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30 September 2011

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Máire Drumm

Máire Drumm and her friend Marie Moore (on right wearing combat jackets and carrying hurley sticks) shadow patrol the British Army in republican neighbourhoods of Belfast in the early 1970s

MÁIRE DRUMM was an inspirational republican leader who came to be widely regarded as the voice of the risen people in the Six Counties in the early 1970s.
While Máire was synonymous with republican Belfast, she was actually a native of Killeen in South Armagh, where she was born in October 1919. She was the eldest of four children in the militant republican McAteer family. Her mother was active in the Black and Tan War and the Civil War.
She settled in Belfast in 1942 where she began a lifelong association with Gaelic games, serving in senior positions in Ulster and nationally in the Camogie Association.
Working in support of republican prisoners, Máire was a regular visitor to her imprisoned comrades in the 1940s. She met her husband, Jimmy Drumm, on a visit to Crumlin Road Jail and they were married following his release in 1946. Their Belfast home was a centre of Gaelic culture, with Irish classes, dancing and music, as well as republicanism.
People gravitated to Máire Drumm’s home in 1969 when armed loyalists launched their pogrom against nationalists in Belfast. It was an open house for refugees and Máire was active in helping to rehouse many families. She warned that the British Army were not peace-keepers and was proven right when they besieged the Lower Falls in the July 1970 curfew. Máire led women wheeling prams with food and medical supplies into the area, breaking the curfew.
Arrested many times for her speeches and protests, Máire was to the fore in the resistance to internment without trial from August 1971. She was elected Vice-President of Sinn Féin. Well-known for her defiant speeches at rallies and in courtrooms, she told a judge on one occasion:
“Interning or putting a middle-aged woman in jail will not quench the flame of the Irish people because nothing but the destruction of the Irish people will ever quench that flame. Long live the IRA! God save Ireland!”
Máire was widely demonised in the British media and was already targeted for assassination when she was admitted to Belfast’s Mater Hospital for eye treatment in October 1976. While recovering from the operation, Máire was shot dead by loyalist gunmen dressed as doctors who were able to enter and leave the hospital undisturbed.

• Máire Drumm, Leas-Uachtarán Sinn Féin, was murdered on 28th October 1976, 35 years ago this month.

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