Joe Cahill, a founding father of the modern Irish Republican Army who once narrowly avoided the hangman's noose, died from a lung condition at his Belfast home on Friday, July 23, 2004, said the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party. He was 84. Cahill was the first Belfast commander of the modern Provisional wing of the IRA founded in December 1969, the year that Northern Ireland descended into decades of civil unrest. He was also the principal mentor of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who, as an IRA member, served under Cahill's direct command in the early 1970s, when the IRA began killing British soldiers and police and bombing towns and cities in Northern Ireland and England. After killing about 1,800 people and maiming thousands, IRA commanders called open-ended cease-fires in 1994 and 1997 - when Cahill's vote in favor was considered critical. "Joe Cahill spent a lifetime in struggle. He was both a leader and a servant of the republican cause," Adams said. "He was an unapologetic physical-force republican who fought when he felt that was the only option. But he also significantly stood for peace and was a champion of the Sinn Fein peace strategy."
AP/PA, Brian Little, file
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