It is with great regret that I announce the death of Gerry McKerr from Lurgan.
Gerry was one of the original “Hooded Men” and had been active in the Republican movement, since the mid 1960s.
Gerry was arrested and interned on Monday the 9th of August 1971.Early on the morning of 11th August Gerry and the others were hooded and handcuffed, bundled into a truck where they were kicked and beaten, and brought to a helicopter.
After a flight of 30-60 minutes, they were pulled out of the helicopter, beaten and put into another vehicle, which brought them to RAF Ballykelly.
At RAF Ballykelly, Gerry’s hood was tightened and he was beaten badly before being taken into a room with a noise similar to “a constant roar of steam escaping a valve from a steam boiler.”
He was given another physical examination, stripped, and issued a pair of army overalls that were far too small. He was put into the search position against the wall, his feet bare on a slippery floor.
After a period of time, he was no longer able to hold himself up, fell and passed out. He awoke while being beaten around the kidneys. This pattern continued for days.
Gerry was eventually given a pair of boots and taken back to a helicopter, beaten all the way. He was transported to a place where he was served with internment papers; he felt some sense of relief that although the beatings continued, he was no longer subjected to the wall-standing and other techniques.
At Ballykelly, the torture continued. Gerry found it much more difficult to keep track of time. The interrogations became much more violent, as he was threatened, abused and insulted each time before being taken back to what he began to refer to as the “music room.”
He was told that he would never see his wife and children again if he did not cooperate. I recall Gerry telling me, his thoughts at the time were “Hell dare not be like this,”
After several days, Gerry was finally allowed to sleep, given a meal, and permitted to wash up before being taken to Crumlin Gaol.
At the Gaol, all of the men experienced an air of jubilation that they were still alive and free of the torture. Gerry called it “an absolute high.” In mid-October 1971, the Hooded Men were transferred from Crumlin Road to Long Kesh internment camp, where Gerry served as OC.
Gerrard McKerr was released from Long Kesh in 1975. The last year of his interment he was sick, developing a number of lumps on his neck for which he was given antibiotics.
Upon his release, he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Two years later, his wife called him to the door; there were some men who were looking for him. Gerry, sensing trouble, grabbed the first man and slammed the door; the second man fired a gun through the door, hitting Gerry in the abdomen and groin area.
He believed the perpetrators were members of the Glenanne gang, to which nearly 90 murders in the Armagh area were attributed, including those of the Miami Showband.
Six weeks later, when he was getting ready to take his children to school, Gerry found a bomb planted beneath his car. Gerry moved his family from their home to a new house in the town.
I was with Gerry the moment we received the news the Irish government would request the European courts reopen the case of the Hooded Men. He was delighted and said “Justice, finally we will get justice”.
I will ensure that Gerry will receive justice. The case will continue in his honour.
Our thoughts are with his wife Eileen and children at this sad time.
The Hooded Men