2/24/2008

A Bold Fenian Woman

It seems that Unionist's are none too pleased at Sinn Féin plans to honour the life of Mairéad Farrell as part of an International Women's Day celebration.

Sinn Féin Assembly member for West Belfast Jennifer McCann has defended her plans and said she did not intend to offend unionists.

'I'm not asking anyone to agree with what I am doing, but I am saying they should respect it. Stormont is a shared space and that's the way it has to be seen,'

It really is about time that Unionism began to accept that Nationalists and Republicans are here to stay, Stormont is no longer a Protestant building.

Mairéad Farrell was born in Belfast to a middle class family with no link to militant Irish Republicanism other than her grandfather, who was interned during the Tan War.

When she was 18 she joined the Irish Republican Army

On 5 April 1976 she and two others bombed the Conway Hotel in an attempt to kill members of the Crown forces. She was arrested shortly after.

At her trial she refused to recognise the court as it was an institution of the British State and was sentenced to fourteen years in Armagh jail.

When she arrived in Armagh Jail she refused to be treated like a criminal and so refused to wear prison uniform. She was the first woman to do so and the second person after Kieran Nugent.

Mairéad was OC of Armagh jail, when speaking of this she said “There's no real honour in this. I had to make decisions which affected all of the prisoners. And there were times when I felt very alone, even though I had the support of all the other prisoners.”

Mairéad instigated a dirty protest in February 1980. In December Mairéad, along with Mary Doyle and Mairéad Nugent, began a hunger strike in Armagh jail to coincide with the one already taking place in Long Kesh. It ended on 19 December, a day after the men's strike.

The dirty protest ended in March 1981 as the prisoner's rights' campaign was focused on the hunger strike being undertaken by Bobby Sands in the H-Blocks.

She was one of the H-Block/Armagh prisoners to stand for election in the 26 counties in the 1981 General Election, standing in Cork North Central and polling 2,751 votes (6.05%).

Upon her release Mairéad went to Queen's University, Belfast and again actively took part in the IRA's campaign.



At 31 years of age Mairéad was shot dead by the British SAS in Gibraltar on Sunday March 6th 1988 along with two other IRA GHQ colleagues, Sean Savage and Dan McCann.

The three Volunteers were unarmed and had been under surveillance for some time by both the British secret services and the Spanish. It is clear from all the evidence that they were lulled into a carefully-laid trap with the aim of killing them.

Mairéad was shot five times, twice in the head and three times in the body Dan Mc Cann was hot four times and Seán was shot at least 16 times. According to witnesses Mairéad and Sean were shot while attempting to surrender and while lying wounded on the ground.

After their deaths a campaign of smears and lies began by the British and their tabloid press.

In September 1995 relatives of those killed took the case to the European Commission of Human Rights. By a 10-9 majority it ruled that the 'Gibraltar Three' were unlawfully killed in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights criticising the authorities for lack of appropriate care in the control and organisation of the arrest operation.

Father Raymond Murray described her as ''cailin gairiuel, diograiseach,'' - a smiling, earnest colleen. ''Death has not got the last word,'' he insisted. ''It never will.''

'The only people worthy of freedom, are those who are willing to go out and fight for it everyday, and die if necessary!' Maire Drumm

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