Tributes to former Crumlin Road Gaol IRA commander and poisoning target Tommy Roberts

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The late Derry republican Tommy Roberts, who the IRA claimed was subject of an assassination attempt by an alleged British agent while he was prison commander in Crumlin Road Gaol in the 1970s, has been described as a man of “high values and morals”.

Mr. Roberts, who passed away last week, was buried following Requiem Mass in the Longtower at the weekend.

The lifelong republican had been on active service with the late James ‘Junior’ McDaid shortly before the Officer Commanding (O/C) the 3rd Battalion of the IRA in Derry at the time was shot dead in Ballyarnett on December 29, 1972, According to the IRA, Mr. Roberts was also the target, alongside the late Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes, of a poisoning plot while serving as IRA OC in Crumlin Road Gaol in the 1970s.

The man the IRA claimed had been one of those behind the plot, 21-year-old Vincent Hetherington, was later shot dead by republicans in West Belfast.

Delivering Mr. Roberts graveside oration on Saturday, senior Derry republican Thomas Ashe Mellon said Mr. Roberts’ passing had “sent shockwaves through the republican family”.

“Primarily, he was a fearless IRA soldier. When republicans speak of struggle, speak of sacrifice, speak of courage, Tommy Roberts’ name is one of the first that enters our thoughts.

“Tommy led from the front and would never ask a fellow Volunteer to do something he would not do himself. His dedication to the freedom struggle saw him incarcerated in every jail in Ireland.

“Even when in prison the enemy feared Tommy’s resolution so much they tried to have him poisoned.

“Tommy saw active service with ‘Junior’ McDaid, a friend and comrade. He was on active service with ‘Junior’ when he was killed.”

He concluded: “Tommy Roberts was not bought, he did not waver, he stood firm, and it is right that we honour him in the only fitting way possible, for Tommy, and all his fallen comrades who he now rests in peace with, the ultimate honour of a 32 county socialist republic.”