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Monday 18 February 2019

Lord Mayor of Dublin and former IRA member Christy Burke reveals 'deep regret' over casualties of the Troubles

Lord Mayor Christy Burke at City Hall. Photo: Arthur Carron
Lord Mayor Christy Burke at City Hall. Photo: Arthur Carron
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke has revealed he has "deep regret" over casualties of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Burke was a member of Na Fianna Éireann and then the IRA during the 60s and 70s and, speaking to Ryan Tubridy on 2FM he said, "I joined the IRA purely for a 32 county Republic and for the British to go home."

However, he added that his attitudes have changed over time, "Look, I've matured and I see the world out there for what it is and I see everyone has a right to respect everybody's nationality and we have moved on and there has been British withdrawal. 

"I know everything is not rosy, I know the six counties are still under the arm of Westminister, but there have been massive changes.  There is equality and there's justice to an extent.  There are still issues and still problems."

Burke said he had had two stints in prison, once in 1972 having been found guilty of membership of the IRA and again in 1984 when he protested for the rights of street traders on Mary Street, Dublin.

"Like everybody else, there's no point in sort of saying it was grand, a brush off," he said.  "I found being locked up your liberties were gone, it was difficult on those on the outside, your family, your wife, your husband, kids, and I have comrades today in jail.

"My ex-wife at the time had to travel to Portlaoise on cold winter days and there was one train maybe every seven hours and that must have been difficult. 

"It was okay for me, I was in the surroundings of a prison, the surroundings of comrades, I could go to a cell, I could go to a recrateion, I could read books, I could get lectures by the late Éamonn MacThomáis.  She had to sit in a cold dull train station and wait seven hours.  That was appalling."

Asked if he ever shot a gun during his time in the IRA, Burke said he had shot one at a shooting range but never at a person.

"I was in Derry from 1969 till about 1970 but that would have been around the barricades, doing the practical work of keeping the Brits out, keeping the area safe from attack.  At that time we had hurley sticks in our hands, we didn't have weapons because there was no great amount of weapons."

Burke said he believed at the time that he was doing the right thing.

"I believed at the time it was the right thing to do.  I was defending a minority in the six counties, I believed they had a right to justice and equality and for that treason I believed I was doing the right thing."

However, he says he looks back at the casualties of The Troubles and there is "deep regret".

"Look it's with deep regret that there was casualties  that there was people died, that there was families suffered, that there was imprisonment, that there was hunger strikes.  They were all deep regrets. 

"It was a war, it was a terrible time for everybody.  Of course there would have been regrets in that area to say you wish it never happened."

Christy Burke will take part in Road To The Rising, a free family event staged by RTE in partnership with the GPO and Dublin City Council taking place on Easter Monday, April 6th.

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