Billy Fox (politician)

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Billy Fox
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1969 – February 1973
Constituency Monaghan
Senator
In office
1 June 1973 – 12 March 1974
Constituency Cultural and Educational Panel
Personal details
Born (1939-01-03)3 January 1939
Monaghan, Ireland
Died 12 March 1974(1974-03-12) (aged 35)
Tircooney, Monaghan, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael

Billy Fox (3 January 1939 – 12 March 1974) was an Irish politician and a member of Dáil Éireann from 1969 to 1973,[2] and of Seanad Éireann from 1973 until his death in March 1974. He was shot dead by gunmen who were allegedly carrying out a raid on his girlfriend's farmhouse. Five members of the Provisional IRA were convicted of involvement in his murder.[3][4] However, there have been claims that it was the Official IRA[5] or the Ulster Freedom Fighters[6] who were responsible.

Political career

A member of the Fine Gael party, Fox was first elected to Monaghan County Council in 1967, and as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) to the 19th Dáil for the Monaghan constituency at the 1969 general election.[7] He lost his seat at 1973 general election but later that year was elected to the 13th Seanad by the Cultural and Educational Panel. Fox was also one of a handful of members of the Oireachtas from the minority Protestant community.[8]

Fox came to prominence when he campaigned against the British Army's cratering of border roads and its use of CS gas and rubber bullets. On one occasion, he brought CS gas canisters and rubber bullets into the Dáil chamber and berated the Fianna Fáil Government's policy on Northern Ireland. He was forcibly removed from the Dáil and the incident made front-page news.[9]

Death

On the night of Monday 11 March 1974, about a dozen gunmen arrived at the home of Senator Fox's girlfriend, Marjorie Coulson.[10] She lived there with her parents and brother, and Senator Fox regularly visited on Monday evenings.[10] The farmhouse was in the rural townland of Tircooney in County Monaghan, near the border with Northern Ireland. The gunmen searched the farmhouse and demanded the occupants hand over weapons.[10] As this was taking place, Senator Fox drove down the laneway and was stopped by some of the gunmen who were outside. He ran, but was shot and killed by a single gunshot wound through the upper torso.[10] The gunmen then ordered everyone out of the house, set it on fire, and escaped.[10]

The next day, the Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed that it had killed Senator Fox because he had links to the Provisional IRA.[6] The IRA issued a statement saying that it was not involved, adding that "Mr Fox was known personally to a number of the leadership of the republican movement".[10] However, shortly after the shooting, five men from County Monaghan were charged with Senator Fox's murder and IRA membership. They were convicted in May 1974 and sentenced to penal servitude for life.[10] One of those convicted told the court they had raided the farm because they received a tip-off that UVF weapons were being stored there.[10] He said there was an agreement that no shots were to be fired. His understanding was that Senator Fox had taken some of the men by surprise and they had shot to wound, not recognizing him.[10] It was reported that the tip-off came from another local family and was the result of a grudge.[10] IRA members were already suspicious that the UVF was receiving local help, following an incident in November 1973.[11] Loyalist gunmen had bombed a house at nearby Legnakelly and shot one of the occupants, a republican activist.[11] In its statement on Fox's killing, the IRA said "We have repeatedly drawn attention to the murderous acts of a group of former B Specials from Co. Fermanagh … led by serving officers of the British Army".[10] The author Tim Pat Coogan, however, suggests that members of the Official IRA were responsible for killing Senator Fox.[5][12]

The Seanad adjourned for a week as a mark of respect. About 500 people attended his funeral at Aughnamullen, including the Taoiseach and the Irish president, Erskine Childers.[10] Fox was the first member of the Oireachtas to be killed since Minister for Justice Kevin O'Higgins by the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army in 1927.[1] When John Bruton first became a TD in 1969 he shared an office with Billy Fox. Bruton has said that he is still angry at the murder.[13] The RTÉ documentary Rumours from Monaghan reported in detail on the circumstances of Fox's killing.[9] Because Fox was a Protestant, some have suggested that the motive for the killing was sectarian.[14][15]

One of those convicted for Fox's killing, Sean Kinsella, later escaped from Portlaoise Prison and was later convicted of arms offences and attempted murder in England. He was released by the Irish government under the Good Friday Agreement.[16]

The Senator Billy Fox Memorial Park in Aughnamullen is named in his memory.

References

  1. ^ a b Senator Assassinated, WikiLeaks, 12 March 1974.
  2. ^ "Mr. Billy Fox". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Lost Lives, McKittrick, Kelters, Feeney, Thornton & McVea, pp. 426-27; ISBN 978-1-84018-504-1
  4. ^ The Malcolm Sutton Index of Deaths states Fox was killed by the "Irish Republican Army", which, according to Sutton's categorisation, is "Provisional Irish Republican Army". (Official IRA killings are attributed to the "Official Irish Republican Army").
  5. ^ a b The IRA, Tim Pat Coogan, p. 357; ISBN 0-00-653155-5.
  6. ^ a b "Irish Senator Killed – Protestant Extremists claim Responsibility". Wilmington Morning Star. 13 March 1974. p. 5. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Billy Fox". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  8. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19740312&id=j2o0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZwoEAAAAIBAJ&pg=788,2454926
  9. ^ a b "Rumours from Monaghan". RTÉ Radio 1. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McKittrick, David. Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Random House, 2001. pp.426-427
  11. ^ a b "The crime and punishment of Michael Kinsella ". Politico.ie. 1 October 1984.
  12. ^ Tim Pat Coogan, Disillusioned Decades, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1987. p520 – ISBN 0-09-941522-4.
  13. ^ Forgiveness is better than more inquiries: Bruton
  14. ^ Seanad Eireann Debate Vol. 181 No. 138 – Mr. B. Hayes
  15. ^ Badfellas by Paul Williams : quoting Paddy Cooney
  16. ^ "Daily Telegraph Dublin frees nine IRA prisoners to aid peace talks". Archived from the original on 11 April 2005. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
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