Sunday, October 10, 2004

99. The OTHER George Harrison

George Harrison, patron of Republican Sinn Fein and celebrated
veteran Irish Republican, died on October 6th at his home in
New York.

The following article by Jimmy Breslin for Newsday recounts a
life in struggle against British colonialism, oppression, racism
and inequality.

At the "Maid of Dunloe" pageant in bleak Donegal, in Ireland,
the young women had good milk-white Irish skin that could last
about 15 minutes in a weak sun. Now into the contest came Ms.
Felicia McLean, who was of color. A young, shimmering, beautiful

Immediately, the BBC crew covering the event rushed up to her.
"Are you from somewhere in the musician's family?" one of them

"No. I was sent here from Brooklyn by Mr. George Harrison of the
IRA. He doesn't like the British."

He sure did not, did George Harrison. He was a stocky man with a
full head of black hair. Once, he could run far and fast. His
motto was "Brits Out!" He sent guns to Northern Ireland. On so
many Saturdays, he picketed the British office building on Third
Avenue. If it rained, George found it easy. Wasn't he from
Shammer, outside of Kilkelly, in County Mayo, where there was as
much rain as there was air? He walked without noticing the
coldest of days. He had his dislike of the British to keep him

He lived on Prospect Park Southwest in Brooklyn and spent his
days at political protests. Once, he rounded up 35 Irish
republicans to parade in front of the South African mission to
the United Nations, protesting racism. They held an Irish flag.
There was not a black.

"What in the name of the Lord did we do to Ireland?" a South
African complained to the newspapers.

At a protest in Foley Square over the police firing 41 bullets into
an unarmed Amadou Diallo in his vestibule in the Bronx, only one
white face could be seen - George Harrison.

In the late '70s, he bought guns from a Mafia gun runner named
George DeMeo. George bought submachine guns from DeMeo and shipped
them to the north of Ireland by freighters leaving the Brooklyn
docks. Then DeMeo was arrested for being a gangster. He gave up
Harrison. The FBI was jubilant. The American administration at that
time ran errands for the British.

One day in 1981, George bought 50 submachine guns and one artillery
piece from a man DeMeo recommended. The man was an agent.

In speaking about the piece over the phone, trying to fool anybody
listening, Harrison's partners said, "We have to feed the animal.
The animal is hungry."

The FBI arrested George and a couple of others in October of 1981.
The lawyers practiced opening statements to a room of students at
Cardozo Law School. One young woman said that, "I'm wondering if
you are in a CIA exercise."

George Harrison got up in a fury. He would not stand for a defense
that left him looking like a CIA agent. They finally calmed him
down the next day and the case went on in federal court in

The prosecutor told the jury that George had been running guns out
of this city for the last six months.

George Harrison was outraged. His lawyer, Frank Durkan, rose and
told the judge, "Your honor, the prosecutor has just charged my
client with running guns for six months. My client is deeply
insulted. Mr. Harrison has been running guns for the last 25 years
at least." Harrison was acquitted.

He was the last of the Irish who base all behavior on the 1916
uprising against the British. George was 89 when he gave it up on
Wednesday, as he sat in one of his two apartments on Prospect Park
Southwest. He was talking to Priscilla McLean, the contestant's
mother. She was a nurse for George through so many long months.
George sent her and her daughter on a vacation in Ireland.

He was a ceaseless pamphlet man. Almost every day, a letter arrived
for many people from George Harrison dealing with British
atrocities against the Irish, and American politics. "Bush and his
people intend to turn this republic into an imperialist power."

If the politics of a person was far enough to the left, George
Harrison regarded them as a relative. "Take something for me," he
told Frank Durkan, who was going over to Ireland. It was a bottle
of whiskey for Owen Patton of Mayo, whose brother died in the
battle of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War. Durkan found Owen in a
small cottage. Owen walked backwards to get away from the bottle.

"Harrison is trying to make an alcoholic out of me. Everybody who
has come to this house has brought me a bottle. I can't take it."

He grieved for so many people, and ran more funerals for them, and
helped more Catholic priests and their church buildings that his
record seems that of a deeply religious person.

He was. But it was his own religion. His will states that there was
to be no funeral service.

"Are we going to get George buried out of a church?" somebody asked
Mike Dowd, one of the lawyers at George's big trial.

"If you tried it, he'd come out of the casket with a bat in his
hand," Dowd said.

Irish Republican News

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