Republican News · Thursday 01 June 2000

[An Phoblacht]


Phoblacht apologises for any distress caused to relatives, friends and campaigners against plastic bullets for an error of omission in last week's edition. In the article ``Waiting for Justice,'' an interview with Eileen Kelly, her daughter Carol Ann was described as the only child to be killed in 1981. In fact, two other children were killed by plastic bullets that year, Paul Whitters (15) and Julie Livingstone (14).

May Kavanagh

There's a photograph on the front cover of a pamphlet about Irish POWs of May Kavanagh standing outside the front door of her home in Crocus Street, West Belfast. She is carrying a small holdall bag and the caption tells us she is setting off to visit her son in jail in England. May stands before the camera, a neat, white haired and bespecticled grandmother, a determined and resolute republican.

It was with great sadness that Belfast republicans learnt of the death of May Kavanagh after a short illness last month. As a founding executive member of Green Cross and its forerunner, the Prisoners Dependents Fund Committee, May worked tirelessly on behalf of Irish republican prisoners and their families for many years.

May will not only be remembered for her dedication to others but also her fortitude in facing hardship and tragedy.within her own family. A mother of nine, May's home life was constantly disrupted by RUC and British Army raids.

In the early 1970s May's 18-year-old son Albert, an IRA Volunteer, was killed by the RUC in disputed circumstances. Shortly after Albert's death, another son, Paul, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Long Kesh It was the beginning a lifetime of prison visiting for May.

In the early 1980s, Paul Kavanagh was captured with Tommy Quigley and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment in England. The ordeal endured by Irish families travelling to visit POWs incarcerated in jails in England is well documented but it never deterred May Kavanagh. In 1989, after Paul married Martina Anderson, another republican POW jailed in England, May often journeyed to Durham also.

Long and hardous journeys to jails in England often ended in frustration with a prisoner being moved to another jail. But petty harassment couldn't undermine May's resolve and she became active in the campaign for the transfer of Irish political prisoners to jails closer to their homes.

After a lifetime of campaigning, May did live see her son, daughter-in-law and other Irish POWs return home. In 1999, Paul Kavanagh was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, allowing May a few precious months with her son before she died.

May was a strong and resourceful woman. With kindness and a ready sense of humour, she faced many hardships with courage and determination. She will be sadly missed by all her friends.

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