21.2.08

Adams carries Hughes' coffin

:::u.tv:::

Brendan `The Dark` Hughes, once one of Belfast`s most feared IRA gunmen, died at the weekend after a short illness aged 59.

Crowds swelled to more than 2,000 as his coffin - draped in the Irish Tricolour and topped with black beret and gloves, was carried from his home in west Belfast to St Peter`s Catholic Cathedral in the Divis Street area of the city.


Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams today carried the coffin of a former IRA hunger striker who fell out with the party over the peace process.

Hughes spent 53 days on hunger strike in the top security Maze Prison in 1980 and fellow faster Raymond McCartney , who is now a Sinn Fein Assembly member, was among the mourners at the biggest republican funeral seen in Belfast for some years.

Hughes was Officer Commanding the IRA men in the Maze during the battle of wills over prisoner of war status and the men`s refusal to wear prison uniform.

He led the dirty protest - when the men wore nothing but a blanket and smeared their cell walls with their own excrement.
That developed into the hunger strike led by Hughes but called off after 53 days when one of the men, Sean McKenna, was near death.

Bobby Sands took over as OC and in 1981 ordered another hunger strike which first claimed his own life and then nine more republicans.

Hughes was released from jail in 1986 and resumed active republicanism again but became disillusioned with the direction of the Sinn Fein leadership in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and dismissed them as `the Armani suit brigade`.

He accused them of betraying core republican principles and their working class background.

Despite the fallout a former comrade loyal to the Sinn Fein leadership said: "There was still a lot of respect and fondness for Brendan despite all the things he said in recent years."

Mr Adams` decision to carry the coffin was a clear sign any rift had been healed.

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