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Joe McCann commemoration – Report and Photos April 16, 2012

Posted by guestposter in Irish Politics, Republican Socialism, Republicanism, Socialism.

Many thanks to the person who sent this. With luck there will be further reports and photographs tomorrow.

’40 years to the day after his murder by British Paratroops, Official IRA volunteer Joe McCann was commemorated in Belfast. Hundreds of people attended a ceremony in Joy Street (where he was shot) organised by the McCann family. Members of the Official Republican Movement, the Workers Party, the Irish Republican Socialist Party and Sinn Féin (including Gerry Adams TD) were present. Many of those attending were veterans of the pre-split IRA, the Official IRA, the INLA and the Provisionals.

Ciaran McCann chaired the event while his brother Fearghal gave the main oration. Aine McCann read a poem in memory of her father while her sister Fionnuala sang a song about Joe originally written by Market’s woman Margaret Power. Joe’s widow Anne laid a wreath as did members of the extended family.

In his oration Fearghal read from a contemporary account of how Long Kesh internee Gerry Campbell reacted to news of Joe’s death. He then placed Joe’s murder in the context of the shootings by British forces of civilians in Ballymurphy and Derry. Fearghal recounted how Joe had become involved in republicanism as a teenager, collecting for internees during the Border Campaign. After firstly joining the Fianna he became an IRA volunteer in 1964. He was jailed in Crumlin Road during 1965 and on release became active again in the various republican political movements of the period. McCann was involved with the Belfast Housing Action Committee and took part in the first civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon in 1968. He embraced the idea of an ‘Army of the People’ and the need for the IRA to become involved in social struggles. In August 1969 he was active with the IRA in defence of the people in Belfast: was was arrested again shortly afterwards. McCann took part in the fighting during the Falls Curfew in July 1970 and in August 1971, as commander of the Official IRA in the Markets area defended the district from much larger forces of British troops. The RUC Special Branch and British Army made it clear that they would not take Joe alive and in April 1972 they murdered him.

The ceremony ended with the ‘Last Post’ and lowering of flags and the McCann family thanked all those who helped make it such a success.’


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A youtube video here


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Speech delivered by Feargal Mc Cann on the 40th anniversary of the execution of his father IRA Staff Captain Joe Mc Cann

On this day 40yrs ago, a young man entered this street…., he knew he was being followed……, Upon entering, he was met by British Paratroopers and the Special Branch.
It was never the intention of the British Army… or the Special Branch to let this young man leave alive…,
He never stood a chance.
As he attempted to evade their clutches, as he had done so many times before, he was shot in the back.
He carried no weapon, so posed no threat to those who shot at him.
Their actions were both cowardly and callous and designed to have only one out come.

The murder of Ireland’s patriots and her people is of no surprise when it comes the relationship the British have had with Ireland. Our long and sad history surely bears that out.
The RUC and British army made no secret of their intent when it came to Joe McCann, letting it be known to all that he would not see the inside of Long Kesh, for he was to be shot on sight.
Every man and woman arrested was asked, “Where’s McCann??”
They were shown bullets with Joe’s name on them, his brother Denis shown a mock grave in Palace Barracks with a white cross bearing Joe’s name. ……Cowards.

We stand here today in remembrance of Joseph McCann, murdered by British forces aged 24yrs

While Joe embraced his military duties in the IRA he was more than the “Gun-Man” that the British would like to portray him as. His interest in Irish history and politics started at a young age, growing up with tales from his granny, ‘Alice Maguire’, about the Red coats and how the cobble-stones in the ‘Loney’ were dug up to through at them.
Our grandfather, the other ‘Big Joe’, recounted a story about how my father, as a young lad, was called for his tea but was nowhere to be found. He was eventually located in the home of an old Republican, Charlie Mawhinney who lived near by talking about Irish history.

He had a love of dogs from an early age and was given his first dog as a reward for passing his 11 plus by his father. He attended many dog shows and was a member of the Irish Kennel Club. As an old comrade recalled, “Joe would see a dog and say, ‘Isn’t that a cracker, look at the way it’s stepping out?!”

In 1959 at the age of 12 Joe began collecting money to help prisoners incarcerated in the Free-State and England after ‘Operation Harvest’. A thankless task as sympathy and support for Republicanism was low at that time.
His enthusiasm for the cause was total and he wasted no time trying to rally support amongst his own. On one occasion in the ‘Loney’ he asked a friend to get him a chair and then to keep look-out as he stood on it and delivered his oration on Republican Socialist principles.
Not an easy job amongst your own people, many of whom I’m sure thinking “That young McCann fella’s a wee bit touched!”

Joe joined the Fianna and then went on to join the IRA proper, being sworn in by ‘Malachy McBurney’ in Cyrus Street in 1964(?)
He joined the Republican movement at a time when it was not popular to do so and could not be viewed as a career move or an opportunity for personal gain.
One of Joe’s early roles was as ‘Training Officer’ in the Turf lodge Unit and on one occasion he took it upon himself (As he did with many things!!) to organise a few hours training in the mountains.
However, no training was carried out that night as Joe and his four other comrades were arrested by the RUC. Their refusal to recognise the court (Company policy at the time!!) earned them the title, “The Five Silent Men” and got them 18 months in ‘The Crum’…, Joe’s first taste of being held ‘At her Majesty’s Pleasure’ at the age of 18.

After his spell in ‘The Crum’ he became actively involved in local social and political issues, working with the Civil Rights movement, organising housing committees, setting up co-op’s, protesting against the Divis flats development and campaigning for ‘One man One vote’. He took part in the very first Civil Rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon in August 1968.

A year later, as the pressure mounted for change, the inevitable backlash came, resulting in families being burnt out of their homes in Ardoyne and the Falls.
Joe and his comrades (some of whom are here today) did their best to defend the people with what little fire-arms where available to them, against the fury of a mob who were backed up by the B-Specials. The first defensive action by the IRA and the start of the period of Irish history euphemistically termed,” The Troubles”.
From this point onward the previously unpopular IRA were now looked to as ‘Hibernian Nationalist Defenders’ and young men joined in their droves.

In July 1970, Joe and his comrades fought bravely during the illegal Curfew imposed by the British Army on the Falls area, the first direct engagement of British forces on Irish soil since 1921.
By this point he was well know to the British and often used disguises to evade capture, on this particular occasion putting on a doctors coat and hopping into the back of an Order of Malta ambulance to get past their check point.

August 9th 1971 saw the re-introduction of internment.
At this time, as O/C of the Markets, Joe organised a defence of the area against further incursions by the Army, setting up barricades at strategic points and, with limited men and arms, held a British regiment at bay.
It was during this engagement that the legendary photograph of Joe was taken, showing him in silhouette against a burning barricade carrying an M1 Carbine with the starry plough alongside him. As dawn approached weapons were stowed away and, despite being completely surrounded, Joe and his men escaped, much to the embarrassment of the British Army.
He was now firmly on top of their wanted list.
From this point onward, Joe, like many of his comrades, was now ‘On-The-Run’.

In March of 1972 Joe had returned to Belfast for the final time on foot of orders and when advised for his own safety to leave again he found it impossible to contemplate being out of the thick of things.
Joe was a quick witted and creative thinker. It was often said that in this respect he was ahead of his time, coming up with ideas to strike at the British that seemed like madness to his comrades. It has been said that he would not ask any man to do something he wasn’t prepared to do himself. He was no “Armchair General”.

Joe McCann was not the only person to ‘fall fowl’ of the trigger happy Para’s.They began their shooting spree in August 1971 when they murdered 11 in the Ballymurphy Massacre. A massacre which took place over a 2 day period…..not one of their commanders stepped in to halt their actions. 14 dead as a result of their actions on Bloody Sunday, 11yr old Majella O’Hare shot while making her way to the shop……., the list goes on. Britain’s Rottweilers let loose on a civilian population whose only crime was to demand change.

Ten weeks after Bloody Sunday, and forty years ago to the day, a young man called Joe McCann entered this street.
As he entered, he was met by British Paratroopers and RUC Special Branch.
He never stood a chance of leaving the street alive, as the Para’s lined up and opened fire.
He was shot in the back, attempting to evade his inevitable fate. He carried no weapon and posed no threat to those who shot at him.

We stand here today in remembrance of Staff Captain Joe McCann, Husband, Father, Soldier, Revolutionary……….We Salute you.


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