Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey
I don't normally pick up a copy of the Andersonstown News but I did buy one this afternoon and it certainly contained a wealth of useful information.
Page 20 was headed 'D Company remembers its dead' and carried a report on a recent 'IRA reunion' in the Emerald Roadhouse at Finaghy Road North.
Over 600 members of one of the most renowned units of the IRA have gathered in the Emerald Roadhouse for a one-off commemoration.
Organised by the Falls Cultural Society and the D Company Ex-volunteers and Prisoners Association, the event honoured the 14 fallen on the Roll of honour of D Company, which operated in the lower Falls area. A unique portrait of each Roll of Honour member was presented to their families by veteran Belfast republican Billy McKee, one of the founders of the Provisional IRA.
Billy himself was presented with a gold medal by D Company members in recognition of his central part in the republican struggle.
The fourteen IRA members were:
Vol Charlie Hughes, who died on 8 March 1971
Vol Jimmy Quigley, who died on 29 September 1972
Vol Daniel McAreavey, who died on 6 October 1972
Vol Paddy Maguire, who died on 10 October 1972
Vol John Donaghy, who died on 10 October 1972
Vol Joe McKinney, who died on 10 October 1972
Vol Eddie 'Mundo' O'Rawe, who died on 12 April 1973
Fian Michael Marley, who died on 24 November 1973
Vol Teddy Campbell, who died on 3 May 1974
Vol Martin Skillen, who died on 3 August 1974
Vol John 'Bap' Kelly, who died on 21 January 1975
Vol Billy Carson, who died on 25 April 1979
Sinn Fein's Paddy Loughran, who died on 4 February 1992
and Sinn Fein's Pat McBride, who died on 4 February 1992.
The central figure in the commemoration was Billy McKee, one of the founders of the Provisional IRA and first OC of the Provos in Belfast. According to Ed Moloney he authorised a numbr of sectarian attacks on Protestants and renewed attacks on rivals in the Official IRA.
A faction led by Gerry Adams managed to get McKee voted off the IRA Army Council in 1977, effectively forcing him out of the leadership of the organisation. He later joined Republican Sinn Fein and has been critical of Adams and the leadership of Sinn Fein.
Although the IRA later issued a half-hearted apology for Bloody Friday, in a newspaper interview in May 2011 McKee said, 'I'm not going to condemn it or the men that carried it out. No Way.' Last year, at the time of that statement, McKee was 89 years old but age had not in any way tempered his views and he refused to condemn one of the bloodiest atrocities carried out by the IRA.
Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey
One of the pictures in the Andersonstown News shows the handing over of the gold medal to McKee and the person making the special presentation is named as Frank Dempsey. A careful look at the photograph seems to confirm that in fact this is none other than Frank 'Dipper' Dempsey, of the Carrick Hill Residents Association. According to the Andersonstown News, this event was an 'IRA D Company reunion', and the fact that Dempsey was given the 'honour' of presenting the medal to McKee suggests that he was held in high esteem by the 'ex-volunteers'.
This is the same Frank Dempsey who has been to the fore in recent protests against Loyal Order parades in Clifton Street and Donegall Street. But the report in the Andersonstown News shows us another side of Frank Demspey.