3 July 2003 Edition

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Death of Con McHugh

The recent death of veteran republican Volunteer Con McHugh has renewed calls for an investigation into the use of CR gas against internees in Long Kesh in 1974.

Volunteer McHugh, nicknamed the Bald Eagle, was a highly respected senior Belfast republican who was interned in the cages of Long Kesh during the 1970s. His untimely death from cancer on 23 June 23 at the age of 64 has spurred his former comrades to step up their campaign for full disclosure from the British Army about the use and long-term effects of CR gas.

"I seem to be spending more and more time going to the funerals of men who were in Long Kesh back then," says ex-prisoner Jim McCann. "All of them have been relatively young and all have died from cancer. It is very worrying because if our figures are correct, then nearly a fifth of the men who were in Long Kesh in 1974 have died from cancer. Now, tell me that's just a coincidence."

More than 1,000 mourners turned out to pay their respects to Volunteer McHugh at his funeral on Friday last - including lifelong friend Martin Meehan, who delivered the oration.

"He was a giant of a man," said Meehan, "a committed and dedicated republican. Con was an active Volunteer against the forces of British occupation and he was widely regarded as a shining inspiration by everyone who met him in terms of his commitment to the struggle for Irish freedom.

"Con was at the forefront of assisting the refugees from Ardoyne after the loyalist pogroms in 1969 - helping to get families re-housed in Lenadoon and such like. He was a great cook and many young men who found themselves in the Long Kesh Cages - who were used to being looked after by their mothers - were taught how to cook their first boiled egg by Con.

"I visited Con on Sunday night. He was still a little bit alert and I gave him an Easter Lily," said Meehan sadly. "He had it in his hand when he passed away. He was a great friend and he will be a great loss."

The respected West Belfast republican was laid to rest by his comrades in the City cemetery. His compassion, vision and thirst for Irish freedom will be sadly missed.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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