Proud memories of Joe McDonnell


**8 July 2006 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Joe McDonnell after 61 days on hunger strike

ALONG with the rest of her family and the wider West Belfast community, Joe McDonnell’s daughter, Bernadette Farrelly, is this week recalling fond memories of the man who gave his life for his people 25 years ago.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBernadette spoke proudly and emotionally to the Andersonstown News of a father who sacrificed his life on hunger strike.
Originally from the Lower Falls, Joe and wife Greta lived in Lenadoon with their two young children, Bernadette and Joseph.
“He was a good father, he always had a smile on his face, and when he was there he did lots of things with me and my younger brother Joseph,” remembers Bernadette.
“When he wasn’t there he used to write us letters. My mum wrote to him a lot to tell him what Joseph and I were doing at school and he used to send us out wee comms to say he had heard what was going on and asking what we wanted for Christmas, what sports we were doing… just general things.”
Bernadette was just five years ol when her father went to prison – her brother Joseph was four.
“My daddy was in jail for four and a half years before he died. He had been on the blanket protest, which meant that we didn’t get to see him.
“My daddy decided to go on hunger strike because he believed that the British army shouldn’t be on our streets,” said the mother-of-two.
“He wanted a better life for us and he had strong beliefs about how to get it,” she added.
Bernadette recalls being told by her mother that her father was going on hunger strike.
“When I was ten and Joseph was nine my mummy sat us down and explained that daddy was going on hunger strike. I knew that Bobby Sands had already died and I didn’t want to believe that my daddy was going to die, but I think I knew what was going to happen.
“When he went on hunger strike he stood in the elections so we would have gone down to Sligo to canvass for him and my mummy was up and down to the jail as often as she could.”
Bernadette had travelled to America shortly before her father’s death to try and raise publicity about the hunger strikes. She recalls returning home as her father deteriorated.
“I went to America and every day I was there I was involved in radio shows and television shows and publicity to highlight what was going on and to get as much support as we could,” said Bernadette.
“I was in America for about ten days and during those days people had phoned me and told me how my daddy was.
“I knew he was getting bad and I just wanted to come home.
“I never saw him again,” said Bernadette.
“My aunt came down to collect me from the airport and we got to Kennedy Way and there was a bus burning. My cousin got out to go to the shop and she asked why the bus was burning and somebody shouted that Joe McDonnell was dead.”
Bernadette says that the news was hard for a 10-year-old child to take in.
“I just couldn’t wait to get home,” said Bernadette.
“I got back to the house and Joseph was there, he threw his arms around me and his exact words were ‘he did it for us’.”
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usBernadette’s father’s funeral took place on the day of her eleventh birthday.
“My mummy was very strong for us and I remember leaving the house and my mummy was so strong, she held us close,” said Bernadette.

Image from Larkspirit – click photo to view and go to site

Following the funeral mayhem erupted when the British army fired plastic bullets at mourners on the Andersonstown Road. Several people were injured during the attack.
Bernadette says that today she remembers her father with pride.
“I loved my daddy and I remember when I was a wee girl all I ever wanted to do was walk down the street with him,” she said, “just do the things that any wee girl does with her daddy. I am very proud of my daddy, as I grew up I understood more what he went through,” she added.
The Sprucehill woman says that the legacy of her father and the other hunger strikers lives on.
“People around my age remember the hunger strikes, but maybe many young people don’t understand, and the events on the anniversaries are a good way of highlighting what happened,” said Bernadette. “It is important for young people to know about and understand the hunger strikes,” she added.
Bernadette says that emotions are still raw 25 years after her father died.
“It has been hard, maybe because there has been so much publicity this year, but also because we now have kids who are asking more questions and I have to answer them ,” she added.

Journalist:: Roisin McManus


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s