Fortieth anniversary of death of Creggan IRA man Joe Walker

The funeral of Joe Walker making its way to the City Cemetery. (0312MM10)
The funeral of Joe Walker making its way to the City Cemetery. (0312MM10)

A commemoration will be held in Creggan tonight to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Derry IRA man Joe Walker.

The 18 year-old from Cromore Gardens, Creggan, was shot dead by British soldiers in the estate on the night of December 3, 1973.

Relatives carry Joe Walker's coffin from St Mary's Church, Creggan. (0312MM11)

Relatives carry Joe Walker's coffin from St Mary's Church, Creggan. (0312MM11)

He had been in a hijacked taxi with two other IRA members, both girls, and had opened fire on British soldiers who had been mounting a patrol in the Central Drive area of Creggan.

It was reported at the time that he had fired up to 15 shots at the patrol with an Armalite rifle.

The British troops returned fire on the taxi, killing the teenager and wounding the two girls. They managed to raise the alarm and call for medical assistance.

When the RUC arrived on the scene they found the 18 year-old’s body in one ambulance and the injured girls in another a short distance away.

IRA volunteer Joe Walker. (2911MM30)

IRA volunteer Joe Walker. (2911MM30)

Joseph Martin Walker was the eldest son of Lily and Patsy Walker and was one of a family of ten. He had two brothers and seven sisters and when he was growing up he helped look after his younger siblings.

At the time of his death he was in the final year of an apprenticeship to become a butcher and was working with a local firm. During his work he had injured his hand and was awarded compensation for his injury. The payment came through just weeks before his death. Outside of his work, Joe had a keen interest in racing pigeons and kept birds in a loft at the family home. One family story about Joe’s hobby was that he wrongly identified the sex of two of his prize birds for an entire year.

Like many young men of his generation, Joe experienced harassment from the RUC and British Army as the conflict worsened in Derry.

He joined the IRA and became part of the organisation’s third battalion in Creggan. Despite being killed at the age of 18, he was already considered to be an experienced volunteer and had taken part in numerous operations against the British Army in Creggan.

Following his killing, a death notice was placed in the ‘Journal’ by the IRA offering the sympathy of “Derry Brigade staff, all officers and volunteers, also Cumann na mBann and Na Fianna Eireann.”

Thousands of people attended the Requiem Mass for the 18 year-old in St Mary’s Church, Creggan. There were republican trappings at his funeral or at the graveside although wreaths were laid at his grave on behalf of both the Provisional and Official IRA, as well as the city’s Sinn Féin cumainn.

The Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA issued a statement following his death condemning the actions of the British Army.

“We condemn the shooting by the British Army of three young civilians in Creggan, during which one young man was killed and two young girls were injured. There has been a noticeable lack of condemnation from our so-called public representatives about the trigger-happy reactions of British troops. Not one of them has uttered a word in public of condemnation of the British Army or of sympathy for the relatives of the murdered man or of the two wounded girls.

“Instead the SDLP have spent the week preparing for negotiation with the British Government, while the British Army carry out the express orders of that government to murder and terrorise the people of the Bogside and Creggan.

“We offer our deepest sympathy to the relatives of the young man who was killed and to the relatives of the two wounded girls. We wish them a speedy recovery. Retaliatory action will be taken to avenge this latest assault by the army on Irish people,” the IRA said.

Tonight’s commemoration has been organised by the Creggan Monument Committee and will take place at the Creggan republican monument, Cromore Gardens, at 7pm. The main speaker will be veteran republican Gerry McCartney and the event will be followed by a function in the Crescent Bar.