in defence of danny lennon

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 republican movement.

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 movement.

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 our activities.

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 cause.

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 preventing.

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 recognition.

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.

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