Remembering Martina Donnelly

Guest writer Alice Fleming shares her memory of Martina Donnelly who died towards the end of last year. 

I met Mickey at the March of Bloody Sunday and although it was obvious he was wracked with grief he still demonstrated that strong fighting spirit. I know Martina was looking down on him. I will just include the small tribute I wrote on the day of Martina's death.

Very sad news this morning about the death of Martina Donnelly wife of Michael Donnelly. - Like Mickey, Martina was a lifelong Republican, having being an active member of Cumann na mBan in the early seventies in Derry.

After Mickey was interned on the 9th August 1971, Martina coupled being a mother, and the wife of an Internee with running steady to the Kesh for over 5 years and raising her two beautiful sons. I remember a good friend of mine always commented on how well Martina kept her two boys and herself during all this time.

From I first met Martina, my personal experience of her, is of a dedicated mother, and loyal wife, who stood by her husband through all the years of Internment and was loyal to the cause for Irish freedom.
After Mickey's eventual release from Internment they went on to have 3 more beautiful girls and still managed to uphold their deep-rooted Republican beliefs. They managed to get all 5 children through third level education with one of them obtaining a PhD.

A truly nice family, who stood together through and thin. Mickey was one of the 'Hooded Men' and I thought that was an awful thing to have to endure, but little did I realize he, Martina RIP and his family would suffer at the hands of the local Community Restorative Justice after a slight altercation with one of the McCartney boys on a Friday night. I spoke to Mickey and Martina at their home that night and I told them, McCartney would want revenge.

On the Sunday night 6 masked armed thugs entered Mickey's home, fully armed and confronted him and his family. And if it wasn't for the brave efforts of his son, who was in the house at the time, more harm could have been done to them. Indeed the harm and trauma, they caused to Michael, Martina and those 3 beautiful wee girls was beyond belief. I arrived at the house about 20 minutes after the attack and Martina and the children were so badly traumatised. It is so hard to put into words how I felt. Anger, contempt, hatred, don't even go near what I felt when I saw Martina and Mickey, who was lying with the bone coming right out through his skin.

The children were in hysterics and Martina, who was used to dealing with bad situations was doing her best to keep them calm. I will never get that scene out of my mind until the day I die. Martina and Mickey took it in their stride and got on with the job of raising their young children. But approximately five and a half years ago Martina was diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer for which consultants gave her 14 months to live. But Martina, with her determined spirit, proved them wrong. Her love for her family was so strong that she battled it daily, just as she had battled, in earlier scenarios in her life. But alas at approximately 6am (30th Oct 2013) Martina passed away.

The grief in that house was palpable and I came away thinking of how strong Mickey had fought for Martina, but sadly God wanted her more. I know she will now become a beacon of light for her five lovely children and five grandchildren. She will be the brightest star in the sky. Martina is getting buried after Requiem Mass at 10.00am of Friday at St Patrick's Church Pennyburn.

I am posting because my phone has been ringing all day about the arrangements. The last time I saw Martina and had a good chat to her was on the Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March, 2012 when she gave it her best shot and walked most of the route.

Martina I prayed to St Martha, every day from I heard of your illness, and I spoke to her when I came home after leaving your house tonight and I have no doubt in my mind that she has negotiated a special place for a special person. Rest in peace Martina, and enjoy the 'Crown' you truly won.


  1. A heartfelt piece Alice which combines fond memories of a strong Republican woman, much like yourself, with the bitter recollection of a fascist attack by a gang of Provo thugs which contained at least one child abuser who unfortunately was a former Blanket man.

    They learned a lot from the Brits...

  2. A very moving tribute to a wonderful person from a wonderful person.

  3. It is a beautiful tribute. It is so inspiring to see people remembering with such affection.

  4. Nice piece, thanks for sharing. I had the pleasure of visiting the Donnelly home myself around 1996, Mickey and Martina were giving myself, a very young Alan Ryan and his brothers a tour of Derry. Very calm, measured and well mannered people as i remember. Martina and Mickey clearly placed importance upon personal dignity as is evident in the pleasant and quiet mannerisms of their children.
    It is still infuriating to imagine the how the atmosphere of the Donnelly home was violated and invaded in such an appalling way. Mickey was clearly running the gauntlet of Provisional aggression in Derry at the time,when about to show us around the Free Derry wall area Mickey was threatened verbally by a high profile Sinn Fein member before he was even out of the car. To our amazement he dealt with the situation by calmly retrieving a lump hammer from the car boot, putting it in his back pocket and carrying on with the tour as planned. Im very sorry to hear of their loss, and i wish all the Donnelly clan the best for the future.

  5. Why was MICHAEL DONNELLY AND HIS FAMILY brutally attacked what cowardly reason nonetheless was it ?? there is nothing on the web
    Paddy O'Hara