In it he cited another piece by Seamus Mc Aloran who strenuously objected to the clerical insistence on the national flag being removed from the coffins of dead IRA volunteers:
This came to a head for me at the wake and funeral in October of Oglach Davy Saunders. Davy had the national flag on his coffin and was to have a Requiem Mass in St Patrick's but the family was told that the flag would not be allowed on the coffin for his Requiem. Davy had instructed his family that if the flag was to be removed then he didn't want to be brought into the church and as a result, prayers were said outside the house and he didn't get a Requiem Mass.
While I would want neither a flag nor a mass to accompany my funeral - not even sure I want people there either - others have a different preference which it should be their right to exercise, not that of somebody who practices priestcraft for a living.
I hadn't known Davy Saunders until I arrived in Cage 10 the day after I was sentenced to life 46 years ago this month. He was part of the meet and greet team. While he hardly enjoyed welcoming people to Long Kesh, he did his best to make life as palatable as possible for those who would spend a considerable portion of their lives behind the wire.
When I moved to Cage 11 five or six months later, I heard Davy being subject to snide remarks by some of the super Provos - so super in fact that we never heard of the loudest of them again after their release. They tagged him "more rope." It was a caustic but stupid reference to his arrest while on an IRA bombing mission. The British Army tied him with a rope while he defused a bomb he had been captured with. What Davy had done was ensure an IRA bomb did not detonate where it was not intended to. But doing the right thing as an IRA volunteer mattered little to the self righteous mindset. As Christopher Owens reminded readers this morning through a choice quote: “beware the self-righteous man, for he will destroy the world many times over before he sees his folly.” Their sneering failed to destroy Davy Saunders.
A veteran of the October 1974 fire when the IRA torched the camp, and which left him carrying the poisonous effects of CR gas the rest of his days, Davy was regarded as being of the old school within the cages which identified with the leadership responsible for negotiating the 1975 truce. That leadership had been excoriated by the advocates of a Long War strategy populating Cages 9 and 11.
In the first half of the 1970s the prisoners had the opportunity to vote for their own jail O/C. That was stopped in 1975 when allegations were made of electoral fraud against those long war advocates seeking to replace the incumbent O/C, Davy Morley. Whether the allegations amounted to anything serious I don't know. I doubt one camp was doing anything the other wasn't.
In September 1977 Davy was nominated by the Camp O/C, Jim Scullion, to replace him. Scullion was due for release the following summer and wanted to pass the baton on in timely fashion so that the new man at the helm could adjust. Normally the nomination from an outgoing O/C was all that was needed to secure the spot. Not on this occasion. Brendan Hughes and Harry Fitzsimons also threw their hats into the ring. That Brendan Hughes had by October triumphed was indicative of a changing of the guard on the outside, occasioned in large part by the release of Gerry Adams. The Dark later told me he knew from the minute he allowed his name to go forward that he would be appointed by the army council to assume command of the political status end of the jail. The dice were loaded, primed not to fall Davy's way
I found Davy the best of people. Typical New Lodge, down to earth with no need to walk on stilts to elevate himself above others. Courteous, not in your face, he chewed me out once for a stupid fight in the canteen that had followed on from a water throwing incident in the showers that morning. He simply said it was not how we settled matters in the republican cages. Firm, diplomatic rather than harsh, he told me to catch myself on and learn from it.
In Cage 10 he was part of a wider team of New Lodge men - Finlay McAuley, Matt Kelly, Blue Kelly and Tommy Fogarty amongst them. I thought at the time that Davy and Finlay were calling things wrong in their bailiwick but later came to realise that they had much wiser heads on their shoulders than I had.
When old volunteers go off to die, they leave behind a rich vein of memories in the minds of those they stood beside in challenging times. Davy Saunders invested a tranche of his life in something wider in the hope of securing something better for the community he was part of, something very different to the pestilence of Stormont and the perfidy of Whitehall.
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