Unwavering bravery recalled at unveiling of new mural


A former IRA Volunteer, John Crawley, delivered the main address at the unveiling of a new mural in honour of IRA martyr George McBrearty on the 36th anniversary of his death on Sunday.

He said the late Creggan man had ‘stood resolutely at the tip of the spear’ as part of his struggle to remove ‘the British gunman from Irish politics’ and said he would never have turned his back on the Irish Republic.

The Monaghan republican was speaking as the memorial, created by well-known Derry artist Kevin Hasson, was officially unveiled at the junction of Rathkeele Way and Rathlin Drive, where George grew up.

The unveiling, which was attended by members of the late Mr McBrearty’s extended family, his friends, and neighbours, took place 36 years to the day from May 28, 1981, when, aged 24, with fellow IRA Volunteer, Charles ‘Pop’ Maguire (21), he was shot dead by members of the SAS while on active service in the Lone Moor Road area.

Members of the Provisional IRA were travelling in a hijacked car when another car, containing four SAS men, pulled up alongside the car and opened fire.

George’s mother, Bridie, led a wreath-laying ceremony at the foot of the new artwork.


Speaking in advance of the event, Mrs. McBrearty, now in her eighties, said the loss of her son was a traumatic experience.

“I was devastated. I had lost my husband in 1977 and then my son and I found it very difficult to come to terms with. I was not prepared for the manner of his death and how quick and sudden it all happened.”

“George’s death had a profound experience on us all especially his younger brother Pat who had a history of mental illness. Pat had lived in the family home throughout the often violent house raids in our home and had witnessed the effects and hardships we endured throughout the periods when his brothers were interned and on the run.

“Pat never got over George’s death and 10 years to the day after George’s killing, Pat took his own life,” she said.

She said her son was extremely driven and wished to achieve the goal of a 32 County Socialist Republic.

“He was determined to challenge the British establishment and all its apparatus in Ireland. He was prepared to fight and die for his ideals,” she said.

“Having joined the IRA he was then interned in Long Kesh at the age of 17. He was in Long Kesh when it was burned and was involved in the prison riot. Like all the other prisoners he was subjected to British Army brutality, CS and CR Gas. I had two sons in jail at that time with my eldest son Danny also incarcerated. I worried about them both in jail and journeyed to visit them regularly throughout that period.

“When George was released he returned to the Republican Movement straight away and it was apparent he was even more determined. At this time a war was raging on the streets and our home was being raided up to three times per week. Fr. Faul who visited me at home during one of the raids commented that my home was the most raided house in Ireland at the time.

“George continued to fight oppression and in 1978 he married. He was arrested very soon after his marriage on a trumped up charge. He was taken to Crumlin Road Jail and was denied bail on a number of occasions before eventually it was granted. When bail was granted he decided to go on the run immediately as he mistrusted the judiciary and believed that they would find him guilty no matter how unsafe the case was.”

She continued: “He would remain on the run with only short fleeting visits home to Derry for the next few years right up until his killing on May 28, 1981. During his time on the run he stayed in Buncranna and lived in Letterkenny. He ventured into South Derry and Tyrone apart from occasional visits home here to Derry. George went on to have three children with his youngest being born just weeks before he was killed.”


Addressing the large crowd that gathered to pay their respects this week, Mr Crawley described the late Mr McBrearty as a proud IRA Volunteer.

He said: “George McBrearty fought and died as a proud volunteer in the Irish Republican Army, not the ‘Irish Equality Army’, or the ‘Irish Nationalist Army’, not ‘The Agreed Ireland Army’, or ‘The Maximum Autonomy Britain Will Allow Us Army’, but the ‘Republican Army’.

“George believed and had every right to expect that the term republican was not merely a suggestion but a statement of intent.

“George did not engage in the armed struggle to slap some sense into the British Government until they eventually agreed nationalists could become stakeholders in a reformed Stormont

“He did not fight the British Army so that they would leave the streets of Derry and retire peacefully to their Irish garrisons. He did not resist the crown constabulary so that they would change their name and cap badge to something more benign and hire more Catholics.”

During the course of his address Mr Crawley said the late Mr. Brearty had followed the examples set by Wolfe Tone and the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising and had thus set an example in his turn.

“George was an active and courageous IRA freedom fighter. He led, as only real leaders do, by example. His place was always to the fore. He stood resolutely at the tip of the spear engaging in active military operations directed towards removing the British gunman from Irish politics.

“As a result of his unflinching valour he was killed in action by the British Army and is consequently not alive today to explain his actions or defend his motives,” said Mr. Crawley.

“No-one can speak for the dead, though opportunists may try nonetheless, but George’s family and friends want you to know, that they believe with all their hearts, he would never have wavered in his commitment to the Republic and would never have permitted his sacrifice to be marginalised or criminalised by those who ultimately proved themselves more determined to survive the struggle than to win the struggle,” he said.

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