It is with regret that I heard about the tragic death of Gerry (Whitey) Bradley, he was always highly thought of within the Republican family in North Belfast and beyond and I would like to express my condolences to his family.
The reasons why a growing number of men have taken their own lives is a terrible indictment of our society and the entire health care system in both Irish States. It is terrifying to read the statistics surrounding the number of people dying this way and those groups who tackle this sad issue deserve full credit for the help and counselling they provide to the community.
There has been much speculation of why Whitey took his own life this week. Many local Republicans are genuinely hurt and saddened at his untimely death. I'm not an expert in the field but I believe that anyone suffering from intense depression is capable of going down that particular road. There's no doubt that for anyone in that frame of mind, the reasons are extremely complex. In Whitey's case however, there are some glaring facts.
We know nowadays that long-term Prisoners can be deeply affected by the amount of years behind bars. When released most become socially withdrawn and find ordinary life hard to cope with. Luckily enough, the vast majority of former Political Prisoners are welcomed back into the communities they hailed from. In the New Lodge area, there is a fully-functioning Ex-Prisoners support group, Tar Isteach who provide a first-class service and a professional counsellor for Ex-POWs'. I don't know if Gerry Bradley availed of this because like many former prisoners, he possibly felt that to visit such a Counsellor would be an admittance of his own problem. Although, given the tragic outcome I wish he had availed of the service.
During the past forty years and beyond, former Political Prisoners have greatly benefited working-class communities across this country. From enhancing the Irish language to the creation of positive community groups which have provided disadvantaged areas with a much needed boost. Sadly though, some are
forced into a life of severe depression and a few rely on drink to get by. These ex-POWs should be given lots of support to ensure they again benefit the wider community.
During the various stages of the Peace Process many former Volunteers and Sinn Fein Activists have felt they had no option but to resign from the Provisional Movement. Whitey was one such Veteran. He was among the few who publically articulated the view that Sinn Fein's strategy had failed to deliver the objectives which he and so many had fought so hard to deliver.
After airing these views, Whitey like Brendan Hughes, Tommy Gorman, Anthony McIntyre to name a few began to suffer villification, smears and lies against their integrity. In Whitey's case, these whispers soon appeared on walls in his native area and he fled Belfast. He again went public and strongly denied he was an Informer but it was plain to see he was gutted. As someone who has also paid the 'price' for speaking his mind, I know how smears can not only shake one's reputation but also damage his family, particularly my children's!
What is needed is a little accountability and honesty from former comrades, who should know better! The Peace Process has not created the All-Ireland Socialist Republic we all struggled for. Hence, the formation of the 32CSM, Eirigi, RNU etc. Which I support as there is a need to carry on the political struggle to achieve that goal. It has also led to a resumption of armed Campaigns by number of armed groups who I won't criticise because to do so would be hypocritical for a former Combatant.
The number of Republicans who are now openly critical of the Good Friday and subsequent Agreements are indeed growing. It never ceases to amaze me that the same people who for years complained about censorship by the Irish and British Establishments. Are themselves guilty of censorship of fomer friends and comrades. Genuine Republicans like Gerry (Whitey) Bradley should not be hounded by former comrades as an excuse to cover their own failure to achieve the Republic.
Veteran Republican: Gerry (Whitey) Bradley