Several hundred republicans gathered yesterday at a commemoration to mark the second anniversary of the death of former IRA man Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes.
About a hundred of Brendan’s family, friends and comrades turned out on a freezing Sunday morning for a a wreath-laying ceromony in the Garden of Rememberance in Brendan’s native Lower Falls.
Mlogger and a former comrade of the Dark Anthony McIntyre wrote: “During the Blanket protest the blanket men, most barely out of their teens or still in them, would sing a song: ‘we’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go, wherever he wants to go.’
“It was a song that was really sung from the cells, not a spoof about a song being sung in the H-Blocks before the song was ever written as one well known Walter tried to dupe us into believing a while back.
“The ‘old man’ was Brendan Hughes who was in fact anything but an old man. Only 29 when he embarked upon the blanket protest, Brendan was in the prime of life and brimming over with radical vitality which he never allowed slip into fanaticism.
“The Dark would laugh at the thought of us who were so willing to follow him as he led us through those daunting arduous years of prison protest, no longer being as eager today to follow him - quite prepared to wait our turn or put it off for as long as possible. ‘Such is life’ would be his summing up of our sense of contentment to remain where we are. We can face death when it comes - so long as it doesn’t come for a while.
“A republican icon in those heady and challenging days he possessed charisma and charm in abundance but was never flash. He had an unassuming character which saw him shun the bright neon for the quietude of ordinary people.”
Mr Hughes is to feature heavily in a forthcoming book by controversial political author Ed Moloney. ‘Voices from the Grave’ will go on sale on April 1 and much of it is based on interviews with the former hunger striker.
Mr Hughes is believed to have revealed detailed accounts of his time in the Provisional IRA as the head of lower Falls D Company, given to Boston University before his death in February 2008.
It has been reported that there will be details about his former close friend, the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams. Prior to his death Hughes had been a vocal opponent of the political direction taken by Sinn Fein.
ADAMS DENOUNCES PRICE
The imminent publication of the book was blamed for a bitter exchange between prominent republican Dolours Price and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams late last week.
Last week, it was revealed that Ms Price, once a senior figure in the Provisional IRA and a former comrade of ‘the Dark’, had contacted the commission to try to find the bodies of three missing victims from the conflict.
She also repeated an allegation that Mr Adams had been her ‘O/C’ [Officer Commanding] in the IRA.
Mr Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA, a matter of some provocation and suspicion to hardline republicans.
Since its foundation, membership of the Provisional IRA has been illegal, although in recent years it has been ‘despecified’, effectively ruling out prosecution for membership.
Ms Price also revealed that she had suffered from post-traumatic stress arising from her time in the IRA and her subsequent imprisonment in England, during which she was force fed while on hunger strike.
On Friday, Mr Adams said he was “moved” by her admission that she is suffering post-traumatic stress, but he said she should take responsibility for her own actions.
He said Ms Price, a sister of 32 County Sovereignty spokeswoman Marion Price, was a long-standing opponent of the peace process who had “set herself against the Sinn Fein leadership”.
There were other “former vulnerable republican activists” who had or were suffering trauma and who have been “cynically exploited” by some elements of the media, he added.
Speaking at the unveiling of a mural in west Belfast, Mr Adams said: “There are lots of citizens who served in the IRA and they did so diligently and to the best of their ability.
“When they had finished that they went back into civilian life, and got on with their lives, and some continue to be involved in politics through community organisations or Sinn Fein or other organisations.
“Many of them suffered imprisonment injury or the loss of friends and comrades. All can look back on their IRA involvement with pride.
“Some disagree profoundly with the Sinn Fein leadership, for reasons of vanity and ego; others because they disagreed with the direction the struggle has gone, and it is clear also that some people have been traumatised as part of their experience in the IRA. And by her own admission Dolours appears to be one of those.
“I think we have a duty of solidarity to all former combatants, as we would with anyone coming out of conflict.
“It is also important that we don’t lose sight of the people who were killed and buried by the IRA - and there has been an ongoing effort to get those remains back. I think we have to be very measured about how we deal with all of these events.
“Dolours has set her self against the Sinn Fein leadership on many occasions. But I was very moved by her admission that she is suffering from trauma.
“There obviously are issues that she has to find closure on for herself and there’s no point anyone in these situations blaming anyone else - it’s up to her and she needs support to come to terms with all of this.”