Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has released a personal tribute to the former political prisoner and former party chairman Bobby Storey following his death at the age of 64.
Mr Storey died in England last Sunday, June 21, following an unsuccessful lung transplant. Hundreds of mourners lined the Falls Road on Friday as his body arrived back to Belfast. Republicans wearing white shirts and ties formed a guard of honour and flanked the coffin as it was driven to his home.
His funeral is to take place in Belfast on Tuesday, June 30. It is understood that Sinn Féin has met with the PSNI to discuss arrangements. His remains will leave his home in Owenvarragh Park at 10.30am for 11am Mass at St Agnes’ Church on the Andersonstown Road and afterwards to Milltown Cemetery.
Thousands of mourners are expected to attend and republicans are being urged to ensure social distancing measures are maintained.
Mr Storey, who spent more than 20 years in prison, was loved and respected, and his death had come as a political as well as a personal blow, Mr Adams said.
“Bobby Storey was a stalwart of the struggle for Irish freedom for almost 50 years. As a young teenager growing up in North Belfast he witnessed, like many others of his generation, the violence and bigotry of the Unionist state, and then of the British Army.”
He said the introduction of internment in August 1971 and the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry had a huge influence on him.
“He was interned aged seventeen, one of the youngest internees, and in the decades that followed he spent over 20 years in prison.”
Mr Adams said he was an important advocate of the peace process.
“Bobby had a sharp, insightful political mind. He embraced the opportunity for building the republican struggle and advancing our goal of Irish Unity created by the peace process.
“At countless republican meetings he spoke in favour of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy. And when, following years of negotiations, the potential emerged for republicans to engage with the new policing dispensation Bobby played a leadership role in persuading others to grasp this new opportunity.”
He also said Mr Storey was one of the bravest people he had ever known.
“Whether inside or outside of prison, or through the years of harassment and beatings, arrests and torture from the RUC and British Army, Big Bobby demonstrated time and time again his enormous personal commitment and courage.
“He was also one of the funniest people I know. Big Bobby made light of his stammer. He could hold a group spellbound with his stories of past escapades and derring-do. His accounts of life in prison in England were hilarious. He was kind, thoughtful, loyal and very giving.”
He said even as he battled his illness, he remained cheerful.
“Big Bobby’s death is a huge political blow for republicans but is also a very personal loss for all of us who knew him. There were tears shed across Ireland as comrades got news of his death.
“On behalf of Colette and myself and our family I extend my sincerest and deepest sympathies and solidarity to Teresa, their children and grandchildren, his brothers Seamus and Brian, his sister Geraldine, his extended family circle and his many friends.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”