Ní neart go cur le chéile
May 23rd, 2008 
01:03 pm - Arms body may be decommissioned
23 May 2008

**Video report onsite

The body set up to oversee the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons could itself be decommissioned in under two years.

John de Chastelain has been overseeing the decommissioning of weapons

The government is considering the move as part of a process to put pressure on the UDA and UVF to disarm.

If the commission ceases to exist the loyalist groups will be treated as criminal organisations.

There will be no amnesty for moving arms and weapons could be forensically tested and used as evidence.

The international arms body, headed by General John de Chastelain, was set up in 1997.

Since then it has cost nearly £9m - almost £2,000 a day - but this is shared by the British and Irish governments.

The government renews the legislation that allows it to operate each February for a 12-month period.

The BBC's Home Affairs Correspondent Vincent Kearney said he understood that 2009 would be the last time it is renewed, unless the UVF and UDA begin to decommission during that time.

"The commission has overseen the decommissioning of the IRA's weapons - but the UDA and UVF have kept theirs and show no signs of changing that position," he said.

"So the government is now preparing to step up the pressure."
01:06 pm - DUP outrage at paramilitary contact claims
By Noel McAdam
Belfast Telegraph
Friday 23, May 2008

The DUP last night lashed as "outlandish" claims by Lord Trimble that a 'significant' party figure met a senior loyalist paramilitary boss in Portadown.

The former First Minister alleged it was "more likely" there was a connection between the political rise of the DUP and reducing loyalist paramilitary activity.

The allegation, in the opening session of a two-day gathering at Queen's University called Moving on from Conflict, was that the DUP representative was shown around Portadown by Loyalist Volunteer Force second-in-command Mark 'Swinger' Fulton.

The ex-Ulster Unionist Party leader told the conference he was not suggesting complicity at leadership level, but it would have been " interesting" to know "if anything was said to maintain the high moral ground" assumed by critics of the (Good Friday) Agreement.

But the DUP hit back at Lord Trimble and said he had "no credibility" regarding paramilitarism.

The row came as Mr Trimble's former partner-in-government, Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, said Mr Trimble was "let down" by the two governments.

In terms of high praise, the ex-SDLP deputy leader said after he and Mr Trimble visited the families of murdered friends Damien Trainor and Philip Allen in Poyntzpass, he decided failure in the talks "was not an option" .

Lord Trimble said while the DUP and United Kingdom Unionist Party and others opposed the Agreement, loyalists, mainly the UDA, maintained a campaign of sectarian violence against Catholics including murder.

"Then, after the Assembly election in 2003 when the DUP got their nose in front of the UUP, this strand of loyalist violence petered out. This may have been coincidence, but I think it is more likely that there is a connection," he said. "I do not suggest that there was any complicity at party leadership level — the place to look is on the ground at local level."

DUP Upper Bann MP David Simpson responded: "David Trimble's outlandish claims need to be measured against his past actions. The man who would now seek to lecture others about paramilitarism is the man who walked into the political talks at Castle Buildings flanked by the representatives of armed paramilitary groups. The DUP has consistently opposed illegal paramilitary groups of whatever shade or hue.

"The same cannot be said of the party Mr Trimble used to lead."

Mr Mallon lauded the risk Mr Trimble had taken, which he said he (Lord Trimble) knew would damage him politically.

"Would that he were given the credit for it from the unionist electorate or from the two sovereign governments who ultimately let him down, " he said.

The former Newry and Armagh MP said Britain wanting to stay in Northern Ireland was a "long odds bet", but the Republic did not want the 32-county state which used to be spoken of. Instead, he saw the future in terms of federation or confederation.
01:09 pm - Nairac hair ‘found in car used by suspect’
By Lesley-Anne Henry
Belfast Telegraph
Friday 23, May 2008

A man accused of abducting Captain Robert Nairac, the SAS intelligence officer murdered 31 years ago, has been released on bail.

Kevin Crilly (57) from Lower Foughill Road in Jonesborough was in the dock at Banbridge Magistrate's Court yesterday accused of assaulting, kidnapping and falsely imprisoning the 29-year-old Grenadier Guard in May 1977.

Crilly, who had been on the run in America for 27 years but returned to Ireland in either 2004 or 2006 under the name Declan Barr, was released on £1,000 of his own bail. Two sureties totalling £120,000 were to be provided by the defendant's first cousin, Declan Ferrin, and another family member Gregory O'Dowd. Magistrate Nigel Broderick ordered that £20,000 of the money be lodged with the court yesterday.

Crilly, was also told to surrender his Irish passport, report to police daily at Newry PSNI station and reside at his Jonesborough address.

Captain Nairac was abducted and shot by republicans as he posed as a civilian in the Three Steps Inn, at Drumintee, south Armagh. His body has never been recovered but claims he was put through a mincer and fed to cattle have been branded unfounded by SAS sources.

Dressed in a checked brown and cream shirt, navy jacket and dark jeans with a ruddy face and glasses, the fugitive republican spoke only to confirm his name. He also nodded when asked if he understood the charges being brought against him.

Detective Sergeant Colin Brown, who said he believed he could connect the defendant to the charges, told the court there was a "real risk" he could abscond again.

"We have serious concerns that he would not turn up for his trial," he said.

The detective said the police investigation had been prompted by the broadcast of a BBC Spotlight programme on Captain Nairac's murder in June last year.

Detective Sergeant Brown told the court how a "large number" of hairs belonging to the deceased had been found in a vehicle of which Crilly was a "regular user". He said there were a number of witness statements from military personnel and from Crilly's partner at the time.

Said the Detective Sergeant: "He admitted driving a vehicle on that night and we can connect that vehicle to him on that night.

"He admits taking another person to a field on the night. The person he took to a field has been convicted of carrying out the murder in that field."

Liam Townson was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Dublin court. In an application for bail, defence barrister John Kearney said the Nairac case was of one of "some notoriety" but that it was no reason to oppose bail.

Acting on instructions from Tiernan's solicitors he claimed the prosecution case was based around "cobbled together" responses given to the BBC during a doorstep interview.

He said it would be "crazy" for Crilly who was likely to benefit from early release legislation under the Good Friday Agreement, to run.

"1977 was 1977, this is now 2008. There is an entirely different legislative environment," he said.

Mr Kearney added that Crilly, who was adopted, had reverted back to his birth name upon his return to Ireland and had made himself known to the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team immediately after the Spotlight programme aired. He claimed the PSNI did not contact Crilly for 12 months.

In his application Mr Kearney said Crilly had been residing at the same address for the past four years, was in a "long standing, substantive relationship," and was depended upon by his 86-year-old, ill mother. He said Crilly was not fit for employment because of a cataract in his left eye and generalised arthritis which affected his back and knees.

Given the time lapse between Crilly's contact with the HET and his arrest last Wednesday, it was unlikely that he would flee the jurisdiction, his defence claimed.

"He had 12 months. If he was inclined to run, he would have run," said Mr Kearney.

Legal aid was also granted.
04:14 pm - PSNI is 'biggest spender on PR'

The PSNI spends more on public relations and dealing with the press than any other police force in the UK.

The PSNI spends more on PR than any other UK police force

Figures obtained by the Times have shown the force spends £99,501 annually per 100,000 of population on such services.

The Met and Northamptonshire police were the next biggest spenders (£85,629 and £80,138 respectively).

The PSNI said its media and PR team "through appeals has made a real difference in terms of solving crimes".

"Campaigns have also been run providing crime prevention advice and targeting those engaged in anti-social behaviour."

A PSNI spokeswoman said "policing in Northern Ireland also attracts considerable international interest".

"Last year, the press office received over 16,000 calls from Northern Ireland and UK media outlets and also from international journalists from all over the world."

Across the UK, a total of almost £40m is spent each year on PR and answering journalists' questions and queries.

Police in Derbyshire spent the least on press and PR (£12,566 annually per 100,000 of population).
04:21 pm - The write stuff: 8,000 pupils compose books 'as Gaeilge'
By John Walshe
Friday May 23 2008

Who says pupils don't like Irish? With an imaginative project and encouragement from their teachers they will write fluently 'as Gaeilge'.

More than 8,000 children took part in 'Scriobh Leabhar', a project which promotes reading and writing through Irish. Hosted through seven education centres nationwide, 'Scriobh Leabhar' encourages primary school children to compose, design and publish their own books in Irish.

The 'Write a Book' project was started by the Blackrock Education Centre over 20 years ago, to promote reading and writing among primary school pupils.

In 2006, Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaiochta (COGG) began working in conjunction with a number of education centres to offer an Irish strand of the project -- 'Scriobh Leabhar' -- to promote reading and writing through Irish.

The first prize-winning ceremonies were held in early 2007.

All teachers were offered an in-service course which helped them devise strategies to motivate and inspire children's Irish language writing.

The participating schools swap books so that children can read and discuss material written by their counterparts.

Over the coming weeks, the students and their schools will be recognised for their participation in the project.

Aedin Ni Bhroin, director of Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge, said: "We are delighted with the success of Scriobh Leabhar. We realise the importance of cultivating readers and writers from a young age as they are the future of the Irish language and this scheme goes a long way towards achieving that goal."

- John Walshe
04:30 pm - Man 'admits driving Nairac killer'
By Michael McHugh
Friday May 23 2008

A man allegedly linked to the disappearance of British Army officer Robert Nairac in the North 30 years ago admits driving the soldier's murderer, police claimed in court yesterday.

Hairs from the 29-year-old victim were discovered in the family car of defendant Kevin Crilly, a detective told Newry Magistrates' Court, Co Down.

Kevin Crilly denies kidnapping Captain Nairac

Captain Nairac was kidnapped by an IRA gang in 1977 in south Armagh, beaten and shot, and his body dumped in a field in the Republic.

Detective Sergeant Colin Brown said: "The person he (Crilly) conveyed to a field has been convicted of carrying out the murder in that field."

Mr Crilly (57) denies two charges of false imprisonment and kidnap but admits being in the Three Steps Inn in Dromintee, south Armagh, on the night of the abduction.

Outside the pub, Capt Nairac was grabbed by a gang and driven to Ravensdale Forest, Co Louth, just across the border, where he was further assaulted in a bid to make him talk about his undercover role.

In an exchange with defence lawyer John Kearney, Det Sgt Brown said admissions had been made by the accused.

"He admitted taking another person to that field," he said.

Mr Kearney questioned whether it was the field where Capt Nairac was killed. The detective said the person he took to a field had been convicted of the murder.

The murderer police said Mr Crilly admitted driving was Liam Townson, sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Dublin court.

Det Sgt Brown added: "We can link him to that vehicle, that is the vehicle Capt Nairac was abducted in."


Mr Kearney said there was no DNA to link his client to Capt Nairac and added that he disputed the link to the car.

"The height of the allegation, that there is a forensic connection between the deceased and the motor vehicle, and the height of that connection is a suggestion, as I understand it, that there were hairs from the deceased found in the vehicle in question," he said. "There was no evidence that he was driving it on the night in question."

Six men were convicted for their part in the killing, three for murder.

Mr Crilly, unemployed, from Lower Foughill Road, Jonesborough, south Armagh, returned after 27 years in America in 2004 and contacted the police's Historical Enquiries Team. His intervention followed a BBC documentary.

His solicitor told the court that under the early release provisions for paramilitary prisoners agreed following the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, his client could serve just two years in prison. He said Mr Crilly denied any involvement in the attack but admitted his presence in the area.

Mr Crilly was released on bail to reappear on July 17 at Newry Magistrates' Court.

- Michael McHugh
04:58 pm - ‘Annoyed’ McAliskey sets lawyers on biopic makers
Irish News
22 May 2008

BERNADETTE McAliskey is set to take legal action against the makers of a planned film about her life.

The former Mid Ulster MP instructed her lawyers to initiate proceedings after reading reports that she had co-operated on the project.

Mrs McAliskey is to claim that she was unaware that a major film project was being planned – despite the makers’ claim that she has been kept informed.

Details of the biopic, The Roaring Girl, emerged this week at the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France.

Filming is due to start in the autumn.

A producer for the production company Subotica said Mrs McAliskey had been in-volved and was being kept informed on progress.

But the civil rights activist said she only became aware of the film when she read The Irish News yesterday.

“Mrs McAliskey is very an-noyed and concerned about this development, of which she had no knowledge at all,” solicitor Kevin Winters said.

“She was particularly distressed to read that she had in some way given her blessing to this production.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Our client did not provide any mandate for the making of any film or other broadcast about her.

“She will be taking immediate steps to rebut any attempts by any party to

seek commercial gain at her expense.”

Mrs McAliskey, who coordinates a project helping mi-grant workers in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, became Westminster’s youngest ever MP when elected in 1969 aged 21.

In 1981 she and her husband Michael survived a loyalist murder attempt at their remote Co Tyrone home.
05:11 pm - Film to depict McAliskey’s public and private sides
BY Margaret Canning
Irish News
**Via Newshound
21 May 2008

To some she was a “mini-skirted Castro” and to others Ireland’s version of Joan of Arc, writes Margaret Canning. Now cinema audiences will meet Bernadette Devlin in The Roaring Girl

BERNADETTE Dev-lin, from Cooks-town, Co Tyrone, likened her arrival in the House of Commons on her 22nd birthday to that of “a peasant in the halls of the great”.

PROMINENT: Incidents from Bernadette McAliskeys life as a political activist including her arrival at the House of Commons after her election as MP for Mid-Ulster in 1969 (Image 1 of 3)

Now the arrival of The Roaring Girl, a biopic of the now Bernadette McAliskey, civil rights campaigner and one of Ireland’s most memorable public figures, is likely to cause as much of a stir.

The former Queen’s Univer-sity Belfast psychology student became the youngest ever MP when she was elect-ed to Mid-Ulster in 1969 aged 21 as part of the civil rights coalition Westminster Unity.

Her parliamentary career began with a strongly anti-British maiden speech, which nonetheless saw her praised for her “brilliance” by the then home secretary, James Callaghan.

One of his successors would be less impressed. Ms McAlis-key punched Reginald Maud-ling in 1972 after accusing him of lying over the murders of 13 people in Derry on Bloody Sunday.

She later observed that her punch generated more outrage than the killings.

The Cannes Film Festival in the south of France, a glamourous location far removed from the action of Mrs McAl-iskey’s political and personal life, was where details of the new production emerged this week.

Sally Hawkins, a TV and film actress who recently won an award for her starring role in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, will play the lead.

Other parts, including that of Mrs McAliskey’s schoolmaster husband Michael, have yet to be cast.

The film is due to start shooting in autumn.

It is a co-production be-tween Dublin-based Subotica and Cougar Films, a company set up by Prime Suspect au-thor Lynda La Plante and Sophie Balhetchett.

The script is by writer and actress Kate Gartside.

Aoife O’Sullivan, a producer with Subotica, said Mrs McAliskey was being kept in-formed of the film – although is was too early to say whe-ther she will receive a credit for her involvement.

“Bernadette is being kept aware of it and there have been a few drafts of the script,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

“Kate Gartside was an act-ress herself and is into re-search in a big way.

“She has made a really good job of this.”

Ms O’Sullivan said the film would depict the private and public lives of Mrs McAliskey, who now runs Step, a supp-ort organisation for migrant workers in Co Tyrone.

“It won’t be just a political film. It will be looking at her as a character and a person. There are a lot of things about her life that would be interesting to people,” she said.

Like WH Auden’s observation of WB Yeats, that “mad Ireland hurt you into poetry”, Mrs McAliskey once said: “I didn’t get involved with politics. Politics got involved with me.”

She was in her final year at Queen’s and harbouring an interest in researching autism when she became involved in the civil rights movement.

Admirers dubbed her an Irish Joan of Arc but to Union-ist MP Stratton Mills she was a “mini-skirted Castro”.

She was sentenced to six months in jail for incitement to riot and obstruction and disorderly behaviour following the “battle of the Bogside” in Derry in August 1969.

But the arrest did not stop her from increasing her Mid-Ulster majority to nearly 6,000 in the general election of 1970 when she was elected as an independent. She served until 1974.

The film will cover about a decade of Mrs McAliskey’s life, beginning with her first involvement in civil rights.

It is believed that it will depict a loyalist gang’s att-empt to murder her and her husband at their home in Derrylaughan, near Coalisland, in 1981.

The film will be directed by Aisling Walsh, who previously worked on Song For a Raggy Boy.

“I have been fascinated by this woman for 20 years and more than ever the time is right to tell her amazing story in film,” she said.
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06:28 pm - Beatles mural goes ahead with a little help from Riverside
Published for The Riverside Group
Thursday 22nd May 2008

**There is an article in todays's Irish News about this, but I do not have a subscription to this source, so I went looking for information on the subject elsewhere. The photos, however, are from the Irish News article.

Artists from both sides of Northern Irelands political divide are set to start work on the first of a series of murals to celebrate Liverpools Capital of Culture, with the first marking The Riverside Groups 80th birthday.

FAB FOUR: Michael Doherty Danny Devenny, Mark Ervine and Peter Morrison put the finishing touches to a mural in Liverpool dedicated to the Beatles, the image is taken from the John Lennon album Rock n Roll. (PICTURES: Mal McCann)

The housing and regeneration organisation is supporting the work of the Liverpool Mural Project by commissioning a Beatles themed artwork by Belfast Loyalist Mark Ervine and Republican Danny Devenny. The Belfast visitors will be working with Liverpool artists on the gable end of a Riverside property in Litherland.

The project, which has been in the planning for two years, is the brainchild of Liverpudlians Gregory Brennan and Peter Morrison of the Liverpool Mural Project. Throughout their campaign, they have welcomed support from home and abroad with BBC Radio Merseysides Roger Philips, film director Ken Loach and writer Jimmy McGovern joining The Liverpool Culture Company and The Riverside Group to back the project.

Hugh Owen, Director of Policy and Communication at The Riverside Group is keen to mark its 80th birthday celebrations with a non-political iconic image for public display.

Hugh said: The ethos behind the project is to encourage communities to work together which is directly in line with The Riverside Groups mission to regenerate our communities on Merseyside and beyond. Its amazing the way that Mark and Danny are working together in a way that demonstrates that once divided communities can move on and embrace the future. The gable is located at a key gateway to the city, and this iconic image will be visible to thousands coming from Liverpool to the North.

FAB FOUR: Danny Devenny strikes a pose next to his 'working class hero'

Peter Morrison of the Liverpool Mural Project said: This is the first real collaboration between the leading mural artists from both communities of Belfast and Liverpool artists. Our plan was always to produce amazing and inspiring public art that can be enjoyed by everyone not just in the city centre."

The second mural is also in the planning stages, backed by the Liverpool Culture Company. Culture boss Phil Redmond said: We are pleased Liverpool Mural Project has been working very closely with Riverside to get their first mural off the ground and on to a wall!. We will be supporting their next mural, again with the essential knowledge of Riverside, encouraging a return to the original historical ethos of the Belfast Murals, with a mural that depicts the links between Liverpool and Ireland.

We strongly share Riversides vision of bringing the original artists from Belfast to transfer skills and expertise, whilst exploring how the original murals grew out of a particular social context, but evolved into demonstrating how art can play a powerful role in community identity and cohesion.
07:11 pm - Death of Brian Keenan
An Phoblacht
22 May 2008

BRIAN KEENAN, one of the IRA’s foremost strategists over three decades of conflict passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 21 May, following a long battle with cancer.
On behalf of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams extended his sincerest condolences to Brian’s wife Chrissie, his sons and daughters, Bernadette, Annemarie, Chrissie, Frankie, Sean and Janette and his grandchildren; and to his brothers and sisters, and to the wider family circle.
Gerry Adams said: “Although Brian had been ill for many years news of his death will come as a great shock to republicans throughout Ireland and beyond. I want to pay tribute to him and his family and to thank everyone who looked after him during his illness, particularly his friends in South Armagh and Dublin.
“Brian was a formidable republican leader over 40 years of activism. He was a man of tremendous energy even in the face of a debilitating illness. He was a deeply committed socialist and trade unionist who was enormously influenced in his youth by the writings of Connolly and Mellows.
“Brian Keenan’s strong endorsement of the Sinn Féin peace strategy was crucial in securing the support of the IRA leadership for the series of historic initiatives which sustained the peace process through its most difficult times. Brian Keenan’s dedication to the republican struggle was unswerving. His working class politics and his republican and socialist principles were his constant guide through four decades of unstinting effort on behalf of republicanism.
“In a recent series of interviews in An Phoblacht Brian spoke of the imperative ‘at a time of great change’ to ‘constantly lay out the republican vision. We need to constantly remind people we are for liberty, equality, fraternity. We are against exploitation and inequality.’
“He urged republicans to ‘look at the opportunities that are there to move the struggle forward to reunification and independence’. Brian Keenan was a good friend and gifted and steadfast republican. He made an incalculable contribution to the republican struggle. Brian will be greatly missed by his family and friends and by the many republicans who over the years have been touched by his generosity, friendship, and humour.”


The North’s First Minister, Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness also paid tribute to Keenan.
McGuinness said:
“I am deeply saddened by the death of my friend Brian Keenan. Brian was a republican icon who along with his wife Chrissie and family made huge sacrifices through his dedication and commitment to the Republican struggle.
“As a leader within Irish republicanism Brian’s contribution to the building and development of the peace process was not just immense but invaluable. His contribution continued throughout his long illness.
“I was overjoyed that Brian was able to be with us in Stormont on May 8th last year to see the restoration of the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions. This would not have happened without his hugely important contribution.
“I extend myself and Bernie’s sympathy and love to Brian’s wife Chrissie and the Keenan family at this sad time.”

• As An Phoblacht goes to print the following are the details to hand in relation to funeral arrangements for Brian Keenan:
Brian’s remains will leave Patrick Street, Cullyhanna in South Armagh at 12 noon today (Thursday, 22 May) for a ceremony at the Michael McVerry memorial in Cullyhanna.
The remains will arrive at the family home at New Barnsely in Belfast at 4pm.
The funeral will take place this Saturday, 24 May in Belfast.

Brian Keenan, IRA ‘Long War’ strategist

BRIAN KEENAN, one of the IRA’s foremost strategists in ‘The Long War’ over three decades, was once described by Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff at 10 Downing Street, Jonathan Powell, as “the single biggest threat to the British state”.
Brian’s pivotal role in the political and the armed struggle was also acknowledged by his comrades earlier this year when he was among the honourees at the Le Chéile celebration for those who have given outstanding service to the republican cause and the fight for Irish freedom.
Shortly after joining the IRA, in 1968, Brian went on the run and spent the next 25 years living apart from his wife, Chrissie, his children and his grandchildren. He served 16 years in various jails across England in Special Secure Units (SSUs). His story began on Belfast’s New Lodge Road in 1941.

BORN into a family of six children during the Second World War, Brian Keenan’s home was hit by a Luftwaffe bomb during the blitz on Belfast and the family was evacuated to South Derry, where the young Brian started primary school before returning to Belfast when the war was over. For the entire Second World War, his father, Harry, served with the British Royal Air Force at Packlington RAF Bomber Command aerodrome in England while Brian’s mother, Jean, raised the family on her own. His father rarely spoke about his years in the RAF or the war despite being awarded a commendation for bravery when he saved the crew of a bomb-laden airplane which had crash-landed on take-off. The King of England also acknowledged his bravery in a quotation in the London Gazette. (Ironically, the aerodrome where his father once served became the site on which Full Sutton Prison was built, where Brian served a sentence as a political prisoner.)
When the Second World War was over, Brian’s father returned to Belfast and the Keenan family set up home on Belfast’s West Circular Road. As he was growing up he experienced at first-hand the sectarianism that was prevalent for Belfast Catholics. It was this sectarianism that led a loyalist mob to the door of his family home to drive his mother and father out of their house at the onset of ‘The Troubles’ in 1969. It was also the first time Brian Keenan carried a gun. With other armed IRA Volunteers, he arrived to protect his family and bring them to safety. Sectarianism was not confined to the streets of Belfast. It was also in the workplace where Brian, in his first-ever job, personally experienced “second-class citizenship”.
It was while working as an apprentice electronics engineer that Brian joined the Electrical Trade Union (ETU), one of the more radical unions of the time. He was 16. “Engineering was the preserve of Protestants. From day one I was made to feel second class. In those days you kept your head down. You were lucky to have a job and you wanted to keep it.”
In 1958, Brian moved to England to escape the sectarian harassment he was experiencing in work. He continued his apprenticeship in Luton in a firm which made guided missiles and it was there he met trade unionists involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He attended his first union convention as a delegate when he was just 17. It was from this point on that he analysed politics through a “class prism”.

While in England, in 1960, Brian married Chrissie. He moved back to Belfast in 1963 where he continued his involvement with the ETU and trade union politics. He was an avid reader and a deep thinker. “From 17, I was reading something or other. One of the first books was The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, The War of the Flea, Small is Beautiful, and I read about the Buddhist approach to economics.”

On his return to Belfast the blatant discrimination against Catholics and nationalists in the North propelled him into becoming active in the Civil Rights movement. In 1968 he joined the Irish Republican Army.
During the years of conflict he became one of the IRA’s foremost strategists and a thorn in the side of British imperialism.
Intensely proud of IRA Volunteers’ heroism and ingenuity and the struggle waged by the ‘People’s Army’ against the British Army — possibly the most professional but certainly one of the best armed, equipped and resourced military forces in the world — Brian Keenan never let this blur his vision of the needs of the struggle and the challenges it faces.
It was leaders like Brian Keenan who steered the IRA through events such as internment, the Bloody Sunday massacre by the Parachute Regiment, the unionist work stoppages, sectarian conflict, and the unrelenting war waged by the British state and its allies and agents against the nationalist people in the Six Counties.
England was a theatre of war that became central to IRA strategy to move the political situation to a resolution. It is an area that has become associated by British commentators with Brian Keenan perhaps more than any other contemporary IRA leader.
“The IRA leadership knew we could not defeat the British Army militarily but we could bring them to a point where they knew they could not defeat the IRA,” Brian told An Phoblacht earlier this year. “We aimed to exhaust their patience through war in the Six Counties and subsequently the campaign in England. You have to be able to bring the struggle to their front door.” The England campaign was a necessary appendage to the armed struggle in the Six Counties. It sent a powerful message to the British Establishment, political and military.

2001: Brian Keenan addresses republicans at a commemoration of IRA Volunteers at Knockatallon on the Monaghan/Fermanagh border

Brian was one of a new breed of leaders who helped re-organise the IRA — derided after unionist sectarian pogroms led by the RUC in 1969 by the wall slogan ‘IRA = I Ran Away’ — into an effective fighting force that won begrudging admiration from its enemies.
“The IRA changed urban warfare on a world basis. Other armed revolutionary organisations have borrowed the IRA’s tactics.”
Although he recognised the challenges political progress still faces, he argued that the IRA was morally obliged to look at alternative options to continuing the war, especially if there was a viable alternative.
And as a committed revolutionary, dedicated to social as well as political change, Brian Keenan ended his interview with Jim Gibney by outlining where saw the current situation.
“I would prefer we were somewhere else but we are not and that is it as far as I am concerned. Revolutionaries have to be pragmatic - wish lists are for Christmas. At a time of great change we need to constantly lay out the republican vision. We need to constantly remind people we are for ‘equality, liberty, fraternity’. We are against exploitation and inequality. Historians in 50 years’ time will tell us whether the right path was chosen or not. “Of course mistakes have been made along the way, but we have to look to the opportunities that are there to move the struggle forward to reunification and independence.”
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