Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has remembered the life of former Cumann na mBan volunteer Anne McCoy.
Speaking at her graveside on the 40th anniversary of her death, Ms Anderson said,
“Today we gather here in Cargin Churchyard at the graveside of Ann McCoy to remember another strong, young republican woman and a heroic figure for many people who engaged in our struggle for Irish Freedom and Social Justice.
“We recall her activism and we write the name Anne McCoy tall in the annals of our Irish republican history.
“Anne McCoy was born on the 14th April 1955 in the townland of Ballynaleaney near Toome on the shores of Lough Neagh, into a family with a strong republican heritage.
“The sixth of nine children born to John and Nan, Anne was an outgoing and extremely happy young woman.
“Having trained as a chef, Ann was to find employment in catering at Gallaghers tobacco factory in Ballymena.
“With the outbreak of the conflict in the Six Counties in the late 1960s, Ann was to witness many house raids on her family home by the British Crown Forces, often resulting in the arrest and interrogation of family members.
“Anne herself experienced arrest and interrogation, when in June 1973 she was taken by Wessex helicopter to Maghera Barracks for interrogation.
“When asked by her mother about her experience on board the helicopter and her subsequent interrogation, Ann’s typical light-hearted response was: “I never thought Ireland was so beautiful.”
“As OC of Cumann na mBan structures in South West Antrim and neighbouring South Derry, Anne was key to successful IRA operations carried out across the area and in County Tyrone.
“She was deeply secretive about her republican activities, and was at all times conscious of the personal security of her fellow volunteers.
“She undertook all her duties with great care and consideration.
“40 years ago today (on the 20th February, 1976) Anne died as a result of a road traffic accident – just a few months before she was due to celebrate her 21st birthday.
“She had been returning home from a visit to Long Kesh to see her fiancé, Dominic McCann who at the time was serving a sentence in ‘The Cages’.
“There are many people gathered here today who have their own personal recollections of Anne’s and her republican activism.
“The very short account I gave of Anne’s life is based upon an interview carried out with her dear mother and another strong republican activist, Nan, for the purpose of having Anne’s name inscribed in The Republican Women’s Garden at the Roddy McCorley Club in Belfast.
“Many of the women who were instrumental in having the garden installed with Anne’s name included are here today joining us in our ceremony of remembrance.
“They are part of a contingent of Belfast republican women who have especially made the journey to Cargin to pay tribute to Anne.
“They include women who served in the ranks of Cumann na mBan and the Irish Republican Army with many having spent a long number of years in jails across Ireland.
“As we also this year remember the 1981 hunger strike, it is only right and proper that we recall the unforgettable no wash protests by the women in Armagh Gaol. It’s also fitting that today we remember Mohammed Al-Qiq who is on hunger strike in Palestine against administrative detention (internment) for 87 days.
“As I said earlier, this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising – when men and women went out onto the streets and took on the might of the British Empire.
“Not only a watershed event in Irish history, the 1916 Rising was a beacon of hope for those nations across the world who would subsequently throw off the yoke of their colonial masters – as the Irish Revolution triggered the first world-wide anti-colonial struggle.
“From the National Congress in India to Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnamese guerrillas, the paradigm established by Irish Republicans would soon become the blueprint for popular revolt.
“It is a fire still burning bright in the heart of every anti-Imperialist, and indeed, every Irish Republican here today.
“Indeed this Easter we should bear in mind that at a time when only a minority of international voices spoke of equality – Irish Republicans at Easter 1916 uniquely declared equal rights and opportunities for Irishmen & Irish women, and a democratic government elected by universal suffrage – it was, and remains, a global event in the ongoing struggle for women’s liberation.
“This Easter we will just not remember The Bold Fenian Men – We will proudly remembers those republican women who were prepared to sacrifice everything in the struggle for Irish freedom.
“To paraphrase a brilliant new song to remember the progressive, strong and daring republican women of the early 20th Century – “The Countess fought! Winnie Carney fought! Kathleen Lynch fought! and so on it goes on –
“But today in Cargin we add our own line for the strong republican women of the past 40 years: “Anne McCoy fought, Ethel Lynch fought, Mairead Farrell fought…” There are many names to add.
“We will remember all of Ireland’s patriot dead with great pride this Easter.
“I wish everyone involved with all the local grassroots initiatives to remember the 1916 Rising all the very best. To Anne’s friends and family we hope you leave here knowing that she will never be forgotten.” ENDS