Page last updated at 10:19 GMT, Saturday, 24 May 2008 11:19 UK

IRA leader 'was pivotal in peace'

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams carry Brian Keenan's coffin
Sinn Fein MPs Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams and Pat Doherty were among those who carried Brian Keenan's coffin through west Belfast

Senior IRA leader Brian Keenan was pivotal in republican moves "which made the peace process possible," Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said.

Mr Keenan, 66, died earlier this week. The west Belfast father-of-six had been suffering from cancer for some time.

"He was central to securing the support of the IRA leadership and rank and file for a whole series of historic initiatives," said Mr Adams.

Mr Keenan was cremated at Roselawn cemetery near Belfast.

Among those carrying the coffin were Mr Adams, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty.

The coffin was flanked by supporters wearing black berets and white shirts, while thousands of mourners lined the Springfield Road.

'Watershed moments'

Addressing mourners in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, Mr Adams said: "For the sceptics within unionism, let me remind them that the recent watershed moments in our history, including the election of (DUP leader) Ian Paisley as first minister, would not have been possible without the work of Brian Keenan and his colleagues."

Brian Keenan
Brian Keenan had been ill for some time
Mr Keenan was jailed for 18 years in 1980 for conspiring to cause explosions in Britain in the 1970s. More recently he was involved in decommissioning talks.

He took part in weapons talks with Canadian General John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

Mr Adams added: "He believed in the primacy of politics. And he understood the need to build Sinn Fein as the vehicle of republican struggle.

"His working class politics and his republican and socialist principles were his constant guide through four decades of unstinting activism."




SEE ALSO
Senior IRA leader dies of cancer
21 May 08 |  Northern Ireland


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