28 October 1976: Marie Drumm, Republican activist, Cumann na mBan member and Ard-Chomhairle of Sinn Fein was shot dead by a Loyalist Death Squad in Belfast on this day. In one of the most dramatic assassinations of the Conflict in the North during the 1970s the death of Marie Drumm made headlines across the World. She was a thorn in the side of the British Crown Forces and faced huge levels of harassment for her stance against what she saw as the Occupation of part of Ireland by a Foreign Power.
Born Máire Drumm (née McAteer) in Newry Co Down in 1919 she grew up in the village of Killean Co Armagh. A keen Camogie player she came from a strong Republican family and she was from an early age interested in all things Irish: Language, Music and Culture. She moved to Belfast in 1942. While visiting republican prisoners there she met James Drumm whom she married on his release in 1946. The Drumms had five children: Séamus, Margaret, Seán, Catherine and Máire óg. When the IRA renewed the armed struggle in the late 50’s, James was again interned without trial from ‘57 to ‘61. When the civil rights movement began in the late 60s Máire was actively involved in the efforts to rehouse the thousands of nationalists forced from the homes by Unionist intimidation.
As things spun out of control Marie Drumm became more and more involved in opposing British Rule. While a good organiser she found her forte in public speaking and no one could doubt that her speeches were direct and fiery at getting her message across. She was twice imprisoned by the British for making ‘seditious speeches’. Her house in Belfast became a focal point of Resistance and as a result was a target of constant raids and harassment by the British Army and RUC. This constant singling out of her and her family took its toll however. Her health declined and in October 1976 she was admitted to the Mater Hospital for an cataract eye operation. However the admittance of such a high profile figure to a public hospital could not escape notice. A Loyalist hit team was put together to kill her.
Ironically her health was so bad by that stage that her husband had to announce her standing down as Vice President of Sinn Fein on October 18. She planned to move South on 30 October to a Nursing Home. But on the evening of 28 October her assassins struck. Two men entered the grounds of the Mater Hospital to scout ahead and at approx. 10.30pm that night another two men dressed as hospital doctors s made their way up to the second floor and into the six bedroom Ward 38 where Marie Drumm was re-cuperating. Without warning one of them opened fire hitting her three times in the chest. They then turned and fled. Ten minutes later she died on the operating table. Her killers were never caught and no group claimed responsibility. But it generally accepted that it was a Loyalist Terror Gang that carried it out.
Her death though was a blow to the Republican Movement as she was a high profile figure who gave as good as she got against her enemies. She was buried in the family plot in Milltown cemetery, Belfast on 1 November in a huge Republican Funeral.
"The only people worthy of freedom are those who are prepared to go out and fight for it every day, and die if necessary."