Moving tribute to member of Birmingham Six

Mourners at the funeral of one of the Birmingham Six, Richard McIlkenny, were told on Thursday that he has ‘finally found freedom’.

Wrongly jailed in a British backlash against the IRA’s armed campaign in 1974, he died in Dublin aged 73 following a long illness.

An innocent man, he languished in British jails for 16 years before eventually in 1991 his conviction was quashed and he was freed.

Father PJ Gilmore told several hundred mourners that the father of six struggled to find peace and come to terms with the injustice done on him after his release.

“I wonder did Richard ever come home?” the priest asked.

“Ann (daughter) said to me last week he never felt free. He never felt free, Richard you touched all of us, you are free now.”

Along with Hugh Callaghan, Billy Power, Johnny Walker, Patrick Hill and Gerry Hunter, he was sentenced to life with no release date on the basis of the admissions.

All attended the funeral Mass at St Patrick’s Church in Celbridge, County Kildare, except Mr Callaghan.

The service heard how Mr McIlkenny courageously tried to protect his friend Mr Callaghan as ruthless police officers savagely dished out beating after beating on the men. Every time Mr McIlkenny tried to intervene he was kicked in the head.

Three of the Guildford Four, themselves the victims of a miscarriage of justice at the hands of British police, also attended. Paddy Armstrong was joined by Paul Hill, who gave one of the readings, and Gerry Conlon, who read a psalm.

Human rights lawyer Gareth Pierce, who helped secure the release of the Guildford Four read a poem as part of the service. Following the service Mr Conlon, Patrick Hill and Paul Hill shouldered the coffin through the main street along with Irish Labour party councillor Nicky Kelly, himself a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News