Pádraic Mac Coitir shares his thoughts on the late Jim Reilly, penned shortly after his death. Jim Reilly impacted on many people of whom Pádraic Mac Coitir, a former republican prisoner, was one.
It was with sadness that I heard about one of my friends, Jim Reilly, dying on Saturday morning. Me and another friend called to see him on Wednesday and although he was in obvious pain he tried to the cheerful man we remember him as.
I first met him in the 1980s but it was a brief encounter, and then when we met in Long Kesh in the late '80s I got to know him very well. He was seen as one of the 'oul lads' but he got on like a young fella at times because he was full of craic and always slagging.
Anyone walking the yards with him would be regaled with stories of the Falls Road and its many characters. As soon as anyone from Belfast would land on to the same wing as him he would ask where the lad was from and if the surname didn't register right away he would ask about parents and grandparents and it was a rarity if he didn't know someone in the family.
We had many serious discussions in the 'big cell' and Jim would have strong opinions on many issues. I know it's a cliche but he was one of the good guys in gaol and I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.
Like all prisoners Jim had men he was very close with and he continued that friendship right up until his death. More could be written and said about Jim and I'm sure many will speak fondly of him at the funeral - and for a long time after.
I called to the wake-house last night and as expected the house was packed.
Marguerite will be lost without him because they were seen together all the time. To her and the rest of the family I extend my condolences. Jim will be buried from his home in Twinbrook at 11.15am tomorrow ( Wednesday).
Former IRA volunteer and ex-prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh, 4 years on the blanket and no-wash/no work protests which led to the hunger strikes of the 80s. Completed PhD at Queens upon release from prison. Left the Republican Movement at the endorsement of the Good Friday Agreement, and went on to become a journalist. Co-founder of The Blanket, an online magazine that critically analyzed the Irish peace process.