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From politics to poetry, tributes as prominent republican is laid to rest

April 15, 2013

“A great man in heart and mind, a true republican” was how Cullyhanna man, Jim McAllister, was described at his Requiem Mass in the village on Thursday.

Mr McAllister passed away on Tuesday at the age of 68, after a short illness.

Delivering the oration at the funeral of his close friend, Pat McNamee said it was the true values and principles of republicanism that defined Jim McAllister and that his greatest wish was to be remembered as “an unapologetic, unreconstructed republican”.

Self-educated in history and politics and well-read in the folklore and legend of Ireland, Jim McAllister was a man of great integrity, full of humour and with a quick wit that entertained many, mourners heard.

“He believed in the republican vision set out the Easter Proclamation of 1916 and he stood by the values and principles contained in it. He believed in ‘the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible’. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. Jim believed in those principles and stood by them all his life,” Mr McNamee told those gathered.

A former Sinn Fein Councillor, Jim McAllister was once a senior member of the party, often acting as spokesperson during the Troubles.

Outlining Jim’s introduction to politics, Pat recalled when, in 1982, he volunteered to stand as a Sinn Fein candidate in the First Northern Ireland Assembly, with the aim of building the republican vote following the Hunger Strike.

“At that time Sinn Féin members and elected representatives were being targeted by loyalist murder gangs assisted by British forces and the RUC.  Jim stood for the election and was elected to the Assembly knowing that he was putting his life and family in danger. Following his election he had to have his home fitted with security glass, security doors and cameras as indeed his life was put under threat.

“Jim stood on an abstentionist basis because he believed that if you took part in the system of government at Stormont you would become part of the system.”

Following his election to the Assembly in 1982, McAllister was also successfully elected to Newry and Mourne District Council in 1985, retaining his seat in 1989 and 1993.

He broke ranks with Sinn Fein during the 90s after disagreeing with its political direction.

Recalling that period, Mr McNamee said: “Jim didn’t contest the council election in 1993. However he had a different reason not to stand again as a candidate for Sinn Féin. Jim had an independent mind and he didn’t just go with the flow. Jim issued his press statements from his heart based on his republican principles. The peace process was sprouting and some of Jim’s statements were too strong for the Sinn Féin agenda.  Jim hadn’t changed his position but others had changed theirs. Jim was told not to issue any further statements unless they were approved by the six-county office. Jim wasn’t going to be gagged or have his comments sanitised.”

In recent years, Jim McAllister was a driving force behind the Quinn Support Group, established following the brutal murder of 21-year-old Paul Quinn in October 2007.  In spite of the fierce intimidation, he campaigned for justice the Quinn family.

Aside from politics, Jim was an accomplished Gaeilgeoir, composer, poet and above all, a devoted family man.

Pat McNamee ended his tribute by quoting an excerpt from one of Jim’s poems – The Daffodil Man from Kiltybane – which captures his love of his country and its people:

‘Armagh’s the Orchard County, the home of honest men

It runs from North of Lurgan town down south to Crossmaglen

From County Down to the Monaghan hills, it stretches east to west

With County Louth as its southern friend and its north by Lough Neagh caressed.

Its name is steeped in history, St Patrick loved its soil,

It gave succour to the hunted and hunter its mountains would foil.’

But it isn’t my intention to sing all its praises in rhyme

I’m telling a different story at this present moment of time.

I’m bringing to your notice a story of renown

How a bunch of golden daffodils arrived in our fair town.

(The story of the suitors)

The moral of the story lads would seem to go like this

If you would go a’courting, pluck flowers for your miss

And now this story is over but one thing’s left unclear,

What will Thomas Henry do when the sad news he does hear?

That the daffodill man from Kiltybane has won sweet Bernie’s hand

And that Garvey is the chosen one of Keenan’s bachelor band.’

Predeceased by his wife Margaret in 1992, Jim McAllister was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s cemetery, Cullyhanna.  He is survived by his sons Turloch and Breandan and daughter Aoibheann.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

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