By Ruairí Ó Murchú, Sinn Féin TD for Louth
Family was the watchword for Kevin Mulgrew, who died peacefully at his home in Dundalk on September 5 after a long battle with cancer.
Kevin, who would have been 66 next month, was a former political prisoner who was first arrested in the north shortly after his 16th birthday.
He will be remembered in Dundalk as a man who fought for peace and justice through his leading roles with Fáilte Abhaile, Muirhevnamór Community Council and as a board member of Louth Leader Partnership.
A son of the late James and Lucy (née Mackle), Kevin was the tenth of 13 children. The family grew up on the Tyrone/Derry border before moving to Belfast in the 1960s, where he had a happy childhood.
They were, however, dealt a devastating blow the day before Kevin’s fifteenth birthday when his beloved mother died from cancer aged just 53.
Despite his obvious intellect and critical thinking abilities, Kevin did not go onto third level education but, like many young men of his generation, joined the republican movement.
He was arrested for the first time, along with two of his brothers, in 1972. They were taken to the notorious Girdwood Barracks in Belfast, where those detaining him found his mother’s memorial card in his pocket and ripped it up. Kevin managed to put it together again and carried it with him for many years.
The Mulgrew family was dealt another blow in 1976 when Kevin’s brother, Colm, was shot dead at his home in Belfast.
Kevin continued his involvement with the republican movement despite frequent arrests, multiple spells on remand and almost weekly raids on his home by the British army and the RUC.
He remained a focus for British state forces for many years and normal life was disrupted by his need to constantly move.
Kevin was one of 18 men convicted on the word of ‘supergrass’ Christopher Black in 1981.
He was given the biggest sentence handed down in a British court – 963 years - and served five years before the erroneous conviction was overturned in 1986.
On his release, he returned to his home in Belfast and formed a lifelong, unbreakable partnership with Rosie Hale, with whom he had three children – Kevin, Therese and Dominic.
Kevin and Rosie moved to Dundalk in 1990 and made the town their home.
At the heart of Kevin’s life was his family – his beloved Rosie, whom he married five years ago, their children and later grandchildren, and his much-loved siblings, as well as a large number of nieces and nephews.
He was always interested in hearing how they were doing and was their unerring rock of advice, friendship and love.
Kevin made a huge contribution to community life in Dundalk, with a particular focus on those affected by conflict. Although he never wavered in his political beliefs, he was at the forefront of listening to others who had experienced the conflict from a different perspective.
He played a key role in discussions in the republican movement before and after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, with many former prisoners contacting him to hear his views on the next steps.
Kevin was also a proud ‘election nerd’ who loved being involved in strategising, organising and co-ordinating election campaigns.
He was one of the key figures in the election of then Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to a seat in Louth in 2011 and again, in 2016 when Deputy Imelda Munster was also elected.
Most recently, and despite his cancer diagnosis, he was director of elections for my successful campaign last year.
He had a passion for sports in general and soccer in particular, with a grá for Dundalk FC. Kevin played soccer himself, right up until his diagnosis.
The republican movement has lost a titan with the passing of my incredible friend. He was always positive in his outlook, strong in his arguments and the epitome of a true republican. I will miss him greatly.