Ms Long told the Assembly that police were preparing for a protest at the gates of Maghaberry prison in support of inmates who have been refusing food for the past week.
A number of prisoners embarked on a hunger strike in support of Palestinian doctor, Issam Hijjawi who was arrested after attending a meeting of alleged members of the New IRA.
Dr Hijjawi (62) embarked on a hunger strike on September 16 when he was isolated for two weeks on his return from an outside hospital following an MRI scan. A number of dissident republican inmates subsequently started refusing food in support of Dr Hijjawi.
Ms Long told the assembly yesterday the prisoners’ actions were in response to the removal of an inmate for medical treatment who was placed in isolation on his return as a Covid-19 precaution.
The Justice Minister said: “We put the safety of our prisoners and prison staff at the forefront of all we do. It is hugely important that we keep Covid out of the prison.”
She also raised a protest planned for this Saturday. Ms Long said her department was liaising with the PSNI to ensure it was handled in an appropriate way.
A spokesman for the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA) said prisoners had embarked on their hunger-strike protest over the conditions in which Dr Hijjawi was being held. An IRPWA spokesman claimed he was being isolated for two weeks in “filthy and dilapidated conditions” in Maghaberry’s Foyle House.
“It is the prisoners and IRPWA’s belief that this could and should have been averted if the Maghaberry regime applied logic and common sense,” he said.
“The regime palmed off the families with a refusal to answer questions. The families are genuinely concerned and need answers,” he said.
A Prison Service spokesman said more than 1,000 men have come through Maghaberry’s “isolation areas” and into the main prison since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “Prisoners in separation have previously accepted the need for a 14-day isolation period.”
Supporters of the inmates intend undertaking a 24 fast outside Maghaberry before a protest on Saturday afternoon. There will also be a white line picket at the Kennedy Centre in West Belfast.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Seamus McKinney for the original story
Former top IRA man Brendan Hughes claimed that Gerry Adams sent him to America to buy Armalite rifles for the Provisionals, according to a new TV documentary.
And Catholic priest Patrick Ryan has told the same programme he set up arms deals between the IRA and Libya; that he once stole from church collection boxes to provide funds for the Provos, and that Margaret Thatcher was right to link him to English bombings like Brighton and Hyde Park.
The disclosures come in episode three of the BBC NI series Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History.
In an interview recorded before his death in February 2008, Brendan Hughes, a one-time friend and ally of the former Sinn Fein leader, claims Adams sent him to New York to smuggle Armalites back to Ireland in the early 1970s.
Hughes adds: “I think we did push the war forward more than anyone else did. And I think it was Gerry who was largely responsible for that because it was Gerry who sent me to America to get the Armalites.”
Adams, who refused to take part in the Spotlight series, has always denied that he was a member of the IRA and he has repeatedly said Brendan Hughes told lies about him.
In the same programme about IRA gun-running, former missionary and parish priest Patrick Ryan has no such qualms about owning up to his part in the smuggling of weapons.
Tipperary-born Ryan says Mrs Thatcher was right to link him to a series of IRA bomb attacks in England like Hyde Park and Brighton which almost killed the Prime Minister at the time.
Asked about regrets, Ryan says: “I have big regrets that I wasn’t even more effective. But I didn’t do too badly you know.”
Ryan claims that it was his discovery of a timing device which transformed the IRA bombing campaign and stopped terrorists blowing themselves up as they made their deadly bombs.
Ryan’s admissions run contrary to what he told a Tipperary newspaper in 1988 when he said he had raised cash for nationalist victims of the Troubles but had “never bought explosives for the IRA or anybody else”.
In that year Ryan was arrested in Belgium and was sent back to Ireland but the Irish government infuriated Mrs Thatcher by refusing to extradite him to Britain.
Spotlight: Provo commander says Adams sent him to New York to smuggle weapons
In Spotlight, Ryan says that at the start of the Troubles he took money from mission collection boxes to finance the situation in the north but was later approached by the organisation’s leaders to work for them permanently.
“They asked me to travel the world and try to get help for them,” he says.
The British government was convinced he was the main link between the IRA and Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi who saw the Provos as comrades in arms.
Ryan says of Gaddafi: “He was a fine fella, the best I ever met. And we got on very well.”
Ryan says that in 1973 the IRA dispatched him to Rome to meet their Chief of Staff Joe Cahill who went with him to Tripoli to meet Gaddafi who initially offered 200 tonnes of weaponry but later reduced the shipment on board the boat, the Claudia, to five tonnes because he suspected someone had blown the whistle.
Veteran IRA man Des Long says Cahill had been told the boat’s owner was working with British intelligence.
“He was warned and warned and warned that the whole thing was gone,” says Long, and the Claudia was captured off the Irish coast.
Ryan however continued to travel all over Europe working for the IRA and he says he also spotted Memo Park timers which motorists were using to remind them when their car parking fees had run out.
As footage is screened of terrorists making up a device, Ryan says he saw the timers as a means of preventing bombs going off while terrorists were arming them.
Such was the scale of links between Libya and the IRA, the documentary makers say that in November 1972 the Provos chartered a DC3 aircraft to fly 25 rocket launchers and 400 warheads from Libya to Shannon airport. Days later one of the rockets killed policeman Robert Keys in an attack on Belleek RUC station in Fermanagh.
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Ivan Little for original story
BRIDGET DIRRANE: Bridget Dirrane, who died aged 109 in 2003 was Ireland’s second oldest woman.
In a life that spanned three centuries, the Cumann na mBan veteran met Padraig Pearse, went on hunger-strike in Mountjoy, worked in John F. Kennedy’s election campaigns, and was the oldest recipient of an honorary university degree.
The latter distinction earned her a place in The Guinness Book of Records. Her memoir, A Woman of Aran, published in 1998, was a best-seller.
On the occasion of her 105th birthday, when asked if she had expected to live so long, Bridget Dirrane replied, “not really, but my sister Julia did live to be a 100”. She attributed her longevity to a strong religious faith, a good upbringing and a healthy diet. Last February she was highly amused to hear her death reported on Today with Pat Kenny and promptly despatched a correction.
Éamon de Valera was the Irish political leader she admired above all others.
To the end, she maintained a keen interest in current affairs and was an enthusiastic supporter of the peace process, and she earnestly wished for a permanent peace. Of today’s IRA, she said: “They don’t know what they’re fighting for. I wouldn’t approve of all they do, but it’s up to them. They’ll have to answer for their misdeeds.”
Bridget Dirrane was born Bridget Gillan, the youngest of the eight children of Joseph Gillan and his wife, Margaret (née Walsh), at Oatquarter, Inis Mór. Her father was a weaver and wove the cloth for the clothes worn by the young Liam O Flaherty.
She encountered tragedy early in life. Her brother, Patrick, died shortly after she began attending school and her father died when she was eight. On the whole, however, her childhood was happy and she shared the family love of music and dancing.
From an early age, she wanted to be a nurse. “I had the knack of it. I knew the cures, as my mother had.” She left school at 14 and worked intermittently as a childminder.
Among the visitors to Inis Mór whom she met were Padraig Pearse, Thomas Ashe, Eamonn Ceannt, and Joseph Mary Plunkett.
Bridget Dirrane left Inis Mór to work as a childminder in Tuam, Co Galway, and later moved to Knockavilla, Co Tipperary, where she became housekeeper to Father Matt Ryan, a Land League veteran and republican supporter. There she joined Cumann na mBan.
In 1919 she began training as a nurse at St Ultan’s Children’s Hospital, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Part of her duties entailed nursing patients in their homes. On one such occasion, the house was raided by the Black and Tans, and Bridget Dirrane was arrested. Taken to the Bridewell, she infuriated her captors by dancing and singing in Irish. On her transfer to Mountjoy Prison, she embarked on a hunger strike. After nine days she was released without charge.
One of her most abiding memories of the War of Independence was the execution of Kevin Barry. She took part in a Cumann na mBan vigil outside Mountjoy on the morning that he was hanged. “We heard the death bell and then there was silence.”
Dirrane opposed the Treaty, and the Civil War caused her great anguish. Nevertheless, she later took a job caring for the family of Gen Richard Mulcahy, the bête noire of anti-Treatyites.
She retained fond memories of the family to the end of her days, particularly of Risteárd who became one of Ireland’s leading heart specialists.
In 1927, at the age of 33, she emigrated to the US and found work nursing in Boston. Shortly after her arrival, she met Edward (Ned) Dirrane, an island neighbour; they married in 1932. During the Depression, the Dirranes worked long and hard to make ends meet. Roosevelt’s New Deal brought some relief, but before the couple could enjoy the benefits of economic recovery, Ned Dirrane died suddenly in 1940.
When the US entered the second World War, Dirrane worked for two years as plant nurse in a munitions factory and later tended soldiers at the Biloxi military base in Mississippi. On her return to south Boston, she became an active Democratic supporter, canvassing for John F. Kennedy in many elections.
In 1966, after 39 years in the US and now retired, she decided that it was time to return to Aran. She moved in with her brother-in-law, Patrick Dirrane, a widower whose three sons were then living abroad. To show good example, the couple married.
At the age of 73, Dirrane oversaw the renovation of her new home, Cliff Edge Cottage, mixing cement and helping to slate the roof. She also planted the flowers and trees around the cottage. Her greatest joy was to help in the rearing of the children of her step-son Coleman and his wife, Margaret.
Dirrane was quick to embrace change and flew on Aer Aran’s inaugural flight to the islands. She welcomed the growth of tourism and the employment it generated. But she bemoaned the stress of modern life. “Today, unfortunately, people don’t have the time to bid each other the time of day. Everybody seems to be rushing to the graveyard!”
Among the visitors to her home were Senator Edward Kennedy and the former US ambassador Ms Jean Kennedy-Smith. When Ms Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first Freewoman of the City of Galway in 1999, Bridget Dirrane was on hand to meet her. By then, she was a resident in a Galway nursing home, her husband having died in 1990. She had been awarded the Master of Arts honoris causa by NUI Galway in 1998 in recognition of her rich and varied life and her service to others.
Bridget Dirrane was a devout Catholic and, to mark her 100th birthday, she purchased a stone statue of Our Lady which was erected at the Well of The Four Beauties, Inis Mór. In her memoir, she intimated that she would leave no fortune behind her. “What I will leave is the sunshine to the flowers, honey to the bees, the moon above in the heavens for all those in love and my beloved Aran Islands to the seas.”
Bridget Dirrane is survived by her step-sons, Stephen, John, and Coleman. Bridget Dirrane: born 1894; died December 31st, 2003.
With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil War History.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Ireland’s first hunger strike martyr Thomas Ashe.
Ashe from Lios Póil in the County Kerry Gaeltacht was a member of the Gaelic League, Irish Republican Brotherhood and GAA. He commanded the Fingal battalion of the Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising.
On the 8th May 1916, Ashe and Eamon de Valera were court-martialed and sentenced to death. Both sentences were commuted to life, and Ashe was sent to a variety of English prisons. While in prison he wrote the poem “Let Me Carry Your Cross for Ireland, Lord”.
Thomas Ashe was released from jail in June 1917 under the general amnesty which was given to republican prisoners. Upon his release he returned to Ireland and began a series of speaking engagements. In August 1917, after a speech in Ballinalee, Longford, where Michael Collins had also been speaking, he was arrested and charged with “speeches calculated to cause disaffection”. He was sentenced to one year’s hard labour in Mountjoy Jail.
Ashe, along with Austin Stack, who was also in Mountjoy demanded to be treated as prisoners-of-war. Having been deprived of a bed, bedding and boots Ashe went on hunger strike on 20th September 1917. On 25th September 1917 he died from pneumonia, which was caused by force-feeding by the prison authorities. He was 32 years old.
From the smouldering embers of Easter Week 1916 the death on hunger strike of Ashe produced a flame. A flame which an empire failed to extinguish, which treachery could not subdue, which today burns its way through hypocrisy and coercion – a living flame.
With many thanks to: James Connolly.
‘Why would he make it up? It’s a private conversation and he relates to Humphrey Atkins – Thomas Hennessey speaking about Fr John Magee‘s version of events.
BOBBY Sands offered to suspend the 1981 Hunger Strike in order to reach a deal with the British, a new book has claimed. The claims are made in Hunger Strike: Margaret Thatcher’s Battle with the IRA, written by academic Thomas Hennessey.
As well as looking at the role of the former British prime minster, the book examines efforts to end the protest which eventually claimed the lives of ten brave republicans. Mr Hennessey reveals that Sands, who died in May 1981 after 66 days on Hunger Strike, made the offer to Co Down native Fr John Magee who had been sent from Rome to Ireland by John Paul 11. An account of the conversation between the priest and Sands was later relayed to the then secretary of state, Humphrey Atkins. In his book Mr Hennessey says Sands agreed to suspend his fast for five days to allow time for talks – “provided certain conditions were satisifed”. Some of the conditions set out by Sands included that an official from the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) would visit him, that two priests should be present as guarantors and that three other republican prisoners should be present. Details of the offer were later rejected by Mr Atkins who objected to the idea that the hunger striker was “setting conditions”.
According to the author Mr Atkins made it clear that the British government was not prepared to “negotiate” with protesting prisioners at that time. While he had “respect for the Pope” he said he would not be able to meet his representative again “because to do so would risk creating the impression that some form of negotiation was going”. Mr Hennessey believed Fr Magee’s account of the conversation he had with Sands was accurate. “Why would he make it up? It’s a private conversation and he relates it to Humphrey Atkins,” he said. “To me it’s genuine and does not undermine what Sands is trying to do.” The author backs up previous claims made by former H-Block prisoner Richard O’Rawe that a deal was offered that could have ended the Hunger Strike in July 1981. His account of how the deal offer was handled has been strongly contested by other Provisional republicans. “It is clear there was a deal offered that could have ended the Hunger Strike,” Mr Hennessey said. “I accept Richard O’Rawe’s analysis of that but there are other aspects you can’t prove.”
With many thanks to: Connia Young, The Irish News.
- SF compares Fianna Fáil to Margaret Thatcher in ‘criminalising’ 1981 hunger strikers (irishtimes.com)
- 1957 – Thomas McElwee is born in Bellaghy, Co. Derry. (stairnaheireann.wordpress.com)
- Tiocfaidh ár lá – Our DAY will come (prayingforoneday.wordpress.com)
REPUBLICAN HUNGER STRIKERS 1917- 1976
THOMAS ASHE-DIED 25TH SEPTEMBER 1917, MOUNTJOY PRISON.
MICHAEL FITZGERALD-DIED 17TH OCT 1920 CORK JAIL.
TERENCE MCSWINEY-DIED 0CT 1920 BRIXTON PRISON.
JOSEPH MURPHY DIED OCT 1920 CORK JAIL.
JOSEPH WHITTY DIED 2ND SEPTEMBER 1923,CURRAGH CAMP.
DENIS BARRY-DIED 20TH NOVEMBER, NEWBRIDGE CONCENTRATION CAMP.
ANDREW SULLIVAN DIED 22ND NOV,NEWBRIDGE CONCENTRATION CAMP.
JACK McNEELA DIED 19TH APRIL 1940, ARBOUR HILL PRISON.
SEAN McGAUGHEY DIED 11TH MAY 1946, PORTLOISE PRISON.
FRANK STAGG 12TH FEB 1976, WAKEFIELD PRISON.
32 ANNIVERSARY OF THE H-BLOCK MARTYRS
BOBBY SANDS-AGED 27, FROM BELFAST, DIED 5TH MAY AFTER 66 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
FRANCIS HUGHES AGED 25 FROM SOUTH DERRY, DIED 12TH MAY AFTER 59 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
RAYMOND McCREESH AGED 24,FROM SOUTH ARMAGH,DIED 21ST MAY AFTER 61 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
PATSY O’HARA AGED 24, FROM DERRY CITY, DIED AFTER 21ST MAY AFTER 61 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
JOSEPH McDONNELL AGED 30,FROM BELFAST,DIED 8TH JULY AFTER 61 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
MARTIN HURSON AGED24 FROM EAST TYRONE,DIED 13TH JULY AFTER 46 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
KEVIN LYNCH AGED 25, FROM NORTH DERRY, DIED 1 AUG AFTER 71 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
KIERAN DOHERTY AGED 25 FROM BELFAST, DIED 2ND OF AUG AFTER 73 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
THOMAS McELWEE AGED 23 FROM SOUTH DERRY, DIED 8TH OF AUG AFTER 62 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
MICHAEL DIVINE AGED 27 FROM DERRY CITY, DIED 20TH AUG AFTER 60 DAYS ON HUNGER STRIKE.
THE USE OF THE HUNGER STRIKE BEGAN BY IRISH REPUBLICANS WHEN IN 1913 JAMES CONNOLLY WENT ON HUNGER STRIKE.OVER THE NEXT 80 YEARS MANY MORE REPUBLICANS WERE TO GO ON HUNGER STRIKE AS A WEAPON OF THE PRISON STRUGGLE,AS THEY FOUGHT ATTEMPTS TO CRIMINALISE THEM THE IRISH STRUGGLE. IRISH HUNGER STRIKERS FROM 1917 TO 1981 HAVE BECOME A SYMBOL,NOT ONLY AGAINST OPPRESSION, BUT ALSO OF HUMANITY AND OF THE DESIRE OF THE IRISH PEOPLE TO BE FREE….”THEY HAVE NOTHING IN THERE WHOLE IMPERIAL ARSENAL THAT CAN BREAK THE SPIRIT OF ONE IRISH MAN WHO DOES’NT WANT TO BE BROKEN”……..BOBBY SANDS MPRoger Casement
TODAY YOU’LL HAVE NOTICED MY FIRST 2 PIECES HAVE NOT BEEN ABOUT SIR ROGER-BUT ABOUT THE MEN LIKE ROGER WHO GAVE THERE LIVES FOR IRELAND.THESE MEN WERE DIFFERENT IN A WAY TO SIR ROGER- THEY STARVED THEMSELVES TO DEATH-EXCRUCIATING PAIN IT MUST HAVE BEEN-ALSO KNOWING THEY WERE GOING TO DIE AND ALSO HAVING TO WATCH YOUR FAMILY WATCH YOU GO THROUGH IT ALL. I SALUTE THESE BRAVE COMRADES,WHAT MORE COULD THEY GIVE THAN THERE LIVES FOR IRELAND. TIOCFAIDF ARLA…
- “Suicide of California Hunger Strike …” (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Barghouthi persistent in his hunger strike despite serious health deterioration (ramyabdeljabbar.wordpress.com)
- Independent monitors to keep watch on hunger strike at 9 prisons (moorbey.wordpress.com)
- 14 prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails (ramyabdeljabbar.wordpress.com)
- Comic Frankie Boyle goes on hunger strike in support of Shaker Aamer – the last British detainee in Guantánamo Bay (independent.co.uk)
- First Reported Death in Calif. Prisoner Hunger Strike (rinf.com)
Tyrone National Graves Association
Martin was born on September 13th 1956 in Aughnaskea, Cappagh. He was the 8th of 9 nine children. He was arrested on November 11th 1976 after a series of swoops on the Cappagh area by the British. He was subsequently tortured and forced to sign statements admitting republican activity. He was charged with a landmine attack in Galbally (which was later dropped) but still faced charges of IRA membership, possession of the Galbally landmine, conspiracy to kill members of enemy forces, causing an explosion in Cappagh in September 1975 and possession of a landmine in Reclain in February 1976.
Once in Long Kesh Martin went straight on the blanket and then replaced Brendan McLaughlin on the hungerstrike on the 29th of May 1981 after Brendan was forced to withdraw due to a perforated stomach ulcer.
While on hungerstrike Martin took part in a Free State election for Longford/Westmeath, he polled four and a half thousand first preference votes and over a thousand transfers.
Unfortunately after 40 days on strike Martin became unable to hold down water and died of dehydration less than a week later. He was 24 years old.
Remember him with pride
- Mairead Farrell, a True Heroine (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Tony Rochford’s Political Hunger Strike in Starvation Phase (politics.ie)
- FAMILIES OF IRA MEN EXECUTED BY THE SAS IN DERRY,TODAY ACCUSE MARTIN McGUINNESS OF BETRAYAL (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Drumnakilly Martyrs 25th Anniversay (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Maze centre ground rent plan mooted (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)