IRA fighter turned peace supporter
Monday 05 November 2007
Martin Meehan, republican activist: born Belfast 1945; twice married; died Belfast 3 November 2007.
Martin Meehan was a prominent member of the IRA who in his latter years embraced the Irish peace process after decades as a symbol of unflinching republican militancy. As a north Belfast street-fighter in the early 1970s he was highly active during gunbattles and sniping incidents in which many British soldiers, Protestant extremists and IRA members met their deaths.
His home district of Ardoyne, on one of the city's most dangerous sectarian fault-lines, was the scene of many killings and much disorder right through the troubles. Local republicans revered him as a defender of their embattled area.
A docker and a member of a strong republican family, Martin Meehan joined the IRA in the mid-1960s, choosing a life which placed him in the front line of conflict. Repeated spells in prison meant he was behind bars for nearly two decades in total. A measure of the security forces' view of his practical and symbolic importance to the IRA was seen when, in 1975, he was the last republican released from the Maze when internment without trial ended.
As he was freed he held aloft a large key in an ironic gesture of farewell. Years earlier he had made a less formal departure from custody, hiding in a sewer for six hours, smeared with butter to stave off the cold before making an escape. More spells in jail followed in the 1980s, during which time he staged a lengthy hunger strike.
After all the years of implacable militancy he became an enthusiastic supporter of the peace process. He explained: "I personally had believed that we would achieve the objective of a united Ireland militarily, by driving the British army into the sea. But in the latter years I realised that this could not happen by military means alone, but by a combination of tactics, manoeuvres and political direction. It was difficult for people like myself. It was a mental thing for me to overcome."
The change of approach widened his horizons remarkably and he became involved in a range of ventures including visits to Poland, drama performances and working with children in Ardoyne. In recent years he stood for election for Sinn Fein, both for the Northern Ireland Assembly and for Westminster. Most strikingly of all, Meehan became involved in history projects with former loyalist paramilitants – men with whom, on the edges of Ardoyne at the height of the troubles, he had regularly traded gunfire.
In June of this year he said that his aim was "to show young people the futility of war but also to show them why people fought". He added: "What is important is that this generation learns from the past and the mistakes that were made."
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...