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30 October 2008 Edition

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Mayo hunger strikers radio documentary

Seán (Jack) McNeela, Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg

Seán (Jack) McNeela, Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg

CD  Review
Dying for the Cause: The Story of the Mayo Hunger Strikers
Three CDs
Produced by Liamy Mac Nally & Teresa O’ Malley, Mid West Radio, Mayo
Cost: €20  (Includes P&P)
For purchase contact: [email protected]
also available at:Sinn Féin Bookshop, 58 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. [email protected]

Review by  Seán Ó Murchadha

These three documentaries on the Mayo hunger strikers Seán (Jack) McNeela, Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg, were produced by local broadcasters from Mid West Radio. It is ironic to think that stories that were once censored by the 26-County state are being made available via radio to the general public with assistance from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. Indeed one of the documentaries on the life and death of Frank Stagg, The Stolen Body, secured a Bronze award at this year’s PPI Radio Awards.  
The first CD focuses on the life and death of Seán McNeela from Ballycroy, Mayo who died along with his comrade Tony D’Arcy in 1940. Such was the bond of friendship between himself and Tony that Jack crawled from his own deathbed to comfort the dying Galway man. The brutal behaviour of the gardaí and state forces at both men’s funerals is strikingly similar to the behaviour at the funeral of Frank Stagg 36 years later.
Michael Gaughan is the subject of the second CD. We hear of his growing up in Ballina. Like Frank Stagg, Michael Gaughan had to leave his native Mayo to search for work in England. Fellow POW, Danny MacElduff from Tyrone recalls Gaughan’s wish to return to Ireland to continue the fight with him in Tyrone. We hear of the horrific torture of force-feeding that led to his death in 1974. Gaughan’s funeral was one of the largest held in the country. The Fine  Gael/Labour government tried to ensure that the same would not happen again when it came to the funeral of Frank Stagg.
The CD about Stagg is fascinating especially for the emotional details provided by his family of the prison visits to England and the disgraceful attitude of the 26 County government in stealing the body of the Mayo man in 1976. In life Frank Stagg was demonised by the British, in death by the southern government. Details are heard of what seems like an illegal autopsy carried out on Stagg’s body when it eventually arrived in Shannon after being diverted from Dublin. Perhaps members of the Cosgrave government could shed some light on this ghoulish episode. Also fascinating is the detailed account of the reburial of Frank Stagg by the IRA in the Republican Plot after the earlier burial in another grave by the forces of the state.
Ultimately it is the personalities of these brave Óglaigh that shines through. Tony Darcy’s son Joe recalls Jack Mac Neela playing with him as a young child, throwing him up in the air. Michael Gaughan jokes about finding out the Mayo football results before he dies. And you actually get to hear a recording of Frank Stagg singing one of his own songs about the characters from his home town Hollymount. Ordinary People in extra-ordinary circumstances.
Only one complaint was received about the programmes. It came from a retired garda who was on duty for both Gaughan’s and Stagg’s funerals. He criticised the programmes for “lack of balance, impartiality, distortion of the facts and historical perspective”.
The Broadcasting Complaints Commission rejected the complaint.

An Phoblacht Magazine


  • Don't miss your chance to get the first edition of 2019 published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil and Soloheadbeg.
  • In this edition Gerry Adams sets out the case for active abstentionism, Mícheál Mac Donncha takes us back to January 21st 1919, that fateful day after which here was no going back and Aengus Ó Snodaigh gives an account of the IRA attack carried out on the same day of the First Dáil, something that was to have a profound effect on the course of Irish history.
  • There are also articles about the aftermath of the 8th amendment campaign, the Rise of the Right and the civil rights movement.

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