looked so young and innocent that Big Ted christened him ‘the child’. The speculation was that he was attracted to Beechmount because we had the best five-star restaurant in the Belfast Brigade – Ma McCabe’s in Locan Street.

The 'RA has been accused of many things down the years but it’s about time that it also took responsibility for the rickets suffered by the sons and daughters of Ma and Frank McCabe all of who’ll be quick to tell you at the drop of a hat: ‘We never got fed until all you lot had your fill.’

So Seando joined the Beechmount squad and was a courageous Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army. These were the days of Albert Kavanagh and Jimmy Quigley and Paddy Maguire and Stan Carberry and Basil Fox, all of whom Seando was very close to.

All of us have our memories of him. He was very, very funny, with his dry humour and you couldn’t easily fall out with him. There was no spite in him and he was loyal and loving, as his mother and brothers and sisters knew and as we in Beechmount were to discover.

I had made a gallon of home brew in the run-up to Christmas before I was arrested and Seando went to my house.

‘Mrs Morrison, I have just received an important message from Danny in Long Kesh and I have to remove everything that is under the stairs immediately.’

So, Seando and a few comrades took the beer round to Terry and Bernie’s and had a great time, he told me, when he eventually was arrested and landed into Cage 2.

Of all the prisoners the internees had the most in terms of visits and parcels and letters and yet they did the most moaning. So I was glad when Seando was arrested and interned – he was like a ray of sunshine to our Cage, a real wit and kept everybody in stitches.

He was released after the big fire and during the 1975 ceasefire, I think.

As I said, we had been going in and out of Ma McCabe's and I don’t know when it was that he and Patricia put their eye on each other but from that moment on they were an item. There are lots of jokes about mother-in-laws but Seando’s case defies all the stereotypes. They got on so well that they lived next door to each other and she doted on Seando. Ma McCabe herself is very ill and all of our thoughts are with her today.

Arrest and torture

Like most republicans, Seando suffered arrest and torture, including on one occasion three days in Springfield Road Barracks where he was stripped and a hood placed over his head. He was continually beaten and was the subject of a mock execution and threatened with being hanged out the window. He sued the RUC and later successfully won a brutality case against them.

He was eventually caught on active service in 1977 but before he was sentenced to 10, 7 and 4 years in jail he and Patricia got married in Crumlin Road Prison.

There is a great photograph of them in the house, taken by Seando’s dear friend, Sean ‘Flute’ Osborne, on Seando and Patricia’s 30th wedding anniversary. They are actually back in the Crum and the photograph is very symbolic of the fact that, although times were extremely tough for a young married couple, Patricia and Seando survived and triumphed over the brutality of Castlereagh, lengthy prison sentences, the blanket and no-wash protests and the heartbreaking Hunger Strikes of 1981.

A few years ago, the Bobby Sands Trust launched a book to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike. I was speaking at it and was talking about some of the comms that I received from the blanketmen. I was actually speaking about ones from Seando and him describing to me how these men locked behind doors for four years, regularly beaten, played bingo to entertain themselves, and I started to cry and could hardly talk because it brought it all back.

After his release he and Patricia went on to build a good family and home. Their family went on to include besides Francine, Sean, Patricia Ann and James, grandchildren Eoin and Seainin.

After his release from prison, as Gerry Adams said the other day, Seando became an indispensable part of Sinn Féin. He worked hard locally on community issues and was the driving force behind the work of the commemoration committee.

But Seando could never forget the memory of ten men dead and when it came to the 10th, 20th and 25th commemorations of that incredible prison struggle Seando travelled the length and breadth of Ireland and Britain, organising exhibitions, displays, lectures and discussions. Latterly, he was seriously ill and those long journeys were bound to take their toll on his strength but he told one comrade: ‘When the Movement came to ask me to do the commemorations… that was my medicine.’

It is a tragedy that so many former POWs – and the number is shocking - survived the armed struggle and prison only to be so cruelly cut down by disease, especially cancer.

Although he was ‘the child’ when he came to Beechmount 40 years ago and was known only to a few, in recent times he was probably one of the best-known republicans in Ireland. Any time you spoke to a relative of the Hunger Strikers the first thing they asked was, ‘How’s Seando?’ I was in a small hotel in the northern outskirts of Cork City a few weeks ago and a couple, total strangers, who weren’t even from the area, but were from Kerry came up to me to ask, ‘How’s Seando keeping?’

When Seando phoned you it was always with those beguiling few words, ‘Well, mo chara, how’s things?’ You knew that he wanted you to do something.

IRA: A people's army

About 12 years ago he had the idea of commemorating all the people from ‘A’ Company area who had helped the struggle – fed and looked after or sheltered Volunteers, the anonymous people, who having passed on were now beyond British rule. He asked me to help him but he did all the running, collecting the biographies and photographs. It’s an incredible little pamphlet for it demonstrates that the IRA was a real people’s army with support on every street.

I cannot mention all of them, or we would be here all day, but there were people like John and Teesie McCullough, the Gills, Mrs Burns, Pearse Graham, Billy Taylor, Ken Smith, the O’Rawes, the McCooeys, Dinky Quigley and May McManus and her brother Joe – and people like Stoker Cosgrove, whose daughter Nora, married to Patricia’s brother Jim, was murdered by the RUC on the morning of Joe McDonnell’s death. And just as they lied when they killed the people on Bloody Sunday, the British lied about the circumstances of the death of Nora.

To Seando’s mother Ellen, his brother Phillip, and sisters Rosaleen, Margaret and Geraldine, I would like to offer my condolences, the condolences of the Republican Movement and those of everyone here today and all who visited that packed wakehouse since last Saturday.

To Patricia and the family, you have lost a great, decent man who was so, so proud of you. Patricia, you made him a happy companion and husband, and the children fulfilled him.

In one of the periods when Seando was low he said to Patricia ‘What if we never see each other again?’ and she responded with a typical Seando answer: ‘You don’t get rid of my that easy – I shall see you in Heaven.’

And last Saturday morning as he was letting go she told him, ‘Seando, today you will be with the Hunger Strikers in Heaven.’

In her death notice Patricia wrote:

‘My husband, my best friend, and soulmate.

‘What we had no millionaire could buy and wonderful memories no one can take away. I know in my heart you will look after me and walk beside me every step I take. Wait for me and walk beside me every step I take. Wait for me.

‘Your loving devoted wife, Patricia.’

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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures


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