Remembering Volunteer John Starrs, 1st Battalion, Derry Brigade, Irish Republican Army, who was killed by British soldiers during operation in Chamberlain Street on May 13th 1972.

John Starrs was born in Hamilton Street in the Brandywell where he lived with his parents and brothers.

At the time, the 19 year-old was not living in Derry and was a member of the Irish army. In fact the Brandywell man was a trained marksman.
When he heard about what happened in Derry on Bloody Sunday, John decided to return to Derry and join the Republican Movement and became a member of ‘B’ company of the 1st Battalion of the IRA’s Derry brigade.
His military training was quickly utilised by the IRA in Derry and he was soon on ‘active service’ on the streets of the city.
When he was killed, John was part of a four-man unit operating on the edge of the Bogside looking for British soldiers.
The group were ‘floating’ – an IRA term for volunteers travelling around looking for targets – and were armed with two .303 bolt action rifles, a Garrand rifle, and a sterling sub-machine gun.
They decided to spilt up and John and another volunteer, Gerry Doherty, went to Chamberlain Street. The pair were preparing their weapons close to the junction of Chamberlain Street and William Street when British soldiers, who were hiding on the top floor of a nearby building, opened fire on them.
John was hit in the chest while Gerry was shot in the arm. Despite the hail of bullets, passers-by intervened and dragged Gerry to safety but John was already dead. The civilians who came to their aid also managed to recover their weapons and get them out of the area.
Rioting broke out in the area shortly after the shooting and the building from which the soldiers opened fire from set on fire by the crowd.
The Derry Command of the Provisional IRA released a statement after the shooting describing the 19 year -old as “a very fine volunteer”.
“We hope that his death will inspire the people of Free Derry to continue the fight for Irish freedom and help to realise the dreams of the dead youth,” the IRA said.
The statement also quoted the words of Patrick Pearse; “They shall be spoken of among our people and generations shall remember them and call them blessed.”

With many thanks to: Clan na Gael.

Never forget the “Evil and Hatred of the ‘Black and Tans’ to anything that was Irish !!!

“When the Black and Tans behaved in such an excited and unsoldierly way by endangering my daughter’s life when she was playing in St Stephen’s Green, I resolved to give all the help in my power to the resistance movement headed by Michael Collins. … I also gave Batt O’Connor a latch key of my house, 15 Ely Place, and prepared that apparently impassable cul de sac so that Collins, if hard pressed, could use my garden and appear in St Stephen’s Green.”

– The War of Independence, 1919-1921: Oliver St John Gogarty, Dublin.
With many thanks to: Life And Times of The “big Fella”.

Submission to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižniks, concerning the shooting dead of sisters Dorothy Maguire & Maura Meehan by British Soldiers, October 23rd 1971, West Belfast.

A follow-up to a previous story concerning the murder of Maura Meehan and her sister who were murdered by the British Army: 

With many thanks to: Geard Meehan, Meehan and Maguire family’s,

Under an oppressive regime, rebellion is a God given right, under British law its pan absolute duty

​Under an oppressive regime, rebellion is a God given right, under British law its an absolute  

Photo credits to: Marcas Mac Giolla Aindreis.
Photo credit: Marcas Mac Giolla Aindreis

With many thanks to: Marcas Mac Giolla Aindreis – Chaírde ar an Arm Náisiúnta Fuascailte Na hÉireann. 

Remembering John Joe Carroll.

Kevin Barry’s comrade, John Joe Carroll, who had been on the Monks Bakery raid, is recorded as having said about the IRA and any rescue attempt to free Kevin from prison:
“Unfortunately no serious attempt was ever made. True, the Big Shots made a bit of a demonstration – they had men from the Dublin Brigade waiting around the vicinity of the prison on several occasions but no-one received any instructions and the whole business fizzled out…

The rank and file were ready and prepared to play their part in any attempt but the ‘Brass Hats’ were only play-acting and had no intention of risking their skins in any serious attempt at rescue.

Writing forty years later, Carroll bitterly concludes: ‘The political boys behind the scenes had the last word. Kevin Barry was more valuable dead than alive.”

With many thanks to: Belvedere Boy – Kevin Barry, Irish Patriot. 

‘The Che Guevara of the IRA’

 The Legend of ‘Big Joe’ McCann 
2 November 1947 – 15 April 1972
If, before the death of Bobby Sands in 1981, there was a name most likely to survive in the popular memory of ‘the Troubles’—to join the ranks of Kevin Barry and Seán South—it was ‘Big Joe’ McCann. There were a number of reasons. First, the local legend that flourished after he was gunned down on the streets of Belfast grew out of the reputation he achieved in life. McCann, who joined the Republican movement as a teenager in 1963, was known both for his physical bravado and for his quick intelligence. Stories circulated of his exploits during the set-piece Official IRA gun-battles during the Falls Road curfew in July 1970 and at Inglis’s bakery in the Markets district of south Belfast in August the following year. Staff captain of the 2nd Battalion of the Belfast Brigade and ‘on the run’, the 24-year-old McCann was reputedly the most wanted man in the North when he was killed by British Paratroopers on 15 April 1972. The tributes paid to him by his comrades at the time—‘a born leader’ according to The United Irishman—were to be expected. More revealing are the recollections, decades later, of two Dublin journalists of the deep impression that ‘Big Joe’ made upon each of them. Kevin Myers writes of his good looks, charisma, innate wisdom, gravitas and ‘curiously ironic and knowing sense of humour’. Pádraig Yeates remembers ‘an incredible character, the only genuine hero I ever met out of the Northern troubles’.
Then there is the manner of his killing. As he ran away from a foot patrol after being fingered by a Special Branch officer, pursuing Paratroopers opened fire. Initial reports claimed that McCann was shot repeatedly while lying wounded on the pavement. The shooting was followed by three days and nights of widespread rioting in which three British soldiers were killed—one in Belfast, two in Derry. Armed and uniformed Official IRA men patrolled the Turf Lodge housing estate. From prison the UVF leader, Gusty Spence, wrote a letter of condolence to McCann’s widow: ‘He was a soldier of the Republic and I a Volunteer of Ulster and we made no apology for what we are . . . Joe once did a good turn indirectly and I never forgot him for his humanity’.
The full-scale military-style funeral was the largest seen in Belfast to that date. Led by a lone piper and McCann’s Irish wolfhound, over 200 women carried wreaths and over 2,000 men marched behind. Up to 20,000 people lined the route. Well-known politicians such as Paddy Devlin, Paddy O’Hanlon and Bernadette Devlin attended. Official IRA chief-of-staff Cathal Goulding delivered the graveside oration. The British prime minister, Edward Heath, wanted to know why arrests had not been made, while the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, conceded that killing McCann had made ‘a martyr of him’. Time magazine thought so too, and speculated that the shooting and the consequent street violence had scuppered all hope of Catholics accommodating themselves to the new direct rule, Stormont-less, regime.
But there had been (and would be) numerous republicans shot by the security forces in controversial circumstances. Plenty of others have, like McCann, been commemorated in ballads. And since the 1790s large, stage-managed funerals-as-political-demonstrations have been a staple of republican mobilisation. The crucial reason for McCann’s posthumous local fame is a photograph (in fact two photographs shot in rapid succession by Ciaran Donnelly). In the early hours of 9 August 1971, British troops swept through nationalist areas of the North rounding up republican suspects for internment without trial, and touching off some of the worst violence of the Troubles. On 10 August a group of six Official IRA volunteers, led by McCann, took over Inglis’s Eliza Street bakery in the Official stronghold of the Markets, and in a fierce firefight pinned down a large contingent of British soldiers. During the exchange a photographer captured the profile of McCann in silhouette, hunkered down, an M1 carbine resting on his knee, a Starry Plough flag fluttering above him and a truck-barricade blazing before him.
It is an image so dramatic and so visually striking that it seems almost composed. The print media snapped it up. It first appeared in the Daily Mirror and later received much wider, transatlantic, circulation in a photo-spread in Life Magazine (it did not, however, as has been claimed, feature on the cover). Life’s commentary certainly burnished the legend:
‘At right, crouched beneath the Irish Republican tricolor, a professional IRA terrorist who goes by the name of Joe awaits a counterattack by British infantry during the battle of Eliza Street. “Joe was a tall, thin man who moved only in leaps and crouches”, reports Life correspondent Jordan Bonfante, who with photographer Terence Spencer covered the fighting last week. “He was an absolute hero to his men, mostly neighborhood irregulars, and as he directed them with grunts and waves of the American semi-automatic carbine he carried in one hand he looked as though all Ireland were at stake on Eliza Street.” For twelve hours before being surrounded and broken up, Joe and his men had effective control of the whole downtown market area in east Belfast.’
The September issue of The United Irishman displayed the picture on its front page, headlined ‘Army of the People’. The Provisionals’ An Phoblacht also ran it. Weeks after his death The United Irishman referred to ‘the now world-famous picture of Joe McCann’, which ‘far more than words epitomised the courage of the man’. A poster based on the picture proclaimed ‘Joe McCann, Soldier of the People’.

With many thanks to: James Connolly.