John Brady was a lifelong republican. He came from a staunch republican background, his family involvement with the republican movement going back generations. John was born in Glasgow, Scotland and lived there until the age of six. The family then returned to Ireland and moved into the Head of the Town area of Strabane, a Republican stronghold in the town.
Growing up in the height of the ‘Troubles’ in a republican area meant John witnessed first hand the treatment dealt out by the British forces and the R.U.C. He was harassed, taunted and even assaulted on a daily basis. At the age of 14 John joined Fianna Eirinn the youth wing of the I.R.A. He was dedicated to obtaining a 32 county Ireland. He sold newspapers, collected P.D.F and drew murals on walls. John was at the forefront of any activity to further this cause. He was also a founding member of the ‘Strabane Memorial Flute Band’.
When John was 17 he was arrested and charged with membership of the I.R.A, he was sentenced to 3 years which he served between Crumlin Road Jail and Hydebank Y.O.C. After his release John reported back to the republican movement. He was 21 when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of an R.U.C officer. He served 8 and half years in Long Kesh before he was released under the Good Friday Agreement.
John, like many republicans and ex P.O.Ws welcomed the G.F.A and was hopeful of its outcome; a better life for all nationalists and republicans. After his release Joined rejoined S.M.F Band and Sinn Fein. It wasn’t long before John became disillusioned with the way the G.F.A was going. He resigned from Sinn Fein as he no longer agreed with their policies and he could see that they were going back on the promises they had made.
After this John, his family and his friends were constantly harassed and arrested by P.S.N.I because of his continued belief in a united Ireland. He received numerous death threats. John became a leading member of the I.R.W.P.A the prisoners were a cause close to John’s heart as he had experienced their struggle first hand. He organized numerous fundraising events and protests to highlight republican P.O.Ws plight and that of their families.
Six years after his release John and two female friends were arrested on the border between Donegal and Derry. P.S.N.I found two hand guns in the car they traveling in. After 6 months on remand the charges were dropped against all three of them. Both girls were released but John remained in Maghaberry as his license was revoked. A campaign was set up calling for John’s release and after three years of campaigning it finally looked like John’s it was likely to happen. However, John was then , out of the blue, charged by P.S.N.I. for the attempted murder of a serving member of the R.I.R based on discredited low copy D.N.A. This held back John’s case for release for a further two years , until the charges then too were dropped.
In the following months John appeared twice before the parole board but was rejected on both occasions. The fact that he was on a Republican wing in the jail was used against him so he moved to a non- segregated wing. John’s family feared for his life as whilst on this wing he was approached by a loyalist prisoner who informed him that he had been provided with all John’s details by security forces in order to pass on to a loyalist organization. John was then moved to a work unit in Crumlin Road Jail where he was allowed home on parole every weekend.
On October 2nd 2009, whilst on one of his weekend paroles, John had an altercation with a member of his extended family. John had been attacked and defended himself. He followed all the procedures he was required to follow yet was still arrested by P.S.N.I, who arrived in two armored Land Rovers to make the arrest. He was taken to Strand Road Police Station, even though the norm would have been the local police station in Strabane. He was informed prior to any interview that he was going to be charged with assault, even though the other man involved in the altercation had not as much as been arrested. There were four witnesses that could confirm the fact that John merely acted in self defence yet only one was contacted.
John’s sister and sister-in-law went to the Strand Road Barracks the following morning hoping for a visit with him. They waited 2 and half hours but were told to go home as the custody suite was too busy, yet in the ombudsman’s report the P.S.N.I stated that the only detainees in the custody suite that day were John and one other drunken man. At approximately 3pm John’s sister received a phone call from his solicitor to meet him urgently. They met in a car park as the solicitor was not familiar with the town of Strabane. The solicitor then informed her that after leaving John for half an hour, in ‘great spirits’ he had arrived back at the custody suite to find him hanging. Regardless of the Ombudsman’s report, which only managed to find ‘Health & Safety’ issues, a lot unanswered questions surrounding John’s death remain.