Tuesday 21 August 2018

Sinn Fein quiet on McGuinness 'Provo medal'

TIES: A Provo medal similar to one Martin McGuinness is thought to have received
TIES: A Provo medal similar to one Martin McGuinness is thought to have received
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Sinn Fein has declined to say if Martin McGuinness received a commemorative medal for members of the Provisional IRA who were in Derry in the opening years of the Troubles.

Unlike Gerry Adams, McGuinness admitted to being a member of the IRA but said he left in the mid-1970s, a claim gardai who served during the Troubles dispute and say he continued to head the 'military wing' of the organisation right up to and beyond the mid-1990s ceasefires.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Photo: PA
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Photo: PA

A medal was struck by former IRA members to commemorate those who were part of the organisation in Derry between 1969 and 1972. It is understood the medal was sent out this year to also mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising in Dublin.

The period marked by the medal covers the initial turbulent years including the shooting of 13 Catholic civilians in January 1972 which became known as Bloody Sunday. It also covers the beginning of the IRA's no-warning bombing campaign in which the 'Derry Brigade' set off a car bomb in the mainly Protestant village of Claudy, killing nine people including a nine-year-old girl, Kathryn Eakin, in July 1972.

The Derry Brigade carried out hundreds of sniper and bomb attacks in the period and killed 22 British soldiers.

Eight members of the Derry Brigade also killed themselves either through accidental discharge of guns or premature bomb explosions. The British Army shot dead six IRA men during the time in the city.

The Derry IRA's campaign also started with concerted sectarian attacks on the small Protestant 'Diamond' enclave on the west bank of the city, during which a Protestant man, William King (49) was kicked to death by a mob of Catholic rioters.

In June 1970 three IRA men killed themselves making bombs at one of their homes in Derry city. The blaze which engulfed Thomas McCool's home in Derry city also killed his nine-year-old daughter, Bernadette, and her four-year-old sister Carol.

During 1970 and 1971, the IRA repeatedly organised rioting in nationalist areas and used the cover of the teenage rioters to launch sniper attacks on the British soldiers who were sent into Northern Ireland in Aug-ust 1969.

Among those in the Republic who joined and travelled north to take part in the IRA activities was the then Dublin student radical, Kieran Conway, who also received one of the commemorative medals.

He was arrested while helping a group of IRA members including, he says, Martin McGuinness escape during a raid by British soldiers on a premises they were using for weapons training.

The citation which accompanied the medal sent to around 100 people who were in the Provisional IRA in Derry in 1969-1972 says it is "in recognition of the part you played in this struggle".

Sunday Independent

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