Máire Drumm was an Irish Republican activist and propagandist and a vice-president of Sinn Fein. She was assassinated in her hospital bed by Loyalist paramilitaries in 1976.
Drumm was born Máire McAteer in Newry, County Armagh, and raised in nearby Killean. The eldest of four children, McAteer’s parents were both militant Republicans, her mother a volunteer during the Irish War of Independence in the early 1920s. McAteer lived in Dublin and Liverpool before moving to Belfast during World War II. She excelled in the sport of camogie (women’s hurling), both as a player and administrator.
In 1946 she married Jimmy Drumm, who she met while visiting Republican prisoners. The pair were married for the next 30 years, though Jimmy would spend 13 of those years interned without trial. The Drumms had five children, all of whom were involved in the Republican movement.
When the Troubles erupted in 1969, Máire Drumm became a prominent figure, joining the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and providing a safe house for refugees from Loyalist gangs. When British troops were deployed in Northern Ireland she delivered inflammatory speeches, warning Catholics against embracing them as saviours. The British press dubbed Drumm ‘Madame Venom’ for her outspokenness and political militancy.
Drumm was also a leading figure in Cumann na mBan, a Republican women’s group that aligned itself with the Provisional IRA. In July 1970 she led several hundred women, each pushing a pram full of food and supplies, into the Falls Road area, in defiance of the British curfew. She was later arrested and jailed twice, for protesting against internment. In 1972 Drumm was elected vice-president of Sinn Fein, a position she held until her death.
Drumm’s assassination shocked even hardened veterans of the Troubles. In poor health, Drumm sought medical treatment in the United States but was denied a visa due to her Republican connections. In October 1976, she checked into Belfast’s Mater Hospital for eye surgery. As Drumm lay recovering from her operation, Loyalist paramilitaries entered her ward dressed as doctors and shot her in the chest.
Máire Drumm’s funeral was attended by around 15,000 people. A mural honouring Drumm can be found near Bodenstown churchyard in the Republic, the burial place of Wolfe Tone.