Just before Christmas we received the sad news of the sudden death of former IRA Volunteer Sean McKenna at his home in Dundalk. Sean never fully recovered from his ordeal on the first H-Block hunger strike in 1980 which lasted for fifty three days. Sean was buried on Monday, 22nd December, in Calvary cemetery, Ravensdale, County Louth, after Requiem Mass in nearby St Mary’s Church.
Republicans from across Ireland, including many former prisoners and surviving hunger strikers, attended the funeral.
Sean had been illegally arrested, along with his father, and hundreds of others, by the British army on 9th August, 1971. His father was one of the ‘hooded men’ and died whilst in his early forties as a result of being tortured. Father and son were both interned in Long Kesh. After his release Sean returned to active service but lived in County Louth at Edentubber. On 12th March 1976 members of an SAS undercover team crossed the border and abducted Sean, again illegally, without any protest from the Dublin government at the breach of its sovereignty. Sean was sentenced in a Diplock Court and was on the blanket for several years prior to the hunger strike.
The Bobby Sands Trust was represented at his funeral by Gerry Adams, Jim Gibney and Danny Morrison.
Grammy Award-winning singer Dido has been criticized by the DUP for using words from the republican anti-internment song, ‘The Men Behind The Wire’, on her latest album, ‘Safe Trip Home’. The song, “Let’s Do The Things We Normally Do” is a tribute to her late father who would sing rebel songs when she was a child.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who is also the Assembly minister for the arts, has complained about her sampling words written by Paddy McGuigan of The Barleycorn in the song, ‘The Men Behind The Wire’ which became a Number One hit in Ireland. Dido sings:
“Armoured cars and tanks and guns came to take away our sons
And everybody stood behind
The men behind the wire.”
In his silly attack Gregory Campbell said: “She must know it was written about people who were murderers, arsonists and terrorists.” In fact, the terrorists who murdered that week that internment was introduced were the British army and the RUC who killed many civilians as they sealed off nationalist areas, raided homes, beat people in front of their families and made arrests of not just republicans but civil rights and student activists. All of the internees were innocent: none of them were charged or appeared before any court. Indeed, all those arrested were arrested illegally as the British army didn’t have the powers of arrest and won compensation claims in the courts.
The European Commission on Human Rights condemned Britain for torturing a number of those picked up in the initial internment raids who became known as “the hooded men”. Although internment ‘officially’ ended in December 1975 sentenced prisoners with political status remained in the cages of Long Kesh whilst on another site within the prison construction began on the infamous H-Blocks, where the blanket protest and hunger strikes were to take place.
Dido was born in London on Christmas Day 1971, a few months after the introduction of internment without trial in the North. Her mother, Clare (née Collins) is a French poet and her father, William O’Malley Armstrong, who died in 2006 was an Irish publisher.
Gregory Campbell demanded that Dido, “clarify her position so that her fans and the wider public knows where she stands on these things.”
But that was made clear in her song: behind the men put behind the wire by Britain supported by sectarian ignoramuses.
Listen to the original version of the song, “The Men Behind The Wire”, here in its totality.