Blog Archives

Man who refused bail over tag allowed home for Christmas

A DERRY man who turned down bail because it meant he would be electronically tagged has been granted compassionate bail for Christmas – without a tag.

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Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told 44-year-old Anthony Michael Taylor, who is accused of having a rifle linked to dissident republicans, would not have to wear the tag because he would only be on bail from Christmas Eve until St Stephen‘s Day. However, the Crown Court judge said all other condititions of his origional full bail would remain. They include the lodgement of £50,000 to the court; that he resides at Farmhill, Derry; reports daily to the police and observes an 8pm curfew each evening. Taylor, a member of Repulican Netwok for Unity (RNU), is accused possessing a semi-automatic rifle with intent to endanger life and under suspicious circumstances on August 2, 2011. It was alleged at an earlier hearing that he could be linked to the car in which the rifle was later found. A prosecution lawyer said that Taylor had been granted full bail but had failed to perfect it because it would involve wearing the tag, which was “a real issue for the accused…. a matter of principal”. The lawyer added hat given his family circumstances, the prosecution were not unsympathetic to his situation in wanting bail over the holiday period. Eugene Grant QC, defending, said while Taylor did not take his full bail, all he wanted now was the opportunity to spend a few days with his family over Christmas. Mr Grant said one way of dealing with any fear of him absconding over the three days was for the police to call on him, if necessary.

With many thanks to: The Irish News.

Masked flag-bearer appeals conviction

‘This classically is a case which calls for an answer from the person who knows whether he was on that march or not – Sir Declan Morgan.

A DERRY man given a suspended jail sentence for being the masked flag bearer in a republican parade was never properly identified, the Court of Appeal has heard. Lawyers for Patrick John McDaid argued that experts in facial mapping and image comparison techniques were not certain he had been the man pictured in a balaclava.

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As well as the photographs and facial mapping evidence, the judge in the non-jury trail in Belfast Crown Court heard how police later seized a document which purported to be minutes of a meeting to organise the march. It included the reference: ‘Colour party – McDaid to get people sorted’. But judges in the Court of Appeal were told on Tuesday that nothing more than a surname was found. Kieran Mallon QC, for McDaid, also challenged the strength of the evidence from an expert who noted striking similarities in the lips and eyes of his client and Man X. “It’s our contention there was not established any form of meaningful identification,” he said. “On balance he cannot say the accused and Mr X were one and the same person, primarily because there was no statistical database against which he could test an individual with that type of eye colour or lip shape.” Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan, sitting with Lords Justice Girvan and Coghlin, drew his attention to two other strands of the prosecution case: McDaids name being on the organising document and his participation in previous events. Mr Mallon accepted there would have been clear suspicions, but contended this fell short of proof. Sir Declan then alluded to McDaid’s failure to give any evidence at trial. “This classically is a case which calls for an answer from the person who knows whether he was on that march or not,” he said. Judgment in the appeal was reserved.

With thanks to: The Irish News

Band played sectarian music at flashpoint say residents

Parades body criticised over lack of restrictions!

NATIONALISTS have accused a loyalist band of playing “sectarian” music during an Apprentice Boys parade past a North Belfast flashpoint. Carrick Hill residents said The Sash and Derry’s Walls were played as bandmen passed the nationalist district on Saturday evening.

REROUTE THE FLUTE

They also said that minutes earlier the band played music while passing nearby St Patrick‘s Church on Donegall Street as Apprentice Boys made their way home from the annual Lundy parade in Derry. Nationalist residents were critical of the Parades Commission after it failed to restrict the playing of music in the area. In the past loyalst bands have played sectarian music as they passed both the church and Carrick Hill. Locals last night said that up to 50 Apprentice Boys and one band passed St Patrick’s as parishioners were making their way into church for Mass. Carrick Hill Concerned Residents’ Group spokesman Frank Dempsey critiicised the Parades Commission for not placing restrictions. “The Parades Commission sent a band down here knowing well Mass was on and they put no restrictions on the music,” he said. Police last night confirmed that an 18-year-old man was arrested for disorderly behaviour and resisting police at Cliftion Street during the parade and later charged. He is expected to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on January 3.

CARA’s current position & stregedy on loyal order parades

In North Belfast two nationalist residents groups called off protests during an Apprentice Boys feeder parade past Ardoyne on Saturday. One band and up to 115 people took part in the march past the flashpoint. RE-ROUTE SECTARIAN MARCHESTensions in the area have been high since the Parades Commission banned Orangemen from passing the nationalist district as they made their way home from their annual Twelfth celebrations in July. A loyalist protest camp has been set up on nearby wasteground while nightly parades are held in the area. Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) spokesman Dee Fennell said they suspended plans for a protest “to reduce tension, give traders respite and reduce disruption” in the area. Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents’ Association (CARA) spokesman Joe Marley said their protest was called off as a “gesture of goodwill”. Meanwhile, up to 3,000 poeple and 31 bands took part in the main Apprentice Boys parade in Derry on Saturday commemorating the 17th century siege of the city. It passed off without incident and was described as a success. An Apprentice Boys feeder parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, also passed off peacefully. Meanwhile, Parades Commission chairman Peter Osborne has accused some politicians in the north of providing bad leadership. He was speaking after an illegal loyalist parade was held through Belfast city centre on November 30. Police confirmed last week that the organiser of the parade had been interveiwed and would be prosecuted, while The Irish News also revealed that a bandsman involved in a march past St Matthew’s Church in East Belfast last year has become the first person to be given a jail term for breaching a Parades Commission ruling. “I am not happy that anybody is being posecuted for parades-related offences and other offences that will have a hugely detrimental impact on their life,” he told the BBC. “I think there’s some bad leadership in the North of Ireland at the minute, the result of which there are a lot of young people being arrested and prosecuted and have criminal records when they really don’t need to have.”

With many thanks to: Connla Young, The Irish News.

Sinn Fein hits out at decision to allow Castlederg parade

‘It seems some are more equal than others in Castlederg in the eyes of the Parades Commission – Ruairi McHugh.

SINN Fein has hit out at the Parades Commission after it ruled an Apprentice Boys parade could march through a nationalist area of Castlederg this weekend. 

For Cod and Ulster

The Apprentice Boys will march through the Co Tyrone town on Saturday morning and evening. The commission placed restrictions on the evening parade, preventing it from marching through Priest’s Lane, Ferguson Crescent, Killeter Road and Alexander Park. But the commission has allowed the morning parade to move through the predominantly nationalist Ferguson Crescent area. The feeder parades are part of the annual Lundy’s Day parade in Derry on Saturday. Around 2,500 Apprentice Boys are expected to take part in the Derry parade. There have been heightened community tensions in Castlederg following several loyalist parades and a controversial republican commemoration over the summer. Sinn Fein Castlederg councillor Ruairi Mc Hugh said it is the first time a loyalist march has been allowed to pass through Ferguson Crescent,without restrictions, since 2006. He accused the commission of “double standards”. “There has been upwards of 20 unionist parades of one type or another in Castlederg this year alone, which is totally disproportionate given the demographics of the town,” he said. Mr McHugh said as far as he was aware, the parade’s organisers had not attempted to consult with people in Ferguson Cerscent about the march. This determination stands in stark contrast to the sole Republician commemoration this year in August which the commission blocked from even entering our own town centre, which made a mockery of the town centre being a shared space for all the communities in Castlederg,” he said. “It seems some are more equal in Castlederg in the eyes of the Parades Commission.”

With many thanks to: Claire SimpsonThe Irish News.

THE PSNI/RUC (reformed are you having a laugh) Abandon Challenge To Stop-And-Search ruling.

POLICE have a banded a planned Supreme Court challenge to a ruling that stop, search and question operations involving a former IRA hunger striker and a brother-in-law of Martin McGunness were unlawful.

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“Anyone ever stopped and searched under Section 21 of the Stop and Search Act,

Seek legal advice and sue the PSNI/RUC

It was ilillegal and you are entitled to claim against our

so-called great unbiased police service – TAL32.

Senoir judges in Belfast have been told an appeal by the cheif contabe and secretary of state in the cases of Bernard Fox and Marvin Canning was no longer being persued. Both men are now to press ahead with claimes for damages againt the PSNI/RUC, with Mr Cannings ‘ lawyer disclosing he has been stopped more than 100 times. Eariler this year the Court of Appeal held there was a lack of adequate safegards against potental abuse of system used under the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007. Mr Canning, from Derry, said the stop and question powers were incomppatible with his right to privacy under Euorpean law. The 55-year-old, who is related to the deputy first minister through marriage, alleged that officers were sometimes oppressive and confrontational. He denies any involvement in terrorism but confirmed he is a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, stating it is not an illegal organization. Police had rejected claims that powers under the act were arbitrary used against him.

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A similar judicial rreview challenge was brought by Mr Fox, who took part in the 1981 Hunger strike at the Maze Prison, and his companion Christine McNulty. The Belfast man served more than 20 years in prison for offences including possession of explosives before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Police stopped a car he and Ms McNulty were travelling in near Camlough, Co Armagh in March 2011. Their vehicle was searched for munitions, while an officer allegedly took Ms McNulty’s handbag and went through the contents. Mr Fox denies any invovement with dissident republican activities. Police argued that the power was not intended to be used randomly but rather on the basis of threat. Lawyers in both cases successfully overturned a previous High Court decision that no violation under the European Convention on Human Rights had occourred. In the Court of appeal ruling Lord Justice Girvan identified the absence of a code of practice for stop and question operatins under Section 21 of the act. The legal framework pending the introduction of an effective code dies not contain the kind of safeguards against potential abuse or arbitrariness, he held.

Although ammendments have been made to the section dealing with stop-and-search actions, the court ruled in favour of Mr Fox and Ms McNulty based on the situation at the time. Counsel for the chief constable and the secretary of state was expected to attempt to appeal the verdicts at the UK’s highest court but both pulled out at the last minute. However, Tony McGleenan QC on Friday told the Court of Appeal: “I have received instructions this morning that we are not to pursue the appliction for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in either the Fox or McNulty cases.” Following the notification Mr Canning’s solicitor Paul Pierce of KRW law said: “In veiw of the decision by the chief constable and the secretary of state to abandon the appeal, it now confirms the ruling that the stop and search powers used by police were unlawful. “The fact that a code of practice has now been introduced does not remeady the unlawful use of these wide-ranging powers.” “Our client will now be pursuring a claim for damages, having been subjected to these stop and search powers in excess of 100 times.”

With many thanks to : The Irish News.

Related articles

TRIO DENY HAVING ARMOUR-PIERCING BOMB

THREE Derry men appeared before Belfast Crown Court yesterday to deny having an armour-piercing bomb. 

HELD IN CUSTODY: From left, Jason Ceulemans, Damien Hark in and Neil Hegarty at previous court appearances. All three appeared before Belfast Crown Court yesterday charged with possessing an armour-piercing bomb with intent to endanger life on December 6 last year. All were remanded back into custody until their trial which is due to take place in November

Jason Ceulemans (41), Damien Harkin (48) and Neil Hegarty (48) pleaded not guilty to possessing “an explosively formed projectile-type improvised device” with intent to endanger life on December 6 last year. Ceulemans, of Lecky Road, Harkin, of Westland Avenue, and Hegarty, of Sackville Court, also denied having the device under suspicious circumstances and possessing two walkie-talkies and a torch for terrorist purpose. The arraignment on a count of conspiring together to cause an explosion was adjourned for legal applicatins to be heard. Previous court hearings have been told that an explosively formed projectile is a special type of shaped charge designed to penetrate armour effectively at distances and that such devices are uusually fired by rocket. The device was found in a car stopped by police in Derry’s Creggan area. Judge David McFarland remanded all three defendants back into custody until their trial, due to take place in November.

With many thanks to : The Irish News.

RUC/LOYALIST AND BRITISH PARAMILITARY COLLISION IN SOUTH DERRY IN THE OCCUPIED SIX COUNTIES OF THE NORTH OF IRELAND

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PatroitDead SouthDerry NorthAntrim

RUC / LOYALISTS PARAMILITARY COLLUSION SOUTH DERRY NORTH ANTRIM

The accounts are remarkably similar. Intense crown force’s activity followed by total withdrawal. Hours of helicopters buzzing overhead, days of foot patrols and roadblocks, then silence. “Everyone knew someone was going to be killed, silence was almost always a prelude to terror,” said a relative of an East Derry collusion victim Tommy Donaghy.

Stretching from Derry City, along the North coast through County Derry to North Antrim is a single UDA brigade area. It includes Derry City, Coleraine and villages such as Castlerock and Rasharkin. It also borders County Donegal.

The territory is as wide and diverse – urban and rural, coastal and land bound. One unifying aspect is that local communities were all subject to the attentions of one organised unionist paramilitary group and state forces who colluded in its reign of terror.

Earlier this year one of the North’s most notorious sectarian mass murderers, Torrens Knight was exposed as an RUC Special Branch agent. In October 1993 Knight was one of a number of masked gunmen responsible for the Greysteel massacre.

Now families of other victims in the area believe members of the same gang were responsible for other murders. They believe collusion was organised and sanctioned by Special Branch and others. The UDR also played a key role, providing weapons and intelligence and willing recruits to the death squads. Many unionist paramilitaries were former or serving members of the UDR.

On Halloween night 1993 UDA killers walked into the Rising Sun Bar, a pub known to be frequented by Catholics and shouted “trick or treat” before spraying the lounge with bullets. Nineteen people were wounded and eight died from their injuries.

Knight later admitted standing ‘guard’ at the door of the pub armed with a sawn-off shotgun during the attack and driving the getaway car from the scene. He also admitted being part of a UDA gang that shot dead four Catholic workmen in Castlerock in March 1993.

Significantly, on the day of the Castlerock murders, two of three possible routes usually taken by the workmen travelling together in a van had been closed by the RUC. At Gortree Place gunmen emerged out of another van, killing one of the front passengers before spraying the rest of the vehicle with gunfire.

Four workmen were killed and a fifth seriously wounded. One of those killed, James Kelly,was later claimed as an IRA Volunteer. It is widely believed that the first gunman to open fire is a former member of the UDR.

Despite the fact that the gun attack took place within view of a RUC barracks, the killers appeared unconcerned about surveillance. After making an initial getaway, they returned to the scene, driving slowly past their victims before driving away again.

Knight, jailed for Greysteel and Castlerock, was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in July 2000. Sentenced to life imprisonment for 12 UDA murders, he was subsequently paid £50,000 a year through a bogus Special Branch account.

The payments came to light after bank staff noticed the notorious loyalist withdrawing two large amounts and checked his account. A bank official, imagining that Knight must be accruing a fortune through illegal means, informed the PSNI. The PSNI confirmed the payments were legal before transferring the account.

Knight began his criminal career as a teenage petty thief who preyed upon family members including an elderly relative. It is unknown exactly when Special Branch identified him as a potential agent but his predilection for easy money and ruthless disregard for others made him an attractive proposition.

What we do know is that Knight was working for Special Branch at the time of the Castlerock and Greysteel massacres. Earlier this year it was revealed that Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan was investigating claims he was protected as a Special Branch agent at the time of Castlerock and Greysteel.

At the time Ronnie Flanagan was head of RUC Special Branch. He later became PSNI Chief Constable. There have been calls for Flanagan to go public on whether he knew Knight was a paid, protected agent.

According to Coleraine Sinn Féin Councillor Billy Leonard: “Not only was Torrens Knight protected and paid but many believe at least two other, more senior figures involved in the killings, were working for Special Branch. A number of key figures were former members of the UDR.” One was killed in 1994, the other remains at the heart of the local unionist paramilitary group. It is believed he carried out murders and took part in Greysteel and Castlerock. He is implicated in the murder of Donegal Councillor Eddie Fullerton.

Recently exposed secret British government files show that the British Cabinet was aware of large-scale collusion between the locally recruited British army regiment and loyalist death squads as early as 1973.

According to the documents in the early 1970′s up to 15% of the UDR were linked to paramilitary groups and the regiment provided “the single best source of weapons for Protestant extremist groups”.

By the 1980′s the Thatcher regime had developed established wide-scale informal collusion, through MI5 agents like Brian Nelson and Charles Simpson, into a murder machine more finely tuned to British counter insurgency strategy.

Victims of collusion in County Derry and the South East Antrim area include John Davey, Gerard Casey, Tommy Donaghy, Bernard O’Hagan, Danny Cassidy and Malachy Carey.

Davey, a Sinn Féin councillor, was murdered while returning home from Magherafelt Council in February 1989. He was shot several times at close range through the driver’s window of his car. The headlights were switched off and the handbrake was on, suggesting that he stopped at what he believed to be a crown forces roadblock. He had been repeatedly threatened prior to his murder.

IRA Volunteer Gerard Casey was shot dead in what later emerged as a classic collusion style killing. Two gunmen smashed their way into Casey’s Rasharkin home on April 4 1989. He was killed at close range as he lay in bed beside his wife and baby daughter.

Special Branch in Castlereagh Interrogation Centre had threatened Casey saying they would have him assassinated and the killing would be claimed by unionist paramilitaries. Just prior to the attack the RUC removed his legally held shotgun and drew a sketch map of the interior of his home.

Tommy Donaghy, a Sinn Féin worker and IRA volunteer was shot dead at close range as he arrived for work at Portna Eel Fishery near Kilrea on 16 August 1991. His family had been threatened by the RUC who told them Tommy would be dead before Christmas. Donaghy had been told by the RUC that his personal details had been passed into the hands of loyalists.

Bernard O’Hagan, a Sinn Féin Councillor was shot dead by a lone gunman as he arrived for work at Magherafelt College on 16 September 1991. O’Hagan was one of a number of Sinn Féin councillors attacked and killed during this period. Others include his Magherafelt colleague John Davey and Eddie Fullerton of Donegal. Fullerton was killed on 25 May 1991. One of the guns used in the murder was later used in the Castlerock massacre.

Danny Cassidy Sinn Fein worker IRA volunteer died on 2 April 1992 when his car was sprayed with bullets after he stopped to speak to a neighbour a few yards from his home in Kilrea. Forty eight hours earlier the RUC told Cassidy he would be killed.

A member of the RUC’s notorious DMSU had told Cassidy that there would be “a hole in his head big enough to put a fist into”. Another RUC officer pointed a rifle at the victim’s head. Cassidy’s photograph later surfaced on a crown forces montage in the hands of unionist paramilitaries.

Malachy Carey, a former Sinn Féin election candidate, was shot by a gunman as he walked along a street in Ballymoney on 13 December 1992. He died a short time later in hospital. Carey had been told by the RUC that his personal details were in the hands of unionist paramilitaries.

A number of families, including relatives of Gerard Casey, Tommy Donaghy and Danny Cassidy have cited further aspects of the killings that suggest their family members had been victims of collusion.

When relatives raised the issue of collusion during the inquest into the killing of Tommy Donaghy, the family was subjected to intimidation by the RUC. Later on the same day, an RUC Land Rover pulled up outside their home and an officer fired three shots in the air.

During the inquest into the killing of Danny Cassidy senior RUC officers admitted instructing junior colleagues to harass the victim prior to the killing. Following this revelation the inquest was adjourned and is still pending 14 years later, with no indication when it will be resumed.

The presence of an RUC officer, allegedlyoffduty, from Ballymoney in a vehicle just two cars behind the killers’ vehicle during the murder of Cassidy has also raised concerns about collusion.

On the day of Danny Cassidy’s murder, the actions of crown forces in the area led a local republican to alert the media, predicting that someone in the area was going to be killed. Later that day Danny Cassidy was shot dead.

The families have also cited suspicions regarding two guns found during this period in a lay-by outside Kilrea. Two people were reportedly arrested, the car was seen being taken away for forensic tests and yet no charges were ever made.

A loyalist who was later charged with possession of a gun used in the killing of Sinn Féin Councillor Bernard O’Hagan in 1991 was not charged with his murder. The loyalist was a relative of one of those convicted of the Greysteel massacre.

One of the guns used in the murder of Tommy Donaghy near Kilrea was described during his inquest as having “a particularly tragic history”. However the RUC refused to detail that history and the suspicion remains that it was the same weapon used in the murder of Gerard Casey.

It is believed that in 1993 Torrens Knight’s Special Branch handlers moved two high powered rifles from Agivey River at Hunter’s Mill, near Aghadowey after local anglers alerted the RUC of their discovery. The weapons were later used by Knight’s gang in the Greysteel massacre.

“There are many more questions to be asked, not only about Knight but also his accomplices and their Special Branch handlers,” said Billy Leonard. “There are other key figures that have roamed free while playing key roles in directing loyalist killers’ activities,” he said.

Ballymurphy Massacre March for Truth

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Seosamh O Bradaigh > Ballymurphy Massacre support group for truth

The Ballymurphy Massacre Families will be participating in the Exhibition on the history of Internment, Family members will be present to tell their story, the story behind the photography exhibition will also be on display.

Ballymurphy Massacre March for Truth

Location: Starts Springfield Park

Date: Sunday 11th August 2013

Time: assemble 1.30 pm

You are invited to join the Ballymurphy Families on our 2013 March of Thruth as we revisit the locations where our loved ones were murdered .We invite all NGO‘s to take part and promote to all their members .We ask those effected by state violence please bring along photo’s of your loved ones and campaign banners .

Photos from Seosamh O Bradaigh’s post in Ballymurphy Massacre support group for truth ·

Kevin Lynch ‘A loyal, determined Republican with a great love of life’

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Belfast Nga

The sorrow of this day 32 years ago still impacts and is as hurtful today, as it was on 1st August 1981. Kevin Lynch lost his battle for life today, Kieran Doherty would lose his battle a matter of hours behind his comrade and friend as they lay in a prison hospital in Long Kesh 1981. Today our thoughts and prayers are with the families, comrades and friends of all our Patriot Dead. For those of you who think of them today, a silent prayer in their memory say. The following biography is taken from irishhungerstrike.ie

Kevin Lynch

‘A loyal, determined republican with a great love of life’

THE EIGHT republican to join the hunger-strike for political status, on May 23rd, following the death of Patsy O’Hara, was twenty-five-year-old fellow INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch from the small, North Derry town of Dungiven who had been imprisoned since his arrest in 1976.

Kevin Lynch was born on May 25th, 1956, the youngest of a family of eight, in the tiny village of Park, eight miles outside Dungiven. His father, Paddy, (aged 66), and his mother, Bridie, (aged 65), were born in Park too.Kevin went to St Canice’s primary school and then on to St Patrick’s intermediate, both in Dungiven.

His great passion was Gaelic Games and his finest achievement was leading the Derry Under 16 hurling team to All-Ireland success against Armagh at Croke Park.He also continued to play for Dungiven. He went off to work in England in 1973 with two of his brothers but on one of his trips home in August 1976 he decided to stay in Dungiven.

He was badly beaten by the British army shortly after his return home and he joined the INLA around this time.He was arrested in December 1976 along with his old friend Liam McClockey and two others. Three days later he was charged with a string of charges included conspiracy to disarm members of the enemy forces, taking part in a punishment shooting, and the taking of ‘legally held’ shotguns.Following a year on remand in Crumlin Road jail, Belfast, he was tried and sentenced to ten years in December 1977.

He immediately joined the blanket protest in H3, and eventually finding himself sharing a cell with his Dungiven friend and comrade, Liam McCloskey. Both men received a number of bad beatings during the prison protest.He was one of 30 men to join the first hunger strike in December 1980 and took the place of INLA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara.

Neither were his family, who supported him in his decision, surprised: ‘’Kevin’s the type of man’’, said his father, when Kevin was on the hunger-strike, ‘’that wouldn’t lie back. He’d want to do his share.’’

The direct consequence of that was Kevin’s death the seventh at that stage in the Long Kesh hospital at 1.00am on Saturday, August 1st after seventy-one days on hunger-strike.

KEVIN LYNCH Aged 25 from North Derry. Commenced hunger-strike May 23rd, died August 1st after 71 days.

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Mary queen of the Gael, intercede for the souls of our departed family comrades and friends. May their souls, and the souls of all our patriot dead in the mercy of god, rest in peace

Mary banríon na nGael, intercede do na anamacha na ár gcomrádaithe teaghlaigh departed agus cairde. Bealtaine a n-anamacha, agus an anamacha as ár gcuid tírghráthóirí marbh go léir i an trócaire Dia, chuid eile i síocháin

Belfast NGA

Oglaigh na hEireann Kevin Lynch…. Died August 1st, 1981- Rest in Peace

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A loyal, determined republican with a great love of life

The eighth republican to join the hunger-strike for political status, on May 23rd, following the death of Patsy O’Hara, was twenty-five-year-old fellow INLA Volunteer Kevin Lynch from the small, North Derry town of Dungiven who had been imprisoned since his arrest in 1976.

A well-known and well liked young man in the closely-knit community of his home town, Kevin was remembered chiefly for his outstanding ability as a sportsman, and for qualities of loyalty, determination and a will to win which distinguished him on the sports field and which, in heavier times and circumstances, were his hallmarks as an H-Block blanket man on hunger strike to the death.

Kevin Lynch was a happy-go-lucky, principled young Derry man with an enthusiastic love of life, who was, as one friend of his remarked – a former schoolteacher of Kevin’s and an active H-Block campaigner: “the last person, back in 1969, you would have dreamed would be spending a length of time in prison.”

The story of Kevin Lynch is of a light-hearted, hard-working and lively young man, barely out of his teens when the hard knock came early one December morning nearly five years ago, who had been forced by the British occupation of his country to spend those intervening years in heroic refusal to accept the British brand of ‘criminal’ and in the tortured assertion of what he really was – a political prisoner.

PARK

Kevin Lynch was born on May 25th, 1956, the youngest of a family of eight, in the tiny village of Park, eight miles outside Dungiven. His father, Paddy, (aged 66), and his mother, Bridie, (aged 65), whose maiden name is Cassidy, were both born in Park too, Paddy Lynch’s family being established there for at least three generations, but they moved to Dungiven twenty years ago, after the births of their children.

Paddy Lynch is a builder by trade, like his father and grandfather before him – a trade which he handed down to his five sons: Michael (aged 39), Patsy (aged 37), Francis (aged 33), Gerard (aged 27), and Kevin himself, who was an apprenticed bricklayer. There are also three daughters in the family: Jean (aged 35), Mary (aged 30), and Bridie (aged 29).

Though still only a small town of a few thousand, Dungiven has been growing over the past twenty years due to the influx of families like the Lynches from the outlying rural areas. It is an almost exclusively nationalist town, garrisoned by a large and belligerent force of RUC and Brits. In civil rights days, however, nationalists were barred from marching in the town centre.

Nowadays, militant nationalists have enforced their right to march, but the RUC still attempt to break up protests and the flying of the tricolour (not in itself ‘illegal’ in the six counties) is considered taboo by the loyalist bigots of the RUC.

Support in the town is relatively strong, Dungiven having first-hand experience of a hunger strike last year when local man Tom McFeeley went fifty-three days without food before the fast ended on December 18th. Apart from Tom McFeeley and Kevin Lynch other blanket men from the town are Kevin’s boyhood friend and later comrade Liam McCloskey – himself later to embark on hunger strike – and former blanket man Eunan Brolly, who was released from the H-Blocks last December.

SCHOOL

Kevin went to St. Canice’s primary school and then on to St. Patrick’s intermediate, both in Dungiven. Although not academically minded – always looking forward to taking his place in the family building business – he was well-liked by his teachers, respected for his sporting prowess and for his well-meant sense of humour. “Whatever devilment was going on in the school, you could lay your bottom dollar Kevin was behind it,” remembers his former schoolteacher, recalling that he took great delight in getting one of his classmates, his cousin Hugh (‘the biggest boy in the class – six foot one’) “into trouble”. But it was all in fun – Kevin was no troublemaker, and whenever reprimanded at school, like any other lively lad, would never bear a grudge.

Above all, Kevin was an outdoor person who loved to go fishing for sticklebacks in the river near his home, or off with a bunch of friends playing Gaelic (an outdoor disposition which must have made his H-Block confinement even harder to bear).

GAMES

His great passion was Gaelic games playing Gaelic football from very early on, and then taking up hurling when he was at St. Patrick’s.

He was excelled at both.

Playing right half-back for St. Patrick’s hurling club, which was representing County Derry, at the inaugural Feile na nGael held in Thurles, County Tipperary, in 1971, Kevin’s performance – coming only ten days after an appendix operation – was considered a key factor in the team’s victory in the four-match competition played over two days.

The following season Kevin was appointed captain of both St. Patrick’s hurling team and the County Derry under-16 team which went on in that season to beat Armagh in the All Ireland under-16 final at Croke Park in Dublin.

Later on, while working in England, he was a reserve for the Dungiven senior football team in the 1976 County Derry final.

Kevin’s team, St. Canice’s, was beaten 0-9 to 0-3 by Sarsfields of Ballerin, and he is described in the match programme as “a strong player and a useful hurler”. Within a short space of time after this final, Kevin would be in jail, as would two of his team mates on that day, Eunan Brolly and Sean Coyle.

QUALITIES

The qualities Kevin is remembered for as a sportsman were his courage and determination, his will to win, and his loyalty to his team mates. Not surprisingly the local hurling and football clubs were fully behind Kevin and his comrades in their struggle for the five demands, pointing out that Kevin had displayed those same qualities in the H-Blocks and on hunger strike.

He was also a boxer with the St. Canice’s club, once reaching the County Derry final as a schoolboy, but not always managing as easily as he achieved victory in his first fight!

Just before the match was due to start his opponent asked him how many previous fights he’d had. With suppressed humour, Kevin answered “thirty-three” so convincingly that his opponent, overcome with nervous horror, couldn’t be persuaded into the ring.

At the age of fifteen, Kevin left school and began to work alongside his father. Although lively, going to dances, and enjoying good crack, he was basically a quiet, determined young fellow, who stuck to his principles and couldn’t easily be swayed.

Like any other family in Dungiven, the Lynches are nationally minded, and young Kevin would have been just as aware as any other lad of his age of the basic injustices in his country, and would have equally resented the petty stop-and-search harassment which people of his age continually suffered at the hands of Brits and RUC.

The Lynches were also, typically, a close family and in 1973, at the age of sixteen, Kevin went to England to join his three brothers, Michael, Patsy and Gerard, who were already working in Bedford.

Both Bedford and its surrounding towns, stretching from Hertfordshire to Buckinghamshire and down to the north London suburbs, contain large Irish populations, and the Lynches mixed socially within that, Kevin going a couple of times a week to train with St. Dympna’s in Luton or to Catholic clubs in Bedford or Luton for a quiet drink and a game of snooker. He even played an odd game of rugby while over there.

But Kevin never intended settling in England and on one of his occasional visits home (“he just used to turn up”), in August 1976, he decided to stay in Dungiven.

INLA

Shortly after his return home, coming away from a local dance, he and nine other young lads were put up against a wall by British soldiers and given a bad kicking, two of the lads being brought to the barracks.

Kevin joined the INLA around this time, maybe because of this incident in part, but almost certainly because of his national awareness coming from his cultural love of Irish sport, as well as his courage and integrity, made him determined to stand up both for himself and his friends.

“He wouldn’t ever allow himself to be walked on”, recalls his brother, Michael. And he had always been known for his loyalty by his family, his friends, his teammates, and eventually by his H-Block comrades.

However, within the short space of little more than three months, Kevin’s active republican involvement came to an end almost before it had begun. Following an ambush outside Dungiven, in November ’76, in which an RUC man was slightly injured, the RUC moved against those it suspected to be INLA activists in the town.

On December 2nd, 1976, at 5.40 a.m. Brits and RUC came to the Lynch’s home for Kevin. “We said he wasn’t going anywhere before he’d had a cup of tea”, remembers Mr. Lynch, “but they refused to let him have even a glass of water. The RUC said he’d be well looked after by then.”

Also arrested that day in Dungiven were Sean Coyle, Seamus McGrandles, and Kevin’s schoolboy friend Liam McCloskey, with whom he was later to share an H-Block cell.

Kevin was taken straight to Castlereagh, and, after three days’ questioning, on Saturday, December 4th, he was charged and taken to Limavady to be remanded in custody by a special court. The string of charges included conspiracy to disarm members of the enemy forces, taking part in a punishment shooting, and the taking of ‘legally held’ shotguns.

Following a year on remand in Crumlin Road jail, Belfast, he was tried and sentenced to ten years in December 1977, immediately joining the blanket men in H3, and eventually finding himself sharing a cell with his Dungiven friend and comrade, Liam McCloskey, continuing to do so until he took part in the thirty-man four-day fast which coincided with the end of the original seven-man hunger strike last December.

LONG KESH

Since they were sentenced in 1977, both Dungiven men suffered their share of brutality from Crumlin Road and Long Kesh prison warders, Kevin being ‘put on the boards’ for periods of up to a fortnight, three or four times.

On Wednesday, April 26th, 1978, six warders, one carrying a hammer, came in to search their cell. Kevin’s bare foot, slipping on the urine-drenched cell floor, happened to splash the trouser leg of one of the warders, who first verbally abused him and then kicked urine at him.

When Kevin responded in like manner he was set upon by two warders who punched and kicked him, while another swung a hammer at him, but fortunately missed. The punching and kicking continued till Kevin collapsed on the urine-soaked floor with a bruised and swollen face.

In another assault by prison warders, Kevin’s cellmate, Liam McCloskey, suffered a burst ear-drum during a particularly bad beating, and is now permanently hard of hearing.

DETERMINATION

Even as long ago as April 1978, just after the ‘no wash’ protest had begun, Kevin was reported, in a bulletin issued by the Dungiven Relatives Action Committee, to “have lost a lot of weight, his face is a sickly white and he is underfed”.

His determination, and his sense of loyalty to his blanket comrades, saw him through, however, even the hardest times.

His former H-Block comrade, Eunan Brolly, who was also in H3 before his release, remembers how Kevin once put up with raging toothache for three weeks rather than come off the protest to get dental treatment. It was the sort of thing which forced some blanket men off the protest, at least temporarily, but not Kevin.

Eunan, who recalls how Kevin used to get a terrible slagging from other blanket men because the GAA, of which of course he was a member, did not give enough support to the fight for political status, also says he was not surprised by Kevin’s decision to join the hunger strike. Like other blanket men, Eunan says, Kevin used to discuss a hunger strike as a possibility, a long time ago, “and he was game enough for it”.

Neither were his family, who supported him in his decision, surprised: “Kevin’s the type of man”, said his father, when Kevin was on the hunger strike, “that wouldn’t lie back. He’d want to do his share.”

In the Free State elections, in June, Kevin stood as a candidate in the Waterford constituency, collecting 3,337 first preferences before being eliminated – after Labour Party and Fianna Fail candidates – on the fifth count, with 3,753 votes.

But the obvious popular support which the hunger strikers and their cause enjoyed nationally was not sufficient to elicit support from the Free State government who share the common, futile hope of the British government – the criminalisation of captured freedom fighters.

The direct consequence of that was Kevin’s death – the seventh at that stage – in the Long Kesh hospital at 1.00 a.m. on Saturday, August 1st after seventy-one days on hunger strike.

R.I.P. ~ Kevin Lynch…

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