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26 April 2001 Edition

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JB O'Hagan dies

Republicans the length and breadth of the country were saddened to hear of the sudden death of Lurgan republican Joe B O'Hagan on Monday, 23 April.

In a tribute, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

``It is with profound sadness that republicans have learned of the death of our friend and comrade Joe B O'Hagan. I know I speak for a countless number of people in Counties Monaghan, Cavan, Armagh and in every county, when I say that his passing is deeply felt and that our sympathy goes out to Bernadette and to the entire O'Hagan family in their time of grief.

``A black flag has flown from the Sinn Féin office in Monaghan town since we received news of his death, party meetings have been postponed as a mark of respect and the office will be closed on Thursday, the day of Joe's funeral. Joe lived amongst us here in Monaghan for some 25 years and during that time both he and Bernadette were very much part of our community. That was seen in the numbers of people who turned out in 1995 for a special presentation night in Monaghan town to wish Joe and Bernadette well for their retirement back in their native Lurgan.

``Joe B O'Hagan was a man of the utmost integrity and sincerity. His generous nature and unassuming ways, as well as his courage and endurance, earned him the abiding admiration of his comrades in the cause which he cherished above all - the cause of Irish freedom.

``It is no exaggeration to say that Joe was a republican legend. He was of course known nationally for his participation in the daring escape by helicopter from Mountjoy Jail in 1973 along with fellow republicans Kevin Mallon of Tyrone and the late Seamus Twomey of Belfast. The escape followed his arrest earlier that year in County Cavan. But his brief sojourn in Mountjoy was only one of his many terms of imprisonment for his political beliefs.

``Joe was imprisoned in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast in the 1940s, in the Curragh Camp, Co. Kildare and Crumlin Road in the 1950s, in Mountjoy in 1973 and Portaoise in 1975/76. Inside jail and outside Joe was always an active republican, never wavering in his commitment and dedication.

``Fully supportive of the renewed electoral challenge of Sinn Féin in the period after the hunger strikes, Joe stood as a candidate for the party in the 1982 Assembly elections in the Six Counties. In more recent times both Joe and Bernadette were actively involved in the development of Sinn Féin in Cavan/Monaghan and were delighted by our successes here. Joe supported the republican peace strategy and watched developments with keen interest.

``With Joe's passing the cause of Irish freedom has lost one of its most devoted activists but because of his lifelong work we are nearer our goal of unity, equality and a lasting peace. To Bernadette, to his children Barry, Kevin, Fintan, Siobhán, Felim and Dara, to his 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and to all the O'Hagan family circle, I extend on my own behalf, on behalf of republicans in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, and on behalf of my constituents, our deepest sympathy.''

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams also expressed his condolences to JB's wife Bernadette and all the O'Hagan family. Adams said:

``JB O'Hagan will be missed by republicans everywhere. He played a significant role over a very long period and was actively involved in the struggle for a united Ireland right up to his passing.

``In living he was larger than life. His famous escape from Mountjoy Jail by helicopter is still remembered in song. But it is JB the man we who knew him will miss most.

``Whether as soldier, prisoner, political activist, husband, father or friend, JB gave his fullest. He was an inspiration to younger generations of republicans and those of us who were privileged to know him well will mourn his passing deeply.

``I measc laochra na nGael a raibh sé.''

The funeral will take place on Thursday, 26 April, to St Colman's Cemetery following 12 noon mass at St Paul's Chapel, Portadown Rd, Lurgan.



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