Republican News · Thursday 18 January 2001

[An Phoblacht]

Clonard honours deceased former POWs

The Greater Clonard former POWs group has embarked on an ambitious plan to list all republican ex prisoners, from the area who have died of natural causes so they can be honoured on a commemorative stone in the area's Garden of Remembrance in Bombay Street.

To date, the group has gathered over 129 names of republican men and women who have died, including some jailed in 1916.

Speaking to An Phoblacht last week, Albert Allen, a spokesperson for the group, said the idea for the scheme came from people in the area whose relatives had died of natural causes. ``They asked if something could be done to remember their relatives. Some of these people had given many years of their lives to the cause, so as far as the Clonard ex-POWs were concerned it was right and proper that we should remember them.

``We thought it would be a fitting tribute to them if we compiled their names and put them on a memorial stone,'' said Allen, ``but our list is not definitive and there are probably a lot of other families with relatives who spent time in jail but died of natural causes who are entitled to be on the memorial. I am appealing to people out there to come forward with any information they might have.''

As with any project of this kind, people's stories of generations of struggle abound. One of those honoured on the stone will be Leo O'Neill, from Norfolk Street, who was jailed in the 1920s. His son Billy was interned in the 1970s. Billy still lives in the area and played a key role in researching the list. While he was in the Cages of Long Kesh, Billy's 20-year-old son Danny was shot dead by the British Army. An IRA Volunteer, Danny was part of an active service unit that engaged the British Army near Leeson Street in the Lower Falls on 4 January 1972. He died three days later on 7 January. His father, Billy, was released from Long Kesh to attend the funeral. After Danny was buried in the republican plot in Milltown, mourners were attacked by the British Army. Five people were arrested by the RUC.

Allen says the group hopes to be in a position to unveil the new commemoration plaque in March. Anyone with information on republicans who should be included should contact the Coiste office at 10 Beechmount Avenue, Belfast 12.

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