On 10 August 1976 three young people died in Belfast. Two were young
children, the other a young man. Later a third child died, and with his death
a young family was almost wiped out. The Maguire family, understandably
enough, have condemned the IRA and Mr Maguire, whose wife still remains
seriously ill in hospital, has been forthright in his condemnation of the
I accept his feelings and I can understand that he feels every justification
for saying what he did. He has lost his children and no words of mine, nor of
anyone else, can hope to encompass the loss which is his. All I can do is to
offer my condolences to the Maguire family. If they refuse to accept this, I
will understand. If I am condemned as a hypocrite, I will understand. I know
there is nothing I can do to break down the feeling of animosity which the
families bereaved in the past few years may hold towards those they feel are
responsible for their loss.
This letter may be misrepresented or misunderstood by many people, as
republicanism itself has been misunderstood and misrepresented by many people.
There can be no defence against that. Readers have the right to form their own
opinions about my sincerity and about the sincerity of the republican
I do not write on my own behalf and I have no authority to speak for the
movement. I, on a personal level, and the movement itself as an organization
must bear the responsibility and must face any criticism in the knowledge that
we are not always in the best position to justify our stand, our philosophy and
We can and we must do our utmost to ensure that everything we do will have the
minimum effect on those people with no vested interest in opposing us and we
must, on a personal level, ensure that our conduct, our discipline and our
attitude will encourage, not discourage continued support for the republican
This letter, then, is to those people who have no vested interest in opposing
us. I do not seek to change opinions about myself, about republicanism, about
violence, about the IRA nor the republican leadership. Think what you will,
good or bad about these, 1, from Long Kesh, can do little to influence you.
Only those Republicans on the outside, by their actions, attitudes and conduct,
can do that.
I intend speaking here for the young man who was killed. I am deeply sorry
that three young children died. I know that he would feel the same and that he
would have done everything in his power to prevent injury or death to those
innocent of any responsibility for the situation in which the Irish people now
find themselves. Children are always innocent. The Maguire family were not
Danny Lennon's enemies and he was not their enemy. They were victims of
circumstances created when he was shot dead.
He did not point a weapon at them. He did not drive the car at them. He was
dead before the car crashed. That much was conceded by the British Army.
Danny Lennon went out with a weapon against the people he had identified as
enemies. He went out against the British Army and he knew the risks he was
taking. He did not willingly involve others in that risk and his death, which
came as a consequence of his actions, is all the more tragic because a young
family died with him. He meant no harm to anyone other than the people who
eventually killed him; and even then it was the system they represented which
he was opposed to.
Danny Lennon became involved in the republican movement in August 1971. He
came into jail in October 1972 and he was released on 30 April 1976. He did
not have to go back to the IRA. Three-and-a-half years in Long Kesh and his
time on the run before that left him with no illusions about how hard the
struggle national freedom is nor how easy it is to become confused and
demoralised. He knew what he was fighting for and was articulate in speaking
about the kind of Ireland that the Irish people could make their own.
He wasn't a young man caught up in violence. Secondtimers (those who have
been in and out of jail) know what it's about. Danny Lennon cared nothing for
myths, for personalities, for glory-hunting. He sidestepped the petty material
things which could have been his. He believed in a society where exploitation
of people by people would cease. He recognized the sacrifices needed to secure
this and he died in circumstances which he had dedicated his life to
His death, which robbed the Maguire children of their lives, was a
contradiction of a life spent fighting for young children such as they.
Danny Lennon recognized that force, with all its hardships and tragedy, can be
justified only by those who know what they are fighting for and by those
willing to fight, by those willing to share the hardship. He spent his last
few months in this cage reading Pearse and Connolly, updating in his own
fashion the threads of our republican philosophy.
He knew what was right and what was wrong. He was a human being, a young man
of twenty-three with a mother and father, brothers and sisters. He had human
feelings and weaknesses like the rest of us. Like us all he made mistakes but
he was a good young man, a socialist by instinct and an IRA operator by choice.
He wanted an Ireland free of the profit-motive, free of fighting, free from
sectarianism and free from violence. He did not fight for some outdated ideal,
for some abstract thing: he fought for a society in which the Irish people
could be truly a sovereign people.
You may not accept this. You may believe that violence is never justified.
You may have suffered; you may not want any trouble. You may be weary, sick,
old or tired. I do not seek to change your attitudes, to rob you of your
opinions. I only ask that you accept that the Danny Lennons within the
republican movement would, if given the chance, help to build a society in
Ireland worthy of the men, women and children of Ireland and that they are
engaged in the struggle for this without thought of personal gain or
To the Maguire family and to the Lennon family I offer my sincere condolences.
If I am misunderstood by those who have a vested interest, a political
interest, in misconstruing this letter, I accept the consequences. If
it is used to attack me or the republican movement, so be it. If for one
minute it allows readers to understand the many Danny Lennons who have been
attacked and denounced by people older, greedier and more mercenary than
themselves, his struggle will not have been in vain.
For all the dead who died for Ireland and for all the dead who died in Ireland,
Jesus have pity. None of us stands guiltless; only our children are innocent.
It remains for us to ensure that we build a society in which they will not be
robbed of their innocence. Then and only then will we have the peace that
ordinary people everywhere deserve and desire.
Reproduced from Cage 11: Writings from Prison, by Gerry Adams, with permission of Robert Rinehart Publishers, 6309 Monarch Park Place, Niwot,
Colorado. These excerpts may be read only, any printing or reproduction of this
material must be obtained in writing from Robert Rinehart Publishers.