30.5.06

Photo album

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Martin Hurson

Larkspirit

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MARTIN HURSON BEGINS HUNGER STRIKE - 29 MAY 1981

"On May 29th...Martin joined the hunger strike, replacing South Derryman Brendan McLoughlin who was forced to drop out because of a burst stomach ulcer.

In the Free State general election in June, Martin was a candidate in Longford/Westmeath, and although missing election, obtained almost four-and-a-half thousand first preference votes, and over a thousand transfers, before being eliminated at the end of the sixth count, outlasting two Labour candidates and a Fine Gael contender."


>>>Read Martin's biography


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Hunger Strike chronology

CAIN

**Apologies for posting this information late:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTuesday 26 May 1981

Brendan McLaughlin, who had joined the hunger strike on 14 May 1981, was taken off the strike when he suffered a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) carried out a raid on the headquarters of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) in Belfast and discovered a number of illegal weapons. [At this time the UDA, although a Loyalist paramilitary group, was still a legal organisation and was not 'proscribed' until 10 August 1992.]

Thursday 28 May 1981
**(Martin's biographies put the date as 29 May)

Martin Hurson, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined the hunger strike to replace Brendan McLaughlin who had been taken off the strike on 26 May 1981.

Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, paid a visit to Northern Ireland and made a statement indicating the British government's belief that the hunger strike was the 'last card' of the IRA.

Friday 29 May 1981

The names of four prisoners on hunger strike together with five other Republican prisoners, were put forward as candidates in the forthcoming general election in the Republic of Ireland.

26.5.06

McCreesh and O'Hara die on the same day

An Phoblacht

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Photo: Raymond McCreesh mural unveiled in Camlough by Raymond's former comrades Dan McGuinness and Paddy Quinn who were arrested and imprisoned with him.

Remembering 1981: Four men dead as crisis escalates

Thursday 21 May 1981 witnessed the deaths of two more Hunger Strikers. Raymond McCreesh passed away at 2.30am. Later that evening Patsy O'Hara died.

A Mass had been celebrated at Raymond McCreesh's bedside on Wednesday evening by his brother Fr Brian McCreesh. He was semi-conscious and appeared to show some sign of recognition but died just a few hours later. His remains were returned to his beloved Camlough in South Armagh for the funeral the following Saturday.

Leaving the family home in St Malachy's Terrace, the cortege stopped briefly at the lane outside the house where it was joined by a honour guard of IRA Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and Na Fianna Éireann. Led by a lone piper, the cortege paused to allow Raymond McCreesh's comrades fire a final salute over the Tricolour-draped coffin.

At St Malachy's church loudspeakers broadcast the Mass to a huge crowd of mourners. Mass was concelebrated by five priests led by Raymond's brother Brian. In his sermon Fr Wolsey criticised the British for selectively quoting from the Pope's 1979 Drogheda speech: "Violent means must not be used, the Pope says, to change injustices. But neither must violent means be used to keep injustices. The Pope has said so. The first passage has been over quoted; the second one rarely heard."

After the Mass, the funeral procession made it's way the short distance to the cemetery where, in sight of the family home the coffin was lowered into the grave. Chairing the graveside ceremonies was South Armagh republican, Joe McElhaw. Defying a British exclusion order Sinn Féin President Ruairí Ó Brádaigh delivered the oration. Paying tribute to McCreesh he said: "We are gathered here to perform a last, sad but proud duty for that great Irishman and human being, Raymond McCreesh." He detailed McCreesh's progression from Na Fianna Éireann to the IRA and his capture in 1976 after a gunbattle with the British army. He had fought imperialism, which was the "enemy of mankind"

Ó Brádaigh outlined the area's proud history of resistance to British rule. He accused the British Government of callously murdering McCreesh and his comrades but added that British policy was now in ribbons. "Where now is their Ulsterisation? Where now was their normalisation? Where now is their criminalisation?", he asked.

"These hungry and starving men in their beds of pain, by superior moral strength, have pushed the British government to the wall and have shamed them in the eyes of the world", said Ó Brádaigh.

Comparing the Hunger Strikers to Terrence McSweeney, the Lord Mayor of Cork who died on Hunger Strike in 1921, he pledged republicans would continue their resistance to British rule.

Patsy O'Hara

Patsy O'Hara passed away at 11.39pm. By his bedside were his father James, his sister Elizabeth and family friend James Daly. Speaking of his final moments his sister said: "My Father called Patsy! And he sort of, as if he recognised the voice, sort of just tried to move his head, just one last time. And then he died. And as he was dying his face just changed, he had a very, very distinct smile on his face which I will never forget. I said you're free Patsy. You have won your fight and you're free. And he was cold then."

Former leader of INLA prisoners in the H-Blocks, O'Hara came from a staunchly republican family and was much respected in his native Derry. The night of his death saw sustained rioting on the streets of Derry. The RUC replied with volleys of plastic bullets, murdering 45-year-old Harry Duffy in the process. Two days earlier they had murdered 12-year-old Carol Ann Kelly in Twinbrook..

Repeating their actions with the Francis Hughes cortege, the RUC hijacked O'Hara's remains. Long Kesh Governor, Stanley Hilditch had informed the family that the remains had been taken to Omagh where they could be collected. About 4.30am the RUC phoned Derry with a message. "If you want to collect this thing you had better do it before daylight". They were determined to prevent a daytime cortege. In a sickening development it emerged, after the body was finally retrieved by the grieving family, that the RUC ghouls had mutilated the body.

The funeral, the biggest in the city since the Bloody Sunday funerals, was addressed by a number of people. Chairing the proceedings was James Daly, husband of murdered anti-H-Block activist Miriam Daly. He offered his condolences to the family before introducing a member of the INLA leadership who read out a statement. Patsy's brother Seán then addressed the mourners. He compared Charles Haughey to Pontius Pilate and said the Hunger Strikes were an important victory for the cause of Irish freedom as the whole world could now see the callousness of the British.

Gerry Roche of the IRSP detailed the harsh experiences, North and South, endured by O'Hara during his short life. Commending his revolutionary spirit Roche said the attempt to criminalise the prisoners was an attempt to criminalise the entire struggle. O'Hara had recognised this and had resisted courageously. "He believed that it is no crime to fight the British occupation forces, but the duty of every Irish man and Irish woman", Roche said.

An INLA firing party fired a volley of shots over the coffin in a final salute to their dead comrade.

The deaths of McCreesh and O'Hara in the H-Blocks took place against an increasingly violent backdrop outside the prison. The IRA was mounting increasingly effective military operations against the British army with five British soldiers killed in an ambush at Altnaveigh, South Armagh.

Crown forces attempted to crush rising nationalist anger. In addition to the plastic bullet deaths of Carol Ann Kelly and Harry Duffy, there was a wave of indiscriminate plastic bullet attacks leaving hundreds injured, many of them seriously, including Paul Lavelle (15) from Ardoyne who was left in a coma.

The Hunger Strike was causing a huge outcry in the 26 Counties and Taoiseach Charles Haughey was forced to give the impression of doing something, particularly in light of an impending election on 11 June. He promoted as a serious initiative an intervention by the European Commission on Human Rights which amounted to nothing.

Just two days before her brother died, Haughey met with Patsy O'Hara's sister Elizabeth, during which he gave the impression that a development involving Europe was imminent and asked her for a contact number at which she could be reached. The following morning she got a call summoning her to Government Buildings. Haughey was still pushing the Commission angle but told Elizabeth that Patsy would have to come off the Hunger Strike to give time for a complaint to be made to the Commission. It was clear at this point that the Commission was just a diversion. Elizabeth O'Hara broke off all contact with Haughey.

There was mounting anger on the streets in the 26 Counties. Although the H-Block committee was determinedly non-violent as a matter of strategy, there was a wave of incidents across the state such as the 23 May torching of a bus belonging to English fishermen in Ballinamore, County Leitrim. In a vain attempt to distract from the real issue a Government summit was called with much fanfare to discuss "escalating violence".

A statement from the Catholic Cardinal, Tomás O Fiach said: "Raymond McCreesh was born in a community that has always proclaimed that it is Irish, not British. When the northern troubles began he was barely 12, a very impressionable age at which to learn discrimination. Those who protested against it were harassed and intimidated. Then followed Burntollet, The Bogside, Bombay Street and Bloody Sunday in Derry all before he was 15." The Cardinal went on to say that McCreesh would never have been in jail had it not been for the abnormal political situation. "Who was entitled to judge him?", he asked.

The 20 May local elections in the Six Counties saw a number of H-Block candidates elected. Amongst them was Raymond McCreesh's brother, Oliver.

International support for the Hunger Strikers soared. There were daily demonstrations in the United States. Thousands marched in protest through New York on the Saturday after the deaths of McCreesh and O'Hara. Amongst the countries that saw demonstrations, many of them large, were Australia, Norway, Greece, France and Portugal.

The deaths of Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara, who had started the strike on the same day, died on the same day and were born within a fortnight of each other in February 1957, marked a critical escalation in prison struggle as well as the struggle outside the prisons walls.

Despite the constant rain and a blustery wind that dogged their steps on the road from Newry to Camlough thousands of republicans marched on Sunday 21 May, 2006 to remember IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh who died in 1981 after 61 days on hunger strike.

The march was lead by a colour party of former republican POWs from the South Armagh area. At the head of the flag bearers was Paddy Quinn and Dan McGuinness.

Both men were captured with Raymond McCreesh in 1976 as they mounted an operation against an undercover British army unit near Sturgan Road not far from Camlough, Raymond's home village. Quinn was later to follow his friend and comrade on hunger strike.

A colour party from South Armagh Ógra Shinn Féin marched in formation behind the main colour party.

Sunday's march was the culmination of a weekend of events organised in South Armagh to remember Raymond McCreesh's sacrifice and celebrate his life and commitment to the republican cause.

On Friday a mural was unveiled on Raymond McCreesh's House and a well attended discussion on the legacy of the Hunger Strike was held on Saturday night.

Panellists included Bik McFarlane, O/C of the H-Block prisoners during the Hunger Strike and former Sinn Féin Publicity Director Danny Morrison.

As the march set off from Newry the rain tried hard to dampen spirits but with every mile walked more people joined the procession.

Banners carried bore the names of towns and villages throughout South Down and South Armagh- Camlough, Silverbridge, Belleek, Bessbrook, Crossmaglen, Cullyhanna, Mullaghbawn. Newry was well represented with three banners named in honour of fallen IRA Volunteers from the area.

Monaghan, Armagh's neighbour to the south, sent a contingent while the Harford/Bell Republican Flute Band from Dublin also attended.

In the crowd were members of the Hughes and McElwee families from Bellaghy. Bridie Lynch from Dungiven was there indicating the bond that exists among the families of the H-Block martyrs.

A commemoration was held at the Republican Plot in Camlough cemetery where Raymond McCreesh is buried. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams gave the main oration. Acknowledging the courage and commitment of Raymond McCreesh he said it reflected the courage and commitment of the IRA in South Armagh in the way it fought the British army to a standstill in the area.

Adams went on to commend the work of republicans in South Armagh who had embraced the republican peace strategy and were working hard to fulfil the vision of the united Ireland for which Raymond McCreesh had died.

23.5.06

Tributes paid to 1981 hunger strikers McCreesh and O’Hara

Daily Ireland

22/05/2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThousands defied wet conditions yesterday to attend hunger-strike commemorations for Camlough-born IRA man Raymond McCreesh and the Derry Irish National Liberation Army hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.
Both men died after 61 days on hunger strike on May 21, 1981. McCreesh was 24 and O’Hara was 23.
The crowds at the commemorations included former hunger strikers, members of the McCreesh and O’Hara families, Sinn Féin elected representatives and members of GAA clubs.
There was a march from Newry to St Malachy’s church in Camlough, Co Armagh, where McCreesh is buried. Fr Brian McCreesh, Raymond’s brother, celebrated a Mass in Camlough.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams gave the graveside oration.
He paid tribute to the family of Raymond McCreesh for their dignity and integrity as they carried the very personal pain of losing a son.
In Derry city, thousands of republicans remembered Patsy O’Hara.
His family watched as a monument and mural dedicated to the Derry man were unveiled near the original family home in the city’s Bishop Street.

22.5.06

Today in history: Kieran Doherty joins the hunger strike

CAIN

Friday 22 May 1981

Kieran Doherty, an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner in the Maze Prison, joined the hunger strike.

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Click photo to view CRAZYFENIAN's mural pic of 'Kieran Doherty, Big Doc--one tough soldier'




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Irish Hunger Strike 1981 Website

Kieran Doherty

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A dedicated republican and an outstanding soldier

WHEN the family, friends and former comrades of Belfast IRA Volunteer twenty-five-year-old Kieran Doherty learnt that he was joining the H-Block hunger strike, as a replacement for Raymond McCreesh, it came as no surprise to them.

Although Kieran had spent seven of the last ten years imprisoned, his complete selflessness and his relentless dedication to the liberation struggle left no-one in any doubt that Kieran would volunteer for this terrible and lonely confrontation with British rule inside the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Last December he was amongst those thirty prisoners who were on hunger strike for four days prior to the ending of the original seven-strong strike.

Kieran was born on October 16th, 1955 in Andersonstown, the third son in a family of six children. His two elder brothers, Michael, aged 28, and Terence, aged 27, were interned between 1972 and 1974.


>>Read on


21.5.06

IRA whistleblower faces hate campaign

Sunday Times

**Via Newshound

Carissa Casey
May 21, 2006

A FORMER republican prisoner who revealed that the IRA was offered a deal that could have saved the lives of at least six of the 1981 hunger strikers has been targeted by a graffiti attack near his home in west Belfast.

Richard O’Rawe said he had been the subject of a hate campaign by a small group of former IRA prisoners since the recent broadcast of an RTE documentary supporting his claims about the hunger strike. A wall near his home has been daubed with the slogan “Richard O’Rawe, H-Block Traitor” in red paint.

“Whoever wrote that would have been influenced by those who have been vilifying and demonising me,” O’Rawe said.

Two weeks ago, in a documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of Bobby Sands’s death, Denis Bradley, the former deputy chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he believed the British government had offered a deal to the hunger strikers after three or four of them had died. Bradley said the deal offered was similar to the one that was eventually accepted.

O’Rawe says that since he published a book making similar claims last year, he has been ostracised by former friends. But the attacks have become more ominous since the documentary. “There had been a swing towards me, backing up the veracity of what I’m saying in my book. Then the assaults came like a wave for the best part of two weeks — verbal and written assaults in the media,” he said.

In his book, O’Rawe said he and Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, the IRA prisoners’ commanding officer, accepted concessions offered by the Foreign Office on July 5, 1981 before Joe McDonnell, the fifth hunger striker, died. O’Rawe claims that the IRA army council rejected the deal.

At the time Owen Carron, a Sinn Fein candidate, was contesting a by-election for the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat left vacant a few months earlier by Sands’s death.

O’Rawe’s claims have been disputed by several former ex-prisoners including McFarlane, who says no offer was made.

O’Rawe, who grew up on the Falls Road, says he now lives an isolated existence. “Guys I have known all my life walk by me. I have learnt not to say hello to people unless they say hello to me. People I used to drink with before don’t want me in their company because they don’t feel comfortable with me. There’s a feeling I’ve broken with the leadership.”

O’Rawe describes himself as a committed republican. “I think Gerry Adams is owed a huge debt. I don’t think anyone other than Adams could have brought an end to an unwinnable war and kept republican communities united. But six of my comrades died that should not have, and it’s important the truth comes out warts and all.

“The thing that gets me is that there are republicans out there who are saying, ‘O’Rawe’s right’, but rather than stand up and ask questions they’d prefer to attack me. It’s almost as if it’s okay that the leadership in 1981 let six men die to get Carron elected. I find that absolutely atrocious.”

O’Rawe considered moving away but decided against it. He is writing a novel about Al-Qaeda.

An all-party committee is likely to be established at Stormont this week to examine what issues are preventing the restoration of devolution.

A motion to establish the committee is set to be tabled on Tuesday by Sir Reg Empey, the Ulster Unionist leader, after the expected failure to elect a first minister and deputy.

The committee would have two members from each of the main unionist and nationalist parties, and one from the alliance.

The SDLP is in favour of the idea, depending on the terms of its remit. The DUP has also expressed interest, while Sinn Fein says it will support the proposal if the committee is given sufficient substance.

Empey’s move follows dissent within his party over its alliance with David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist party, the political wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force.

As Raymond and Patsy Reach Crisis: Both Families Come Under Intense Pressure

INA: 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 30

As Raymond McCreesh was approaching the end after being on hunger strike for over 50 days, Dr. Emerson of the prison hospital called the family to Long Kesh. Nothing more was said n the phone. They arrived at 9 PM. There they were meet by Emerson and a medical officer called only Mr. Nolan. The men offered the family tea in a private meeting room and told there was nothing urgent. Then why were they called in under such circumstances at night? At one point Emerson asked Nolan to tell the family what had transpired earlier that evening.

Tricks and lies

Nolan told the family that Fr. Tom Toner, a prison chaplain, had given Raymond "Extreme Unction" and that it left him in distress: "shocked and frightened." The term had not been used for 15 years at this point ["Anointing the Sick" is the modern term for the sacrament.] Nolan began to lecture the family, including Raymond's brother Fr. Brian, an expert on sacramental theology, on the significance of the 'final" sacrament and how he emphasized the final nature of it to Raymond, that it was given only just before death. This was all nonsense. Obviously it was a despicable trick to confuse Raymond off of his hunger strike.

Fr. Brian knew that if anything, his brother would have been relieved to receive this sacrament, being such a deeply religious man. And where was Fr. Toner now if indeed he had witnessed such extraordinary behavior? Nolan continued to tell the family how Raymond couldn't take water anymore and how he helped him try to get in down and keep it down. He also, curiously, said he offered him milk. Milk! He said Raymond told him that

he was confused and didn't know. At this Nolan contended he called in Emerson who rushed to the scene and asked Raymond if he wanted "to save your life?" Emerson said he seemed to respond "yes."

Raymond lies confused and disoriented

Then the clincher: Emerson said he called in the family because it was now up to them whether to save Raymond's life and that medical treatment was mobilized for him in an outside hospital. The family were also assured that Raymond would recover his eyesight and health in a few weeks. Fr. Brian was astonished. He and several other family members were with Raymond at 4 PM, and he was adamant about continuing on until the 5 demands were met.

Earlier the press were floating rumors that Raymond wanted to come off his strike. In fact, Fr. Brian even brought this to his attention. An absolute fabrication according to Raymond himself.

The family were now piecing things together. The offer of milk to a man on hunger strike? The emphasis of the finality of "Extreme Unction"? The middle of the night intrigue?

The family asked to see Raymond alone. He didn't even know were he was although he knew he was in jail someplace. Scotland he thought. He had never been to Scotland. They asked him if he knew he was on hunger strike and he didn't seem to understand. He didn't respond when asked about who Bobby Sands was or Francis Hughes. Then he was told that they were both dead. He asked who had killed Francis. He was in a state of serious confusion. But little by little he seemed to gather himself.

Ray is drugged by prison doctors & NIO

He was asked why he was on hunger strike and after a long pause said it was for the 5 demands, but at first he didn't know. He was coming around. Then he seemed his old self. His brother told him he must have been a bit confused. "A big wee bit!" he replied and he was warned about nurses or doctors trying to confuse him into taking milk, etc. As the visit was over, Raymond raised his hand and said in Irish, "We will win yet!"

The following Sunday Raymond's mother noticed a Band-Aid of some sort on his right arm and what looked like an injection mark in his left. They were now convinced without doubt that he was being drugged by the prison doctors and NIO authorities.

Fr. Brian McCreesh accused of assisting Raymond's "suicide"

Now the Brits and Northern Ireland Office get even dirtier if that was possible. They now floated in the press, who were all too willing to help, the line that Raymond had wanted to come off the hunger strike, but was prevented by his family. The BBC ran reports attacking Fr Brian, the "Priest/Brother", personally for talking his brother into continuing his fast. The Sunday Telegraph [31 May] ran a story by a Benedictine priest about how disgusting it was for "relatives stiffening strikers' resolve to die when they begin to waver." He accused Fr Brian of assisting in his own brother's "suicide."

At 2:11 AM on Thursday, 21 May 1981, Ray McCreesh died for Ireland.

"My God, what have we done to you?"

Generation after generation of McCreeshes had been buried at the cemetery at Creggan and there Raymond was laid to rest amid thousands of mourners and supporters. A British army helicopter tried to drown out the speakers at the ceremony. It didn't matter whether the people could hear or not. They could hear the words of Terence MacSwiney their hearts: "Not all the armies of all the empires on earth can crush the spirit of one true man,and that man will prevail." The day before a young reporter from London stood in stunned amazement at the throngs of sorrowful Irish people that made their way to the McCreesh home to pay their last regards to Raymond. She turned to a friend of the family and said, "My God, what have we done to you?"

The torment of Peggy O'Hara

Less than a month earlier, Mrs. Peggy O'Hara, Patsy's mother, at Bobby Sands' funeral, moved closer so that she could "look into the eyes of a mother who could let her son die." That woman was now herself. How could she? Yet how could she intervene on Pasty's behalf when her son had already make up his mind to go through with his strike and his sacrifice if necessary to the end. And Patsy wasn't the type to enter into situations half-heartedly. He was a totally dedicated soldier and political thinker and she knew his wishes.

As Patsy neared the end, Peggy O'Hara was alone in the prison hospital cell with her son. It was about 10 PM and she was told that her husband, Jim, had been refused admittance to the prison. Rather than be alone at this terrible time, she asked the screws if she would be allowed to sit with the McCreeshes for a few minutes. Both families were witnessing the last moments of their loved one. The screws refused, thereby isolating the poor woman with her own thoughts and with the grief that only a mother could know.

A few hours earlier she had made a firm decision: she would intervene to save her son's life. She loved him too much to watch him die. She had to. She had only to wait until Patsy was no longer conscious, then as next of kin, she would have legal power to order him off his strike and into a real hospital.

"Mammy, please let the fight go on."

She held his hand and moistened his dry lips with water. Then Patsy pronounced what was probably the most famous words uttered by any of the hunger strikers. It was as if he knew what his mother was going to do. He gathered himself and turned towards her, although he couldn't see her, and said: "Mammy, I'm sorry we didn't win. But please let the fight go on." Then she knew that she loved he son so much that she had to allow him to die for the cause he lived for. In the morning her family came for her and waited for the end with Patsy as Peggy got some exhausted sleep.

RUC threaten to drop Patsy's body from a helicopter

Patsy fought for life all the next day. His sister Elizabeth, who had fought tirelessly to save her brother, was with him at the end along with her father. At 11:29 PM, 21 May 1981, she whispered, "You're free, Patsy. You've won your fight and you're free!" Elizabeth saw a smile cross his face at the end. Pasty was dead, just hours after his friend Raymond had died.

His brother Sean asked where they could pick up his brother's remains, but the authorities refused to tell him. Then a 4:40 in the morning, the exhausted family got a call from the RUC: "If you want to collect this thing, you'd better collect it before daylight." The H-Block/Armagh committee got a similar call: "Where do you want this f_cking thing?" They threatened to drop the corpse from a helicopter onto the O'Hara's front doorstep.

The desecration of Patsy O'Hara's remains

In the early morning hours, the family undertaker picked up the body and delivered the coffin to the O'Hara's home in Derry City. When they opened the coffin, they were horrified to see what the RUC and/or British soldiers, like hateful, psychotic ghouls, did to Pasty's body. Elizabeth and her father were with Pasty to the end. While he was in terrible shape from his agonizing death, he was unmarked. As they looked with anger and shock into the coffin, they found that Pasty's nose was broken. Two blood crusted marks were clearly evident across the base of the nose. Four cigarette burns marked the spot above his left eye where they put out their cigarette's on Pasty's face. Similar marks were all over his upper torso, which was covered with bruises. Did prison screws or RUC or Brit army personnel thrown Patsy's body in a plastic bag and dragged out and threw it into a waiting lorry or landrover? Something like that.

Did it make them feel better to desecrate an Irishman's body or cause further torture to an already tortured Irish family? Probably. And that is another reason why Ireland will never experience peace while Britain remains in control. It also is another reason why the Brits themselves will never be at peace as long as they occupy Irish soil. It really is the oppressors who are oppressed by their actions -- it so often makes them unfeeling, disgraceful monsters.

What they did to Pasty's body might have given temporary vent to their repressed self-disgust. But by then Patsy O'Hara was well beyond their sadism and their H-Blocks.

Patsy and Raymond had that day in May won something that even the Brits couldn't take away. They won their freedom and they were true to the end to a true thing.


Next: A closer look at the lives of Raymond McCreesh of South Armagh and Patsy O'Hara of Derry City.

Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara: Two Lives and Two Deaths for Ireland

INA: 1981 Hunger Strike

Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 31

The McCreeshes were on the land around Camlough, Crossmaglen and Dorsey in South Co. Derry for as long as anyone could remember -- seven generations, maybe more.

"Bandit Country"

Since 1970, the Nationalist families of the area, whether involved in the armed struggle or not, were tormented day and night by the British army and the Ulster Defense Regiment.

The men and women of South Armagh, however, were so outraged by the British invasion of their homeland, their beautiful lakes and mountains and farms, that they gave even more than they took. So many British crown forces were killed or maimed in South Armagh by the local IRA that they called it "Bandit Country". At one point, the IRA controlled the ground -- totally. The only way the Brits could operate was by helicopter.

na Fianna and the IRA

As a boy of ten or eleven, Raymond McCreesh was no exception with regards deep resentment over the British presence and his being harassed. But he was a quiet, very religious boy. Raymond worked delivering milk to the local farms and shops. At 16 he joined na Fianna Eireann. At seventeen, he join the IRA and his job fit in perfectly with gathering of information on British army patrol movements. Young volunteers in the area were most often used to gather intelligence and brought slowly into the conflict. Raymond was so good at covering up his activities in the IRA that not even the RUC/Brits really suspected him, any further than they suspected every nationalist. He was never arrested and stayed away from Republican demonstrations. Even his friends and family were amazed to hear of his IRA activities, but he was known as a determined and skilled soldier to the men he served with.

Fr. Brian finds out

His brother, Fr. Brian McCreesh, however, "knew". Fr. Brian was serving as a curate near Dundalk, when his brother knocked on his door at two o’clock in the morning. Raymond said he was stopped by the Garda for questioning and let go. Before giving him a place to sleep, Brian asked his brother directly if he was involved in the IRA, something the Fr. Brian would have understood but not approved of. Raymond said, "No." But he looked away from his brother’s eyes. No more was needed to be said. A year latter, Raymond’s freedom to operate would come to an abrupt end.

Shoot-out and capture

Early on 21 June 1976, a Brit army patrol was routinely surveilling the Mountain House Inn near Belleeks. Soon, an IRA suspect, Paddy Quinn, was spied leaving the Inn. The Brits moved in re-inforcements, including an 8 man patrol of the hated and feared Parachute Regiment [also responsible for the slaughter on Bloody Sunday]. The patrol split up into two groups and dug in; they waited for four days, logging in movements and taking pictures.

At 9:30 P.M., four armed IRA men were seen by the second surveillance patrol moving military style across a field. The men were preparing an attack on the Brit observation post at the Mountain House, unaware they were being observed. The Brits radioed for reinforcements from the nearly Bessbrook barracks. Raymond, with a Garand rifle at the ready, Paddy Quinn, and the two others, were allowed to progress until the got to approximately 50 yards of the 2nd. Brit patrol when they opened fire. Reinforcements arrived. Helicopters flew overhead, lighting up the fields. One of the IRA men seemed to be hit but managed to escape through a gatepost into another field and they away.

At the sounds of the helicopters with reinforcements, Raymond and Quinn left their position and scrambled across a hayfield towards the house of Pat O’Neil. The house was quickly surrounded. The men were afraid, with good reason, that they would be summarily executed "shoot-to-kill" style. Raymond used the house phone to call several local priests and the RUC, of all people, at Bessbrook hoping to avoid what seemed inevitable murder at the hands of the paras. A priest arrived and the men arranged to surrender, but as soon as they left the house, hands in the air, the paras opened fire and the two dove back into the house. The second priest managed to arrange an orderly surrender.

Interrogation and conviction

One of the men managed to escape. Raymond, Paddy and Danny Maginness [who was captured in a house near the scene]were taken to Bessbrook Barracks where they were interrogated and tortured.

They were caught red-handed, but Quinn and McCreesh refused to sign statements. "We were caught with the guns and the ammunition and that’s all I want to say," Paddy told the RUC. They wrote up a 5 page statement on him and three pages on Raymond. Maginness did sign a statement under duress and abuse. All three refused to recognize the court when they came up for trial.

Raymond went on the Blanket immediately upon his arrival at the H-Blocks. His selection for the hunger strike was controversial because he so quiet and wasn’t a famous IRA man. Some thought his religious nature would make him susceptible to the influence of interfering priests trying to get him off the hunger strike, even his own brother. But, Bobby Sands, who knew Raymond from being on the same wing, understood his determination. So did Frank Hughes, whom he shared a cell with. Oddly enough, the same British corporal who Frank killed during the firefight that lead to his capture, was the same man who was the first to open fire on Raymond’s Active Service Unit a few years earlier. They both could attest to Ray McCreesh’s resolve and dedication.

At 2:11 on Thursday morning, 21 May 1981, Raymond McCreesh became the third hunger striker to die for Ireland’s cause.

Patsy O’Hara: the early days in "Dodge City"

In the 1970’s, Derry City was nick-named "Dodge City", because it was more like the American "Wild West" than the beautiful city of churches that it is, or once was. It was impossible to come of age in Derry City in the 1970’s and not be involved in the struggle on one level or another. Derry City was at the heart of it: the Civil Rights Movement, The People's Democracy, "Free Derry Corner" and, of course, Bloody Sunday.

Pasty’s eldest brother, Sean Seamus, was interned without trial in 1971 for two years. Tony, the second oldest, was jailed in 1976 for five years, which he served on the Blanket. In 1968, Patsy would have been at least an observer of the Civil Rights marches which his family were very supportive of.

At 14, Pasty got a closer look at the "Troubles" than he wanted, when he and another boy were caught in a Brit/IRA crossfire. His mate, Robert Canning, standing next to Patsy, was shot by the Brits in stomach. He was lucky to survive. A few months later, Pasty also found himself in the local hospital, Altnagelvin, in the Protestant side of town, with a British bullet wound in his leg. He had already joined na Fianna Eireann.

Shep

Someday, somebody will compile a series on the humor of the past thirty years of conflict. Not yet, but someday it will be possible.

The O’Hara’s had a dog named Shep. Derry people don’t actually "have" dogs -- the dogs, although members of the family, being independent characters. While Pasty was on his back in Altnagelvin after having been shot, his father Jim took off on the long walk to visit him through the Bogside and into dangerous areas, dangerous for Nationalists that is.

Unbeknownst to Jim, Shep [a golden coated collie/lab mix] had apparently made the semi-conscious decision to visit Patsy as well, and trotted off at a safe distance.

Jim found Patsy on the sixth floor [in the same ward as Canning, still recovering from his stomach wound], but the place was crawling with RUC and Brit soldiers. The corridors were thick with them. Even a hospital was no sanctuary to Nationalists, especially those with Brit delivered bullet wounds. Shep had little trouble finding Patsy, and, lopping noisily onto the ward with all 20 nails working into the hard hospital floor, leapt onto his bed and started wagging, licking and engaging in other dogishness, mush to the surprise and delight of Jim and Patsy.

Not so Crown forces. Some, disguised as male "nurses", took it upon themselves to arrest poor Shep. Shep refused to submit. "No surrender" for the Derry dog. He raced around the room, playing with the RUC men’s advances with deft moves of his own. They ordered Jim to remove the dog. Jim told them if they wanted him out they would have to remove him themselves. Shep heard all this from his lair under Patsy’s bed. There he stayed, receiving encouragement from Jim and Patsy and others in the ward.

Shep left of his own free will when Jim went home. All night, the RUC kept shouting into Patsy and Canning, trying to sleep, "Ye wee Fenian bastards" and threatened to slit their throats. The boys enjoyed every minute of it, except for the throat part.

Numerous arrests; one conviction

In 1974, Pasty was interned for 6 months without trial. He joined the INLA [Irish National Liberation Army] soon after his release. He was arrested again in June of 1975, serving 10 months for possession of explosives, but the charge didn’t stick. In September 1976, he was arrested again for possession and acquitted after 4 months on remand. He was arrested in 1977, in Dublin, for holding a gardai at gunpoint, but was acquitted yet again in January 1978. The charm was broken on 7 May 1979, when he was arrested by a patrol of the Royal Hampshire Regiment in Derry City and convicted of possession of a fragmentation grenade. He was sentenced to eight years and went immediately on the Blanket.

He was a likely candidate for OC of the relatively small group of INLA prisoners in Long Kesh, because of his military service and having served on the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party) Ard Comhairle or executive.

He died for Ireland at 11:29 PM, 21 May 1981, the same day as his friend Raymond McCreesh.


25th anniversary of the deaths of Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O' Hara


CAIN

'Thursday 21 May 1981
Third and Fourth Hunger Strikers Died

Raymond McCreesh (24), a Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, and Patsy O'Hara (23), an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoner, both died having spent 61 days on hunger strike. Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, criticised the British government's attitude to the hunger strike.'

For more information, photos and resources, please visit these sites:

Irish Hunger Strike 1981
Larkspirit
1980-1981 Hunger Strikes

________

Fallen Comrades of the IRSM

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usPatsy O Hara was born on 11th July 1957 in Derry city. The violence during the civil rights marches of the late 1960s, and Patsy's presence at the Battle of the Bogside in August 1969 aroused passionate feelings of nationalism. By 1975, Patsy had joined the INLA.

Click photo to view

Patsy was arrested on 14th May 1979 and was charged with possessing a hand-grenade. In January 1980, he was sentenced to eight years in jail and went on the blanket, where he later became Officer Commanding of the INLA prisoners in the H-Blocks.

Patsy was 61 days on hunger strike; at 11.29 p.m. on 21st May 1981 he became the first INLA Volunteer to to die on hunger strike, just as he had been the first INLA Volunteer to join the strike.

__________

Larkspirit.com

Patsy O'Hara

Died May 21st, 1981

A determined and courageous Derryman

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Twenty-three-year-old Patsy O'Hara from Derry city, was the former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army prisoners in the H-Blocks, and joined IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh on hunger strike on March 22nd, three weeks after Bobby Sands and one week after Francis Hughes.

Patsy O'Hara was born on July 11th, 1957 at Bishop Street in Derry city.

His parents owned a small public house and grocery shop above which the family lived. His eldest brother, Sean Seamus, was interned in Long Kesh for almost four years. The second eldest in the family, Tony, was imprisoned in the H-Blocks - throughout Patsy's hunger strike - for five years before being released in August of this year, having served his full five-year sentence with no remission.

The youngest in the O'Hara family is twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth.

Before 'the troubles' destroyed the family life of the O'Haras, and the overwhelming influence of being an oppressed youth concerned about his country drove Patsy to militant republicanism, there is the interesting history of his near antecedents which must have produced delight in Patsy's young heart.

GRANDFATHER

Patsy's maternal grandfather, James McCluskey, joined the British army as a young man and went off to fight in the First World War. He received nine shrapnel wounds at Ypres and was retired on a full pension.

However, on returning to Ireland his patriotism was set alight by Irish resistance and the terror of British rule. He duly threw out his pension book, did not draw any more money and joined the Republican Movement. He transported men and weapons along the Foyle into Derry in the 'twenties.

He inherited a public house and bookmakers, in Foyle Street, and was a great friend of Derry republican Sean Keenan's father, also named Sean.

Mrs. Peggy O'Hara can recall 'old' Sean Keenan being arrested just before the out break of the Second World War. Her father's serious illness resulted in him escaping internment and he died shortly afterwards in 1939.

Mrs. O'Hara's aunt was married to John Mulhern, a Roscommon man, who was in the RIC up until its disbandment in 1921.

"When my father died in 1939 - says Mrs O'Hara, - "John Mulhern, who was living in Bishop Street, and owned a bar and a grocery shop, took us in to look after us. I remember him telling us that he didn't just go and join the RIC, but it was because there were so many in the family and times were hard.

"My father was a known IRA man and my uncle reared me, and I was often slagged about this. Patsy used to hear this as a child, but Patsy was a very, very straight young fellow and he was a wee bit bigoted about my uncle being a policeman.

"But a number of years ago Patsy came in to me after speaking to an old republican from Corrigans in Donegal, and Patsy says to me, 'You've nothing to be ashamed of, your uncle being a policeman, because that man was telling me that even though he was an RIC man, he was very, very helpful to the IRA!"

FAMILY

The trait of courage which Patsy was to show in later years was in him from the start, says Mr. O'Hara. "No matter who got into trouble in the street outside, Patsy was the boy to go out and do all the fighting for him. He was the fighting man about the area and didn't care how big they were. He would tackle them. I even saw him fighting men, and in no way could they stop him. He would keep at them. He was like a wee bull terrier!"

Apparently, up until he was about twelve years of age, Patsy was fat and small, "a wee barrel" says his mother. Then suddenly he shot up to grow to over six foot two inches.

Elizabeth, his sister, recalls Patsy: "He was a mad hatter. When we were young he used to always play tricks on me, mother and father. We used to play a game of cards and whoever lost had to do all the things that everybody told them.

"We all won a card game once and made Patsy crawl up the stairs and 'miaow' like a cat at my mother's bedroom door. She woke up the next day and said, 'am I going mad? I think I heard a cat last night' and we all started to laugh."

The O'Haras' house was open to all their children's friends, and again to scores of the volunteers who descended on Derry from all corners of Ireland when the RUC invaded in 1969. But before that transformation in people's politics came, Mrs. O'Hara still lived for her family alone.

She was especially proud of her eldest son, Sean Seamus who had passed his eleven plus and went to college.

PROTESTS

When Sean was in his early teens he joined the housing action group, around 1967, Mrs. O'Hara's conception of which was Sean helping to get people homes.

"But one day, someone came into me when I was working in the bar, and said, 'Your son is down in the Guildhall marching up and down with a placard!

"I went down and stood and looked and Finbarr O'Doherty was standing at the side and wee fellows were going up and down. I went over to Sean and said, 'Who gave you that? He said, Finbarr!' I took the placard off Sean and went over to Finbarr, put it in his hand, and hit him with my umbrella.'

Mrs. O'Hara laughs when she recalls this incident, as shortly afterwards she was to have her eyes opened.

"After that, I went to protests wherever Sean was, thinking that I could protect him! I remember the October 1968 march because my husband's brother, Sean, had just been buried.

"We went to the peaceful march over at the Waterside station and saw the people being beaten into the ground. That was the first time that I ever saw water cannons, they were like something from outer space.

"We thought we had to watch Sean, but to my astonishment Patsy and Tony had slipped away, and Patsy was astonished and startled by what he saw."

INCIDENT

Later, Patsy was to write about this incident: "The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, 'One man, one vote' and singing 'We shall overcome' I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable."

IRSP

Shortly after his release in April 1975, Patsy joined the ranks of the fledgling Irish Republican Socialist Party, which the 'Sticks', using murder, had attempted to strangle at birth. He was free only about two months when he was stopped at the permanent check-point on the Letterkenny Road whilst driving his father's car from Buncrana in County Donegal.

The Brits planted a stick of gelignite in the car (such practice was commonplace) and he was charged with possession of explosiVes. He was remanded in custody for six months, the first trial being stopped due to unusual RUC ineptitude at framing him. At the end of the second trial he was acquitted and released after spending six months in jail.

In 1976, Patsy had to stay out of the house for fear of constant arrest. That year, also, his brother, Tony, was charged with an armed raid, and on the sole evidence of an alleged verbal statement was sentenced to five years in the H-Blocks.

Despite being 'on the run' Patsy was still fond of his creature comforts!

His father recalls: "Sean Seamus came in late one night and though the whole place was in darkness he didn't put the lights on. He went to sit down and fell on the floor. He ran up the stairs and said: 'I went to sit down and there was nothing there'

"Patsy had taken the sofa on top of a red Rover down to his billet in the Brandywell. Then before we would get up in the morning he would have it back up again. When we saw it sitting there in the morning we said to Sean: 'Are you going off your head or what? and he was really puzzled."

IMPRISONED

In September 1976, he was again arrested in the North and along with four others charged with possession of a weapon. During the remand hearings he protested against the withdrawal of political status.

The charge was withdrawn after four months, indicating how the law is twisted to intern people by remanding them in custody and dropping the charges before the case comes to trial.

In June 1977, he was imprisoned for the fourth time. On this occasion, after a seven-day detention in Dublin's Bridewell, he was charged with holding a garda at gunpoint. He was released on bail six weeks later and was eventually acquitted In January 1978.

Whilst living in the Free State, Patsy was elected to the ard chomhairle of the IRSP, was active in the Bray area, and campaigned against the special courts.

In January 1979, he moved back to Derry but was arrested on May 14th, 1979 and was charged with possessing a hand-grenade.

In January 1980, he was sentenced to eight years in jail and went on the blanket.

HUNGER STRIKE

What were Mrs. O'Hara's feelings when Patsy told her he was going on hunger strike?

"My feelings at the start, when he went on hunger strike, were that I thought that they would get their just demands, because it is not very much that they are asking for. There is no use in saying that I was very vexed and all the rest of it. There is no use me sitting back in the wings and letting someone else's son go. Someone's sons have to go on it and I just happen to be the mother of that son."

PRINCIPLES

Writing shortly before the hunger strike began, Patsy O'Hara grimly declared: "We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men.

"They have maintained control of Ireland through force of arms and there is only one way to end it. I would rather die than rot in this concrete tomb for years to come.

Patsy witnessed the baton charges and said: "The people were sandwiched in another street and with the Specials coming from both sides, swinging their truncheons at anything that moved. It was a terrifying experience and one which I shall always remember."

Mr. and Mrs. O'Hara believe that it was this incident when Patsy was aged eleven, followed by the riots in January 1969 and the 'Battle of the Bogside' in August 1969 that aroused passionate feelings of nationalism, and then republicanism, in their son. "Every day he saw something different happening," says his father. "People getting beaten up, raids and coffins coming out. This was his environment."

JOINED

In 1970, Patsy joined na Fianna Eireann, drilled and trained in Celtic Park.

Early in 1971, and though he was very young, he joined the Patrick Pearse Sinn Fein cumann in the Bogside, selling Easter lilies and newspapers. Internment, introduced in August 1971, hit the O'Hara family particularly severely with the arrest of Sean Seamus in October. "We never had a proper Christmas since then" says Elizabeth. "When Sean Seamus was interned we never put up decorations and our family has been split-up ever since then."

Shortly after Sean's arrest Patsy, one night, went over to a friend's house in Southway where there were barricades. But coming out of the house, British soldiers opened fire, for no apparent reason, and shot Patsy in the leg. He was only fourteen years of age and spent several weeks in hospital and then several more weeks on crutches.

BLOODY SUNDAY

On January 30th, 1972, his father took him to watch the big anti-internment march as it wound its way down from the Creggan. "I struggled across a banking but was unable to go any further. I watched the march go up into the Brandywell. I could see that it was massive. The rest of my friends went to meet it but I could only go back to my mother's house and listen to it on the radio," said Patsy.

Asked about her feelings over Patsy be coming involved in the struggle, Mrs. O'Hara said: "After October 1968, I thought that that was the right thing to do. I am proud of him, proud of them all".

Mr O'Hara said: "Personally speaking, I knew he would get involved. It was in his nature. He hated bullies al his life, and he saw big bullies in uniform and he would tackle them as well.

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, Patsy joined the 'Republican Clubs' and was active until 1973, "when it became apparent that they were firmly on the path to reformism and had abandoned the national question".

INTERNED

From this time onwards he was continually harassed, taken in for interrogation and assaulted.

One day, he and a friend were arrested on the Briemoor Road. Two saracens screeched to a halt beside them. Patsy later described this arrest: "We were thrown onto the floor and as they were bringing us to the arrest centre, we were given a beating with their batons and rifles. When we arrived and were getting out of the vehicles we were tripped and fell on our faces".

Three months later, after his seventeenth birthday, he was taken to the notorious interrogation centre at Ballykelly. He was interrogated for three days and then interned with three others who had been held for nine days.

"Long Kesh had been burned the week previously" said Patsy, "and as we flew above the camp in a British army helicopter we could see the complete devastation. When we arrived, we were given two blankets and mattresses and put into one of the cages.

"For the next two months we were on a starvation diet, no facilities of any" kind, and most men lying out open to the elements...

"That December a ceasefire was announced, then internment was phased out." Merlyn Rees also announced at the same time that special category status would be withdrawn on March 1st, 1976. I did not know then how much that change of policy would effect me in less than three years".

Patsy O'Hara died at 11.29 p.m. on Thursday, May 21st - on the same day as Raymond McCreesh with whom he had embarked on the hunger-strike sixty-one days earlier.

Even in death his torturers would not let him rest. When the O'Hara family been broken and his corpse bore several burn marks inflicted after his death.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau.

___________


Raymond McCreesh, Underground Fighter

Starry Plough
June 1981

Raymond McCreesh was the most determined of republicans . . . and a most efficient fighter, who combined the attributes of determination with those of security.

From the time he first became involved he adopted a low profile, and when his involvement in the national struggle became public knowledge, even members of his family were surprised.

Raymond's participation in the struggle, like that of so many other republicans, stemmed from a study of history while at school. Like most South Armagh people he was very conscious of his nationality. At school, he played gaelic football and had a strong interest in the Irish language.

Raymond's interest in history served as a guide to activity. He saw the history of Ireland as the history of conquest, and the struggle of the Irish people to free itself from that conquest. He saw that that the present struggle was but a continuation of past struggles.

In his own area he witnessed the terror inflicted on the people by the SAS, and their loyalist sidekicks in the UDR and RUC. He joined the Irish Republican Army.

Though Raymond was extremely young when he joined the IRA, he showed an awareness and maturity which put many veterans to shame. In particular he was extremely security conscious. His involvement was known only to those who worked with him on operations. Because of his discretion, he was never once arrested - or even held for screening - in the Six Counties.

As a result he never had to go on the run. This enabled him to operate freely in the South Armagh and South Down areas.

And they were areas he knew like the back of his hand.

From the time he left school ‹ except for a brief interval when he worked in Lisburn ‹ he worked as a milkman in the area. He knew every road, every lane and every field. He used this knowledge in a deadly manner - deadly, that is, to Britain and the RUC gestapo.

During the years of Raymond's involvement there were numerous ambushes on British Army patrols as well as landmine attacks.

These were the years when the British gutter press used its front pages to deride the South Armagh area . . . the years when the term "bandit country" gained currency.

The image they conjured up of the IRA was that of murderous outlaws butchering innocent Brits and terrorising the local inhabitants.

This was a picture which was different from reality. For the people of South Armagh - of which Raymond was one - are ordinary people, with ordinary feelings and ordinary aspirations.

The most basic wish is to end British control of their lives. Nothing more complex. Nothing more simple.

They want an end to British rule - and an end to injustice and oppression.

And they know that this can only be achieved by one means - that of armed struggle.

This is why Raymond McCreesh took up arms.

They have tried marching and picketing and postering. The British response has been more repression, more murder . . . and the introduction of the SAS into the area.

It is a tribute to the example of Raymond McCreesh that this struggle goes on, and that the style of political activity he developed is still a weapon in the arsenal of the people.

His death, and those of Patsy O'Hara, Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes will be avenged . . . on the streets of Derry and Belfast, and on the hillsides of South Derry and South Armagh.

____________

Larkspirit.com

Raymond McCreesh

Died May 21st, 1981

A quiet, good-natured and discreet republican

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THE THIRD of the resolutely determined IRA Volunteers to join the H-Block hunger strike for political status was twenty-four-year-old Raymond McCreesh, from Camlough in South Armagh: a quiet, shy and good-humoured republican, who although captured at the early age of nineteen, along with two other Volunteers in a British army ambush, had already almost three years active republican involvement behind him.

During those years he had established himself as one of the most dedicated and invaluable republican activists in that part of the six counties to which the Brits themselves have - half-fearfully, half-respectfully - given the name 'bandit country' and which has become a living legend in republican circles, during the present war, for the courage and resourcefulness of its Volunteers: the border land of South Armagh.

Raymond's resolve to hunger strike to the death, to secure the prisoners' five demands was indicated in a smuggled-out letter written by Paddy Quinn, an H-Block blanket man - who was later to embark on hunger strike himself - who was captured along with Raymond and who received the same fourteen year sentence: "I wrote Raymie a couple of letters before he went to the prison hospital. He wrote back and according to the letter he was in great spirits and very determined. A sign of that determination was the way he finished off by saying: Ta seans ann go mbeidh me abhaile rombat a chara' which means: There is a chance that I'll be home before you, my friend!"

Captured in June 1976, and sentenced in March 1977, when he refused to recognise the court, Raymond would have been due for release in about two years' time had he not embarked on his principled protest for political status, which led him, ultimately, to hunger strike.

FAMILY

Raymond Peter McCreesh, the seventh in a family of eight children, was born in a small semi-detached house at St. Malachy's Park, Camlough - where the family still live - on February 25th, 1957.

The McCreeshes, a nationalist family in a staunchly nationalist area, have been rooted in South Armagh for seven generations, and both Raymond's parents - James aged 65, a retired local council worker, and Susan (whose maiden name is Quigley), aged 60 - come from the nearby townland of Dorsey.

Raymond was a quiet but very lively person, very good-natured and - like other members of his family - extremely witty. Not the sort of person who would push himself forward if he was in a crowd, and indeed often rather a shy person in his personal relationships until he got to know a person well. Nevertheless, in his republican capacity he was known as a capable, dedicated and totally committed Volunteer who could show leadership and aggression where necessary.

Among both his family and his republican associates, Raymond was renowned for his laughter and for "always having a wee smile on him". His sense of humour remained even during his four-year incarceration in the H-Blocks, as well as during his hunger strike where he continued to insist that he was "just fine."

SCHOOL

Raymond went first to Camlough primary school, and then to St. Coleman's college in Newry. It was at St. Coleman's that Raymond met Danny McGuinness, also from Camlough, and the two became steadfast friends. They later became republican comrades, and Danny too then a nineteen-year-old student who had just completed his 'A' levels was captured along with Raymond and Paddy Quinn, and is now in the H-Blocks.

At school, Raymond's strongest interest was in Irish language and Irish history, and he read widely in those subjects. His understanding of Irish history led him to a fervently nationalist outlook, and he was regarded as a 'hothead' in his history classes, and as being generally "very conscious of his Irishness".

He was also a sportsman, and played under-sixteen and Minor football for Carrickcruppin Gaelic football club as well as taking a keen interest in the local youth club where he played basketball and pool, and was regarded a good snooker player.

When he was fourteen years old, Raymond got a weekend job working on a milk round through the South Armagh border area, around Mullaghbawn and Dromintee. Later on, after leaving his job in Lisburn, he worked full-time on the milk round, where he would always stop and chat to customers. He became a great favourite amongst them and many enquired about him long after he left the round.

RESISTANCE

During the early 'seventies, the South Armagh border area was the stamping ground of the British army's Parachute regiment, operating out of Bessbrook camp less than two miles from Raymond's home. Stories of their widespread brutality and harassment of local people abound, and built-up then a degree of resentment and resistance amongst most of the nationalist population that is seen to this day.

The SAS terror regiment began operating in this area in large numbers too, in a vain attempt to counter republican successes, and the high level of assassinations of local people on both sides of the South Armagh border, notably three members of the Reavey family in 1975, was believed locally to have been the work both of the SAS, and of UDR and RUC members holding dual membership with 'illegal' loyalist paramilitary organisations.

Given this scenario and Raymond's understanding of Irish history, it is small wonder that he became involved in the republican struggle.

JOINED

He first of all joined na Fianna Eireann early in 1973 and towards the end of that year joined the Irish Republican Army's 1st Battalion, South Armagh.

Even before joining the IRA, and despite his very young age, Raymond - with remarkable awareness and maturity - became one of the first Volunteers in the South Armagh area to adopt a very low, security conscious, republican profile.

He rarely drank, but if occasionally in a pub he would not discuss either politics or his own activities, and he rarely attended demonstrations or indeed anything which would have brought him to the attention of the enemy.

It was because of this remarkable self-discipline and discretion that during his years of intense republican involvement Raymond was never once arrested or even held for screening in the North, and only twice held briefly in the South.

Consequently, Raymond was never obliged to go 'on the run', continuing to live at home until the evening of his capture, and always careful not to cause his family any concern or alarm.

Fitted in with his republican activities Raymond would relax by going to dances or by going to watch football matches at weekends.

WORK

After leaving school he spent a year at Newry technical college studying fabrication engineering, and afterwards got a job at Gambler Simms (Steel) Ltd. in Lisburn. He had a conscientious approach to his craft but was obliged to leave after a year because of a fear of assassination.

Each day he travelled to work from Newry, in a bus along with four or five mates who had got jobs there too from the technical college, but the prevailing high level of sectarian assassinations, and the suspicion justifiably felt of the predominantly loyalist work-force at Gambler Simms, made Raymond, and many other nationalist workers, decide that travelling such a regular route through loyalist country side was simply too risky.

So, after leaving the Lisburn factory, Raymond began to work full-time as a milk roundsman, an occupation which would greatly have increased his knowledge of the surrounding countryside, as well as enabling him to observe the movements of British army patrols and any other untoward activity in the area.

ACTIVITY

Republican activity in that area during those years consisted largely of landmine attacks and ambushes on enemy patrols.

Raymond had the reputation of a republican who was very keen to suggest and take part in operations, almost invariably working in his own, extremely tight, active service unit, though occasionally, when requested - as he frequently was - assisting other units in neighbouring areas with specific operations. He would always carefully consider the pros and cons of any operation, and would never panic or lose his nerve.

In undertaking the hunger strike, Raymond gave the matter the same careful consideration he would have expended on a military operation, he undertook nothing either a rush, or for bluff.

CAPTURE

The operation which led to the capture of Raymond, his boyhood friend, Danny McGuiness, and Patrick Quinn, took place on June 25th, 1976.

An active service unit comprising these three and a fourth Volunteer arrived in a commandeered car at a farmyard in the town land of Sturgan a mile from Camlough - at about 9.25 p.m.

Their objective was to ambush a covert Brit observation post which they had located opposite the Mountain House Inn, on the main Newry - Newtonhamilton Road, half-a-mile away. They were not aware, however, that another covert British observation post, on a steep hillside half-a-mile away, had already spotted the four masked, uniformed and armed Volunteers, clearly visible below them, and that radioed helicopter reinforcements were already closing in.

As the fourth Volunteer drove the commandeered car down the road to the agreed ambush point, to act as a lure for the Brits, the other three moved down the hedgeline of the fields, into position. The fourth Volunteer, however, as he returned, as arranged, to rejoin his comrades, spotted the British Paratroopers on the hillside closing in on his unsuspecting friends and, although armed only with a short range Stengun, opened fire to warn the others.

Immediately, the Brits opened fire with SLRs and light machine-guns, churning up the ground around the Volunteers with hundreds of rounds, firing indiscriminately into the nearby farmhouse and two vehicles parked outside, and killing a grazing cow!

The fourth Volunteer was struck by three bullets, in the leg, arm and chest, but managed to crawl away and to elude the massive follow up search, escaping safely - though seriously injured - the following day.

Raymond and Paddy Quinn ran zig-zag across open fields to a nearby house, under fire all this time, intending to commandeer a car. Unfortunately, the car belonging to the occupants of the house was parked at a neighbour's house several hundred yards away. Even then the pair might have escaped but that they delayed several minutes waiting for their comrade, Danny McGuinness, who however had got separated from them and had taken cover in a disused quarry outhouse (where he was captured in a follow-up operation the next day).

The house in which Raymond and Paddy took cover was immediately besieged by berserk Paratroopers who riddled the house with bullets. Even when the two Volunteers surrendered, after the arrival of a local priest, and came out through the front door with their hands up, the Paras opened fire again and the Pair were forced to retreat back into the house.

On the arrival of the RUC, the two Volunteers again surrendered and were taken to Bessbrook barracks where they were questioned and beaten for three days before being charged.

REMARKABLE

One remarkable aspect of the British ambush concerns the role of Lance-Corporal David Jones, a member of the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute regiment. According to Brit statements at the trial it was he who first opened up on the IRA active service unit from the hillside.

Nine months later, on March 16th, 1977 two IRA Volunteers encountered two Paratroopers (at the time seconded to the SAS) in a field outside Maghera in South Derry. In the ensuing gun battle, one SAS man was shot dead, and one IRA Volunteer was captured. The Volunteer's name was Francis Hughes, the dead Brit was Lance-Corporal David Jones of the Parachute regiment.

In the eighteen months before going on hunger strike together neither Raymond McCreesh or Francis Hughes were aware of what would seem to have been an ironic but supremely fitting example of republican solidarity!

After nine months remand in Crumlin Road jail, Raymond was tried and convicted in March 1977, of attempting to kill Brits, possession of a Garand rifle and ammunition, and IRA membership. He received a fourteen-year sentence, and lesser concurrent sentences, after refusing to recognise the court.

In the H-Blocks he immediately joined the blanket protest, and so determined was his resistance to criminalisation that he refused to take his monthly visits for four years, right up until he informed his family of his decision to go on hunger strike on February 15th, this year. He also refused to send out monthly letters, writing only smuggled 'communications' to his family and friends.

The only member of his family to see him at all during those four years in Long Kesh two or three times - was his brother, Fr. Brian McCreesh, who occasionally says Mass in the H-Blocks.

HUNGER STRIKE

Like Francis Hughes, Raymond volunteered for the earlier hunger strike, and, when he was not chosen among the first seven, took part in the four-day hunger strike by thirty republicans until the hunger strike ended on December 18th, last year.

Speaking to his brother, Malachy, shortly after Bobby Sands death, Raymond said what a great loss had been felt by the other hunger strikers, but it had made them more determined than ever.

And still managing to keep his spirits up, when told of his brother, Fr. Brian, campaigning for him on rally platforms, Raymond joked: "He'll probably get excommunicated for it."

To Britain's eternal shame, the sombre half-prediction made by Raymond to his friend Paddy Quinn - Ta seans ann go mbeid me abhaile rombat - became a grim reality. Bhi se. Raymond died at 2.11 a.m. on Thursday May 21st, 1981, after 61 days on hunger strike.

Published in IRIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, November 1981. IRIS was a publication of the Sinn Fein Foreign Affairs Bureau.

______

20.5.06

Emotional ceremony at H-Block prison hospital

An Phoblacht

Remembering 1981: Anniversary marked in Long Kesh

(Author not named)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn the prison hospital in the H Blocks of Long Kesh Tom McElwee died on hunger strike in cell 1, Kieran Doherty and Raymond Mc Creesh died in cell 2, Francis Hughes died in Cell 3, Kevin Lynch died in Cell 5 and Bobby Sands died in Cell 8.

Laurence Mc Keown was on hunger strike for 70 days. He spent most of that time in the prison hospital. Brendan Mc Farlane was O/C of the republican prisoners in the H-Blocks during the Hunger Strike. He visited the prison hospital several times between March 1981 when the hunger strike started and October when it ended.

I visited six of the Hunger Strikers in the prison hospital. On Friday, 5 May on the 25th anniversary of Bobby Sands' death the three of us stood in the prison hospital corridor and identified the cells we were confident the lads died in. We did not know which cells Patsy O'Hara, Martin Hurson, Joe Mc Donnell and Mickey Devine died in.

Laurence is almost certain Mickey Devine died in cell 5, where Kevin died. The prison service claims they do not have records of the cell numbers where the men died.I find this hard to believe.

We are by nature curious and such facts like identifying which cells the hunger strikers died in is an important part of the story of the Hunger Strike. This information is especially important now because the prison hospital is a listed building. It forms the centre piece of the tour which is on offer to those visiting the prison.

To mark Bobby's anniversary a group of us held a short ceremony in his cell. We also held a minute silence in each of the cells where the lads died. In Bobby's cell Tom Hartley spoke briefly and recalled the agony of the times for the Hunger Strikers and their families. He described 1981 as a defining year in the freedom struggle and in the lives of those close to the Hunger Strikers.

Danny Morrison read an extract from one of Bobby's poems and his diary which he kept in the early stages of his hunger strike.

Jake Jackson, a close comrade of Bobby's spoke in Irish, Bobby's first language inside the jail.

Michelle Gildernew, MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone, the seat held by Bobby when he died, spoke of the honour it was to follow in Bobby's footsteps and of how proud she was that the people of her constituency stood with the prisoners when those with power and influence had abandoned them.

As we moved from cell to cell someone from the group who knew would say who died there. From Bobby's cell we walked a few feet across a small corridor to cell 7. A voice recorded "we don't know who died here". We held a minute silence. In a zig-zag fashion we covered the ground of the prison corridor heavy under foot and heavy of heart.

In cell 6 a voice said: "We don't know who died here", a minute's silence observed. The group in caravan fashion proceeded to Cell 5, "Kevin died here" said Bik, "And I think Mickey died here" said Laurence as the minute's silence settled in.

Onto Cell 4 and the burden of the ceremony began taking its toll: "We don't know who died here" was lower in tone as some stayed in the corridor to compose themselves.

In Cell 3 I said: "Francis died here". I could see the faces of those around his cell search out a memory of him. For me I saw him in his bed with his mother and brother Oliver by his side.

In cell 2 Bik said "Kieran died here" and I added softly "so did Raymond" as we stood in silence before going to the last cell. There in Cell 1 it was left to me to complete the painful odyssey: "Tom died here". A sigh greeted the minute's silence. We quickly departed to different parts of the prison hospital to be alone with our experience.

It was emotionally very difficult because most of those at the ceremony were very close to events either inside the jail like Bik McFarlane, O/C of the prisoners or Martin McGuinness in the leadership of the movement at the time.

This is the first year since the Hunger Strikes, 25 years ago, that ex-prisoners and members of the Sinn Féin leadership have been able to pay their respects to the Hunger Strikers inside the cells where they died.

19.5.06

O’Hara determined to let the fight go on

Daily Ireland

By Eamonn Houston
19/05/2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe familiar image of 1981 hunger striker Patsy O’Hara grinning broadly dominates the gable of a house in the Bishop Street area where the O’Hara family lived. (Click photo to view)
Belfast artists put the finishing touches to the mural last week. It bears the message ‘let the fight go on’ in line with defiant self-sacrifice O’Hara made with nine others in Long Kesh prison in 1981.
The name of Patsy O’Hara is known to everyone in his home city. The former INLA leader in Long Kesh and Michael Devine were the two hunger strikers to die from the city.
His mother Peggy and family will watch as the monument and mural are officially dedicated on Bishop Street to mark the anniversary of his death on Sunday.
O’Hara, like many others, became politicised by the Civil Rights movement and Bloody Sunday, when 14 unarmed civilians died as a result of a British Paratroop massacre in the Bogside on January 30, 1972.
O’Hara would later write of the October 15 1968 Civil Rights demonstration: “The mood of the crowd was one of solidarity. People believed they were right and that a great injustice had been done to them. The crowds came in their thousands from every part of the city and as they moved down Duke Street chanting slogans, ‘One man, one vote' and singing ‘We shall overcome' I had the feeling that a people united and on the move, were unstoppable."
It was in 1975 that Patsy O’Hara’s burgeoning political beliefs would lead him into the ranks of the Irish National Liberation Army.
In 1979 he was arrested for possession of a hand grenade. His imprisonment would end in his leaving the Long Kesh prison in a coffin after 61 days of refusing food.
O’Hara’s prison protest began with the blanket men. When O’Hara’s mother Peggy learned of her son’s decision to join the 1981 hunger strike she thought the political status demands of the prisoners would be met before death.
She said: “There is no use in saying that I was very vexed and all the rest of it. There is no use me sitting back in the wings and letting someone else's son go. Someone’s sons have to go on it and I just happen to be the mother of that son."
She was photographed at the weekend beside the new mural in memory of her son.
Patsy O’Hara’s prison writings reveal a committed socialist republican, determined to see his protest through to the end.
"We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation. The real criminals are the British imperialists who have thrived on the blood and sweat of generations of Irish men,” he wrote.
When O’Hara died on May 21 1981, Derry was plunged into street violence and mourning.
There were claims that the prison authorities had abused his remains.
His funeral was one of the largest witnessed in his home city equalling those of the victims of Bloody Sunday.
O’Hara’s cortege was flanked by 34 INLA men and women as it made its way from his home to the city cemetery.
At the graveside a spokesman for the Army Council of the INLA said: “Our comrade did not die solely for the five demands of the political prisoners.
“He recognised that if the prisoners are criminalised, then the struggle for Irish freedom is criminalised.
“This is the reason why Patsy went on hungerstrike, and along with his comrades in death, Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes and Raymond McCreesh, courageously confronted the Thatcher regime and her loyalist lackeys."
In an atmosphere of overwhelming tension in Derry, the INLA spokesman said that the organisation would not respond to O’Hara’s death wildly and emotionally.
Speaking at O’Hara’s graveside, Bernadette McAliskey of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee castigated the Catholic Church.
“As the cortege left the Long Tower church this morning, personally I could not help but cast my mind back to a time in 1969 when there was no ambiguity on the part of Catholic hierarchy as to the position of young men like Patsy O'Hara.
“It is tragic, in this time in our history, that the Irish people, who for centuries have defended their church and their religion, should be, by and large, so sadly abandoned by it in their hour of greatest need.”
In recent years O’Hara’s legacy would find expression in prison cells in Turkey where many political prisoners went on hunger strike over their status.
In his much changed city, free of the political turmoil that had gripped it in O’Hara’s youth, his image on the mural on Bishop Street a new monument in his memory stand as reminders of the sacrifice the young Derry man made during the depressing days of 1981.

Striker’s activist legacy and ‘full of life’ nature still remembered

Daily Ireland

Twenty five years ago this weekend Raymond McCreesh from Camlough in South Armagh and Patsy O'Hara from Derry City died on hunger strike in Long Kesh at the age of 24. We look at the their lives and the momentous events surrounding their deaths

by Mick Hall
19/05/2006

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us“Ray McCreesh had the ability to instantly switch from being very serious to being full of humour," says Breandán Lewis, a childhood friend of the south Armagh hunger striker. “He possessed an energy both serious and light. I can only describe him as being full of life."
The familiar publicity poster of the young republican icon laughing for the camera was taken in December 1975, when he was just 18 and six months before being arrested after a dramatic shoot-out with British paratroopers.
Breandán and his family members featured in the original photograph. (Click photo to view)
“I can remember vividly when it was taken. Ray had been talking politics at my family home. The tension then broke with some light-heartedness and his image was captured," says breandan. The McCreesh and Lewis families first met within Irish language circles and remain close today, living in the same village of Camlough, Co Armagh. Seven generations of the McCreesh family had lived in the area.
Ray McCreesh attended Camlough Primary and St Coleman's Secondary school in Newry. Breandán, now a local Sinn Féin councillor, went to the same school but was three years older. At St Coleman's McCreesh is said to have shown an intense interest in Irish language and history, being described as "very conscious of his Irishness". He later became a fluent native speaker during his incarceration at Long Kesh prison. A keen sportsman, he played under-16 minor football for Carrickcruppin GAA club.
After studying fabrication engineering at Newry Technical College, he began working at Gambler Simms Steel Ltd, but decided to leave, believing his personal security was being compromised by taking the same route through loyalist countryside each day. He returned to working on a milk round, which covered the Mullaghbawn and Dromintee areas of the south Armagh border, a job he had first started aged 14.
His involvement in republican activism at this point was already deep. In 1974, he was promoted to the IRA's first battalion South Armagh aged 17, after joining the Fianna in 1973. His milk round gave him an intimate understanding of the local terrain and an insight into the movements of state forces.
“Although he spoke freely about politics with people he respected, he talked nothing of his military involvement," Breandán says.
“He was committed, knew the seriousness of his situation and from the outset maintained an inner composure which precluded all such talk. He rarely drank and kept a low profile. It resulted in him never really being suspected by the police and army.
"When he was captured, people around Camlough were surprised at the extent of his involvement."
Late on the evening of June 25, 1976, McCreesh and three other volunteers set out to ambush a covert military post opposite the Mountain House Inn on the main Newry to Newtownhamilton Road, near the town of Sturgan. After being dropped of by a volunteer in a commandeered car, McCreesh, Paddy Quinn and Danny McGuinness, made their way across fields, towards the post. The car made its own way towards the ambush point, being parked there to draw the soldiers' attention. As the driver returned to join the others who were walking down the hillside following the line of hedgerows, he spotted paratroopers closing in on their position.
“The driver was armed only with a short Sten gun," explains Paddy Quinn.
“He fired it in their direction and all of a sudden the field around us was being cut up with bullets."
The driver was shot three times as paratroopers opened up with SLRs and light machine guns. Even so he managed to escape.
"Myself and Ray zig-zagged across fields towards a farmhouse. There were bullets flying everywhere. The house was empty and there was no car in the drive. Instead of taking off on foot we waited on Dan, who was hiding in a bunker beside the quarry on the hill where we were ambushed. He had been watching us from the hill and saw the amount of tracer bullets fired at our position. He thought we were dead, so he just stayed there.
“After several minutes a helicopter landed at the back of the house and as we made our way to the front, another landed, blocking our way. Paras got out and began firing through the windows, shooting up the house. We fired back and there was a stand-off."
Shortly afterwards a local priest, Fr Peter Hughes, arrived at the scene and attempted to negotiate a surrender.
“I can remember Ray remember asking: ‘Should we fight our way out of here?' I told him we would have no chance and if we surrendered we'd live to fight another day."
The men agreed to surrender. As they walked from the house a paratrooper began firing.
“We went back inside. The NCO began cursing the soldier, saying he had orders to get us out before dark. We walked out again and were taken away by the RUC to Bressbrook barracks. We were interrogated and beaten for three days. Dan McGuinness was captured at the quarry the next day."
After nine months on remand in Crumlin Road jail, McCreesh was tried and convicted, in March 1977, of attempted murder, possession of a rifle and ammunition, and IRA membership. He received a 14-year sentence, and lesser concurrent sentences, after refusing to recognise the court.
In the H-Blocks he immediately joined the blanket protest. He refused his monthly visits for four years, right up until he informed his family of his decision to go on hunger-strike on February 15, 1981, this year. He also refused to send out monthly letters, writing only smuggled ‘communications’ to his family and friends.
The only member of his family to see him during those four years in Long Kesh two or three times was his brother Fr Brian McCreesh, who occasionally said Mass in the H-Blocks.
“He was a jolly lad, but stubborn," remembers Paddy Quinn.
“It was no surprise when he put his name forward for the hunger strike."
One of the most controversial aspects of McCreesh’s hunger strike involved allegations that the NIO and prison officials had drugged him, in order to confuse the protester during the last week before he died. The intention, many believe, was to pressurise the McCreesh family to intervene and take him off the protest. After 50 days of fast, family members, including Fr Brian McCreesh and were called to the prison hospital at the request of the prison doctor. They were told by a medical officer that McCreesh had been given the last rites by a Catholic priest, which had left him “shocked and frightened”. Fr Brian McCreesh was said to be suspicious of this, knowing that his brother was a deeply religious man and would have taken comfort from the sacrament. The prison doctor then claimed that the hunger striker seemed to have replied “yes” when asked if he wanted him to save his life.
When questioned by family members Raymond was dazed and incoherent, although he slowly came round and reasserted his determination to carry his protest through.
Ray McCreesh died over a week later, 61 days into his protest, on May 21, 1981.
“It was a very dark time, and we have never really got over,” says Breandán Lewis.
“People in Camlough gathered to say the rosary every night. Others involved got in political activism. When Raymond died, the emotional impact was immense and it was long-term.”
The response in the prison was of sadness and determination.
Paddy Quinn said: “The more brutality you received the deeper you dig your heels in. Raymond’s death gutted us, but it made us more determined.”

Hunger strikes history on sale

Daily Ireland

19/05/2006

A CD book tracing the history of the 1981 hunger strike was launched yesterday on the Falls Road.
An Stailc Ocrais – A History Of Hunger Strikes In Ireland was compiled by nine young relatives of republican ex-prisoners.
Aged between ten and 18, they come from all over Belfast and worked on the project since the beginning of the year.
Working in conjunction with republican ex-prisoners organisation, Coiste na nIarchimí and Falls Community Council the young people researched the history of hunger strikes in Ireland from the days of the Brehon Laws up until 1981.
The project began as a booklet but on completion of this, the script was recorded on to a CD by the young people, who themselves, play the role of narrators throughout the recording.
Accompanied by background music, the CD is a wonderful compliment to the booklet.
Dominic Adams, Coiste’s youth development worker, said: “This is a great achievement by these young people. Each of them has had the experience of having a close relative imprisoned and it was this, which motivated them.
“They gave up their spare time and worked long hours researching and recording their findings.
“They wished to learn more about the hunger strikes and the reasons for their relative’s imprisonment.
“This project is a tribute to their willingness to do just that.
“The booklet and CD are a must have for all young people who wish to learn more about the hunger strikes – not just in 1981 but throughout Irish history.”
The CD is available from Coiste na nIarchimí at 028 9020 0770.

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