Senior members of Sinn Féin last night spoke of their sadness on learning of the death of party colleague and veteran republican Joe Cahill.

Described by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams as the "father of this generation of republicans", veteran activist Joe Cahill passed away peacefully at his Andersonstown home on Friday night after a short illness.

Last night West Belfast MP Gerry Adams paid tribute to a man who committed himself to a lifetime of republican activism.

"Joe Cahill spent a lifetime in struggle," said the Sinn Féin President. "He was both a leader and a servant of the republican cause. In the difficult years of the 1930s and 1940s he and his contemporaries stood against the partition of Ireland and for Irish unity and he was imprisoned on many occasions for his beliefs.

"He was an unapologetic physical force republican who fought when he felt that was the only option but he also significantly stood for peace and was a champion of the Sinn Féin peace strategy, travelling to the US on many occasions on behalf of the party.”

The Sinn Féin leader spoke of Joe Cahill's unique role within the broad republican family.

"In many ways Joe was the father of this generation of republicans and he had the capacity to relate both to young people and his contemporaries.

"His contribution to Irish republicanism will ensure that he will be remembered for many generations to come. Joe Cahill will be deeply missed by all those who knew him."

MP for Mid Ulster Martin McGuinness also paid tribute to the Sinn Féin Honorary Vice-President.

“Irish republicans everywhere will be saddened by his death," he said. "Joe and his wife Annie are hugely respected members of our society. Joe Cahill was in my opinion an uppity working class Belfast Fenian who had the temerity to challenge the British system in Ireland and the injustices that that system heaped upon the people that he loved.

"Joe was a Goliath of an Irish republican and was as true and honest as the day is long. Gerry Adams and I were both with Joe and Annie several times in the days before he died and with typical strength and humour he prepared us all for what he knew to be the inevitable."

The Derry Sinn Féin leader praised the veteran republican's commitment to the current peace process.

"He was both a leader and a servant of the republican struggle. I think Joe Cahill's name sits quite comfortably with Tone, Emmett, Pearse, Maire Drumm and Bobby Sands. He was a key member of the republican leadership.
"His support and leadership at critical times over the last 30 years was invaluable."

The Sinn Féin man had a special word of condolence for Joe's widow Annie.

"Annie Cahill is a much loved Irish republican in her own right. She has always been an inspiration. Annie epitomises the unselfish nature of Irish republicans.

"She along with many other Irish republicans have endured many hardships and deprivations over the course of many decades in the struggle for justice, peace and freedom. She and her family have my deepest sympathy."

Journalist:: Connla Young

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