Northern Ireland

Former Belfast city councillor Bobby Lavery who lost brother and son to loyalist gunmen dies in San Francisco

Former Belfast City Councillor Bobby Lavery
Former Belfast City Councillor Bobby Lavery

FORMER Sinn Féin councillor Bobby Lavery has been described as a "committed Irish republican" and "a man with community at heart" following his death at the age of 74.

The Belfast republican activist died in his adopted home of San Francisco where he had moved to in recent years.

Mr Lavery represented the New Lodge area, where he was from, for 15 years following his election to Belfast City Council in 1985.

He survived several attempts on his life and lost a brother and son in separate loyalist gun attacks in 1992 and 1993.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly led tributes to the former councillor, who was a party member from the early days of the conflict.

He served time in Long Kesh for possession of ammunition in the early 1970s.

“I’m deeply saddened to hear that former north Belfast councillor Bobby Lavery passed away last night in San Francisco,” Mr Kelly said.

“Bobby Lavery was a committed Irish republican and trailblazer for Sinn Féin in the north of the city.

“Bobby was a former republican prisoner who on his return to his community of the New Lodge in the mid 1970s immediately set about building Sinn Féin in the area.

“Bobby threw himself into work for the republican community, driving the advice centre, tackling housing issues, campaigning for youth and community services, and tackling poverty.”

On December 20 1992 his brother Martin was shot at his home on Belfast's Crumlin Road as he wrapped Christmas presents with his five-year-old daughter.

The following August gunmen attacked the family home. His 21-year-old son Sean was shot as he watched television in the front room.

Loyalists attacked the house again later that year, this time when his 16-year-old son was watching but newly installed steel shutters deflected the bullets.

In the years following the attack “Bobby campaigned to highlight the collusion between loyalist death squads and the British state forces. Loyalists continued to threaten the lives of Bobby and his brother Danny”, Mr Kelly said.

When Sinn Féin contested the 1985 council elections Mr Lavery and Gerard McGuigan were "the first republicans elected in north Belfast to Belfast City Council in 60 years", the MLA added.

Mr Lavery moved to the US in the early 2000s but returned regularly to Belfast, including to volunteer in election campaigns.

Art Hughes, the administrator of the New Lodge Road Facebook page, posted: "I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of our dear Bobby Lavery. I have known Bobby from childhood in the New Lodge and met him in places such as Sligo and San Francisco.

"He always had a smile on his face and a kind word for people. He was a man with community at heart and we are all the poorer for his passing from us far too soon."