Eamonn McCann

Journalist and civil rights activist.

Journalist and civil rights activist Eamonn Joseph McCann was born in Derry in 1943. He attended St Columb’s College and was expelled from Queen's University Belfast, where he was a student of psychology, because of his political activities. As a Labour candidiate he contested the Foyle seat for Stormont in 1969 and the Westminster Derry constituency in 1970.

Today McCann is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio Ulster. His works include What Happened in Derry (1972), War and an Irish Town (1973) - reissued in 1993 ’as a contribution to discussion of how best to build a revolutionary socialist party in Ireland’, War and Peace in Northern Ireland (1998) - a collection of articles written for Hot Press and Dear God (1999). McCann is a member of the National Union of Journalists’ Irish Executive and the Socialist Workers’ Party of Ireland.

'The area was peaceful and deserted at 2 am when a mob of policemen came from the city centre through Butcher Gate and surged down Fahan Street into St Columb’s Wells and Lecky Road, shouting and singing: Hey, hey we’re the monkees. And we’re going to monkey around. Till we see your blood flowing All along the ground.

'They broke in windows with their batons, kicked doors and shouted to the people to ‘come out and fight, you Fenian bastards’. Anyone who did come to his or her door was grabbed and beaten up. The only phone in St Columb’s Wells is in No 37, McMenamins. Roused from his bed and seeing the mob rampaging around the street Johnny McMenamin lifted the receiver and dialled 999.

'He had been put through to Victoria RUC Barracks before realization dawned on him that this was ridiculous. The police stayed for about an hour, roaming up and down the Wells and Lecky Road, shouting, singing, throwing stones through any upstairs windows at which a face appeared. When they had gone, people crept out to clear up the damage, tend to those who had been beaten up and comfort hysterical neighbours.

'Lord Cameron in his restrained report on these events recorded ‘with regret that our investigations have led us to the unhesitating conclusion that on the night of January 4/5 a number of policemen were guilty of misconduct which involved assault and battery, malicious damage to property in streets in the predominantly Catholic Bogside area, giving reasonable cause for apprehension of personal injury among other innocent inhabitants, and the use of provocative sectarian and political slogans.'
© Eamonn McCann. Published by Pluto Press

Eamonn McCann describes Derry’s turbulent past in War and an Irish Town written in 1973. The book is a valuable documentation of aspects of Northern Ireland’s history that were barely recognised at the time by the media and the authorities.