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24 May 2001 Edition

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McCreesh and O'Hara remembered

Fr Brian McCreesh, accompanied by parish priest Fr Bradley, concelebrated the 20th anniversary mass for his brother Raymond in Camloch last Monday night, 19 May.

The church at Carrickcruppen was filled to capacity for the Mass as local South Armagh people joined with the McCreesh family to remember Raymond in the first in a series of events organised to commemorate the IRA Volunteer who died on the hunger strike.

After the Mass the congregation, swelled by a couple of hundred people, paraded to Raymond's grave in the adjoining cemetery where a wreathlaying ceremony took place.

At the brief ceremony, which was chaired by Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy, a native of Camloch, wreaths were laid on behalf of the McCreesh family, Óglaigh na hÉireann and the local Sinn Féin organisation.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who was in the Newry Armagh constituency canvassing with Murphy, attended the Mass and spoke at the graveside afterwards.

Said local Sinn Féin councillor Brendan Lewis: ``So much had to be cut back because of the Foot and Mouth crisis, although the play, Laughter of Our Children will be shown during Féile Camloch as well as an exhibition of photos and other items of local artifacts from the year of the hunger strike.''

Other events organised this week to commemorate the hunger striker include a bilingual table quiz on Wednesday and a panel discussion on Thursday 24 May. Among those speaking will be Bik McFarlane, former OC of the H Block prisoners.

Derry ex-prisoners' group Tar Abhaile marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Derry INLA Volunteer Patsy O'Hara in the city on Monday 21 May.

A mural to the dead hunger striker was unveiled at Ardfoyle in Bishop Street, near where Patsy O'Hara was born and brought up.

Sinn Féin's Peter Anderson and Gerry McLaughlin attended the ceremony, as did many former prisoners who were in the H Blocks at the time of the protest for political status.

The unveiling of the mural is just one of a series events that Tar Abhaile have organised in Derry to commemorate the sacrifice of the hunger strikers.


Streets renamed after hunger strikers

Four major roads in the Upper Springfield Road area of Belfast have been renamed in honour of the first four hunger strikers to die in 1981.

In four separate ceremonies since 6 May, the Whiterock, Monagh, Ballymurphy and Springfield Roads have been renamed in an initiative spearheaded by the Upper Springfield `81 Commemoration Committee.

In the first renaming event, on Monday 6 May, Sinn Féin councillor Marie Moore unveiled a plaque at the top of the Whiterock Road, changing it to Bobby Sands Road. Then on 12 May, Monagh Road in Turf Lodge was renamed in honour of Francis Hughes, whose anniversary fell on that day. Former prisoner Anthony Gillen unveiled the plague.

And in the latest renaming ceremonies, on Sunday 20 May, Ballymurphy Road was changed to Raymond McCreesh Road and the Springfield Road was changed to Patsy O'Hara Road.

At the ceremony on Ballymurphy Road, former H Block prisoner Seamus Kelly recalled the brutality of the H Blocks and the viciousness of the assaults on POWs carried out by the warders. ``I remember'', said Kelly, ``that five of the Hunger Strikers had, at one time or another, been on the wing with me in H3. And on Bobby's birthday we held a sing song. Just before Bobby was moved to the hospital wing I went on a visit with him. He looked gaunt. But he was strong here (Kelly pointed to his heart).''

After the unveiling, performed by Marie Cush, a former POW, and a Sinn Féin candidate in next month's local government elections, the large crowd proceeded to the Springfield Road, where former Blanketman Rab Collins unveiled a plaque on Harriet Kelly's house renaming the Springfield Road as Patsy O'Hara Road.

Collins, from Turf Lodge, a former INLA prisoner and comrade of the Derry-born hunger striker, was arrested in 1976 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. He was released from Long Kesh in mid 1984.

Harriet Kelly's house on the Springfield Road is located across from the massive RUC barracks on the road. Built in the years after the 1994 cessation of operations by the IRA, the barracks represents the largest single investment made by the British government since the cessation in West Belfast.

In the early `90s, a loyalist gun gang forced its way into Harriet's home on a mission to kill her sons, but finding none of the sons home, they raked the house with gunfire.

Harriet is famous for her verbal assault on the so-called `Iron Lady'. Thatcher visited `The Province' in the glow of her election victory in 1979 only to be confronted by Harriet in Belfast city centre demanding political status for the H Block/Armagh prisoners. She left the `Iron Lady' shaking like a leaf.

Harriet is the epitomy of republican women who have, against all the odds, faced down the British and left them on the retreat while they continue on the road to the Republic.


Hunger strike marked in Italy

A commemoration to honour the 1981 hunger strikers was held on 5 May in Florence, Italy. The event, organised by Irlandanews.org, was held in the 17th century Vanchetoni church in the city centre. The event was highly successful, with over 150 people in attendance, and it received tremendous media coverage, with all the local radio stations and newspapers giving it coverage. The speakers included journalist and writer Sylvia Calamati, who translated Bobby Sands' One Day In My Life (Un Giorno Della Mia Vita) into Italian in 1989, a book which featured introductions by Gerry Adams and the late Sean Mac Bride. She spoke about Bobby Sands and the events leading up to the hunger strike.

Giulio Giorello of the University of Milan outlined the history of Irish republicanism before Melita Cataldi of the University of Turin gave a talk on the Ethics of Conflict. A local actor recited three selected poems written by Bobby Sands and read excerpts from his Diary and a local group played ballads.



During May, the Mayo 1981 Hunger Strike Committee has been holding a series of vigils throughout the county to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the hunger strikes. It is planned to mark each anniversary of the ten hunger strikers.

So far commemorative vigils have been held in Ballina, Westport and Castlebar. The 1981 Committee organisers in Mayo, Bríd Ní Sheighin and Maura Flanagan, in thanking everyone who helped out and attended, said: ``Events such as these provide an opportunity for people to pay tribute to the memory and courageous protest of the hunger strikers. Their fight for political status is admired and respected throughout Mayo, as is the memory of fellow republican hunger strikers Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg, who died on hunger strike during the 1970s.''

To date, vigils have been held for Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, and Patsy O'Hara. Coincidentally, the 5 May vigil marked both the 85th anniversary of the execution of Westport man Major John MacBride in 1916 and the 20th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands on hunger strike.

Similar events are planned for July and August to mark the respective anniversaries of the other six hunger strikers, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Tom McElwee, and Mickey Devine. A complete list of dates and venues will be announced later.


Glasgow hunger strike march


This Sunday, the West of Scotland 1981 Hunger Strike Committee holds its 20th anniversary march and rally. It is particularly significant for republicans in Glasgow, who recall the dramatic events of April 1979, when a march was held in support of the blanket prisoners.

That march was attacked by a loyalist mob led by Pastor Jack Glass before police refused to allow marchers to proceed into the city centre.

Organisers were later told ``republicans would never march in Glasgow city centre''. Shortly after the march, the three flute bands which took part, the James Connolly, the Billy Reid and the Kevin Barry, formed the West of Scotland Republican Bands Alliance but republicans were still denied access to their own city centre, until now. Of the three original bands, the James Connolly and Billy Reid will finally march the full route. Members of the original committee have played an important role in organising this year's march, as they have in republican activism over the last 22 years.


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