Tag Archives: Brendan McFarlane

13th August – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

13th August

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

Wednesday 13 August 1969

Serious rioting spread across Northern Ireland from Derry to other Catholic areas stretching the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The rioting deteriorated into sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants and many people, the majority being Catholics, were forced from their homes.

Jack Lynch, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), made a television address in which he announced that ‘field hospitals’ would be set up in border areas. He went on to say that:

“… the present situation is the inevitable outcome of the policies pursued for decades by successive Stormont governments. It is clear also that the Irish government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured and perhaps worse.”

Lynch is often misquoted as having said: ‘stand idly by’.] [ August 1969; Partition; United Nations

Friday 13 August 1971

Hugh Herron

A Catholic man was shot dead by the British Army in Derry.

Tuesday 13 August 1974

   

Dennis Leach  & Michael Southern

Two British soldiers were killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a remote controlled bomb attack near Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

Wednesday 13 August 1975

Bayardo_Bar_memorial 400

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a bomb and gun attack on the Bayardo Bar, Shankill Road, Belfast killing five people and injuring 40 others.

One of those killed was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) the other four were Protestant civilians.

See The Bayardo Bar attack

Saturday 13 August 1983

James Mallon ( INLA)

Two members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) were shot dead by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Dungannon, County Tyrone.

Monday 13 August 1984

There was a march in west Belfast in honour of Sean Downes killed on 12 August 1984 by a plastic baton round fired by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The march was followed by serious rioting in the area

Wednesday 13 August 1986

Gerard O’Reilly, then being held awaiting extradition from the Republic of Ireland, was freed from a Dublin court following an error in the extradition warrant.

Friday 13 August 1993

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a series of fire-bomb attacks on the pier at Bournemouth, England, and a number of shops.

Saturday 13 August 1994

An Irish Republican Army (IRA) incendiary device caused damage to shops in Bognor Regis, England. Another incendiary device was discovered and defused in Brighton.

Sunday 13 August 1995 IRA “Haven’t Gone Away”

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), addressed a demonstration at Belfast City Hall. During his speech a member of the crowd called out to Adams to, “bring back the IRA”. In an unscripted reply Adams said:

“They haven’t gone away, you know”.

[Although cheered by the crowd Adams was criticised for the remark. Unionists and the British government said that the remark highlighted the need for the decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons. Since it was first uttered, the comment has been referred to repeatedly by critics of SF and the Good Friday Agreement.]

Thursday 13 August 1998

Mitchel McLaughlin, then National Chairperson of Sinn Féin (SF), issued a statement urging anyone with information about any of the ‘missing persons’ who disappeared during the course of the conflict to make that information available. [This statement was seen by many as having come about because of pressure on SF by relatives of people who had been abducted and never seen again.]

Friday 13 August 1999

Bernadette McAliskey, former MP, spoke at a rally held on the lower Ormeau Road in advance of the planned Apprentice Boys of Derry march. She said that

“marching is not a human right – for Orangemen or Republicans”.

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) criticised the decision of Castlereagh Borough Council decision to fly an Orange Order flag outside its civic offices. The PUP said it was “an affront to Roman Catholic and nationalist residents.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) accused the PUP of hypocrisy because of the PUP’s support of the flying of Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) flags.

Sunday 13 August 2000

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) made safe a pipe-bomb on Drumlee Road in Ballymoney, County Antrim. The device had been pushed through the letterbox of a Catholic home. The attack was carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

Monday 13 August 2001 Suspected IRA Men Arrested in Colombia

Three Irish men were arrested at Bogotá Airport in Colombia, South America, for travelling on false documents. Colombian authorities reported that two of the men were travelling on false British passports while the third man was using a false Irish passport.

[There was speculation that the three men were members of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army (IRA). It was reported that the men had been in area of the country that was under the control of left-wing guerrillas.

There was further media speculation that the men had been involved in helping to train some of the guerrillas. The men were later identified as Niall Connolly, who had lived in Cuba for a number of years, James Monaghan, formerly a member of the Sinn Féin ardcomhairle, and Martin McCauley, who had been an election worker for Sinn Féin in Armagh.]

Two Catholics, one of them a 14 year-old boy, were injured when Loyalists threw a blast-bomb among a Nationalist crowd in north Belfast.

The attack happened during disturbances involving hundreds of Loyalists and Nationalists.

A hoax nail bomb and fireworks were thrown at two houses in Glengormley, County Antrim.

The British Army were also called to deal with a hoax pipe-bomb in the same area.

Thomas McCauley, formerly from Belfast, was stabbed to death in Waterford, Republic of Ireland.

McCauley was given a Republican funeral on Friday 17 August 2001. He was reported as having been a member of the IRA who had broken his links with the movement some time

collage

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Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the follow  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

12  people lost their lives on the 13th August between 1971 – 1983

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13 August 1971


Huge Herron,   (31)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during gun battle, Long Tower Street, Derry.

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13 August 1972
Thomas Madden, (48)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found stabbed and beaten to death in shop doorway, Oldpark Road, Belfast

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13 August 1973

William McIlveen,   (36)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty reservist. Shot at his workplace, a factory, Cathedral Road, Armagh.

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13 August 1974

Dennis Leach (24) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in remote controlled bomb attack on hilltop British Army (BA) observation post, Drummuckavall, near Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

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13 August 1974

Michael Southern,  (19) nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in remote controlled bomb attack on hilltop British Army (BA) observation post, Drummuckavall, near Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

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13 August 1975

William Gracey,  (63)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot during gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar, Shankill Road, Belfast.

See below for more details on this attack

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13 August 1975

 Samuel Gunning,   (55)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot during gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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13 August 1975

Hugh Harris,   (21)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot during gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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13 August 1975

 Joanne McDowell,   (29)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot during gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar, Shankill Road, Belfast.

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13 August 1975
Linda Boyle,  (19)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Injured during gun and bomb attack on Bayardo Bar, Shankill Road, Belfast. She died 21 August 1975.

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13 August 1983
Brendan Convery,   (25) Catholic
Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot during attempted ambush of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) members at security barrier, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

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13 August 1983

James Mallon,  (28)

Catholic
Status: Irish National Liberation Army (INLA),

Killed by: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)
Shot during attempted ambush of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) members at security barrier, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

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See :  The Bayardo Bar attack

The Bayardo Bar attack

Bayardo Bar memorial.jpg

The Bayardo Bar attack took place on 13 August 1975 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A unit of the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade, led by Brendan McFarlane, launched a bombing and shooting attack on the pub on Aberdeen Street (off the loyalist Shankill Road), which was frequented by Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members as well as civilians.

Four Protestant civilians and one UVF member were killed.

According to journalists Alan Murray and Peter Taylor, it was retaliation for the Miami Showband massacre almost a fortnight earlier, when the popular Dublin-based band were ambushed by the UVF at a bogus military checkpoint. Three band members were shot dead by the UVF gunmen after their minibus was blown up in a premature explosion.

McFarlane and two other IRA volunteers, Peter “Skeet” Hamilton and Seamus Clarke, were sentenced to life imprisonment for perpetrating the Bayardo attack.

Background

Main article: The Troubles

By the year 1975, the religious-political conflict in Northern Ireland known as “the Troubles“— was more than six years old. On 10 February 1975, the Provisional IRA and British government entered into a truce and restarted negotiations. The IRA agreed to halt attacks on the British security forces, and the security forces mostly ended its raids and searches.[1] However, there were dissenters on both sides. Some Provisionals wanted no part of the truce, while British commanders resented being told to stop their operations against the IRA just when—they claimed—they had the Provisionals on the run.[1] The security forces boosted their intelligence offensive during the truce and thoroughly infiltrated the IRA.[1]

There was a rise in sectarian killings during the truce, which ‘officially’ lasted until early 1976. Ulster loyalists, fearing they were about to be forsaken by the British government and forced into a united Ireland, increased their attacks on the Irish Catholic and nationalist community.

They hoped to force the IRA to retaliate and thus hasten an end to the truce. Under orders not to engage the security forces, some IRA units concentrated on tackling the loyalists. The fall-off of regular operations had caused serious problems of internal discipline and some IRA members, with or without permission from higher up, engaged in tit-for-tat killings.

In the early hours of 31 July 1975 the Miami Showband (a popular dance band) were driving back to Dublin following a gig in Banbridge. At Buskhill (outside Newry) they were flagged down at a checkpoint by Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gunmen (some of whom were Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers) wearing British Army uniforms.

The band’s minibus pulled into a layby on the main A1 road, and the gunmen ordered the group to line-up facing a ditch. As one gunman took the names and addresses of the band members, two others hid a bomb in the back of the bus. However, the bomb detonated prematurely, and the two men were blown to bits. The surviving gunmen then opened fire on the five Miami Showband members, killing three and wounding two.

According to journalists Peter Taylor and Alan Murray, the attack on the Bayardo was retaliation for the massacre.

The attack

The Bayardo Bar was crowded with people of all ages on Wednesday 13 August 1975. Shortly before closing time a stolen green Audi car, containing a three-man unit of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, pulled up outside. It was driven by the unit’s leader Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, a 24-year-old volunteer from Ardoyne.

Volunteers Seamus Clarke and Peter “Skeet” Hamilton got out and approached the pub’s side entrance in Aberdeen Street.  One of them immediately opened fire with an Armalite, instantly killing doorman William Gracey (63) and his brother-in-law Samuel Gunning (55), with whom he had been chatting outside.

The other volunteer then entered the pub, where patrons were drinking and singing, and at the entrance he dropped a duffel bag containing a ten-pound bomb. Both men made their getaway back to the waiting car. As panicked customers ran to the toilets for safety, the bomb exploded and brought down a section of the old brick-and-plaster building upon them. The bodies of civilian Joanne McDowell (29) and UVF member Hugh Harris (21) were later found beneath the rubble of fallen masonry.

Seventeen-year-old civilian Linda Boyle was pulled out alive, but died of her injuries in hospital on 21 August.  Over 50 people were injured in the attack. 

The Belfast Telegraph claimed that, as the IRA unit drove away down Agnes Street (an arterial road linking the Shankill to the Crumlin Road), they fired into a crowd of women and children queuing at a taxi rank; there were no fatalities. Within 20 minutes of the blast, the IRA unit were arrested after their car was stopped at a roadblock. The Armalite that had been used to kill William Gracey and Samuel Gunning was found inside the car along with spent bullet cases and fingerprints belonging to the three IRA men.

The IRA did not initially claim responsibility, However, it later stated that the Bayardo was attacked because it was a pub where UVF associates relaxed and “planned terrorist assaults” against nationalists.

The pub was in the UVF-dominated middle Shankill Road area, and the Ulster Banner was displayed from its upper windows. Martin Dillon said that the Bayardo was frequented by the UVF and that Lenny Murphy, head of the Shankill Butchers gang, was a regular customer. Steve Bruce also maintained that in the early 1970s, the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership) would often be found drinking in the pub, which was just around the corner from their headquarters above “The Eagle” chip shop on the Shankill Road.

A former IRA prisoner claimed that fellow inmate Lenny Murphy told him he had left the Bayardo ten minutes before the attack and that the Brigade Staff had just finished holding a meeting there.

Retaliation and counter-retaliation

Loyalists, especially the UVF, responded with another wave of sectarian attacks against Catholics. Two days after, a loyalist car bomb exploded without warning on the Falls Road, injuring 35 people. On 22 August, the UVF launched a gun and bomb attack on McGleenan’s Bar in Armagh. The attack was strikingly similar to that at Bayardo. One gunman opened fire while another planted the bomb; the explosion causing the building to collapse. Three Catholic civilians were killed (one of whom died on 28 August) and several more were wounded.

That same night, another bomb wrecked a Catholic-owned pub in nearby Blackwatertown, although there were no injuries.

These loyalist attacks were responded to in kind by the IRA (sometimes using the cover name Republican Action Force or similar), with the months that followed the Bayardo attack being characterised as a bloody game of tit-for-tat. This was met with disillusionment by imprisoned republicans such as Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes, with the latter claiming that sectarianism was “destroying the whole struggle”.[21]

Convictions

In May 1976, Brendan McFarlane, Seamus Clarke, and Peter Hamilton were convicted in a non-jury Diplock Court and sentenced to life imprisonment inside the Maze Prison for carrying out the Bayardo murders.[5][10][11] Inside the Maze, McFarlane rose to become Officer Commanding IRA prisoners and in 1983 he led the Maze Prison escape, which was the mass break-out of 38 republican prisoners, including Clarke and Hamilton. McFarlane and Clarke then went on the run, although Hamilton was immediately recaptured outside the prison’s main perimeter gate.

McFarlane has never spoken about the killings, and the IRA leadership has never encouraged him to do so, considering the attack was viewed as having been “purely sectarian”. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, however, told journalist Alan Murray that McFarlane “hadn’t a single, sectarian bone in his body”.

Peter “Skeet” Hamilton died of cancer in Dundalk on 25 February 2011 at the age of 57.

The Bayardo Somme Association has described the Bayardo attack as “a forgotten atrocity”. The association erected a memorial to the victims on the site where the Bayardo Bar stood before its demolition. The large steel monument was incorporated into the remaining section of the original structure; it bears the names and photographs of the five people who were killed plus photos of the pub taken before and after the bombing.

See: The Bayardo Bar attack

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Republican Hunger Strike 1981

Sunday 1 March 1981 1981

Hunger Strike Began

Bobby Sands, then leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Maze Prison, refused food and so began a new hungry strike . The choice of the start date was significant because it marked the fifth anniversary of the ending of special category status (1 March 1976).

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Bobby Sands and the 1981 Hunger Strike Documentary

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The main aim of the new strike was to achieve the reintroduction of political status for Republican prisoners. Edward Daly, then Catholic Bishop of Derry, criticised the decision to begin another hunger strike.

Brendan McFarlane

 

 

Sands was to lead the hunger strike but it was decided that Brendan McFarlane would take over Sands’ role as leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Maze Prison. It later became clear that the IRA leadership outside the prison was not in favour of a new hunger strike following the outcome of the 1980 strike. The main impetus came from the prisoners themselves.

The strike was to last until 3 October 1981 and was to see 10 Republican prisoners starve themselves to death in support of their protest. The strike led to a heightening of political tensions in the region. It was also to pave the way for the emergence of Sinn Féin (SF) as a major political force in Northern Ireland.

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Margaret Thatcher’s letters to families of hunger strikers released

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher, was implacably opposed to the hunger strikers

Secret Government documents also reveal Thatcher’s fears after 1984 Brighton bombing

Margaret Thatcher privately expressed regret over the 1981 Irish hunger strike, newly released letters to the families of prisoners show.

In the notes the prime minister said she cared “deeply” about those affected by the protest. But she turned down a request for a meeting from two mothers, stating: “I really do not see how such a meeting could help”.

The letters are contained within files released today by the National Archives in Kew, south-west London.

The files also reveal Thatcher’s fear that she would be targeted again by the IRA after narrowly avoiding assassination in the Brighton bombing of October 12, 1984, and how the attack nearly derailed secret Northern Ireland peace negotiations.

 

Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet were staying at the Grand Hotel in the city for the Conservative Party conference when they were targeted. The long-delay time bomb, which had been planted four weeks earlier, killed five and injured 31.

Afterwards, in a handwritten note to Charles Powell, one of her closest advisors, Mrs Thatcher said: “The bomb has slowed things down and may in the end kill any new initiative because I suspect it will be the first in a series”.

Four months earlier, Mrs Thatcher had sought Cabinet approval for a series of secret liaisons with the Republic of Ireland.

The negotiations helped lay the ground for the subsequent 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement but the documents show Mrs Thatcher was reluctant to allow them to continue after the bomb, commenting that she was “very pessimistic” about their outcome in November 1984.

She added Britain must avoid the impression of “being bombed into making concession to the Republic”.

On the hunger strikes, the files show that Mrs Thatcher urged the sister of one of the prisoners to convince her brother his protest was pointless.

Outwardly, Mrs Thatcher was typically unyielding during the crisis, stating there would be no concessions or reform of the prison system until the hunger strike had ended.

But in the letter to Sharon McCloskey, Mrs Thatcher said: “I want you to know that despite what is said and written by some people about my attitude to the hunger strike, I very much regret that young men have been prepared to throw away their lives for an objective which – as I have said on many occasions – no responsible Government anywhere could grant, since it could only aid and abet those who advocate and use violence to political ends.”

She added: “I can only urge you all to impress on him that the five demands of the prisoners amount to a prison regime which no Government could concede, for the reason I have given. It may be that if this is put to him by people he knows and trusts, he will decide to stop his fast and so save his life.”

Liam McCloskey’s mother Philomena also wrote to the prime minister requesting a meeting.

“I hope that you will receive this letter personally as I want you to know of my despair and desperation,” she wrote to Thatcher.

“I am the widowed mother of Liam McCloskey who, today completes thirty days on hunger strike in the prison hospital of Long Kesh [later known as HMP Maze]. I would like to meet you and believe that such a meeting would perhaps give you a better understanding of my position.”

In her response, Mrs Thatcher said: “I do care very deeply about those to whom the hunger strike has brought pain and bereavement, as I do for all those in Northern Ireland who have suffered from violence in whatever form that has taken.

“I hope you will understand that I really do not see how such a meeting could help. I believe myself that the Government’s position has already been set out very clearly.”

Liam McCloskey ended his strike after 55 days when his family intervened.

He was one of a number of republican prisoners at HMP Maze in Belfast who stopped eating in protest at the removal of so-called “special category status” for inmates who considered themselves political prisoners.

They were demanding that members of paramilitary groups should be treated differently from other prisoners including the right wear civilian clothes and to refrain from prison work.

In total 10 men died, including Bobby Sands, who became the best known of the protestors after he was elected as an MP during his time on strike. He died after 66 days.

The hunger strike ended on October 3, 1981, when James Prior, the Northern Ireland secretary, announced prisoners could wear their own clothes and remission lost would be restored.

 

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Background & History

of

1981 Hungry Strike

The 1981 Irish hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during “the Troubles” by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners. In 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to “slop out“, the dispute escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash and covered the walls of their cells with excrement. In 1980, seven prisoners participated in the first hunger strike, which ended after 53 days.[1]

The second hunger strike took place in 1981 and was a showdown between the prisoners and the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. One hunger striker, Bobby Sands, was elected as a Member of Parliament during the strike, prompting media interest from around the world.[2] The strike was called off after ten prisoners had starved themselves to death—including Sands, whose funeral was attended by 100,000 people.[1] The strike radicalised Irish nationalist politics, and was the driving force that enabled Sinn Féin to become a mainstream political party.

Background

There had been hunger strikes by Irish republican prisoners since 1917, and twelve had previously died on hunger strike, including Thomas Ashe, Terence MacSwiney, Seán McCaughey, Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg.[4] After the introduction of internment in 1971, Long Kesh—later known as HM Prison Maze—was run like a prisoner of war camp. Internees lived in dormitories and disciplined themselves with military-style command structures, drilled with dummy guns made from wood, and held lectures on guerrilla warfare and politics.[5] Convicted prisoners were refused the same rights as internees until July 1972, when Special Category Status was introduced following a hunger strike by 40 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners led by the veteran republican Billy McKee. Special Category, or political, status meant prisoners were treated similarly to prisoners of war; for example, not having to wear prison uniforms or do prison work.[5] In 1976, as part of its policy of “criminalisation”, the British government brought an end to Special Category Status for newly convicted paramilitary prisoners in Northern Ireland. The policy was not introduced for existing prisoners, but for those convicted of offences after 1 March 1976.[6] The end to Special Category Status was a serious threat to the authority which the paramilitary leaderships inside prison had been able to exercise over their own men, as well as being a propaganda blow.[5]

Blanket and dirty protests

Main articles: Blanket protest and dirty protest

On 14 September 1976, newly convicted prisoner Kieran Nugent began the blanket protest, in which IRA and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoners refused to wear prison uniform and either went naked or fashioned garments from prison blankets.[6] In 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to “slop out” (i.e., empty their chamber pots), this escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash or slop out. To mitigate the build-up of flies, they smeared their excrement on the walls of their cells.[7] These protests aimed to re-establish their political status by securing what were known as the “Five Demands”:

  1. the right not to wear a prison uniform;
  2. the right not to do prison work;
  3. the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
  4. the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
  5. full restoration of remission lost through the protest.[8]

Initially, this protest did not attract a great deal of attention, and even the IRA regarded it as a side-issue compared to their armed campaign.[9][10] It began to attract attention when Tomás Ó Fiaich, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, visited the prison and condemned the conditions there.[11] In 1979, former MP Bernadette McAliskey stood in the election for the European Parliament on a platform of support for the protesting prisoners, and won 5.9% of the vote across Northern Ireland, even though Sinn Féin had called for a boycott of the election.[12][13] Shortly after this, the broad-based National H-Block/Armagh Committee was formed, on a platform of support for the “Five Demands”, with McAliskey as its main spokesperson.[14][15] The period leading up to the hunger strike saw assassinations by both republicans and loyalists. The IRA shot and killed a number of prison officers;[9][16] while loyalist paramilitaries shot and killed a number of activists in the National H-Block/Armagh Committee and badly injured McAliskey and her husband in an attempt on their lives.[17][18]

First hunger strike

On 27 October 1980, republican prisoners in HM Prison Maze began a hunger strike. Many prisoners volunteered to be part of the strike, but a total of seven were selected to match the number of men who signed the Easter 1916 Proclamation of the Republic. The group consisted of IRA members Brendan Hughes, Tommy McKearney, Raymond McCartney, Tom McFeeley, Sean McKenna, Leo Green, and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) member John Nixon.[19] On 1 December three prisoners in Armagh Women’s Prison joined the strike, including Mairéad Farrell, followed by a short-lived hunger strike by several dozen more prisoners in HM Prison Maze. In a war of nerves between the IRA leadership and the British government, with McKenna lapsing in and out of a coma and on the brink of death, the government appeared to concede the essence of the prisoners’ five demands with a thirty-page document detailing a proposed settlement. With the document in transit to Belfast, Hughes took the decision to save McKenna’s life and end the strike after 53 days on 18 December.[8]

Second hunger strike

A hunger strike memorial in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast

In January 1981 it became clear that the prisoners’ demands had not been conceded. Prison authorities began to supply the prisoners with officially issued civilian clothing, whereas the prisoners demanded the right to wear their own clothing. On 4 February the prisoners issued a statement saying that the British government had failed to resolve the crisis and declared their intention of “hunger striking once more”.[20] The second hunger strike began on 1 March, when Bobby Sands, the IRA’s former commanding officer (CO) in the prison, refused food. Unlike the first strike, the prisoners joined one at a time and at staggered intervals, which they believed would arouse maximum public support and exert maximum pressure on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.[21]

The republican movement initially struggled to generate public support for the second hunger strike. The Sunday before Sands began his strike, 3,500 people marched through west Belfast; during the first hunger strike four months earlier the marchers had numbered 10,000.[22] Five days into the strike, however, Independent Republican MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Frank Maguire died, resulting in a by-election. There was debate among nationalists and republicans regarding who should contest the election: Austin Currie of the Social Democratic and Labour Party expressed an interest, as did Bernadette McAliskey and Maguire’s brother Noel.[1] After negotiations, and implied threats to Noel Maguire, they agreed not to split the nationalist vote by contesting the election and Sands stood as an Anti H-Block candidate against Ulster Unionist Party candidate Harry West.[22][23] Following a high-profile campaign the election took place on 9 April, and Sands was elected to the British House of Commons with 30,492 votes to West’s 29,046.[24]

Sands’ election victory raised hopes that a settlement could be negotiated, but Thatcher stood firm in refusing to give concessions to the hunger strikers. She stated “We are not prepared to consider special category status for certain groups of people serving sentences for crime. Crime is crime is crime, it is not political”.[25] The world’s media descended on Belfast, and several intermediaries visited Sands in an attempt to negotiate an end to the hunger strike, including Síle de Valera, granddaughter of Éamon de Valera, Pope John Paul II‘s personal envoy John Magee, and European Commission of Human Rights officials.[2][26] With Sands close to death, the government’s position remained unchanged, with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Humphrey Atkins stating “If Mr. Sands persisted in his wish to commit suicide, that was his choice. The Government would not force medical treatment upon him”.[26]

Deaths and end of strike

Bobby Sands Wandmalerei in Belfast
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Reaction to the death of Bobby Sands M.P (1981)
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On 5 May, Sands died in the prison hospital on the sixty-sixth day of his hunger strike, prompting rioting in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.[1] Humphrey Atkins issued a statement saying that Sands had committed suicide “under the instructions of those who felt it useful to their cause that he should die”.[27] Over 100,000 people lined the route of his funeral, which was conducted with full IRA military honours. Margaret Thatcher showed no sympathy for his death, telling the House of Commons that “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims”.[26]

In the two weeks following Sands’ death, three more hunger strikers died. Francis Hughes died on 12 May, resulting in further rioting in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, in particular Derry and Belfast. Following the deaths of Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara on 21 May, Tomás Ó Fiaich, by then Primate of All Ireland, criticised the British government’s handling of the hunger strike.[1] Despite this, Thatcher still refused to negotiate a settlement, stating “Faced with the failure of their discredited cause, the men of violence have chosen in recent months to play what may well be their last card”, during a visit to Belfast in late May.[27]

Nine protesting prisoners contested the general election in the Republic of Ireland in June. Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew (who was not on hunger strike) were elected in Cavan–Monaghan and Louth respectively, and Joe McDonnell narrowly missed election in Sligo–Leitrim.[28][29] There were also local elections in Northern Ireland around that time and although Sinn Féin did not contest them, some smaller groups and independents who supported the hunger strikers won seats, e.g. the Irish Independence Party won 21 seats, while the Irish Republican Socialist Party (the INLA’s political wing) and People’s Democracy (a Trotskyist group) won two seats each, and a number of pro-hunger strike independent candidates also won seats.[30][31] The British government rushed through the Representation of the People Act 1981 to prevent another prisoner contesting the second by-election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, which was due to take place following the death of Sands.[1]

A memorial to hunger striker Kieran Doherty

Following the deaths of Joe McDonnell and Martin Hurson the families of some of the hunger strikers attended a meeting on 28 July with Catholic priest Father Denis Faul. The families expressed concern at the lack of a settlement to the priest, and a decision was made to meet with Gerry Adams later that day. At the meeting Father Faul put pressure on Adams to find a way of ending the strike, and Adams agreed to ask the IRA leadership to order the men to end the hunger strike.[32] The following day Adams held a meeting with six of the hunger strikers to outline a proposed settlement on offer from the British government should the strike be brought to an end.[33] The strikers rejected the settlement, believing that accepting anything less than the “Five Demands” would be a betrayal of the sacrifice made by Bobby Sands and the other men who had died.[34]

On 31 July the hunger strike began to break, when the mother of Paddy Quinn insisted on medical intervention to save his life. The following day Kevin Lynch died, followed by Kieran Doherty on 2 August, Thomas McElwee on 8 August and Michael Devine on 20 August.[35] On the day Devine died, Sands’ election agent Owen Carron won the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election with an increased number of votes.[36] On 6 September the family of Laurence McKeown became the fourth family to intervene and asked for medical treatment to save his life, and Cahal Daly issued a statement calling on republican prisoners to end the hunger strike. A week later James Prior replaced Humphrey Atkins as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and met with prisoners in an attempt to end the strike.[1] Liam McCloskey ended his strike on 26 September after his family said they would ask for medical intervention if he became unconscious, and it became clear that the families of the remaining hunger strikers would also intervene to save their lives. The strike was called off at 3:15 pm on 3 October,[37] and three days later Prior announced partial concessions to the prisoners including the right to wear their own clothes at all times.[3] The only one of the “Five Demands” still outstanding was the right not to do prison work. Following sabotage by the prisoners and the Maze Prison escape in 1983 the prison workshops were closed, effectively granting all of the “Five Demands” but without any formal recognition of political status from the government.[38]

Participants who died on hunger strike

 

Over the summer of 1981, ten hunger strikers had died. Their names, paramilitary affiliation, dates of death, and length of hunger strike are as follows:

Name Paramilitary affiliation Strike started Date of death Length of strike
Bobby Sands IRA 1 March 5 May 66 days
Francis Hughes IRA 15 March 12 May 59 days
Raymond McCreesh IRA 22 March 21 May 61 days
Patsy O’Hara INLA 22 March 21 May 61 days
Joe McDonnell IRA 8 May 8 July 61 days
Martin Hurson IRA 28 May 13 July 46 days
Kevin Lynch INLA 23 May 1 August 71 days
Kieran Doherty IRA 22 May 2 August 73 days
Thomas McElwee IRA 8 June 8 August 62 days
Michael Devine INLA 22 June 20 August 60 days

The original pathologist‘s report recorded the hunger strikers’ cause of death as “self-imposed starvation“. This was later amended to simply “starvation”, after protests from the dead strikers’ families. The coroner recorded verdicts of “starvation, self-imposed”.[39]

Other participants in the hunger strike

Although ten men died during the course of the hunger strike, thirteen others began refusing food but were taken off hunger strike, either due to medical reasons or after intervention by their families. Many of them still suffer from the effects of the strike, with problems including digestive, visual, physical and neurological disabilities.[40][41]

Name Paramilitary affiliation Strike started Strike ended Length of strike Reason for ending strike
Brendan McLaughlin IRA 14 May 26 May 13 days Suffering from a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding
Paddy Quinn IRA 15 June 31 July 47 days Taken off by his family
Laurence McKeown IRA 29 June 6 September 70 days Taken off by his family
Pat McGeown IRA 9 July 20 August 42 days Taken off by his family
Matt Devlin IRA 14 July 4 September 52 days Taken off by his family
Liam McCloskey INLA 3 August 26 September 55 days His family said they would intervene if he became unconscious
Patrick Sheehan IRA 10 August 3 October 55 days End of hunger strike
Jackie McMullan IRA 17 August 3 October 48 days End of hunger strike
Bernard Fox IRA 24 August 24 September 32 days Suffering from an obstructed kidney
Hugh Carville IRA 31 August 3 October 34 days End of hunger strike
John Pickering IRA 7 September 3 October 27 days End of hunger strike
Gerard Hodgins IRA 14 September 3 October 20 days End of hunger strike
James Devine IRA 21 September 3 October 13 days End of hunger strike

Consequences

A hunger strike memorial in Derry’s Bogside on Free Derry Corner

The British press hailed the hunger strike as a triumph for Thatcher, with The Guardian newspaper stating “The Government had overcome the hunger strikes by a show of resolute determination not to be bullied”.[42] However, the hunger strike was a Pyrrhic victory for Thatcher and the British government.[43] Thatcher became a republican hate figure of Cromwellian proportions, with Danny Morrison describing her as “the biggest bastard we have ever known”.[43] At the time most thought the hunger strike a crushing defeat for the republicans, a view shared by many within the IRA and Sinn Féin, but Sands’ by-election win was a propaganda victory.[2] As with internment in 1971 and Bloody Sunday in 1972, IRA recruitment was boosted, resulting in a new surge of paramilitary activity.[43] There was an upsurge of violence after the comparatively quiet years of the late 1970s, with widespread civil disorder in Northern Ireland and rioting outside the British Embassy in Dublin.[1] Security forces fired 29,695 plastic bullets in 1981, causing seven deaths, compared to a total of around 16,000 bullets and four deaths in the eight years following the hunger strikes.[44] The IRA continued its armed campaign during the seven months of the strike, killing 13 policemen, 13 soldiers, including five members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and five civilians. The seven months were one of the bloodiest periods of the Troubles with a total of 61 people killed, 34 of them civilians.[45] Three years later the IRA perpetrated the Brighton hotel bombing, an attack on the Conservative party conference that killed five people and in which Thatcher herself only narrowly escaped death.[2]

The hunger strike prompted Sinn Féin to move towards electoral politics. Sands’ election victory, combined with that of pro-hunger strike candidates in the Northern Ireland local elections and Dáil elections in the Republic of Ireland, gave birth to the armalite and ballot box strategy. Gerry Adams remarked that Sands’ victory “exposed the lie that the hunger strikers—and by extension the IRA and the whole republican movement—had no popular support”.[46] The election victories of Doherty and Agnew also had political impact in the Republic of Ireland, as they denied power to Charles Haughey’s outgoing Fianna Fáil government.[28] In 1982 Sinn Féin won five seats in the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and in 1983 Gerry Adams won a seat in the UK general election.[47] As a result of the political base built during the hunger strike, Sinn Féin continued to grow in the following two decades. After the United Kingdom general election, 2001, it became the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland[3] and after the 2014 local and European elections held on both sides of the border, asserted it was now the largest party in Ireland.[48]

In 2005, the role of Gerry Adams was questioned by former prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who was the public relations officer inside the prison during the strike. O’Rawe states in his book Blanketmen that Adams prolonged the strike as it was of great political benefit to Sinn Féin and allowed Owen Carron to win Sands’ seat.[49][50] This claim is denied by several hunger strikers and Brendan McFarlane, who was O/C inside the prison during the hunger strike.[51] McFarlane claims O’Rawe’s version of events is confused and fragmentary, and states “We were desperate for a solution. Any deal that went some way to meeting the five demands would have been taken. If it was confirmed in writing, we’d have grabbed it . . . There was never a deal, there was never a “take it or leave it” option at all”.[52]

Commemorations

A hunger strike memorial near Crossmaglen, County Armagh

There are memorials and murals in memory of the hunger strikers in towns and cities across Ireland, including Belfast, Dublin, Derry, Crossmaglen and Camlough.[53] Annual commemorations take place across Ireland for each man who died on the hunger strike, and an annual hunger strike commemoration march is held in Belfast each year, which includes a Bobby Sands memorial lecture.[54][55] Several towns and cities in France have named streets after Bobby Sands, including Paris and Le Mans.[2][56] The Iranian government also named a street running alongside the British embassy in Tehran after Bobby Sands, which was formerly called Winston Churchill Street.[57]

A memorial to the men who died in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the Easter Rising and the hunger strike stands in Waverley Cemetery, Sydney, Australia, which is also the burial place of Michael Dwyer of the Society of United Irishmen.[58][59] In 1997 NORAID‘s Hartford Unit in the United States dedicated a monument to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers.[60] The monument stands in a traffic circle known as “Bobby Sands Circle”, at the bottom of Maple Avenue near Goodwin Park.[61] On 20 March 2001 Sinn Féin’s national chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin opened the National Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee’s exhibition at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, which included three original works of art from Belfast-based artists.[62] A separate exhibition was also launched in Derry the following month.[63] Three films have been made based on the events of the hunger strike, Some Mother’s Son starring Helen Mirren, H3 (which was co-written by former hunger striker Laurence McKeown), and Steve McQueen‘s Hunger.

16th January – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

16th January

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Wednesday 16 January 1974

Brian Faulkner, then Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Executive, travelled to Dublin for a meeting with Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) following a ruling in the Dublin High Court. The ruling implied that the reunification of Ireland did not require the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

Sunningdale; Ulster Workers’ Council Strike.

Thursday 16 January 1975

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced that it would call off its ceasefire as of midnight 16 January 1975

Monday 16 January 1978

Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, was quoted in the Irish Press as saying: “I believe the British should withdraw from Ireland. I think that it is the only thing that will get things moving.” The comments drew a lot of criticism including from Ian Paisley, then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who called Ó Fiaich “the IRA’s bishop from Crossmaglen”.

Friday 16 January 1981

Bernadette McAliskey

Bernadette McAliskey (formally Devlin) and her husband were shot and seriously injured in a gun attack in their home near Coalisland, County Tyrone. It was believed that members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) were responsible for the attack. Bernadette McAliskey was shot seven times in front of her children, but both her and her husband recovered from their injuries.

Injured in loyalist shooting

On 16 January 1981, she and her husband were shot by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, who broke into their home near Coalisland, County Tyrone. The gunmen shot Devlin fourteen times in front of her children. British soldiers were watching the McAliskey home at the time, but failed to prevent the assassination attempt.An army patrol of the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, entered the house and waited for half an hour. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey claimed they were waiting for the couple to die. Another group of soldiers then arrived. The paramilitaries had torn out the telephone and while the wounded couple were being given first aid by the newly arrived troops, a soldier ran to a neighbour’s house, commandeered a car, and drove to the home of a councillor to telephone for help. The couple were taken by helicopter to hospital in nearby Dungannon for emergency treatment and then to the Musgrave Park Hospital, Military Wing, in Belfast, under intensive care. The attackers, Ray Smallwoods, Tom Graham (38), both from Lisburn, and Andrew Watson (25) from Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, were captured by the army patrol and subsequently jailed. All three were members of the South Belfast UDA. Smallwoods was the driver of the getaway car.

Sunday 16 January 1983

William Doyle, a County Court judge, was shot dead by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as he left mass at a Catholic church in south Belfast.

Thursday 16 January 1986

Security forces in Holland raided a flat in Amsterdam and arrested two Republicans, Brendan McFarlane and Gerard Kelly, who had escaped from the Maze prison on 25 September 1983.

[The two men were extradited to the United Kingdom (UK) on 3 December 1986.]

Friday 16 January 1987

Peter Robinson, then deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), pleaded guilty in a Dublin court to unlawful assembly. Robinson paid £17,500 in fines and compensation and was freed.

Saturday 16 January 1988

Two members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were killed in separate incidents.

Monday 16 January 1989

The case of the ‘Guildford Four’ was referred to the Court of Appeal.

Tuesday 16 January 1990

John Taylor, then Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Member of Parliament, called for an end to the Unionist boycott of talks with Northern Ireland Office ministers.

Tommy Lyttle, then leader of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), appeared in court on charges relating to the Stevens Inquiry

Tuesday 16 February 1993

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), gave an interview to the Irish News (a Northern Ireland newspaper) in which he called for “inclusive dialogue” and a new Irish-British agreement that would bring an end to partition.

Sunday 16 January 1994

The Sunday Independent (an Dublin based newspaper) contained a story about an alleged plan of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) to carry out ‘ethnic cleansing’. The plan involved the repartition of Northern Ireland followed by the forced removal of Catholics from the remaining area.

Monday 16 January 1995

SF Meeting With NIO Officials A delegation from Sinn Féin (SF) held a meeting with Northern Ireland Office (NIO) officials at Stormont. SF accepted that the party had an “influence” on paramilitary weapons.

Michael Ancram, then Political Development Minister at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), later said that the decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons was not a precondition to SF’s entry into substantive talks.

Thursday 16 January 1997

The case of Lee Clegg was referred to the Court of Appeal by Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

[Clegg had been released from prison in 1995 having served two years of a life sentence for the murder of Karen Reilly (16) on 30 September 1990.]

The trial of six men who had escaped from Whitmoor Prison collapsed due to “prejudicial publicity” from the London Evening Standard. The trial was being heard in the High Court in London.

Saturday 16 January 1988

Two members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were killed in separate incidents.

Saturday 16 January 1999

It was announced that a commission involving the Orange Order and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) would be established to consider formal links between the two organisations.

Tuesday 16 January 2001

There was a pipe-bomb attack on the home of a Catholic family in Coleraine, County Derry. A couple and their two children, aged seven and 13, were in the house at the Heights in Coleraine when the device exploded just after midnight. The attack was carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries.

British Army (BA) bomb disposal experts defused a pipe-bomb at the north Belfast home of the brother of Ronnie Flanagan, then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Loyalists paramilitaries were believed to be responsible for leaving the device in the front garden of the house on the Cavehill Road. No-one was in the house at the time.

Wednesday 16 January 2002

Postal deliveries throughout Northern Ireland were again suspended as the Communication Workers Union, together with other trade unions, continued efforts to have Ulster Defence Association (UDA) death threats lifted.

Alan McQuillan, then Assistant Chief Constable of PSNI, met leaders of the Communication Workers Union in Belfast and give them an “honest assessment” of the threat issued by the Red Hand Defenders (RHD). Following the meeting the Belfast postal workers said they would return to work beginning with the first shifts on Thursday 17 January 2002.

The body of Stephen McCullough (39) was found at the bottom of Cavehill in north Belfast. It appeared that he had fallen from the top of a cliff. Initially the police said a crime was not suspected.

[Later (on 21 January 2002) it was revealed that McCullough was a member of the UDA. It was also revealed that hours before his death McCullough had told Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) soldiers and some police officers that he had information about the killing of Daniel McColgan (12 January 2002). Nuala O’Loan, then Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI), began an investigation into the death of McCullough.]

Richard Haass, then a special advisor to the US President, travelled to Belfast for talks with John Reid, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and also met members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB). Haass also met representatives of Unionist political parties. Haass urged Sinn Féin (SF) to join the Policing Board saying it was in the party’s own interests to serve alongside the other political parties.

[Haass met with other groups on 17 January 2002.]

The High Court in Belfast ruled that David Trimble (UUP), then First Minister, and Seamus Mallon (SDLP), former Deputy First Minister, were wrong to withhold Executive papers, relating to free public transport, from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

[The two DUP ministers had refused to serve on the Executive.]

Pat Cox (49), a Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the Republic of Ireland, won the election to become the President of the European Parliament.

 

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Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following  people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

6 People   lost their lives on the 16th  January  between  1972 – 1988

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16 January 1972


Eamon McCormick,  (17)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army Youth Section (IRAF),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Died over two months after being shot during gun battle, near St Peter’s School, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

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16 January 1977
Seamus Harvey, (20)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by undercover British Army (BA) members, from concealed observation post, Drummuckavall, near Crossmaglen, County Armagh.

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16 January 1981


Ivan Toombs,  (42)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Shot at his workplace, Customs Office, Warrenpoint, County Down

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16 January 1983


William Doyle,   (55)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Judge. Shot outside St Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, Derryvolgie Avenue, Malone, Belfast.

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16 January 1988
Timothy Armstrong,   (29)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Off duty. Shot while walking along Park Road, Ballynafeigh, Belfast. Assumed to be a Catholic.

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16 January 1988


William Stewart,  (23)

Protestant
Status: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Died one day after being shot while driving his car near to his home, Brackaville, Coalisland, County Tyrone.

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