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This Appreciation for Steenson is signed "May Gray" but was actually written by Jimmy Brown.



Gerard Steenson – An Appreciation


It was a bright sunny afternoon in September when I first met Gerard Steenson, it was to be the beginning of a close political collaboration and an even closer friendship. To try to sum-up anyone’s life in an appreciation can never be an easy task. Yet so much of the man Gerard was – and remains to his friends – was unknown and unseen.


The man the media tried to portray as a psychopathic killer was an intense and private individual. Always ready with a joke or a prank, in public he was the centre of attraction in any social gathering. Yet away from the crowds Gerard would read Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Shelly and had a strong interest in philosophy and psychology. Amongst my own most cherished possessions is a notebook which he kept in jail. In this he lists his favourite pieces of classical music and quotations from Shakespeare, Kafka and John Donne. Taken alongside his public face these interests reveal a sharp and probing intellect who was capable of great sensitivity and strength.


Gerard or “Steensy” as he was called by his friends was a mass of high energy and was able to assess individuals and situations quickly and thoroughly. His ability to motivate and inspire comrades, evident from an early age, placed him amongst the most able of his generation. At the age of 15 years old and having lied about his age he joined the IRA in the Lower Falls becoming its Operations Officer within the year. Now that he is dead more may be spoken or written of his bravery and courage in the field. Suffice to say here that the name of Gerard Steenson struck fear in the hearts of our oppressors.


In just 22 short months between April 1980 and February 1982 Gerard reorganised and led the now corrupt and defunct Belfast INLA in its most active period ever. For the first time the INLA activity against the crown forces resulted in a successful and sustained campaign. True, Gerard did not suffer the fools or “phoneys” easily yet he always retained the respect of his comrades in the field and his courage and bravery are beyond dispute, even amongst his enemies. Those who took his life have no place in the history of our struggle for liberation.


To try and put Gerard’s life; his early childhood or teenage years into perspective is to confront struggle head on. He saw his father and older brother beaten and interned in 1971 and his mother Eileen suffered severe injuries in a no-warning bomb attack in 1975. Ten of his 30 short years were spent in jail, a factor that was to lead to the eventual break-up of his only two long-term relationships he had. Yet Steensy remained unbroken.


While in the cages of Long Kesh Gerard escaped in May 1976 but was soon recaptured. In December 1985 he went on hunger strike with others as part of a successful campaign against the paid perjurer system. Gerard held the unenviable record of being the longest man held on supergrass evidence and no less then 5 different informers were brought against him. He was no stranger to hardship or suffering in or out of prison. Always on the move he would cover the country in search for information and resources. His organizational skills impressed us all. A master of the art in negotiation he involved all activists in the formation of, what was for a time, a highly organised and military efficient fighting force. Always seen as a man of action he confounded his critics by delivering precise political polemic and analysis when called upon to do so. There were few areas of activity he could not turn his hands to.


As a close friend and comrade attempting to give an impression of a man I know well and whose memory I will cherish, I am also aware of what Gerard himself would say or wand said of him. Like us all he had faults and weaknesses; times when even his closest friends found him difficult to deal with. Yet for all he was a human, caring and forgiving with those people he know to be honest, sincere and genuine. He could never bear to see his family or loved ones upset on his account and tried always to shield them from danger.


Through the years that Gerard and I shared together as friends, comrades and brothers I have seen him engage in every area of struggle. He had nothing left to prove to anyone yet he set himself increasingly high standards. His wish to see the corrupt and degenerated IRSP/INLA disbanded may have cost him his life. That our class should be robbed of such a man by such craven cowards is sickening in the extreme. Not one of them could ever stand in his shadow. Yet this is no place for bitterness and now one year after his murder, along with our mutual good friend Tom McCarthy, Gerard is still strong in my life.


He will always be remembered for the man he was, while those of us who knew him well may sit and wonder of the man he might yet have become had he not been so brutally cut down. A dedicated soldier and socialist republican activist your memory lights our path.


May Gray

May 8, 2010 at 10:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 110

Great pst Stockholm, great insight into the friendship between Jimmy and Gerard. Thanks for all your postings, great to have them preserved.

May 9, 2010 at 12:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 17

A brillant piece of writting from jimmy.

May 9, 2010 at 4:34 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 67

This is fantastic....this shows true friendship.  I wonder if Jimmy Brown were a live today would he have written a book....he is a brilliant writer.  Some of things that he had said back in the 1980s (about) had come true.  It was like he knew the directions that republicans were moving in from reading other posts from him.

May 10, 2010 at 7:43 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 16



September 26, 2011 at 9:07 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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