It was with great sadness that those of us who spent time in Maghaberry during the 90s learned of the tragic death of Ann Cavanagh at the beginning of the new year. After a long battle against cancer, Ann finally died at the age of 40 on 3 January 2000, leaving behind her 19-year-old daughter Leanne.
Her prison experience began when she was arrested in her native Derry in April 1989. After a nightmare ordeal in RUC custody, she joined the republican POWs in Maghaberry, where she immediately became an active participant in that small community. While most other people facing charges in similar circumstances were released on bail, this was not the case for Ann. In all, she spent eight months on remand, after which she was sentenced to ten years, which was particularly harsh treatment for someone arrested in such cases.
When Ann arrived on the wing, the prison administration was in the process of trying to impose a policy of forced integration. Despite having much to lose, she did not shy away from the battle. Her response was one of total support every time the situation demanded it.
During her imprisonment, we all came to know Ann very well. She accepted her sentence and settled down into life as a republican POW without complaint. The way Ann did her time was a credit to her, especially given that she had more of her fair share of burden to carry. A single parent, she was now forcibly separated from her young daughter, Leanne.
When Ann was released, we were delighted to see her return to her family, friends and community in Derry, and yet at the same time, it was very sad for us all to be saying goodbye to such a good friend. Imagine then the shock we all felt on hearing of the news of Ann's illness. It seemed grossly unfair that life would be so cruel to a person who had never asked for anything and expected so little. Once again, Ann showed her immense courage in the way that she bore her illness.
We are all privileged to have known Ann Cavanagh as a friend and comrade. It seems very fitting that we pay tribute here to her commitment to the republican movement, especially as the type of role that she played in our struggle was carried out so unselfishly and often goes unacknowledged. In fact, without people like Ann and the contribution they have made, it would have been impossible to sustain the struggle. Our community has lost a loyal and trusted friend and our sympathy goes out to Leanne, Ann's mother, father, sisters, brothers and wide circle of friends and comrades.
County Monaghan has lost a true republican with the passing of Frank McQuaid of Knockatallon. Though Frank had been ill in recent times, the news of his passing was a great shock to his friends and family, and to republicans throughout the county.
Frank came from the staunchly republican Knockatallon area and from a strongly republican family, with involvement stretching back to the Tan War. Republicans were always welcome in their home, including their neighbour and friend the late Volunteer Seamus McElwaine. Frank sold An Phoblacht outside Knockatallon chapel every week for some 20 years and was a very
active member of Sinn Féin.
Frank died on 12 January. He was laid to rest in Urbleshanny graveyard, Scotstown.
At his graveside, Sinn Féin County Councillor Brian McKenna delivered the oration, during the course of which he said:
``Frank was a very young man when the Troubles started in 1969 and was greatly affected by the scenes on our television screens of nationalists being burned out of their homes throughout our six northern counties. He immersed himself in the Republican Movement and endeavoured to play his part in securing a better future for all on this island. He was an active member of Sinn Féin and attended meetings, whether they be in Scotstown, Knockatallon, Monaghan or Dublin. As chairman of the local Pete Ryan Sinn Féin cumann up to his death, he led from the front and seldom, if ever, missed a Comhairle Ceantair meeting, where his input was invaluable
``Frank really came into his own at election time and every nook and cranny would be canvassed in Knockatallon come what may.
``Today we have lost a true friend and comrade. We will miss your contribution, your words of wisdom. The greatest tribute that we as republicans can pay to you is to continue to work and strive to achieve the goal you cherished so dearly, that of a free and united Ireland.''
Frank McQuaid is survived by his wife Roseanna, his sons Aidan, Declan, Niall, Marcus and Jonathan and by his brother Joe. To them and to his wide circle of family and friends, sincerest sympathy is extended. I measc laochra na hÉireann go raibh a anam dílis.