Hunger Strikers honoured in Leinster House

An Phoblacht

BY Mícheál MacDonncha

It is not often that moments of real emotion occur in Leinster House. But last Thursday was such an occasion when we welcomed the families of Irish Republicans who died on hunger strike.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIt was 25 years on since the election of Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew as prisoner TDs for Cavan-Monaghan and for Louth. Kieran died within weeks of his election and Paddy remained a prisoner in the H-Blocks. Their families, friends and supporters were locked outside the gates of Leinster House as both a Fianna Fáil and a Fine Gael/Labour government failed to act while the prison tragedy unfolded and ten men died. On 22 June 2006 there was much symbolism in the occasion as relatives of the 1981 hunger strikers, as well as those of three hunger strikers from other eras, were greeted at the gates of Leinster House by the Sinn Féin TDs.

Several generations were represented among the relatives present. Kieran Doherty's brother Michael was there with his wife Betty and young son Kieran, named after his uncle. "At last a Kieran Doherty is taking his seat in Leinster House", remarked Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Joining families of the men of '81 were relatives of Tony Darcy of Galway and Seán McNeela of Mayo who died on hunger strike in de Valera's jails in 1940 and of Frank Stagg of Mayo who died in Wakefield Prison, England, in 1976. The women of Armagh Prison were represented by former prisoners Síle Darragh and Marie Gavigan

In the oldest and most historic part of Leinster House the Sinn Féin TDs made presentations to the families. Chairing the simple ceremony, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central, spoke of the impact the 1981 hunger strike had on him as a young republican and on so many others. Former hunger striker Lawrence McKeown recalled his experiences. He described Kieran Doherty - 'Big Doc' - as a father figure for the younger prisoners like himself, even though Kieran was a young man who had spent most of his youth imprisoned by the British state because of his republican beliefs. Lawrence also paid tribute to the work of the National Hunger Strike Committee in marking the 25th anniversary, and to Seando Moore in particular.

Kieran Doherty's Director of Elections in Cavan-Monaghan in 1981 was Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, now the leader of the Sinn Féin TDs. He said:

"It cannot be stressed strongly enough that the prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh had the support and good will of the great mass of the Irish people North and South of the border. There was a vast gulf between the people of Ireland and the political establishment in this State during the H-Block-Armagh crisis. With very few exceptions, Kieran and Paddy's fellow TDs stood idly by while the agony of the prisoners and their families went on from 1976 when criminalisation was first imposed until the end of the Hunger Strike in 1981. Yet the Hunger Strikers will be long remembered by the Irish people and by freedom-loving people all over the world when most of those who held public office in 1981 are long forgotten.

"The Dáil record has very few references to the death of Kieran Doherty, TD for Cavan/Monaghan, at the hands of a callous British Prime Minister. There was no special debate. No motion of support for the prisoners' demands. No unity in the face of a British government that was wreaking havoc in our country. There was a shameful silence within these walls.

"Two of those who died on Hunger Strike in 1981 - Kieran and Bobby - were elected representatives of the Irish people. They followed in the footsteps of that other elected representative who died on Hunger Strike, Terence McSwiney TD, Mayor of Cork. In all 22 Republicans trod the lonely path of Hunger Strike to death from Thomas Ashe in 1917 to Mickey Devine in 1981. We remember them all equally and our tribute here today encompasses those who died in every phase of our nation's struggle for freedom."

Laurence McKeown Joins the Hunger Strike - 29 June 1981


Monday 29 June 1981

Laurence McKeown, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usLaurence McKeown was born in Randalstown, County Antrim. He was arrested in August, 1976 for alleged IRA activities and in April, 1977 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. McKeown spent the next four and a half years on the Blanket and the No Wash Protest in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. (Photo from Larkspirit)
In October, 1980 he volunteered for hunger-strike but the strike was over before he was called as it was believed the British Government were going to satisfy the republican prisoners' demand for Political Status. When a second hunger-strike was called for March, 1981 McKeown again volunteered and commenced his strike on June 29th, 1981. McKeown fasted for seventy days before his family intervened to authorise medical attention. In 1991 McKeown contributed an article with Felim O'Hagan to Éirí na Gealaí: Reflections on the Culture of Resistance in Long Kesh. He was released from Long Kesh in 1992.

This extract is from McKeown's recollections of the Blanket, No Wash protest and Hunger Strikes in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh entitled Nor Meekly Serve My Time (1994) which he co-edited with Felim O'Hagan and Brian Campbell.

When a comm [communication] came round explaining the situation, outlining the attempt we had made to resolve the deadlock [after the first hunger strike of October - December, 1980] and detailing the manner in which we had been arrogantly rebuked at every turn, I was delighted we would be embarking on a second hunger strike. For a while it had seemed as if we would just give up or be forced to concede defeat. I knew that wasn't how the majority of the men felt. We had been through too much to accept that we had gained nothing.
A large number of those who had returned to the protest for the duration of the hunger strike had already begun to leave, realising that the situation was no different from that several months previous. That didn't concern me so much. I had been glad to see them return as it had bolstered our numbers for a while, but at the end of the day it wasn't numbers on the protest that was going to win our demands, but our resolve to see our struggle through to a successful conclusion.
We knew the hunger strike was the only way out of the impasse. The NIO were not prepared to yeild an inch, and all the politicians, churchmen and pseudo-liberals who had been vocal during the hunger (asking that we end it in order to allow the British Government to negotiate free from pressure) were all suddenly mute. Faced with this intransigence, the feeling was that we should take them on and show them that we were not beaten, nor could we be. Our integrity was at stake. We felt that some of our pride was restored the day that volunteers were once again asked to forward their names for hunger strike. We were back in the fight and hitting back....
Bobby [Sands] was now an MP. What clearer sign could there be that the people regarded him - and by extension all of us - as political prisoners than by voting for him as their parliamentary representative? We felt that this would cause the British all sorts of problems and put them in a dilemma as to how to treat an MP who they were condemning as a criminal. We felt the contradictions would be hard for them to overcome.
Once again we underestimated the Brits' capacity to blatantly change the rules to suit themselves. They simply enacted a Bill which barred prisoners from standing for future elections. That taught me a lot about the brits and politics and about power and the misuse of it. It taught me a lot about the facade of democracy which cloaks a very unjust and deep-seated system of privilege and power in the hands of a few....
On Wednesday morning [July 8th, 1981] Joe MacDonnell died after 61 days on hunger strike; then the recriminations began. The ICJP [Irish Commission for Justice and Peace composed of Catholic clergy and SDLP delegates who had mediated between the NIO and the prisoners] claimed publicly that the NIO had promised them such and such, the NIO said they hadn't and the British government, to back up this position, pointed out that no junior minister could have promised anything of the sort. The whole episode appeared very messy.
That was possibly the last serious attempt the Church or the Dublin government made at intervention in the stalemate. After this their public pronouncements became more weighted against the hunger strike, calling on the hunger strikes to come of it and more or less agreeing with Thatcher's line that 'no government could be seen to concede to such pressure'. I think it was at this stage we began to realise we were very much on our own and that our actions were having a wider political effect than we had first imagined. We were exposing the so-called nationalist politicians and cutting through their rhetoric. We were posing a threat to the status quo, no longer prepared to bend the knee and accept moral control from the Church, thinking for ourselves and acting in our own best interests. We had to be stopped. Soon Fr. Faul stepped up his anti-hunger strike campaign of vilification of the Republican Movement and its leadership...

Remembering 1981: Prisoners reject Atkins statement

British amend law to stop election of prisoners

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usFollowing the election to the Westminster parliament of IRA Hunger Striker Bobby Sands, the British Government under Margret Thatcher were detrmined to change electoral registration so that the feat could not be repeated. In June 1981 it pushed ahead with an amendment to the Representation of the People Act.

The amendment was specifically designed to bar republican prisoners from standing in further elections. With Bobby Sands' death on hunger strike the Fermanagh South/Tyrone constituency was now due for another by-election. The amendment passed by 348 to 137 in Westminster after Labour allowed its MPs a free vote. A quote from English newspaper, The Guardian, summed up the situation:

"It would be a mistake to assume that because of its grandiose name this measure (The Representation of the People Bill) is about representing anybody. Quite the contrary it has to do with non-representation of a certain class of people who are notoriously reluctant citizens of the United Kingdom - the IRA and its supporters."

On 25 June the bill was extended to cover prisoners in jails in the 26 Counties.

On 19 June British Direct Ruler Humphrey Atkins had astonished people when he announced he intended to start a new round of talks with the political parties. A sign of how much pressure the SDLP was under came in Seamus Mallon's prompt dismissal of the notion accusing Atkins of great insensitivity towards "a community which is being torn apart emotionally by the continuing tragedy of the hunger strikes".

The SDLP had still to call whether or not they would contest the Fermanagh/South Tyrone by-election. There was speculation that the republican prisoners would stand a substitute candidate. Fermanagh man Owen Carron, was the name being mooted. He was a republican of long standing and had been Bobby Sands' election agent. The unionist candidate, Harry West, was expressing hope that the RUC would interview Carron about "his long standing association with the IRA over many years" before any by-election was held.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn response to requests, from amongst others, Charles Haughey and The Irish Commission for Jutice and Peace, Atkins ruled out any concessions to the Hunger Strikers. Speaking on 30 June he said that there would be no concessions towards the granting of the prisoners Five Demands or political status.

Making vague noises about useful activity as opposed to work and ordinary clothes as a substitute for prison clothes and saying the hunger strike must end before anything could happen the statement was welcomed by the SDLP and the Irish and British media. The ICJP went furthest of all stating that Atkins' statement together with "clarifications" received over a number of days had encouraged them in their efforts to reach a solution.

Rejecting the statement the H-Block prisoners said: "The purpose of this statement is to buy the silence of various genuinely concerned groups- such as The Irish Commission for Justice and Peace who have been lobbying the British for our five demands - by vaguely guaranteeing unspecified further developments of the prison regime at some unspecified time in the future.

"The Atkins statement cannot be taken as a sincere attempt - based on the need to find a solution and avoid any further tragedy - to end the hunger strike, for no one with even the most basic grasp of the situation can expect us to submit to such an ambiguous and distorted statement.

" To do so would be an insult to ourselves, our comrades who died, our steadfast relatives and supporters and all those bodies who want to see a just settlement to this issue.

"It is becoming blatantly obvious that the British are intent on creating a worsening situation if this statement is anything to go by. Even as one of our comrades lingers on death's doorstep we call on the British to climb down from their high horse and act in a responsible manner and initiate meaningful dialogue with the prisoners to find a solution.

"Lastly we wish to state in unequivocal terms that contrary to what the British say, the Five Demands which we are committed to obtaining, would go far to give back all prisoners dignity as human beings of which we are robbed at the present and we would welcome their introduction for all prisoners."

Taoiseach Charles Haughey said of the ongoing impasse: "I have explored every means of finding a solution on humanitarian grounds", before declaring "I intend to take a fresh initiative to find a solution, which will bring the present tragic and dangerous situation to an end." In the end this new initiative amounted to a statement criticising the intransigence of the British but not a lot else. Sinn Féin described it as four months and four deaths too late.


Remembering 1981: Derryman is twelfth person to join Hunger Strike

An Phoblacht

Mickey Devine

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe twelfth man to join the 1981 Hunger Strike was Mickey Devine from Derry. He was the third INLA member to join the 1981 Hunger Strike and had assumed the role of INLA O/C in the Blocks after his friend and comrade, Patsy O'Hara, commenced his hunger strike and he continued in this position even when on the protest himself.

Photo: 1981 Hunger Strike: Mickey Devine from Derry

Mickey was born on 26 May 1954 into the slum that was Spring Town Camp on the outskirts of Derry, a former US military base in the second world war. The sectarian Derry council of the time used it to house impoverished nationalist families in the most appalling of conditions. Mickey Devine's sister Margaret recalled that the huts were ok during the summer but leaked during the winter. One of Mickey's earliest memories was lying in bed with a stack of coats over him to protect him from the rain.

Perhaps a sign of the single-mindedness and determination of his character was that he supported Glasgow Rangers throughout his youth, a difficult course of action for anyone growing up in nationalist Derry.

Devine was present at the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in February 1972 and it had a profound effect on him. He said at the time, "I will never forget standing in the Creggan chapel staring at the brown wooden boxes. We mourned and Ireland mourned with us."

Micky was assaulted by the RUC on two occasions in 1969, around the same time as the infamous assault on civil rights campaigners at Burntollet. He joined the Stickies in 1971 and people who remember him from that time recall an able soldier who was 'game for anything'. Increasingly disillusioned with the Sticks, he defected to the INLA in 1974 and was a founding member of that group in Derry city.

Devine fought the brave fight despite the overwhelming odds arrayed against his fledgling organisation. He was eventually captured after an arms raid in Donegal. He made it back to Derry only to be captured and eventually, on 20 June 1977, sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Devine immediately joined the blanket protest and 22 June 1981 he went on hunger strike.

It is an indication of the principled and committed nature of Mickey Devine that at the commencement of his hunger strike in 1981 he had only 13 months of his sentence remaining.


CAIN - Hunger Strike 1981 - Chronology

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Monday 22 June 1981
Michael Devine, then an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.


Irish Hunger Strike 1981 Website

Mickey Devine Joins Hunger Strike

22 June 1981

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'TWENTY-seven-year-old Micky Devine, from the Creggan in Derry city, was the third INLA Volunteer to join the H-Block hunger strike to the death.'

Read Mickey's biography >>>here



Fallen Comrades of the IRSM - Michael Devine

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

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

>>Read on


Prisoners praise former chaplain

Daily Ireland

By Eamonn Houston

Two former republican prisoners who took part in the Long Kesh hunger strikes last night described Monsignor Denis Faul as a man of complex character whose legacy will endure.
Tommy McKearney spent 53 days on the first hunger strike protest in 1980 and Lawrence McKeown was taken off the second fast the following year after 70 days.
As the British government dug in its heels over the prisoners’ demands, Monsignor Faul sought to end the hunger strike by persuading the prisoners’ families to intervene.
On July 28, 1981, as Kevin Lynch approached the 69th day of his fast, Fr Faul met some of the prisoners’ families.
He told them he believed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would not make any further concessions and that nothing could be gained by more deaths.
In earlier years his role as chaplain in Long Kesh won him the respect of prisoners and their families. As the authorities in the North clamped down on republicans with internment and brutality, Monsignor Faul was outspoken in his criticism.
However, for republican prisoners Monsignor Faul’s intervention in the 1981 hunger strike was viewed as a betrayal.
Mr McKearney knew Monsignor Faul all of his life and was taught by him at St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon.
He said that republicans should take a balanced view of Monsignor Faul’s role in Long Kesh and his human rights campaigning in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s.
“I don’t think that we should see him purely as a critic of the IRA and republicans,” Mr McKearney said.
“There was another side to him. He campaigned very staunchly for human rights for republicans on a huge number of occasions. We need to take a look at both sides - not just the one.”
Lawrence McKeown remembers Monsignor Faul smuggling cigarettes, tobacco and pens to prisoners on the H-Blocks. He would also keep the prisoners up-to-date with football scores and developments outside the prison, but things changed.
“I do think that the steps he took to intervene in the hunger strike were totally reprehensible in the extent to which he went to manipulate the families of those on the fast.”
It was also significant, according to McKeown, that in later years Monsignor Faul became a vocal opponent of republicanism.
“He was a bit of a conundrum. He had a flawed side of his character, but we can’t take it away from him - in the 1970s he took a forthright stand on torture and brutality. The community looked to him in the 1970s, but didn’t in the 1980s.”

Outspoken priest Faul dies at 74


21 June 2006

Prominent Catholic clergyman Monsignor Denis Faul has died at the age of 74 following a long illness.

He first came to prominence in 1969 when he spoke out against the judiciary, claiming Catholics felt judges were biased against them.

While he campaigned against the ill-treatment of prisoners, he also was an outspoken critic of IRA violence.

Archbishop Sean Brady said he "stood up for what he believed in, for the distraught" regardless of background.

Tributes to Monsignor Faul

"With valour and hope he unstintingly gave his advice, assistance and support, never counting the cost or risk to himself," the Catholic Primate of Ireland said.

"He realised clearly that justice is not a casual by-product of peace, but something anterior and fundamental to any lasting peace.

"His whole life was an eloquent testimony that justice requires consistent courage, and that peace must be underpinned by morality at all times."


A teacher for more than 40 years, many of which were spent at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon, Monsignor Faul was renowned for his outspoken views.

He was Catholic chaplain at the Maze prison during the H-Block hunger strikes in 1980 and 1981.

Monsignor Faul was a teacher for more than 40 years

While he strongly opposed the fasts, he also urged the government to introduce prison reform to defuse the crisis.

His efforts in organising meetings of the hunger strikers' families was viewed as instrumental in bringing the protest to an end.

Back in 1969, his criticism of the judiciary in 1969 brought him a rebuke from the then-Catholic Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Conway.

He was strongly critical of the Army and the RUC, while also condemning the Provisional IRA.

In March 1977, he described the IRA campaign as spurious and directly contrary to Catholic teaching.


Remembering 1981: Two more join the Hunger Strike

Thomas McElwee

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe tenth republican to join the Hunger Strike was 23-year-old IRA Volunteer Thomas McElwee, from Bellaghy, South Derry. He had been imprisoned since December 1976, following a premature explosion in which he lost an eye. He was a first cousin of Francis Hughes, who died after 59 days on Hunger Strike. They were close friends and lived less than a half mile apart in the staunchly nationalist village of Bellaghy.

Click photo to view - Thomas McElwee (L) and Paddy Quinn

McElwee, the fifth of 12 children, was born in 1957. He joined Fianna Eireann when he was only 14, and subsequently joined the independent unit led by his cousin, Francis Hughes, which concentrated on defence of the local area and ambushes of British forces, before it was recruited in its entirety, into the IRA.

The years before Thomas' capture in October '76, were active ones in the South Derry area with a high level of IRA activity against British forces who became reluctant to wander into the country lanes surrounding Bellaghy.

During this time he went to Ballymena training centre to begin an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. However harassment from loyalists forced him to leave and he then went to work with a local mechanic. Like many young men, whenever Thomas went out he was liable to be stopped for lengthy periods of time along empty country roads, searched, threatened, and abused. There were also house raids. The McElwees' home was first raided in 1974, and Thomas was arrested under Section 10, for three days.

Following his conviction McElwee returned to the blanket protest he had joined immediately after his trial. Speaking of his decision to join the Hunger Strike his mother said: 'I know Thomas and Benedict would be determined to stand up for their rights. In the Blocks one will stand for another. If this Hunger Strike isn't settled one way or another they'll all go the same way."

Thomas McElwee embarked on the Hunger Strike on 8 June 1981.

Paddy Quinn

Paddy Quinn from Belleeks, South Armagh was the eleventh man to join the 1981 Hunger Strike. He was the third oldest in the family with four sisters and three brothers. After leaving school, where he was a classmate of IRA Volunteer Peter Cleary murdered by the SAS in 1976, he worked as a draftsman with a consulting engineer in Newry.

The Quinn family was continually harassed by the British army and during an early morning raid in 1979 Paddy and his brothers were dragged from the house and beaten up outside the door. Their mother was so traumatised from witnessing this that she collapsed. In an act of callousness her sons were prevented from calling the doctor for over a half an hour.

Again in 1979 another British army raid caused so much damage to the Quinn home that they were forced to sell all the livestock on their small holding and move to a council house in Newry.

On 2 March 1977 Paddy Quinn was sentenced to 14 years for attempting to kill British soldiers, 14 years for possession of an armalite rifle and five years for membership of the IRA. He was captured 25 June 1976 on the same operation as fellow hunger striker Raymond McCreesh. In the years prior to their capture they had prevented the UDR gaining a foothold in South Armagh.

Immediately on his arrival in the H-Blocks he went 'on the blanket'. He described the Blocks as like been buried alive and two years before he went on Hunger Strike he had said the only reason the blanket men did not commence a hunger strike was the pressure this would place on the families. As his brother said at the time. "He must have done a brave bit of thinking before he went on it."

Paddy Quinn went on hunger strike on 15 June 1981.


Remembering 1981: Two H-Block prisoner TDs elected

An Phoblacht

BY Aran Foley

The Hunger Strike election

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe 26 County general election of June 1981 provided the protesting prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh with an opportunity to demonstrate the wide level of public support for the Hunger Strikers and the 5 Demands.

Accordingly nine republican prisoners were put foward as election candidates and in a stunning victory for the anti-H Block/Armagh campaign two of them were elected to the Dáil while others attracted very significant support at the polls.

Combined with the election of Bobby Sands in Fermanagh/South Tyrone during the Westminster election, the result demonstrated that the British strategy of criminalisation was in tatters and had been rejected by nationalist Ireland.

In Cavan/Monaghan Hunger Striker Kieran Doherty with 9,121 first preference votes was elected with just 303 votes short of government mnister and sitting Fianna Fáil TD John Wilson. The result flew in the face of media predictions that Doherty would secure a maximum of 5,000 first preferences.

The count had gone into a second day before Kieran Doherty was declared elected. Speaking on his behalf, his election agent and Cavan town Sinn Féin councillor, Charlie Boylan told supporters that the victory was "a clear indication of the concern of a great many Irish people at the sad situation which exists in the Northern part of our country and more especially in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh itself."

In Louth, another H-Block prisoner, Blanket Man Paddy Agnew was elected with a first preference vote of 8,368 votes. Fianna Fáil had complacently dismissed Agnew and the party was genuinely shocked by the outcome. Agnew had been arrested by British forces on the southern side of Carlingford Lough by a British military patrol boat. The refusal of the Irish Government to protest this breach of sovereignty had aroused much local anger.

There had been widespread support for the Hunger Strikers in the Louth constituency with Dundalk totally shut down by anti-H-Block industrial action on several occasions. This had prompted local Fine Gael councillor and general election candidate Brendan McGahon to blame the success of such actions on intimidation but Agnew's victory exposed this for the lie that it was. McGahon was eliminated on the fourth count after receiving virtually no transfers. His defeat was largely attributed to his open hostility to the republican prisoners.

Local election workers estimated that the vast majority of the constituency's 3,000 first time voters had voted for Paddy Agnew indicating the widespread support amongst the youth, not just in Louth, but across the country.

As in the Cavan/Monaghan victory it was Fianna Fáil that paid the price by losing a seat. The H-Block election victories and the huge support given to other H-Block candidates denied Charles Haughey's Fianna Fáil an overall majority in Leinster House and was a political price for the government's spineless attitude throughout the Hunger Srike.

In Sligo/Leitrim, the third border constituency, Hunger Striker Joe McDonnell received a very impressive 5,634 first preference votes but failed to take a seat. When his votes were redistributed 2,000 went to Fianna Fáil and nearly 3,000 went to Fine Gael demonstrating the broad base from which prisoners were receiving support. The desperate economic plight of Leitrim at the time and a determination to be locally represented - there had been no one from Leitrim elected in the previous election - saw two candidates returned from Leitrim, one for Fianna Fáil and one for Fine Gael. Campaigners believed that this was a significant factor in the failure to have Joe McDonnell elected. The result was nevertheless very significant and again indicative of the widespread support that the Hunger Strike had aroused.

Another Hunger Striker, Martin Hurson stood in Longford/Westmeath where he demonstrated that, as in Sligo/Leitrim, the Hunger Strikers drew support from a wide base. The largest proportion of his transfers actually went to Fine Gael. He had attracted 4,573 first preference votes which represented 10%of the first preference votes and was a very strong showing. Hurson remained in the race until the sixth count when he was eliminated and his transfers shared out.

In Kerry North former Hunger Striker, Sean McKenna received 3,860 first preferences showing that support for the Hunger Strikers was not just confined to the border area. Again his transfers went across party lines. Signicantly Des Foley was returned for Fianna Fáil over the outgoing Fianna Fáil TD. Foley had been a prominent member of the local anti-H-Block/Armagh Committee. Foley's record of support for the Hunger Srikers played a significant role in his election.

In Waterford, Hunger Striker Kevin Lynch got 3,337 first preferences. The vast majority of his transfers went to the Workers' Party, indicating how that party's supporters were rejecting its negative stance on the Hunger Strike.

Transfers from Fine Gael's Austin Deasy pushed Lynch above the Fianna Fáil contender and he remained in the running for two more counts after the Fianna Fáil man had been eliminated.

The constituency of Dublin West provided a surprising 3,034 first preference votes for Blanket Man, Tony O'Hara, brother of the late Hunger Striker Patsy. This placed him at a respectable seventh of 15 candidates. Support was particularly high in working class areas such as Ballyfermot. Workers' Party leader Tomás Mac Giolla was defeated with the largest amount of his transfers going to Tony O'Hara.

O'Hara reached half the quota before being eliminated leaving his supporters to wonder what could have been achieved if the local campaign had not been adversely affected by internal divsion.

Former Armagh Prison Hunger Striker and the only woman prisoner to stand as a candidate, Mairéad Farrell secured 2,751 first preference votes in the constituency of Cork North Central ahead of one Fine Gael candidate, one Workers' Party candidate and one Independent.

This was a significant achievement in an area far from the North and with only single channel TV news provided by RTE's enthusuiastic implemntation of Section 31political cesnoship legislation that prevented republicans being interviewed in the broadcast media.

The humiliation of Fianna Fáil in Jack Lynch's former constituency was emphisised in that only their four candidates remained unelected when Farrell was eliminated with two of them being elected on her transfers.

There was dissension within anti-H-Block/Armagh camp in Clare which hampered the election campaign. Neverthless Blanket Man Tom McAllister had a creditable result with 2,120 first preferences.

His transfers went mainly to Fianna Fáil whose candidate, Bill Loughnane scraped in on the eleventh count.

In addition to the nine prisoner candidates four other candidates stood on the anti-H-Block issue. In Dublin North Central Vincent Doherty of Peoples Democracy received 1,481 first preferences. Joe Harrington, also of People's Democracy stood in Limerick East gaining 844 first preferences. Paddy Healy of The League for a Workers' Republic ran in Dublin North East and got 1,063 first preferences and in Cork South West, the local H-Block Action Committee were early in the field with Sean Kelleher who took 1,097 first preferences.

The anti-H-Block campaign had transformed the 26 county General Election resulting in the defeat of the Fianna Fáil government. Facing defeat Haughey had made his strongest statement yet on the Hunger Strikes placing the responsibility to find a solution firmly on the shoulders of the British. However, this was widely seen as cynical politicking, offering an excuse to three independents, Neil Blaney, John O'Connell and John Loftus to support him. As it turned out only Blaney offered his support.

When the shape of the new government finally emerged it was to be a Fine Gael/Labour coalition, supported by one Independent- the anti-republican Limerick TD Jim Kemmy. Labour had suffered serious setbacks during the election and many put this down to the party leadership being out of touch with its base on the issue of the Hunger Strikes- mass defections in Louth had been echoed to a lesser extent around the country.

Although Fine Gael leader Garret Fitzgerald immediately began making noises about the need to find a solution to the Hunger Strike, even going as far as to say it was his most urgent priority, many commentators felt that this was just recognising the reality that the election had exposed. It was also felt that he saw an opportunity to eat into the base of the so called green wing of Charlie Haughey's Fianna Fáil who had clearly been drifting because of the Hunger Strike.

His appointment to the post of Minister for posts and Telegraphs, may have more accurately reflected what was in his heart however. Paddy Cooney, a vitriolic anti-republican from the infamous 1970's Fine Gael/Labour coalition, which witnessed the use of beating of republicans in custody by the 'Heavy Gang'. That Cooney was to be given responsibility for broadcasting and the implementation of Section 31 censorship at such a sensitive time did not augur well for the future. It was perhaps indicative of the corrosion that Section 31 had engendered within RTE that anchor man of the Today Tonight current afairs programme, Brian Farrell, felt compelled to launch into a sycophantic defence of Cooney in response to criticisms in Magill magazine.

The election results had rattled the establishment who had failed to realise the levels of support for the prisoners. It had also severely embarrassed the British Government internationally by further giving the lie to their criminalisation policy.

The vice chair of the SDLP, Seamus Mallon, had been forced to declare that it was highly unlikely it would contest the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat left vacant by the death of Bobby Sands and the Catholic bishops were openly expressing their worries about the rise in support for republicanism. They had issued a blatantly one sided statement calling on the Hunger Strikers "and those who direct them" to reflect deeply on the "evil of their actions". This gave comfort to the British Government who described it as helpful while once again re-iterating that there would be no compromise with the prisoners. The irony was that the statement had been issued to exhort the prisoners to support proposals by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP) to end the Hunger Strike. It was in stark contrast to a statement by Fr Pierre of the French Commission for Justice and Peace who had said that "The courage of the Hunger Strikers illustrates the nobility of their cause."

The proposals were at best woolly and in any case the British ignored them prompting Cardinal Ó Fiaich to point out that once again the British had chosen to pick out only what suited them.

Reacting to the Bishop's statement the then Sinn Féin Vice-President Gerry Adams said the bishops "failed to mention the presence of the British government and its military forces, as being in any way instrumental or responsible for the situation. That the Irish bishops making comment about political instability in Ireland have omitted to do this or to examine the effects of the British-imposed partition of our country, cannot be but regretted by many Irish people."

In the immediate aftermath of the elections the British Government felt compelled to send two senior Stormont civil servants to the United States in a vain attempt to offset the negative impact the Hunger Strike was having on its image. A visit to the US by Britain's Prince Charles had been a shambles, even according to the rabidly pro-Tory Sunday Express. Also at this time a US visit by British Princess Margeret was called off, an open admission of the damage that had been inflicted.

All this coincided with a hugely successful tour of the States by John Sands, Elizabeth O'Hara and Malachy McCreesh, all relatives of three of the deceased Hunger Strikers. The election results had clearly invigorated support for the prisoners in America. In Canada, also, ex-Blanket Man Fra McCann was finding increasing support as he toured the country and the prisoners' election victories were a big factor.

In Britain the effect the prison protest was having on the Labour Party was best evidenced by the raft of constituency party organisations which had adopted a position of calling for British troops to be withdrawn from Ireland. On 25 June the 'Don't let the Irish prisoners die Committee' announced that a wide range of trade union, journalistic, labour and theatrical people had signed its petition on the issue. Meawhile pickets on the offices of MPs were mounted. Also 25 June Prince Charles was reminded of his recent trip to New York when 40 Hunger Strike protestors greeted him on a visit to Central Middlesex Hospital.

Republican morale was boosted at this time also by an increasingly effective and intense IRA campaign. Crown forces were being hit all across the Six Counties with gun, bomb and mortar attacks.

On 10 June republicans throughout Ireland were ecstatic when four IRA volunteers shot their way to freedom from Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. The morale boost was amplified when one of them, Dingus Magee turned up giving a defiant victory salute from the podium at Bodenstown on 21 June.

All these events occurred against the backdrop of a situation where the condition of Humger Striker Joe McDonnell was deteriorating rapidly. Unable now to leave his bed unaided, he could only be moved about the prison hospital in a wheelchair. He had gone from 15 stone to eight stone and was unable to open his eyes without feeling nauseated. Doctors had made it clear to his family that time was running out.


Remembering 1981: Hunger Strikers among candidates in 26 Counties

An Phoblacht

H-Block prisoners stand in General Election

Friday, 29 May 1981 saw the announcement by the National H Block/Armagh Committee that it was endorsing nine republican prisoners as candidates for the 26 County General Elections to be held that June.

The constituencies chosen, as well as giving the widest possible geographical spread, had several features which led to grounds for optimism that a vote for the single issue of support for the prisoner's 5 Demands could be maximised.


The Sligo/Leitrim constituency where Hunger Striker Joe McDonnell was to stand had a history of support for republican candidates. It had elected John Joe McGirl as a Sinn Féin TD in 1957. In 1981 John Joe was chairperson of Leitrim County Council.

Local feeling on the Hunger Strike had seen a number of motions of support passed by local councils, a reception for former H-Block Blanket Men by Sligo Corporation, adjournments by the councils in support of the deceased Hunger Strikers and major rallies, particularly in Sligo and North Leitrim. Local H-Block action groups had been particularly successful in attracting wide, cross-party support.


Cavan/Monaghan was another constituency with a tradition of republican support demonstrated at the polls and had, at the time, four Sinn Féin councillors as well as a number of other representatives who broadly fell within an 'independent republican' category.

The chances of securing a successful result for Hunger Striker Kieran Doherty, the candidate chosen to stand there, were further enhanced by the fact that the constituency had been upgraded from a four to a five-seater.

Major turn outs for protest events in the constituency had shown the depth of feeling on the Hunger Strike. Taoiseach Charles Haughey had been greeted by huge protests when he paid a visit to Monaghan town and there had been pointed comment in the media of the very low turn out of Fianna Fáil supporters.


The third border constituency to be contested was Louth where Dundalk Blanket Man Paddy Agnew was the candidate.

The campaign there had a major obstacle to overcome by the fact that, although the constituency was a four seater, one seat had automatically gone to Fianna Fáil Ceann Comhairle Padráig Faulkner. Nevertheless the campaigners were confident of support.

The Labour Party in Louth had been decimated by the Hunger Strike campaign. Both their Drogheda and Dundalk chairpersons had resigned and joined Paddy Agnew's campaign bringing with them several more Labour Party members.

There was also strong support for Sinn Féin's Fra Browne, a poll topper in Dundalk for both the Urban District Council and Louth County Council in the local elections.

Major workplace and closures and rallies in Dundalk, backed by the local trades council, and similar successful actions in Drogheda gave rise to an expectation of widespread support.


Longford/WestMeath, where Hunger Striker Martin Hurson was to stand, was another constituency with a history of republican support having elected Ruairí Ó Bradáigh as a TD in 1957.

Longford County Council had two Sinn Féin councillors, one of whom Sean Lynch was Council Chairperson. Independent Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Carberry stood down as a candidate in support of Martin Hurson. The week previously Longford County Council had adjourned as a mark of respect for the Hunger Strikers who had already died.

The constituency had been somewhat thrown open by the retirement of long standing independent Joe Sheridan leaving his 7,500 first preference votes up for grabs.

Dublin West

Running in the large five-seat constituency of Dublin West, was H-Block Blanketman Tony O'Hara, brother of the late Hunger Striker Patsy O'Hara. An interesting dimension to the campaign was the large personal vote of Dr John O'Connell, up for grabs following a carve up of the old constituency and O'Connell's subsequent decision to move to Dublin South Central.


Hunger Striker, Kevin Lynch was to stand in Waterford, one of the areas that produced strong trades council support for the prisoners five demands. In addition there had been major rallies in the area and workplace closures. The campaign was further strengthened by being able to draw on election workers from the strong adjoining areas of Wexford and South Tipperary.

Cork North Central

Mairéad Farrell, incarcerated in Armagh Jail, stood in the five seater of Cork North Central. The constituency embraced the old area of former Fianna Fáil leader Jack Lynch whose retirement had thrown the party into disarray locally. Cork had seen thousands of people participating in marches and demonstrations in support of the Hunger Strikers.

Kerry North

Blanket Man Sean McKenna was the chosen candidate for Kerry North which had a long republican tradition. Campaign hopes here had been significantly boosted by the decision of Labour Candidate Dan Spring not to run. He had always campaigned on a republican ticket and although his son, Dick, was to stand he did not have the profile or republican background of his father.

There were Sinn Féin councillors in the County Council and in Listowel and the party had narrowly missed taking two sets in Tralee in the 1979 local elections.

The impact of the H Block campaign in North Kerry had been underlined by the fact that a Fianna Fáil candidate had been a leading member of the Tralee action group.


Blanket Man Tom McAllister ran in this expanded four seat constituency. Optimism was fuelled by the fact that both Shannon and Ennis had been the scene of successful workplace shutdowns, particularly in the construction industry. In addition there was a strong presence of people from the Six Counties living in Shannon. In Clare the local Sinn Féin representative PJ Burke had consistently topped the poll in local elections.

Other candidates

Besides the nine prisoners endorsed by the campaign, there were three other candidates standing on a H-Block platform. These were National H Block/Armagh Committee member Vincent Doherty, standing in Haughey's constituency of Dublin North Central on behalf of Peoples' Democracy. Paddy Healy, a leading member of the committee's trade union group stood as an independent under the banner Trade Unionists against the H-Blocks in Dublin North East and Sean Kelleher, the son of local Tan War commander Tom, stood in Cork South West on an anti H-Block ticket.

The National H Block/Armagh Committee had previously outlined the criteria on which candidates in other constituencies could be judged. These included support for the prisoners 5 Demands, endorsement of a call for the expulsion of the British Ambassador, the ending of collaboration and removal of 26 County soldiers from the border and full support for the campaign of the National H-Block/Armagh Committee.


Thomas McElwee - Hunger Strike 1981

INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 42

Today, 8 June, in 1981, Thomas McElwee began his hunger strike.

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"Thomas McElwee was born into a large family of eight girls and three boys. He lead the typical life of a nationalist lad in the South Derry countryside, full of promise but very little chance to rise in the world. Young Tom wanted to study to become a mechanic, but the only opportunity to do so was in Ballymena, Paisley-land, where he was harassed and had his tools stolen. So, he settled into work around his home near the town of Bellaghy on the Tamlaghtduff Road. Frank Hughes was his cousin and their large family and his were close. The McElwee boys, like the Hughes boys and the other nationalist families were constantly harassed by the RUC, UDR and British army.

Thomas and Benedict were arrested and taken away for questioning regularly. Still, it came as a surprise when the phone rang with the news of the premature bomb explosion and the condition of the two boys. Fighting the Brits force for force was not necessarily surprising in South Derry."

Click on above link to read more


Thomas McElwee

"Sincere, easy-going and full of fun.

THE TENTH republican to join the hunger strike was twenty-three-year-old IRA Volunteer Thomas McElwee, from Bellaghy in South Derry. He had been imprisoned since December 1976, following a premature explosion in which he lost an eye.

He was a first cousin of Francis Hughes..."

>>>Read Thomas McElwee's biography at Irish Hunger Strike 1981 Website


CAIN 1981 Hunger Strike Chronology


Monday 8 June 1981

Tom McElwee, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.

Thursday 11 June 1981

A general election was held in the Republic of Ireland. [When counting was completed a minority government was formed between a coalition of Fine Gael (FG) and Labour. On 30 June 1981 Garret FitzGerald replaced Charles Haughey as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister). Two H-Block prisoners were elected to the Dáil.]

Friday 12 June 1981

The British government published proposals to change the Representation of the People Act making it impossible for prisoners to stand as candidates for election to parliament.

Monday 15 June 1981

Sinn Féin (SF) issued a statement to say that a Republican prisoner would join the hunger strike every week. [This was seen as a stepping-up of the hunger strike. Paddy Quinn, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner joined the strike.]

Monday 22 June 1981

Michael Devine, then an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.

Monday 29 June 1981

Laurence McKeown, then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, joined the hunger strike.

Tuesday 30 June 1981

The British government issued a statement on prison policy in Northern Ireland. The government said that it would not grant special category status and would retain control of the prisons.

Prison comms contradict book’s hunger strike claims

Daily Ireland

Sinn Féin’s ex-publicity chief releases notes written by Richard O’Rawe, negating deal allegations

by Mick Hall

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSinn Féin’s former head of publicity Danny Morrison has released a number of prison “comms” written by the former blanket man Richard O’Rawe that contradict claims the republican leadership had rejected a deal that could have ended the 1981 hunger strike.
Richard O’Rawe caused controversy last year when he claimed in his book Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike that republican leaders had rejected a deal from the British government that could have ended the protest shortly before the death of the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, on July 8, 1981.
Mr O’Rawe, a former senior IRA officer in the H-blocks during the protest, wrote that a subcommittee of the IRA’s army council rejected the deal.
However, writing in today’s Daily Ireland, Danny Morrison said a series of comms written in Long Kesh during the hunger strike by Mr O’Rawe paint a different picture to that described in his book.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMr Morrison said that, because of British duplicity on negotiating the end of the 1980 hunger strike, prisoners wanted senior republicans outside the prison to test the bona fides of any offer presented by the government and that no such offer had been made.
He said: “The 1981 hunger strike came out of the 1980 hunger strike. The British sent a document to the prisoners which they claimed could be the basis for a settlement. However, the prisoners had already ended the strike before they received the document.
“The British reneged on their assurances almost immediately. That was why the second hunger strikers were to demand verification of any deal to end their hunger strike.”
Mr Morrison claimed that the British government had privately outlined two different positions offering terms for ending the protest — one to the clerical Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and another to the republican leadership.
Before Joe McDonnell’s death, republican negotiators had unsuccessfully tried to seek clarification on the offer given to republicans, he said.
“I was one of those who described to the hunger strikers, including Joe McDonnell, on July 5 what the British were saying to us.
“The prisoners told me they wanted the offer clarified and verified in person through a senior British representative. We passed this onto the British.
“However, the British would not verify to the hunger strikers their various ‘offers’. Six times they were asked by the ICJP to explain their position to the prisoners and six times they refused before Joe McDonnell died,” said Mr Morrison.
According to Mr Morrison, Mr O’Rawe had made clear there had been no deal when he sent communications from the prison in July, August and September 1981 in his capacity as IRA public relations officer.
“On July 23, two weeks after Joe McDonnell’s death, he accuses the British of deliberate ambiguity and demands clarity, yet in his book he claims that, on July 6, the republican leadership rejected ‘a deal’.
“Richard’s comms — which are contemporaneous accounts of the time — contradict the allegations he is making a quarter of a century later,” Mr Morrison said.
“Mr O’Rawe had never raised his claims with the leadership in prison or the leadership outside. After Richard’s release, he worked with me in the Republican Press Centre for a year and never mentioned the allegations he now makes.”
Mr O’Rawe was unavailable for comment last night despite attempts by Daily Ireland to contact him.


Morrison: Hunger strike deal didn’t exist

Daily Ireland

Danny Morrison

In a forthcoming BBC documentary Richard O’Rawe once again will be claiming that the republican leadership rejected a deal from the British government shortly before the death of Joe McDonnell on July 8th 1981. Richard is a former blanket man and PRO in the H-Blocks. Whilst in jail Richard never raised his claims with the leadership in prison or the leadership outside. After Richard’s release he worked with me in the Republican Press Centre for a year and never mentioned the allegations he now makes.
He neither approached Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane, OC of the prisoners, nor me to ask us our recollections of this period when he was preparing for his book. Last year Richard alleged that in late July 1981 I sat at a meeting with hunger strikers’ families with a deal from the British government in my back pocket and didn’t tell them. When I pointed out that I had been in hospital in Dublin during that period Richard realised his memory was false and discreetly dropped the claim. He claims he wrote the book out of concern for the relatives, yet he never told them. Instead, he published extracts in a newspaper.
On July 4, 1981, four days before Joe McDonnell’s death, Richard, as PRO, issued a statement aimed at breaking the deadlock. It said that the British could settle the hunger strike without compromising their position by extending prison reforms to the entire prison population. At this time the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace was engaged in a mediation exercise. Behind the scenes the British government reopened a “back-channel” to the republican leadership.
The 1981 hunger strike came out of the 1980 hunger strike. The British sent a document to the prisoners which they claimed could be the basis for a settlement. However, the prisoners had already ended the strike before they received the document. The British reneged on their assurances almost immediately. That was why the second hunger strikers were to demand verification of any deal to end their hunger strike.
In July 1981 the British government had various public and private positions. Privately it outlined two different offers, one to the ICJP and another to the republican leadership. I was one of those who described to the hunger strikers, including Joe McDonnell, on July 5 what the British were saying to us. The prisoners told me they wanted the offer clarified and verified in person through a senior British representative. We passed this on to the British. However, the British would not verify to the hunger strikers their various ‘offers’. Six times they were asked by the ICJP to explain their position to the prisoners and six times they refused before Joe McDonnell died.
In his comms [communications] from July, August and September 1981 which were released as press statements, Richard makes it clear there was no deal. On July 23, two weeks after Joe McDonnell’s death, he accuses the British of deliberate ambiguity and demands clarity, yet in his book he claims that on July 6 the republican leadership rejected ‘a deal’.
Richard’s comms – which are contemporaneous accounts of the time – contradict the allegations he is making a quarter of a century later.
On July 7, the day before Joe’s death, Richard wrote: “We are very depressed at the fact that our comrade Joe McDonnell is virtually on the brink of death – especially when the solution to the issue is there for the taking. The urgency of the situation dictates that the British act on our statement of July 4 now. Finally, we advise our supporters to be cautious and vigilant and to disregard the volume of rumours that seems to be in circulation. We ask everyone to analyse and understand our July 4th statement and to be on guard for any dilution of the situation contained in that statement.”
On July 8, the day of Joe McDonnell’s death, he wrote: “The British government’s hypocrisy and their refusal to act in a responsible manner are completely to blame for the death of Joe McDonnell…The only definite response forthcoming from the British government [to the prisoners July 4th statement] is the death of Joe McDonnell… This morning [secretary of state] Mr Atkins has issued us with yet another ambiguous and self-gratifying statement… That statement, even given its most optimistic reading, is far removed from our July 4th statement. At face value it amounts to nothing.”
On July 23, nine days before Kevin Lynch died, Richard wrote: “The [ICJP’s] proposals were vague but even at that we did not believe they contained a just settlement. After Joe McDonnell’s death on July 8th the British government issued their present policy statement which in substance and even given an optimistic reading was a dilution of the diluted package attained initially by the ICJP…
“It is vital also that everyone realises that the ICJP have been victims of British perfidity [sic] and that the ambiguity which accompanies all British statements is deliberate…
“The death of our comrade Joe McDonnell on July 8th plus the Humphrey Atkins’ statement of the same day, and the evolution of bitter claim and counter-claim between the British and the ICJP left one thing clear – that intermediaries, and this is no slight on the ICJP, are dangerous and that only direct talks between the British and ourselves based on our 4th July statement can guarantee clarity and sincerity and thus save lives...
“At present the British are looking for what amounts to an absolute surrender. They are offering us nothing that amounts to an honourable solution and they have created red herrings, that is, their refusal to allow Brendan McFarlane to represent the hunger strikers, to cover their inflexibility…
Richard ‘s own words show clearly there was no deal. All surviving hunger strikers from that period are of the same view. In his book Richard alleges that the republican leadership ordered the hunger strikers not to accept a deal, yet, as his own words of the time attest, “there was no ‘elusive chain of command’… we prisoners were in complete command of the hunger strike and protest…”
I hope this closes this sorry episode and I would like to apologise to the families of the hunger strikers for the suffering and distress that this has perpetuated, but I feel that the false claims have to be answered and settled. It was the British government which withdrew political status, introduced criminalisation and was responsible for creating the conditions for a hunger strike.

Timeline – Joe McDonnell’s death

29 June
Four hunger strikers have already died - Bobby Sands on day 66, Francis Hughes on day 59, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara on day 61 of their hunger strike.
Joe McDonnell is on day 52 without food. Secretary of State, Humphrey Atkins reaffirms that political status will not be granted and that implementing changes in the areas of work, clothing and association present ‘great difficulty’ and would only encourage the prisoners to believe that they could achieve status through “the so-called ‘five demands’”.
3 July
Irish Commission for Justice and Peace [ICJP] has eight-hour meeting with Michael Alison, prisons minister.
4 July
ICJP again meets Alison who gives its representatives permission to meet the eight hunger strikers in prison hospital. They are shocked at the condition of Joe McDonnell. Prisoners later issue statement saying British government could settle the hunger strike without any departure from ‘principle’ by extending prison reforms to the entire prison population. ICJP tells prisoners’ families that they are ‘hopeful’ but that prisoners deeply distrust the authorities.
British government representative (codenamed ‘Mountain Climber’) secretly contacts republican leadership by ‘back channel’. Insists on strict confidentiality.
5 July
After exchanges, Mountain Climber’s offer (concessions in relation to aspects of the five demands) goes further than ICJP’s understanding of government position. Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison secretly visits hunger strikers. Separately, he meets prison OC Brendan McFarlane, explains what Mountain Climber is offering should hunger strike be terminated. McFarlane meets hunger strikers. Morrison is allowed to phone out from the doctor’s surgery. Tells Adams that prisoners will not take anything on trust, and prisoners want offers confirmed and seek to improve them. While waiting for McFarlane to return Morrison is ordered out of the prison by a governor [John Pepper]. ICJP visits hunger strikers and offers themselves as mediators. Hunger strikers say they want NIO rep to talk directly to them. Request by hunger strikers to meet McFarlane with ICJP is refused by NIO. Mountain Climber is told that prisoners want any offer verified.
6 July
Gerry Adams confides in ICJP about secret contact and the difference in the offers. Commission is stunned by disclosure. It confronts Alison and demands that a guarantor goes into the jail and confirm what is on offer. Alison checks with his superiors and states that a guarantor will go in at 9am the following morning, Tuesday, 7 July. Hunger strikers are told to expect an official from the NIO.
7 July
Republican monitors await response from Mountain Climber.
11.40am: Bishop O’Mahoney [ICJP] telephones Alison asking where the guarantor is. Alison suggests he and the ICJP have another meeting. O’Mahoney tells him he is shocked, dismayed and amazed that the government should be continuing with its game of brinkmanship. He says: “I beg you to get someone into prison and get things started.”
12.18pm: ICJP decides to hold 1pm press conference outlining what had been agreed by the government and explain how the British had failed to honour it.
12.55pm: NIO phones ICJP and says that an official would meet the hunger strikers that afternoon.
1pm: ICJP calls off its press conference.
4pm: NIO tells ICJP that an official will be going in but that the document was still being drafted.
5.55pm: ICJP phones Alison and expresses concern that no official has gone in.
7.15pm: ICJP phones Alison and again expresses concern.
8.50pm: NIO tells ICJP that the official will be going in shortly.
10pm: Alison tells ICJP that no one would be going in that night but would at 7.30 the next morning and claims that the delay would be to the benefit of the prisoners. Republican monitors still waiting confirmation from Mountain Climber that an NIO representative will meet the hunger strikers. The call does not come.
8 July
4.50am Joe McDonnell dies on the 61st day of his hunger strike.
9am: An NIO official visits each hunger striker in his cell and reads out a statement which says that nothing has changed since Humphrey Atkins’ policy statement of 29 June, thus suggesting that there was no new document being drafted as claimed by the NIO at 4pm on 7 July.
ICJP holds press conference and condemns British government and NIO for failing to honour undertaking and for “clawing back” concessions.
10 July
ICJP leaves Belfast.


Kevin Lynch


A loyal, determined republican with a great love of life

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us'THE EIGHTH republican to join the hunger-strike for political status, on May 23rd, following the death of Patsy O'Hara, was twenty-five-year-old fellow INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch from the small, North Derry town of Dungiven who had been imprisoned since his arrest in 1976.

Click to view CAIN poster

A well-known and well liked young man in the closely-knit community of his home town, Kevin was remembered chiefly for his outstanding ability as a sportsman, and for qualities of loyalty, determination and a will to win which distinguished him on the sports field and which, in heavier times and circumstances, were his hallmarks as an H-Block blanket man on hunger strike to the death.'

Read biography >>here

This is a detail of the new Kevin Lynch mural. Click on the photo to view the whole mural - Source: >>IRBB

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Remembering 1981: Strike intensifies as replacements come forward

An Phoblacht

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Photo: Joe McDonnell, Kieran Doherty, Kevin Lynch and Martin Hurson

Four more join Hunger Strike

During the month of May 1981 four more republican prisoners joined the historic H-Block Hunger Strike as replacements for Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O'Hara. During the course of the strike, each of the four men were to stand as anti H-Block candidates in the 26 County General Election of June 1981. Joe McDonnell in the constituency of Sligo/Leitrim, Kieran Doherty in Cavan/Monaghan, Kevin Lynch in Waterford and Martin Hurson in Longford/ Westmeath.

Joe McDonnell

The fourth man to join the 1981 Hunger Strike was Joe McDonnell, a 30-year-old married man with two children, from Lenadoon in West Belfast. A close friend of Bobby Sands, he was captured with him and replaced him on the Hunger Strike.

Joe and his wife Gorretti, whilst living with Goretti's sister, were forced out of their Lenadoon home in 1970 by loyalists as the British army looked on. In 1972 McDonnell was badly beaten by the British army and subsequently interned, first on the Maidstone prison ship and later in Long kesh.

On his release several months later McDonnell immediately joined the IRA and was active in the Andersonstown area. His spell of freedom was short though and he was again interned in 1973.

In October 1976 he was sentenced to 14 years in jail for IRA activities. He refused to put on the prison uniform.

Kieran Doherty

Belfast IRA Volunteer, 25-year-old Kieran Doherty joined the Hunger Strike on 22 May, as a replacement for Raymond McCreesh. He had spent seven of the previous ten years imprisoned. In 1980 he was amongst those 30 prisoners who went on hunger strike for four days prior to the ending of the original strike.

Kieran was born on 16 October, 1955 in Andersonstown. His father Alfie had an uncle, Ned Maguire, who took part in the famous IRA roof-top escape from Belfast's Crumlin Road jail in 1943. His son also Ned, was an internee in Cage Five of Long Kesh in 1974, when he took part in the mass escape from the camp during which Hugh Coney was shot dead by the British army. Ned's sisters (and Kieran's second cousins), Dorothy Maguire, aged 19, and Maura Meehan, aged 30, were shot dead by the British army on 23 October, 1971.

Another relative of Doherty's, his uncle Gerry Fox, was part of the famous Crumlin Road jail 'football team', who escaped from the jail by climbing over the wall in 1972.

Kieran himself had never displayed much of an interest in politics until internment. He joined Fianna Eireann in the autumn of 1971. On 6 October, 1972, the British army came to arrest Kieran, despite his father's objection that Kieran was under 17. His father eventually got him released after waking up the sexton of St. Agnes' chapel and obtaining Kieran's birth certificate.

When tried again Doherty managed to escape across the border, only to make his way back to Belfast at the beginning of 1973. A week or so later, he was arrested and interned in Long Kesh. He was among the last internees released in 1975. He immediately reported back to the IRA. He had many narrow escapes before his capture in August 1976. He was charged with possession of firearms and explosives and commandeering the car and received 18 years.

Kieran joined the blanket protest immediately. He was constantly in conflict with the warders.

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch who replaced Patsy O'Hara, was born on 25 May, 1956 and lived in the small village of Park just outside Dungiven. A keen GAA enthusiast. He witnessed at first hand, crown forces brutality and joined the local stcky controlled Fianna Eireann. Later became involved with an independent active service unit until he emigrated to England in 1973. Upon his return in he joined the INLA around August 1976. Arrested in November of that year he was jailed for ten years. He suffered much brutality at the hands of the warders but was steadfast in his opposition to criminalisation.

No one was surprised by his decision to go on Hunger Strike which he did on 23 May.

Martin Hurson

Martin Hurson was born on 12 September 1956, in the townland of Aughnaskea, Cappagh, near Dungannon. He was part of a very close and good humoured family. Described as a quiet, religious, and easy-going young man, he nevertheless, before his arrest, enjoyed social pursuits such as dancing and going to the cinema. He enjoyed the company of other people, among whom he had a well earned reputation for being a practical joker and a bit of a comedian.

Martin was arrested an dtaken to Omagh RUC barracks on 11 November 1976, He was badly, and professionally tortured in Omagh for two days. He was beaten about the head, back and testicles, spread-eagled against a wall and across a table, slapped, punched and kicked. He was eventually forced to give an incriminating statement.

In November 1977, aided by perjured RUC evidence and totally ignoring clear evidence of torture, a Diplock court sentenced him to 20 years. He went straight on the blanket and joined the Hunger Strike on 29 May replacing Brendan McLoughlin who had to come off the strike due to a perforated ulcer.


Hurson honoured in Longford

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Republicans from all over Ireland travelled to Lanesboro, County Longford on Sunday last to commemorate the unveiling of a monument to 1981 Longford Westmeath candidate and Hunger Strike martyr Martin Hurson. A crowd of several hundred people watched on as cumainn from the four provinces joined the march through the town.

Speakers on the day included Kerry North TD Martin Ferris, Paul Hogan, Sinn Féin candidate for Longford/Westmeath in the coming election and Francie Molloy, Sinn Féin MLA for Mid Ulster.

Brendan Hurson brother of the late Hunger Striker, unveiled the monument. Also attending were Martin Hurson's girlfriend at the time of his death, Geraldine Donnelly as well as Dermott Boyle and Kevin O'Brien who were arrested under Section 10 of the emergency Provision Act at the same time as Martin Hurson.

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