25 May 2000 Edition

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Fógraí bháis: ALEC COMERFORD

Alec, like many of his contemporaries, was catapulted into the struggle for liberation as the events of August 1969 unfolded.

Born and reared in the Colin area of West Belfast, he witnessed, at first hand, the burning of his neighbours' homes in Bombay St, Kashmir Rd and Clonard Gardens by loyalists, aided and abetted by the RUC. On that same day, a close personal friend of Alec's, Fian Gerard McAuley, aged 15, was shot dead while helping to defend the Clonard area.

This proved to be a major watershed in Alec's life, as was the case for many nationalist teenagers throughout the Six Counties. A burning resentment was sparked at the death and destruction inflicted on our community, as the sectarian edifice on which the Orange state was built and maintained was laid bare. That spark became a flame - enough was enough. Our community had to be defended and the state destabilised. The vehicle to help us achieve these aims and objectives was Óglaigh na hÉireann

Accordingly, Alec joined the ranks of `C' Company 2nd Battalion, Belfast Brigade. The culture of football, dances and teenage innocence was overtaken by a new-found identity: weapons training and armed stand-by as the army trained and equipped its volunteers to fulfil their initial defensive role. It was a collective community response to a real and deadly threat from loyalists, as witnessed in Mayo Street, Ardoyne and the Short Strand over the next 12 months. But the outcome was different on these occasions, as the discipline, courage and equipment of Óglaigh na hÉireann helped repulse loyalist incursions while establishing the army's defensive credentials.

The British imposed the 1970 July curfew of the Falls as a precursor to the introduction of internment, launching a full scale onslaught on our community.

In response, Óglaigh na hÉireann switched to offensive mode, taking the war to the heart of the British establishment. Alec was in the Colin section of `C' company, which had its own unique way of doing things. Nevertheless, they proved to be one of the most operational units in the 2nd Battalion, as they launched sniping attacks on British forces in addition to bombing attacks on the city centre.

It was on one such operation in April 1976 that Alec was arrested and subsequently imprisoned for 15 years. Imprisonment is a daunting experience at any time, but in the protest era of the mid `70s to the early `80s it proved a truly traumatic experience for many republicans.

Imprisonment puts its stamp on every POW. For some, it is more marked and overt than for others, but no POW leaves the prison environment unaffected. Its imprint remains with the individual until the day they die. Only Alec's family and close friends can possibly know the full extent of his personal prison experience. Maybe no one will ever know, as ex-prisoners tend to refrain from disclosing their inner secrets. However, there is no doubt that imprisonment had a profound effect on Alec.

Only recently, Alec, along with a number of other ex-prisoners from the Greater Clonard Area, had initiated a series of discussions on the struggle in general and imprisonment in particular.

To Alec's wife Sharon, son Neill and daughters Carmel and Jennifer; to his father Hughie and mother Sheila; to his sisters Susan, Mairead, Kay, Sheila and Connie and his many friends, we express our heartfelt sorrow and sympathy. Your loss is our loss.

Slán go fóill comrade. May you enjoy the peace you so richly deserve alongside Geraldo and Big Finn.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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