27 September 2001 Edition

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Nugent ceremony an historic first

Up to 100 people attended a ceremony to unveil a memorial plaque in honour of Kieran Nugent in Belfast City Cemetery on Sunday 23 September.

The march from the gates of the ceremony was led by a colour party, the first time ever a republican colour party had paraded in the City Ceremony.

Nugent, the first republican POW to refuse to wear prison clothing, thus initiating the Blanket Protest, died in May of last year.

Speaking at the graveside ceremony, Jackie McMullan, himself a former blanketman and hunger striker, who spent time in a cell with Kieran, put Kieran's actions in context: ``Just like Bobby Sands, Kieran walked up to the enemy lines alone and took them on. He refused to put on the prison uniform and faced them down.''

Sinn Féin's Tom Hartley said that ``from the minute Kieran Nugent refused to wear the prison uniform, Britain's policy of criminalisation was defeated. Instead, Britain was criminalised in the eyes of the world''.

Robert McClenaghan, one of the organisers of Sunday's ceremony, which was attended by the Nugent family, said the idea of putting this special plaque on Kieran's grave was to recognise the unique role that Kieran played in the prison struggle.

The stone was unveiled by Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann, a comrade of Kieran's and also a former blanketmen.

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