Archive for June, 2005

Mickey Devine

Posted in marcella on 23 June 2005 by micheailin

Irish Hunger Strike 1981 Memorial Website

Mickey Devine Joins Hunger Strike

22 June 1981

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‘TWENTY-seven-year-old Micky Devine, from the Creggan in Derry city, was the third INLA Volunteer to join the H-Block hunger strike to the death.’

Read Mickey’s biography >>>here

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Long Kesh Memorial Mass

Posted in marcella on 8 June 2005 by micheailin

Daily Ireland

Memorial mass for hunger strike families

By Jarlath Kearney
j.kearney@dailyireland.com

Relatives of the 1981 hunger strikers attended a special Mass in the Long Kesh prison hospital canteen last Saturday, Daily Ireland has learned.

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The private Mass involved approximately 60 relatives of the hunger strikers. It followed dozens of previous visits by hundreds of former prison officers and prisoners.
The republican ex-prisoners’ network Coiste na nIarchimí organised the event but the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister facilitated the arrangements.
Former Long Kesh chaplains Fr Tom Toner and Fr John Murphy concelebrated the mass.
Oliver Hughes, whose brother Francis was the second hunger striker to die, told Daily Ireland last night that Saturday’s Mass had been one of the most poignant events in his life.
“It was one of the most moving and emotional experiences that I have had this long, long time. When we landed to the gates, I personally hoped we couldn’t get in because I didn’t know how to handle the situation,” Mr Hughes said.

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After being taken to the reception area of Long Kesh, the members of the congregation were moved to the hospital wing, where they were allowed time to move around.
The last time that Mr Hughes and many others had been in the prison hospital was during the hunger strike.
“I immediately recognised the cell my brother was in when he died because I had visited him there the day he died.
“I also recognised the cell Bobby Sands died in because I saw him there the Sunday before and Raymond McCreesh’s cell was right beside Bobby’s.
“I was very, very tense and emotional and, even when someone came forward to speak to me, I was unable to get one word out.
“It was an occasion where I felt both proud and sad — sad that my brother and nine other comrades gave their lives for Ireland and proud at the fact that he was a marker for Ireland,” Mr Hughes said.
Recalling his words to a US reporter outside Long Kesh the evening that Francis passed away, Mr Hughes said: “He was a martyr for old Ireland and not a martyr for the Crown and I still stand by that comment yet.”
Mr Hughes said he could have sat in silence in the hospital wing for a whole day.
He said the solitude of the visit was broken only by someone occasionally asking which cell their loved one had been in.
“The atmosphere would remind you of walking into a chapel out in the country and you open the doors and hear the sound of silence. It was most unusual and strikes you of a place of great faith and religion.
“It’s hard to find the right words but it was a religious occasion and was probably an occasion I will never forget.
“But as I said to someone afterwards, my batteries have been charged and I feel a better republican after Saturday,” Mr Hughes said.

Thomas McElwee

Posted in marcella on 8 June 2005 by micheailin

INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 42

Today, 8 June, in 1981, Thomas McElwee began his hunger strike.

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“Thomas McElwee was born into a large family of eight girls and three boys. He lead the typical life of a nationalist lad in the South Derry countryside, full of promise but very little chance to rise in the world. Young Tom wanted to study to become a mechanic, but the only opportunity to do so was in Ballymena, Paisley-land, where he was harassed and had his tools stolen. So, he settled into work around his home near the town of Bellaghy on the Tamlaghtduff Road. Frank Hughes was his cousin and their large family and his were close. The McElwee boys, like the Hughes boys and the other nationalist families were constantly harassed by the RUC, UDR and British army.

Thomas and Benedict were arrested and taken away for questioning regularly. Still, it came as a surprise when the phone rang with the news of the premature bomb explosion and the condition of the two boys. Fighting the Brits force for force was not necessarily surprising in South Derry.”

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Thomas McElwee

Sincere, easy-going and full of fun.

THE TENTH republican to join the hunger strike was twenty-three-year-old IRA Volunteer Thomas McElwee, from Bellaghy in South Derry. He had been imprisoned since December 1976, following a premature explosion in which he lost an eye.

He was a first cousin of Francis Hughes…”

>>>Read Thomas McElwee’s biography at Irish Hunger Strike 1981 Memorial Website

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Kieran Doherty and Kevin Lynch

Posted in marcella on 7 June 2005 by micheailin

I try to remember every year the important dates of the Hunger Strike, but I don’t always get things posted in order. Some people might say, well, there is enough on the net that it doesn’t need re-doing all the time or we have all read it before anyway so why keep putting it up, but I disagree because unless you keep their memories fresh in your mind, you will forget how it was and still is and there will grow up whole generations who are not familiar at all with the sacrifices these men made for the principles they believed in.

Today in 1981 would mark the 15th day of Kevin Lynch on Hunger Strike and the 16th day Of Kieran Doherty.

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“On Friday, 22 May 1981, Kieran Doherty replaced Raymond McCreesh on hunger strike. Almost immediately, Kieran was put forward for the Dail elections. On 11 July, he was elected TD for Cavan/Monaghan. Some thought that this would get the Irish government into action. Kieran was under no such delusions.”

>>>Read about Kieran here

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“THE EIGHTH republican to join the hunger-strike for political status, on May 23rd, following the death of Patsy O’Hara, was twenty-five-year-old fellow INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch from the small, North Derry town of Dungiven who had been imprisoned since his arrest in 1976.

A well-known and well liked young man in the closely-knit community of his home town, Kevin was remembered chiefly for his outstanding ability as a sportsman, and for qualities of loyalty, determination and a will to win which distinguished him on the sports field and which, in heavier times and circumstances, were his hallmarks as an H-Block blanket man on hunger strike to the death.”

>>>Read Kevin’s biography

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Martin Hurson

Posted in marcella on 3 June 2005 by micheailin

1981 Irish Hungerstrikers

** I am sorry I did not get this posted on Sunday

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MARTIN HURSON BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE – 29 MAY 1981

“On May 29th…Martin joined the hunger strike, replacing South Derryman Brendan McLoughlin who was forced to drop out because of a burst stomach ulcer.

In the Free State general election in June, Martin was a candidate in Longford/Westmeath, and although missing election, obtained almost four-and-a-half thousand first preference votes, and over a thousand transfers, before being eliminated at the end of the sixth count, outlasting two Labour candidates and a Fine Gael contender.”

>>>Read Martin’s biography

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Blanketmen: a review

Posted in marcella on 3 June 2005 by micheailin

THE BLANKET

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A Salute to Comrades
Book Review
The Blanket Archives
Dolours Price • 18 May 2005

After reading ‘Ten Men Dead’ I swore that I would never again read about the Hunger Strike of 1981. I cried at every page and my husband eventually hid the book. I bought another.

My levels of sadness rose at the same rate as my levels of anger. The targets for my anger were the usual ones: those identified by the Republican Leadership as responsible for the death of Bobby Sands and his comrades. Top of the list was Margaret Thatcher, then came busybody priests, political opponents, an uncaring Free-State Government and more and more.

Hunger-striking, the last resort of the brutalised political prisoner. The ultimate weapon, one’s own body. As a Republican I have always maintained that just as I could not be ordered to undertake a Hunger-Strike, then the control and ultimate decision as to where that hunger-strike might lead was also a matter for myself, the individual prisoner. That is not to say that guidance from comrades and particularly the leadership of my movement would at all times be of paramount importance in where that Strike would end for me, be that living or dying.

I read Richard O’Rawe’s book ‘Blanketmen’ because I felt the years that have passed since the Hunger-Strike would let me better cope with the enormity of the sacrifices made then. I was also curious to hear how it was from the ‘inside’.

Living in the Republican community in 1981, having just left prison myself weeks before Bobby Sands died, I took in every word uttered by the then (and still) Republican leadership. They were all out to kill our boys, the Thatcher’s, the civil servants, the media, the lot of them, and those who weren’t out to kill our boys were out to break the Hunger-strike. We were all angry then and we believed and trusted our leadership to act in the best interest of our Comrades. We trusted them and so did the Hunger-strikers.

Richard O’Rawe raises some very disturbing questions in his account of what was happening inside the prison during this period. How exactly was the Hunger-strike being conducted, particularly after the death of the first four men? He clearly says that decisions come to by the prisoners’ command staff and with the knowledge and agreement of the Strikers themselves would mysteriously change after visits by the representatives of Sinn Fein.

If Richard O’Rawe has accurately recorded the events of the time, and there is no reason to suggest he hasn’t, then questions we all quietly asked ourselves way back in 1981 —why so many, where will it end, how can it end— are all too clearly answered for us. There were no orders forthcoming, no orders could be forthcoming.

As I have already stated this was a matter for the prisoners, the Strikers, but, and this is an enormous BUT, no-one in the leadership of the Republican Movement advised the men that it was time, that enough was available to build on, that their deaths were more than the movement could endure. No such comradely concern was shown to very ill and vulnerable friends. No humanity, just political tactics, tactics which we have seen seep through the Republican community in the years since like the Black Death: everything is justifiable if it advances the Sinn Fein agenda.

Was there a motive in what seemed like madness by the leadership? Richard O’Rawe points clearly to a very unpalatable one for Republicans to accept. Yes, men were sacrificed for the political ambitions of the Republican leadership. They trusted and they died. We should all be indebted to Richard O’Rawe for having the courage to put pen to paper and declare that to the world.

I find his memoir of that period both deeply moving and credible. Without being melodramatic, I will say that, allowing for the times we live in, Richard has probably made stronger enemies than he has friends and it is a credit to him that this consideration has not prevented the rest of us having access to this vital piece in the jigsaw, a very sad piece, a sad and dirty period in our history. I applaud Richard for his loyalty to our dead comrades who cannot speak for themselves. This book has been written with genuine heart, it has been researched thoroughly and put together with intelligence and consideration. It is a captivating read, written by a skilled writer.

This is one man’s account. There are hundreds more out there with stories to tell. I urge them to tell those stories. Yes, ‘history is written by the victors,’ but the truth is written by people of courage, people such as Richard O’Rawe. Salute.