Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 25 May 2016

A champion of peace and hero of our troubled times

By Liam Clarke

Published 08/04/2011

Paddy Joe McClean, a former school inspector from Beragh, is a hero for these new times.

PJ, as he is known, is a former civil rights leader, who has taken considerable personal risks to speak up for human decency in the darkest days of our recent history.

In the early-Seventies, he was a civil rights leader and became one of the several hooded men arrested and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by the British Army in the first days of internment.

He seldom talks about it, though it is branded on his memory and he fought the case through the European Court.

He believes it is wrong to drag up past grievances.

Since his release, he has consistently spoken for peace and justice.

When a Dublin magazine accused a detective he knew of torturing him, PJ wrote from jail to deny it. The officer, Peter Flanagan, sued the magazine, but was later murdered by the IRA anyway.

It was what PJ had feared would come of demonising the officer.

Few people would have that kind of perspective. This brave man showed it again this week when he spoke up for his friends the Kerrs after the murder of their son, Ronan.

PJ is the sort of role model we all need at the moment; someone who can draw wisdom - not bitterness - from his own experience of violence and injustice.

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