On Saturday the 23rd of January, the Anne Devlin Society Belfast will be hosting a night to remember legendary Irish republican Paddy Joe Rice. It is both an honour and a privilege, indeed a tribute to our Society, to be given permission to hold this event in Paddy Joe’s honour.
Unlike some of the Society members, I only got to know Paddy Joe in recent times. I got to know him especially well through the campaign for Marian Price, a campaign which seen Paddy Joe travel the length and breadth of the country with the rest of us. Where he differed from most of us, however, was in the fact that Paddy Joe travelled that length and breadth while nursing a serious condition which caused him severe pain.
Every inch a republican stalwart, ‘the natural leader of D Company’ (a title bestowed on him by the late Brendan Hughes), Paddy Joe never forgot the plight of the republican prisoners and nor did he fail to articulate their case. Republican prisoners, with the ongoing state of repression that created the conditions for their arrest, were uppermost, almost always, in his mind. He never faltered in his recognition of the sacrifice of his former comrades. Nor did he shy away from the fact the conditions which created the conflict still remain.
History was not the preserve of the victor in Paddy Joe’s book but rather it belonged to those who lived it, fought hard for it and who are not afraid to recollect it in truth. A great loss, a great man. Beir Bua.
The night for Paddy Joe will be held this Saturday, 23rd January, at 8pm in the Irish National Forresters Club on Albert Street, Lower Falls, Belfast. Music is by Dee McCann and admission is £5. For more information contact the Anne Devlin Society on their Facebook page.