On the Bridge Of Peace

Earlier this evening I attended a vigil on the Bridge of Peace in Drogheda aimed at highlighting the plight of Brendan Lillis currently detained in Maghaberry Prison despite being seriously ill. In recent days, largely as a result of the persistence of his indefatigable partner Roisin, the case of Brendan Lillis has at last managed to break into the mainstream media. There are signs of awareness in media circles that republican prisoners hold a combination lock which, if the right numbers click, can unleash an emotive reservoir within nationalist communities across the North. As a British official wistfully commented during the 1981 hunger strikes, many nationalists were being pulled by their umbilical cords to the cause of the prisoners.

This evening’s vigil was organised by the Duleek Independent Republican group which has done some great work both on behalf of republican prisoners and in the field of commemorative culture. About 25 people turned up including activists from the Republican Network for Unity and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. All were welcome.

Not so welcome were those members of Garda Special Branch who monitored the vigil from start to finish, took names and addresses, and generally engaged in low level political harassment. While they were polite and non abusive, it did little to help me forget having to go through the same hassle while trying to enter the AP/RN office in Dublin in the 1990s when Sinn Fein was still considered a radical party.

On my way back from the vigil I made a point of looking at a couple of churches where the Garda would have every reason for suspecting that some real culprits hang out. Not a sign of a guard about the place, no flashing blue lights or plain clothes cops walking up and down with notebooks taking details. In spite of the threat posed by priests, in Drogheda all Garda attention was focussed on a peaceful protest.

Despite having no wish to be known to the Garda, the manner of expression they use when speaking to the press about people they are less than endeared to, I was not going to be deterred by their invasiveness from expressing solidarity with Brendan Lillis who was both a jail comrade and friend of mine. He was one of the Blanket protesters and the thought has crossed my mind if that goes some way toward explaining the vindictive behaviour being meted out to him.

On the bridge where we stood with the wind sweeping off the Boyne and onto our backs I met an old comrade from the cages of Long Kesh who I hadn’t seen in over thirty years. We had been talking to each other for about five minutes before the penny dropped. Always reassuring to know that old comrades from the past will be drawn together to help one of their number in a crisis.

One of the objectives of the vigil organisers was to hand out 1000 leaflets to passing motorists. It was obvious from the posters on display what the vigil was about and that the leaflets were dispensed with so quickly was an indication of a fair measure of public sympathy. I was surprised at the amount of motorists who tooted their horns as they passed.

It struck me that he Bridge of Peace was a highly symbolic site for us to be drawing attention to the institutionalised violence of the British state against republican prisoners in its custody. Over the years the same state has sought to, unsuccessfully, violently suppress peaceful protest.

As luck would have it, although I went with a camera, the memory card somehow got corrupted and my still shot recordings of the evening were lost forever. Not that the story of photography will be affected by that one way or the other. A camera would not be something that I have ever mastered with any degree of dexterity.

Whatever our views today on the nature of political conflict and the use of political violence it ill becomes any of us who experienced the brutality of the British prison regime to ignore the plight of those still in its clutches. If Brendan Lillis is to make it through his ordeal it will not be down to goodwill on the part of the British but rather the firm will of those people determined to put it up to the British in defence of prisoners’ rights.


  1. AM,
    I saw in previous article about changing names for posting. I went under papa waka, and just changed to real name.
    On your point of no garda presence outside the churches, Marion Price is sitting in jail charged with encouraging support for a proscribed organisation. Why aren't gardai outside the churches on sunday mornings arresting anyone putting money in church baskets and charging them with encouraging support for a paedophile organisation! Can anyone answer that?
    My thoughts are with BL,family and friends and best wishes to those who start hunger strike on thursday in support of BL

  2. Some guy got 12 years for welfare fraud. Another got jail for no dog lisence. But the Bishops are untouched, unlike the kiddies.

  3. Brendan Lillis Press Release


    It shows the limitations of their strategy. McGuinness is the deputy; a reaffirmation of second class citizenship. It was a good point Simon made.


    Use Papa waka if you like. You are not trying to sock puppet with it as you state Bkeane is Papa waka. Outside the churches is where the cops should be if they are serious rather than harassing. Hope all goes well for both BL and Marian.

  4. Contacted Conor Murphy regards the BL situation. Will be interesting to see if there's even a shred of interest.
    Haven't contacted any SF'er in way over 15yrs. Hopefully they are becoming aware of peoples curiosity at their approach/lack of, to this matter.

  5. Larry,

    you did right to contact CM. I hope you get a response. Jennifer McCann turned up at the vigil camp in West Belfast. I was glad to see that but as Nuala said there are more senior people who should be doing the heavy lifting.

  6. Press Release

    The friends of Brendan Lillis currently on hunger strike at the old Andersonstown barracks site will be holding a rally for Brendan Lillis on Saturday 23rd July at 7.00pm.

    The rally will hear the partner of Brendan Lillis give an account of Brendan's deteriorating situation; and afterwards lanterns representing the other men who died in British prisons, the hunger strikers, will be released.


    Gerard Hodgins 07549663246
    Roisin Lynch 07543800824

  7. Mackers, in between checking tax returns and expences accounts CM will have an email regarding BL. Hopefully there'll be enough Republican sentiment left in him to take notice, even for a minute. Party leader permitting of course.

  8. Larry,

    CM will hardly get sent to the beach for sending an e mail would he? The vigil in Belfast seems to be going well.

  9. Brendan Lillis update

    Roisin lynch, partner of Brendan Lillis has just been informed by Sinn Fein that David ford will not be releasing Brendan on compassionate grounds.

    Commenting on this Roisin said:
    "David ford has said Brendan is a threat to the public. Brendan is sick and dying and a threat to nobody.
    Brendan Lillis has no political or paramilitary affiliations, he is a gravely ill man and his treatment is a travesty of justice.

    "i would appeal for Brendan's old friends to support me in my efforts to have Brendan released" ends.

    Roisin Lynch


    Gerard Hodgkins


  10. Was at a white line picket for BL tonight,the turnout was reminiscent of the 80,s,someone sould be getting the message to Ford that this is a humanatarian issue which the nationalist people are uniting on,and the anger against the ex scoial worker Ford is Tangible,

  11. Statement from Roisin Lynch (partner of Brendan Lillis)

    I began this token hunger strike on 21 July 2011 to highlight the injustice that is being perpetuated against my partner, Brendan Lillis, who is being held in Maghaberry Prison without charge.

    It is now widely known that Brendan is suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a debilitating disease of the spine, which has seen Brendan confined to his prison sick bed for the last six hundred days.

    Despite my personal desire to keep this hunger strike going indefinitely, I have been persuaded that I should be flexible, and thus I will be suspending this hunger strike at 10.00am on Monday 25 July. I have taken this decision to allow the authorities space to take the right and just decision.

    In the coming days I will be seeking meetings with various political leaders, including: Owen Patterson, Martin McGuinness, Margaret Ritchie, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and others.

    I have always said that this is not a party political issue. This is because my Brendan is not, and has not been, affiliated to any political party or organisation for almost twenty years. He represents absolutely no threat to the peace process.

    On behalf of Brendan and myself, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those Blanketmen and friends who went on hunger strike with me, and who camped out with us over the five days of the fast. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation of everyone who visited the camp, and who lent their support in any way.

    I appeal to those with political power and influence to end this trauma and show some compassion for Brendan and I.

    Roisin Lynch 07543800824


    RNU activists in Ireland, Scotland and America, have over the last few days been very proud to participate in the campaign and 4 day fast to call for the immediate release of Brendan Lillis.

    ‘Fasting for 3 days is no easy task’, says Ciaran Cunningham, RNU/ Cogús
    spokesperson, ‘but at least we are able to go home to our families and loved ones at the end of it. Roisín Lynch, Brendan’s partner, does not have that option thanks to David Ford and the Stormont’s Department of Injustice.

    'There is no logic or compassion here and how anyone can perceive Brendan
    Lillis as a threat is beyond comprehension’.

    RNU believe that Brendan Lillis should be at home, not just on
    compassionate grounds, but also because there are no legal reasons for him to be in Maghaberry, considering that there are no charges against him, yet has his licence revoked. Brendan Lillis is a man who has been confined to his bed for over 600 days, can barely talk, cannot walk and is so weak that
    tragically has been given days to live. This can only be described as

    Ciaran continued; ‘the system of a person being ‘released on licence’
    should be abolished as it’s essentially a threat on people’s heads and a person can have their licence revoked at the whim of the British Secretary of State’.

    The Republican Network for Unity wish to express our solidarity with Roisín
    and Brendan and commend their bravery. We urge everyone, Republican or otherwise to campaign for the immediate release of Brendan.

  13. Marty,

    ‘Was at a white line picket for BL tonight, the turnout was reminiscent of the 80s’

    good to see it taking off. I was pleased at how the Drogheda one went as well. We were unable to make Belfast due to being in Cork from shortly after the Belfast event started.