Legacy issues in Northern Ireland –
A new investigation is to be launched by the Police Ombudsman into claims of police collusion in the 1976 murder of Máire Drumm, Vice President of Sinn Féin (1972-76) and a Commander in Cumann na mBan
No one was ever convicted of the murder
Maire Drumm asserted that:
“The only people worthy of freedom are those who are prepared to go out and fight for it every day, and die if necessary”
“Interning or putting a middle-aged woman in jail will not quench the flame of the Irish people because nothing but the destruction of the Irish people will ever quench that flame. Long live the IRA! God save Ireland!”
Who was Màire Drumm?
She was born in Newry, County Down to a staunchly republican family. Her parents were active in the Civil War. Maire said she never actually joined the republican movement – she was born into it.
After finishing school in Armagh, she moved to Liverpool to look for a job. While there she became active in Conradh na Gaeilge, which she joined in 1939.
1940s: In 1940 she moved to Dublin where she worked for a short time as a shop assistant and joined Sinn Féin. She settled in Belfast in 1942 and got involved with the Green Cross, the republican prisoners’ aid organisation. She worked tirelessly on behalf of republican POWs and their families. She also began what was to be a lifelong association with the National Graves Association.
1960s: Maire became involved in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, emerging as a leader and organizer.
After 1969 she worked to rehouse Catholics who had been forced from their homes by Loyalist intimidation. She spoke out at rallies and protest meetings.
1970s: In 1970 she was one of the leading women who broke the infamous Falls Curfew
She was particularly active in the campaign against internment (imprisonment without trial)
In 1972 Máire commented about Jimmy Drumm her husband who was interned in Long Kesh:
“at the present time I’m a married woman with a husband in Long Kesh who has been interned for 13 years altogether in three different phases of internment without trial. He went back in 1956 and was in until 1960. Now he’s back since August 9 1971. I’ve had three periods of internment in my life in that I’ve suffered internment as a young girl, having a fiancé in prison, then as a young wife with a husband in prison and five children to rear on my own. And now as a middle aged woman, my husband who’s also middle aged is back in prison again“.
On 7 January 1973 she led a march of 500 women and girls from Beechmount to the Busy Bee in Andersonstown against the internment of Liz McKee, the first woman internee.
Maire’s views on political status for Irish Republican Prisoners
Máire and Jimmy Drumm were involved in talks with Loyalist organisations aimed at putting an end to the sectarian murder of Catholics in Northern Ireland. Loyalists knew well of her persistent work for a just peace in Ireland as she ceaselessly advocated the rights of the Loyalist communities in the New Ireland, and consistently guarded and developed lines of contact with them.
In 1974 she was convinced the Loyalist Workers Strike was organised by William Craig, Ian Paisley and their factions and that workers had been intimidated into adhering to it. It was just “bully-boy tactics” to bring down the Sunningdale Agreement
With her high profile activities, Maire’s family was targeted for government harassment. At one point her husband and son were interned by the government at the same time.
Maire was arrested twice for ‘seditious speeches‘.
Her house in Andersonstown, a staunchly republican area of Belfast, was constantly raided by security forces.
She and her family were under the constant threat of death. Maire would not be intimidated.
What type of person was she?
She was astute and quick-witted; she was a visceral Republican but much more pragmatic than her public utterances suggested; and she would have been a critical player in Northern Ireland’s future – if she had lived.
Firm and uncompromising in her public attitudes, she was in private the most warm, compassionate and hospitable of people. She had a genuine love of human kind and especially of her own oppressed people, who in their turn, took her to their hearts long ago.
She could see no end to the Troubles. All she really wanted was to get out of the North, go down to Galway or Kerry, live a quiet life and find time to read some poetry.
How did she die?
Her eyesight was failing because of cataracts. She needed eye treatment but was refused a visa to travel to the USA,
Hard to know why. One wonders what the American State Department, acting under British pressure, had to fear in exposing Americans to a realistic exposition of the facts of life under English rule in Ireland.
So she was on an NHS waiting list. She went into hospital but never came out.
Comment: The operation was a success but the patient died?
No, not at all. On Thursday night, October 28, 1976, as Maire lay in her hospital bed recovering from her operation in Belfast’s Mater Hospital,
Unionists dressed as doctors walked in and shot her to death.
She was shot at point blank range in her bed in the Mater Hospital
She was murdered in a joint operation by the Red Hand Commando, attached to the,Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). They were able to enter and leave the hospital undisturbed.
“She was murdered by a Protestant hit squad as you well know. I was there at the time. Killing someone in a hospital bed is barbaric”,
No one was ever convicted of her murder
No one was ever convicted of Maire Drumm’s murder
Republican News at the time pointed the finger at the British establishment and accused the then British Direct Ruler Merlyn Rees of waging a vendetta against the Sinn Féin Vice-President.
Máire had already been targeted for assassination and was widely demonised in the British media
They set the tone for her death when they dubbed her the ‘Granny of Hate‘ and ‘Grandma Venom‘.
Ballad of Maire Drumm
Comment: Note the picture of Maire leading women to break the Falls Curfew
Máire Drumm — 37th anniversary