Archive for August, 2006

A’town remembers last hunger striker

Posted in marcella on 24 August 2006 by micheailin

Irelandclick

By Evan Short
21 August 2006

A mock H-Block cell was constructed in Andersonstown Sunday to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Mickey Divine, the final volunteer to die resisting criminalisation.

Hailing from Derry, Mickey Devine died after spending 60 days on hunger strike.

He was the third INLA member to perish in the 1981 campaign that saw ten republican prisoners lose their lives.

He died on the day voters went to the polls in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to elect an MP to replace Bobby Sands, the first to die on the hunger strike.

A founder member of the INLA, Mickey Divine was serving a 12 year sentence in the H-Blocks for firearms offences and spent four years as a blanketman before joining the hunger strike which had already claimed the life of his friend, Patsy O’Hara.

Local Sinn Féin councillors, Paul Maskey and Chrissie Mhic Giolla Mhin, took part in the Andersonstown 1980/1981 Hunger Strike Committee commemoration by participating in a 12-hour fast in the mock H-Block cell located on the Andersonstown Road on Sunday.

Speaking before a white line picket along the road, Councillor Maskey paid tribute to the local committee for their work over the last number of months.
“I would like to commend the hard work of this local committee. It is mostly made up of ex-prisoners, who have indeed inspired wide participation in the range of events since March.

“Their consistency and determination to pay tribute to each of the families of the hunger strikers equally must be commended.

“Today we commemorate the sacrifices made by a Derry man 25 years ago, in the heart of Andersonstown.

“This year’s events have meant so much to the families and the ex-prisoners from that period.”

Councillor Mhic Giolla Mhin added: “It was an honour to be associated with many who participated in the prison protests of 1980 and 1981.

“This small token of fasting for twelve hours in a mock cell on the Andersonstown Road was designed to send out support and solidarity to the families.

“Their sons and loved ones most certainly have not been forgotten and last week’s Casement Park concert and activities are a clear indication of that.”

Journalist:: Evan Short

Son proud of father’s fight against injustice

Posted in marcella on 24 August 2006 by micheailin

Daily Ireland

Hundreds of republicans in Derry commemorate 25th anniversary of INLA hunger striker’s death

By Eamonn Houston
21/08/2006

As his final days on the 1981 hunger strike loomed, 27-year-old Michael Devine asked for his two children, Michael Jr and Louise, to be brought to the hospital wing of Long Kesh prison.
It was to be an emotional visit.
By that stage the ravages of Devine’s fast had rendered him blind.
His life was now quickly ebbing away.
Michael and Louise were brought to Long Kesh by their aunt Margaret – Mickey Devine’s only surviving family member.
For Michael Jr, that last visit when he was just eight years old is seared into his memory.
“I remember the prison hospital pretty well,” he says.
“On one of the last visits we were brought to his bedside at each side and he held our hands.
“That is something that stays with you – you could never forget that even though you were so young. It was hurtful and hateful.”
Michael Devine is now 33 – older than his father was when he took the decision to join the prison protest that saw ten republican prisoners fast to the death in a bid to gain political status.
Devine Jr (Óg) is soft-spoken and politically astute.
He is committed to the same republican socialist ideals that his father died for. The hunger strike and his father’s death have dominated his life. At times, he admits, it has almost become too much for him.
Mickey Devine was the last of the hunger strikers to die. His funeral saw tens of thousands of people follow his cortege through Derry’s Creggan estate.
During this reporter’s interview with Mickey Jr, we look at pictures of his father’s hearse flanked by INLA volunteers as the funeral snaked its way through the Creggan estate. There are other pictures of Mickey Devine lying in state with an INLA guard of honour.
At the age of eight, Michael Jr says that he knew what was happening.
“I knew what he was doing. We knew that he was on hunger strike and refusing food and that other people were. It was something we couldn’t get away from at that time and we had been going to the prison for five years. It was something that was part of our childhood.”
On August 20, 1981, Michael and Louise Devine were awoken at 7am to be told that their father had died.
“We were sat down and told by our mother. I remember crying but even then I had a fair feeling of that coming – but it was still a shock at that time.
“I remember the wake house, and knew that my father was a republican socialist. It was on the last day of the wake that things really hit me. There were throngs of people coming and going.”
Devine’s funeral witnessed one of the biggest colour party displays by the INLA. Michael Jr and Louise were taken the short distance to the city cemetery by their aunt Margaret and Theresa Moore, who had visited Mickey Devine daily during the latter stages of his hunger strike.
Theresa Moore, who was an Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) welfare officer at the time, was appointed as one of Mickey Devine’s ‘surrogate’ family. She remembers Devine’s fondness for his son.
“On his son Michael’s birthday, Michael borrowed £2 to put in a card for him. I said to him: “You can’t die now Michael Devine – you owe me £2.
“He could hear everything, but he couldn’t speak,” she says.
The late Margaret McCauley would talk often of Michael Jr and Louise’s last visit to their father. In several interviews she recalled Devine – who could no longer see – feeling the faces of his children with his hands. She recalled looking back at a “dying skeleton of a man” with tears streaming down his face as she took the children out of the room.
Devine had endured a hard life. His father died when Mickey was a young boy. Devine found his mother dead when he was a teenager. He married young but the union ended in separation.
He also underwent four years of suffering ‘on the blanket’ in the H-blocks and finally the physical and mental torture of hunger strike.
Michael Jr remembers standing in the cemetery as his father was laid to rest.
“I remember the shots ringing in my ears. In the months after his death there was just a numbness. It was a numbing experience even at that age. It was an experience that was hard to deal with. It is something that I found hard to cope with.”
Devine Jr says that his schooling suffered. He was no longer a young boy enjoying a normal existence. Everyone at his school knew who his father was and what had happened. It was something that he could not escape.
“I don’t remember much about school. I was put back a year at school, so there must have been something happening in me at that stage.”
Michael Devine says that he first began to really understand his father’s motivation and sacrifice when he entered his early teens.
“I was thinking politically at a very young age,” he says.
“I was always surrounded by his former comrades and at the age of 13 or 14, I remember becoming very politically aware of what it was all about. It was important for me to have my father and his politics honoured.
“I got angry at stages and had a complete hatred against the British.”
In 2001, Michael Devine took a step that he admits “nearly wrecked” him.
In Turkish prisons, many socialists joined “deathfasts”. Devine Jr felt duty bound to show solidarity with the hunger strikers.
“I felt that I would have some connection with these people – that’s why I went. There is a natural bond and I still feel the same. It disturbed me when I saw those people sitting in those rooms. To be honest, it nearly wrecked me.”
Michael Devine says that his father’s sacrifice is a source of pride.
“I’m proud of him and his politics for the working class. It has dominated my life and sometimes I have tried not to let it dominate my life, but it is always there. It’s something that will be there in 80 years time. The hunger strike is never going to go away. I’m also proud of his former comrades and proud of them putting on such a fitting tribute to him on the 25th anniversary.
“Regardless of political differences, the hunger strikers should be honoured as equals. They fought beside each other in the prisons as comrades. There was a unity.”
Yesterday hundreds of republicans in Derry turned out to commemorate the anniversary of Mickey Devine’s death.
A plaque and murals in his honour were unveiled. The murals feature the signature image of Mickey Devine smiling benignly. His image is one of the most recognisable in his home city.
On June 22, 1981 Devine had completed his fourth year on the blanket and joined Joe McDonnell, Kieran Doherty, Kevin Lynch, Martin Hurson, Thomas McElwee and Paddy Quinn on hunger strike.
He became the seventh man in a weekly build-up from a four-strong hunger strike team to eight-strong.
He was transferred to the prison hospital on Wednesday, July 15, his 24th day on hunger strike.
With 50 per cent remission available to conforming prisoners, Devine would have been due out of jail the following September, but the criminalisation policy of the British government spurred Devine to face death within the walls of Long Kesh.
Micky Devine died at 7.50am on Thursday, August 20, 1981.
On the same day nationalist voters in Fermanagh/South Tyrone were beginning to make their way to the polling booths to elect Owen Carron a member of parliament for the constituency.
In the months that followed, prisoners in Long Kesh were granted most of the privileges they had fought for, first on the blanket protest, and then on hunger strike, by Margaret Thatcher’s government.
A large mural of Devine is painted on the gable wall of the home of his late sister Margaret.

Remembering 1981 – 10th Hunger Strike martyr is buried in Derry

Posted in marcella on 20 August 2006 by micheailin

An Phoblacht

Michael Devine – heroic revolutionary soldier

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOn the death of INLA Volunteer Michael Devine at 12 minutes to eight on Thursday, 20 August 1981, his brother-in-law Frankie McCauley said, “One thinks,’Ten men, how many more have to die? We have ours now over us. Next week it will be big Laurence’s people waiting for the same thing. Then the Devlins after that and another boy will go on hunger strike and another. They’ll never break them.'”

Michael Devine was the last of the Hunger Strikers to die in 1981. His funeral took place on Saturday, 22 August in his native Derry city, in a grave next to his friend and comrade Patsy O’Hara, who died the previous May. The funeral went from Devine’s sister’s home in Rathkeele Way directly to the cemetery after Requiem Mass in St Mary’s chapel. People came from many parts of Ireland to attend and a long queue of mourners lined up outside the house to pay their respects. Thousands gathered in the street as the coffin was removed from the house, flanked by an INLA guard of honour, followed by relatives and then representatives of the families of the other Hunger Strikers.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usConversation on the day revolved around the courage and determination of the Hunger Strikers and the wavering attitude of the Irish Government, the SDLP and the Catholic hierarchy. Another topic of conversation was the election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone of Owen Carron, who attended the funeral. He was repeatedly mobbed by well-wishers. Three British military helicopters flew overhead. The cortege made its way to the top of the cemetery and to the plot where Michael Devine’s comrade Patsy O’Hara was buried three months previously. A piper playing laments was followed by a guard of honour of eight men in uniform. The two leading Volunteers carried the Starry Plough and Tricolour, followed by six more carrying semi-automatic shortarms in their belts. Three drummers then marched silently forward. A second guard of honour of 16 men flanked the coffin on the last few yards of its journey.

Margaret McCauley walked behind the coffin with Michael Devine’s two children, Michael (jnr) aged seven and Louise aged five, and Michael’s aunt Theresa Moore. The coffin was laid on trestles and the firing party stepped forward and delivered three volleys of shots over the remains of their comrade. This salute was greeted with loud applause. Terry Robson chaired the ceremony and praised the deceased Hunger Striker who was the former O/C of the INLA prisoners in the H-Blocks. Wreaths were laid on behalf of all the Hunger Strikers’ families, the INLA, the IRSP, the National H-Block/Armagh Committee, the IRA and many others. A girl piper played the H-Block song and a bugler played the Last Post.

The flags were then removed from the coffin for presentation to Margaret McCauley. “The colours”, Terry Robson said, “include the Starry Plough and the national flag, the Tricolour. It will also include his beret, his gloves and his belt – denoting his rank as an officer in the Irish National Liberation Army.” A statement from the Army Council of the INLA was read out. It said: “The Army Council and Volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army deeply regret the death of Volunteer and Hunger Striker Michael Devine. The Irish National Liberation Army applauds his heroism in the face of the most extreme deprivation and horror.

“As Officer Commanding our Prisoners of War in the concentration camp at Long Kesh, Michael relentlessly pursued an honourable settlement for the protesting prisoners, not in any elitist disregard for the rights of others, but in the full knowledge that his struggle was merely an extension of the same struggle for which he was incarcerated.” The INLA statement went on to say, “The creation of the H-Blocks, a development unseen in the history of the sophisticated torture machinery of British imperialism, brought a new unity amongst anti-imperialist organisations and saw a degree of co-operation between people as our nation reacted in horror at what really was going on inside the corrugated and barbed enclosures of Long Kesh.”

The main oration was delivered by Naomi Brennan, the Chairperson of the IRSP. She described Michael Devine as “a revolutionary, a soldier, but above all a socialist”. She went on to say that Devine saw from the “reality of everyday life in his native Derry what British imperialism means in Ireland. He saw the long years without hope on the dole. He saw the discrimination and gerrymandering from the fat cats behind the Derry walls, and he liked none of it.”

Brennan said that Michael Devine was only a youngster when the RUC batoned the civil rights protestors in 1969, adding that the lessons of the period were not lost on him. She said that 1969 was a time when people had at long last found their voice, learned to stand and demand their rights and that “to stand and fight was far better than 50 years of bending the knee”.

On Michael Devine’s socialist politics she said that Michael “realised that to have national freedom, we must have socialism, and that, also, to have any chance of socialism, we must have national freedom”. Again on Michael’s ideological beliefs she said that his “dedication to the socialist cause was a well thought-out one and one which he put into practice. He realised that you had to organise the people to struggle for themselves; that you had to organise a revolutionary party to guide and direct that struggle; and that you had to organise military resistance to give backbone to that struggle, because that was the only thing that the British had ever really listened to.”

She said the prisoners’ 5 just demands could, and must, be won. On hopes for the future she remarked, “The hope we have is not in the droppings from this or that British Government, much less from the well-oiled phrases of the SDLP politicians and their likes. No, the hope we have is in the spirit of Michael Devine, unquenchable even in the jaws of death itself.

“While Ireland brings forth young men and women such as him there is hope now and for the future – a certainty that the cause for which Michael Devine gave his young life is just, and is necessary, and we must see it through to the end. And we will.”

MICKY DEVINE DIES ON HUNGER STRIKE – 20 AUGUST 1981

Posted in marcella on 20 August 2006 by micheailin

1981 Irish Hungerstrikers

MICKY DEVINE
Died August 20th, 1981

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A typical Derry lad

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.

Micky Devine took over as O/C of the INLA blanket men in March when the then O/C, Patsy O’Hara, joined the hunger strike but he retained this leadership post when he joined the hunger strike himself.

Known as ‘Red Micky’, his nickname stemmed from his ginger hair rather than his political complexion, although he was most definitely a republican socialist.

The story of Micky Devine is not one of a republican ‘super-hero’ but of a typical Derry lad whose family suffered all of the ills of sectarian and class discrimination inflicted upon the Catholic working-class of that city: poor housing, unemployment and lack of opportunity.

>>Read it

Michael Devine

Posted in marcella on 20 August 2006 by micheailin

Fallen Comrades of the IRSM

**Posted to group last year by Danielle Ni Dhighe. Click on above link for more photos

Fallen Comrades of the IRSM – Michael Devine
Died on Hunger Strike on 20 August 1981

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Michael James Devine was born on 26th May 1954 in Springtown, just outside of Derry city. He grew up in the Creggan area of Derry, where he was raised by his sister Margaret and her husband after both parents died unexpectedly when he was age 11.

Mickey was witness to the civil rights marches of the late 1960s in Derry in which civilians were often brutally attacked and the trauma of Bloody Sunday. In fact, Mickey himself was hospitalised twice because of police brutality. In the early 70s, Mickey joined the Labour Party and the Young Socialists. Then in 1975, Mickey helped form the INLA.

In 1976 he was arrested, and sentenced in 1977 to 12 years after an arms raid in County Donegal; he immediately joined the blanket protest. While on hunger strike an appeal to Irish workers he drafted was smuggled out of Long Kesh and it was this letter to Irish workers that was read at factory gates throughout Ireland.

Mickey was 60 days on hunger strike; he was the third INLA Volunteer to join the hunger strike and died at 7:50am on 20th August 1981.

He died as he lived: a Republican Socialist. Remember him with honour and pride.

———————

It’s hard to know what way to behave when a friend and a comrade is slowly dying on Hunger Strike just a few cells away, everyone of course tries to put on a brave face and act normal but both he and we know that it is only make believe. We’ve organized story telling and singsongs to keep up his morale, ours too, but it’s hard, very hard. It won’t be long now until he’s taken away to join the other Hunger Strikers in the prison hospital and then?

Well it seems that only slow terrible death awaits them all. We try to shout words of encouragement but what can you say to a dying man. The screws for their part keep him as isolated from us as possible and go out of there way to taunt and belittle him, yet in their midst he, like his comrades is a giant. If they even had one ounce of their courage if even they had a spark of decency, decency from these who have tormented us all these years? Compassion from these who have made all this suffering necessary?

No, not even a friendly word, not even a word of sympathy during the long days and nights of agony but then neither he nor we expect it. We know only too well that these people have been put here to torment and persecute us and they have done their job well but not well enough. They have served their British masters, the poor pathetic fools, they think that inhumanity and cruelty can break us, haven’t they learnt anything? It strengthens us, it drives us on for then more than ever we know that our cause is just.

Bobby Sands, Frank Hughes, Patsy O’Hara and Raymond McCreesh hunger for justice, they have suffered all the indignities that a tyrant can inflict yet still they fight back with their dying breath. Only a few yards from here, four human skeletons lay wasting away and still the fools the poor pathetic fools cannot break them. Even death will not extinguish the flames of resistance and this flame will without doubt engulf these who in their callousness and in greed have made all this necessary. Britain you will pay!

Michael Devine
Long Kesh, 1981

~~~~~~~~~~

CAIN

**Click on above link for large view of mural

Portrait of Mickey Devine, the final hunger striker to die, and a quotation:

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“I refuse to change to suit the people who oppress, torture or imprison me, who wish to dehumanise me…I have the spirit of freedom which cannot be quenched by the most horrendous treatment. Of course, I can be murdered, but I remain what I am – a political prisoner of war”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Random Ramblings from a Republican

INLA Volunteer Micky Devine

Michael Devine was born May 26th, 1954 on the former American army base, Springfield Camp, outside of Derry City. Unlike his comrades on hungerstrike, Micky did not come from a typically extended family. His father died when he was only 11 years old and his mother when he was a teenager. He grew up fast and fiercely nationalist.

>>Read it

Interview: Jennifer McCann, former republican POW, Armagh Jail

Posted in marcella on 14 August 2006 by micheailin

An Phoblacht

10 August 2006

A republican woman remembers

Jennifer McCann was a comrade of Bobby Sands and a protesting prisoner in Armagh Jail. She remains a republican activist and here talks to ELLA O’DWYER about her memories of the 1981 Hunger Strike.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usJennifer McCann, from the Twinbrook area of West Belfast was arrested on 5 March 1981, five days after Bobby Sands started his fast to the death. She knew the Sands family before her arrest. “I’d have been running around with Bobby’s sister Bernadette and had been in and out of the house.”

When she was 12, McCann’s family, like so many others, including the Sands family, had to leave the predominantly loyalist Rathcoole area of North Belfast, going to live in Twinbrook. Jennifer McCann recalls intimidation from loyalists as she went to school. She remembers that at about the age of eleven she and her schoolmates encountered fear.

“We used to have to go through a loyalist area called Mount Vernon. The intimidation got so bad that we had to wear our own clothes to school rather than our uniforms so they couldn’t be identified. We were just kids.”

Along with an early introduction to loyalist sectarianism, McCann’s interest in Irish history influenced her decision to join Cumann na gCailiní, the republican organisation for girls. Na Cailiní carried out tasks such as selling Republican News and marching at commemorations. Young republicans came under heavy attention from the crown forces. “Growing up in West Belfast you were used to being arrested. I was arrested five times before I was 18. It was known as screening.”

When she reached 17 Jennifer McCann joined the IRA and Bobby Sands was her local leader.

“He was a great role model and great with young people. He always had time for everybody and brought himself to your level. He was never arrogant and treated everybody with respect. Bobby was already a leadership figure in his community.”

Asked if Bobby Sands was all seriousness, she said Bobby was a singer who enjoyed a social evening and was very good at bringing people together: “He always had the guitar and would sing a song.”

When McCann was 20 she was arrested and taken to Castlereigh after an IRA operation. An RUC member was shot in the incident and Jennifer herself was injured along with another comrade. On arrest they expected a thrashing and they weren’t disappointed.

“We got a bad beating, both on the spot and afterwards in Castlegreagh.”

She and a co-accused called Joe Simpson got a beating. They were sentenced to 20 years. While not recognising the court, Jennifer McCann declared aloud that Bobby Sands and his comrades were political prisoners and so was she. In his diary entry for Friday 6 March 1981 Bobby Sands says: “My friend Jennifer got 20 years. I am greatly distressed.”

This forced the women onto a no-wash protest just as it had forced their comrades in the Blocks. By the time McCann had arrived into the remand wing of Armagh Jail the women had been on the no-wash protest for about six weeks. Remand and convicted prisoners could only meet at Mass on Sundays. Because the women prisoners could wear their own clothes and didn’t have to wear the blanket, they took visits. The protesting prisoners would ask Jennifer and the other remand prisoners if there were a smell from their bodies. As young women, they had also to deal with monthly menstruation, a factor that is often lost on people.

Towards the end of 1980, at the height of the first Hunger Strike, the women POWs in Armagh decided they would join their comrades in the Blocks on the fast. The numbers in Armagh were proportionately low in terms of the women’s capacity to maintain the kind of momentum that could keep pressure on the British Government and yet three women joined the fast – Mary Doyle, Sheila Darragh and Mairéad Farrell and stayed on it until the first hunger strike ended.

Asked how the prisoners in Armagh coped with the realisation that their comrades in the Blocks were dying while they could not even go on the streets and protest, McCann says: “It was kind of surreal. We had a small crystallised radio and were aware of what was gong on. We also had a very good ‘comm’ system.

“One of the hardest days was when Dolores O’Neill, who was engaged to Thomas McElwee, found out that her fiancée had died. She had finally been allowed a visit him in the hospital and came back feeling upbeat. The next day Thomas was dead.”

Recently Jennifer McCann made a visit to the hospital wing of the H-Blocks: “That day I thought about what the families went through and the physical pain the men endured.”

Now 25 years on, the memory of the Hunger Strike is very vivid for her. At a recent meeting called to launch the 13 August March in Belfast she said:

“The Hunger Strike opened up the struggle to everyone. People who might formerly have seen themselves as spectators in the conflict could now get actively involved in building political strength, just as Bobby Sands had been within the Twinbrook community.”

By way of closure she added: “This conflict has been a long and hard one and I have seen a number of close friends and comrades die long before their time.”

She went on to recall Bobby Sands’s well-known words “Let our revenge be the laughter of our children”. For McCann the struggle is about future generations living in a just and peaceful society.

Jennifer McCann is married with three children and now works with a community drugs programme in the Falls Community Council.”

Now 25 years on, the memory of the Hunger Strike is very vivid for her.

Interview: Brendan Hurson, brother of Hunger Striker Martin Hurson

Posted in marcella on 13 August 2006 by micheailin

An Phoblacht

**This net article was obviously missing pieces when they printed it. Sorry

10 August 2006

“From the day Martin went to jail my father never said he was wrong or he was right, which was surprising really. He just went along with the rest of us. He never passed any remarks, never criticised.

Religion was very important to him. He would have had all the regalia, books, medals and the like. I had given him a rosary beads in Crumlin Road after he was charged and my wife Sheila gave him a medal of St Martin and funny enough these two things were left out in a special envelope when he died. My wife to this day wears that medal and if any of the children are sick she’d get that medal to them.”

Brendan has eight children and they know all about Martins’ story. “They can remember visiting the prison when they were very young. Martin stood [as godfather] for the oldest girl Brenda.”

Was there was something special or different about Martin that made him able to go through the Hunger Strike?

Each family had to make their own decisions. “He said at one time that if any of us came into the prison to take him off, they weren’t welcome.”

The Hursons chose to stand by Martin’s decision.