Belfast Telegraph

Praise from pulpit as republican veteran buried

By Ben Lowry and Claire Regan
27 July 2004

A priest today praised veteran republican Joe Cahill as parts of west Belfast were brought to a standstill by the former IRA chief-of- staff's funeral.

Fr Des Wilson told mourners who thronged St John's Church on the Falls Road that Cahill had "lived through times when our people had to suffer attacks, refusal of basic rights and insults from almost every sector of our society".

The controversial West Belfast-based priest said that Cahill had never been given a city to live in that was worthy of his generosity or his courage.

"He came to believe that the powerful ones of this earth had sometimes to be met with their own weapons."

The priest went on to say that for Cahill and "for all the people of his tradition" war was a last resort, not a first one, a last resort which can be engaged in only when all other means to obtain justice have been tried and have failed.

"This is the tradition followed for centuries by faithful Christians.

"They all believe if war becomes inevitable it has to be tempered by mercy and has to be stopped at the earliest possible moment."

Fr Wilson said that for people of Cahill's tradition, war was a "necessity" forced upon people against their own choice.

Prominent figures of modern republicanism attended, including Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brun who walked close to TD Martin Ferris.

A few thousand people had gathered at the Cahill home by the time the cortege made off at around 10.30am with a lone piper playing a lament, walking ahead of the tricolour- draped coffin, as six men and women wearing black berets flanked mourners

The procession made its way from Mr Cahill's Andersonstown Crescent home to St John's Church for Requiem Mass.

The coffin was carried at one stage by Sinn Fein MPs Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty.

Other senior party members in attendance included Alex Maskey, Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew, MEP Bairbre de Brun and Belfast councillors Tom Hartley and Maire Moore.

Thousands lined the Falls Road as the funeral as it crawled along bringing the route to a standstill.

The cortege, which was led by three black taxis from the West Belfast Taxi Association, took around an hour to make the short journey to the nearby church for the funeral Mass.

In his graveside oration, party president Gerry Adams told Prime Minsiter Tony Blair that elements within his own system are encouraging a backward slide in the Northern Ireland peace process to placate unionists who were against change.

"It is the securocrats on the British side and their allies who are calling the shots. The British government has a clear cut choice. "Either it stands with the Good Friday Agreement and builds a bridge towards democracy and equality, or it sides with the forces of reaction as successive British governments did for decades."

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