Saturday, March 28, 2009
Our friend Marie Moore:
Briege Brownlee, Myself and Marie
Our friend Marie Moore:
We buried our friend Belfast City Councillor Marie Moore last Tuesday. I gave the funeral oration. I post it below in tribute to her.
‘When I heard the very sad news of Marie’s death I said to our leadership in Belfast that Marie’s funeral should be arranged by women.
A few hours later I got word back that Marie had arranged the funeral herself, and that I was to give the oration.
I think it was Sinead who said to her that “he mightn’t be here”.
And Marie said “he’ll be here for me.”
And so I am. I am very sad and proud and honoured to be here speaking to you today about our friend and our comrade Marie Moore.
I want to extend on all of our behalf’s our solidarity to her children, Brian and Kieran and Eileen and to all of the grandchildren and great grand children.
Marie Moore’s life is like a political calendar of the last 40 years.
Further to that, when Maire was a small child of six, she was in her granny’s house when there was a shoot out involving the RUC and local IRA volunteers.
An RUC officer was killed, Volunteer Tom Williams was wounded and Joe Cahill and others were arrested. And as we all know Tom Williams was subsequently hanged.
Marie said that she didn’t get her republicanism from that event. She got it from songs, from ballads, from the injustices around her, from all that she could see.
She was involved in the civil rights movement. She was on the first march from Coalisland to Dungannon.
She was active in the events leading to the Battle of the Bogside and then the Belfast pogroms which followed that.
She was in Clonard when Bombay Street was burned.
She was out in Belfast when St. Mathews Church was attacked.
All of these iconic events in the recent republican history of this city of Belfast and of the north, Maire Moore was there.
It was during this time, as the refugees were coming into west Belfast that she got to know Maire Drumm.
And she and Maire became very close. Maire Drumm, Vice President of Sinn Féin, was assassinated in 1976.
When British soldiers first came onto the streets their patrols were called ‘duck patrols’ in British Army parlance. In republican neighbourhoods they were shadowed by groups of brave women who warned their neighbours of the presence of the troops. They were nick named hen patrols.
Some were arrested and there is a very historic photo of a group of women marching to the Court in centre of Belfast wearing combat jackets and carrying hurley sticks, in protest at this.
Right to Left is Maire Drumm and Marie Moore with hurley sticks over their shoulders and black berets on their heads.
She and Mary McGuigan and Maire also organised the breaking of the Falls curfew. This was an extremely brave act of resistance by Belfast women who marched into the Falls area when that neighbourhood was under martial law and curfewed by the British Army.
She was also there when her friend and neighbour Maura Meehan and her sister Dorothy Maguire were killed by the British Army.
She was there during internment. And in Derry on Bloody Sunday. She was actively involved in campaigning for the prisoners in England and for the internees here. She worked relentlessly for Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg and Gerry Kelly and the Price sisters and others when they were on hungerstrike. She worked for all of them.
She was particularly involved in working with the prisoners in Armagh and the men in the H Blocks during the prison protests there.
She headed up the POW department for a time. The prisoners called her An Bhean Uasal – the gentle lady.
That was a period of huge intensity during the hungers strikes in 1980 and 81.
The bond between republican people and freedom loving people and the prisoners became very tight but particularly so with the small group of people like Mary Hughes and Marie and the other women who carried the comms in and out of the prisons.
When speaking to her oldest son Brian, the other day he told me that one of the things that is always happening to him is that when he bumps into ex prisoners and their families they all remember his mother with great affection for her diligence, her spirit and her generosity and for her very, very hard work on their behalf.
It was a wonderful honour for Marie that she chaired the reinterment ceremony for Tom Williams when he was buried in Milltown cemetery.
To show that she didn’t hold any hard feelings she married an English man, Jack.
And their children, Kieran and Brian and Eileen, grew up through all of those tumultuous events.
But she was more than just an activist.
She was a woman.
She probably wouldn’t have described herself as a feminist but in all that she said and in her encouragement to young people and particularly young women, she understood that she was a woman activist with three children.
Those were heavy days, crazy days.
Marie was in the front line in opposition to the harassment and the brutality of the state.
Sometimes the consequences had their funny moments.
On one Christmas period the family were having a party in the house.
Joe Austin answered a rap on the door and brought in a well dressed man who was standing there and who he assumed was a guest.
In fact he was a Special Branch RUC officer who was there to arrest Marie Moore – and he did. Which resulted in a near riot in the street.
On another occasion Marie was in Castlereagh Interrogation centre.
It was 1976 and the horror of the torture and brutality of Castlereagh was at its height.
It was also her daughter Eileen’s birthday and somehow Marie got a birthday telegram sent to her.
It might have been a solicitor who arranged it but the family believe that Marie broke her interrogators and forced them to send it.
Marie was also imprisoned – she was also shot and wounded by the British Army.
Tom Hartley, our current Mayor of Belfast and long time republican archivist, once put material in the public records office which was then seized by the RUC and used as an excuse by the British state to arrest the entire Belfast Sinn Féin leadership, including Marie, and the staff of Republican News.
Some of us spent a few weeks and months in prison until the charges were dropped.
Marie came through it all, like many others, with a sense of generosity and magnanimity.
She became an elected Councillor and represented the people of this City on Belfast City Council.
She became the first republican woman to be elected Deputy Mayor – and she fulfilled the duties of that office very well.
Marie enjoyed a sing song. She loved Lily Fitzsimons singing ‘Crazy’. She loved singing the Black Hills of Dakota and her favourite song was ‘Islands in the Stream’ by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
And she and her late brother Frank would have given a verse of The Galtee Mór Mountains.
When we met the leadership of the Presbyterian Church for the first time over 20 years ago in one of those clandestine meetings that were part of the peace process, it was in Marie’s house on the Glen Road.
If you look back now at what they said about it then they were very taken by the fact that we were normal and drank tea and home made scones.
What they didn’t know was that Marie had slipped out to the home bakery at Gransha shops to buy the scones.
Marie Moore who was a founding member of the Bobby Sands Trust, with other members at the recent relaunch of the Trust's web site. From Left to right: Marie Moore, Danny Morrison, Brendan McFarlane, myself, Jim Gibney and Carál Ní Chuilín.
So, what more is there to say about this wonderful woman?
It is very difficult to encompass someone’s life in a few short words.
All we can do is talk about the highlights and try to give some sense of the times that Marie worked and lived in and the contribution she made to our struggle.
For me it was manifest the last time I saw her.
We were in her home and there were four generations of women there – her great granddaughter Tia; her granddaughter Jacqueline and her daughter Eileen and Maire herself.
All the gains that been won for Jacqueline’s generation and Eileen’s generation and which are yet to be won for Tia’s, were won and will be won by women like Marie Moore.
Marie was a republican woman of that grouping of women, very like Rosa Parkes, who came forward in a tough time and took a stand against injustice.
When Jacqueline was speaking at the Mass in Irish the best tribute that could be given – was made by her about her Granny. She said that her Máthair Mór always made time for her grandchildren and treated them like her own children.
And Jacqueline said that she taught them the difference between right and wrong.
Jacqueline was right. The last time I heard Maire speaking to young people she said; ‘Never let anyone talk down to you but never speak disrespectfully of anyone.’
And Marie was as fond of a back stab as any of the rest of us.
I think these examples of taking time no matter how busy she was and of teaching the difference between right and wrong, and of never letting anyone speak down to you and never speaking disrespectfully of anyone else, for me these sum up Marie Moore as a good human being.
I thank the Moore family for sharing Maire with us. You should know and the grand children and great grand children know and should know that you had a Mamo to be proud of.’
Our friend Councillor Maire Moore