20 May 2010 Edition
Community celebration for ex-Councillor Margaret McClenaghan
BY PEADAR WHELAN
FORMER Sinn Féin councillor Margaret McClenaghan was the guest of honour at a presentation held in north Belfast last Friday night, May 14th. The Ardoyne woman stood down from Belfast City Council just before Easter due to ill-health. But she was fighting fit last Friday as she walked into the Glenpark Inn to the tumultuous applause of her many friends and comrades.
Indeed, if Margaret, who usually shuns the limelight, had got her hands on the people who walked her into the ambush there would have been hell to pay.
Among the crowd were many of her comrades from Armagh Jail, where Margaret served five years in the 1970s.
Of the nine McClenaghan children from Ardoyne, no less than six of them spent time as guests of the British queen in Armagh, the Cages of Long Kesh and the H-Blocks.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly was the main speaker on the night and he outlined the work that Margaret carried out as a Sinn Féin representative on behalf of the people of the area.
Margaret’s time as a councillor ran parallel with the blockade of the Holy Cross Girls’ School and the onslaught on the district by loyalist paramilitaries which saw regular gun and bomb attacks on nationalist homes. Also there was the violence associated with the Orange marches through the district.
Among the other speakers to sing Margaret’s praises were Fr Raymond Murray, the one-time prison chaplain from Armagh, who described the women prisoners as his family.
Terry Lavery of Holy Cross Boys’ School commended Margaret for her efforts on behalf of the school, while the chair of Ardoyne Kickhams GAC, Alec Trainor, outlined her work on behalf of the club to develop the playing fields on the Cliftonville Road.
Gerry Adams presented Margaret with a beautifully engraved piece of crystal.
When she was settled enough to speak, Margaret was full of praise for the people who worked with her down through the years. She also spoke of the comradeship she enjoyed both in and out of prison.
Then, reasserting her commitment to the people of Ardoyne and her comrades in Sinn Féin, Margaret added:
“People think I have retired just because I have stood down from the council, but I haven’t gone away, you know.”
Fr Raymond Murray and Margaret McClenaghan with a group of former women POWs who were in Armagh with Margaret in the 1970s