A funeral for lifelong republican Jim Scullion, who led IRA prisoners in Long Kesh at the height of the conflict, has provoked criticism from unionists.
The 78-year-old passed away on Saturday following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Mourners lined the streets of Turf Lodge as the tricolour-draped coffin made its way to Milltown Cemetery, while maintaining a social distance.
But TUV leader Jim Allister claimed republicans were “flouting the rules” on the current Covid-19 lockdown. “There are many who suspect that the police are turning a blind eye and this is causing a crisis of confidence in policing,” he said.
Jailed in 1972 for his part in an IRA raid, Jim went on to become OC (Officer Commanding) of the republican prisoners in Long Kesh. After being released in 1978, he rejoined the IRA and remained active for many years.
Belfast National Graves Chairperson, Joe Austin, who delivered Tuesday’s funeral oration, paid tribute to Mr Scullion’s tireless activism. “He was a good republican, he was a thinking republican, and when push came to shove he was loyal to the IRA, and certainly to the memory of the IRA,” he said.
In a Facebook post, his brother Gerry spoke lovingly of “the man who taught me not to back down to bullies”.
“The man who taught me that loyalty, a term that has been hijacked by Unionism in this part of Ireland was the most important quality has died,” he said. “The man who would have taken on all his family’s battles and fought them for us has died.”
He said his brother “was not a theoretical republican who learned his values from the erudite musings of others. His republicanism and social conscience was visceral.
“It was as much a part of him as his spleen, his right arm, his heart.
“Jim was a man who didn’t see big men and small men. He saw right and wrong, justice and injustice. He wasn’t for tolerating injustice.
“Go bhfhaighe muid amach na cospóirí a bhí ina chroí istigh aige. [May we achieve the aims he held in his heart.]”