Monday, April 03, 2006
REMEMBERING IRA VOLUNTEER GERARD CASEY/STILL LOOKING FOR JUSTICE
In October 1988 Gerard Casey's home in Rasharkin was raided by the RUC (Northern Ireland police). While there they removed a legally held shotgun and sketched an internal map of the home before taking him off to Castlereagh. On April 4th 1989 loyalists entered the home and shot dead Gerard Casey as he slept with his wife.
There was a strategy to murder family members of republicans as well as murdering republicans and nationalists. Charlie and Teresa Fox, Sean and Martin Lavery, Kevin and Jack McKearney were also killed in the reign of terror, which knew no bounds - the list is endless. The tactic often used throughout the 70's against an entire community was now being concentrated on republican families. Many lived under direct threat learning that their personal details were in the possession of loyalists.
In all of these killings South African weapons imported by British army agent Brian Nelson were used. Thousands of RUC/British army 'P' cards (personal details) went 'missing'. Restriction orders prohibiting any regular 'police and army' presence in the vicinity of some murders and attacks were issued. Those under threat were denied adequate security measures by the NIO on the advice of the RUC. Special Branch was behind every choreographed move.
On August 7th 1994 wife and mother of four young children, Kathleen O'Hagan, was shot dead in her home as loyalists smashed their way in, Kathleen was seven months pregnant. Her husband Paddy returned home to find his children huddled against their mother's body. Paddy O' Hagan was a former republican prisoner.
In many of these incidents there was no proper investigation to apprehend the culprits. The RUC attempted to put distance between themselves and the loyalists much in the same way they did concerning 'C' Company of the UDA during the Nelson trial. The RUC even abandoned its former policy of immediately issuing the forensic and ballistic history of guns and bombs used in loyalist attacks because they were traceable to the weapons imported by Nelson. And of course the authorities talked about 'arrests' but in many of the cases where there is clear evidence of collusion there is also an excessively high failure rate of arrest, prosecution and conviction. Those loyalists arrested had no idea of the origins of their weaponry or information or of exactly who was pulling the strings. As the saying goes the gunmen were a dime a dozen and expendable. Relatives are more interested in those who pulled the strings.
The following two reports were sent to me by a contact in Northern Ireland.
Fresh Calls for Independent Inquiry as Rasharkin remembers IRA Volunteer
For Immediate Release: 03/04/2006
Republicans from across North Antrim were in Rasharkin this weekend for a very successful series of events organised to commemorate the life of local IRA Volunteer, Gerard Casey. Local Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay opened the weekend’s events by chairing the 2nd Annual Gerard Casey Memorial Lecture that was held in the village on Friday night. He started proceedings by reiterating the need for an independent investigation into Gerard’s death.
Cllr McKay said:
“This weekend will not only be about celebrating the life of Óglach Gerard Casey and the sacrifices he made for his country and his community, it is also about highlighting the circumstances of his death, the fact that he was set up by members of the RUC and the fact that a full and wholly independent investigation has yet to be launched into the circumstances of his death.”
Just prior to Gerard’s murder the RUC raided the Rasharkin man’s home, drew a sketch of the outlay of his house and told him that he would be killed. After loyalists broke into his home and shot him dead his family were left in no doubt about who had set him up.
The Guest Speakers at this year’s lecture were Brendan Lynch and Paul McGlinchey, who spoke of their time as Blanketmen in Long Kesh and their experiences of the 1981 Hunger Strike.
They spoke in great detail about the camaraderie that existed at that time in the prisons and how the bondage that developed and existed between those on the blanket was something they had never experienced before or since and how this made it much more difficult to adjust to life outside the jail when they were released.
Both men spoke of the humiliation, the beatings and inhumane conditions they had to live through and how friendship, bravery and the personal sacrifices made by their comrades helped get them through the worst of these experiences.
Paul spoke of the great respect he had for Francis Hughes, a fellow Bellaghy man, and how his bravery and leadership inspired other POWs who were on the blanket at that time, “His courage and selflessness that made him such a legend in areas like South Derry & North Antrim where he operated, was just as evident when he was on the blanket.” Paul continued to talk about the other hunger-strikers and related to the audience the great personalities that they were and how they influenced the other prisoners not only through their bravery but also their sense of humour. He recalled how Martin Hurson had adopted the name ‘Arrachtach’, “His fellow comrades, with our blanketman sense of humour, had told him that this was his name in Irish. The name is of course Irish for ‘monstrosity’, something that we felt we had to tell him after he joined the hunger-strike. He was a bit angry at first, but then laughed it off and said that he would be proud to keep the name his comrades gave him.”
Brendan Lynch said that it was important for older republicans to realise that there is now an enormous amount of young people who consider themselves as republicans, and that it was important to ensure that they are educated and made aware of the Hunger-Strike during this year’s Celebration of their lives.
After the lecture had concluded there ensued a lively Question and Answer session and young and old alike addressed the 2 men with a variety of questions. In response to one question Paul McGlinchey criticised Richard O’Rawe for making spurilous claims last year in an effort to gain publicity to sell his book.
“The hunger-strikers controlled their destiny, not the IRA as O’Rawe claimed. The very fact these men broke Army orders and embarked on hunger strike showed how courageous and farsighted they were in their thinking that no one must be allowed to criminalise our struggle for justice, peace, equality and freedom.
“The responsibility of the deaths of the Hunger Strikers lies with no one but the British Government, who created the conditions to allow it to happen.”
After 2 hours of debate the talk drew to a close with everybody commenting on how insightful an event it had been.
On Sunday hundreds of republicans gathered in Rasharkin for Gerard Casey’s Annual Commemoration. Local people also remembered Gerard’s brother, Liam Casey, who was also a Volunteer and who had died in tragic circumstances.
On what turned out to be a glorious day, local Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay welcomed the crowd who had gathered from Counties Antrim, Derry, Tyrone and Donegal to attend the event.
Ógra Shinn Féin (Sinn Féin Youth) were the first to speak. Local Representative Laoi Áine Ní Pheacoig said:
“Gerard was a joiner by trade and also a talented footballer for Rasharkin. He had an active interest in GAA, which you would call ‘the norm’ for most Irish people. However Gerard stood out as a volunteer soldier of the North Antrim Brigade of Óglaigh na hÉireann. Gerard like so many others had seen enough of discrimination, imperialism and oppression and pledged to fight back. Gerard Casey served the community of Rasharkin well whether that was lining up alongside his teammates on the football field or lining up alongside his comrades in Óglaigh na hÉireann on the battlefield. Indeed the community here in Rasharkin and North Antrim are proud of and will never forget his sacrifice.
“Gerard was killed by a British funded policy of collusion in the north of Ireland. The British colluded with loyalist murder gangs to murder anyone who opposed British interference in Irish affairs.
“A few months before Gerard’s murder, Councillor ‘Big’ John Davey, who also had strong links with Rasharkin, was murdered in the County Derry village of Gulladuff, not too far from we are gathered here today. Indeed this area had the reputation as a murder triangle, which has seen a large number of British state sponsored executions.
“I’m of the generation who were not born when Bobby Sands, Mairead Farrell and Gerard Casey gave their lives for Irish freedom. But I am spurred on by their selfless courage and determination and I recommit myself here today to the republican objectives, which they gave up their lives to pursue. I urge others to do likewise
“It is my belief that the policy of collusion, which claimed the life of Vol. Gerard Casey, will not be ended in Ireland until we establish a 32 county republic in Ireland free from British rule.
“As an Irish republican youth I am prepared to do my bit for the freedom of my country. Padraig Pearse didn’t have to do what he did, Bobby Sands didn’t have to do what he did, Mairead Farrell didn’t need to make the stand she did, and likewise neither did Gerard Casey. But they stood up brave and noble and fought against imperialism and discrimination and fought bravely for the freedom of our Country.
“If this struggle is to succeed we need the involvement of many more people. In the prevailing circumstances of today you may not be asked to make the sacrifice which Gerard Casey made seventeen years ago but your contribution to the struggle is as important as ever. I urge you to join our struggle. Everybody has a part to play.”
The Guest Speaker at Sunday’s Commemoration was West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff. He spoke of how the Casey family, like the Harte family in Tyrone and many others has made a huge contribution and sacrifice for the republican cause and that the republican community in areas like Rasharkin will never forget that.
Mr McElduff, who is Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland spokesperson, criticised the Irish Government for dragging their feet on issues such as Presidential voting rights for Northern citizens and Northern representation in the Dáil. He said that the selection of the GAA All-Stars was a good example of this, “Its astounding to think that of those footballers being congratulated by President McAleese only 4 out of the 15 selected are allowed to vote in Presidential elections. There are no excuses for the Irish Government continuing to disrespect and ignore the rights of Irish citizens in the North.”
He concluded by saying that the now rapid growth of Sinn Féin in areas such as Ballymoney, Coleraine and Ballymena, was “testament to republicans in North Antrim who had defended this struggle during the most difficult times and circumstances.”
Speaking after the weekend, Rasharkin Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí McKay said: "On behalf of the Gerard Casey Sinn Féin Cumann Rasharkin, I would like to extend our gratitude to everyone who took part and contributed to what was a very fitting tribute to Óglach Gerard Casey.
"The message sent out by this weekend's events is that there are more republicans in Rasharkin than ever before and the massive crowds that continue to turn out for republican events throughout North Antrim shows quite clearly that republicanism is still continuing to grow unabated in this area, as it is throughout the island."