31 May 2001 Edition
Calls for Fullerton Inquiry
Eddie Fullerton remembered, ten years on
BY MICK DERRIG
They came from every corner of Inishowen. Those who knew him, those who had been reared on stories of him. His two grandchildren, just babies when loyalists shot him down ten years ago, read poems about him that they had written for this day.
Last Sunday, 27 May, republicans and the good people of Inishowen paid their tributes to Eddie Fullerton on the tenth anniversary of his assassination at his home in Buncrana, County Donegal. The day started with a procession from the Fullerton home to Cockhill cemetery.
I was taken aback by the size of the crowd that wound its way up the hill to where the tricolour flew over Eddie's grave. The organisers were taken aback by the size of the crowd. It had been well publicised, but we didn't expect this.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of republicans, the Fullerton family, by his councillor colleagues, and on behalf of Ballymagan Celtic and the Buncrana Environmental Group.
Eddie was an environmentalist long before it was trendy. I recall recently his comrade Liam McElhinney telling me of Eddie outlining a case for an earth summit at a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in the 1980s. It was defeated largely because no one knew what Eddie was on about! The man from Inishowen effectively had a blueprint for the Rio summit there and then, years before it took place.
The second part of the day took place in the Lake of Shadows hotel in Buncrana shortly afterwards. This was the first Eddie Fullerton memorial lecture. I am sure that it will become an important date in every republican's calendar.
The lecture was given by Ard Chomhairle member Jim Gibney, but first, it was down to Tom Dignam to speak about Eddie's groundbreaking political advances for Sinn Féin.
In the midst of Section 31, Eddie was able to get elected in 1979 and to consolidate that position in the 1980s. Dignam likened the effect of Eddie's death on the morale of the people of Inishowen by likening it to the wave of grief that swept the peninsula on hearing the news that Cahir Rua O'Dochartaigh had been killed fighting the British at Kilmacrennan in 1608. No one in the packed hall looked like they disagreed with these sentiments.
Then it was the support act to steal all shows - Joe Cahill. The ovation as he was introduced was roof raising. Joe noted that the crowd had been slow to take their seats as the indoor proceedings had got underway. He observed: ``If Eddie had been up here ye would have taken your seats a lot quicker!''
``It is an honour for me to be here to commemorate a great Donegal man, a great Irish republican and a great friend,'' he said. Eddie Fullerton was a tremendous personality and a much respected comrade and it is hard to think that it is ten years since we lost him. With Eddie, what you saw was what you got. When Eddie spoke, people listened.
``As a councillor, Eddie was without equal. He always had time for a yarn and a cup of tea and he cared deeply about his community.
``Ten years ago we lost Eddie to a loyalist death squad. Despite ample evidence of collusion in his killing, no one has been brought to justice. From evidence available, Eddie Fullerton's killing was sanctioned at a high level within the British military establishment, but the Garda investigation was a farce.
Eddie's family is demanding a full independent inquiry into the circumstances of his killing. They want an inquiry that will focus on the role the Gardaí played in investigating the killing and why their version of events does not fit with the facts. The entire business stinks to high heaven.
``Just as there is a need for proper inquiries into the deaths of many people in the North as a result of collusion, the Dublin government also has a duty to investigate those killed in its jurisdiction.
As republicans and as friends, is the duty of all of us to pursue a vigorous campaign for that inquiry and to not rest until we have it. Eddie Fullerton deserves no less.''
Padraig MacLochlainn was a child when Eddie was building up Sinn Fein's political strength on the peninsula. It is fair to say that the space that Eddie filled politically in Inishowen hasn't been filled in the last ten years but there is evidence that the next ten years will be different.
Padraig never knew Eddie as a comrade, but he is certainly carrying on his work. He wrapped up a mighty day by speaking on behalf of Sinn Féin and supporting the Fullerton family's call for an independent sworn public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Councillor Eddie Fullerton.
The Fullerton family are fine people and they have suffered an injustice. They will not rest until they get the justice they deserve. Looking around me it was clear that they would not lack support.
The campaign for Justice for Eddie Fullerton has started.
Please, if you're asked, do all you can to help.
Eddie Fullerton - Larger than life
Tenth Anniversary Memorial Lecture
Delivered by Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle Member Jim Gibney
Lake of Shadows Hotel, Buncrana, Co. Donegal
Sunday 27 May
``The way in which Eddie Fullerton met his death leaves an open wound all these years later. Had he died of natural causes then nature's way would have helped Eddie's widow Dinah, his sons Johnny, Albert and Eddie and his daughters, Marina, Amanda and Anita come to terms with it. But we have been left with a legacy arising from Eddie's death which makes it all the harder for his family to cope with their loss.
I am mindful that today's occasion is a sad one for Eddie's widow and family but it is also a time for reflection on the happy times that were experienced during Eddie's life. The numbers that turned out today signify the impact that Eddie had on so many lives. His assassination cut into the very heart of the community in Inishowen, Donegal and further afield.
Eddie dedicated his life to his family and to his political convictions as a republican. He was a servant of the freedom struggle and of the people of Inishowen, Donegal and Ireland. He served all with distinction.
His instincts were with the people and he worked tirelessly on their behalf. Eddie was a Trojan worker. Nothing was too big or small for Eddie. Comrades recall him selling hundreds of An Phoblachts every week. He claimed Rockall as part of his constituency.
He would often joust with the chair at the Ard Fheis, who tried but invariably failed to curtail him to the customary three minutes for a speech. In a loud thunderous voice he told chairs such as Sean Mac Manus, `` I didn't come all the way from Donegal to Dublin for a three-minute speech.''
Many people looked forward to Eddie's Ard Fheis speeches. He brought the Ard Fheis to life. Eddie was a man who loved life. His friends talked of him being larger than life, of having irrepressible and irresistible qualities. Eddie got things done - he led from the front. That is why he was such a popular Sinn Féin councillor.
One of his greatest achievements was getting a multi-million pound dam built at Meenaharnish to service the Inishowen peninsula. He was very proud of this achievement and the very fact that the Dam has been named the Fullerton/Pollan Dam is testament to the regard in which he was held across the political spectrum.
On this special anniversary, it is important to remember that Eddie carried the republican banner through many difficult times even in this part of the country. This State ostracised republicans, censored the republican voice on television and radio, demonised and attempted to marginalise us. Its military and Gardaí harassed and harried republicans. It used its power and influence to assist the British in their efforts to crush republicans rather than confront the injustices arising out of partition.
The easy option, indeed it would have been understandable, would have been to stay indoors. Eddie had enough to do helping Dinah rear six children. But that wasn't Eddie's way. He was part of a small but vocal band of republicans across the 26 Counties who campaigned for his country's freedom.
He was a United Irelander, a republican and a socialist. He wore his politics on his sleeve proudly; a great ambassador for all that is good in the republican philosophy.
Many changes have taken place in the republican struggle over the past ten years since Eddie's death. Today, republicans are stronger than they have been since partition. The republican voice is heard in every powerful institution here in Ireland and across the world. Every day more and more people are becoming republicanised and backing Sinn Féin.
It is important to remember that our strength and influence is due in no small measure to republicans like Eddie Fullerton. Without him, without his dedication and determination we would not be where we are today.
The freedom loving people of Ireland will always be indebted to Eddie and to his family because they give him the space. They backed him so that he could work for us and our country's freedom.
I know that his family sorely misses him and I know that the Republican Movement sorely misses him. But those that murdered Eddie and those that sent them out sought more than to leave people grieving. They wanted to scare people: frighten people and to intimidate; to force us to lower our aspirations, to abandon the struggle for a united Ireland.
What they didn't and don't realise is that more, not less, people are following the course set by Eddie Fullerton; that his work goes on. Yes, they hurt us when they killed Eddie and yes, it is difficult to fill the gap but no, they haven't deterred us.
That is how Eddie would have responded; indeed that is exactly how Eddie responded when faced with difficult situations.
The struggle for freedom that Eddie lived and died for continues. We will follow the example he set, in the certain knowledge that what he strove for and what we continue to strive for, the independence of our country, will be achieved.''