Drumm, Máire (1919–76), republican, was born 22 November 1919 in Killean, Newry, Co. Down, eldest among four children of Thomas McAteer (described as a ‘dealer’) and Margaret McAteer (née Brown). She attended the local national school and subsequently a convent grammar school in Newry. Her mother's activities in the war of independence and civil war ensured that Drumm was brought up in a strongly republican tradition, and after moving to Dublin (1940) she joined Sinn Féin and subsequently travelled to Liverpool, where she was active in the Gaelic League. Returning to Ireland in 1943, Drumm worked as a grocer's assistant in Belfast and became actively involved in the republican movement, with a particular interest in the welfare of prisoners. It was during one of her many visits to republican internees in Belfast prison that she met Jimmy Drumm, a brewery worker, whom she married on his release in 1947. They settled in Andersonstown, Belfast. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Jimmy Drumm spent a total of thirteen years in jail, and while bringing up their four children, Máire remained involved in the National Graves Association, a group that maintained burial sites and memorial shrines for republicans. She was also actively involved with the GAA, promoting camogie, and – as administrator of her club, Gael Uladh – subsequently chairing the Ulster Council of the Camogie Association of Ireland.
After the outbreak of disturbances in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, Drumm cultivated a high profile as a member of the ard comhairle (supreme council) of Provisional Sinn Féin after the split with Official Sinn Féin; becoming vice-president, she was well known for her television appearances and, in particular, for her vituperative style of oratory. Her speeches frequently encouraged membership of the IRA and threatened civil unrest on the part of the nationalist community, and she was also involved in the rehousing of catholics forced to evacuate their homes by sectarian attacks. In July 1971 she was imprisoned for seditious speech after informing her working-class Belfast audience, over whom she held much sway, ‘You should not shout “Up the IRA”, you should join the IRA.’ In court she maintained she would not accept bail. The following year Drumm was also responsible for organising the disruption of meetings of the Women's Peace Coalition. A period of brief imprisonment followed again in August 1976, when she insisted at a rally in Dunville Park, west Belfast, that the city would be destroyed ‘stone by stone’ unless republican prisoners were given political status. In the same year, having captured international headlines with her outspoken remarks, she was banned from entering the US after being awarded a place in the ‘Gaelic Hall of Fame’. In December 1974, the year she announced as the ‘year of liberation’ for beleaguered northern nationalists, she was involved in secret contacts with loyalist paramilitaries and the British government, through the intermediary, the Rev. William Arlow (qv) of the Irish Council of Churches, and she maintained contact with British government representatives throughout the 1975 bilateral truce. She entered the Mater Hospital in Belfast for an eye operation in September 1976, amid rumours that she was planning to move to the south of Ireland after her treatment. On 18 October her husband Jimmy read her resignation speech as Provisional Sinn Féin vice-president at the annual ard-fheis, which insisted her support for the leadership was unqualified and that she would return to the thick of the fray when her health permitted. She was shot dead on 28 October 1976 by loyalist paramilitaries in her hospital ward.
Immediate concern was expressed at the publicity her presence there had been given, and the ease with which the killers had penetrated the security of the hospital. Reaction to her death was predictably divided – unionists saw it as a poetic irony, maintaining she was a victim of her own hatred and rhetoric, whereas republicans lamented the passing of an authentic voice of oppressed nationalists. Other sympathisers believed Drumm was the epitome of the Irish patriotic mother and the backbone of resistance to internment without trial. They also pointed to her private persona, which they maintained was warm, affable, and hospitable, with a lively sense of humour, as evidenced by her comment that she had never really had to face the quandary of birth control as both a devout catholic and a feminist, because her husband was locked up for most of her child-rearing years. Over 30,000 people attended her funeral at Milltown cemetery, her remains flanked by members of Cumann na mBan. Her two sons and a daughter also spent time in prison for republican activities.