Republicans have been paying tribute to IRA veteran Richard ‘Dickie’ Glenholmes, who died on Monday after a lengthy illness, as well as Fr Des Wilson, who passed away on Tuesday.
From east Belfast, Mr Glenholmes was imprisoned twice for his role in the armed struggle, including a long jail sentence in England for attempting to free IRA leader Brian Keenan from Brixton Prison.
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was one of a number of other senior republicans who attended Requiem Mass at St Agnes Church in Andersonstown.
“I have known Dickie for 50 years,” he said. “He was my friend. He was also a truly remarkable and exceptional human being. He was a freedom fighter and a political prisoner – in British prisons in Ireland and in England.
“In the hard years when the British imprisoned him without trial and he was locked away for years in England he kept the faith. So did Lily. A republican in her own right Lily was the perfect partner to Dickie and a wonderful grounded and strong Irish woman. She and their clann minded Dickie through his long illness and she reared their children through his long years in prison and on the run.
“Dickie believed in freedom and in equality. And when the opportunity was created to achieve republican objectives through peaceful and democratic means he embraced it.
“Dickie demonstrated time and again enormous strength of character, perseverance and vision. His legacy will continue to inspire and encourage all of us in the time ahead.”
I measc Laochra na n-Gael go raibh a anam dílis.
Mr Adams has also paid tribute to Fr Des Wilson, who passed away at the age of 94.
Mr Adams said there ‘would be no peace process’ without the work of the well-known priest, who was a mediator and champion of people of west Belfast.
He said Fr Wilson and another Redemptorist priest, Fr Alec Reid, were involved in reaching out to unionists.
“They spoke to unionist paramilitaries and facilitated meetings between republicans and loyalists,” he said. “They met officials from the British and Irish governments, and indeed anyone who would listen to them, in the hope that through dialogue they could assist the work of peace building. They pioneered this work.
“They never gave up despite setbacks and serial refusals to talk by the great and the good. Without Fr Des and Fr Alex there would be no peace process.”
Fr Wilson also established a number of projects aimed at developing west Belfast economically, including the Whiterock Industrial Estate and the Conway Mill project.
“Fr Des was a champion of the people and a visionary, Mr Adams said. “We will miss him greatly. Especially in Springhill and Ballymurphy. To his family and wide circle of friends I want to extend my condolences. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam dílis.”