TRIBUTES have been paid to former republican prisoner, 68-year-old John ‘Johnny’ Burns, who passed away on Wednesday April 16 from Covid-19.

His nephew Sinn Féin Councillor Stevie Corr described him as a “quiet, unassuming man” who like so many others of his time “stood up and was counted”.

“Johnny was my ma’s youngest brother. My Granny Rose and Granda Jimmy ‘Rocky’ Burns had seven children. Ann (RIP aged 12), my mother Marie, Ena, Rita, Jimmy, Johnny and Kathleen. Johnny was born in the Beechmount Bungalows and then the family moved to Norglen Crescent in Turf Lodge.”

Stevie said at one point in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ena, Johnny, Kate and Rita and their families all lived in houses in Norglen Crescent.

“Jimmy still lives there now with his wife Linda. Also there was my Uncle Patsy and his family – on my da’s side.”

LONG KESH FIRE BATTLE VETERAN: Johnny Burns
LONG KESH FIRE BATTLE VETERAN: Johnny Burns

He continued: “When the British war machine came to Turf Lodge, Johnny and his brother Jimmy stood up and were counted and joined the ranks of the IRA.

“In the early 70’s, Johnny was caught in Turf Lodge by members of the British Parachute Regiment and after an unmerciful beating was arrested and sentenced for possession and sent to the Kesh. His brother Jimmy Burns was interned also at this stage in Long Kesh and both brothers were there when their sister Ena’s, six-year-old son Jim Doherty was shot and fatally wounded in his front garden on October 8 1972.”

Jim died from his injuries a week later on October 15.

“During his incarceration the IRA burnt the camp and Johnny took part in the IRA engagement with the heavily armed British Army who were sent in to try and regain control of the camp by first gassing and then badly beating many of the prisoners.”

Johnny had one daughter Ann and two grandsons, Aidan and Gerard, and a great granddaughter Saorfhláith, upon whom he doted.

“Johnny was a quiet unassuming man.

“Like so many others, he did his bit; he was a rebel, he stood up and was counted, and he was one of the ordinary people in the extraordinary times that engulfed Turf Lodge and areas like it. In recent years he was very much into keeping fit and used the gym in Whiterock Leisure Centre for years.

REBEL: Johnny Burns with sister Ena on his release from Long Kesh
REBEL: Johnny Burns with sister Ena on his release from Long Kesh

“Again our communities are faced with extraordinary times and Johnny’s funeral will be in line with the directives of no wake and a small funeral attendance, to help stem the spread of this virus.

“Ann can’t have the normal traditional Irish wake and funeral; but I hope she can take some solace and comfort from the fact that Johnny was very highly regarded by his community and the republican movement.

“Sincere condolences to Ann and family and to my aunts and uncle, and their extended families. Rest in peace, Johnny Burns.

“Go ndéanaí Dia trócaire ar a anam. Poblachtanach calma ó Lóiste na Móna, suaimhneas síoraí air.

Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh sé.