Joe Cahill phoned me at midnight on Sunday to tell me that his
youngest brother Tom was dead. I had a restless night after that.
I knew Tom was very ill. When I last saw TC he was unable to
communicate except with his eyes and through his daughters, who
had developed a telepathic-type understanding with him during
Tom's last, long illness.
It is very hard to comprehend and to contemplate his absence. I
first met Tom Cahill in August 1969, a few weeks after the
pogroms. I was walking down the top of the `Giant's Foot' in the
Whiterock, along Beechview Park. Tom had obviously seen me
passing his house and though I didn't know him he drove down in
his milkman's van alongside me and offered me a lift ``to wherever
you are going''.
That was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted until now.
Tom was married to his lifelong sweetheart Jean and they had a
family of young children. He had a succesful milk delivery
business; he and Jean were buying their home and TC was well
settled in his own life.
So much has happened in all the years since then and Tom has been
so central to it that it is impossible to even begin to tell his
story. In those early days TC did sterling work developing and
organising the republican base in Ballymurphy and the Whiterock
and further afield. His contemporaries of that time are now local
legends. The late Liam McParland, Alex Crowe, Tommy `Todler'
Toland, Jim Bryson, young Patrick Mulvenna and many, many others.
He was one of the first republicans sentenced and imprisoned
after he was very seriously wounded in a gun attack by elements
of the `stickies'. That was in 1970. His injuries were quite
horrific but when I met him some time later in Long Kesh, where
he was taken to be interned when his prison sentence was
finished, he willed himself to a punishing regime of exercises,
using make-shift weights and pulleys to strengthen a shattered
arm and leg.
On his release from Long Kesh he was central to the development
of prisoners' support networks, and to promoting self-help
schemes. He was pivotal in the creation of the republican
prisoners' transport department, which helped bring thousands of
relatives to the prisons each week.
He and I, Daddy Coogan and Brendan Hughes were arrested together
in 1973. We went on to spend an eventful period in Cage 6 until
Tom's release. In between times he helped to burn down Long Kesh
and it was he who oversaw the departure of escapees down into a
tunnel in the escape attempt from Cage 5, during which Hugh Coney
was shot dead.
My abiding memory of Tom in the aftermath of the fire and during
the desolation of the Kesh was that he was the only prisoner who
wore a suit throughout it all. Later, when I and a few others
were moved on to Cage 11 as the internees were released, we were
to meet Tom again when he returned after being arrested once
Tom's associates in Cage 11 included Bobby Sands and the late
Cleaky Clarke. TC was probably the sensible one among all us
rakers. He was a gifted craftsman and a model political prisoner,
highly respected by screws and fellow prisoners.
On his release again he became heavily involved in Sinn Féin and
was part of the team, including Tom Hartley, Jim Gibney, Joe
Austin, Marie Moore, Mary Hughes, Sile McVeigh and Richard
McAuley which led the foundation for the party's development in
West Belfast. Part of this meant building a party structure but
it also involved trying to improve the conditions in which party
activists worked. So, the offices at 85 Falls Road and 170a Falls
Road, which were rented from others, were closed and the
Sevasapol Street office was bought through Tom's efforts.
Republican Publications was another of his projects and the now
thriving Art Shop was actively encouraged by him in those early
He was one of the stalwarts of the H Block campaign and of the
political resurgance of Sinn Féin after the hunger strikes. One
of Tom's great strengths was his discipline and his commitment to
the struggle. For example, though he had reservations about the
dropping of absentionism in 1986 he never wavered in his efforts,
never broke ranks with comrades, and never faltered.
One of Tom's big achievements and this is not generally or widely
known, though it deserves to be, is that it was TC who secured
Conway Mill. Others less committed to republicanism may have
considered exploiting this development for personal gain, or even
as a business project or as a fundraising scheme. Tom had a
It was his idea that the people should own Conway Mill and I
remember well the passion with which he convinced me and others
about this. That was his way. Quiet, intelligent, determined,
unassuming and diligent with a steady and secure republican
vision of how things should be.
Republican Belfast and Republican Ireland is indebted to Tom
Cahill. Colette and I are grateful to him for over three decades
of friendship and for countless acts of kindness and genorosity.
There are many many more like us.
TC's greatest strength was his family. While Tom was doing all
that he did Jean reared sons and daughters and in time
grandchildren. Without doubt Jean and her children have to endure
the greatest loss. It is they who will miss TC the most.
But the rest of us will miss him also. Go ndeanfaidh Dia trocaire
ar a anam dílse.
BY GERRY ADAMS
Eamon and Ellie Carey
There was deep sense of sadness and loss felt thoughout Fermanagh
and the border regions last October as news spread of the death
of Eamon Carey, lifelong republican activist and champion of `
welfare. Eamon, a native of Donagh, was to the fore of republican
politics for decades. He was active in the Civil Rights Campaign
of the late 1960s and in the early `70s and was instrumental in
the restructuring of Sinn Féin in the county. However, Eamon's
greatest commitment was to be found working on behalf of
republican prisoners and their families throughout the conflict
years. With his identification with prisoners, he became a member
of the 1980/'81 Hunger Strike Committee and played an important
role in the election of Bobby Sands as MP for Fermanagh/South
Eamon became treasurer of the Fermanagh Prisoners' Dependants'
Association at the Group's inception in 1971, a role he was to
hold until his death and which earned him the nickname ``The Bag
Man' among fellow committee members.
He made it his duty throughout almost 30 years, regardless of the
numbers imprisoned, to pay monthly or bimonthly visits to each
family. His support was greatly welcomed by all the families,
many of whom had long distances to travel to visit their loved
Although arrested, interrogated and mistreated in Castlereagh,
even at the age of 70, the crown forces failed to deter his
commitment. Despite being well into his 80th year and in failing
health and that of his wife, Ellie, he continued to visit the
families of those released in July 2000 as part of the Good
Friday Agreement. He tearfully said that he had lived to see all
the Fermanagh prisoners released and for this, he was happy.
Eamon passed away the day after the gates of Long Kesh closed for
That Eamon was well known and highly regarded, among young and
old was clearly evident by the massive turnout for his funeral.
He was laid to rest in Donagh alongside his wife, Ellie, who
sadly had passed away only six weeks earlier. The ex prisoners
and their families offer their sincerest condolences to Eamon and
Ellie's family. They did you proud.
It was with great sadness that republicans in South Fermanagh
learned of the death of Mary Heaney. Mary, who lived most of her
89 years in the Donagh area was known throughout the locality as
a very kind and religious women.
Unbeknownst to most for many years, was that she was also a
dedicated republican. Mary's analysis of the conflict was first
formed back at the time of partition, when as a young girl she
assisted men who were hiding from the British forces.
People like Mary Heaney have been the backbone of the freedom
struggle. They were the sea in which the liberation forces
survived. When we achieve our goal of a united and free country,
these people must not be forgotten. This quiet and gentle woman's
memory will live on for generations for the vital role she played
in our struggle.
Republicans in Donegal and the wider republican family throughout
the country and beyond were shocked and saddened by the death
recently of Justin Brady of Ballybofey, County Donegal. A
lifelong republican, Justin was immediately active in the latest
stage of the struggle against British imperialism and his
diligant work in Ireland's cause earned him a sentence for
explosive `offences' in the early `70s. On his release, he
rejoined the struggle with renewed vigour, and did so right up
until his untimely death, despite failing health in more recent
Justin was a staunch supporter of the present peace strategy, and
of the current leadership in their efforts to find a just and
lasting settlement to the conflict. In his younger days he
played hurling with distinction and represented his local Seán
Mac Cumhaills club and his county on numerous occasions.
It is in the political field, however, that Justin Brady will be
best remembered, and he will be sadly missed by his comrades in
the republican movement in the Northwest in particular, but also
by the wider republican family.
Ar Dheis Dé Go Raibh A Anam Dílis.
News of the death of Margaret Joyce of Clifden, Galway, on 10
December 2000 occasioned widespread regret in republican circles.
In her 97th year, `Maggie Mattie', as she was affectionately
known by all, devoted much of her long life to the struggle for
Margaret was born to a staunchly republican family, all of whom
were involved in the fight for Irish independence. Her father
Mattie was president of the first Sinn Féin club organised in
Clifden. In 1921, on her 17th birthday, the Black and Tans forced
him to his knees and with a gun to his head, ordered him to leave
town. They then burned down the family home.
Margaret joined the Clifden Cumann na mBan at its inception and
was involved full time during the Tan War and subsequent struggle
against the Free State, providing valuable service raising funds,
distributing literature, leaving messages and useful information
to assist the local Flying Column.
Denied employment at home like many republicans in the aftermath
of the Cicilm War she emigrated to the US in 1926, where she
remained for 45 years. She settled in Providence, Rhode Island
and continued to raise funds for the struggle at home and was
active in several Irish organisations, where she availed of every
possible opportunity to raise the issue of the injustice of
British rule in Ireland.
Returning to Ireland in 1971, she saw the unfolding crisis in the
Six Counties as a continuation of the freedom struggle. Always
ready to do her bit, no one was turned away no matter what the
In her later years the annual pilgrimage to Bodenstown and
renewing acquaointance with old comrades from many parts of the
country was the highlight of her year.
The esteem in which she was held was shown at her funeral when
republicans from all parts of ireland formed a guard of honour
and bore her tricolour-draped coffin, complete with beret and
gloves, to her final resting place, where Vincent Foirde of
Galway Sinn Féin gave a fitting oration. Messages of sympathy
were received from Gerry Adams, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and other
Ar dheis Dé go raibh sí.