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8 January 2009 Edition

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Death of Seán McKenna

Seán McKenna

Seán McKenna

REPUBLICANS throughout Ireland and indeed across the world were shocked and saddened to learn, on 19 December, of the tragic death of H-Block Hunger Striker Seán McKenna, aged 54.
Seán’s death fell on the 28th anniversary of the ending of the 1980 H-Block Hunger Strike on which Seán almost died.
As one of the seven Hunger Strikers who commenced their fast on 27 October 1980, Seán deteriorated badly and was in a coma when he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
When he was sufficiently recovered, Seán returned to the H-Blocks, where he served the remainder of the 25-year sentence meted out to him by a Diplock judge.
Seán was born in Monaghan in 1954 but moved to Newry, County Down. On Internment Day, 9 August 1971, Seán, then aged 17, was dragged from his home along with his father – also named Seán – for interrogation and imprisonment.
Seán Snr was subjected to the infamous hooded treatment for nine days as his British captors tried to break him.
Seán McKenna Snr died in 1975 at the young age of 42 and his death was directly attributed to his torture at the hands of the British.
On his release in 1975, Seán moved across the border to Louth and it was from here that the British SAS regiment, in an illegal cross-border incursion, abducted him.
This was in March 1976 so when Seán was found guilty in 1977 on charges of attacking crown forces personnel he was sent to the H-Blocks and joined the Blanket Protest.
He joined the 1980 Hunger Strike and, after 53 days fasting, slipped into a coma. On his return to the H-Blocks it was clear that Seán’s health was badly affected and he carried the scars of the Hunger Strike to his death.
In his Irish News column, Sinn Féin’s Jim Gibney paid tribute to Seán and his family.
“The McKennas are republicans,” wrote Gibney. “They believed partition was wrong and actively opposed British occupation.
“They paid a high price for their convictions,” and their commitment to ending the injustice of partition, Gibney said.
Seán McKenna will be proudly remembered by those whom he met in his life and he will be honoured for his courage. He was buried in Ravensdale, County Louth, on Monday 22 December 2008.

• An Phoblacht will carry a full obituary of Seán McKenna in next week’s edition.
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