24 April 2003 Edition
Republicans in Armagh and further afield were shocked to learn of the death of 38-year-old Harry McCartney earlier this month. As the news began to filter through, people were in disbelief at this untimely and tragic occurrence. Harry's body was discovered on Monday morning, 14 April, having suffered a heart attack. His young age only added to the shock felt by many. His body was taken to Foster Green Hospital in Belfast but because of the changes in weekend Post Mortems the remains were not released to the family until Tuesday evening. Many people called at the family home over the following two days to express their sympathies to Harry's wife, two children and wide family circle.
The funeral took place on Thursday and it was a very large cortege. The hearse was flanked by republicans, many of whom were former PoWs, as it made its way from the McCartney home in Drumbreda to St Malachy's Chapel. Following a blessing (due to it being Holy Thursday no Mass was said) the funeral returned along its route to St Patrick's Cemetery for burial.
Assembly member Conor Murphy, who delivered the graveside oration, spoke of Harry's commitment to republicanism and his early involvement.
"As a young boy in the 1970s," he said, "Harry experienced injustice at first hand when he and his family were intimidated out of their home. He grew up in a repressive state and soon made the decision to stand up against British oppression. Harry's first opportunity came with the Anti-H Block/Armagh Gaol campaign, when even as a schoolboy he engaged in pickets, marches and protests. During the Hunger Strikes that followed, Harry was to the forefront in confrontations with the RUC and British Army, when public outrage at the treatment of prisoners could no longer be contained.
"Having witnessed the brutal face of British occupation during that period, Harry became active at the cutting edge of the Republican Movement when he joined the IRA. Harry's first OC, Sean McIlvenna, was killed in action in December 1984. Such was his respect and admiration for his OC that Harry named is only son, Sean, in honour of him. Harry inherited Sean McIlvenna's enthusiasm and dedication to the movement, which he carried through the rest of his years as an activist.
"In the decade that followed, Harry quickly gained the respect of his fellow Volunteers and was a willing and determined soldier in the Armagh area. In 1990, he was captured and imprisoned but prison failed to break his determination and resolve. While in the Crumlin Road Gaol, he was prominent figure in the campaign for segregation and became involved in confrontations with the screws and loyalists.
"After being given a life sentence, Harry was moved to the H.Blocks where he took the opportunity to further himself and successfully embarked on an Open University Degree. His wit and unbreakable spirit was enjoyed and appreciated by all those who knew him in Long Kesh.
"After his release under the Good Friday Agreement in July 2000, Harry quickly became reinvolved, helping to reorganise the movement in Armagh and to face the new challenges that lay ahead. One of his last acts was to be involved in bringing the families of dead Volunteers to Dublin for the An Tírghrá Commemoration, which was all the more successful and memorable because of the efforts of people such as him. Harry was also instrumental in helping to reform his local community association in Drumbreda, where he was very adept in his role as PRO. One of his main reasons for becoming involved in community work was his desire to help the youth of the area and to this end he was helping to organise the rebuilding of the Drumbreda Community Centre.
"Harry had a positive outlook on life. He would see today not as a time of sadness but as a time for his family and friends to come together to remember him."
Sincerest sympathies are offered to Gillian, Deborah and Sean and to the entire McCartney family. Harry will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.
I measc laochra na nGael a raibh sé.