2 August 2001 Edition

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Belfast honours Kieran Doherty

Last weekend in Belfast, a series of events were organised to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Kieran Doherty.

A memorial to Doherty, who was TD at the time of his death, was unveiled yards from his family home in Andersonstown, Belfast on Sunday 29 July.

On the day before an under 16 football tournament was organised by St Teresa's GAA club in its grounds on the Glen Road in Belfast. St John's beat Davitts in the final. Both Kieran Doherty and Joe McDonnell played for St Teresa's. Following the tournament, an ex-POW select team played a challenge match against a team selected from the Lenadoon 1981 Committee. Kieran's brother Michael turned out for the ex-POW team. The game ended with both teams having to be resuscitated.

Derry honours Kevin Lynch

Last Sunday, 29 July, a group of Sinn Féin activists from Waterford travelled to Dungiven in County Derry to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Kevin Lynch.

A special bond of solidarity was formed between Derry and Waterford in 1981 when Lynch, an INLA prisoner and the eighth hunger striker to join the H Block fast, was selected to stand in the Leinster House election in June of that year.

Lynch polled 3,337 votes in an election that saw his fellow hunger striker Kieran Doherty elected as TD for Cavan/Monaghan, while their comrade Dundalk man Paddy Agnew was elected in Louth.

In all there were nine prisoner candidates in the 26-County election, who polled a collective 42,798 votes, and in taking two Fianna Fáil seats they affected the outcome of the election, costing Fianna Fáil its overall majority.

In Waterford, where Lynch stood, his votes came mostly from the labour movement. The anti-H Block campaign in that county was built on the work of labour and trade union activists.

Speaking at the 20th anniversary rally held last Sunday in Dungiven Cemetery and attended by around 1,000 people, the recently elected Sinn Féin MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Michelle Gildernew, welcomed the Waterford Sinn Féin activists and thanked them for travelling to be with Kevin's family.

Also at Sunday's rally was a group of people from Luton in Bedfordshire in England, where Kevin worked for a while before his arrest in December 1976.

Gildernew said that internationally the hunger strike had exposed Britain's role in Ireland, showing that the British weren't here as reluctant peacemakers but were central to creating and perpetuating the conflict.

Her own recent victory in the Westminster election, when republicans reclaimed the seat first won by Bobby Sands 20 years ago, was the fruits of a long hard struggle that began in 1981. ``There can be no more fitting memory to those who gave their lives on hunger strike than to work to achieve Irish unity and independence, to create the democratic socialist republic for which they died,'' said Gildernew.

Bernadette McAliskey also spoke at the rally, as did Gerry Ruddy of the IRSP and Paul Little of the Irish Turkish Hunger Strike Committee, who called for solidarity and support for the Turkish hunger strikers.

After Sunday's event, the crowd gathered in the centre of the town to witness the unveiling of a granite memorial to the hunger strikers.

In the shape of an Easter Lily with a harp inset, the stone is located at the Grove on Dungiven's Main Street, where crowds gathered in 1981 in support of the Hunger Strikers and in particular to show solidarity with Kevin's family and to say the rosary.

The unveiling ceremony was carried out by Kevin's brothers and sisters.

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