Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has today expressed his condolences following the death of former North Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor Bobby Lavery who passed away in the US last night.
Gerry Kelly said:
“I’m deeply saddened to hear that former North Belfast Councillor Bobby Lavery passed away last night in San Francisco.
“Bobby Lavery was a committed Irish Republican and trail blazer 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.
“Bobby campaigned day and night on behalf of the Republican prisoners in Armagh Gaol and the H-Blocks of Long Kesh in their battle for political status and supported local families fighting against the state’s use of paid perjurers to jail dozens of local people in the 1980s.
“When Sinn Féin contested the 1985 council elections Bobby and his friend and comrade the late Gerard McGuigan made history becoming the first Republicans elected in north Belfast to Belfast City Council in 60 years.
“Bobby was an energetic and dynamic councillor and he and his family were targeted first for harassment and intimidation by British state forces and then by loyalist death squads colluding with the British state.
“In 1992 his brother Martin was murdered in his Crumlin Road home while he wrapped Christmas presents with his five-year-old daughter.
“And tragically in August 1993 just months after Bobby had been re-elected to represent North Belfast his son Sean was shot dead by loyalists in the family home on the Antrim Road.
“In the years which followed 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.
“Bobby was elected again in the 1997 council elections where he was joined by his brother Danny who won a seat in the Castle constituency.
“Bobby eventually stepped down from elected politics ands made the US his new home.
“He frequently returned to north Belfast often to campaign for Sinn Féin candidates in Assembly, Westminster and council elections.
“In the US he remained a staunch advocate of a United Ireland for all and often spoke at Irish American events while also advocating for wide range of international human rights struggles.
“Bobby Lavery is a huge loss to all who he knew him and I extend my condolences to his wife Susana, his children and grandchildren, his family, friends and all his former colleagues on the council.”