Archive for July, 2006

Kieran’s sacrifice recalled 25 years on

Posted in marcella on 31 July 2006 by micheailin

Irelandclick

By Francesca Ryan

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe 25th anniversary of the death of Andersonstown hunger striker Kieran Doherty occurs this week on August 2.

Known to most as ‘Big Doc’, Kieran was a dedicated republican and, by all accounts, a brave and outstanding soldier.

But to Terry and Michael Doherty, Kieran was their younger brother and, like most siblings, the brothers shared their ups and downs.

Born in October 1955, Kieran was the third of six children in the Doherty household in the Commedagh area of Andersonstown.

A very active youth, Kieran participated in a variety of sports and always met and excelled at any challenges that were set before him.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usClick on CRAZYFENIAN’s mural photo of ‘Big Doc’ to view.

A hero, a son, a brother

“He was a determined wee kid,” said Terry, “anything he did, he did it full-belt.

“I remember we used to go swimming when we were younger. Before we went in he would always say ‘I’m going to swim X amount of lengths’, and he always did. Half the time he’d nearly drown to get them done, but he would always finish it.”

Kieran’s tall, athletic frame led him to play under-18 Gaelic football for St Teresa’s GAC at the tender age of 14. Playing alongside his older brother, Michael, Kieran was elated to pick up a minor championship medal aged just 15.

“Kieran played down the wing and he took no prisoners,” remembers Michael. “At 6’2″ he was a big fella and a great asset to the team.”

A reserved lad with a dry sense of humour, Kieran had a close circle of friends with whom he enjoyed a good laugh.

“He wouldn’t be the type to be holding court in a bar, he wasn’t that outgoing but he would always share a joke with his friends,” said Terry.

“He loved a good Guinness and we all used to go to the Ex-Servicemen’s Club, it was known as the Burnt Cabin, in South Link where we’d get a ‘crate on the slate’ and have a good dance. Don’t get me wrong,” he added, “myself and Kieran used to fight the bit out too, we shared a room so there was always a bit of sparring going on.”

Life was turned upside down for the Dohertys with the onset of internment in 1971, when the three brothers found themselves behind the bars of Long Kesh.

“The Brits were always raiding the house in the early 1970s, it was normally the Green Jackets. When they arrived my father used to have each one of us follow them into different rooms to make sure they didn’t plant anything,” said Terry.

“Kieran always stood up to them and never took any cheek,” added Michael. “I remember the Brits came to lift Kieran a few weeks before his 16th birthday, my daddy had to get out the birth certificate to prove he hadn’t yet turned 16.

“Of course they came back for him a few weeks later but we’d managed to get the news to him in time and he went on the run in Limerick.”

Kieran remained in Limerick for a few months but was eager to return to Belfast where he played an integral role in Na Fianna’s Andersonstown brigade.

“We saw less and less of him,” said Terry. “He was interned between 1973 and 1975 and when he was lifted again in 1976 he spent almost two years on remand at the Crum before going on the blanket in Long Kesh in 1978.

“He was a stubborn big fella and he always resisted when the screws tried to search him, he would never look at them when they spoke to him and he never complied with orders.

“There was one time they beat him so badly that he had to go to hospital. He never told us that, we found out from someone else.”

The criminalisation of republican prisoners, the brutality of the prison wardens and the five demands were the main topics of conversation in comms Kieran sent to his family in the late 1970s and 1980.

It came as no surprise, then, that Kieran was on the shortlist for the 1981 hunger strike headed by Bobby Sands.

“We knew he was on the shortlist but we didn’t know exactly where he was on the list,” said Michael. “I was walking home from work on the Falls Road on May 22, 1981 when someone told me that Kieran had replaced Ray McCreesh on the hunger strike.”

Making it clear to his grief-stricken family that he didn’t want to be taken off the strike, Kieran emphasised that he didn’t want to see anyone who didn’t support him.

“He kept saying ‘Promise me that you won’t take me off, if I lose my faculties, you have to promise you won’t take me off the hunger strike’,” recalls Michael.

In the first few weeks of the strike, the boys remember their brother sitting up in his bed chatting. “Once he’d asked about any political developments on the outside he would just start having the craic. He’d sleg me about the clogs I used to wear, he’d ask about different people in the area and always asked about the Go-Sun Chinese in Andytown,” laughed Terry.

As time went by the Dohertys remained hopeful that a breakthrough would arrive and Kieran could be taken off the strike. Hopes soared when the 25-year-old was elected TD for Cavan/Monaghan in June of 1981 with 9,121 first preference votes.

“We all thought that was it,” said Terry. “We thought that would turn things around, it even gave Kieran a bit of hope but there just wasn’t enough done. The Irish government could have put more pressure on Thatcher but they didn’t, they sat on their laurels.”

As the weeks went by and Kieran grew weaker, his family were summoned to Long Kesh 16 days before he died.

“He had such a big frame so it was terrible to see the pyjamas hanging on him,” said Terry. “He was extremely weak so we’d have to lift him to move him, even then he was making sure we wouldn’t take him off the strike if he went unconscious.”

An enduring memory for Michael was attending a Mass in the prison presided over by Fr Tom Toner.

“I was doing a reading and Kieran was too weak to attend the Mass but Micky Devine and Thomas McIlwee were there in their wheelchairs. It was just heartbreaking to see.”

Three days before his death, medical staff at Long Kesh told the Doherty family Kieran’s heart rate was up, a sign that death was imminent. They asked again if the family wanted to take Kieran off the strike, again they refused.

“We kept saying no because that was what Kieran wanted,” said Michael. “He and Kevin Lynch had lasted longer than the other hunger strikers and the screws would taunt us, asking what vitamins we were slipping him.”

Kieran died on August 2, 1981 after 73 days on strike. His mother, Margaret, his sisters, Roisin and Mairead, and Terry were there. His father, Alfie, and brothers, Michael and Brendan, were on their way to the prison at the time.

“It was strange to watch,” said Terry. “He would take a deep breath and then exhale, then there would be nothing for a while, his breaths got further and further apart, then they stopped.”

As the hearse brought Kieran’s body home to Andersonstown, the Dohertys got a glimpse of the support and sympathy that was to be visited upon their Commedagh Drive home in the weeks following his death.

“It was about 2am when the hearse was coming up Kennedy Way, there were literally hundreds of people lining the route to the house,” said Michael. “Of course the Brits were there too and began firing plastic bullets into the crowd. It didn’t deter the people from coming to my mother’s house.”

Messages of support from France, Iran and the US, to name a few, were delivered to Kieran’s home. “The house never stopped,” said Michael, “there was even a group of herdsmen who had travelled from Peru for the funeral and three members of the Iranian Revolutionary Parliament came with gifts. It was overwhelming and very emotional for all of us.”

Twenty-five years on and the memories of a man they were proud to call their brother are still as vivid for both Michael and Terry.

“It’s not something we’ll ever get over, some days are harder than others but it’s a slow process,” said Michael.

“With the anniversaries there is always something that will take us back to 1981, whether it’s meeting someone from Kieran’s campaign team or someone that knew him. I was at an event in Cavan only last month and there were people in their eighties coming up and saying they helped out in the campaign. It’s a nice feeling to have people remember him.”

Despite Kieran’s international status as one of Ireland’s bravest soldiers, for Michael and Terry he will always be their young brother.

“We remember Kieran as this big, strong and determined fella who had his own way of thinking, he was shy and reserved but wouldn’t be pushed around,” said Michael. “A brother is a brother you know,” added Terry, “and that’s what he was to us.”

Journalist:: Francesca Ryan

Remembering 1981: seventh and eighth men die on the fast

Posted in marcella on 31 July 2006 by micheailin

An Phoblacht

Kevin Lynch laid to rest in Dungiven

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe death on hunger strike of INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch after seventy one days occurred on 1 August 1981, followed next day by the death of IRA Volunteer Kieran Doherty. They were the seventh and eight men respectively to die on the fast.
(Photo: Kevin Lynch and Kieran Doherty)

Kevin had been lapsing into frequent periods of unconsciousness in the last four days, having already lost his sight, hearing and speech. His family were at his bedside throughout the last days until the early hours of Saturday morning when he died.

His funeral took place the following Monday in his home town of Dungiven in County Derry. Between the return of his body to his home and the removal of the body for Requiem Mass on Monday afternoon, a constant stream of mourners queued outside the family home to pay their respects. The road was decorated with tricolours and black flags along with posters of Kevin lynch. The RUC and the UDR made every effort to disrupt the funeral, holding up cars and forcing buses to park so that the passengers would have to make their way on foot into the town. Ulsterbus in Belfast cancelled bookings at the last minute. Nevertheless mourners came in convoys of cars and black taxis. At midday the coffin bearing the Tricolour, Starry Plough, gloves and beret was carried to the nearby church. The procession was led by a lone piper and followed by the Lynch family, relatives of other hunger strikers and senior representatives of the IRSP and the broad Republican Movement along with the National H-Block/Armagh Committee.

Five British army helicopters flew overhead as the coffin entered the church grounds. Applause broke out momentarily as an eighteen-strong INLA guard of honour marched up to escort the coffin to the church door. The priest who celebrated the Mass, Fr John Quinn expressed outrage later when the INLA Volunteers escorting the coffin fired three volleys after the coffin had left the church. So enraged was he that he refused to wear his vestments at the graveside. This same priest had failed to refer to the suffering of the hunger strikers themselves and failed also to condemn British intransigence. He also tried to imply that the family had been opposed to the military funeral, an opinion later refuted by family members who criticised the press and those who had made unsolicited comments on their behalf. At the graveside the piper played I’ll Wear No Convict’s Uniform. The last post was played and wreaths were laid including ones from the both INLA and IRA Army Councils.

A uniformed INLA Volunteer then read a statement on behalf of the INLA Army Council stating regret at the death of Kevin Lynch and applauding his heroism. “Kevin Lynch has made the greatest sacrifice and he has done it in the face of the repressive machinery of British imperialism and in the wake of the greatest gesture of defiance against those who control the prisons and those who rule and ravage our country.”

A short oration was given by Councillor Sean Flynn from Belfast, vice-chairperson of the IRSP:

“Kevin epitomised all that is good in a young Irishman, playing our national sports of hurling and football. He excelled at both, and in 1972 captained his native county to win an All-Ireland medal at hurling.”

He went on to contrast Lynch’s Gaelic spirit with the performance of the Gaelic Athletic Association leadership off the field.”Yesterday the Derry county board and South Antrim County Board asked for a minute’s silence before the All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Limerick and Galway. It was no surprise to me when Croke Park refused. President MacFloinn last week declared that no clubs, grounds or units were to be used for H-Block activity as it contravenes rule 7.” He added that work would be done to encourage support for the five demands amongst the GAA.

On Kevin’s courage and determination Sean said “It must be remembered that if Kevin had conformed to the British authority he would be a free man today; but to Kevin, Kieran Doherty, Patsy O’ Hara, Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson and the continuing hunger-strikers, they knew if the political prisoners were criminalised then the British government would attempt to criminalise the struggle on the outside.” He added that Kevin Lynch knew the consequences of going on hunger strike. “Deprived of every other means of defending his political integrity, he defended it with his life. Those who imply that he might have been ordered to do so, or could be ordered to cease to do so, fail to understand the depths or the personal integrity, the individual courage and the dedication to the principles he believed in, that made Kevin Lynch the person he was.”

Big Doc’s final journey

IRA Volunteer Kieran Doherty, TD for Cavan-Monaghan, died at 7.15pm on Sunday 2 August the day after Kevin Lynch’s death. Kieran joined the hunger strike one day before Kevin Lynch and survived a day longer.

Kieran Doherty embarked on the fast on the death of Raymond McCreesh. He managed, with difficulty, to be able to speak to his family almost to the end, though his sight had almost completely gone. Surviving for 73 days, Kieran, or Big Doc as his comrades affectionately called him, had a strong spirit of survival and this kept him conscious almost to the end. Kieran’s body was brought out of Long Kesh and through Andersonstown to his parents’ home in Commedagh Drive at two o’ clock in the morning. About a thousand accompanied the coffin and the crowds came out again on Monday morning, with thousands paying their respects. Again on Tuesday morning hundreds of stewards took position on the route of the funeral as Kieran’s coffin was carried out of his parents’ house, escorted by an IRA guard of honour. An IRA firing party came out of the crowd and, lining the side of the coffin, fired a volley of shots. As British army helicopters hovered overhead, the crowd cheered at the Brits’ inability to prevent the firing party from honouring their dead comrade.

The cortege then moved through Andersonstown led by two pipers. It will be recalled that during the hunger strike some of the clergy had set out to undermine the prisoners’ protest. In contrast to the attitude of the priest celebrating Mass at Kevin Lynch’s funeral Fr Hansen’s sermon demonstrated a fundamental understanding of the issues at the core of the hunger strikers’ protest. While the presiding priest at the Lynch funeral refused to wear his vestments at the graveside because a firing party had been present, the priest at Kieran’s funeral recalled having visited Doherty on the 13th day of his fast and remembered it to be a cheerful event. He went on to recount Kieran’s words when he asked him if he would consider coming off the hunger strike. Kieran replied; “Look father I could not give up. If I did I would go back to criminal status. I am not a criminal. I never was and never will be one.” Recalling those words at the funeral of Kieran Doherty, the priest said, “Basically, I had to agree with him.” He finished off saying “Kieran was very much his own man. He died quietly and very determined, serene and dignified.” Fr Toner, who was criticised by Bobby Sands in his diary, was in the congregation, listening but apparently unmoved by Fr Hansen’s words.

It was estimated that a crowd of about 20,000 attended Kieran’s funeral. Chairing the event Sinn Féin member Jimmy Drumm referred to the ongoing pursuit of the five demands. “The British government needs to be moved on the issues of work, association and segregation”. He finished by saying that with the basis of a just settlement “then we and the families will be spared the anguish and suffering of such funerals as this, and the prisoners who have suffered so much will be able to live in tolerable conditions.” Kieran Doherty was the eight man to die on hunger strike in 1981 and two more would follow.

The oration at Volunteer Doherty’s funeral was given by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Kieran’s Director of Elections during the 1981 General Election. Ó Caoláin said that the people of Cavan/Monaghan had taken the 26 year old to their hearts and that they were proud to elect him as their public representative. Ó Caoláin criticised the Irish government’s handling of the Hunger Strike saying “Their gamesmanship for petty political scores has been a major factor in the continuing deaths in Long Kesh. The people of Cavan/Monaghan hold the present Coalition government directly responsible, through firstly their inactivity, and afterwards their open support for pressure to be placed on the hunger strikers and their families.”

Ó Caolain recalled all the other Irish hunger strikers who died as a result of British intransigence, three of them elected representatives, Terence MacSwiney, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty. Again of Doherty, he added that Kieran had taken his place amongst all those who fought for the three tenets of republicanism: “Equality as embodied by James Connolly, who struggled to achieve a classless society; liberty, the liberty of Patrick Pearse and the fraternity of Wolfe Tone.”
Liam McCloskey

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usLiam McCloskey from Dungiven, Co Derry replaced Kevin Lynch on the hunger strike and was 25 years of age in 1981. He was 16th man to join the fast. He and Kevin were neighbours, friends and cell mates. Liam McCloskey came from a staunchly republican family. He was among the civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday when the British Army opened fire, killing fourteen people.

Liam was arrested in December 1976 and charged together with fellow INLA member Kevin Lynch. He was very severly ill-treated in Castlereagh before being taken to Crumlin Road jail where he spent a year on remand and was finally sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. He immediately joined the blanket protest. Had he conformed to the corrupt prison regime he would have been released four months after he joined the hunger strike under the 50% remission system. But Liam was not for conforming. He was severely beaten by prison warders in September 1978 during a brutal wing shift. His nose was broken and he suffered a perforated eardrum.

Liam has been described as a quiet and dedicated County Derry republican. As a youngster he was remembered as a shy person who loved animals and fishing. Another of his hallmarks was his determination, a characteristic that displayed itself in his life as a republican and particularly during the three years he spent on the blanket and no-wash protests. His family were not entirely surprised when they learnt that Liam was going on the Hunger Strike in place of his comrade Kevin Lynch.

Liam’s mother decided to intervene should her son fall into a coma. On 26 September, after 55 days Liam’s hunger strike came to an end. His mother issued a detailed statement outlining the reason why her son came off the hunger strike; “My son reluctantly ended his hunger strike and only did so after I convinced him that I would not let him die. I told him that I would intervene if he lapsed into a coma and it was better for him to come off hunger strike now rather than run the risk of permanent damage to his eyesight or other vital organs.” She went on to state that she and her family fully supported the prisoners’ five demands and that she didn’t want her son and the other prisoners to live in the conditions that led to the Hunger Strike.
Pat Sheehan

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOn 10 August 1981 Belfast man Pat Sheehan replaced another Belfast man Kieran Doherty as the seventeenth participant on hunger strike. At the time of the hunger strike he was serving a fifteen year sentence. Arrested in January 1978 he spent thirteen months on remand in Crumlin Road jail. He was charged with taking part in an IRA bombing of a warehouse in Belfast and found guilty on the perjured evidence of one witness whose account was hotly disputed. On arrival at the Blocks, Pat immediately joined the blanket protest.

Pat grew up on Isodore Avenue in the Springfield Road area of Belfast. It was a ‘mixed’ area and Pat’s playmates were largely Protestants. One morning in 1970 a gang of loyalist youths armed with bricks, cudgels and batons came to the door to threaten the family. Pat’s mother recognised one of the boys as he had been in the house on a number of occasions. She asked him why he was among this gang. He answered “because you have turned this place into an IRA den”. Pat would sometimes go to visit friends in the Clonard area. The British Army patrolled the street and Pat was regularly stopped. In 1972 he joined Fianna Eireann. According to a former comrade he was very eager and at the age of fifteen tried to pass himself off as older so that he would be accepted into the IRA. He was found out. At about the same period an assassination attempt was made on the family who decided to move and went to live on the Falls Road.

Pat was described as intelligent, politically aware and extremely calm as an operator. These characteristics were quickly noted while he was in the Fianna and when he reached the required age he joined the IRA. In 1979 Pat arrived in the Blocks, immediately joining the protest. Though he was a quiet person he, like Kieran Doherty (Big Doc) was singled out for beatings because of his self-confidence. On the twenty first day of his hunger strike Pat wrote a letter home. In it he described how he felt at that stage of the fast; “I’m still keeping okay and have no medical complaints so far, although I still have the constant craving for food.”

Pat Sheehan was fifty five days on hunger strike when the 1981 Hunger Strike ended on 3 October. He was by then having trouble with his eye-sight and weighed only seven stone. Pat was moved to an outside hospital for medical treatment.

Biography of Kevin Lynch is launched

Posted in marcella on 31 July 2006 by micheailin

Daily Ireland

Thousands of republicans mark anniversary of hunger striker’s death which occurs tomorrow

By Connla Young
31/07/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us“A fascinating read” was how Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness described a new biography of the hunger striker Kevin Lynch at a book launch at the weekend.
Dozens of people turned up for the launch of Kevin Lynch and the Irish Hunger Strike at St Canice’s GAA club in the hunger striker’s home town of Dungiven, Co Derry, on Saturday.
The event was introduced by Limavady Sinn Féin councillor Cathal Hasson.
Mid-Ulster MP Martin McGuinness was the guest speaker. He spoke of the importance of recording the individual stories of each of the ten hunger strikers of 1981. The senior republican also commended the author Aidan Hegarty on his work.
“This is a very important year for Irish republicans. It’s the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the 25th anniversary of the hunger strike.
“People who have studied 1916 know the focus is often placed on just a few of the leaders. That’s a mistake we should not make in terms of the Irish hunger strike.
“Bobby Sands led the hunger strike and was a writer himself and there’s a lot of attention placed on him. Each of the hunger strikers are as important as Bobby Sands and it’s right their stories are told by people who come from the same community.
“I read the book cover to cover and it is a fascinating read, a very easy read. Aidan Hegarty focuses on Paddy and Bridie Lynch and the families of the other hunger strikers and gives us an insight into what they went through.
“How would we know the pain and anguish they felt? The book is written from the perspective of Aidan Hegarty, an H-block activist and someone who was emotionally affected by the men’s deaths.
“The book is testimony to his integrity, commitment and desire to tell the story of the hunger strikers. I don’t have any doubt that people across the island who have an interest in history will have an interest in this book. This is a book which will be widely read and I will encourage people to buy it,” said Mr McGuinness.
Aidan Hegarty said he was honoured to have the chance to write the Kevin Lynch story.
“I wrote this book because it was something I wanted to do. I was privileged to write it, and it was always an ambition of mine to write it.
“When I went to Kevin’s sister Bridie Lynch, she said there was only one person who could write it and the rest of the family agreed. That was the incentive I needed.
“The book is dedicated to Paddy and Bridie Lynch. They are two people I have immense admiration for. It’s sad they are not here to pass judgment on the book themselves,” he said.
Kevin Lynch’s brother Gerald said his family was delighted with the book.
For more information on the book, write to aidanhegarty@hotmail.co.uk or call (028/048) 7774 1127.
Meanwhile, in Dungiven yesterday, thousands of republicans gathered to mark Kevin Lynch’s 25th anniversary, which occurs tomorrow.
Martin McGuinness spoke of the sacrifice made by the Dungiven man and his nine comrades. Several senior Sinn Féin figures, including party leader Gerry Adams and MEP Bairbre de Brún, listened as their party colleague spoke about the events of 1981.
Hundreds of people also attended the official opening of Kevin Lynch Park yesterday afternoon. Gaelic Athletic Association president Nickey Brennan and Ulster Council chairman Michael Greenan were on hand to help with the opening, along with members of the Lynch family.
The occasion was marked by a challenge game between the Kevin Lynch senior hurling team and the former all-Ireland club champions James Stephens from Kilkenny.
A number of buses will travel from Dungiven for the national hunger strike rally taking place in Belfast on Sunday, August 13 For more information call Clíona or Caroline on (028) 7774 2488.

Remembering 1981: British vindictiveness towards Hurson family

Posted in marcella on 15 July 2006 by micheailin

An Phoblacht

13 July 2006

Shock at death of Martin Hurson

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe death of IRA Volunteer Martin Hurson on 13 July 1981, after 46 days on the Hunger Strike, was unexpected. The suddenness of his death, coming only five days after that of Joe McDonnell, came as a shock, since two previous Hunger Strikers – Kieran Doherty and Kevin Lynch had been almost a week on hunger strike ahead of Martin.

Photo: IRA Volunteers salute their comrade, Martin Hurson

Hurson had replaced South Derry man Brendan McLaughlin who was forced to come off the Hunger Strike due to a burst stomach ulcer. His health, since being moved to the prison hospital, had been deteriorating at a far quicker rate than that of his comrades. Throughout the Hunger Strike he had difficulty keeping down the required daily five pints of water. This problem caused him to hallucinate and he suffered from a degree of incoherence in his speech. He rapidly deteriorated towards the end.

Martin Hurson was the sixth H-Block Hunger Striker to die. Coming two weeks earlier than might have been expected his death disproved the assessment that the Hunger Strikers were not in danger until around the 60-day stage. Even as the young Tyrone man was dying, the vindictiveness of the prison authorities never abated. Though the family had been sent for due to his serious condition, Hurson’s brother Francie was refused entry to the prison because he arrived after 10pm. He spent the night outside the H-Block gate as his brother Martin died inside.

The following morning Martin Hurson’s body was removed by the RUC to Omagh hospital without consultation with the family. This move was designed to deny mourners en route the opportunity to pay their last respects. Despite this, over a hundred cars followed the hearse from Omagh to the Hurson home in Cappagh, County Tyrone. Relatives, friends and comrades carried the coffin for the last mile home, escorted by a uniformed, guard of honour and followed by a large procession of sympathisers. Later at the Hurson home, guards of honour from the IRA, Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna Eireann stood to attention as unending lines of mourners filed past the coffin.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOn Wednesday afternoon Martin Hurson’s relatives carried the Tricolour-draped coffin, with gloves and beret on top, down the country lane from his home to the hearse waiting to take his remains to Galbally church. A lone piper lead the hearse which was escorted by an IRA guard of honour, followed by Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna Eireann. Wreath bearers headed the thousands of mourners as three British army helicopters flew overhead. Following the funeral Mass the guard of honour carried the remains to the burial plot. Four armed and uniformed IRA volunteers emerged fom the mourners and fired volleys from handguns in honour of their dead comrade. They then stood for a minute’s silence.

Tyrone republican Francie Molloy presided over the graveside ceremonies. The 1916 Proclamation was read out and a bugler sounded the Last Post as IRA Volunteers stood to attention in salute of their former comrade. An impassioned and comprehensive oration was given by Sean Lynch who had been Hurson’s election agent in the 1981 general election. Speaking of Martin Hurson’s past, Lynch described the 26-year-old as “a member of a large family whose mother died when he was only a boy, a young man who played Gaelic football for the local GAA club in Galbally, a lover of all things Irish who was forced to emigrate and who returned and threw in his lot with those who dispute the claim of England to rule over one inch of Irish soil”.

Lynch talked about the sacrifices of freedom fighters of the time, saying they possessed the same “virtue of patriotism, of spiritual, unselfish love of country as it was understood by Mercier, Casement, Pearse, McSwiney, Stagg, Sands, and Martin Hurson”. He went on to say their sacrifices would “save the cause of Irish independence from destruction at the hands of foreign enemy and native compromiser, and carry it to victory yet”. There was a certain prophetic note to Lynch’s words and again when he said that the spirit of Martin Hurson shines and “calls like a voice from heaven, filling young hearts with courage and determination.”

He went on to outline the origins and sources of, not only the horrendous conditions endured by prisoners in Armagh and the Blocks, but also “all our social and political evils – the British connection”. He also pointed to the “pretence and skulduggery” of the Irish Government of the time who, six deaths later, still refused to support the prisoners’ five demands.

Only three days separated the funerals of Joe McDonnell and Martin Hurson and the proximity of the deaths intensified the depth of frustration and sadness felt by supporters of the Hunger Strikers. Ireland was awash with protests but the British Government wouldn’t budge.

Pat McGeown joins H-Block fast

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Blanketman who replaced the Joe McDonell on the H-Block Hunger Strike was 25-year-old Pat McGeown from West Belfast.

Born on 3 September 1956, McGeown was a veteran of the armed struggle, having joined Na Fianna Éireann in 1970 at the age of 13. He was on active service on scores of occasions in his native city.

One of a family of five, with one older sister and three younger brothers, Pat was married with a six-year-old son in 1981 when he became the 14th man to embark on the Hunger Strike.

McGeown was interned in Long Kesh in 1973 when he was just 16 years of age. He was released in 1974 and re-arrested in November 1975, charged with possession of explosives and with bombing the Europa hotel in 1975. He was on remand for seven months and in 1976 was handed down three concurrent sentences, two of 15 years, and one of five years for IRA membership. McGeown was imprisoned with political status in the cages of Long Kesh.

In March 1978 he, along with Brendan (Bik) McFarlane (O/C of the Blocks in 1981) and Larry Marley attempted to escape dressed as prison warders. They were caught before reaching the perimeter of the jail. McGeown was stripped of political status and put on the boards in the H-Block punishment block for 13 months where he immediately went on the blanket protest.

He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for the escape attempt which he served in the H-Blocks with the other blanket men. However, when the six months was up he was not transferred back to the cages but kept in the H-Blocks. By the time he replaced the late Joe McDonnell on hunger strike, McGeown had spent the previous three years and four months on the blanket.

Remembering 1981: Joe McDonnell’s family honoured in his 1981 constituency

Posted in marcella on 14 July 2006 by micheailin

An Phoblacht

13 July 2006

McDonnell remembered across Ireland

Republicans gathered throughout Ireland last Saturday to mark 25th anniversary of the death of IRA Volunteer Joe McDonnell after 61 days on hunger strike. Events took place in Belfast, Dublin, Derry, Cork, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Waterford, Wicklow and elsewhere.

Speaking in Dublin at a rally outside the GPO Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said: “Republicans are gathering across Ireland today to remember Belfastman Joe McDonnell who died 25 years ago after 61 days on Hunger Strike. Joe, who was married with two young children, was the fifth man to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike and was followed shortly after by Tyrone IRA Volunteer Martin Hurson.

“Joe stood as a candidate in the 1981 General Election in the constituency of Sligo/Leitrim and he received massive support, coming within a handful of votes of getting elected. At his graveside the former Sinn Féin TD for that constituency John Joe McGirl declared that the memorial we had to build for Joe McDonnell was the freedom and unity of the Irish people. That remains our goal as we seek to learn the lessons of 1981 and advance the cause of Irish independence in the times ahead.”

On Sunday a large crowd gathered in Drumkeeran Village, County Leitrim to welcome Joe McDonnell’s wife and children to the village to unveil a Commemorative Bench in their honour of the 1981 Hunger Strikers.

The crowd was addressed by Owen Carron, Bobby Sands’ election agent in the 1981 Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election, and by Sean Mac Manus, Sinn Féin candidate for Sligo / North Leitrim in the forthcoming general election.

Wounds of 1981 hunger strike remain raw for the fiancée of Martin Hurson

Posted in marcella on 13 July 2006 by micheailin

Daily Ireland

Bernadette Donnelly, who was engaged to be married to the sixth republican to die on hunger strike 25 years ago, revisits the place where the couple grew up

Connla Young
13/07/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTo a stranger travelling through east Tyrone, the black flags and life-size posters hanging from telephone posts may arouse a mild curiosity.
To those closer to home, the images of Martin Hurson’s smiling face mask a hurt that has cloaked this close-knit community for a quarter of a century.
The area’s landscape has changed little since Hurson died on hunger strike on July 13, 1981.
A few new houses dot the rolling hills around Galbally where the Hurson family scratched a living from their modest farm. However, a new generation of young people has grown up in the district, relatively untouched by the 30-year conflict that raged during their parents’ youth.
People in their 20s and younger know Martin Hurson’s name but, for them, the events of the hunger strike are from a different time. Even so, tucked away in the belly of the rugged Tyrone countryside, a memorial to the hunger strikers tells of the place that Hurson and his nine comrades will always hold in the hearts of those who knew them.
At the time of his death, Hurson was engaged to Bernadette Donnelly from the nearby village of Pomeroy. The pair met at the wedding of Hurson’s cousin Seán Kelly and Bernadette Donnelly’s sister Mary Rose Donnelly in 1975. Within weeks, they were inseparable.
Now, 25 years later, Bernadette Donnelly has returned to the place where she and Martin Hurson grew up. She has brought with her a vast collection of personal letters sent by Hurson while he was on the blanket protest in Long Kesh. Almost 80 letters and a number of intimate poems reveal the depth of the couple’s relationship after Hurson was sentenced to 20 years in November 1977. He was arrested 12 months earlier, along with other young people from the Galbally area.
The wounds of the 1981 hunger strike remain raw for Bernadette Donnelly, while the anniversary of his death provides more cause for reflection.
“For the last few weeks, I have been looking at a lot of stuff I have.
“He wrote me a lot of letters and seven or eight love poems. I met his sisters and brothers this week and showed them what he had written. It was the first time they had seen them. It was really tough for them. We were crying and laughing,” she says.
The grief Bernadette Donnelly feels over her fiancé’s passing was exacerbated by his quick demise. After 46 days on hunger strike, Hurson died more quickly than his comrades.
“He died so quickly. It was unexpected so I didn’t get to say goodbye. The last time I saw him was about seven or eight days before he went but I really didn’t think he was going to die.
“I used to write to him every week. My letters were about three pages long so he asked me to cut them down to a page. On my last visit with him, he was looking side on at me, which made me think he had double vision.
“The difference with Martin and the other men was how quickly he went. Other families got five or six days with their loved ones before they died. We didn’t get that,” she says.
Bernadette Donnelly was refused permission to visit her fiancé as he slipped into the coma of his final hours. The grey steel gates of Long Kesh were slammed in her face by cold-hearted prison officials.
“Brendan Hurson and me were at a H-block march in Armagh when Malachy McCreesh, brother of Raymond, came over and said that Martin had taken bad. A Galbally man, John Campbell, drove Martin’s brother Brendan, Bernadette McAliskey and myself straight to Long Kesh. Neither Brendan nor me had ID and they were not going to allow Brendan in.
“His sister and father were already there with him but found it hard to watch him. They told Brendan that, if his father identified him, they would let him in but not me. I was engaged to get married to him but they wouldn’t let me in.
“Bernadette McAliskey pleaded with them to let me in but they wouldn’t because they said I wasn’t family. I just put my arm on Bernadette’s arm and said to her: ‘They shot you six months ago. Just leave it and I’ll get in tomorrow morning.’ They even threatened not to let Martin’s brother Francie in when he arrived,” she says.
She returned to the Hurson home in Tyrone and arranged to travel back to Long Kesh with them the following morning.
“I was at my sister’s house getting ready to go and see Martin when I put on the seven o’clock news,” she recalls.
“They just announced that he was dead. I thought I was going to see him then I found out he had died at 4.30am. His sister was driving down the road when she heard it on the news as well. That’s how we heard it.”
Hurson’s death brought a heartbreaking end to any hope of a shared life for the young couple.
“We had intended to get engaged the Christmas after he was arrested but we had to put that off. At the start, he didn’t take many visits but, as time went on into 1978, he began to take more. He used to talk about getting out and spoke of how we would go into Pomeroy and get married. He talked about how we would go to Galbally hall. ‘We wouldn’t send out any invitations. People could just come along,’ he said. There were plenty of musicians in Galbally and they would just come and play for us,” says Bernadette Donnelly.
“We were going to get engaged before he got picked up. He said that, if he had been out, we would have been engaged or married so we got engaged while he was in jail.
“I don’t think he expected to die on hunger strike. But he was very determined and I knew where he was coming from. I was behind him. I wasn’t angry. I knew why he was doing it.”
After Hurson’s death, his fiancée retreated into a period of deep grief and rarely ventured out. In 1984, she eventually decided to move to the United States to make a new life. Almost three years after Hurson’s death, Bernadette Donnelly removed her engagement ring for the first time. She has remained in contact with the Hurson family in the intervening years and is godmother to one of Martin Hurson’s nieces.
Several weeks ago, she returned to Long Kesh to finally visit the place where her young love breathed his last. This time around, the grey steel gates swung open to reveal a deserted Long Kesh. Only bitter memories and the grief of loved ones haunt the prison wing at Long Kesh today.
“If I had known Martin was going to die, I would not have left the jail that night. I would have stayed through the night to see him. I was back about six weeks ago and stood at the same gate I stood outside 25 years ago. And it didn’t matter if I got in that day or not. I saw the cell that Martin was in, and I was in the hospital wing. I sat in room seven, where he died. I stayed there on my own for a while and knelt down and prayed. I think I felt him in the room. I felt his presence there.
“I never want to see it again. Some members of the Hurson family will be down there on Thursday but I don’t want to see it again.”
The irony of being able to walk unhindered through the gates so firmly closed to her 25 years ago is not lost on Bernadette Donnelly today.
“I got into the jail after 25 years but, when I needed to be there, when Martin needed me, I could not be there. But I’m glad I was outside the night before he died, the night they didn’t let me in. If I had not been there, I may have thought there was a chance I could have got in and that would have been worse.
“But now that I have been there, I know how close I was to him. The distance between the gate and the hospital is so short. When I was there, I could not believe how close I was to him and yet, as they say, so far away.”
In the last 25 years, Bernadette Donnelly has built a new life for herself but still carries the memories of 1981.
“He sent me 78 letters and I kept them — the first to the last. It was 25 years ago but, to me, it seems like last week. I recall everything from that time. I have found it very hard this year. It has brought back a lot of memories and it has been really hard but I’m getting on with it for him.”

Martin Hurson: Maintaining humanity

Posted in marcella on 13 July 2006 by micheailin

INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 8

Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 8
Maintaining Humanity Inside the H-Blocks:
The “Craic”

Martin Hurson, who died on 13 July, 1981, after 46 days on hunger strike, was typical of most of the men. He had a lousy singing voice. Only a few of the men could sing a passable song much less get the words right, but in an environment like the H-blocks where there were no books, no newspapers, no TV, no radio and no exercise — and the Blanketmen were locked up 24 hours a day — the only entertainment was what the men could provide for each other.

“Singsongs”

Singsongs were perhaps the easiest way for the men to entertain themselves. Often they derived more fun from “slaging” the awful singers than from praising the good ones. Martin Hurson was so bad, the whole wing would give up a spontaneous, communal moan at the clearing of his throat. And for the most part he knew only one song. At least he had the courage to blast away.

Tom Holland’s cell was next to Martin’s. “Well, what did you think of that, Dutch?,” Martin shouted to Tom after singing a song, who replied, “Martin, I’ve heard the words before but I can’t recognize that tune.”

Once Hurson announced when it was his turn to sing that he would pass because he was singing the same song over and over again and wouldn’t sing until he learned a new one. A sigh of relief was heard around the wing, until he was ordered by the wing OC to sing the new song that was handed to him at mass. But Martin replied that he hadn’t memorized it, and because it was near midnight, there was no light to read from. At that a particularly sadistic screw on night duty turned Martin’s cell lights on and walked off to the safety of his room. The words to a crackling, off-tune “Sean South” rang throughout the wing. The screw was cursed for his cruelty.

Even though the men would howl and carry on during these “performances”, no matter how bad the singer was, he always got applauded at the end, with banging and yelling across the cells.