Grieving family’s home raided; Blanketman laid to rest

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British Crown Forces raided the family home of the late Irish National Liberation Army Volunteer James McWilliams only two days after his tragic passing this week.

A father of five, the late Ardoyne man was engaged to be married when he passed away.

The Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM) said “shameless thugs” had refused to allow his grieving family to prepare funeral arrangements, before an armed PSNI raiding party landed into the home.

They said the police “ripped apart” the family home, “adding indescribable emotional suffering on the family”.

“The actions of the PSNI here can only been seen as an outright attack on the IRSM by targeting a distraught family who have just lost a father and a husband,” they said.

The funeral of Mr McWilliams took place at St Peter’s Cathedral in the lower Falls area of west Belfast on Thursday, August 12.

Images were later shared on social media of a guard of honour flanking the coffin, which was draped in the tricolour and Starry Plough, and a final gun salute being accorded to the deceased.

A strange claim by the PSNI that the images were “not an accurate description of what took place” was dismissed by republican socialists.

An IRSP statement read: “James McWilliams was a long standing member of the Republican Socialist Movement.

“A man who was integral in the organisation and building of the modern day RSM in North Belfast.

“Highly respected and liked by all who knew him, James will be sorely missed by all his comrades in this city and beyond.”

PAUL McGLINCHEY

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The funeral has also taken place of County Derry republican Paul McGlinchey, who is believed to have been longest serving H-Block Blanketman. The 63-year-old died last Thursday.

Originally from Bellaghy, he was one of the first republican volunteers to take part in the prison protest after being jailed for his part in the armed struggle as an 18-year-old in 1976. Wearing only a blanket, the men defied efforts to force political prisoners to wear the uniforms used by criminals.

His protest was part of a campaign for political status which culminated in the 1981 hunger strike.

Notably, he had alleged that cleaning agents used during the subsequent ‘no-wash’ protest in the H-Blocks had led prisoners to suffer multiple cancers. He himself had received treatment for cancer in the lungs, bones and spine in the years before his death.

An autobiography published in 2017, ‘Truth Will Out’, described life in the H-Block cages of Long Kesh during the blanket and hunger-strike protests. Mr McGlinchey wrote that prison staff dressed in protective clothing while they washed down cell walls using unknown chemicals, and campaigned for the truth behind the chemicals used to clean the cells.

His brother, former INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey, was shot dead in 1994. Another brother, Seán, is a Sinn Féin representative at Causeway Coast and Glens council.

A large crowd of mourners followed the cortege as it made its way to the Church of St Joseph, Ballyscullion, on Saturday, 7 August. The coffin was draped in the ‘Irish Republic’ flag and a tricolour along with a black beret and gloves, while former Blanketmen formed a guard of honour.

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