Tribute to ‘Hooded Man’ on internment anniversary

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Wreaths have been laid at the grave of Gerry McKerr in County Armagh to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of internment.

Members of Republican Sinn Féin were joined by former internees and relatives in Lurgan, County Armagh for a short ceremony.

A native of Lurgan, Mr McKerr died in 2015 aged 71. He was a leader within the internment camp and was later held captive as one of a small number of republicans, the ‘Hooded Men’, who were taken aside and subjected to special British state torture.

Some 2,000 people, mostly nationalist, were interned without trial between 1971-1975.

‘Operation Demetrius’ began at 4.30am on Monday 9 August 1971. The vast majority of nationalists who were brutally rounded up were seized solely because they were Catholics. Others detained included members of pacifist political groups and civil rights organisations. They were held at several locations including Ballykelly, County Derry, the Maidstone Prison Ship and Long Kesh in County Antrim.

Mr McKerr was released from prison in the final year of internment and later survived a loyalist murder bid during which he was shot twice. Weeks later a bomb was found under his car.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of relatives to the late republican, while a short address was delivered by local RSF representative Martin Duffy.

In a statement to mark the anniversary, Saoradh said internment “has been a tool consistently used by the British to attempt to defeat the Republican struggle. While it was first introduced in 1971, they continue to use it today.”

They pointed to Britain’s use of internment by remand, internment by revocation of licence, and the miscarriage of justices which has seen republicans falsely convicted.

“It was wrong in 1971 and it’s wrong today,” they said.

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