Northern Ireland news

Hooded Man Paddy Joe McClean did not let 'grave injustice' of internment 'define him'

Family members carry Paddy Joe McClean's coffin the short distance from his home to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Beragh, on Sunday morning. Picture by Pat McSorley
John Monaghan

A CO Tyrone man who was part of the group known as the Hooded Men did not let the "grave injustice" of his internment "define him", a priest has told mourners at his funeral.

Crowds gathered at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Beragh yesterday to pay their final respects to Paddy Joe McClean, who died on Friday aged 86.

A founding member of the Civil Rights Association, Mr McClean was interned twice, in the 1950s and 1970s, and was one of 14 men - known as the Hooded Men - who claimed they were subjected to state-sanctioned torture during incarceration in 1971.

They alleged they were hooded, made to stand in stress positions, forced to listen to loud static noise and deprived of sleep, food and water.

In some cases the men were also thrown from helicopters they were told were hundreds of feet in the air despite being just feet from the ground.

Beragh parish priest, Monsignor Colum Curry, said that the man who was "destined to be a stalwart of this area" had "throughout his life made it clear that this grave injustice would not define him" and had worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation.

Monsignor Curry said that the day's Gospel reading about storing up treasure was particularly relevant, as it captured "something of the commitment and the generosity of PJ who contributed hugely to the benefit of the community and every family and individual".

"He was forever a man of the people, contributing to the good of society and treating all people with respect.

"For PJ, Christ was everything for he was a man of great faith," added Monsignor Curry.

To laughter from the congregation, the priest said that the father-of-12 had experienced a "busy few years of children coming year after year, and sometimes in pairs".

Paying tribute to his wife of almost six decades, Annie, Monsignor Curry said that "behind every great man is a great woman".

Several grandchildren held up objects on the altar that "captured the rich tapestry of PJ's distinguished life".

A pack of cards, a pen - in recognition of his "love of words" and his status as the "go-to person in the area for filling forms" - and a cup, awarded for his work supporting pensioners and the elderly with Age NI, were displayed.

The other items brought forward included a gaelic football, representing his passion for the game as a player and later coach, and a Fáinne, in acknowledgement of his fluency in Irish and his role in teaching the language to fellow internees in Crumlin Road prison.

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