- Sure, that's all you are, Martin – a traitor and a collaborator. On Wednesday you'll be sitting with the British government in their assembly. In fact, you'll be part of the British government there - Martina Donnelly to Martin McGuinness, June 1998.
When I learned in October that Martina Donnelly had died I cast my mind back to the time I stayed with her and her husband Mickey in their Derry home. Mickey, a former republican prisoner and one of the hooded men tortured by the British in 1971, had with his son Deaglán made the journey from Derry to Belfast in October 2000 to offer solidarity to myself and my pregnant partner. This came immediately after a ‘visit’ to our home by two senior Provo militia men seeking to silence us in the wake of a killing their organisation had carried out but lacked the mettle to stand over.
The Derry men, concerned for our safety, invited us to their family home. Not long after we took them up on the offer and headed to Derry where the hospitality of their hearth and home was made available to us. Martina was a splendid host. We welcomed the break and for a short time relished relaxing outside the pressure chamber of Provo dominated West Belfast.
13 years later, Martina succumbed to the cancer she lived with for five years, leaving behind her grieving husband Mickey and five children, Ruairi, Deaglán, Una, Niamh and Caoimhe. A Derry woman who knew her simply summed her up as ‘well known and loved in the community and for me what always stood out was how proud she was of her children.’
With those same children she was, in June 1998, to endure the horrors of a visit by goondas who on the day were more dangerous than the ones who came to our home. In our case they at least waited until they were motioned in (invited would not be an inappropriate term) before entering.
Her husband Mickey was an uncompromising republican and whatever we might think of his views, he certainly delivered them with passion and frankness. When Mickey smelled a rat he didn’t hang around on the off chance that somebody else might raise the alarm. He did it himself. And for that, this man, who endured the tortures of the British state almost three decades earlier, found himself in the position of having to face them all over again, this time from people who wanted to be part of the same British state Mickey spent a life time opposing.
In order to silence his republican criticisms shortly after the Good Friday Treaty, a Sinn Fein gang broke his leg, having forcibly entered to his home in order to beat him. The attack was vividly described by his son Deaglán:
My parents and sisters returned from a trip to buy milk ... Exactly ten minutes later four masked men wearing combat clothing burst into the room and one shouted ‘IRA Provisionals'. One sprayed ‘mace' tear gas into my mother's eyes and into my little sisters' faces and started to beat my father.
They had baseball bats studded with nails and iron crowbars. Niamh climbed on top of the armchair and jumped on one of the thugs to protect her Daddy, but he threw her to the ground and clubbed her on the leg with a nail-studded baseball bat.
Úna then jumped across her father to protect him and her back was badly beaten. Caoimhe was still sitting on his knee and she was also beaten by the Provisional thugs.
We fought them out to the kitchen where they beat my father to the ground. One was shouting "you cost us a seat you bastard." I was still fighting the fourth one, but he pulled another revolver and shouted ‘stop or you're shot'.
They went back into the kitchen and all five cease-fire soldiers went about beating one unrepentant Republican, as he lay on the ground, for refusing to surrender his ideals. Although my father was now lying on the floor with a broken leg he wrenched a crowbar from one of them and kneecapped him with it. My mother tried to intervene, but one of them stuck his arm in her face and said ‘IRA Provisionals, fuck off'. Tina got to the phone and raised the alarm, the Broy Harriers left.
Although five members of the Provisionals' party militia walked into our house two of them had to be carried out. Some of them fell on the driveway and one injured himself badly on some building blocks by falling on them. The blocks were covered in blood.
No chance of any PSNI members supposedly investigating the past without fear or favour being too eager to test that blood for DNA. Seemingly it is a cigarette end they are interested in and only then if the presumed smoker has not smoked Sinn Fein out from under its republican veneer behind which it has sought to hide its partitionist politics.
The account by Deaglán shows the manner in which not only his father was treated but also his mother, Martina.
Not willing to be cowered into submission Martina Donnelly, on the night following the attack, confronted the city’s leading Provo, Martin McGuinness. Martina explained how McGuinness responded in an 'absolutely threatening manner' pointing his finger into her face and accusing her husband of ‘calling me a traitor all around this town for the past twelve months.’
This was the spirited woman who made us welcome in her home, showing her solidarity with us and fearful that we might face the horror inflicted on her family. A woman who was rarely in the public eye but whose humanity had a profound public effect.