James McDade

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James McDade
Born (1946-07-24)24 July 1946
Ardoyne, Belfast
Died 14 November 1974(1974-11-14) (aged 28)
Known for Member of Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)

James Patrick McDade (24 July 1946 – 14 November 1974) was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who was killed in a premature explosion while planting a bomb at the Coventry telephone exchange in 1974.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Oakfield Street in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, McDade was educated at Holy Cross Primary School, Belfast and at St Gabriel's Secondary School. McDade's family of five brothers and two sisters were highly musical, and he was an accomplished singer. McDade enjoyed sporting activities and was a talented Gaelic football player. He moved to England, living in Sparkhill, Birmingham and performing as a pub singer around the West Midlands.[4] There he married and had two sons, Gerard and Anthony.[5]

Gerard McDade, James' brother, was also an IRA volunteer (reported to be Quartermaster with A company, 3rd Battalion, Belfast Brigade). He was shot in the back by a British Army soldier on 21 December 1971.[5]

Republican activities[edit]

McDade joined the IRA in England and was involved in the bombing campaign based in Britain. He was killed on 14 November 1974 in a premature explosion while planting a bomb at a telephone exchange and postal sorting office at Salt Lane, Greyfriars, Coventry.[5]

Obituary and funeral[edit]

The 16 November 1974 edition of the Irish News carried many tributes to McDade. Respects were paid by London and Birmingham Comhairle Ceantair, Sinn Féin; Coventry and Belfast Cumann, Sinn Féin; Command Staff, Óglaigh na hÉireann, England; and GHQ staff.[6]

The Republican Movement in England planned to honour McDade a with local paramilitary guard of honour but Archbishop of Birmingham George Dwyer forbade a funeral service in the local diocese. Sinn Féin declared there had never been an intention to bury him locally.[7]

The Home Secretary Roy Jenkins resisted attempts to ban the IRA but declared an aggressive stance towards paramilitary displays.[7] Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull Councils banned all processions connected to the death of McDade for one month in the West Midlands under the Public Order Act 1936.[8] Ground staff at Belfast International Airport refused to handle the coffin; The Times reported evidence of their intimidation.[9] Instead his remains were flown to Dublin.

Liam Hannaway, a senior member of the Republican Movement, gave the oration at the funeral. His coffin was draped in the same Tricolour flag of Ireland that was used for the funerals of Terence MacSwiney and Michael Gaughan. IRA volunteers fired three volleys at his graveside. He was buried in the Republican plot at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast on 23 November 1974.[10]

Birmingham Six[edit]

The Birmingham Six, five of which were from North Belfast, with John Walker from Derry, knew McDade through the Birmingham Irish community. Five of them were arrested on their way to the funeral, whilst the sixth was arrested in Birmingham.[11][12] They were found guilty of carrying out the 21 November 1974 bombings in August the following year and received life sentences,[13] but released from prison on 14 March 1991 after the Court of Appeal quashed their convictions.[13]


  1. ^ 1974: Birmingham pub blasts kill 19
  2. ^ I gCuimhne
  3. ^ Ex-soldier fights to clear his name
  4. ^ McHardy, Anne. Obituary: Richard McIlkenny:, The Guardian 24 May 2006
  5. ^ a b c Bishop, Patrick & Mallie, Eamonn (1987). The Provisional IRA. Corgi Books. pp. 199–200. ISBN 0-552-13337-X. 
  6. ^ The Times, Monday, 18 November 1974; pg. 2; col E
  7. ^ a b Archbishop refuses church funeral to IRA Man; The Times; 18 November 1974
  8. ^ "Processions"; Hansard 10 Mar 1978
  9. ^ Terrorists bombs kill...; The Times 22 November 1974; p1
  10. ^ "James Patrick McDade" in David McKittrick et al., Lost Lives (Mainstream Publishing, 2007 edition) ISBN 978-1-84018-504-1
  11. ^ Six Innocent Men Framed for the Birmingham Bombings
  12. ^ Those were the days
  13. ^ a b "1974: Six charged over Birmingham pub bombs". BBC News. 24 November 1974.