REMEMBERING MÁIRE DRUMM

Maire 2October 28th 2015 marks the 39th anniversary of Máire Drumm, vice president of Sinn Féin, leader of women, leader of men, revolutionary, wife, mother and grandmother. We all know how Máire met her death, gunned down by cowardly pro-British elements as she lay in her hospital bed having been admitted for cataract surgery but it is much more important to remember how she lived, and oh, how she lived!

Máire was born Máire McAteer on 22nd October 1919 in the townland of Killeen in South Armagh, just past where the Carrickdale Hotel is now. She was a pupil of Our Lady’s school in Newry before going to Liverpool to look for work in 1939 then on to Dublin the following year where she worked as a shop assistant and it was at this time that she joined Sinn Féin.

Two years later, in 1942, Máire moved to Belfast where she became involved with the Maire 6Camogie Association of Ireland. Although still in her early 20’s at the stage, she went on to become the Antrim Secretary and later the chairperson of the Ulster Council of the Camogie Association and All-Ireland Vice Chairperson. Máire had a great love for the Irish culture and was involved in the McAleer School of Irish Dancing, even going so far as to hold Irish classes for local people in her own home.

Máire also had a great empathy for the Prisoners of War and was greatly connected with the Green Cross and the National Graves Association. It’s just as well she was fond of POW’s because it was when she went to visit her former Camogie teacher in jail that she met the love of her life, IRA Volunteer Jimmy Drumm. Jimmy was in Crumlin Road Jail at that time and by co-incidence was having a visit with his mother as Máire came to visit her teacher and they met in the visiting room. Jimmy wasted no time and introduced himself and asked who she was there to see, then asked to have a visit arranged with her. They were engaged before Jimmy was released.

Máire and Jimmy were married in 1946 and settled in Andersonstown where they had five children. It must have been hard on Máire as Jimmy was interned again in 1957 – 1961 but that didn’t stop Máire in 1959 leading a protest to Crumlin Road Jail after the men’s letters and parcels were stopped. In those days they didn’t have crechés or playgroups to leave their babies so they were brought along in the prams, and it wasn’t the buggies you see today, it was the carriage type prams that must have been great for battering prison gates down because that is exactly what Máire and the other ladies did. The women charged the gates and although they were batoned by the prison staff, they got inside and delivered the letters and parcels.

The pogroms of 1969 were a testing time for everyone, not least the Drumm family. Máire was actively involved in trying to re-house those who had been burned from their homes because of loyalist intimation as the British B-Specials looked on.

Her eldest son Seamus tells of how there was a field across from their house in Andersonstown and it was filled with caravans and people who had nowhere else to go. He recalls how “they would come into the house to watch the TV so you could never get to watch what you want. You would go to the bathroom and there would be a queue of people that you didn’t recognise but that was normal in our house with my mother. She even had a rota system for the families to have a bath. In those days you didn’t have instant hot water so it was basically one family per night had baths”.

“If I ever dared to complain I would be told that at least we had a home and how lucky we were. My mother taught me and all of us the practice of being a socialist, not just the theory of it. Our house was an open house for those who needed it and I am very proud of my mother for that.”

Maire 5During the Lower Falls Curfew in 1970 the prams were dug out again. Máire led the ‘pram invasion’ of women as they filled their prams with food and medical supplies and headed to the lower Falls picking up more and more women along the way. She defied the Brits and they pulled the barbed wire, that was imprisoning the community, apart with their bare hands and delivered the goods to those who were imprisoned in their homes by these foreign aggressors.

On 7th January 1973, Máire led 500 women and girls to the Busy Bee in Andersonstown in protest against the internment of Liz McKee who was the first female internee. At one stage during the internment campaign, Máire organised a plane of wives and mothers of internees to fly to England to protest outside Downing Street. Sure the English wouldn’t have known what hit them.

On 19th August 1975 her oration skills were evident as she addressed a mass anti-internment rally in Dunville Park saying “On 9th August 1971 and before it we had a Republican Army, and after the 9th August we had what was more important, we had a risen people. Faulkner with internment used it rather crudely, he grabbed everyone, opened Long Kesh and pushed them in. Cosgrave does it differently, he takes Republicans to court and locks them up…”

She went on to say “we want a just and lasting peace in this country. Hypocrites looking for peace, they want peace with surrender, peace at any cost. We want peace with justice, peace with freedom and justice must go hand in hand. When peace comes we will need everyone in this country. You all will have to work hard to build our new nation. Our shoulders will have to be to the wheel, you will have to do your best.”

Although that was said in 1975, it is still so true today. We are still fighting for that new Republic. A fair Ireland, one we will all be proud to live in. Equality for all its citizens.

A year later, Máire addressed a crowd of 18,000 who had marched in support of political mAIRE 4status and remember, this was a year before political status was actually withdrawn so to gather that kind ofg support at that time was phenomenal. Máire said “we need your support, you have given your support taday for the retention of political status and we only wish the boys and girls in Jail could have seen the people coming down the Falls Road. This crowd was something we had only hoped for but it has surpassed our wildest expectations and hopes. You are the risen people and no government has been able to stop the march of a risen people.”

Máire was arrested after this speech but she was no stranger to arrest and detention. Sinn Féin, around the early 70’s, was being re-organised and Máire, who was emerging as a very gifted and natural leader and speaker was elected as vice-president and this identifies her as a leader through the press.

In February 1971, Maire was sentenced to 6 months for inciting people to join the IRA at a meeting in Turf Lodge the previous July.

When she was safely locked up, because they wouldn’t have dared otherwise, the British Government brought the same charges against her saying she promoted the objects of the IRA at a meeting in Derry. Máire addressed the crowd saying “the only movement which can organise and train you is the Republican Movement. Don’t shout ‘Up the IRA’, join the IRA. Stones are no good, bullets are better….stones are no good against the British army. Join the IRA and we will get you guns.”

The judge, who obviously was not a republican sympathiser, gave Máire another six months in jail!

In November 1972, Máire appeared at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin charged with inciting persons to possess arms at Navan and of being a member of the IRA. Refusing to recognise the court she said “As vice-president of Sinn Féin I will not insult the gallant boys and girls of Ireland who have given their lives in the past three years in defence of our people and for the enthronement of the Irish Republic, proclaimed in arms by Pearse and Connolly in 1916, by pleading at any court set up by the Quislings of a portioned assembly, who have already stated that they intend to harass the Sinn Féin movement and its members.”

She was sentenced to 22 days.

Maire 3In August 1976 she was arrested at her home and charged with taking part in an anti-internment rally and declared that the previous Saturday’s British organised ‘peace’ rally was illegal. “The organisers could not have given the required statutory five days notice…that rally was motivated by the British Army. I don’t want a solicitor and I don’t want bail – I don’t recognise the court any more than I did last week, nor will I ever recognise it as long as Ireland remains divided. God save Ireland.”

The British had to admit the peace rally was in fact illegal and rather than arrest the organisers, they released Máire.

Through all these campaigns and periods of imprisonment, it’s important to remember that Máire was a mother to five children. She reared them, fed them, clothed them and did the ordinary things like getting them off to school and making them their dinner. They have their own personal fond memories of her that are separate from the public’s perception of this great woman. Her son Séamus tells of the time she took a cake up to Armagh Jail for her daughter’s 18th birthday which said “UTP” on it. We all know what that stands for but when she was challenged by the screws, Máire looked quite innocently at them and said it stood for Unity Through Peace. The cake got through much to the amusement of the women.

The last speech given by Máire was in her home area of South Armagh in September 1976.

“What is peace? The kind that the republican movement has been fighting for is peace.

Peace with justice. Peace that our people can live; peace that our people can work and have houses, and that our people can walk free through the streets of their own towns, their own cities and their own country. It will be the peace that will be restored to the nation after 800 years when for the last time British imperialism leaves our shore….”

Máire was then admitted to the Mater Hospital for her cataract surgery and while she was recovering, pro-British elements entered her room and murdered her as she lay defenceless. Máire was a huge threat to the British establishment and that’s why they killed her. She was years ahead of her time regarding women’s rights and the equality of women although she didn’t realise it, for Máire, the men were locked up so it was down to the women to carry on the struggle. She has inspired new generations of women as Constance Markievich did before her and Mairead Farrell has done after her.

Maire 7Máire has now been dead for more years than her children had her alive with them. She is still a huge part of their lives as they pass her legacy on to their children, Máire’s grandchildren and now her great grandchildren.

Máire would have turned 94 years old last week and I have no doubt, she would have been still leading from the front being a thorn in the British side. I wonder did they think to decommission those prams…..they could be in a bunker somewhere, you never know!

Maire Drumm Grave

 

Maire 9Maire 8

 

 

Additional Garda numbers for Louth must be permanent – Adams

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams commenting on the revelation that Garda Tony Golden had provided the Cooley Peninsula Community Alert Group with a handwritten note outlining concerns over Garda numbers in the district as ”deeply disturbing.” And he has called on the Minister for Justice to ensure that the additional Garda numbers deployed in Louth are made permanent.

Gerry Adams said:

“Garda Tony Golden was a widely respected community Garda who worked closely with the community in the Cooley Peninsula. His report to them, prior to their meeting with the then Minister of Justice Alan Shatter, reflects widespread concerns in the area about cutbacks to Garda numbers and resources.

Parliamentary responses I received from the Minister for Justice during the summer confirm Garda Golden’s concerns. The PQ responses show that there has been a gradual decrease in available Garda numbers from 314 in the Louth Garda Division in 2010 to 277 on April 30 2015. This is a substantial drop of 37 Garda in the last five years.

The number of Community Gardaí has also dropped from 22 in 2010 to 16 for this year. This figure has remained unchanged in the last three years despite the increase in burglary and theft related offences.

The issue of Garda numbers and available resources is crucial to communities across the state but especially in the border region. There is an onus on the government to enhance the all-island policing arrangements and structures.

There is also a concern that the two existing joint task forces – the Cross-border Fuel Fraud Enforcement Group and the Cross-border Tobacco Enforcement Group – are not being effective. A review of the work of both needs to be undertaken and additional officers and resources should be provided where appropriate.

I welcome the decision by the Garda Commissioner to deploy 25 additional Gardaí to county Louth and the establishment of an intelligence unit for the area. But these additional Garda are only deployed on a temporary basis. The increased numbers should be permanent.

What is also needed is greater co-operation across the border and a holistic and strategic plan for tackling organised criminal gangs exploiting the border. This should include a cross border task force involving the police services in both parts of the island and revenue services and with a dedicated all-Ireland focus.”

Chair of Local Policing Forum Calls For An End to Halloween Nuisance

SF Kenneth & ImeldaThe first meeting of the new Drogheda Local Policing Forum took place on Monday and was dominated by Halloween and the nuisance it can be which takes away from family fun.

Sinn Féin Chairperson Cllr Kenneth Flood said “one issue is the bonfires and the burning of tyres. Sterling work has been done in the past few years by local businesses and Louth County Council to prevent tyres finding their way onto these bonfires and we hope to build on that. Despite people knowing the environmental damage tyres cause when they are burned, not to mention the heavy toxic smell and mess they leave behind, several councillors and multiple citizens have reported seeing them being hoarded for Halloween Bonfires. So I am again requesting that anyone who sees hoards of Bonfire Material to please pass the location on to Louth County Council so it can be removed.”

The second related Halloween issue was the use of fireworks.

Cllr Flood said “although the number of fireworks is well down compared to previous years, they are still being used in the county. I want to remind everyone that these fireworks are illegal and unsafe. As a father myself, I feel sick every year when I read about some poor child that has lost fingers or has been injured in some way by these fireworks. It has to stop. And it’s not only the children that are suffering, the poor animals hate the noise of them and it causes them unnecessary panic and distress.”

The meeting which was held in the Governors House, Millmount, Drogheda also covered other topics such as the need to repair the lighting columns on West Street, the establishment of new neighbourhood watch schemes and tackling burglaries and graffiti in Drogheda and South Louth.
Cllr Kenneth Flood is urging all resident’s groups, voluntary groups etc to register with the PPN (Public Participation Network) and “have your voice heard on all issues facing Drogheda and South Louth. This is your area, you are entitled to have a say in how issues are tackled”.

For further information on how to register your group please go to http://louthppn.ie

Cllr Flood concluded “There will be a public meeting held after these PPN roles are filled and anyone and everyone in Drogheda and surrounding areas can raise any issue they believe needs to be tackled through the Joint Policing Committee.”

Adams expresses concern at Ambulance response to accident

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has expressed his concern at Ambulance response times in county Louth following an accident involving a child at Gael Scoil An Bhradáin Feasa, in Drogheda on Tuesday.

Teachta Adams said:

“Following an accidental fall in the school a pupil was knocked unconscious. It took 57 minutes for an ambulance to respond.

I know from incidents last year when one citizen died waiting on an ambulance, and from talking to ambulance staff, that there is a real issue around ambulance resources and staff availability.

At that time I raised my concerns in the Dáil with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny about ambulance response times in Louth and the risk that unnecessary delays create for patient safety.

More recently my colleague Cllr Tomás Sharkey highlighted a shortage of ambulance personnel which saw up to 24 unfilled ambulance shifts in one weekend in August.

Emergency front line ambulance staff carry out vital work under difficult conditions with insufficient numbers of ambulances and vehicles that are often passed their shelf life.

Several weeks ago I raised the case with An Taoiseach of an ambulance whose two back wheels fell off while bringing a chronically ill patient to hospital.

Only the skill of the driver in that instance prevented the incident from becoming a much more serious accident with lives lost.

On Tuesday an ambulance was called at 12.22pm. At 12.53pm the school again contacted the ambulance service to see where the vehicle was and staff informed them that there had been a ‘service outage’. However it was a full 57 minutes later, at 1.19pm, when the ambulance finally arrived.

This is a totally unacceptable wait time.

I have written to the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar seeking an explanation for Tuesdays delay. I have also asked for an explanation of ‘service outage’ and how frequently this occurs. Specifically I want to know what occurred on Tuesday that left an injured pupil in a school waiting a full hour before an ambulance arrived.

I have also submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions seeking more detailed information on the number of staff and ambulances covering the north east region.

Thankfully on this occasion the child suffered no long lasting ill effects and was discharged from hospital later on Tuesday evening. However neither the Minister nor the HSE can be complacent on this issue”.

Adams urges Taoiseach to intervene on Travellers issue

DSC_3254_6510Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today urged the Taoiseach to directly intervene in the Traveller issue and to “establish as a matter of urgency a state-wide forum involving Travellers, political parties, Government, local authorities, health and education sectors and media organisations to make recommendations on how this major issue of inequality facing our society can be addressed.”

The Sinn Féin leader attended the funerals in Bray of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, of their children Kelsy, Jodie, and their unborn baby, and Jimmy Lynch; all victims of the fire that killed ten citizens at a Travellers halting site at in Carrickmines.

Speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil the Sinn Féin leader said:

“Widespread expressions of sympathy following this tragedy, provided hope that the treatment of Travellers, not just in terms of housing, could begin to be addressed in a serious way.

Unfortunately that hope has been dented by the familiar, negative attitudes as attempts are made to re-house the families of the Carrickmines victims.

This underlines the need for a fundamental review of the treatment of Travellers in Irish society. This must be Government led.

In the last seven years funding for Traveller accommodation has been cut by 93%. 1,536 families are in overcrowded or unsafe conditions. Many Travellers have no access to basic facilities such as sanitation, water and electricity. Travellers fare badly in all key indicators of disadvantage including employment, poverty, health, infant mortality, life expectancy and education.

At the root of all these problems are the levels of prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion experienced by these citizens.

Public representatives of political parties in this chamber actively campaign against the housing of Traveller families in their constituencies.

I have raised this particular issue with the Taoiseach on previous occasions where representatives of Fine Gael were involved.

I would urge the government to establish a state-level forum as a matter of urgency involving Travellers, political parties, Government, local authorities, health and education sectors and media organisations to make recommendations on how this major issue of inequality facing our society can be addressed.”

Concluding his remarks the Louth TD expressed his concern that the families bereaved as a consequence of the Carrickmines fire will still at the end of this week and after the funeral have occurred will still be homeless.

Teachta Adams said:

“These people are treated in a shameful way; babies on the side of the road; no toilet facilities; no water; no beds; no prospects, no hope.

That’s how they are treated and while it’s good that the flag is flying at half-mast today this week the Connors family will bury their loved ones, Thomas and Sylvia and their children Jim, Christy and Mary, at the end of this week.  They still have nowhere to live. The masses will be on Thursday; the burials on Friday but these families will still be homeless.

Our society cannot be defined by the treatment of these citizens.

The talks with residents at Rockville Drive continue without resolution ten days after the fire. It is time for a government intervention.

These families will only start to pick up the pieces when the funerals are finished and they have still nowhere to go to heal themselves to mourn their loved ones and to rebuild their lives.

The April 2014 report on Traveller Ethnicity by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality made several recommendations, which have still not been acted upon 18 months later. So I urge the Taoiseach to intervene on this issue.

Some good can come out of these ten dreadful deaths but only if the government acts.”