Former hunger striker Hughes dies

BBC

The former hunger striker and IRA commander Brendan Hughes has died in hospital.

The 59-year-old Belfast man was taken into hospital last week after becoming critically ill. His family said he passed away on Saturday night.

He was the “officer commanding” IRA prisoners in the Maze jail and ordered a dirty protest and later led the first republican hunger strike in 1980.


Brendan Hughes

In recent years he became critical of Sinn Fein and the route it was taking.

Brendan Hughes joined the IRA in 1969, he was arrested in the early 1970s along with Gerry Adams and Tom Cahill and sent to Long Kesh, which later became the Maze prison.

He escaped shortly afterwards in a rolled up mattress but was eventually re-arresseted.

Known as The Dark, Mr Hughes later recalled in journalist Peter Taylor’s BBC series Provos how he gave himself up when the security forces arrived to arrest him while he was on the run in Belfast.

“They came to the door and they knew right away who I was,” he explained.

“I was protesting about the fact that they were raiding the house when the Special Branch man turned round to me and says: ‘Oh come on, Brendan you’ve had a good enough run’.

“I knew that was it. They were quite friendly this time. I was put in the back of the jeep and taken to Castlereagh. I wasn’t punched and I wasn’t insulted.”

In 1977 he was transferred to the H-Blocks where he became the IRA OC and led the hunger strike.

Brendan will be missed, not least by his family, but also by the wider republican family with whom he dedicated such a large part of his life in furtherance of Irish republican goals”.
Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein president

It lasted 53 days after republicans believed they had struck a deal with the authorities on the issue of prisoner’s uniforms.

Mr Hughes called the hunger strike off as Sean McKenna was on the verge of death.

Bobby Sands, who had been a close aide of Hughes, took over as “officer commanding” in the Maze Prison. He ordered the second hunger strike in 1981 in which he and nine other inmates died.

Brendan Hughes never fully recovered from his hunger strike ordeal and two years ago underwent an operation to save his sight.

In interviews he later dismissed Mr Adams and the leadership as “the Armani suit brigade” and accused them of betraying core republican principles and their working class roots.

In a statement issued on Saturday the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he held Mr Hughes “in high esteem” and had been “a very good friend and comrade over many years of struggle”.

“Brendan will be missed, not least by his family, but also by the wider republican family with whom he dedicated such a large part of his life in furtherance of Irish republican goals,” he said.

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