30 January 2003 Edition
Volunteer Sean Campbell
Once again, it has been proven that the release of Irish political prisoners from English prisons does not end the physical hardship of their years of incarceration.
The life and death of Volunteer Sean Campbell is a stark reminder of the Machiavellian and brutal methods of the English penal system in its attempt to crush Irish political prisoners during the '70s and '80s.
Sean, like many of his generation, had to make his way to England to find work. Come the outbreak of the current phase of the Irish liberation struggle, he felt there was work to be done. To have ignored what was happening in Ireland would have been a total anathema for him. Sean found nothing impossible, no role too big, no task too small. When it was difficult to achieve anything, to convince anyone, he was there reassuring, supporting, and lending his solidarity and skills.
Unfortunately he was to fall foul of the agent provocateur. His subsequent incarceration on conspiracy charges became a story of untold brutality that befell many of the Irish political prisoners in English gaols during the '70s and '80s, Sean's case stands out. His suffering then was immeasurable. Left without proper medical treatment for days, the serious injuries inflicted on him by screws in Albany in 1976 would in later years cripple him and lead him to an untimely death.
He suffered physically, but his spirit was never broken. For those who knew him down through the years, his political ideals were unfaltering. Well read and deeply humorous, he never wasted words. When Sean spoke he was sincere and succinct. Few ever heard him complain. Indeed, he remarked recently that it was the psychological machinations of the Home Office that caused him the most pain.
Faced with an extra three and a half years in jail following the Albany beating, Sean embarked on a legal battle that was to go all the way to the European Court. The prospect of losing forced the British government to offer him early release if he dropped the case. Sean, a man with a wife and a young family, would not accept such a deal, despite his wish to be with his family. He said he had to think of those prisoners following him, men doing 20- and 30-year sentences who would suffer from any failure to expose the workings of the British Home office. Subsequent to the completion of his full ten-year sentence and release, Sean was to go to Strasbourg and win his legal case.
After his release Sean, despite his poor health, threw himself fully into the republican struggle. Elected to Cookstown District Council as a Sinn Féin Councillor in 1997, he served the Ballinderry area up until 18 months ago. Due to his ill health he decided not to stand for re-election. He was a tireless and dedicated worker and he left an indelible mark on the political landscape of the Lough Shore.
To remember Sean is also to remember his wife Mary, sons John, Terry and Ian, his mother, his brother and sisters and his family circle. When news of his death reached his comrades and friends, they all felt they had lost a unique and kindred spirit. Yet his family had lost a husband, a father a son, a brother, and we extend our deepest sympathy to them.
Borne by his comrades, his coffin was flanked by former POWs from English prisons and carried along the road to Brocagh Church and Cemetery. In a ceremony that was dignified and respectful, befitting the Sean we all knew, his remains were laid to rest. He is gone from us now, but his contribution to Ireland's cause will never be forgotten.
I measc laochra na nGael a raibh sé.
FROM A FRIEND AND COMRADE
Republicans in Kerry were saddened to learn of the death of Dan 0'Callaghan, Lohercannon, Tralee. Dan, who was in his 80s, hailed from Knockeanagh, Ardfert, and he along with his brother Christy were active republicans from a very young age and were both imprisoned in The Curragh during the '40s.
Dan died just a couple of weeks after his brother and comrade, Christy, who was laid to rest in his native Ardfert just before Christmas. In his graveside oration, Sinn Féin Tralee Town Councillor, Risteárd Ó Fuaráin, paid tribute to Dan and to his brother Christy for the sacrifices they made in their quest to bring about change for all of the people of Ireland.
Cllr Ó Fuaráin said:
"It was this selfless commitment that resulted in years of harassment and hardship, which they bore without complaining. The only fitting tribute that we can pay to the memory of Dan and Christy O'Callaghan is to commit ourselves to that same struggle, that same noble quest to secure democracy, freedom and justice for all. Let us not baulk at this challenge."
I measc laochra na nGael a raibh sé.