John was raised in Rinmore Drive and growing up he witnessed at first hand the reality of life in a sectarian state. The Nationalist people eventually challenged Unionist misrule and in 1969 Derry exploded onto the world's headlines. The stones he threw in those early days were soon replaced by the gun as the angry young man decided to fight back and John became a Republican. He was determined that the core problem, the British occupation of our country, needed to be eradicated if the working classes ever hoped to overcome the tyranny of the capitalist system and the Orange State.
John's Republicanism resulted in him being targeted by the British and while still a teenager he was taken and tortured. He was hooded and thrown from a helicopter not knowing it was only a few feet off the ground, a terrifying experience for one so young. His inner strength helped him overcome this but he found himself being physically attacked by those who should have been his allies on the orders of a so called Republican leader.
As a member of the INLA John was arrested and charged alongside his comrade Mickey Devine. He and Mickey joined the Blanket Protest and became what Richard O'Rawe was later to term as the 300 Spartans. He suffered badly during the course of the Blanket Protest and endured forced washes and relentless beatings at the hands and boots of bigoted prison authorities. He saw his comrade Mickey die on Hunger Strike alongside 9 other brave men, including Patsy O'Hara and Kevin Lynch of the INLA.
After his release from jail his passion in later life was trying to help ex-prisoners and ex-combatants who were suffering mental trauma as a result of the Struggle. He formed a group which still exists to this day called Ex-POP.
However his real passion in life became Jackie his wife and his children, Shauna, Diane, Emmett, Gerard and his Grand Children whom he loved deeply and who became his strength when cancer began to sap the life from his body. With all the determination of that teenage Republican John fought not only the cancer but the system. And in this his final struggle he had the strong shoulder of Jackie to lean on.
John was a larger than life character who will be missed by us all; Jackie and his family, his Sister Angela, brothers, Seamus and Eamon and by ourselves; his friends and comrades.
|The flag draped coffin of Volunteer John Cassidy|