Monday Aug 30, 2002
Maureen Kearney was the IRA's most vocal critic in their own heartland
by Malachi O'Doherty
Maureen Kearney wasn't looking well in June when she came up to Stormont.
The world's press was there for the supposed final talks on devolution and
disarmament, and she saw it as a chance to get her message out to the world
that her son had been murdered by the IRA. She brought a large framed
photograph of Andrew, and she held it before every camera that would come
near her, and gave interviews about Andrew's death to journalists and spoke
She was on her feet all day, looking pale and thin.
She was the IRA's most vocal critic in their own heartland. She went on
living in Twinbrook. She urged Sinn Fein to get her an answer to why the
killing had happened and she was granted a meeting with the Belfast
leadership of the Provisionals.
They apologised to her.
The plan, they said, had not been to kill Andrew but to cripple him. They
had shot him in the knees and left him to bleed to death in a jammed lift.
The IRA apology explained that a volunteer should not have pulled out the
phone cable and made it impossible for his partner to get help to him on
But although Maureen knew that the IRA had killed her son, and said she knew
from Connolly House in advance of the killing that he was to be attacked,
the funeral mass made no reference to the IRA. The Bishop indeed said the
killing called for reflective silence.
This was July 1998. It was the first IRA murder after the Good Friday
Agreement, and the political consequences were potentially severe, and
apparently still potentially avoidable.
Maureen must have died wondering how it can be that one murder and not
another can be the centre of political argument. There was no review of the
cease-fire after Andrew was killed.
There was no political crisis.
Indeed, the men who killed Andrew Kearney and Charles Bennett must wonder
why one murder creates such a fuss and another does not, even why the whole
political process seems to revolve around one expulsion order while hundreds
of others pass without a mention.
When hopes are high of political progress murders are overlooked, and those
who make a fuss about them are thought mischievous or na´ve. These things
happen, and the way to stop them happening is to overlook them for now and
trust that politics will overtake them.
When hopes of political progress are low, then the carnage we have turned a
blind eye to comes back and appals us.
Martin McGuinness tells us that the way to put the violence of an imperfect
cease-fire behind us is to implement the Good Friday Agreement, and hold
everyone but himself to their commitments. Does he believe that if the
Executive had been formed in July 98, Andrew Kearney would not have been
killed, that if it had been formed in July 99, Charles Bennett would not
have been killed?
I doubt it. Like the Bishops he asks us to live in hope and stay our anger.
Then one day there will be peace and good order and we'll be glad we said
nothing when Andrew Kearney died.
Monsignor Denis Faul asked last week why the Bishops of Ireland were not
stating the case as plainly as John Taylor was that working class people
were being terrorised.
No answer yet from the bishops. Perhaps they will give us one at Maureen's
The preceding was a commentary broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback
Programme, Monday, August 30, following the death of Maureen Kearney, mother
of Andrew Kearney, murdered by the IRA in July 1998.