Republicans should oppose Queen's visit to jail, says ex-IRA commander

The Guardian Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald writing prior to the Queen's visit to Crumlin Road Prison today. It featured in the Guardian on 20 June 2014.

Danny McBrearty, former comrade of deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, criticises royal tour of Crumlin Road prison

Belfast's Crumlin Road prison is on the Queen's itinerary for her visit and is now a museum. Photograph: Corbis
A former IRA commander of Derry city and former close associate of Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness says authentic Irish republicans should be protesting against rather than taking part in the Queen's visit to the famous Crumlin Road jail in Belfast next week.

Danny McBrearty, a former commanding officer of the IRA's Derry Brigade and former comrade of McGuinness, spent 1973-74 and 1978-79 on remand in the jail in the north inner city. He said:
Nothing surprises me any more about Martin McGuinness, so if he does give the Queen of England a guided a tour around the jail where republicans fought and died for their principles, I would not be shocked ... Authentic republicans should take no part in or welcome this visit to the Crumlin Road jail. Instead they should be outside protesting against the presence of a British Queen in a prison where their comrades suffered so much. As for McGuinness - he is only shaking hands and guiding around his true boss.

In an unprecedented move, the Northern Ireland Office has released the Queen's itinerary for her 21st state visit to the region, which includes a sightseeing tour around the prison which was synonymous with the Troubles and housed some of modern Ireland's famous political prisoners. Royal visits to Northern Ireland used to be shrouded in almost complete secrecy with the locations of their tours only released on the day.

During her three-stop tour, the Queen is scheduled to meet McGuinness, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister and former IRA chief of staff. There is speculation she might be guided around the old jail which now doubles as a museum and new whiskey distillery by McGuinness and Democratic Unionist first minister, Peter Robinson.

The Queen will also visit the giant Paint Hall that faces the spot from which the Titanic was launched into Belfast Lough before its ill-fated first and only voyage. Inside she will see the set of the hit fantasy series Game of Thrones. The Paint Hall has been transformed into the interior set for HBO's long-running TV dramatisation of George RR Martin's book series, A Song of Ice and Fire.

Crumlin Road jail was alongside the Maze H-Blocks, one of the focus points of prison struggles during the Troubles. Republican prisoners staged a series of daring breakouts from the Victorian prison during the early 1970s and again in 1981.

On the prison landings republican and loyalist enemies, living cheek by jowl, fought running battles between themselves and prison staff over four decades.

Two loyalist prisoners were killed by an IRA bomb planted in the prison canteen in 1991. Loyalist paramilitary groups retaliated weeks after with a rocket-propelled grenade attack on cells housing IRA inmates, although no one was killed in that blast.


  1. What initially was passed off as a one-off and not in an official capacity has become just the opposite. But not as if any of us are surprised

  2. (Tried to post this on Ed's competion... but can't!!!)

    Peter Robinson: " Your majesty, I want a Knighthood too."

  3. I think that Liz is asking Pete is he sure she won’t catch Fenian in here?
    Meanwhile, Philip is perplexed gawking into an empty cell confused and disappointed as there is no animals in these cages what sort of strange zoo is this.
    Villiers or whatever her name is looks like she is desperate trying to get Marty to notice her.

  4. The photo on Ed’s blog says it all; this is what the armed struggle was all about Sweet F A. It is a pity that the monarchy and their various homes are not turned into museums as that is where all so called royal families belong.

  5. All in the end-game. History shows republicans end up way short of the stated target every time. Ground hog day. A future referendum will perhaps produce a 32 county corrupt state within the EEC. SF voters are not republicans. The are anti-violence voters.

    I think SF founder Arthur Griffith was both an advocate of the Empire and Monarchy. So Marty and Gerry may not be deviants at all.