Eamonn McCann (born 10 March 1943) is an Irish politician, journalist, political activist and councillor from Derry, Northern Ireland. In the 2016 Northern Ireland Assembly election, he was elected as an MLA for the Foyle constituency. He served for nearly nine months before losing his seat in 2017.
Eamonn McCann (centre), on a march against austerity in Belfast, October 2012
|Member of the Legislative Assembly|
5 May 2016 – 26 January 2017
|Preceded by||Gerard Diver|
|Succeeded by||Seat abolished|
|Born||10 March 1943|
Derry, Northern Ireland
|Political party||People Before Profit Alliance|
|Alma mater||Queen's University Belfast|
Early life and educationEdit
McCann was born and has lived most of his life in Derry. Raised Catholic, he attended St. Columb's College and is prominently featured in the documentary film, The Boys of St. Columb's. He later attended Queen's University Belfast, where he was president of the Literary and Scientific Society, the university's debating society.
As a young man he was one of the original organisers of the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC), a radical campaign group focusing on access to social housing. DHAC organised, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), the second civil rights march in Northern Ireland. This march, which took place on 5 October 1968, is generally seen as the birthdate of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement. His political contemporaries included Bernadette Devlin, for whom he served as an election agent. He stood for election in the Foyle constituency at the 1969 Northern Ireland general election for the Northern Ireland Labour Party, placing third with 1,993 votes (12.3% of the total).
He was tried (as one of the so-called Raytheon 9) in Belfast in May–June 2008 over alleged damage caused during the 2006 War on Lebanon to a facility operated by multinational arms company Raytheon in Derry. The jury unanimously acquitted McCann, and all the other defendants, of charges of criminal damage to property belonging to Raytheon. The jury had heard that the group's actions were prompted by repeated bombing of Lebanese property in which numerous civilians died, and the wish to protect those lives and that property from being attacked by Israeli forces with weapons, weaponry systems and missiles supplied by Raytheon. The judge dismissed charges of affray after hearing the prosecution evidence. However, McCann was convicted of the theft of two computer discs, for which he received a 12-month conditional discharge.
In a statement outside the court McCann said: "[We] have been vindicated. ... The jury have accepted that we were reasonable in our belief that ... Israeli ... Forces were guilty of war crimes in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. The action we took was intended to have, and did have, the effect of hampering or delaying the commission of war crimes".
His appearance at the funeral of former PIRA volunteer, Old Bailey bomber, and republican activist Dolours Price, and a tribute he paid to her, was criticised by a son-in-law of Jean McConville, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the PIRA. Price was suspected of being one of the paramilitaries who took part. McCann explained that her family had asked him to speak at her funeral. He said: "I don't think I said anything at Dolours Price's grave that contradicted that [calling McConville's murder 'a horrible and unforgivable act'] ... The point I had in mind, the point I was making, was there are some people deeply implicated in the cruel murder of Mrs McConville who appear not to be undergoing any inner turmoil. They appear to find it very easy to handle the knowledge of their own involvement in that murder".
He was elected as an MLA for Foyle in May 2016 but lost his seat in January 2017 when the number of seats in the Foyle constituency was reduced from six to five. McCann and People before Profit attracted criticism from Sinn Féin and pro-EU activists for supporting Brexit in an area with the fourth-highest 'Remain' vote (out of approximately 400 counting areas) in the whole of the United Kingdom.
McCann was central to the setting up of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign; the role of his investigative journalism and decades of campaigning for justice for the Bloody Sunday families was recognised in 2010, when several of the families proposed him for the Paul Foot Award for campaigning journalism. Their citation said: "EAMONN McCANN has been using his journalism to campaign for justice for the Bloody Sunday families for almost 40 years. The publication of the Saville Report in June marked a victory for the families, a victory of which McCann was very much a part.
In February 1972, within a month of the killings, McCann published the first pamphlet on Bloody Sunday, What happened in Derry. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s he wrote about the injustice of Bloody Sunday whenever he got the opportunity. In the run-up to 1992, the 20th anniversary of the massacre, McCann made a proposal to the families for a book to mark the occasion. The publication of Bloody Sunday in Derry: What Really Happened was crucial in helping to bring together all the Bloody Sunday families for the first time into a single campaign.
Throughout the 1990s McCann wrote constantly about Bloody Sunday, ensuring that every new piece of evidence about what had happened on the day and in the course of the subsequent cover-up was analysed and publicised. He wrote in the local Derry papers, in the Belfast Telegraph, The Irish Times, the Sunday Tribune, in the London Independent, The Guardian, The Observer – anywhere he could place a story. With the announcement of the Saville Tribunal, McCann's writing on Bloody Sunday came into its own. While other journalists focused only on the evidence of the more high-profile witnesses, McCann attended almost every day of the tribunal. He attended the hearings in London's Central Hall, paying his own costs to travel to and from London and staying with family while there. He wrote a weekly analysis for the Sunday Tribune in Dublin, and covered the proceedings daily for the Irish commercial radio station Today FM, as well as contributing articles to the Guardian, Observer, Irish Times, Irish Mirror and Irish Daily Mail.
Writings and media workEdit
McCann currently writes for the Belfast Telegraph, The Irish Times and the Derry Journal. He has written a column for the Dublin-based magazine Hot Press, and is a frequent commentator on the BBC, RTÉ and other broadcast media. He worked as a journalist for the Sunday World newspaper and contributed to the original In Dublin magazine, among others.
Much of his journalistic work reflects what he himself describes as a "shuddering fascination" with religion which, when coupled with his profound skepticism, has made it a topic to which he has often returned.
In March 2014, following Crimea's referendum on joining Russia, McCann had a piece published in The Irish Times on the situation there. He commented: "After six years in office, Obama believes he has a right to invade anywhere, bomb anything, kill anybody whose jib the CIA doesn't like the cut of, irrespective of national or international law or, indeed, of the provisions of the US constitution. And now he lectures Putin on the necessity of 'respecting international law'. He has a nerve."
In the same piece he wrote: "Vladimir Putin may run a vicious regime but the people of Crimea have a right to be accepted as Russian if that's what they want, which evidently they do", and added: "Putin is right that the main motivation of the US and NATO has been to encircle and enfeeble his country. It might be a close run thing, but in this instance Russia has more right on its side than the West".
- List of works
- War and an Irish Town (1973)
- War and Peace in Northern Ireland
- Dear God – The Price of Religion in Ireland
He has also edited two books on Bloody Sunday:
- Bloody Sunday: What Really Happened (1992)
- The Bloody Sunday Inquiry: The Families Speak Out (2005).
McCann was the partner of Mary Holland (1935–2004), a journalist who worked for The Observer and The Irish Times. He has a daughter from that relationship, Kitty, who is now a journalist for The Irish Times, and a son, Luke, who works for the US-based human rights think tank The Center for Economic and Social Rights (www.cesr.org). The academic and activist Goretti Horgan has been his partner since the mid-1980s and they have an adult daughter, Matty.
- "Mr Eamonn McCann". Northern Ireland Assembly. Northern Ireland Assembly. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
- "Northern Ireland Parliamentary Election Results: Boroughs: Londonderry".
- "Raytheon 6 cleared". Derry Journal. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
- "Price offers to help locate 'disappeared'". The Irish Times. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
- "Arrest Adams Now". Sunday Life. 21 February 2010.
- "Boston College IRA interviews update". WBUR-FM. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- "McConville relative raps socialist for Dolours Price tribute". The News Letter. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
- "Foyle – Northern Ireland Assembly constituency – Election 2016". BBC News. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- "16 June 2010". The Media Show. 16 June 2010. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- "Eamonn McCann". The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- "Eamonn McCann". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- "Hot Press columnist Eamonn McCann elected to Stormont". Hot Press. 7 May 2016.
- Dear God: The Price of Religion in Ireland (Paperback) by Eamonn McCann, Bookmarks (10 November 1999); ISBN 1-898876-58-4; ISBN 978-1-898876-58-8
- "Archives". Hot Press. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- Tewksbury, Drew (17 March 2008). "N. Ireland and the U.S.: A Shared Civil Rights Struggle". National Public Radio. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
- "If we have to pick a side over Crimea, let it be Russia". The Irish Times. 20 March 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
- "Biography". Eamonn McCann. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- Mahon, Eddie (1998), Derry City, Guildhall Press, p. 83.
- "Bloody Sunday (film details)". IMDb. Retrieved 2 January 2016.