Irish American Information Service

**I am including so many stories about the death and funeral of Joe Cahill because each one adds more details. There have been some detailed articles I found interesting but which I have omitted due to the writer's attitude toward nationalists.

07/27/04 12:57 EST

The funeral was held in west Belfast this morning of veteran republican Joe Cahill, who died last week.

The ceremony, at St John's Church, Falls Road, was attended by many thousands from throughout Ireland.

Among those who carried Mr Cahill's Tricolour-draped coffin on the short procession from his home to the church were Sinn Féin's Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness. The cortege was flanked by a number of men in black berets and combat uniforms.

Mr Cahill is being buried at Milltown Cemetery. It was one of the largest republican funerals in Belfast since the death of Bobby Sands in 1981.

Former taoiseach Mr Albert Reynolds was among those attending the funeral. Mr Reynolds described the republican as a hugely influential figure in moving the IRA away from violence.

The ex-taoiseach said: "We worked together on the peace process. He was a remarkable man and he played a major part. The only thing I regret is he didn't last long enough to see the process completed. I'm sure it would have been his greatest satisfaction."

Mr Cahill, who died on Friday aged 84, was an unapologetic physical-force republican and a pivotal figure in the republican movement in the second half of the 20th century.

He was convicted of the murder of an RUC constable in an ambush in west Belfast in 1942 and sentenced to death. His sentence, and that of three other members of his gang, was commuted to life imprisonment four days before he was due to be hung after the intervention of the-then Pope. Only the leader of the gang, Tom Williams, did not escape the gallows.

Mr Cahill was released from prison in 1949, whereupon he joined the predominantly Protestant workforce at the Harland and Wolff (H&W) shipyard in Belfast.

If was during this time that he contracted the asbestosis that would eventually kill him. He was part of a large group of ex-shipyard workers who sued H&W, winning £30,000 in compensation last May.

Mr Cahill soon rejoined the IRA, finding himself interned without trial in 1956. He was eventually released after the IRA campaign collapsed in 1962.

He maintained a lower profile during the 1960s, until the advent of massive sectarian conflict towards the end of the decade. He was said to have been particularly affected by the abuse meted out to the then-inactive IRA by Catholic communities for failing to protect them from loyalist mobs.

He said Catholics welcomed the British army with open arms because they regarded them as the only people capable of protecting them. "People collaborated with the enemy because the IRA had betrayed them," he said.

He was instrumental in setting up the Provisional IRA in 1970 when the republican movement split. He was elected to the first army council and subsequently became the IRA commander in Belfast. The British authorities then re-introduced internment without trial.

Mr Cahill was jailed in 1973 by a court in Dublin for gun-running from Libya after the cargo ship Claudia was intercepted off the Waterford coast carrying a five-ton arsenal of weaponry. He was given a three-year sentence but released early on the grounds of ill-health.

He spent most of the 1980s involved in fundraising activities. He was arrested in Dublin cafe in possession of $80,000, which was confiscated. He was deported from the United States two years later in a bid to stem the flow of money from sympathetic Americans.

Despite receding from the republican limelight in his later years, he is regarded as being instrumental in securing the first IRA ceasefire in 1994 and the mainstream republican movement's decision to follow the political route.

He was given the task of selling the political route to the IRA's Irish american supporters and was granted a visa to visit that country by President Bill Clinton, despite British protestations.

Mr Cahill received a standing ovation at Sinn Féin's ardfheis in Dublin last year when he told delegates: "We have won the war, now let us win the peace."

Mr Adams last week described Mr Cahill as "both a leader and a servant of the republican cause" who spent a lifetime in struggle.

"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 UN on many occasions on behalf of the party."

As he delivered a graveside oration at Milltown Cemetery today, Mr Adams warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair that elements within his own system are encouraging a backward slide in the peace process.

It was being done to placate Unionists who were against change, he said.

The West Belfast MP said: "It is the securocrats on the British side and their allies who are calling the shots."

The republican leadership will be heavily involved in intensive make-or-break talks in September in a bid to restore the power sharing executive in Belfast which was suspended by the British government last October.

Mr Adams, a close confidante of Cahill, added: "Tony Blair has said if the process isn`t going forward, it will go backwards. We have told him in recent times that elements within his own system, particularly within the NIO, are doing their best to subvert progress and to encourage the backward slide."

As a hush fell over the graveyard, folk singer Frances Black broke into a traditional Irish lament, The Bold Fenian Men, after telling the crowd: "This is for Joe."

Earlier, outspoken priest Father Des Wilson praised Cahill`s bravery and struggle to overcome what he said was a refusal of basic rights for many in Northern Ireland.

He told a packed St John`s Church: "The history of the years in which Joe lived is like a history of horrors. But whatever the crisis, there were men and women like Joe and his companions who responded to the needs of those people who had not created war but too often were the victims of it."

In 1956 Mr Cahill married Annie Magee. She survives him, along with their son and six daughters.

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