Archive for May, 2005

Patsy O’Hara Commemoration speech

Posted in marcella on 22 May 2005 by micheailin

IRA2

**Posted to the group by Danielle Ni Dhighe

Speech at Patsy O’Hara Commemoration

22 May 2005

Delivered by John Nixon, a young Irish Republican Socialist Party member from Derry

Friends and Comrades,

It is a privilege and an honour to be asked to speak here today on behalf of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement at this, the 24th anniversary commemoration of the death of INLA Volunteer and hunger strike martyr Patsy O’Hara.

I wasn’t even born 24 years ago when Patsy and his nine comrades embarked upon a fast to the death in their unified and dignified protest against the failed British attempt to criminalise the republican struggle. Their strength was their youth, their determination, their unity and of course the fact that they were fighting for what was right. That is why they prevailed in the end but as we know that struggle cost us dearly. Our ten comrades died within Long Kesh and during the same period others fell in action on the outside, equally courageous and equally determined to rid our nation of the imperialist aggressor. 1981 is a year that republicans in Ireland will never forget because we lost the best people that the struggle had produced. When I ask comrades of Patsy to describe him I hear stories of courage and of generosity. I hear of a soldier of the working class who never shirked his responsibilities to his community. I hear of a political activist who served on the national leadership of the IRSP whilst on the run. A true hero of Ireland’s working class.

At just twenty three years old Patsy had his full life in front of him. He, in his short life, had seen so much that moulded him into the person that he became. He had experienced the oppression and when just a teenager had taken part in the uprising along with the people of this city against the unjust British occupation of Ireland.

The young people of Derry and even of Ireland have a lot to learn from the example of Patsy O’Hara. In today’s society of greed where joyriding, drug abuse and anti-community behaviour is becoming rampant people should look towards the likes of Patsy for inspiration.

This is a society in which working class areas are being flooded with dangerous drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. Joyriding and burglaries are increasing and the PSNI sit back and allow these people

to operate openly with sanction, not that we ever expected anything different from them. Is it any wonder, with the backing of the PSNI, that some of our young people are turning their backs on their communities? We see by the current situation around the Creggan estate what damage these drugs and their dealers can do to the cohesion of communities. Only by embracing the revolutionary ideals of Patsy O’Hara can working class youth realise their collective potential. We say to the young people of this city: “Follow Patsy’s example and fight for your people. Join the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and play a positive role within your communities. Be part of the Irish Revolution!”

Patsy O’Hara by his ideas and his actions is the ultimate role model for the youth of Ireland today. Patsy was not deflected from the revolutionary path by the hollow heroes of the day. When I read about Patsy O’Hara I am reading about a person who was a militant, he was politicised and he was dedicated to the struggle to remove the British occupation forces from Ireland. He was a revolutionary who did not tire of standing up for what is right. Patsy was the Irish equivalent to Che Guevara. A young man who spent his life fighting for freedom and justice.

I could not speak today by not bringing to your attention a struggle of immense importance that is currently taking place at the Eastern borders of Europe. Just last week in Turkey a twelfth wave of death fasters has taken the place of those who have died before them in their struggle against the same type of vindictive and oppressive regime that our comrades in 1981 had to face down. We send our solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Turkey who are embroiled in the most serious of situations and who are facing that situation heroically. We admire their resolve to defeat the fascist regime in Turkey as any victory for the working class abroad is a victory for us here in Ireland also. The campaign in Turkey’s prisons and working class areas has been going on since October 2000. Their slogan “Victory or Death” sums up their resolve and determination in defeating Turkey’s vindictive regime and, comrades, I urge all of you to help bring this massacre to an end by getting involved in renewed campaigns in support of the Turkish prisoners.

So far 118 prisoners and their relatives on the outside have died during their continued protest. Four years ago, just before she died, one of those martyrs, Arzu Guler, sent the following message to the people of Derry: “Our Death Fast attack against the F-types is not only for the Turkish people, it is for all the world. We cannot separate our struggle from the world’s. We know about the struggles of Patsy O’Hara and Michael Devine and we support their cause. We greet you from the depths of our hearts.”

Go raibh maith agat.

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Patsy O’Hara and Raymond McCreesh

Posted in marcella on 21 May 2005 by micheailin

Larkspirit.com

Patsy O’Hara

Died May 21st, 1981

A determined and courageous Derryman

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Twenty-three-year-old Patsy O’Hara from Derry city, was the former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the H-Blocks, and joined IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh on hunger strike on March 22nd, three weeks after Bobby Sands and one week after Francis Hughes.

Patsy O’Hara was born on July 11th, 1957 at Bishop Street in Derry city.

His parents owned a small public house and grocery shop above which the family lived. His eldest brother, Sean Seamus, was interned in Long Kesh for almost four years. The second eldest in the family, Tony, was imprisoned in the H-Blocks – throughout Patsy’s hunger strike – for five years before being released in August of this year, having served his full five-year sentence with no remission.

The youngest in the O’Hara family is twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth.

Before ‘the troubles’ destroyed the family life of the O’Haras, and the overwhelming influence of being an oppressed youth concerned about his country drove Patsy to militant republicanism, there is the interesting history of his near antecedents which must have produced delight in Patsy’s young heart.

GRANDFATHER

Patsy’s maternal grandfather, James McCluskey, joined the British army as a young man and went off to fight in the First World War. He received nine shrapnel wounds at Ypres and was retired on a full pension.

However, on returning to Ireland his patriotism was set alight by Irish resistance and the terror of British rule. He duly threw out his pension book, did not draw any more money and joined the Republican Movement. He transported men and weapons along the Foyle into Derry in the ‘twenties.

He inherited a public house and bookmakers, in Foyle Street, and was a great friend of Derry republican Sean Keenan’s father, also named Sean.

Mrs. Peggy O’Hara can recall ‘old’ Sean Keenan being arrested just before the out break of the Second World War. Her father’s serious illness resulted in him escaping internment and he died shortly afterwards in 1939.

Mrs. O’Hara’s aunt was married to John Mulhern, a Roscommon man, who was in the RIC up until its disbandment in 1921.

“When my father died in 1939 – says Mrs O’Hara, – “John Mulhern, who was living in Bishop Street, and owned a bar and a grocery shop, took us in to look after us. I remember him telling us that he didn’t just go and join the RIC, but it was because there were so many in the family and times were hard.

“My father was a known IRA man and my uncle reared me, and I was often slagged about this. Patsy used to hear this as a child, but Patsy was a very, very straight young fellow and he was a wee bit bigoted about my uncle being a policeman.

“But a number of years ago Patsy came in to me after speaking to an old republican from Corrigans in Donegal, and Patsy says to me, ‘You’ve nothing to be ashamed of, your uncle being a policeman, because that man was telling me that even though he was an RIC man, he was very, very helpful to the IRA!”

FAMILY

The trait of courage which Patsy was to show in later years was in him from the start, says Mr. O’Hara. “No matter who got into trouble in the street outside, Patsy was the boy to go out and do all the fighting for him. He was the fighting man about the area and didn’t care how big they were. He would tackle them. I even saw him fighting men, and in no way could they stop him. He would keep at them. He was like a wee bull terrier!”

Apparently, up until he was about twelve years of age, Patsy was fat and small, “a wee barrel” says his mother. Then suddenly he shot up to grow to over six foot two inches.

Elizabeth, his sister, recalls Patsy: “He was a mad hatter. When we were young he used to always play tricks on me, mother and father. We used to play a game of cards and whoever lost had to do all the things that everybody told them.

“We all won a card game once and made Patsy crawl up the stairs and ‘miaow’ like a cat at my mother’s bedroom door. She woke up the next day and said, ‘am I going mad? I think I heard a cat last night’ and we all started to laugh.”

The O’Haras’ house was open to all their children’s friends, and again to scores of the volunteers who descended on Derry from all corners of Ireland when the RUC invaded in 1969. But before that transformation in people’s politics came, Mrs. O’Hara still lived for her family alone.

She was especially proud of her eldest son, Sean Seamus who had passed his eleven plus and went to college.

PROTESTS

When Sean was in his early teens he joined the housing action group, around 1967, Mrs. O’Hara’s conception of which was Sean helping to get people homes.

“But one day, someone came into me when I was working in the bar, and said, ‘Your son is down in the Guildhall marching up and down with a placard!

“I went down and stood and looked and Finbarr O’Doherty was standing at the side and wee fellows were going up and down. I went over to Sean and said, ‘Who gave you that? He said, Finbarr!’ I took the placard off Sean and went over to Finbarr, put it in his hand, and hit him with my umbrella.’

Mrs. O’Hara laughs when she recalls this incident, as shortly afterwards she was to have her eyes opened.

“After that, I went to protests wherever Sean was, thinking that I could protect him! I remember the October 1968 march because my husband’s brother, Sean, had just been buried.

“We went to the peaceful march over at the Waterside station and saw the people being beaten into the ground. That was the first time that I ever saw water cannons, they were like something from outer space.

“We thought we had to watch Sean, but to my astonishment Patsy and Tony had slipped away, and Patsy was astonished and startled by what he saw.”

INCIDENT

Later, Patsy was to write about this incident: “The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, ‘One man, one vote’ and singing ‘We shall overcome’ I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable.”

IRSP

Shortly after his release in April 1975, Patsy joined the ranks of the fledgling Irish Republican Socialist Party, which the ‘Sticks’, using murder, had attempted to strangle at birth. He was free only about two months when he was stopped at the permanent check-point on the Letterkenny Road whilst driving his father’s car from Buncrana in County Donegal.

The Brits planted a stick of gelignite in the car (such practice was commonplace) and he was charged with possession of explosives. He was remanded in custody for six months, the first trial being stopped due to unusual RUC ineptitude at framing him. At the end of the second trial he was acquitted and released after spending six months in jail.

In 1976, Patsy had to stay out of the house for fear of constant arrest. That year, also, his brother, Tony, was charged with an armed raid, and on the sole evidence of an alleged verbal statement was sentenced to five years in the H-Blocks.

Despite being ‘on the run’ Patsy was still fond of his creature comforts!

His father recalls: “Sean Seamus came in late one night and though the whole place was in darkness he didn’t put the lights on. He went to sit down and fell on the floor. He ran up the stairs and said: ‘I went to sit down and there was nothing there’

“Patsy had taken the sofa on top of a red Rover down to his billet in the Brandywell. Then before we would get up in the morning he would have it back up again. When we saw it sitting there in the morning we said to Sean: ‘Are you going off your head or what? and he was really puzzled.”

IMPRISONED

In September 1976, he was again arrested in the North and along with four others charged with possession of a weapon. During the remand hearings he protested against the withdrawal of political status.

The charge was withdrawn after four months, indicating how the law is twisted to intern people by remanding them in custody and dropping the charges before the case comes to trial.

In June 1977, he was imprisoned for the fourth time. On this occasion, after a seven-day detention in Dublin’s Bridewell, he was charged with holding a garda at gunpoint. He was released on bail six weeks later and was eventually acquitted In January 1978.

Whilst living in the Free State, Patsy was elected to the ard chomhairle of the IRSP, was active in the Bray area, and campaigned against the special courts.

In January 1979, he moved back to Derry but was arrested on May 14th, 1979 and was charged with possessing a hand-grenade.

In January 1980, he was sentenced to eight years in jail and went on the blanket.

HUNGER STRIKE

What were Mrs. O’Hara’s feelings when Patsy told her he was going on hunger strike?

“My feelings at the start, when he went on hunger strike, were that I thought that they would get their just demands, because it is not very much that they are asking for. There is no use in saying that I was very vexed and all the rest of it. There is no use me sitting back in the wings and letting someone else’s son go. Someone’s sons have to go on it and I just happen to be the mother of that son.”

PRINCIPLES

Writing shortly before the hunger strike began, Patsy O’Hara grimly declared: “We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men.

“They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it. I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come.

Patsy witnessed the baton charges and said: “The people were sandwiched in another street and with the Specials coming from both sides, swinging their truncheons at anything that moved. It was a terrifying experience and one which I shall always remember.”

Mr. and Mrs. O’Hara believe that it was this incident when Patsy was aged eleven, followed by the riots in January 1969 and the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ in August 1969 that aroused passionate feelings of nationalism, and then republicanism, in their son. “Every day he saw something different happening,” says his father. “People getting beaten up, raids and coffins coming out. This was his environment.”

JOINED

In 1970, Patsy joined na Fianna Eireann, drilled and trained in Celtic Park.

Early in 1971, and though he was very young, he joined the Patrick Pearse Sinn Fein cumann in the Bogside, selling Easter lilies and newspapers. Internment, introduced in August 1971, hit the O’Hara family particularly severely with the arrest of Sean Seamus in October. “We never had a proper Christmas since then” says Elizabeth. “When Sean Seamus was interned we never put up decorations and our family has been split-up ever since then.”

Shortly after Sean’s arrest Patsy, one night, went over to a friend’s house in Southway where there were barricades. But coming out of the house, British soldiers opened fire, for no apparent reason, and shot Patsy in the leg. He was only fourteen years of age and spent several weeks in hospital and then several more weeks on crutches.

BLOODY SUNDAY

On January 30th, 1972, his father took him to watch the big anti-internment march as it wound its way down from the Creggan. “I struggled across a banking but was unable to go any further. I watched the march go up into the Brandywell. I could see that it was massive. The rest of my friends went to meet it but I could only go back to my mother’s house and listen to it on the radio,” said Patsy.

Asked about her feelings over Patsy be coming involved in the struggle, Mrs. O’Hara said: “After October 1968, I thought that that was the right thing to do. I am proud of him, proud of them all”.

Mr O’Hara said: “Personally speaking, I knew he would get involved. It was in his nature. He hated bullies al his life, and he saw big bullies in uniform and he would tackle them as well.

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Patsy joined the ‘Republican Clubs’ and was active until 1973, “when it became apparent that they were firmly on the path to reformism and had abandoned the national question”.

INTERNED

From this time onwards he was continually harassed, taken in for interrogation and assaulted.

One day, he and a friend were arrested on the Briemoor Road. Two saracens screeched to a halt beside them. Patsy later described this arrest: “We were thrown onto the floor and as they were bringing us to the arrest centre, we were given a beating with their batons and rifles. When we arrived and were getting out of the vehicles we were tripped and fell on our faces”.

Three months later, after his seventeenth birthday, he was taken to the notorious interrogation centre at Ballykelly. He was interrogated for three days and then interned with three others who had been held for nine days.

“Long Kesh had been burned the week previously” said Patsy, “and as we flew above the camp in a British army helicopter we could see the complete devastation. When we arrived, we were given two blankets and mattresses and put into one of the cages.

“For the next two months we were on a starvation diet, no facilities of any” kind, and most men lying out open to the elements…

“That December a ceasefire was announced, then internment was phased out.” Merlyn Rees also announced at the same time that special category status would be withdrawn on March 1st, 1976. I did not know then how much that change of policy would effect me in less than three years”.

Patsy O’Hara died at 11.29 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st – on the same day as Raymond McCreesh with whom he had embarked on the hunger-strike sixty-one days earlier.

Even in death his torturers would not let him rest. When the O’Hara family been broken and his corpse bore several burn marks inflicted after his death.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau.

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Larkspirit.com

Raymond McCreesh

Died May 21st, 1981

A quiet, good-natured and discreet republican

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THE THIRD of the resolutely determined IRA Volunteers to join the H-Block hunger strike for political status was twenty-four-year-old Raymond McCreesh, from Camlough in South Armagh: a quiet, shy and good-humoured republican, who although captured at the early age of nineteen, along with two other Volunteers in a British army ambush, had already almost three years active republican involvement behind him.

During those years he had established himself as one of the most dedicated and invaluable republican activists in that part of the six counties to which the Brits themselves have – half-fearfully, half-respectfully – given the name ‘bandit country’ and which has become a living legend in republican circles, during the present war, for the courage and resourcefulness of its Volunteers: the border land of South Armagh.

Raymond’s resolve to hunger strike to the death, to secure the prisoners’ five demands was indicated in a smuggled-out letter written by Paddy Quinn, an H-Block blanket man – who was later to embark on hunger strike himself – who was captured along with Raymond and who received the same fourteen year sentence: “I wrote Raymie a couple of letters before he went to the prison hospital. He wrote back and according to the letter he was in great spirits and very determined. A sign of that determination was the way he finished off by saying: Ta seans ann go mbeidh me abhaile rombat a chara’ which means: There is a chance that I’ll be home before you, my friend!”

Captured in June 1976, and sentenced in March 1977, when he refused to recognise the court, Raymond would have been due for release in about two years’ time had he not embarked on his principled protest for political status, which led him, ultimately, to hunger strike.

FAMILY

Raymond Peter McCreesh, the seventh in a family of eight children, was born in a small semi-detached house at St. Malachy’s Park, Camlough – where the family still live – on February 25th, 1957.

The McCreeshes, a nationalist family in a staunchly nationalist area, have been rooted in South Armagh for seven generations, and both Raymond’s parents – James aged 65, a retired local council worker, and Susan (whose maiden name is Quigley), aged 60 – come from the nearby townland of Dorsey.

Raymond was a quiet but very lively person, very good-natured and – like other members of his family – extremely witty. Not the sort of person who would push himself forward if he was in a crowd, and indeed often rather a shy person in his personal relationships until he got to know a person well. Nevertheless, in his republican capacity he was known as a capable, dedicated and totally committed Volunteer who could show leadership and aggression where necessary.

Among both his family and his republican associates, Raymond was renowned for his laughter and for “always having a wee smile on him”. His sense of humour remained even during his four-year incarceration in the H-Blocks, as well as during his hunger strike where he continued to insist that he was “just fine.”

SCHOOL

Raymond went first to Camlough primary school, and then to St. Coleman’s college in Newry. It was at St. Coleman’s that Raymond met Danny McGuinness, also from Camlough, and the two became steadfast friends. They later became republican comrades, and Danny too then a nineteen-year-old student who had just completed his ‘A’ levels was captured along with Raymond and Paddy Quinn, and is now in the H-Blocks.

At school, Raymond’s strongest interest was in Irish language and Irish history, and he read widely in those subjects. His understanding of Irish history led him to a fervently nationalist outlook, and he was regarded as a ‘hothead’ in his history classes, and as being generally “very conscious of his Irishness”.

He was also a sportsman, and played under-sixteen and Minor football for Carrickcruppin Gaelic football club as well as taking a keen interest in the local youth club where he played basketball and pool, and was regarded a good snooker player.

When he was fourteen years old, Raymond got a weekend job working on a milk round through the South Armagh border area, around Mullaghbawn and Dromintee. Later on, after leaving his job in Lisburn, he worked full-time on the milk round, where he would always stop and chat to customers. He became a great favourite amongst them and many enquired about him long after he left the round.

RESISTANCE

During the early ‘seventies, the South Armagh border area was the stamping ground of the British army’s Parachute regiment, operating out of Bessbrook camp less than two miles from Raymond’s home. Stories of their widespread brutality and harassment of local people abound, and built-up then a degree of resentment and resistance amongst most of the nationalist population that is seen to this day.

The SAS terror regiment began operating in this area in large numbers too, in a vain attempt to counter republican successes, and the high level of assassinations of local people on both sides of the South Armagh border, notably three members of the Reavey family in 1975, was believed locally to have been the work both of the SAS, and of UDR and RUC members holding dual membership with ‘illegal’ loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Given this scenario and Raymond’s understanding of Irish history, it is small wonder that he became involved in the republican struggle.

JOINED

He first of all joined na Fianna Eireann early in 1973 and towards the end of that year joined the Irish Republican Army’s 1st Battalion, South Armagh.

Even before joining the IRA, and despite his very young age, Raymond – with remarkable awareness and maturity – became one of the first Volunteers in the South Armagh area to adopt a very low, security conscious, republican profile.

He rarely drank, but if occasionally in a pub he would not discuss either politics or his own activities, and he rarely attended demonstrations or indeed anything which would have brought him to the attention of the enemy.

It was because of this remarkable self-discipline and discretion that during his years of intense republican involvement Raymond was never once arrested or even held for screening in the North, and only twice held briefly in the South.

Consequently, Raymond was never obliged to go ‘on the run’, continuing to live at home until the evening of his capture, and always careful not to cause his family any concern or alarm.

Fitted in with his republican activities Raymond would relax by going to dances or by going to watch football matches at weekends.

WORK

After leaving school he spent a year at Newry technical college studying fabrication engineering, and afterwards got a job at Gambler Simms (Steel) Ltd. in Lisburn. He had a conscientious approach to his craft but was obliged to leave after a year because of a fear of assassination.

Each day he travelled to work from Newry, in a bus along with four or five mates who had got jobs there too from the technical college, but the prevailing high level of sectarian assassinations, and the suspicion justifiably felt of the predominantly loyalist work-force at Gambler Simms, made Raymond, and many other nationalist workers, decide that travelling such a regular route through loyalist country side was simply too risky.

So, after leaving the Lisburn factory, Raymond began to work full-time as a milk roundsman, an occupation which would greatly have increased his knowledge of the surrounding countryside, as well as enabling him to observe the movements of British army patrols and any other untoward activity in the area.

ACTIVITY

Republican activity in that area during those years consisted largely of landmine attacks and ambushes on enemy patrols.

Raymond had the reputation of a republican who was very keen to suggest and take part in operations, almost invariably working in his own, extremely tight, active service unit, though occasionally, when requested – as he frequently was – assisting other units in neighbouring areas with specific operations. He would always carefully consider the pros and cons of any operation, and would never panic or lose his nerve.

In undertaking the hunger strike, Raymond gave the matter the same careful consideration he would have expended on a military operation, he undertook nothing either a rush, or for bluff.

CAPTURE

The operation which led to the capture of Raymond, his boyhood friend, Danny McGuiness, and Patrick Quinn, took place on June 25th, 1976.

An active service unit comprising these three and a fourth Volunteer arrived in a commandeered car at a farmyard in the town land of Sturgan a mile from Camlough – at about 9.25 p.m.

Their objective was to ambush a covert Brit observation post which they had located opposite the Mountain House Inn, on the main Newry – Newtonhamilton Road, half-a-mile away. They were not aware, however, that another covert British observation post, on a steep hillside half-a-mile away, had already spotted the four masked, uniformed and armed Volunteers, clearly visible below them, and that radioed helicopter reinforcements were already closing in.

As the fourth Volunteer drove the commandeered car down the road to the agreed ambush point, to act as a lure for the Brits, the other three moved down the hedgeline of the fields, into position. The fourth Volunteer, however, as he returned, as arranged, to rejoin his comrades, spotted the British Paratroopers on the hillside closing in on his unsuspecting friends and, although armed only with a short range Stengun, opened fire to warn the others.

Immediately, the Brits opened fire with SLRs and light machine-guns, churning up the ground around the Volunteers with hundreds of rounds, firing indiscriminately into the nearby farmhouse and two vehicles parked outside, and killing a grazing cow!

The fourth Volunteer was struck by three bullets, in the leg, arm and chest, but managed to crawl away and to elude the massive follow up search, escaping safely – though seriously injured – the following day.

Raymond and Paddy Quinn ran zig-zag across open fields to a nearby house, under fire all this time, intending to commandeer a car. Unfortunately, the car belonging to the occupants of the house was parked at a neighbour’s house several hundred yards away. Even then the pair might have escaped but that they delayed several minutes waiting for their comrade, Danny McGuinness, who however had got separated from them and had taken cover in a disused quarry outhouse (where he was captured in a follow-up operation the next day).

The house in which Raymond and Paddy took cover was immediately besieged by berserk Paratroopers who riddled the house with bullets. Even when the two Volunteers surrendered, after the arrival of a local priest, and came out through the front door with their hands up, the Paras opened fire again and the Pair were forced to retreat back into the house.

On the arrival of the RUC, the two Volunteers again surrendered and were taken to Bessbrook barracks where they were questioned and beaten for three days before being charged.

REMARKABLE

One remarkable aspect of the British ambush concerns the role of Lance-Corporal David Jones, a member of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute regiment. According to Brit statements at the trial it was he who first opened up on the IRA active service unit from the hillside.

Nine months later, on March 16th, 1977 two IRA Volunteers encountered two Paratroopers (at the time seconded to the SAS) in a field outside Maghera in South Derry. In the ensuing gun battle, one SAS man was shot dead, and one IRA Volunteer was captured. The Volunteer’s name was Francis Hughes, the dead Brit was Lance-Corporal David Jones of the Parachute regiment.

In the eighteen months before going on hunger strike together neither Raymond McCreesh or Francis Hughes were aware of what would seem to have been an ironic but supremely fitting example of republican solidarity!

After nine months remand in Crumlin Road jail, Raymond was tried and convicted in March 1977, of attempting to kill Brits, possession of a Garand rifle and ammunition, and IRA membership. He received a fourteen-year sentence, and lesser concurrent sentences, after refusing to recognise the court.

In the H-Blocks he immediately joined the blanket protest, and so determined was his resistance to criminalisation that he refused to take his monthly visits for four years, right up until he informed his family of his decision to go on hunger strike on February 15th, this year. He also refused to send out monthly letters, writing only smuggled ‘communications’ to his family and friends.

The only member of his family to see him at all during those four years in Long Kesh two or three times – was his brother, Fr. Brian McCreesh, who occasionally says Mass in the H-Blocks.

HUNGER STRIKE

Like Francis Hughes, Raymond volunteered for the earlier hunger strike, and, when he was not chosen among the first seven, took part in the four-day hunger strike by thirty republicans until the hunger strike ended on December 18th, last year.

Speaking to his brother, Malachy, shortly after Bobby Sands death, Raymond said what a great loss had been felt by the other hunger strikers, but it had made them more determined than ever.

And still managing to keep his spirits up, when told of his brother, Fr. Brian, campaigning for him on rally platforms, Raymond joked: “He’ll probably get excommunicated for it.”

To Britain’s eternal shame, the sombre half-prediction made by Raymond to his friend Paddy Quinn – Ta seans ann go mbeid me abhaile rombat – became a grim reality. Bhi se. Raymond died at 2.11 a.m. on Thursday May 21st, 1981, after 61 days on hunger strike.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau.

BBC: On This Day – 12 May 1981

Posted in marcella on 12 May 2005 by micheailin

ON THIS DAY

Video news report

12 May 1981: Second IRA protester dies in jail



Women clang dustbin lids on the road to mark Francis Hughes’ death

A second IRA hunger striker, 25-year-old Francis Hughes, has starved to death in the Maze Prison near Lisburn in County Antrim.

His death comes a week after the death of Bobby Sands on 5 May, the first to die in a republican campaign for political status to be granted to IRA prisoners.

“His blood is on Margaret Thatcher’s hands”.

Oliver Hughes, Francis Hughes’ brother

Hughes began refusing food and medical attention a week after Sands began his hunger strike on 1 March. He lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 1743BST today.

As news of his death spread in Catholic areas of Belfast and Londonderry, women clanged dustbin lids and young men stoned army vehicles, threw petrol bombs and hijacked lorries.

Hughes’ brother, Oliver, blamed the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his death. Speaking from his hometown of Bellaghy he said: “Margaret Thatcher and the British Government have murdered my brother and his blood is on Margaret Thatcher’s hands.”

The condition of two other hunger strikers at the Maze, Raymond McCreesh and Patrick O’Hara, continues to deteriorate.

Their five demands include: the right to wear their own clothes, refrain from prison work, associate freely with other Republican prisoners, to have visits and parcels once a week and the right to have lost remission on sentences restored.

“Absolute fanatic”

Security forces have said Hughes was “an absolute fanatic whose name stood for murder and nothing else”. A spokesman went on to describe him as “as vicious a man as you could meet, a ruthless killer who thrived on what he was doing”.

His republican colleagues hailed him as “fearless and active”.

Four years ago, Hughes became a wanted man after the home of a policeman was blown up in County Tyrone. No-one was hurt but Hughes’ fingerprints were found on adhesive tape used on the bomb.

In March 1978 he was finally caught after a gun battle at Bellaghy and eventually sentenced to a total of 83 years in prison for his six-year-long career as an IRA gunman and bomber.

The government is refusing to grant any of the hunger strikers’ demands. Mrs Thatcher says they are a cover for gaining political status, a special category denied paramilitaries in the Maze since 1976.

FRANCIS HUGHES – 1956-1981

Posted in marcella on 12 May 2005 by micheailin

An Camchéachta – Starry Plough

**Today marks the 24th anniversary of the death of Francis Hughes. Tuesday, May 12th Francis died at 5.43pm after 59 days on hunger-strike.

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click to view – Photo from Larkspirit

See also Irish Hungerstrike.com and

Bobby Sands Trust

Francis Hughes: Scourge of the UDR

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June 1981

The name of Francis Hughes will surely continue to stick in the throats of British military and political hawks.

Unlike many of those who make the ultimate sacrifice Francis Hughes had already become a legend in his own lifetime and amongst his own people as one of the most capable guerrilla fighters Ireland has produced in the long war against British Imperialism.

Having put Francis Hughes “safely away” in 1978 the British assumed that his name would no longer strike terror in their own hearts and a chord in the minds of people in South Derry.

The British were exultant at his arrest following a gun battle in which Francis and a comrade killed an SAS man and wounded another. Despite an awesome wound he refused to answer his interrogators who later described him as “totally uncooperative”. After the usual mockery of a Diplock trial British soldiers felt slightly more relaxed in South Derry and surrounding areas. Very foolish of them of course but then the British military mind has never understood the collective spirit of solidarity engendered by individually brilliant revolutionary soldiers like Francis Hughes.

And brilliant he was. His exploits are legion and legendary spreading through areas of Tyrone, Derry and Antrim. They are too numerous to recount here. Suffice it to say that all the normal cliches like dedication, bravery, military skill and the like are inadequate to describe a man who caused the British military machine as much grief as most guerrilla fighters from Tom Barry, Michael Collins and through to the modern breed of fighters.

One or two examples of his coolness and ingenuity would make even Collins look like a novice. The night he was surrounded by British soldiers in one of the numerous “safe houses” in his area of operation he simply grabbed his rifle and weaved his way through the tightening circle stopping occasionally to mumble a few familiar words with the professionals of the British Army whose perception of the “stupid Irish” has often been a weapon in our favour. He got away then as on many other occasions.

Behind his folk hero status in South Derry, however, lies the fairly typical story of a young Irish man who was not allowed to grow up normally in the artificial police state called Northern Ireland. It was not for want of trying.

Showing an aptitude for history and woodwork at school he started an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator at the age of 16 years which he completed shortly before becoming a full time revolutionary. Shortly after he became a painter he and a friend receive a brutal beating from British soldiers on a lonely country road one night. The experience was to prove more painful to the Brits than Francis himself over the next few years.

Responsible for more attacks on British forces than the combined strength of many other units put together he became the “most wanted man” in the Six Counties. So feared was he that his comrades recalled recently in Republican News one UDR patrol recognised him once at a checkpoint but fearful (wisely) of a shoot-out they waved him through.

Francis Hughes is now doubly famous and revered. His hunger strike to the death was just the ultimate proof, if any were needed, that his determination and actions in the field were inspired by a profound political motivation.

If the entire body of self-seekers now scrambling to retain their seats in the Dail possessed between them just a portion of the guts and conviction that Francis showed there might not be the need for the ending of many young Irish lives.

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Songs of Resistance

BALLAD OF FRANCIS HUGHES

With the wind that blows down through sad Derry

Came a Volunteer brave and so bold,

He took on the might of the British

For the honour of Ireland to uphold.

He led a brave column of volunteers

Against foreign soldiers of scorn,

And in the little town of Bellaghy

Francie Hughes, Hunger Striker, was born

Chorus:

So let’s sing of this brave gallant soldier,

Who on Hunger Strike proudly did stand,

With his comrades McCreesh and OHara,

Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Bobby Sands

We heard how he marched o’er the mountains,

Always ready to meet with the toe.

And how he attacked on a hillside

Then vanished with the winds that blow

So let’s sing of this brave gallant soldier,

Who on Hunger Strike proudly did choose,

To stand for the rights of his comrades,

We remember you, brave Francis Hughes

The wind still blows down through sad Derry,

And it echoes in valley and glen,

And high round the hills of Bellaghy

Francie Hughes watches over his men

Bobby Sands Commemoration 2005

Posted in marcella on 10 May 2005 by micheailin

IRA2

Speech From Bobby Sands Commemoration

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A chairde,

Today we remember Volunteer Bobby Sands who died on hunger strike for the sake of his comrades and for the cause of the Irish Republic on May 5th 1981. What better place to remember one of the greatest heroes of the All Ireland Republic than at this spot where Pearse proclaimed the Republic and where so many brave Irish men fought and died defending it?

Bobby Sands was born in Rathcoole, North Belfast in 1954. His twenty seventh birthday fell on the ninth day of his hunger strike. Bobby was to experience the realities of living in a sectarian partitioned state at an early age when his family were forced out of their home in Abbots Cross, Newtownabbey by pro British loyalists in 1962. He was to experience bigotry, hatred and harassment on many occasions in his young life such as when he was forced out of his apprenticeship and in 1972 when his family was again intimidated into moving home this time from Rathcoole to Twinbrook. Bobby was later to describe the effect this evil that pervaded the six north eastern counties of Ireland had on him in the following way: “I was only a working class boy from a nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve liberation for my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign independent socialist republic”. It was in this year of 1972 that Bobby aged only 18 yet seeking the liberation of Ireland and the establishment of a 32 county socialist republic took the brave decision to join the Irish Republican Army.

Bobby’s commitment to the All Ireland Republic of Pearse and Connolly led him to become an inspired and an inspiring volunteer. In October 1972 he was lifted and charged with possession of weapons. At his trial being a loyal Republican Volunteer he refused to recognise the legitimacy of the court. He was sent to Long Kesh for three years where the prisoners had political status.

On his release Bobby immediately reported back to his unit of the IRA for his treatment at the hands of the British had done nothing to quell his love of freedom. He was straight back into the fight for the All Ireland Republic, the honourable war against the Brits, the occupier and the real terrorists in our country. Six months later Bobby was lifted again, this time following a bomb attack and gun battle. Now unfortunately he was sent to the torture chambers of Castlereagh for interrogation. For six days they beat and tortured Bobby and his comrades. For those six long days despite their tortures the Brits couldn’t break Bobby. In all that time he told them nothing except his name, age and address. Bobby was to write of his experiences in Castlereagh in a poem in 1980

entitled “The Crime of Castlereagh”.

They came and came their job the same

In relays N’er they stopped.

‘Just sign the line!’ They shrieked each time

And beat me ’till I dropped.

They tortured me quite viciously

They threw me through the air.

It got so bad it seemed I had

Been beat beyond repair.

The days expired and no one tired,

Except of course the prey,

And knew they well that time would tell

If I had words to say,

Each dirty trick they laid on thick

For no one heard or saw,

Who dares to say in Castlereagh

The ‘police’ would break the law!

Bobby was imprisoned on remand until his trial in September 1977 where he again refused to recognise the court. This time Bobby was on trial with three other men and they found themselves sentenced to fourteen years each for the possession of one handgun. This was and is typical of the treatment handed out by Britishpolitical courts to Irish patriots. While the agents of Britain can murder at will Irish men and women can expect special sentences for special offences in the special courts. And although he received a politically motivated sentence by a politically appointed court Bobby was refused political status as part of Britain’s attempt to criminalise the Irish freedom struggle.

Having spent 22 days in solitary confinement in Crumlin Road Bobby was moved to the newly built H-Blocks where Republican prisoners were engaged in the Blanket protest for the restoration of POW status. Bobby’s commitment to the cause and his keen mind was recognised by his fellow volunteers and he became PRO for the Blanket Men. Like Pearse before him Bobby was a gifted poet and writer as well as an Irish revolutionary. While Pearse’s political writings appeared in such publications as An Claidheamh Soluis, the sword of light, which he edited, Bobby’s writings appeared in the Republican papers of his day; Republican News and An Phoblacht under the nom de plume Marcella, his sister’s name. The letters he wrote were of necessity written in tiny handwriting on toilet paper and smuggled out of the jail.

Bobby and his fellow Blanket Men suffered under a brutal regime imposed by the Brits in an attempt to break the prisoners’ resistance to the policy of criminalisation. But the prisoners refused to be broken. They knew that if they allowed themselves to be labelled criminals then the struggle for the All Ireland Republic would also be labelled a criminal act. The H-Block was another front in the war against the Brits. The prisoners knew that although they had no guns or bombs their determination to resist was their weapon that would see them victorious. Famously Bobby was to say “I am, even after all the torture, amazed at British logic. Never in eight centuries have they succeeded in breaking the spirit of one man who refused to be broken. They have not dispirited, conquered, nor demoralised my people, nor will they ever”.

In April of 1978 the protest was intensified with the commencement of the No Wash protest against the treatment dealt out to prisoners going to the toilets or to the showers. And in case they be forgotten, the women in Armagh Jail joined this protest when they suffered under similar conditions in February 1980.

The No Wash protest had been ongoing for two and a half years in the H-Blocks when in October 1980 seven prisoners began a hunger strike. Bobby was appointed OC as Brendan Hughes his predecessor was on the strike. The strike was called off in December as it was believed that a deal had been reached. But the Brits, being without honour, reneged on the deal just as Bobby was negotiating with the prisoner governor. Bobby was to write ‘We discovered that our good will and flexibility were in vain. It was made abundantly clear during one of my co-operation’ meetings with prison officials that strict conformity was required. Which in essence meant acceptance of criminal status”.

There was no way now that the prisoners were going to accept criminalisation after all they had endured. On March 1st 1981 Bobby began a Hunger Strike in the full knowledge that it could and probably would lead to his death. “Of course I can be murdered”, he said, “but I remain what I am, a political POW and no-one, not even the British, can change that”.

A few days after he commenced his strike Frank Maguire an independent MP who supported the prisoners cause died forcing a by-election in the Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency. Dáithí Ó Conaill, the late vice president of Republican Sinn Féin proposed at an Ard Comhairle meeting that Bobby Sands should run as an abstentionist candidate to highlight his plight. Bobby agreed to this and an intense election campaign was begun. On April 10th he was elected thanks to the support of the nationalist people for his struggle. Bobby was not now an MP. He had stood on a Republican ticket and was endorsed by the people of Fermanagh-South Tyrone. He was a TD and would only have taken his seat in a 32 county All Ireland Dáil had circumstances allowed. The election victory was a great boost to the struggle. Support for the prisoners and for Irelands cause was now building on a world

wide scale. But the British were oblivious to the shame being heaped upon them and on May 5th, the sixty sixth day of his hunger strike Bobby Sands joined the ranks of Irelands martyred dead. Over the next few months while the streets of Ireland ran with blood and fire the Brits remained impervious to world opinion and nine more brave men were to sacrifice themselves just as Bobby had done.

Following the deaths of the 10 Hunger Strikers it was clear that Britain’s shameless intransigence could not be overcome by the deaths of more Irish men. The strike was called off in October. But the Brits had been stung by the hunger strike and the turning of world opinion against them. Rather than risk a repeat of the protest, effective Political Status was introduced without fanfare on the quiet.

Bobby is a true hero of the Republic in the same way that Pearse and Connolly who fought here are. Not only did he gallantly fight the enemy on the field of battle but through his struggles and sacrifice his name has become synonymous with resistance to oppression the world over. He has inspired this generation of Irish men and women the same way the men who fought here at the GPO inspired previous generations. I know that he has inspired me. I remember well that day we marched to the British embassy in Ballsbridge and were baton charged by the Free State police. I can clearly remember thinking “this is what the hunger strikers are fighting against”. And though I was afraid, being only nine years old, I knew that the fear I felt was nothing compared to the fear felt every day by the men in the H-Blocks and the women in Armagh. Yet I would have gladly endured that fear a hundred times over if only we could have had Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers back again.

Now twenty four years later we stand here humbled by the greatness of the Hunger Strikers and the Heroes of 1916. But that which they fought and paid for so dearly is still not achieved. Britain still rules in six Irish counties and a puppet regime administers her rule in the other twenty six. The goal of the Republican Movement remains today the same as it was on Easter Monday 1916. We aim to establish an All Ireland Republic free from foreign oppression and interference where the common name of Irish Man replaces the labels of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. This was the cause for which Pearse and Connolly fought. This was the cause to which Bobby Sands and the other H-Block Hunger Strikers dedicated themselves and for which they eventually gave their lives.

Bobby Sands and the Hunger Strikers of 1981 have inspired a generation of Irish men and women. Their brave sacrifices showed that there was still honour and nobility in the world. They have proven that The Republic which has been struggled for by so many gallant men and women is indeed worth the heavy price paid. We must ensure that the price paid by the blood Irish martyrs is not wasted. It is up to us to ensure that the Irish Republic of Pearse, Connolly and Sands is finally enthroned.

Bobby is often quoted as saying, “Everyone, Republican or otherwise, has his or her own part to play”. What will your part be? Will you be content to sit on the sidelines and criticise while darkness slowly descends on the Republic? Or will you join in the struggle? Will you stretch forth your hand and grasp “an claidheamh soluis”, the sword of light, and drive back the darkness of British rule, defeat the shadow of Imperialism? The day of the Republic is only dawning and so long as we stand united and sing of the glory of Pearse and Connolly of Bobby Sands and the All Ireland Republic then night will never fall.

An Phoblacht Abú

– Fergal Moore

7 May 2005

JOE McDONNELL

Posted in marcella on 9 May 2005 by micheailin

Click on thumbnail to view CRAZYFENIAN’s photo of the Joe McDonnell mural.

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IRISH HUNGER STRIKE 1981 MEMORIAL WEBSITE

**Please visit this excellent site to read Joe’s biography, originally published in IRIS November 1981. This site is a personal tribute by the webmaster, well done with lots of information and photos and very moving.

Joe McDonnell

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Began Hunger Strike 9 May 1981 – Died July 8th, 1981

‘A deep-thinking republican with a great sense of humour

THE FOURTH IRA Volunteer to join the hunger-strike for political status was Joe McDonnell, a thirty-year-old married man with two children, from the Lenadoon housing estate in West Belfast.

A well-known and very popular man in the Greater Andersonstown area he grew up, married and fought for the republican cause in, Joe had a reputation as a quiet and deep-thinking individual, with a gentle, happy go-lucky personality, who had, nevertheless, a great sense of humour, was always laughing and playing practical jokes, and who, although withdrawn at times, had the ability to make friends easily.

As an active republican before his capture in October 1976, Joe was regarded by his comrades as a cool and efficient Volunteer who did what he had to do and never talked about it afterwards.’

>>>READ ON

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CELTIC LYRICS

Joe McDonnell

by Brian Warfield

Oh my name is Joe McDonnell

From Belfast town I came

That city I will never see again

For in the town of Belfast

I spent many happy days

And I loved that town in oh so many ways

For it’s there I spent my childhood

And found for me a wife

I then set out to make for her a life

Oh but all my young ambition

Met with bitterness and hate

I soon found myself inside a prison gate

And you dare to call me a terrorist

While you look down your gun

When I think of all the deeds that you have done –

You have plundered many nations

Divided many lands

You have terrorized their people

You ruled with an iron hand

And you brought this reign of terror to my land

Through the many months internment

In the Maidstone and the Maze

I thought about my land throughout those days

Why my country was divided

Why I was now in jail

Imprisoned without crime or without trial

And though I love my country

I am not a bitter man

I’ve seen cruelty and injustice at first hand

And so one faithful morning

I shook bold freedom’s hand

For right or wrong I tried to free my land

Then one cold October’s morning

I was trapped in the lion’s den

And I found myself in prison once again

I was committed to the H-Blocks

For fourteen years or more

On the “blanket” the conditions they were poor

Then a hunger strike we did commence

For the dignity of man

But it seemed to me that no one gave a damn

Oh but now I am a saddened man

I’ve watched my comrades die

If only people cared or wondered why

Oh may God shine on you, Bobby Sands

For the courage you have shown

May your glory and your fame be widely known

And Francis Hughes and Ray McCreesh

Who died unselfishly

And Patsy O’Hara, and the next in line is me

And those who lie behind me

May your courage be the same

And I pray to god my life was not in vain

And though sad and bitter was the year of 1981

All was not lost, but it’s still there to be won

© Brian Warfield

Larkspirit

Posted in marcella on 7 May 2005 by micheailin

 

SCENES FROM THE FUNERALS

**From the great Larkspirit site, THE IRISH HUNGERSTRIKES–A COMMEMORATIVE PROJECT  (more images on site):

Scenes from the Funerals
(last updated 20 November 03)

This subpage, like others on this site, is a work in progress. Of the many visitors who have come to this site, quite a few have asked about images from the funerals of the hunger strikers.

This is an attempt to collect images — many of which have been emailed to us — and to put them and the funerals into a broader context. Many of the sources are unknown, many are on multiple sites across the internet, so what we’re hoping is this becomes a central point.

What we have found, quite contrary to public perception of the funerals as decreasing in size as the strikes went on, continued to be a galvanising force not only for prisoner issues but also for broader republican activism.

While many point to the numbers who attended Bobby Sands’ funeral and those who attended Kevin Lynch’s funeral and use that as evidence of decreasing support for the strikes, one is reminded that Dungiven was a fairly small and out-of-the-way town, so 5000 mourners is an impressive achievement in that light. As well, reports say that the Devine funeral was poorly-attended (one story we’ve found say only a couple dozen attended!), yet photos from his funeral prove otherwise.

These bits of historical fact will be incorporated into captions for each photo, but for right now we’ve decided to put these photos up now, and let them bear silent testimony to the sacrifices of the hungers strikers, and their families. Irish history is full of symbolic imagery used by groups and individuals for specific and emotive purposes, and as such we make no apologies.

As our research continues, we’ll try to expand on dates, numbers, and specific items about each funeral, including the numerous British and RUC interventions and blockades, the post-mortem abuses of Francis Hughes and Patsy O’Hara, and the police and military raids on firing parties at a couple of the funerals.

Even in death, the hunger strikers were a threat to British imperialism, and even in death, they remain an inspiration to republican activists and to others worldwide.


Bobby Sands, IRA, MP: Buried in Milltown, 7 May 1981


 

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