Anthony McIntyre  ⚑ It is difficult enough to get through life with a serious disability without having what freedom remains even further restricted by imprisonment. 

Eddie McGarrigle

Big Eddie McGarrigle was shot when he was still in his teens and never again regained the power of his lower limbs. He carried on regardless with a determination and spirt often absent in more able bodied people. I was in awe of his spirit and palpable dearth of self-pity. Metaphorically, despite an inability to walk, Eddie was quicker to his feet than many others to engage in political activism.

A member of both the INLA and the IRSP, our paths crossed in Long Kesh although he was usually in a different wing, pushing himself about in his wheelchair. I actually got to know him much better after we had both left prison. Anytime I called up to Strabane to visit the ex-prisoners' office in the town I would chat to Eddie quite a bit.

If his spine was damaged his brain was most certainly not. Eddie was not a shallow person and thought deeply and at length about many issues, always willing to look at an issue from a position other than his own. Nor was he into impressing others with his knowledge, instead using it to probe further into a problem. He sought to invite ideas rather than impose them. 

When he first entered the jail he anticipated a hotbed of serious political discussion where strategy and tactics would be examined from every conceivable angle. He would later express disappointment as the sandcastle of political erudition crumbled before him, how little genuine political discussion - always to be measured by the tolerance shown towards dissenting thought - existed on the wings: lots of books that added to the aesthetic of the environment but might as well have been used for weight lifting. His view: the republican jail staff were not happy that a young uppity INLA prisoner might swim against the tide of stifling conformity.

This view was reinforced in later life when he witnessed all the jail literature figuratively make its way to the bin as many of the former prisoners who were ostensibly to the fore in promoting the value of revolutionary learning clambered to support the reformist internal solution which was the Good Friday Agreement. He saw in it an outcome that inverted the logic and ethos of the entire republican struggle.   

While an opponent of that Agreement, believing that it mocked everything republicanism had stood for, he also appreciated that armed struggle was not the way forward: "I would urge the dissidents to sit back and take a good hard look at where they are going." He dug dug deep and carried on with his activism.

Eddie for long had serious concerns about the fractious nature of the INLA, and along with others worked to reach a situation where killing the chief of staff was not thought a plausible solution. He also had deep misgivings about the gangsterism that had made its way into the wider republican socialist movement but felt that by 2008 the leadership had got a grip on it. His objection to the gangsterism was not some academic interest. He had experienced it firsthand.

At the time a lot of the leadership was in prison and self-serving people who could not find a place in other organisations connected themselves with the organisation and used it for their own ends.

The INLA issued an apology six months after the incident that left him paralysed from the waist down.

There were of course lighter moments. On the 40th anniversary of the formation of the IRSP I accompanied a friend to the commemoration in Bray and later that evening we attended a function in one of the hotels. Eddie took to the dance floor and dragged me up with him. Being wheelchair bound didn't inhibit his movement on the floor, much better than my own inebriated gyrating. There are photos somewhere of that escapade.

Eddie was a loyal friend and a good man to have at your back in any situation. I owe him big time for all those occasions when he rallied to my side, particularly when the smearing from the careerists and those they served was at its height. 

When Willie Gallagher got in touch with me to let me know Eddie was suffering from cancer and that it didn't look likely that he was long for the road, I chased him up. We chatted for an hour or more on the phone. We talked about his illness and his determination to give the treatment one last shot. He had survived beyond the shelf life the consultants had predicted. Despite it being late in the evening, Eddie went at it like a Duracell bunny, seemingly full of energy. I was zapped by the time we finished, leaving me to think he had the energy to outlast me. 

After his funeral in Strabane British police carried out searches and seized clothing supposedly worn by the guard of honour. While little other than an attempt to suppress overt displays of republican funerary ritual, my one thought was of a wry Eddie, muttering "bastards, still."

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Eddie McGarrigle

Anthony McIntyre  ⚑ It is difficult enough to get through life with a serious disability without having what freedom remains even further restricted by imprisonment. 

Eddie McGarrigle

Big Eddie McGarrigle was shot when he was still in his teens and never again regained the power of his lower limbs. He carried on regardless with a determination and spirt often absent in more able bodied people. I was in awe of his spirit and palpable dearth of self-pity. Metaphorically, despite an inability to walk, Eddie was quicker to his feet than many others to engage in political activism.

A member of both the INLA and the IRSP, our paths crossed in Long Kesh although he was usually in a different wing, pushing himself about in his wheelchair. I actually got to know him much better after we had both left prison. Anytime I called up to Strabane to visit the ex-prisoners' office in the town I would chat to Eddie quite a bit.

If his spine was damaged his brain was most certainly not. Eddie was not a shallow person and thought deeply and at length about many issues, always willing to look at an issue from a position other than his own. Nor was he into impressing others with his knowledge, instead using it to probe further into a problem. He sought to invite ideas rather than impose them. 

When he first entered the jail he anticipated a hotbed of serious political discussion where strategy and tactics would be examined from every conceivable angle. He would later express disappointment as the sandcastle of political erudition crumbled before him, how little genuine political discussion - always to be measured by the tolerance shown towards dissenting thought - existed on the wings: lots of books that added to the aesthetic of the environment but might as well have been used for weight lifting. His view: the republican jail staff were not happy that a young uppity INLA prisoner might swim against the tide of stifling conformity.

This view was reinforced in later life when he witnessed all the jail literature figuratively make its way to the bin as many of the former prisoners who were ostensibly to the fore in promoting the value of revolutionary learning clambered to support the reformist internal solution which was the Good Friday Agreement. He saw in it an outcome that inverted the logic and ethos of the entire republican struggle.   

While an opponent of that Agreement, believing that it mocked everything republicanism had stood for, he also appreciated that armed struggle was not the way forward: "I would urge the dissidents to sit back and take a good hard look at where they are going." He dug dug deep and carried on with his activism.

Eddie for long had serious concerns about the fractious nature of the INLA, and along with others worked to reach a situation where killing the chief of staff was not thought a plausible solution. He also had deep misgivings about the gangsterism that had made its way into the wider republican socialist movement but felt that by 2008 the leadership had got a grip on it. His objection to the gangsterism was not some academic interest. He had experienced it firsthand.

At the time a lot of the leadership was in prison and self-serving people who could not find a place in other organisations connected themselves with the organisation and used it for their own ends.

The INLA issued an apology six months after the incident that left him paralysed from the waist down.

There were of course lighter moments. On the 40th anniversary of the formation of the IRSP I accompanied a friend to the commemoration in Bray and later that evening we attended a function in one of the hotels. Eddie took to the dance floor and dragged me up with him. Being wheelchair bound didn't inhibit his movement on the floor, much better than my own inebriated gyrating. There are photos somewhere of that escapade.

Eddie was a loyal friend and a good man to have at your back in any situation. I owe him big time for all those occasions when he rallied to my side, particularly when the smearing from the careerists and those they served was at its height. 

When Willie Gallagher got in touch with me to let me know Eddie was suffering from cancer and that it didn't look likely that he was long for the road, I chased him up. We chatted for an hour or more on the phone. We talked about his illness and his determination to give the treatment one last shot. He had survived beyond the shelf life the consultants had predicted. Despite it being late in the evening, Eddie went at it like a Duracell bunny, seemingly full of energy. I was zapped by the time we finished, leaving me to think he had the energy to outlast me. 

After his funeral in Strabane British police carried out searches and seized clothing supposedly worn by the guard of honour. While little other than an attempt to suppress overt displays of republican funerary ritual, my one thought was of a wry Eddie, muttering "bastards, still."

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

1 comment:

  1. My granda who was quadriplegic and who died in 1993 knew Eddie from hospital (I guess Withers in Musgrave Park) and was very fond of him. I remember my granda telling me about him and how much he enjoyed his company.

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