The funeral of Billy McKee, one of the founding members of the Provisional IRA, has taken place in Belfast.
Thousands lined the streets of west Belfast as republicans from across Ireland descended on the city for the service at St Peter’s Cathedral.
Draped in a flag Mr McKee’s coffin was carried from the church in a gun carriage, with men wearing the military-style black berets associated with the IRA part of the procession.
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The veteran republican who opposed the peace process died “unrepentant”, mourners were told.
A eulogy was read at a memorial garden on the Falls Road, a short distance from the church.
A mourner said: “Billy remained steadfast to the end and had no regrets, despite all the hardship that he endured for his republicanism.
“For him it was not for a new Ireland or an agreed Ireland, it was for a 32-county independent republic that was declared at the front of the General Post Office in 1916.”
He was a former “Officer Commanding” of the IRA and involved with D Company of the organisation, the spokesman added.
Mr McKee was also a devout Catholic who went to Mass every day, and whose deafness meant his prayers were audible to other worshippers.
The address said: “We will remember you with pride.
“You were one in a million and a true republican to the end – unbowed, unbroken, and most of all – unrepentant.”
Mr McKee passed away at his Belfast home on Tuesday at the age of 97.
The lifelong republican first joined the IRA in the 1930s and was imprisoned for IRA activity numerous times over the years.
When the Troubles broke out in the late 1960s he became the OC (Officer Commanding) of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade.
He was involved in a gun battle at St Matthew’s Church in the Short Strand during which two Protestants were killed alongside a Catholic civilian. Mr McKee was shot five times during the fighting but survived.
While imprisoned in Crumlin Road in the early 1970s, the veteran republican led a hunger strike in a bid to win political status for paramilitary prisoners.
Mr McKee was forced out of the IRA in 1977 and spent his remaining years as a fierce critic of Sinn Fein’s move towards peace.
His bural took place at Milltown Cemetery.
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story