KEVIN LYNCH: INLA Volunteer – A Personal Memory

**Posted by Peter Urban

By Ray Collins

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Kevin Lynch died August 1st 1981 after 71 days on hunger strike.
‘A loyal determined Republican with a great love of life.’

Click to view – photo from CAIN

On Saturday afternoon April 18th, 1981, I visited INLA political prisoner Kevin Lynch in the H Blocks of Long Kesh prison. Despite the circumstances of my visit; there was extreme tension within and without the prison; Bobby Sands was on his 49th day of Hunger Strike: Kevin had a sound, strong humour on him and was very focused.

Towards the end of our visit he stated simply and straightforwardly that he would be next on Hunger Strike to replace INLA volunteer Patsy O’Hara. He said this without any visible signs of trepidation or emotion. Kevin was obviously aware of the seriousness of his words; no doubt much more than I was at that moment.

Kevin was obviously a very strong, disciplined, determined, and courageous young man. I could see that clearly in his eyes and his demeanour. At the conclusion of our visit we shook hands firmly, wished each other “good luck”, and bade our farewells. Kevin smiled and returned to his cell and his ultimate fate.

It was the last time I saw Kevin Lynch alive.

On the journey back to Belfast, feeling saddened and humbled, Kevin’s words haunted me. Why would he need to take Patsy O’Hara’s place on Hunger Strike? Sure hadn’t Bobby Sands been elected MP for
Fermanagh/South Tyrone just the week before on April 10th focusing global attention and awareness of the Hunger Strike and bringing international pressure to bear on the British Government and their
allies in Leinster House. Wouldn’t the Hunger Strike be resolved without any loss of life? At least that’s what I thought and hoped for at the time, however naively.

Of course the consequences of what he had said became painfully obvious to me. If Kevin was prepared, as he obviously was, to replace Patsy O’Hara on Hunger Strike then at least four Hunger Strikers, and probably more, would have died.

Thirty-six days after my visit with Kevin, Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, and Patsy O’Hara were dead Their places were taken by Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, and Kieran Doherty.

It was exactly four weeks to the day since I had visited Kevin in the H Blocks; on Saturday May 23rd 1981, just two days before his 25th birthday, Kevin Lynch began his Hunger Strike.

Kevin had been on Hunger Strike for 5 days during the final stages of the 1980 Hunger Strike. Afterwards he spoke these words to his mother.

“If they took everything else away, they’d never take my principles. I’ll die before they take them from me.”

Seventy-one days after starting his Hunger Strike Kevin Lynch died on August 1st 1981 in the H Blocks of Long Kesh.

I was abroad when he died but managed to get to Dungiven in time for his funeral.

Twenty-five years later we commemorate the heroic sacrifice of those Irish Republican and Republican Socialist prisoners-of-war in their struggle for political status.

Unfortunately many of those who stood on the white picket lines in all kinds of weather and attended rallies in support of the Hunger Strikers in 1981 must continue to do so again in 2006, 25 years on. The prison struggle goes on in British and Irish jails as the British Government and New Free Staters in Leinster House continue a policy of criminalization against Irish Republican prisoners who refuse to bend the knee to `progress’. ‘nor meekly serve their time’; nor blindly accept the not-so-Good Friday Agreement.

As Patsy O’Hara said “Let the Fight go on”

In Solidarity,
Ray Collins


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